In “The Art of War,” the great strategist Sun Tzu described victory as not fighting at all and permitting the enemy to defeat themselves. To that end, Taiwan is well aware of China’s vulnerabilities.
If mainland China tries to take Taiwan again, as it tried and failed more than 70 years ago, it would likely fail again—just as the United States and the Soviet Union failed in their invasions of Afghanistan, just as the Arab armies failed in their invasions of Israel, just as other apparently overwhelming militaries failed against much smaller, but more determined, nations.
But China is unlikely to try an invasion, not only because Taiwan with its 300 combat jets, 1,200 tanks, and 2 million regular and reserve troops is exceedingly well armed, but also because Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has many internal enemies, may be too weak to dare and because China is too vulnerable to a military attack.
Knowing that an invasion of heavily armed, highly determined Taiwan would not be quick and could trigger his ouster should it fail, Xi has been resorting to psychological warfare. In doing so, he is following the precepts of Sun Tzu, the legendary general who wrote “The Art of War,” the bible on warfare considered the most profound military treatise by Asians for the last 2,500 years. “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle,” Sun wrote, adding that “All warfare is based on deception.”
In line with those maxims, Xi and his PR machine have repeatedly threatened to invade Taiwan. In 2017, the press reported a secret People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plan to attack Taiwan by 2020. In subsequent years, Xi ratcheted up the pressure. And in July of this year, Du Wenlong, a military expert at China’s Military Culture Society, described Taiwan’s position as hopeless, saying China’s military forces could reach Taiwan so rapidly that American troops would have “no chance to intervene in a Taiwan Strait conflict.” To dash any hope that Japan would come to Taiwan’s aid, Du declared that “We [China] will use nuclear bombs first. We will use nuclear bombs continuously. We will do this until Japan declares unconditional surrender for the second time.”
The psychological warfare may work, according to a study earlier this year funded by an Australian Department of Defense grant. It concluded that China could successfully destabilize Taiwan through withering military threats and economic pressure—everything from cutting off Taiwan’s air routes into China to cyberwarfare and assassinations.
But those predicting Taiwan’s demise—whether as a result of a shooting war or a Sun Tzu-style psychological war—forget that the Taiwanese have also read Sun’s military treatise, including the maxim that states: “The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”
The opportunity that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) unintentionally handed the Taiwanese is the Three Gorges Dam, a weapon many times more potent than the atomic bombs that landed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest and estimated at $88 billion, the CCP’s most expensive vanity project by far, is more than a monument to communist grandiosity. Just two missiles would be required to take out the 1.5-mile wide, 60-story high dam, according to military strategists, creating a tsunami that would befall some 100 million living downstream. Apart from washing away the residents of the city of Wuhan and possibly even reaching Shanghai further east, 90 percent of the PLA airborne division would be wiped out, according to Wang Weiluo, a hydrologist specializing on the Three Gorges Dam.
If Taiwan needed more opportunities, it could train its sights on China’s 51 nuclear plants, most of which are vulnerable to either sabotage or a military attack, and all of which are located near major population centers. A Chernobyl-style meltdown at a major nuclear reactor in China would destabilize the country as much as the tactics that the Australian study hypothesized for Taiwan.
China is well aware of Taiwan’s capabilities, and its own vulnerabilities. Xi would have everything to lose by attempting an invasion of Taiwan, which is why he’s unlikely to try.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.