Does China Have the Skilled Personnel to Invade Taiwan?

Commentary The poor performance of Russian soldiers in Ukraine suggests Taiwan will have a key edge against any Chinese invasion. Russian soldiers have been suffering morale problems since the war with Ukraine started. Before the war, analysts described Russian soldiers as undertrained, undersupplied, short-term conscripts that are brutally hazed. According to U.S. observers, in combat that inexperience has shown itself in a desultory performance. This is amazing on its own, as the Russian military seems more like a paper tiger. But this stunning development also closely relates to Classical Chinese teachings about the loyalty and effectiveness of soldiers to their government employing them. And most importantly, this applies to any potential invasion of Taiwan by an aggressive communist China. Before launching an attack, the classical Confucian philosopher, Xunzi, wrote about the importance of winning the people: “From what I have heard of the way ancients, the basis of all … military undertaking lies in the unification of the people. If the bow and arrow are not properly adjusted, even the famous archer Yi could not hit the mark. If the six horses of the team are not properly trained, even the famous carriage driver Zaofu could not go far. If the officers and people are not devoted to their leaders, even the sages Tang or Wu could not win victory. The one who is good at winning the support of his people is the one who will be good at using arms. Therefore, what is really essential in military undertakings is to be good at winning the support of the people.” The nature of the government was vital in securing that support. And Xunzi went on to explain that soldiers of a harsh dictatorship will be ineffectual against the army of a benevolent ruler because of the resentments soldiers build up against their own government: “But if [a government’s] own people favor the benevolent ruler … and rejoice in him as in the fragrance of iris or orchid, and on the contrary regard their own superiors as so many wielders of branding irons and tattoo knives, as their foes and enemies, then human nature being what it is, even if the [soldiers were] …cruel and violent…how could they be willing to fight for the sake of men they hate and do hard to one they love?” The reader should find this imminently applicable in the Russian fight. You take soldiers that are more like beaten dogs than willing and eager participants, and then those soldiers are thrown into warfare against a determined enemy. The effects are much like Xunzi said. The dictatorial government of Russia can force some service and skill from their soldiers by threatening punishment. But when given the chance, the beaten and conscripted soldier will barely fight or surrender the first chance they get to a government that will treat them decently. And that has been seen thus far. When the Russian soldiers aren’t surrendering on mass, abandoning equipment, and generally dragging their feet on every front, even the most heavily armored in tanks are easily destroyed. Ukrainian soldiers walk past debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 26, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo) This might have even more application when applied to a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. There is a history of the average soldiers rejecting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that sent them into war. During the Korean War, many North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war did not want to be repatriated to their home countries despite the rules that allowed them to do so! Mao Zedong once said that a single spark can start a prairie fire. So the CCP leaders are likely even more concerned about obedience, moral, and potential revolution, and will rely on even harsher control tactics than their Russian counterparts. China’s modern People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has retention problems. And in the event of conflict, junior officers are more likely to be more afraid of making mistakes than confronting the enemy. The rate of mental health issues has increased among Chinese submariners. A report by The Diplomat suggests that at least a quarter of all Chinese soldiers suffer from mental health issues—this is roughly comparable to the size of the U.S. military. But U.S. soldiers have significant combat experience, more robust mental health services, and they are volunteers fighting for a democracy against terrorists; whereas the Chinese soldiers in a potential war would be fighting to expand the CCP’s tyranny against their ethnic brothers across the strait. In contrast, Taiwanese forces have the advantage of defending their democracy against a dictatorship. As the freedom loving Greeks said when faced with the overwhelming might of the Persian king, if you knew freedom you would fight for it not only with the spear, but with the axe. This means that even though analysts provide mixed reports about the morale of Taiwanese forces, they will likely perform much better

Does China Have the Skilled Personnel to Invade Taiwan?

Commentary

The poor performance of Russian soldiers in Ukraine suggests Taiwan will have a key edge against any Chinese invasion.

Russian soldiers have been suffering morale problems since the war with Ukraine started. Before the war, analysts described Russian soldiers as undertrained, undersupplied, short-term conscripts that are brutally hazed. According to U.S. observers, in combat that inexperience has shown itself in a desultory performance. This is amazing on its own, as the Russian military seems more like a paper tiger.

