Island building in the South China Sea heralds an expansion of Chinese military might, pushing the political boundaries of its neighbors and trying to replace American military strength in the area with its own. But, what if, in addition to that, China is still trying to reclaim what it considers an integral part of its territory?
Taiwan, or more accurately the Republic of China (ROC), became the refuge of the nationalistic army of Chang Kai-Shek after losing the civil war with the communists. The civil war, which began before World War II, resumed after the Japanese defeat and in 1949 a series of offenses by the communist armies pushed the nationalist armies off of the mainland. Approximately two million soldiers, officials and their families fled mainland China and set up the government in the city of Taipei. Taiwan already had around six million inhabitants prior to the mass exodus of nationalists.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC), under Mao Tse-tung, never abandoned their claim to the island. The United States assumed that the small island would fall to the communists until the situation on the Korean peninsula erupted into war. The United States supported the ROC against the PRC and sent carrier groups into the Taiwan Straits in 1950.
A second crisis in the Taiwan Straits in 1958 led to mutual defense pacts and a formal treaty between the U.S. and the ROC. There have been a couple more crises over the last 55 years, and the ROC finally ended martial law on the island in 1987.
The important takeaway, however, is that the People’s Republic of China has never renounced its claim on Taiwan. After the civil war ended, the PRC claimed all of the former area of China, including Taiwan, and claimed that the ROC had ended.
There has been a lot of political dancing over the status of Taiwan. The ROC, even though it has its own constitution, laws and government, does not have United Nations membership or diplomatic recognition with other states. The island exists in a quasi-legal status that is less than full independence but greater than assimilation with the PRC.
Now, with that background behind us. The only thing that has kept the PRC from invading Taiwan to regain their wayward province is the lack of ability to make an amphibious landing against an island with almost 24 million people and the protection granted by the US Navy. A protection predicated on sending multiple carrier groups to take control of the Taiwan Straits and destroy Chinese amphibious capability.
Until recently, the only military concern about stopping a mainland invasion of Taiwan hinged on the capabilities of submarines – first bought from the Soviets and then built in China based on those designs. The ROC would have hurt the US Navy, perhaps sank a few ships, but the carriers would have been protected and able to force the communist forces back.
The development of forward, armed military bases that can stage attack aircraft and the revealing of the DP series of carrier killer missiles has pointed out the weakness in that American strategy. A conflict, now, could see extensive damage to American assets if the Chinese missiles work and the airbases in the South China Sea are manned and ready.
These factors leave Taiwan vulnerable. The PRC doesn’t even have to conduct a military invasion to destroy the independence of the ROC. A maritime blockade combined with refusing entry to aircraft would starve the island into submission quickly. The US would either have to put its ships and service members into harm’s way to protect a country that we don’t officially recognize or allow Taiwan to be reabsorbed into the People’s Republic of China.
The worst part of this scenario is that the PRC, with their growing strength and control of the area, don’t have to make it a priority. The hegemony-building that the PRC is currently doing will give them Taiwan in just a few years without a shot being fired.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.