Concerns rising but not easy for China to invade Taiwan

The concerns about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan are rising in the
backdrop of the western nations failing to support Ukraine. This has led the tiny island
nation to prepare itself for a war with China irrespective of intervention by the US and its
allies. Taiwan has warned “authoritarian” China of a fierce fight if a military attack occurs.
At the same time, it has started taking measures to build up its military power as well as
lower non-military Chinese risks. There are other strong reasons like natural advantages
to Taiwan, which would make China tread cautiously.
Taiwan has issued a war survival handbook to guide its citizens on how to prepare for a
potential Chinese invasion. The book talks about storing enough food stock, finding bomb
shelters using Smartphone, and skills for the public during air raids, massive fires, building
collapses, power outages and natural disasters.1 Also, people in Taiwan are learning
lessons of basic army training from online videos. They do not want to rely on others in
the backdrop of the strategic ambiguity maintained by the US and the lack of international
response to Ukraine’s frantic calls for help. Taipei is planning to extend the period of
compulsory military service for young people.2 Taiwanese forces are already carrying out
mock drills in order to be ready for the Chinese invasion.3 The nation is gearing up to face
the worst.
On the non-military front, Taiwan is taking a slew of measures such as cyber protection
and digital spying. Taiwan has proposed a tougher law to protect its vibrant
semiconductor industry from Chinese espionage.4
It has also taken cognisance of the
rising growth of the Chinese social media platform TikTok, which it fears may be used as
a tool for ‘cognitive warfare’ to influence the youth.5 Taiwan claimed that it faces 5 million
cyber attacks every day, of which over half originated from China.6 The Taiwan
government has already created the Department of Cyber Security to protect vulnerable
sectors from cyber attacks from China.7 A group of Chinese hackers supported by the
Beijing government had wedged a month-long attack against the financial institutions in
Taiwan’s former Chief of the General Staff, Admiral Lee Hsi-ming has asked for territorial
defence force. “They can conduct guerrilla warfare, hit and run – they can be a kind of
logistical force,” said Hsi-ming, adding that such force in Ukraine destroyed tanks and
armoured cars.9 Taiwan is no match for China when it comes to military might. However,
the mountainous terrain makes Taiwan’s defence strong.10 There are 258 peaks over
3,000 metres in elevation. China will have to risk moving thousands of tanks, artillery
guns, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers along with infantry in the difficult terrain.
Taiwan is pretty sure that Chinese forces will not be able to make a smooth landing on
land as happened in Ukraine’s case. “The nation’s military has the advantage of the
Taiwan Strait being a natural moat and can use joint intercept operations, cutting off the
Communist military’s supplies, severely reducing the combat effectiveness and
endurance of the landing forces,” reads a report of Taiwanese Defence Ministry.11 Taiwan
has been building new military capabilities to deter China. It allocated an additional USD
8.6 billion to the annual defence budget this year.12A majority of Taiwanese people hate
being called Chinese and seek to retain their independence. The feeling is strong among
young people. “My grandparents don’t mind if you call them Chinese, because they came
to Taiwan from there. We get angry when people say we are part of China,” said Tang
Chia-yi, 27-year old journalist.13 This has made Beijing use new tactics to cajole
Taiwanese youth into identifying more with the mainland. However, Taiwanese people
called China government “authoritarian” and have vowed to fight for Taiwan’s sovereignty
as well as its democratic way of life.14
Although Taiwan’s security has been on the lips of policymakers and experts worldwide,
China may not find it as easy as the Ukraine invasion. Not just does it risk aggravating
political tension in the region and pitting major military powers against China but it can
spoil Beijing’s plans of gaining the ambitious status of the largest global economic power
in a long term.15 Moreover, the US would not let China invade Taiwan as it would mean
the end of its military might, which is already shaken after the Afghanistan fiasco.