China’s aircraft carriers are playing games with Taiwan, not preparing for war

29-May-2020 Intellasia | Washington Examiner | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Were China intending to invade Taiwan, we would have seen a massive mobilisation of amphibious assault forces, warships, and air force wings. We haven’t seen that.

I note this because various media outlets are suggesting that China’s new carrier deployment raises the specter of an invasion of Taiwan.

What’s actually going on here is that China is attempting to intimidate Taiwan and flex its muscles for our benefit.



Emphasising as much, Beijing’s state-run Global Times newspaper on Monday celebrated the news that China’s Shandong aircraft carrier has set sail for training exercises in the South China Sea. But the Global Times also pretended that it had only found out from Chinese internet enthusiasts rather than being told by Beijing. That distinction is important because it shows Xi Jinping’s regime views these deployments as nationalist, flag-waving exercises rather than preparations for conflict. Were the latter interest on the table, there would be a great deal more secrecy about where these ships are going.

But even if the Shandong and Liaoning carriers are going to be operating together, and even if, as some are suggesting, they are heading for the Taiwanese-held Pratas Islands, they are far from ready for combat operations. Technologically inferior vessels with inexperienced air wings and combat units, the carriers aren’t close to being able to contest Taiwanese or US vessels. Were they to attempt to do so now, they would quickly find their decks smashed by US bombs and missiles. Or, alternatively, find their backs broken by well-placed Mark 48-Mod 7 heavyweight torpedoes from the attack submarines based out of Guam; Key West, Oklahoma City, Topeka, and Asheville.

This is not to say that the US military can afford to be cocky. China’s development of an advanced air defense surface fleet is concerning, as is Beijing’s supremacy in long-range stand-off weapons something the US Marine Corps is grappling with. In addition, the US Navy’s carrier strike groups are far more vulnerable to Chinese ballistic missile forces than our not-so-omnipotent admirals admit. Nor is it clear what the Navy is actually doing with the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, which is now back at sea.

Still, China’s carriers are not yet viable strike platforms, they are a platform under construction.

For now, Taiwan’s courageous president Tsai Ing-wen has infuriated Beijing by refusing to bow to its intimidation, supporting Hongkongers (whom Tsai owes, in part, for her reelection), and by doing a much better job than Xi in handling the coronavirus pandemic. This success has provoked a predictably absurd and hyperbolic Chinese response, including Beijing’s recent ludicrous threat to destroy Taiwan.

Yet, until China can get past the coronavirus chaos, preferably by being the first nation to develop, or steal, a viable vaccine, it will not take the global political risk of foreign nations responding to an attack on Taiwan with an abandonment of trading ties. Those ties, after all, are central to Xi’s long-term strategy toward displacing the US-led international order.

So conflict is probably coming one day, but not today.



Category: China

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