Overcoming a Chinese blockade of Taiwan

Published: Apr 3, 2023
Updated: Apr 5, 2023

This is very interesting read: Beyond the First Battle: Overcoming a Protracted Blockade Taiwan.

The author is Lonnie D. Henley, career intelligence officer and east Asia expert.

Summary: “If there is a war over Taiwan, an extended Chinese blockade is likely to determine the outcome. . . . In this author’s assessment, nothing the United States armed forces are doing or planning to do is sufficient to prevail in that conflict.”

More: In the event of an attack on Taiwan, the island would become dependent on the U.S. for massive re-supplying of food, fuel, and, well, everything. The terrain of the east cost ports makes them unsuitable for this: narrow, precipitous roadways are easily cut off. Often they’re shut, sometimes for years, due to rockslides and earthquakes. So the resupplying would need to be done at west coast ports, facing China, 100 miles away.

“That means that U.S. forces must get cargo ships into the west coast ports on a regular basis, in the face of extensive mining and hostile fire, close to China and under conditions of Chinese air superiority.” . . . Cargo planes are “fat, slow, and extremely vulnerable . . . "

“Unless U.S. forces were able to dismantle the PLA integrated air defense system, this author’s assessment is that the PLA could sustain the air blockade for months if not years without exhausting its inventory of air-to-air or surface-to-air weapons.”

At the end, the author presents 3 options. One he considers unacceptable.

Another is to stay the current course, and change nothing. “Taiwan will be devastated, a great deal of blood will be shed on all sides, and the U.S. and global economy will suffer enormous harm.”

The preferred option:

. . . building a force that can actually win. Whenever this author has outlined this conundrum to U.S. force planners, however, the inevitable answer is that the force we would need to penetrate a blockade is not the kind of force we need for everything else we care about in the world.

That leaves the question of what we actually mean when we say that China is the pacing threat for U.S. force development. Does it mean that we use China as the justification for our preferred systems and force structure? Or does it mean that we actually build a force that can win?

War over Taiwan has only two possible paths: either China wins quickly, because Taiwan surrendered or because the United States could not save them; or the war drags on for months or years, with Taiwan suffering greater and greater pain until we rescue them or they surrender.

Winning the first battle is meaningless if we cannot win the war, and there is no path to U.S. victory that does not include the long blockade.

So, for the U.S. to win it would need to run and break the long blockade, repeatedly, and/or somehow, vanquish it entirely.