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Chinese Military Scenarios Against Taiwan: Premises, Options, Implications

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Counterproliferation paper no. 19

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When Beijing fell to Mao Zedongs Communist forces in October 1949, major elements of Chiang Kai-sheks Kuomingtang KMT armies had already slipped across the Taiwan Strait to the island of Formosa from where the KMT government continued to claim jurisdiction over the mainland. Thus, while the fighting ended in Chinas civil war, the political conflict continued, as it does today. Although the Taipei government long ago dropped its claim to the mainland, Beijing continues to claim sovereignty over Taiwan, and threatens Taipei with war if it declares independence. In the half century since Maos triumph, the United States has sought to preclude a new war between Chinas communists on the mainland and the nationalists on Taiwan. Particularly since normalizing relations with Beijing in January 1979, Washington has tried to steer a middle course, seeking to avoid too close an identification with the Republic of China ROC and too hostile a stance toward the Peoples Republic of China PRC. The ultimate U.S. goal is to deter both an attack by China and a declaration of independence by Taiwan, while encouraging a peaceful resolution. This delicate, at times, contradictory, policy has been labeled strategic ambiguity. But what if, in Beijings view, Chinas current deterrenceenticement policies toward Taiwan begin to falter, or worse, break down completely What are the likely options Beijing might choose to regain control of the situation And what would be the implications of various Chinese attack options on Taiwan and on the U.S. This paper explores those questions.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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