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The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan's Defense and American Strategy in Asia Paperback – April 11, 2019
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Unthinkable? Think again. Ian Easton has done a remarkable job taking the PRC at their word. Using PLA manuals and publications, this Project 2049 Institute study shows that China is prepared to invade, intimidate or interdict. This is a scholarly work which most China hands would like to overlook. No longer can they do so. Well done, Mr. Easton.
—Ambassador Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State
Argues persuasively that the risks of conflict in the Taiwan Strait lurk on the horizon. Persuasive and in places controversial, Mr. Easton sets out the case that armed conflict has not been made irrelevant in the Western Pacific even with the closer economic ties between China and Taiwan. An unsettling but necessary read for students of Asia.
—Dr. Kurt M. Campbell, former Assistant Secretary of State for Asian Affairs
Ian Easton has done an enormous amount of research in both Chinese and Taiwanese sources about a potential military conflict across the Taiwan Strait. While I disagree with many of his assertions ... I found myself interested in his citations and often challenged by his assertions. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, it is worth reading this serious examination of the reality of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
—Admiral Dennis Blair (USN, ret.), former Director of National Intelligence and Commander of U.S. Pacific Command
Calls attention to threats in plain sight but overlooked by our policy makers and strategists. Taiwan, a vigorous democracy at the confluence of the contested East and South China Seas ... exists under often-declared threat. It is the most consequential political and military challenge of our times.
—Lt. General Wallace Gregson (USMC, ret.), former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Commander Marine Forces Pacific
A comprehensive and insightful treatment of one of the most significant geopolitical military challenges facing the United States ... a conflict over Taiwan has the potential to explode as the PRC grows in economic and military power. Ian Easton sheds light on a potential reality that we must be well prepared to handle.
—Lt. General David A. Deptula (USAF, ret.), former Commander Pacific Command Air Component and Chief of U.S. Air Force Intelligence
A powerful and thought-provoking study helping policy makers as well as experts reshape their perceptions and analysis ... in an ever changing and dire Taiwan Strait. It is a must-read book for those who hold power to protect Taiwan as a beacon of democracy.
—Andrew Nien Dzu Yang, former Minister of National Defense, Taiwan (ROC)
An extremely readable and informative text describing the most dangerous, destructive, and least likely option in the Taiwan Strait ... clearly illustrates why deterrence of such an event should be Taiwan’s and America’s primary objective in cross-strait relations.
—Dennis J. Blasko, author of The Chinese Army Today
While much of the world has forgotten the importance of Taiwan to the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region ... Mr. Easton’s well-sourced and clearly enunciated work reminds us all of the likelihood and cost of war and the price of freedom.
—Captain James Fanell (USN, ret.), former Pacific Fleet Director of Intelligence
14 possible landing beaches, 4 weeks of permissive weather twice a year, and 1,000 individual targets for air strikes in the run-up to an invasion. These are some of the facts and figures readers will take away from this unique and indispensable trove of insights into the PLA’s preparations.... This is an authoritative exposé of the PRC’s offensive plans.
—Jacqueline N. Deal, President, Long Term Strategy Group
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The foreword, by Project 2049 Institute president & CEO Randall G. Schriver, a Navy veteran and an Asia expert with prior posts at both State and Defense, explains the need for the book by citing the utter neglect among U.S. policymakers towards the Taiwan Strait flashpoint.
“In Washington,” Shriver notes, “a chronic sense of crisis has set-in, and the space for long-term strategic thinking has diminished.
“One consequence of this phenomenon is that our nation's policy toward the People's Republic of China and Taiwan still remains largely frozen in a framework developed in the late 1970s, a time when the U.S. confronted a very different set of foreign policy challenges than it does today. To be effective, policies must evolve over time and adapt to current realities and new facts on the ground. Much has changed in Asia, especially across the Taiwan Strait...
“Taiwan's armed forces deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and our men and women in uniform deserve to be as prepared as possible for known contingencies. The risks facing the United States, Taiwan, and other democracies in Asia are very real. Ensuring long-term peace and prosperity in this vital region demands that we face our problems and act with alacrity to overcome them. In that vein, this volume will serve to advance public education and fuel much need policy debate.”
Easton, fluent in Chinese and, even more rare, in the more complex traditional characters used on Taiwan, has poured over reams of reports, military manuals, and conference papers to assemble a rare picture of Chinese intentions and capabilities regarding Taiwan. The portrait is sobering.
Easton begins his effort with observations from his interactions with Chinese military officers, noting their arrogance and contempt for America.
Of U.S. military planners and diplomatic experts, Easton notes a near universal consensus that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would severely affect America, and “…be worse than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 combined.” But in spite of that, little serious consideration is given to the eventuality.
As a warning to those who think it unthinkable that China’s unelected leadership would ever order a costly invasion of Taiwan across 90 miles of open ocean, Easton warns,
“However, if history teaches us anything, it is that countries and their leaders often do things that defy our reason and logic. Attempting to understand an adversary's perceptions therefore matters a great deal since his perceptions will influence his actions far more than objective reality as we understand it.
“While it may seem unbelievable to most foreigners, officers in the Chinese military are constantly studying and practicing plans for the invasion of Taiwan.”
After convincingly laying out China’s deep-seated interest in “unifying” the nation by taking Taiwan by force, Easton then sets about to detail China’s capabilities, plans, and doctrine as well as the warnings and indicators that might presage a military campaign across the Taiwan Strait. He also includes a rare treatment on a much-neglected, but critical, topic: how Taiwan would fight to defend itself. This section is more important than many experts realize as China has worked hard to develop the impression that resistance is futile.
