Last week I zoomed into a very stimulating discussion of the current condition of China, conducted by Sinologist Dan Blumenthal, author of the recent book “The China Nightmare: The Great Ambitions of a Decaying State.”
Among the subjects that arose was the likelihood that China might attempt to put irresistible pressure upon Taiwan, and that in its present state of political division, the United States might not respond to this threat.
There would be no excuse for such a failure to respond. There appears to be a school of military thinking that imagines that the United States Navy’s preeminence in the far Pacific is open to question, and as has occurred in other crises, the question arises in the event of an attack on Taiwan, what should the United States do, go to war?
It is most unlikely that China would start with military action—severing the underwater cables carrying the internet link might be a first step. The United States and other regional powers, especially Japan, could be adequately supportive to assure that the initiative moved Taiwan farther from and not closer to China.
But if China did attack Taiwan militarily, then yes, the United States should respond militarily. China claims that aircraft carriers are obsolete, although it has just commissioned one. Certainly they must be carefully protected from sea and ground-launched anti-ship missiles.
But in order to protect Taiwan, the American Seventh Fleet’s Nimitz Class aircraft carriers need not be in the Straits of Formosa and if there were any chance of combat they could be deployed at a distance with a very heavy anti-missile defense system.
Any such war with China would consist of the prevention of the successful Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which the Chinese cannot possibly imagine could be accomplished with fewer than several hundred thousand soldiers, almost entirely by sea—a distance of from 80 to 110 miles in open water.
The landing would have to be amphibious and conveyed in landing craft that could not proceed more quickly than about 12 knots and are extremely vulnerable to well targeted air or sea attack. The width of the Formosa Strait is 3 to 5 times as great as that of the English Channel separating Britain from Normandy.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, allied forces under the ultimate command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, with 5000 ships and more than 15,000 aircraft, conducted 130,000 men by sea across a much shorter space enjoying complete surprise until the invading force was seen offshore at day-break at a distance of 2 miles.
The German defenders had practically no sea or air forces, only encased artillery and infantry divisions. The Allied forces also landed three paratroops divisions in the German rear and maintained complete air superiority for 50 miles in land from the landings. Despite those advantages, as all the world knows, it was a closely fought operation.
If there is anyone of any resolution and capacity for strategic thinking in a possible Biden administration, such people should be ready with contingency plans at once. It is entirely possible the Chinese will regard Joe Biden as an invertebrate weakling whom they can ignore with impunity.
There is nothing in his career, from his advocacy of a quick run from Vietnam as soon as he came into the Senate in 1973 to his opposition to the raid to take care of Osama bin Laden when he was vice president, to incite any concern in the Chinese leadership that the new president would lift a finger to protect Taiwan.
Any such invasion as the scenario contemplates would be a gross breach of Chinese undertakings to the United States and would entirely justify military intervention. Whatever might be the Chinese ability to harass American aircraft carriers, it would possess absolutely no ability to protect an amphibious invasion force across a hundred miles of open sea to Taiwan.
Unless the United States signaled that it would do absolutely nothing in response, not even tariffs, China would be insane to embark upon such a course. But if it is Biden policy to do nothing in the event of a Chinese attack upon Taiwan, the Taiwanese would not be minded to resist: the fate of Taiwan probably rests in the very unsteady hands of Joe Biden.
If China attempts to enforce its outrageous view that the South China Sea is composed of territorial Chinese waters that other flag vessels may not enter without Chinese permission, the United States should lead a practical demonstration of the unsustainability of that view.
Japan and India should be happy to join such a demonstration and those two countries together have at least as great a naval power as China. Of course, no one should be blasé about a test of arms with so powerful a country, but the only basis upon which that is being done is not a guerrilla war or even a ground war at all but the extremely dangerous and relatively easily surmounted threat of a Chinese seaborne invasion of Taiwan, contrary to its undertakings to the United States.
If the United States is resolute there will be no such war; if it is not, the Chinese will assume it can do what it wishes. The Biden administration, assuming it is installed, should be ready from the first day to be tested by the Chinese over Taiwan.
China engaged in a great deal of saber rattling about this in the mid-50s and Congress passed almost unanimously the Formosa resolution authorizing President Eisenhower to use any degree of force he considered necessary, specifically including nuclear weapons, against China if that country should attack points that the president judged to be of American national interest, including Taiwan, the Pescatores, and even the tiny little rock piles offshore from China, Quemoy and Matsu, which Chiang Kai-shek had stuffed with Chinese Nationalist soldiers.
In the year following passage of the Formosa Resolution the Joint Chiefs of Staff filed into Eisenhower’s office five times requesting authority to detonate nuclear weapons on China. The world is fortunate that in Eisenhower, a victorious theater commander, there was a president who knew how to say no to senior officers. He did so and it is clear today that the requests for recourse to nuclear war were completely unjustified. There would be no thought of such a thing now either; only perhaps a recourse to overwhelming strength in conventional military capabilities.
Should there be a Biden administration, it must make its position clear on the independence of Taiwan and international access to Chinese waters. And it must be clear and believable that it will do the necessary to prevent such misconduct.
While we are contemplating deterrence of Chinese misbehavior, all of the countries of the world with any notion of self-defense, with American strategists leading them, should be completing a deterrence of a Chinese repetition of the release into the world of the coronavirus.
As was mentioned in this space last week, the Chinese scored a decisive victory over the rest of the world by its almost certainly deliberate viral assault on us all. If there is any repetition of such a provocation the United States should be prepared lead the world in a counter-infection of China with an equally, but not more, disabling virus.
This is bacteriological war which all civilized countries of the world are pledged to avoid, and it cannot be tolerated with impunity again. China, and the rivalries of nations generally, will not await a less acrimonious state of American politics before testing the American will to defend its national interest.
In the light of recent events it is small wonder that China may have some curiosity about the political stability of the United States. On that point at least, their minds should be set at ease.
Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world. He’s the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, and, most recently, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” which has been republished in updated form.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.