Thursday, June 20, 2024

The likely scenarios for China-Taiwan tensions

For the second time in less than a year, China is holding large-scale military drills in the Taiwan straits. With Beijing claiming Taiwan as part of its territory, the prospects of a military conflict have begun to loom large. Mint breaks this down:

How would a military conflict play out?

Much of the analysis around a conflict between China and Taiwan is speculative. But there are two scenarios that have attracted attention. One, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, which could begin with cyber attacks to disorient Taiwan’s defence. This would be followed by prolonged bombardment of the island, which in turn would be followed by Chinese boots on Taiwan’s soil. The second scenario involves a blockade of Taiwan by Beijing’s formidable navy. By cutting Taiwan off from its trade route and imports of arms and other essential goods, China would hope to force Taiwan into surrender.

Is a China-Taiwan conflict likely?

This question has absorbed military analysts and policymakers. China has not renounced the use of force in enforcing its territorial claim on Taiwan. While analysts argue that China lacks the political will and military capability to take Taiwan, senior US military commanders have voiced fears of an impending conflict. Admiral Phil Davidson, a former chief of the US Indo-Pacific Command, warned that China would try to attack Taiwan in 2027. More recently, US Air Force General Mike Minihan sent alarm bells ringing by stating that a crisis over Taiwan could erupt within the next two years.

Who would the likely players in a conflict be?

Besides China and Taiwan, the US would almost certainly participate. Despite its policy of “strategic ambiguity”, observers believe Washington would have to defend Taiwan. Senior figures in Japan have indicated that their country will have to get involved to check Chinese designs. It is unclear whether South Korea, a formal US treaty ally, will participate.

What would be the economic impact?

Any military action by China to take Taiwan would have profound consequences for the global economy. The Rhodium Group, an economic consultancy, indicated that a Chinese blockade of Taiwan would cost the global economy upwards of $2 trillion. Taiwan is the world’s 16th largest trading economy which manufactures more than 90% of the world’s most advanced semiconductors. Then there’s the economic cost of sanctions on China by the West. This also doesn’t include the cost of a full-scale invasion by China.

How would India be affected?

The conflict over Ukraine, which is a country with far less systemic importance to the global economy than Taiwan, has been a severe shock. Global growth rates have fallen, energy prices have risen and the World Bank has warned of a “lost decade” for growth. All of these have implications for India’s ambitions for economic growth, energy transition and poverty reduction. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan, followed by a US and Japanese response, could be much worse for the Indian economy.

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