Unwarranted and unlikely

Blankinship’s take that the widely feared invasion of Taiwan is highly unlikely.

Graphic by Ilana Zahavy ’24/Staff

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, analysts of the Asia-Pacific region have tried to draw parallels between the situation in Ukraine and the strained relationship between Taiwan and China. Both countries claim to be the “true China,” with the nominally communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) ruling over the mainland, while the Republic of China (RoC or Taiwan for convenience) rules over the island of Taiwan in the South China Sea. The “conflict” between them is a frozen one, left over from the Chinese Civil War in which the Nationalist Party lost and fled to Taiwan in 1949. In the following decades, China has postured and beat its chest, claiming that reunification is imminent and necessary, yet no serious action has come of it. President Xi Jingping has followed his predecessors in proclaiming the importance of unification while doing little to change the status quo. Consequently, despite what much of the American media would have one believe, the situation today is hardly different from the past seventy years. 

The likelihood of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is extremely low. Taiwan is armed to the teeth with advanced defense systems and huge reserves of manpower in the millions that would be mobilized in the event of an invasion. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would, without a doubt, be the single largest amphibious assault in history and one of the biggest logistical challenges ever. In order to overcome the defender’s advantage, the PRC would need to assemble an invasion force consisting of literal millions—probably over a million direct combat troops plus support for them. Supplying these troops and even just getting them to landing zones would be a logistician’s nightmare. Even if the Chinese army gained a foothold, it would take intense, brutal combat for them to gain ground. Additionally, Taiwan could count on the direct support of the U.S. and its allies in the Asia-Pacific Region (despite U.S. claims of “strategic ambiguity”). Direct conflict between nuclear-armed powers could all too easily lead to the annihilation of everything, something I doubt China is willing to risk. Even if we subtract nukes from the equation, China, and thus the rest of the world, would still suffer economic catastrophe as a result of sanctions and blockades. President Xi and the PRC are too savvy to believe that any good can come of an invasion of Taiwan.

Yet, even though an invasion is quite unlikely, the mainstream media and foreign policy establishment in the United States has been trying to stir up anti-China hysteria. Recently, the “spy balloons” fiasco has damaged relations, even as uncertainty remains (as of February 21st) regarding what these various flying objects are and what their purpose is. General Mike Minihan of the Air Mobility Command issued a memo in January predicting that the U.S. would be at war with China by 2025 and telling his men to prepare for war including settling their personal affairs. The AMC is an Air Force formation that comprises almost 50,000 airmen. The Defense Department denied that Minihan’s jingoist views represented official policy, but the announcement is and should be seen as deeply concerning. If a Chinese general had made a similar statement, the news media would go insane with demands for apology and calls for retribution.

The U.S. must stop trying to create conflict with further military escalation in the Asia-Pacific region and trying to resurrect a mostly cold conflict. Of course, the possibility of war always exists, but the U.S. should be using its geopolitical weight to de-escalate the situation, finding solutions rather than acting in a reactionary manner. With the future so uncertain, cooperativism is the only way forward.

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