Taiwan can win a war with China

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

T. Greer explains how Taiwan can win a war with China:

One of the central hurdles facing the offensive is surprise. The PLA simply will not have it. The invasion will happen in April or October. Because of the challenges posed by the strait’s weather, a transport fleet can only make it across the strait in one of these two four-week windows. The scale of the invasion will be so large that strategic surprise will not be possible, especially given the extensive mutual penetration of each side by the other’s intelligence agencies.

Easton estimates that Taiwanese, American, and Japanese leaders will know that the PLA is preparing for a cross-strait war more than 60 days before hostilities begin. They will know for certain that an invasion will happen more than 30 days before the first missiles are fired. This will give the Taiwanese ample time to move much of their command and control infrastructure into hardened mountain tunnels, move their fleet out of vulnerable ports, detain suspected agents and intelligence operatives, litter the ocean with sea mines, disperse and camouflage army units across the country, put the economy on war footing, and distribute weapons to Taiwan’s 2.5 million reservists.

There are only 13 beaches on Taiwan’s western coast that the PLA could possibly land at. Each of these has already been prepared for a potential conflict. Long underground tunnels—complete with hardened, subterranean supply depots—crisscross the landing sites. The berm of each beach has been covered with razor-leaf plants. Chemical treatment plants are common in many beach towns—meaning that invaders must prepare for the clouds of toxic gas any indiscriminate saturation bombing on their part will release. This is how things stand in times of peace.

As war approaches, each beach will be turned into a workshop of horrors. The path from these beaches to the capital has been painstakingly mapped; once a state of emergency has been declared, each step of the journey will be complicated or booby-trapped. PLA war manuals warn soldiers that skyscrapers and rock outcrops will have steel cords strung between them to entangle helicopters; tunnels, bridges, and overpasses will be rigged with munitions (to be destroyed only at the last possible moment); and building after building in Taiwan’s dense urban core will be transformed into small redoubts meant to drag Chinese units into drawn-out fights over each city street.


In an era that favors defense, small nations like Taiwan do not need a PLA-sized military budget to keep the Chinese at bay.

No one needs to hear this message more than the Taiwanese themselves. In my trips to Taiwan, I have made a point of tracking down and interviewing both conscripts and career soldiers. Their pessimism is palpable. This morale crisis in the ranks partly reflects the severe mismanagement of the conscription system, which has left even eager Taiwanese patriots disillusioned with their military experience.

But just as important is the lack of knowledge ordinary Taiwanese have about the strength of their islands’ defenses. A recent poll found that 65 percent of Taiwanese “have no confidence” in their military’s ability to hold off the PLA. Absent a vigorous campaign designed to educate the public about the true odds of successful military resistance, the Taiwanese people are likely to judge the security of their island on flawed metrics, like the diminishing number of countries that maintain formal relations with Taipei instead of Beijing. The PLA’s projected campaign is specifically designed to overwhelm and overawe a demoralized Taiwanese military. The most crucial battlefield may be the minds of the Taiwanese themselves. Defeatism is a more dangerous threat to Taiwanese democracy than any weapon in China’s armory.

Read the whole thing.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Greer’s argument is utterly absurd. By his way of thinking, the Normandy landings failed, and Europe is still under the Nazi boot.

    Time and again, the warmongers who control our government spin fairy tales about the invincibility and invulnerability of American and its allies. In the Korean War, China with no navy or air force and a WW I army soundly defeated the US and its allies, and drove us south until its logistical tail got too long.

    An invasion of Taiwan, if it ever comes, would involve large scale air borne assaults and Fifth Column treason as well as sea borne landings. The scale would be overwhelming.

    More likely, at some point China will find the price of Taiwan’s corrupt government, and the island will be peacefully assimilated to the mainland.

  2. Adar says:

    You win the war by not having to fight the war.

    Preparedness and resoluteness means the price the Chinese communists will pay is too great for the amount that will be gained.

    The Taiwanese must have the will but the will is lacking [?].

    Seems the status quo is rather good right now. Why even invade if you are a Chinese communist leader?

  3. Kirk says:

    Anyone who thinks that the PLA is going to move and actually do something when they give advance warning is f**king it up by the numbers. My guess is that they’ll do everything from a standing start with no prep, and damn the consequences. Assuming, of course, that they want to invade in the first place. I would hazard the opinion that the plans they do have are a lot more long-term, and focused on suborning the Taiwanese, vs. a brute-force invasion.

