Taiwan's Strategy To Hold Back A Chinese Invasion Doesn't Instill Confidence

May 25, 2021 Topic: China Taiwan Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Reboot Tags: MilitaryTechnologyWeaponsWarTaiwanChina

Taiwan's Strategy To Hold Back A Chinese Invasion Doesn't Instill Confidence

If forty years of improving ties culminate in threats to wipe out your negotiating partner’s political existence, you shudder to think how forty years of deteriorating ties across the Taiwan Strait would have turned out.


In short, no shock to the ROC Navy’s way of naval warfare and collective psyche has compelled the force to embrace the new normal of PLA predominance, as well as ships, planes and armaments best fitted to compete in a sea-denial world. The meme is giving way—but at a glacial bureaucratic pace.

As a result, Taiwan’s maritime strategy risks falling behind the times even as strongman Xi and other communist chieftains rattle their sabers. The same could be said of Taipei’s air strategy, predicated on high-end fighters such as F-16s and F-35 stealth fighters. This at a time when airfields and other infrastructure are increasingly untenable in the face of PLA Rocket Force ballistic missiles and PLA Air Force combat aircraft. Aviators too are susceptible to memes.


Nor, I should say, am I picking on Taiwan here. A meme spread throughout the U.S. Navy a quarter-century ago maintaining, in effect, that naval history had ended with the demise of the Soviet Navy. We no longer had to prepare to battle peer fleets to rule the main. We let the skills and hardware for major sea fights atrophy—and are now scrambling to restore our fighting ability now that an age of great-power competition and strife is upon us. No one is immune to mind viruses.

To evaluate Taiwan’s defenses, ask whether Taipei is asking too much of the armed forces—and whether the armed forces are remaking themselves adequately to cope with today’s brave new world.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Defending the Strait (Brookings, 2011). The views voiced here are his alone.

Image: Reuters