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China may attack Taiwan to achieve 1 of 3 political goals: Former defense minister

Whether Taiwan sues for peace, unconditionally surrenders, or fights to the end will depend on many factors

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Chinese soldiers based in Hong Kong practice knifing at the Shek Kong barracks of People's Liberation Army (PLA) Garrison in Hong Kong on Jun...

Chinese soldiers based in Hong Kong practice knifing at the Shek Kong barracks of People's Liberation Army (PLA) Garrison in Hong Kong on Jun... (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Former Minister of Defense Yang Nian-tsu (楊念祖) on Thursday (Feb. 17) listed three political goals China may aim for in a campaign against Taiwan: using war to push for peace, using war to force a surrender, or neutralizing Taiwan’s military to get an unconditional surrender.

The Kuomintang opposition party on Thursday (Feb. 17) held a conference, “How Taiwan can respond to the People's Liberation Army threat," which Yang attended alongside Ruo Chin-sheng (羅慶生), head of the Taiwan International Strategic Study Society, and other experts, per a CNA report.

Yang began by quoting Sun Tsu, saying Taiwan must “know thyself and know thy enemy” and that only by being clear about China’s objectives can the country effectively rehearse and prepare for a military assault. He said these three potential political goals of Beijing's would affect how an operation plays out differently.

Predicting what result Taiwan wants in a war — be it peace, surrender, or a fight to the last man — will depend on military strength, mobilization capacity, the willpower of the people, and the effect on society, Yang said. This already exceeds the traditional military framework, yet it will require strategic leadership, or else the military leadership will crumble.

Ruo said that Taiwan’s defensive strategic framework should be based on two principles: self-reliance and not expecting assistance from foreign countries. Meanwhile, the operational concept of national defense should align across two axes: defense and deterrence.

Yet, these two strategic ideals have structural limitations when it comes to defending the Taiwan Strait, Ruo said. A purely defensive strategy calls for a "successful defense" by beating the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) offensive assault.

The PLA has two things going for it, according to Ruo — the numerical advantage and the initiative in launching the offensive. Even if the first attack is successfully repelled, Ruo reasons, Taiwan will not be able to hold back the follow-up assaults. If China wishes to take Taiwan at any cost, the chances of a "successful defense" against it are not high, he observed.