China Could Invade Taiwan Under These Seven Scenarios, Defense Report Says

Taiwan has identified seven circumstances in which China could justify launching a military offensive against it, including a formal declaration of independence and the stationing of foreign troops on the island, according to a new white paper shown to lawmakers on Tuesday.

The August 31 report containing its annual assessment of People's Liberation Army (PLA) capabilities and ambitions was submitted to the legislature along with a proposal for an increase in defense spending in 2022.

Taiwan says it is already a functionally independent country under the formal name the Republic of China, with the current government stressing there is no need for any other declaration. The People's Republic of China claims Taiwan is part of its territory, but Beijing has never governed the island since its founding in 1949.

The Defense Ministry report lists a formal declaration of independence—presumably under the name "Taiwan"—as one possible scenario that could lead to a Chinese invasion. Other potential openings include Taiwan's "clearly heading toward independence" or the "delay of cross-strait unification dialogue."

Political or civil unrest and the acquisition of nuclear weapons are other circumstances that Beijing could exploit, as are the intervention of foreign forces in Taiwan's affairs or the stationing of foreign troops on the island, the white paper said.

China says it will never renounce the use of force against Taiwan, a principle that was formalized in its 2005 anti-secession law, which was codified under the leadership of former Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Among the provisions for the use of "non-peaceful means" to settle the island's status include the successful political separation of Taiwan from China and the loss of all possibility of peaceful unification.

This year's report into the PLA includes some of the most alarming illustrations of the growing military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait. China's electronic warfare capabilities, the document says, can "paralyze Taiwan's air defenses, command of the sea and counterattacking systems."

The PLA's "soft and hard electronic attacks" as well as its signal jamming and masking abilities now reach west of the first island chain, the report said, adding that China's cyberattacks during a potential offensive would "present a huge threat to Taiwan."

China's Beidou navigation system—the country's answer to the U.S.'s GPS—is able to monitor movements around Taiwan with the help of its reconnaissance aircraft, drones and vessels.

Like in its 2020 report, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said China has yet to acquire the transportation and logistics needed for a large-scale landing operating, but it said the PLA was increasing its capabilities in that area.

This year's white paper is the first to include cognitive warfare and gray-zone activity among the raft of potential measures deployed by China. The PLA wants an offensive that is low in losses, high in efficiency, fast and decisive, the report notes, describing an attack that would involve area denial, the occupation of outlying islands and the assassination of Taiwan's political leaders.

The Defense Ministry said it expects China's third aircraft carrier to enter service in 2025, which would increase the PLA's ability to restrict foreign military intervention in a Taiwan contingency.

Tuesday's budget proposal for 2022 includes defense spending of $17.02 billion. Local reports said lawmakers were also reviewing a $7.15 billion special budget for missile production and procurement.

Taiwan's budget submission includes funds earmarked for the purchase of U.S. weapons including MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones, F-16 fighter aircraft and HIMARS rocket systems—all announced by the Donald Trump administration—and "Paladin" self-propelled howitzers approved by the Joe Biden administration.

Taiwan Defense Report Highlights Growing China Threat
File photo: A U.S.-made F-16 fighter jet of Taiwan's Republic of China Air Force pulls up in a steep climb during rehearsals for a public airshow at a military airbase in Taitung, Taiwan, on July 9, 2018. Taiwan has identified seven circumstances in which China could justify launching a military offensive against the island. CHRIS STOWERS/AFP via Getty Images