A prominent think tank says China could take control of Taiwan without even launching an invasion — here’s how

    Chinese military exercises off Taiwan.

    Gui Xinhua/PLA/China Military/Anadolu via Getty Images

    China could take control of Taiwan without even launching an invasion, a think tank report says.The report says that China could use a “quarantine” of Taiwan to exert control over the island.The report comes amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan.  

    China could take control of Taiwan without ever having to invade, a prominent think tank has said.

    China has long seen Taiwan as a breakaway province destined to come under its control, but Taiwan views itself as distinct from the mainland, with its own government and constitution and a staunchly pro-independence president.

    While China has not ruled out using force to take control of Taiwan, it may be able to exert its power over the island without resorting to military means, according to a report by the Washington DC-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

    China could initiate a full or partial “gray zone” quarantine of Taiwan using its coast guard and other law enforcement agencies to restrict access to the island’s ports, per the report.

    This would not completely seal off the island from the world, but it would “assert China’s control over Taiwan by setting the terms for traffic in and out of the island,” the report says.

    “A key goal is to compel countries and companies to comply with China’s terms. If foreign actors largely comply with the quarantine, it strengthens China’s narrative that it has control over Taiwan and undermines Taipei’s sovereignty claims,” it adds.

    China has significantly increased pressure on Taiwan, stoking fears that tensions could erupt into outright conflict. Attention has focused on the threat of Chinese invasion, but @chinapowercsis maps out scenarios likelier than invasion in the near term:

    — CSIS (@CSIS) June 10, 2024

    How a quarantine could play out

    The China Coast Guard and China’s Maritime Safety Administration would likely lead a quarantine, patrolling the waters around the island and intercepting any vessel that might breach the quarantine’s terms.

    They could be supported by other air, naval, cyber, missile, and other forces “to intimidate Taiwan, deter outside intervention, and provide crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance,” the report says.

    It follows another report that was published last month by experts from the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War, which looked at the idea of a potential Chinese “coercion campaign” that would also fall short of an invasion but would still bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control.

    China has already begun carrying out certain elements of such a campaign, launching increasing military exercises around the island.

    The report also noted that while the US must still prepare for a potential invasion of Taiwan, the possibility of a coercion campaign represented a “significant gap in US strategic thought.”

    However, Sidharth Kaushal, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, told CNN: “Historical evidence shows that even severe blockades have limited coercive value, and a limited quarantine might result in a rally around the flag effect.”

    Chinese fighter jets during military exercises near Taiwan in May.

    Feng Hao/PLA/China Military/Anadolu via Getty Images

    Why a quarantine could suit China

    A quarantine might appeal to China for several reasons, the CSIS report says.

    Firstly, unlike an invasion or blockade, the latter of which the CSIS defines as a “military-led campaign to significantly curtail the flow of traffic into Taiwan,” a quarantine “would not be seen as an act of war.”

    “It is also more reversible and would not require closing off the Taiwan Strait,” the report adds.

    Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the US is obliged to ensure that Taiwan with the means to defend itself — but there is no stipulation on whether US forces would be sent in the event of an invasion. Despite this, President Joe Biden said in 2022 that US forces would defend Taiwan should China invade.

    However, a “law enforcement-led gray zone operation” would complicate any third-party intervention, per the CSIS report.

    Tensions between China and Taiwan are increasing by the day

    Relations between Taiwan and China remain on a knife edge.

    At a conference in Singapore earlier this month, Chinese Defense Minister Dong Jun said that the idea of peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan was being “eroded” by Taiwanese separatists and external forces.

    “We will take resolute actions to curb Taiwan independence and make sure such a plot never succeeds,” he said.

    In April last year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said that Taiwan was at the “core” of China’s interests, according to a press statement, adding: “If anyone expects China to compromise and concede on the Taiwan question, they are having a pipe dream and would shoot themselves in the foot.”

    Beijing has also continued to launch military exercises around the island.

    Last month, China began the two-day exercise “Joint Sword” around Taiwan, carrying out “joint sea-air combat readiness patrols, joint seizure of comprehensive battlefield control, and joint precision strikes on key targets,” per Chinese state media.

    Chinese military exercises off Taiwan.

    Gui Xinhua/PLA/China Military/Anadolu via Getty Images

    The training included mock strikes by fighter jets and drills with a number of naval vessels.

    Further large-scale drills occurred in April 2023 and August 2022.

    China’s armed forces have been able to “essentially start mounting an increased tempo of these large-scale drills that have a lot of the makings of a blockade,” Tom Shugart, a former US Navy officer and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank, previously told BI.

    He added that the recent May exercises showed that China’s fleet was “very well suited” for a blockade or quarantine of Taiwan.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


    Latest posts