Consequences of a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

Commentary  This is the second part of a two-part series designed to look at the likely war between the Chinese regime and Taiwan, which could happen in 2022. Read part I here. What Would Defeat Do? Anything less than a quick capture of the entire island would look like defeat for the Chinese regime. A long invasion would give time for the allies to commit forces, give the Taiwanese time to rally their people in guerrilla warfare, and muster massive world opinion against communist China. With world opinion against the Chinese regime, and a valiant ally able to defend all or part of Formosa, I think the United States would muster a large number of allies to help defend the island. The long arc of Chinese history and classical Chinese writings argue that defeat would be a complete and utter disaster that would finish China. At the Battle of Fei River, a costly military defeat sent the Qin Dynasty’s forces retreating in disarray and ended the dynasty. There were pockets of discontent in the dynasty that rebelled when they sensed weakness. The costly and unsuccessful campaigns in Korea ended the Sui Dynasty. And natural disasters, plus the death penalty for any peasant that failed to resupply the expeditionary army, eroded popular support and made it seem like the dynasty had lost Heaven’s favor. These examples had particular social factors that contributed to the decline of both dynasties. But there are classic Chinese writings that also support the idea of an imminent collapse of a totalitarian regime, as well. Legalists scholars, like Han Feizi and Lord Shang, believed in a strong government that could compel people. But they failed to account for the idea that they could only compel bodies and the minds would resist such a naked use of power. Or, as the great Confucian thinker Mencius said, “When force is used to make men submit, they do not submit in their hearts … but when virtue is used to make men submit, they are happy in their hearts and sincerely submit themselves.” The phrase “hearts and minds” is often mocked in today’s circles, but it was a powerful component of Confucian ideology, and formed part of the ruling ideology called Imperial Confucianism. The Han Dynasty text, the Huainanzi, discussed the fall of China’s first dynasty, the Qin. It was so powerful that there wasn’t a place where people walked that wasn’t a part of its empire. Yet the revolt of a single soldier caused the dynasty to collapse because of the accumulated grievances, as outlined below from the ancient text: “Chen Sheng, a conscript soldier, arose. … He bared his right arm and raised it, proclaiming himself Great chuh, and the empire responded like an echo. At that time, he did not have strong armor or sharp weapons, powerful bows or hard spears. They cut date trees to make spears; they ground awls and chisels to make swords, they sharpened bamboo and shouldered hoes to meet keen halberds and strong crossbows, yet not city they attacked or land they invaded did not surrender to them. They roiled and shook, overran and rolled up an area of several thousand square li. … Chen’s force and station were supremely lowly, and his weapons and equipment were of no advantage, yet one man sang out and the empire harmonized with him. This was because resentment had accumulated among the people.” The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is powerful, and the people don’t have weapons or even access to an uncensored internet. But it is likely the people seethe with resentment. The Winter Olympics will serve to highlight how the people’s beloved tennis star, Peng Shuai, was disappeared and has yet to regain full membership in society. We don’t know the extent of the people’s discontent, but scholars estimate there are 130,000 protests a year throughout China. It seems many Chinese are discontent with their leader Xi Jinping as they gave him the nickname “Winnie the Pooh” around 2013, when he had gone to the United States for an official visit and met with former President Barack Obama, who was compared to Tigger. Xi banned Winnie the Pooh in China shortly thereafter, which doesn’t suggest a stable and confident government. A placard of Winnie the Pooh representing Xi Jinping is torn up by protesters during a rally outside of the Chineses Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China, on May 24, 2020. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images) Even senior Party officials have been persecuted because of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. If given the opportunity or presented with saving a failing government or acceding to the people, CCP officials will abandon Xi and let the regime fall. The Party’s official documents describe how some cadres are now refusing orders—leading to what some call an internal rebellion. Just like the revolts throughout Chinese history and the fall of the Soviet Union, the CCP will seem powerful until it isn’t, and suddenly collapses. As Mao Zedong himself said when he was the revolutionary against a powerful government, “A single spark ca

Consequences of a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

Commentary 

This is the second part of a two-part series designed to look at the likely war between the Chinese regime and Taiwan, which could happen in 2022.

Read part I here.

What Would Defeat Do?

Anything less than a quick capture of the entire island would look like defeat for the Chinese regime. A long invasion would give time for the allies to commit forces, give the Taiwanese time to rally their people in guerrilla warfare, and muster massive world opinion against communist China.

With world opinion against the Chinese regime, and a valiant ally able to defend all or part of Formosa, I think the United States would muster a large number of allies to help defend the island.

