An invasion of Taiwan is unlikely — here’s why


Presidencia El Salvador | Flickr

Nathan Woo Yang

As Russia pushes further and further into Ukraine, the dialogue surrounding whether China is likely to invade Taiwan has been revived. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August of last year further stoked the flames, prompting opposition from Beijing as well as concerns from within the United States.

Despite the fears of conflict, it is unlikely that the People’s Republic of China will invade the Republic of China (Taiwan) soon.

While one cannot dismiss the possibility of an invasion of Taiwan, a re-unification with less bloodshed seems preferable to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s vision for the future. China’s invasion of Taiwan would also be detrimental to the world economy.

The Taiwan Strait, nearly 180 kilometers in width, serves as a physical border between Taiwan and mainland China. It would be an immense logistical challenge to transport troops over the Taiwan Strait, even in ideal environmental conditions.

The weather typical to the Taiwan Strait is another obstacle. Two out of the four seasons are marked by rain and typhoons in Taiwan, making it so that the People’s Liberation Army opportunity’s to attack would be limited to two seasons.

The distance means that transports would come under heavy attacks from submarines, missile strikes, destroyers and aircrafts.

Taiwan would also prove challenging to gain a foothold in. The western coast of Taiwan is full of high tides and mud flats that can spread three to eight kilometers out to sea, making a D-Day invasion nearly impossible.

Additionally, the terrain of the island favors the defender. It is extremely mountainous, meaning that heavy equipment like tanks would not be able to travel across easily and landing fields would be difficult to secure.

Furthermore, the economies of Mainland China and Taiwan are interlinked. Taiwan is home to two thirds of the world’s semiconductor manufacturers; thus, an invasion would likely cause the Chinese economy to crash.

China relies heavily on Taiwanese microchips, so an invasion would damage Chinese manufacturing capacity and economic output for the foreseeable future.

China’s economy has been shrinking for the first time in 28 years due to Covid-19 lockdowns, real estate bubbles and an aging population. If China were to invade Taiwan, it is likely that the economic output of such an invasion would be a net negative, spelling doom for China’s stable economy.

Occupying Taiwan would also incur great costs for the Chinese economy as it may cost billions to maintain a troop presence.

An invasion would also stir up insecurities domestically, as a failing economy, rising casualties, and failed objectives will lead to a perception of mismanagement.

It could threaten the stability of the Chinese government which has already suffered a public relations disaster from the “Zero-COVID” policies implemented in cities like Shanghai. A war might also cause Chinese citizens to emigrate in masses that would cause a great population decline.

Invading Taiwan would also alienate neighbors like South Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India.

Not only would such nations be drawn closer to a US-aligned security alliance, but they could also supply Taiwanese forces resisting the invasion and impose sanctions on an international scale. An invasion of Taiwan would make China an international pariah greater than that of Russia.