Potential Cross-Strait Conflict
23 January 2020

The following is a translation of an opinion piece by Huang Ruo (黄若) published on 1688.com.au (1688澳洲新闻网).

Huang Ruo: Will military conflict happen in the Taiwan Strait?

Netizen CVC says: “What would the outcome be if the Mainland attacked Taiwan in 2019? Old Chu has thought about it but doesn’t dare say anything.” In that case I’ll say something about it! Let’s start with the possibility of the Mainland attacking Taiwan. I don’t think there’s even a ten per cent chance. Why so?

Firstly, China has repeatedly declared that it wants to emerge peacefully, and it will never seek hegemony. Won’t it just be hitting itself in the mouth if it makes an armed attack on Taiwan?

Secondly, not resolving disputes by force, and not imposing your own ideas on other people by force, are universal values. I don’t think there’s much chance that China will strike at Taiwan in the face of the world’s disapproval, because values in China can no longer be brought into line with the rest of the world, and they won’t be able to put out new shoots while they are resisted and attacked globally.

Thirdly, the Taiwan issue is by no means the first priority China must urgently resolve. There are huge downward pressures on China’s internal economy and externally there is also a hard battle to be fought in the US trade negotiations.

Then what would be the outcome be if China really attacked Taiwan? Firstly, as Sun Tzu’s Art of War states, “an army is a fierce weapon which a wise man only uses when he has to.” This is because the outcome of a battle is very hard to predict, so he recommends subduing the other’s army without going to war.

China does not have a definite advantage. The Communist armies are faced with the Taiwan Strait, which is more than 100 kilometres wide, and which would take at least eight hours to cross. Their total number of warships could only ferry 15,000 troops each day. Taiwan has an army of 150,000 soldiers; China does not have a definite advantage in biding their time and waiting for an exhausted enemy while fighting one or two at a time.

As well as that, beaches where landings could be made make up less than 20 per cent of the coastline, and two thirds of the whole island are mountainous and not good for paratroopers to land on. Thus the terrain is difficult to attack and easy to defend. There has been no successful precedent. With the Normandy landing, the English Channel is 34 miles wide, and the Allied armies of the Second World War could only carry across 150,000 troops a day. Hitler had spent most of his forces by then, and sixty years later it is still not clear how many allied troops were killed or wounded. It’s not easy crossing the sea to wage war.

Secondly, people would probably say that with modern weapon, wouldn’t it be over by just shooting a few missiles? Besides, China has the Dongfeng 17, 8 and 21-class missiles doesn’t it? That’s true, but Taiwan has missiles too, although not as many as China, and they don’t have the range of China’s guided missiles. But if you shoot off 100, we will shoot 10 at your head office. They won’t be shot everywhere, but specially at Lujiazui in Shanghai, and Zhongnanhai in Beijing. Shouldn’t that be enough to worry the Chinese?

When that happens, I’m afraid millions of high-level officials and wealthy people with foreign passports will piss themselves in fear, and take planes out of there. As well as this, a big problem will be how to “maintain stability” when rallies start up all over the country in support of liberating Taiwan. Why would the Communists take that risk?

Thirdly, a common attitude which currently exists among people in Taiwan is “let them come! In short, whether it is a blessing or a curse, what will be will be!” Taiwanese people are known for resistance. How many months did China fight for in in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894 before they signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki? But the Taiwanese kept up the war of resistance against Japan for thirty or so years. The first period was the Yiwei War (Japanese invasion of Taiwan) from May to October 1895 to protect the Republic of Formosa. The second period was the guerrilla war against Japan when there were armed anti-Japanese actions almost every year from immediately following the Republic of Formosa until 1902. The third period lasted eight years from the Beipu Uprising in 1907 until the Tapani Incident in 1915. Anti-Japanese movements changed to non-military forms after that, to protect Taiwanese culture, but the Musha Incident, a military opposition, also happened in that time.

If Mainland China really believes it can rule Taiwan, it doesn’t really have a plan, does it? It has headaches enough with Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong independence, without making more trouble for itself. All the old communists just want to protect themselves now, they don’t want to attack Taiwan any more.

Fourthly, the possibility can’t be avoided that the US and Japan could get involved. That is not within the scope of my prediction, because the US is unreliable! All I can say is that if there is a conflict, the chance the US will intervene is greater, not smaller, than ten years ago. The US journal Foreign Affairs has even predicted that the US military really wants a small conflict to happen with China to take it down a peg. That would be good for the US if another major conflict happened between them in the next ten or twenty years.

I don’t know if that will happen, but I can say that it’s not the style of the US. It has always said “you start fighting, and we’ll see what happens before we get involved.” That’s what they did in the First and Second World Wars. I don’t have to say what the outcome would be if a conflict happened across the Taiwan Strait, the Communist military took half of its troops across, and then the US suddenly decided to intervene. (Some experts predict that the US could take out all of the Communist warships just by deploying six submarines and they would only lose one warship). There’s a 90 per cent chance the Communist military won’t attack Taiwan, but what about the remaining 10 per cent?

I saw Wang Hao, a Chinese scholar whom a lot of people praise online, say on YouTube yesterday that Xi Jinping’s standing is not as fully secure as the outside world thinks. He said there are four forces vying for equality with him. Firstly, the remaining dregs of the Jiang Zemin faction. Secondly, the business-engaged, money-grubbing Party Princelings. Thirdly, the local lordlings, waiting for the blow to fall, wondering when they will be hauled away, and fourthly, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong, … and the poisonous officers still in the military since the cleanup. Forces among them are planning a military conflict in the Strait or the South China Sea to give themselves a chance to seize authority while everything is in chaos. We can’t see or understand these schemes within the ‘palace’, but they have happened often in history, and we are not the ones who can control or predict what will happen. So I put that within the 10 per cent of uncertainty.


Translation by: Graeme Ford, NAATI Certified Professional Translator (Chinese-English), NAATI Practitioner no. 5046

Date of Translation: 14 February 2019

Read More