China: March 23, 2000


China faces serious challenges over Taiwan. If Taiwan declared independence, China would have little choice but to go to war. The problem is, it probably cannot win it, although its missile force alone could punish the Taiwanese considerably. Landing troops on the island would be very difficult, and the landing craft would be unlikely to survive a round trip to bring in a second wave. Using weapons of mass destruction would make China a pariah state. Such a war would derail the entire US-Chinese engagement. This would turn the two countries into long-term enemies, and China would not enjoy being on the weak end of a power struggle in a world dominated by the US. Any attack on Taiwan would probably cause Japan to launch a rearmament drive, and could even cause a Japanese-Indian alliance. A failed invasion would humiliate the Beijing government and might cause the fall of the Communist Party from power. In the event of a Taiwanese declaration of independence, China might be better off to declare the act void and announce a naval blockade. Only the US Navy could break it, and the US has declared the China-Taiwan conflict to be one that must be settled by the two Chinas. If there was no conflict, China would suffer no penalty. If Taiwan attacked first (trying to push a convoy through the blockade) it would suffer serious casualties and Taiwan might be branded as the aggressor. --Stephen V Cole 


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