The Buzz

These are the 9 Killer Weapons China and Taiwan Would Use in a War

After Donald Trump’s now historic call with the President of Taiwan, it seems relations between Beijing and Taipei are now back as one the most important international issues of the day.

And so it should be.

With China and Taiwan seeing a spike in tensions after years of relative calm—with the Asia-Pacific region already swimming in its own sea of troubles thanks to tensions in the South and East China Seas—there is once again the danger of a crisis that could bring Washington and Beijing to blows. And as both nations are armed with nuclear weapons, the stakes could not get any higher.

But what would happen if Taipei and Beijing actually ended up in some sort of conflict? What would be the military systems and strategies used? What weapons in China's arsenal would Taiwan fear the most? What would Beijing fear? And most importantly: who would win?

We have explored this issue in depth and have packaged together in this one post articles by Michal Thim and J. Michael Cole, written back in 2014, that should help answer these important questions. Let the debate begin. 


It has become conventional wisdom when referring to the current state of ties between Taipei and Beijing to offer something similar to the following: “cross-Strait Relations have significantly improved under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou.” While such a, statement is not totally unjustified, security-minded observers would opine that the Taiwan Strait remains highly militarized, and that Ma’s rapprochement has not stopped Beijing from deploying more—and increasingly sophisticated—weapons pointed at Taiwan. And no mid-level-official-branded-high-level meeting is going to change that.

In many ways, Taiwan shares similar challenges currently faced by U.S. forces in the Western Pacific. Therefore, do platforms that you can see on a recent list by Kyle Mizokami, “Five Chinese Weapons of War America Should Fear”, apply to Taiwan as well? Not necessarily. The DF-21D, the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile or ASBM, is specifically designed to counter U.S. Navy carrier groups. The PLA and its air and naval branches will have other means at its disposal to deal with the Taiwanese navy in a more symmetrical manner. The J-20, China’s first 5th generation fighter—which is still in development—could hypothetically be deployed against Taiwan but it is more likely that Chinese planners would leave J-20s to deal with U.S. F-22s and U.S./Japanese F-35s, should they come to Taipei’s defense. On the other side, offensive cyber operations and new Chinese landing ships are of course very relevant to Taiwan. Bearing all that in mind, the purpose of this piece is to present major combat platforms that would either play a significant part in a full-scale attack on Taiwan or those against which Taipei does not have an adequate counterpart.

So what weapons are at Beijing’s disposal for a possible Taiwan contingency? Now without further ado, the four Chinese weapons of war Taiwan should fear:


The number of missiles pointed at Taiwan has become embedded in the consciousness of the Taiwanese population.  In fact, it is fairly likely that if you happen to be involved in a conversation with a street vendor in one of the plentiful night markets, they could very well know an approximation of the number of short- and mid-range ballistic missiles that have been deployed across the Taiwan Strait. Numbers by experts vary, but most estimates place the number of short and mid-range ballistic missiles at around 1,600 or more.

The PLA is also acquiring various types of Land Attack Cruise Missiles (LACM) and Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM), which can be launched from various platforms and domains (land, sea and air). This gives China greater ability to attack key infrastructure and military targets from different angles with the added advantage of launching saturation strikes that would stretch Taiwan’s limited missile defense capability beyond its limits.

Advanced Air-Defense Systems: