China could attempt an air and maritime blockade around Taiwan as part of a broad strategy to pressure the country into surrender, according to a Defense Department report that was published this year.
Over the years, many strategists have speculated that China might try to take over Taiwan. So, it seems significant that the Defense Department’s annual report on China, titled Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC), raises concern about that possibility. The report claims that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may pursue a dual-pronged strategy that includes a joint blockade, missile strikes and the “seizure” of Taiwan’s offshore islands.
“PLA writings describe a Joint Blockade Campaign in which the PRC would employ kinetic blockades of maritime and air traffic, including a cut-off of Taiwan’s vital imports, to force Taiwan’s capitulation,” according to the report. “Large-scale missile strikes and possible seizures of Taiwan’s offshore islands would accompany a Joint Blockade in an attempt to achieve a rapid Taiwan surrender.”
Given that Taiwan is roughly one hundred miles from the coast of mainland China, it would not be difficult for the 320-ship-strong PLA Navy to maintain a large, concentrated naval force surrounding the island. Furthermore, Chinese drones and fighters would likely have little trouble establishing air superiority around the perimeter of the Taiwanese coastline, particularly if aircraft avoided triggering Taipei’s air defenses by flying around the main island instead of over it. However, Taiwan’s SkyBow III missile system has a reported range of two hundred miles. That means it could be difficult for Chinese aircraft to operate outside of the line of fire. Plus, Taiwan is reportedly considering placing the missiles on one of the smaller islands closer to China. This is likely why the report indicates that any attack by China would include long-range ballistic missile strikes on Taiwan. These attacks would ostensibly be made on fixed Taiwanese air defense sites.
The report speculates that such a blockade strategy would involve electronic warfare tactics. Perhaps China could use its space assets to jam or disable Taiwanese GPS and communication systems while concurrently launching advanced cyber intrusions into Taiwanese systems.
“The PRC will also likely complement its air and maritime blockade operations with concurrent electronic warfare, network attacks, and information operations to further isolate Taiwan’s authorities and populace and to control the international narrative of the conflict,” according to the report.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.