China’s response to Pelosi’s visit of Taiwan continues:
Taipei, Aug. 6 (CNA) Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said on Saturday that multiple Chinese military aircraft and vessels had operated near Taiwan in the morning in what it believed to be a simulation of an attack on Taiwan’s main island.
In a brief press statement, the MND said multiple Chinese military aircraft and vessels conducted activities near Taiwan Saturday morning, with some of them crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait — an unofficial buffer zone normally avoided by both Taiwanese and Chinese military aircraft and vessels.
The MND added that the Chinese military was likely “simulating an attack on Taiwan’s main island.”
The median line of the Taiwan Strait was drawn in 1955 by U.S. Airforce General Benjamin Davis. It no longer has any meaning.
Marine traffic around Taiwan continues without much trouble. Taiwan’s harbors are still accessible. Ships avoid the zones China had designated as target areas.
Experts pointed out that China’s unprecedented large-scale military exercises around Taiwan now give a glimpse of how the Communist army will block off the island of Taiwan if it launches a war against Taiwan in the future, and also exposes the Chinese military.
After Pelosi left Taiwan, the Communist Army issued another navigation warning, and live ammunition [will be] fired in the Yellow Sea for 10 consecutive days
This is the first time that a Chinese military exercise has come so close to Taiwan, with some drills operating less than 20 kilometers from the coast of Taiwan.
Also unprecedented is that the location of the exercise by the communist army includes the sea and airspace east of Taiwan. This is an area of strategic importance for Taiwanese troops to receive supplies and for possible U.S. reinforcements.
The outside world has long speculated that one of China’s preferred strategies for attacking Taiwan is a blockade.
This encirclement action is to prevent any commercial and military ships and aircraft from entering or leaving Taiwan, as well as to prevent the advance of Taiwan by U.S. troops stationed in the region. Song Zhongping, an independent Chinese military analyst, said the Chinese army “obviously has all the military capabilities to enforce such a blockade”.
China indeed has the capability to completely blockade Taiwan. As the whole area is also under cover of China’s land based ballistic missiles and in reach of its airforce a blockade is easy to establish and hard to breach.
China’s military is no longer the unprofessional lightly armed force that some still think it is:
According to Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese military dispatched more than 100 military aircraft and more than 10 frigates and destroyers in the exercise, including the J-20 stealth fighter and the Type 055 destroyer, which are cutting-edge weapons of the Chinese Air Force and Navy, respectively.
In addition, through the exercise, the PLA can test and strengthen the coordinated combat capabilities of participating troops of various services and arms, including ground, sea, air and rocket troops, as well as strategic support capabilities in charge of cyber warfare.
In addition, the exercise also posed a major test to the Eastern Theater Command established by the Communist Party of China in 2016. This theater is responsible for military operations in China’s entire eastern seas, and thus covers Taiwan.
John Blaxland, a professor of international security at the Australian National University, told reporters that what China had displayed so far was a “great military.”
“They can’t be dismissed as some sort of less experienced and underpowered army, they’re clearly capable of coordinating land and sea operations, and capable of using missile systems and being effective,” he said.
Braxland said the Chinese military’s exercises showed Taiwan, the United States and Japan that China “has the conditions to carry out the actions they have threatened to take.”
Barxland is not the only ‘western’ expert who is impressed by this well coordinated show of force.
If one compares a potential war about Taiwan with the current NATO-Russia proxy war in Ukraine on can see the U.S. problems. The U.S. would likely want to avoid a direct conflict over Taiwan with a nuclear armed China, just like it avoids one with Russia in Ukraine. That is why Biden is at odds with lawmakers who want to implement some crazy Taiwan Policy Act that would commit the U.S. to the islands defense.
The U.S. would rather want to help Taiwan by other means. But how?
An air and sea blockade would hit Taiwan hard. Some 40% of its electricity is generated by natural gas all of which it has to import. Another large part is produced with coal which Taiwan also imports. The same goes for petroleum products. Before Pelosi landed in Taipei gas reserves on the island were enough for just 11 days. Coal and oil is easier to store but would still run out before a blockade could be lifted.
Then there is food:
In 2018, Taiwan’s food self-sufficiency rate is only 35%. Additionally, the actual production of agricultural land in Taiwan is about 520,000 hectares, which is far from the 740,000 to 810,000 hectares’ target prescribed by the Ministry of Interior. As an island nation, food supply depends on international trade and is regarded as dangerous.
A total blockade of Taiwan would likely bring it to its knees within a few weeks or months. Time that could be used to defeat its air force, air defenses and missiles and prevent attacks from Taiwan on China’s continental assets. China does not have to invade the island. It just has to wait until it is invited to come in.
In a response to a Chinese blockade of Taiwan the U.S. would likely declare a blockade of China from energy imports, i.e. oil and LPG. It could enforce this by hindering Chinese ships from passing through the Malacca Street and other maritime bottlenecks. (The second big gas pipeline that Russia is currently building to China is one of the counter moves to that threat.)
In case of a blockade and counter-blockade the question becomes who could hold out longer. Here China has the advantage of greater reserves. The U.S. would also have only few allies in such a conflict. China would, like Russia is now, still be in good standing with the rest of the world. That would allow it to mitigate most consequences.
Andrei Martyanov seems to think that the technologically superior U.S. submarine fleet could defeat the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. I doubt that it is still the case. It is also totally irrelevant. Submarines can not lift blockades that are enforced by land based missiles and an air force that flies under the protective air defense cover of continental China.
In addition to the maneuvers China has taken political countermeasures against the U.S.:
Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday announced the following countermeasures in response:
1. Canceling China-U.S. Theater Commanders Talk.
2. Canceling China-U.S. Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT).
3. Canceling China-U.S. Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) meetings.
4. Suspending China-U.S. cooperation on the repatriation of illegal immigrants.
5. Suspending China-U.S. cooperation on legal assistance in criminal matters.
6. Suspending China-U.S. cooperation against transnational crimes.
7. Suspending China-U.S. counternarcotics cooperation.
8. Suspending China-U.S. talks on climate change
Calls by the Pentagon chiefs to China now go unanswered.
The U.S. wants to further provoke China with another warship passage through the Taiwan Strait. But China’s legal understanding is that an uninvited military passage through its economic zone is not allowed. The U.S. makes the same claim when it comes to its own economic zone.
As China has broken off all military communication with the U.S. the risk of a passage is now much higher. One should not be astonished when China reacts to it.