The question of China’s ability to successfully invade Taiwan has been a subject of much debate and analysis among military and political experts. Recent comprehensive surveys conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) have shed light on this topic, revealing a consensus among experts that China may currently lack the military capability to carry out a successful amphibious invasion of Taiwan.
In a detailed survey, CSIS gathered the opinions of 52 U.S. experts, including those with extensive experience in the U.S. government, academics, and think-tank experts who had testified in Congress. The results were revealing: only 27% of these experts strongly or somewhat agreed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had the military might to pull off an amphibious invasion. This low level of confidence among U.S. experts in China’s invasion capabilities is striking.
Furthermore, when considering the likelihood of U.S. intervention, the confidence among experts in China’s ability to invade drops even further. According to the report, “An overwhelming 96% of U.S. experts were completely or moderately confident that if China invades Taiwan in the next five years, the U.S. military would intervene to defend Taiwan.” This belief in U.S. military support plays a crucial role in shaping the experts’ assessment of China’s invasion capabilities.
Perhaps some of this stems from recent reports from China that Xi is purging his military of corrupt leaders, and that significant faults have been found. However, our own experts recognize the sheer size of the Chinese military and the recent incompetence of U.S. leadership. We believe that the “experts” in the survey are merely following the party line, and if China wants to invade Taiwan they will find a way to do it. And by the time Biden gets around to responding, it will be a fait accompli.
CSIS also surveyed 35 experts from Taiwan, where only 17% agreed that China had the power to successfully execute an amphibious invasion. This shared skepticism between U.S. and Taiwanese experts underscores the perceived limitations of China’s current military capabilities regarding an invasion of Taiwan. But perceptions are not necessarily reality.
While a full-scale invasion is deemed unlikely, the experts did acknowledge that China is well-positioned to execute other forms of pressure on Taiwan. A significant majority of experts, 91% of U.S. respondents and 63% of Taiwanese respondents, believed that China could create a quarantine of Taiwan, using non-military means to restrict the flow of goods in and out of the island. Such a strategy could involve squeezing traffic to Taiwanese ports through a customs-inspections regime.
Moreover, the possibility of China imposing a military blockade on Taiwan was also seen as feasible, with 81% of U.S. experts and 60% of Taiwanese experts agreeing that Beijing could undertake such an action. A military blockade would involve more direct action by China’s military forces and could significantly escalate tensions in the region.
But we believe that a military blockage is less reasonable because it would be a half measure that the world would quickly respond to. Strategically it would be a bad idea to do a slow buildup, China’s better bet is a surprise “shock and awe” attack.
The survey’s findings are further complicated by the political climate in Taiwan, especially with the recent election of William Lai Ching-te as Taiwan’s new leader. Lai’s ties to the Democratic Progressive Party, which campaigns on resisting Beijing, and Taiwan’s outgoing president Tsai Ing-wen’s increasingly hawkish stance toward China, suggest that tensions between China and Taiwan are likely to remain high.
The consensus among experts is that China’s current military capabilities and the expected U.S. intervention make a successful amphibious invasion of Taiwan unlikely in the near term. We believe this is wishful thing and that China could invade at any time – and that they would find a way to be successful, at least in the short term. The U.S. under President Biden is not prepared to deal with this, which may be exactly the condition that causes China to invade now versus later.
We have come to have less and less faith in “experts.” We find the majority of “experts” only care to find out what everyone else knows and tend to ignore what has not made it into mainstream media. Our own advisors dig a little deeper, insert themselves into intelligence channels, talk to people on the ground and analyze the fact, the motivations, the history and the capabilities. It is a lot of work, work that retired government, academic and military “experts” tend not to do.
And make no mistake, as long as Xi is in power, China will covet Taiwan and the danger will continue. China will be very patient in waiting for its opportunity.