The long arc of Chinese history and classical Chinese writings argue that defeat would be a complete and utter disaster that would finish China. At the Battle of Fei River, a costly military defeat sent the Qin Dynasty’s forces retreating in disarray and ended the dynasty. There were pockets of discontent in the dynasty that rebelled when they sensed weakness. The costly and unsuccessful campaigns in Korea ended the Sui Dynasty. And natural disasters, plus the death penalty for any peasant that failed to resupply the expeditionary army, eroded popular support and made it seem like the dynasty had lost Heaven’s favor. These examples had particular social factors that contributed to the decline of both dynasties.

But there are classic Chinese writings that also support the idea of an imminent collapse of a totalitarian regime, as well. Legalists scholars, like Han Feizi and Lord Shang, believed in a strong government that could compel people. But they failed to account for the idea that they could only compel bodies and the minds would resist such a naked use of power.

Or, as the great Confucian thinker Mencius said, “When force is used to make men submit, they do not submit in their hearts … but when virtue is used to make men submit, they are happy in their hearts and sincerely submit themselves.”

The phrase “hearts and minds” is often mocked in today’s circles, but it was a powerful component of Confucian ideology, and formed part of the ruling ideology called Imperial Confucianism.

The Han Dynasty text, the Huainanzi, discussed the fall of China’s first dynasty, the Qin. It was so powerful that there wasn’t a place where people walked that wasn’t a part of its empire. Yet the revolt of a single soldier caused the dynasty to collapse because of the accumulated grievances, as outlined below from the ancient text:

“Chen Sheng, a conscript soldier, arose. … He bared his right arm and raised it, proclaiming himself Great chuh, and the empire responded like an echo. At that time, he did not have strong armor or sharp weapons, powerful bows or hard spears. They cut date trees to make spears; they ground awls and chisels to make swords, they sharpened bamboo and shouldered hoes to meet keen halberds and strong crossbows, yet not city they attacked or land they invaded did not surrender to them. They roiled and shook, overran and rolled up an area of several thousand square li. … Chen’s force and station were supremely lowly, and his weapons and equipment were of no advantage, yet one man sang out and the empire harmonized with him. This was because resentment had accumulated among the people.”

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is powerful, and the people don’t have weapons or even access to an uncensored internet. But it is likely the people seethe with resentment. The Winter Olympics will serve to highlight how the people’s beloved tennis star, Peng Shuai, was disappeared and has yet to regain full membership in society. We don’t know the extent of the people’s discontent, but scholars estimate there are 130,000 protests a year throughout China. It seems many Chinese are discontent with their leader Xi Jinping as they gave him the nickname “Winnie the Pooh” around 2013, when he had gone to the United States for an official visit and met with former President Barack Obama, who was compared to Tigger. Xi banned Winnie the Pooh in China shortly thereafter, which doesn’t suggest a stable and confident government.

Epoch Times Photo
A placard of Winnie the Pooh representing Xi Jinping is torn up by protesters during a rally outside of the Chineses Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China, on May 24, 2020. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Even senior Party officials have been persecuted because of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. If given the opportunity or presented with saving a failing government or acceding to the people, CCP officials will abandon Xi and let the regime fall. The Party’s official documents describe how some cadres are now refusing orders—leading to what some call an internal rebellion.

Just like the revolts throughout Chinese history and the fall of the Soviet Union, the CCP will seem powerful until it isn’t, and suddenly collapses. As Mao Zedong himself said when he was the revolutionary against a powerful government, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” A failed invasion of Taiwan would lead someone to be that spark. And the fear of losing power after failure could be a powerful incentive that prevents war.

Conclusion

Communist China looks powerful and poised to invade Taiwan. But it is not nearly as powerful as people think. And the inability to quickly conquer the island will likely lead to a large coalition of allies—such as the United States, Australia, Japan, and possibly more—that will make sure Taiwan stays free. Most importantly, that series of events could lead to the fall of Xi and the collapse of the abhorrent CCP.

A failed invasion of Taiwan by the regime might also lead to Xi and the CCP’s downfall. While any war is scary and tragic, the results of this one will mean that democracy in Taiwan will survive, and Xi and the communists will not.

Read part I here.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Follow

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine, a military historian, and a freelance author. He studied military history at Kings College London and Norwich University. Morgan works as a professor of military history at the American Public University. He is a prolific author whose writings include "Decisive Battles in Chinese History," "Dragon’s Claws with Feet of Clay: A Primer on Modern Chinese Strategy," and the forthcoming, "Beyond Sunzi: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Government." His military analysis has been published in Real Clear Defense and Strategy Bridge, among other publications.