China: June 9, 2004


China is undergoing a transportation crises that has military and diplomatic overtones. As China's economy has boomed in the last two decades, the state owned railroad system has not put money into expanding the railroads to keep pace. As a result, many businesses are forced to cut back their expansion plans until the railroad capacity can catch up. But this problem has resulted in Taiwan's ability to bomb key Chinese economic targets if there should ever be a war with Taiwan.  China's purchase of highly capable Russian Su-30 long range bombers has made Chinese generals aware that Taiwan has long had the same capability in its fleet of F-16 aircraft. If was the F-16 that Israel used in 1981 to make a daring, long range attack that destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak. Now news stories are appearing describing Taiwanese spies, carrying GPS devices, caught around key Chinese economic targets. And now everyone realizes that Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian has, since being elected in 2000, been preparing a "Scorpion Defense" against a Chinese attack. Such a strategy only works if it is out in the open where the Chinese population and leadership can be properly terrified. Now it's in the open, because of public remarks by Taiwanese officials. 

For whatever reason, the story has become a major one in China and Taiwan, with media competing to see who can come up with a more terrifying target list. Taiwan's F-16's, using American smart bombs, are now credited with the ability to quickly take out key bridges and tunnels, crippling China's transportation system, and economy. Even water transport is not immune. A few well placed smart bombs could crack open the new Three Gorges dam, killing over half a million people downstream and making millions more homeless, and jobless.

Taiwan also says it has long range missiles, with special warheads, for cracking open the 300 foot think concrete Three Gorges dam. Chinese generals are angrily denying that the dam or the railroads are vulnerable, but any Chinese with any sense of military history know better. Officially, Taiwan denies that it has any plans to take out Chinese dams. This, despite senior Taiwanese officials being quoted at public meetings talking about such plans. 

China plans to spend nearly half a trilling dollars in the next 15 years to expand the railroads, and billions more to buy Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. But Taiwan already has over 140 F-16s, thousands of smart bombs and pilots who know how to use both. Taiwan also has electronic countermeasures for China's new, Russian made, air defenses. Taiwan won't say how effective those countermeasures are, but in the past, Russian anti-aircraft missiles have done poorly against such countermeasures.  China's generals now have to consider not just the problems of attacking Taiwan, but the cost to China from Taiwan's counterattack. At the moment, it appears that the cost would be too high to justify the conquest of the lost island province.





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