Stephen Green and his commenters had a pretty good discussion yesterday morning about the PRC’s strategic options vis-a-vis Taiwan, building on an earlier essay by Steven Den Beste.

Personally, I remain skeptical. I agree with SDB:

My opinion is that Taiwan is capable of defending itself against an invasion by China without our help, and with our help such an invasion would be hopeless. But we would not help with ground troops; our contribution would be naval and air. A hypothetical invasion of Taiwan would be won or lost in and over the straight of Taiwan.

The VodkaPundit counters that the PRC doesn’t have to actually invade, since they could lob missiles. This strikes me as a hollow threat, though. Any direct strike on Taiwan by the PRC would not only risk, it would virtually guarantee, war with the United States. The possible gains from striking Taiwan–which are almost entirely psychological–would be almost infinitely offset by the potential downside. And the Chinese regime has proven itself, if nothing else, rational in its calculations. Regime survival is their ultimate objective. War with the United States is the only real short or medium term threat to that objective–and an attack on Taiwan is about the only thing that would spark it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. By “lob missiles”, I assume you mean nuclear tipped ones, which I would like to think no one would risk. Sort of brings this new missile defence policy into a new light though, doesn’t it?

    I enjoyed SDB’s article and thought it was a really good analysis. One point he didn’t discuss, which I found over at Forgotten Fronts, was that thousands of mainland Chinese agents would attack from WITHIN Taiwan – there would be no need to land them since they are already there functioning within the country.

  2. Nope, I was speaking strictly of conventional missiles — helps to read the original post!

    Anyway, I never argued that such would be the smart move for Beijing, only a possible move, should they feel cornered.