Global View

Annual Report of the US Congress – Chinese strategic priorities over Taiwan

According to the Annual Report of the US Department of Defense (2017), China’s military position towards Taiwan has not changed significantly since 2016. Thus, its overall strategy continues to incorporate elements of persuasion and coercion against favoring political attitudes towards Taiwan’s independence. China has declared that Taiwan must accept the  1992 consensus, according to which China and Taiwan form one China”. The Annual Report on “Military and Security Evolutions involving the People’s Republic of China” was developed by the US Secretary of Defense and was presented to the US Congress in May 2017.

The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development of the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese security and military strategies,  and organizations and operational concepts supporting such development.

According to the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, the 1992 consensus was the result of serious consultations and compromises between  Mainland of China ( Taiwan Strait Relations Association -ARATS) and Taiwan ( Strait Exchange Foundation -SEF) according to which, the two sides recognize the principle of a single Chinese. The discussions between the two sides took place “in the mutal context of Understanding”. ,,The Straits Exchange Foundation’’ ( SEF) is a semi-official organization set up by the Government of the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan to handle technical or business matters with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). ,,The Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits’’ (ARATS) is an organization set up by the People’s Republic of China for handling technical or business matters with the Republic of China (ROC).

The main reason for the conflict between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (known as Taiwan) is that Taiwan wants to be an independent state from China. The People’s Republic of China claims the territory of Taiwan, expressing its desire for peaceful unification under the principle- one country, two systems. As a result, the Chinese  People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to develop and deploy military capabilities to invade Taiwan. China seems to be prepared to defer the use of force as long as a long-term unification is possible and the costs of conflict outweigh the benefits. According to Article 8 of China’s Anti-Secession Law of March 2005, it could use – non- political means– if separatist forces could lead Taiwan’s seccesion from China.

The Anti-Secession Law was promulgated on March 14 2005, during the annual session of the National Assembly of People’s Representatives in China. According to the former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabo, the main objective of the law is to have a peaceful reconciliation between the involved parties, – China and Taiwan

As the Annual Report to the US Congress notes, China could track the optimization of military training for a  systemic campaign. A second possibility would be to opt for a political resolution with Taiwan before the rest of the states can react. So, China could  try to prevent a possible intervention by the United States. Otherwise, China would attempt to delay the intervention and seek victory in a asymmetric, limited war. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army – PLA documents describe a campaign in which China would force the capitulation.

According to the information reported in the US Annual Report to Congress, China could use a variety of disruptive, punitive or lethal military actions in order to incite fear and weaken the population’s confidence in the Taiwanese leaders.

Another possible response from China is that it could use missile attacks and precision air strikes in order to neutralize Taiwan’s leadership. As for the amphibious invasion, the purpose of this operation would be to launch attacks in the Taiwan’s western coastline in order to occupy key targets or the entire island.

According to the Annual Report to Congress, China’s capability in an amphibious war would focus on two geographical areas: the PLA would focus its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLAN Marine Corps focuses on small islands in the South China Sea. Regarding Taiwan’s self-defense capacity, as it was stated in the Annual Report to Congress, Taiwan’s budget for defense remains at the present moment at approximately 2% of its gross domestic product ( GDP). On the other hand China’s official defense budget has grown  14 times that of  Taiwan.  As a result, to counterbalance China’s growing capabilities, Taiwan is trying to improve its defense system with innovative and asymmetric measures.

Therefore, the United States prefer to support the peaceful settlement of relations between China and Taiwan in a way that is acceptable to both sides.

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