But this stunning development also closely relates to Classical Chinese teachings about the loyalty and effectiveness of soldiers to their government employing them. And most importantly, this applies to any potential invasion of Taiwan by an aggressive communist China.

Before launching an attack, the classical Confucian philosopher, Xunzi, wrote about the importance of winning the people:

“From what I have heard of the way ancients, the basis of all … military undertaking lies in the unification of the people. If the bow and arrow are not properly adjusted, even the famous archer Yi could not hit the mark. If the six horses of the team are not properly trained, even the famous carriage driver Zaofu could not go far. If the officers and people are not devoted to their leaders, even the sages Tang or Wu could not win victory. The one who is good at winning the support of his people is the one who will be good at using arms. Therefore, what is really essential in military undertakings is to be good at winning the support of the people.”

The nature of the government was vital in securing that support. And Xunzi went on to explain that soldiers of a harsh dictatorship will be ineffectual against the army of a benevolent ruler because of the resentments soldiers build up against their own government:

“But if [a government’s] own people favor the benevolent ruler … and rejoice in him as in the fragrance of iris or orchid, and on the contrary regard their own superiors as so many wielders of branding irons and tattoo knives, as their foes and enemies, then human nature being what it is, even if the [soldiers were] …cruel and violent…how could they be willing to fight for the sake of men they hate and do hard to one they love?”

The reader should find this imminently applicable in the Russian fight. You take soldiers that are more like beaten dogs than willing and eager participants, and then those soldiers are thrown into warfare against a determined enemy. The effects are much like Xunzi said. The dictatorial government of Russia can force some service and skill from their soldiers by threatening punishment. But when given the chance, the beaten and conscripted soldier will barely fight or surrender the first chance they get to a government that will treat them decently. And that has been seen thus far. When the Russian soldiers aren’t surrendering on mass, abandoning equipment, and generally dragging their feet on every front, even the most heavily armored in tanks are easily destroyed.

Epoch Times Photo
Ukrainian soldiers walk past debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 26, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo)

This might have even more application when applied to a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. There is a history of the average soldiers rejecting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that sent them into war. During the Korean War, many North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war did not want to be repatriated to their home countries despite the rules that allowed them to do so!

Mao Zedong once said that a single spark can start a prairie fire. So the CCP leaders are likely even more concerned about obedience, moral, and potential revolution, and will rely on even harsher control tactics than their Russian counterparts. China’s modern People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has retention problems. And in the event of conflict, junior officers are more likely to be more afraid of making mistakes than confronting the enemy.

The rate of mental health issues has increased among Chinese submariners. A report by The Diplomat suggests that at least a quarter of all Chinese soldiers suffer from mental health issues—this is roughly comparable to the size of the U.S. military. But U.S. soldiers have significant combat experience, more robust mental health services, and they are volunteers fighting for a democracy against terrorists; whereas the Chinese soldiers in a potential war would be fighting to expand the CCP’s tyranny against their ethnic brothers across the strait.

In contrast, Taiwanese forces have the advantage of defending their democracy against a dictatorship. As the freedom loving Greeks said when faced with the overwhelming might of the Persian king, if you knew freedom you would fight for it not only with the spear, but with the axe. This means that even though analysts provide mixed reports about the morale of Taiwanese forces, they will likely perform much better than the Chinese troops.

Moreover, the lack of skill among Chinese soldiers and sailors suggest they will face similar problems to the Russians. For example, Chinese submariners may not effectively blockade the island, the Air Force won’t be able to achieve air superiority, the troops won’t advance in an organized fashion, and columns of tanks will face supply issues, and so on. In short, the likely low morale of Chinese forces will make the defending Taiwanese forces look like Spartans, much as the world is impressed with Ukrainian resistance.

Russia and China are different countries, of course, but human nature remains incredibly similar. The Russians may still have the advantage in men and material to grind away Ukrainian resistance and win. But they’ve already revealed a pivotal weakness in the quality of their soldiers. Buttressed by the ideas of Classical Chinese writers, the poor performance of Russian soldiers suggests that the Taiwanese have a key edge that will help them withstand any potential invasion.

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.