America Errs In Viewing Ukraine As A Template For Taiwan

A few days ago, on several internet news sites, a bone-chilling claim appeared: The U.S. is looking to the Ukraine war to shape its planning for the coming conflict with China over Taiwan. This is completely wrong because there is no connection between events in Ukraine and a possible Chinese assault on Taiwan.

The comparison between current events in Ukraine and possible future events in Taiwan has been common practically since the Ukraine conflict began.

On May 19, 2022, Politico wrote that “U.S. officials are pushing their Taiwanese counterparts with new urgency to look to Ukraine’s success in fending off Russian forces as a blueprint for countering a Chinese attack.”

Less than a year later, News published an article entitled, “How Ukraine war has shaped US planning for a China conflict“: “As the war rages on in Ukraine, the United States is doing more than supporting an ally. It’s learning lessons — with an eye toward a possible future clash with China.”

Reading these articles, one must ask whether our military “experts” have a realistic grasp of the coming battle of Taiwan? I doubt it.

Apparently, “US officials” imagine that Chairman Xi is channeling Gen. Robert E. Lee and intends to reenact Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg by charging across the Taiwan Strait, in the same way that Russian President Vladimir Putin reenacted it with his infantry and armor against Kiev.

Image: Taipei skyline by 毛貓大少爺. CC BY 2.0.

The simple fact is that Pickett’s charge is as bad an idea in 2023 as it was in 1863. It’s rather amusing to see Americans think that the Chinese will fall for it.

For thousands of years, the only offensive tactic the generals of the world could imagine was the frontal assault. Innovators such as General Hannibal Barca and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were a rarity. Over time, advances in weaponry invalidated the frontal assault. Those advances continue to invalidate it today, something confirmed by Russia’s Russian armored re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge before Kiev and the sinking of the Moskva on April 14, 2022, 4/14/22 in the Black Sea.

Given the comparison between Ukraine and Taiwan, many are asking what Biden would do if China did attack Taiwan. (See, e.g., this Newsmax article.) People who ask this question don’t understand the tempo of the coming Chinese attack. By the time Biden learns about the attack, Taiwan will have surrendered.

The scenario for the Chinese attack is clear. In war, as in love, timing is everything.

First, it’s true that, if an attack occurs, the Chinese will choose Biden’s administration to do it, and that’s true whether because they perceive Biden as pitifully weak or because they’re making good on their investment in Hunter Biden. The attack must seize the island quickly and with minimum damage to the people or infrastructure. It will occur at high noon on a bright summer day. The attack will proceed in five stages:

(1) A massive cyber assault creates chaos in Taiwan’s computer systems.

(2) The cyber assault clears the road for a missile carrying the low-yield nuclear device that will detonate in the sky above Taiwan. In the bright sunlight at high noon, most people won’t notice the EMP attack. They will only notice that their phones are dead. Every computer chip on the island that has not been armored against an EMP strike will be fried. Taiwan will have no tanks, no trucks, no airplanes, no ground-to-air missiles, no communications. Surrender will be the only option.

(3) A white Chicom helicopter flying dozens of white flags lands on Taiwan, and China presents its offer to accept a bloodless surrender.

(4) The surrender is executed.

(5) Chicom forces land on the beach and drive into Taipei.

A war that begins in the wee hours of Eastern Standard Time will be a fait accompli long before Biden wakes up enough to understand what happened. There will likely be no Chinese boots on Taiwan soil until the Taiwan surrender, which will be mere hours after hostilities begin.

Even Taiwan hasn’t grasped this, as evidenced by a Taipei Times editorial pushing for a “defense upgrade.” The editorial wisely eschews any expectation that the USA will intervene with military force but continues to anticipate that, after the attack, Washington will provide “detailed intelligence and vast quantities of weapons.” Taiwan, like the U.S., fails to understand that the Beijing attack will move at a speed that makes Hitler’s blitzkrieg look like slow motion.

So, is Taiwan doomed? No, no, no, not at all. Diplomacy can save Taiwan.

What does China want? Two things: wealth and dignity.

Specifically, from Taiwan, China wants trade and acceptance of the “One China” policy. This is cake. Trade will benefit both Taiwan and China. And accepting the “one China” policy is easy for Taiwan to finesse. In fact, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has previously called upon Beijing to work with Taipei to find a “mutually agreeable arrangement” to uphold cross-strait peace and stability, saying military confrontation is not an option for the two sides.

Despite the benefits of a negotiated settlement, the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) continue their unrelenting head-butting fracas over the “one China” doctrine. This doctrine sees the PRC claim it is the one and only China, shouting “We are the Chinese nation” over and over ad nauseam. Meanwhile, just last week, the ROC claim reiterated that “s a sovereign nation that has never been and never will be a part of the People’s Republic of China.” The truth is that this dustup has become as boring as a family feud that persists unabated despite an obvious and easy solution.

The key to the solution is to understand the distinction between a nation and a state. A nation is a collection of people with important common characteristics, like race, language, etc., while a state is a polity, a political entity, a collection of people with a governmental structure. So, yes, indeed, there is only one Chinese nation, but that one Chinese nation is implemented in several Chinese states, including Tibet, Outer Mongolia, the PRC, and the ROC. (There may be others of which I am unaware.)

Taiwan can eagerly proclaim: “Yes, there is only one China! And we are proud to be part of it!” Agreeing to this simple formula can avoid a war, assure the PRC that all four states are Chinese, and secure to both the PRC and the ROC the blessings of trade and a lasting peace.

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