If China crushes Hong Kong, is Taiwan next?

The Hill
Date: 08/12/19
By: Dov S. Zakhim, Opinion Contributor

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

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At the most recent meeting of the Aspen Strategy Group — which includes current and former senators, former senior officials, retired military, leading academics and analysts — a number of the participants expressed considerable doubt about whether the United States could defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, or even whether it would attempt to do so. Behind the concerns voiced at Aspen, Colo., was the shadow of a potentially brutal Chinese paramilitary operation to crush the dissenters in Hong Kong. The fear was that once Beijing’s “one country, two systems” policy toward Hong Kong was terminated, Taiwan would be next.

Moreover, they argued, there is no way Washington could send two carriers into the Taiwan Strait, as it did during the 1996 crisis, causing Beijing to back down from its threat to subjugate the island. Having determined that it never again would be forced to submit to such a humiliating retreat, the Chinese Communist government has spent the past two decades modernizing and expanding its forces to respond to any potential threat of American attack. 

Indeed, many analysts doubt whether American carriers could even operate within what has been termed “the first island chain” — Japan, northern Philippines and Taiwan — which is now within the range of Chinese land-based DF-21D and DF 26 anti-ship ballistic missiles. Moreover, given what they view as America’s dismal prospects for defending Taiwan, several participants also argued that aircraft carriers, in general, are so highly vulnerable that the time has come to begin phasing them out of the fleet. At a minimum, they argue the Navy should at least to halt any new construction of these $13 billion mastodons. 

It is certainly true that the threat to aircraft carriers is far more serious today than it was in the second half of the 20th century. Moreover, there is little doubt that carrier tactics and operations in support of Taiwan will continue to be far more difficult than in the past. That does not mean, however, that carriers are obsolete, as their critics contend, or that the defense of Taiwan is nothing more than a pipe dream.     [FULL  STORY]

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