After detailing why China would invade Taiwan and how they would try to do it, Easton closes with five scenarios most of which start with the premise that political necessity would drive the Chinese Communist Party to bring the independent and free people of Taiwan under their police state heel.
It is the point of regime legitimacy and the existential threat posed to Beijing by Taiwan that most Western observers fail to grasp with significance. Easton explains:
“From China’s perspective, the existence of Taiwan as a democracy is a grave challenge to its political legitimacy. The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) views Taiwan as its most dangerous external national security threat, and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), as the armed wing of the party and guarantor of the regime's fragile legitimacy, has been tasked with the mission of preparing for an assault on the island as its principal war planning scenario. The overarching plan is referred to in restricted-access Chinese military writings as the "Joint Island Attack Campaign." The campaign includes operations that span the entire spectrum of the modern battlefield, including the air, land, sea, space, and cyber space domains.”
The ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu understood the vital importance of moral ascendancy, declaring, “There are five fundamental factors for success in war – Weather, terrain, leadership, military doctrine and most importantly – moral influence.” This is the quandary facing the Mainland Chinese leadership and Easton sums it up thus,
“Over time many Taiwanese observers began to believe that the more their government sought to reduce tensions, the more it emboldened authorities in Beijing to press demands that Taipei move toward subjugation under the PRC's framework. Having closely watched Hong Kong’s political autonomy steadily eroded over the past twenty years and its freedoms and human rights evaporate, the people of Taiwan lost faith that China might one day recognize the legitimacy of their government and respect their right of self-determination...
“When viewed from the perspective of Beijing, the risks associated with Taiwan are growing. With thousands of students from China now studying on the island, it may only be a matter of time before greater demand for good governance on the mainland overwhelms its oppressive authoritarian system. In theory, time favors Taiwan because it is on the right side of history. Militarily, however, it is not clear that the ROC's self-defense forces can continue to resist China’s buildup. There is a growing chorus of voices that argue the island's military will soon become too weak to defend against the world’s second most powerful country.”
Ian Easton’s “The Chinese Invasion Threat” is an important book for a critical time.
Reviewer: Chuck DeVore is a vice president at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He served as a California State Assemblyman from 2004 to 2010. Before his election, he worked as an executive in the aerospace industry. He was a Special Assistant for Foreign Affairs in the Department of Defense from 1986 to 1988. He is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army (retired) Reserve. DeVore is the author of "The Texas Model: Prosperity in the Lone Star State and Lessons for America" and the co-author of "China Attacks."
Easton destroys such myths or misconceptions in his book with page after page of calm, dissecting analysis and facts. The amount of research and details that went into this book is staggering. You cannot find a more authoritative or detailed book on the subject than this - and yet, at the same time, it reads very easily. It does not feel "dense" or too 'academic' at all; it is presented in very easy, flowing format and in a way that even the most laymen of folks can understand. Details such as, which beaches in Taiwan are suitable for an amphibious invasion, the exact nature of the waves of the Taiwan Strait, how many typhoons happen in the region a year,
My gripes with the book are mostly trivial or aesthetic; I think the book cover image is pretty un-catchy or un-inspiring and doesn't do the book credit. I also think that Easton may be erring too much on the side of the Taiwanese with some assessments; for instance, he talks at length about the psychological terror or confusion that some Chinese soldiers would experience, without talking about the similar fear or psychological difficulties that Taiwanese troops would face likewise.
Nevertheless, this is by FAR the greatest volume ever written on the subject, and I wish millions of academics, politicians, journalists and commonfolk would read it. My fear is that the people who need to read this the most, will be precisely the folks who won't pick it up. The notion that "China can crush Taiwan in an invasion with ease" will persist despite this excellently written book explaining, in detail, why China can't.
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However, after a few hours of readings, I have realized that while Mr. Easton had managed to give a decent military analysis about the possible Taiwan conflict, he had several fatal flaws in his political analysis about the Taiwan Strait. War is only the extension of the political will, and if Mr. Easton has failed to understand the political will of China, or a post-colonial Asian power in general, then there is really no wisdom that can be gained for his book.
In his book, Red China had taken a cartoonishly one-dimensional image of a corrupt, greedy and ultra-nationalist empire, while Taiwan is described as the beacon of hope for a free and democratic China.
IF the American public truly believes this at best naive, at worst misleading narrative, then they would never truly see the Taiwan Crisis as what it is. And after 16 years of ongoing brutal war in the middle east and a strong alliance with countries like Saudi Arabia, Americans can barely afford this naivete anymore.
To clarify, I have no intention to whitewash the many flaws of the PRC, but I was still shocked that a so-called China expert would argue that "China wants to invade Taiwan because they can not stand the sight of a close democracy and also the Chinese want to gain the Asia hegemony via control of a free country".
Here, one must understand that EVEN IF China becomes a democracy tomorrow, no post-colonial Asian power would tolerate such an important strategic asset so close to its economic heart. Taiwan is for the Chinese what Sri Lanka is for India and what Cuba is for America. And same as India, China in the past had suffered from enough western intervention to fear the presence of a western maritime power. Here you must know that it was the British, a democratic western hegemonic power, that has first open the gate of China with iron and fire.
If Taiwan and the US are unable to convince China, regardless if democracy or not, that they pose no threat to its long coastal lines, then no hawkish actions of the US can secure a free and prosperous Taiwan Strait if that is what they really want.