    Hell, look at the economic costs they’d incur, just trying to integrate Taiwan, post-invasion. It’s cheaper to wait twenty-thirty years, and let the blossoming economic ties between the two do the work they need. I think the Communist Chinese are past the evangelical stage of their dynastic precession, and are now into the consolidation phase. Which means they’re going to be a lot less focused on encompassing the Taiwanese ideologically. Better to wait, and to let the plum fall off the tree into their hand of it’s own accord…

  4. Jacob G. says:

    Alternately they can prep an invasion every time as a wargame, and eventually go hot. Taiwan cannot afford to mobilize reservists every six months.

  5. Kirk says:

    My main point is that the charmingly naive assumption that our analysts and intelligence personnel would somehow manage to “see” the attack’s prep phase is just that — dangerously naive.

    The Chinese are just like the Soviets, when it comes to this stuff: They love them some serious maskirovka, and unless we manage to somehow obscure our response to our observations that they have begun invasion ramp-up…? Then, there won’t be an invasion. Any invasion is going to be predicated on maintaining the element of surprise, right up until the first PLA Marines are debarking from their assault transports and concealed cargo ships. No surprisee, no washee…

  6. Harry Jones says:

    The Taiwanese are wonderful people, as people go. They have their faults, but all in all they deserve the support of the free world.

  7. T. Greer says:

    Every six months the PLA drills as if it is going to invade?

    I am just zipping by, so I’m not going to go through the full list of why this would be difficult (consult the 20 pages in Easton’s book on potential indicators for that). Just consider this: the PLA does not have the boats they need to get everyone across without shutting down the Chinese shipping and fishing industry for the purpose of commandeering the ships needed to ferry their men across.

    Are they going to do that every six months?

  8. Sam J. says:

    Bob Sykes says,”Greer’s argument is utterly absurd. By his way of thinking, the Normandy landings failed, and Europe is still under the Nazi boot…”

    I would say your argument is absurd. Greer’s is just common sense with the technology available today. Did they have cruise missiles in WWII? Did they have neural network computer systems that you could fire and forget in WWII? Hell no. I could easily, very easily see how they could defend Taiwan.

    With the proper gear it would be nothing but a bloodbath. Let’s just cover a few simple things.

    1. If the Chinese are using stealth aircraft then their bomb load will be small. So they will not be able to control the ground.
    2. If not stealth then they can be shot down by radar guided missiles and anti-aircraft gunfire.
    3. If they don’t have air superiority, and lots and lots of it, then the Chinese are doomed.

    The Taiwanese should make a high speed road system so they can get firepower to any point quickly. They could have massive robot machine gun systems that shoot at anything warm. Could be turned on when it hit the beaches and it would just wipe everything out.

    They should have small drones that could get pictures of landing ships and landing craft. All over the island they should have cheap rockets. The drones feed coordinates to the rockets and the rockets fire roughly towards the direction. The drones also feed visual data to neural networks in the missiles. The missiles would look for the craft and kill them with explosives. Taiwan makes a lot of video computer chips don’t they? Look at what these guys are doing with chips like they have in cell phones. They’re doing this with a new algorithm. It’s remarkable.


    It shouldn’t be that hard to hit a ship. Especially if you add thermal to the sensors. They would glow like light bulbs.

    Those that made it to the shore would be hit by massive machine gun fire by the fore mentioned automated guns and pre-targeted artillery. How did rushing machine guns work out in WWI? Not too good. With modern anti-tank missiles no tank is safe. We’re actually going back to WWI. Tanks have lost their omnipotence. The anti-tank shaped charge was just starting at the end of WWII. With a little more development it might have been that WWII would have ended in a stalemate just like WWI. What if during WWII every platoon of soldiers had a few anti-tank weapons? Could the Germans have ever taken France? I doubt it. It changes everything but like has so often happened before no one pays any attention and just assumes things will be like the last war.

  9. Alistair says:

    Sam; You don’t work with military analysts or operators. Respectfully, it shows. This is all a bit too “techy whizz”; engineers playing at war. There’s so many lazy assumptions you make about networking and the kill chain…these things you describe have all been thought of, to a degree. If they haven’t been implemented; there is a reason. You have not chanced upon some brilliant defensive schema that everyone else inexplicably missed.

    Tone it down. Read some actual capability assessments.

    Kirk; On the money as always. I too dislike the “we will see it coming” cant.

    There is actual research on conflict warning times. The data says two things happen: Firstly, the warning time is nearly always less than the “planned” warning time, secondly; the politicians waste or ignore most of it!

  10. Wang Wei Lin says:

    Send all the US democrats to Taiwan. No shots fired. Mission accomplished.

  11. Kirk says:

    What did Taiwan ever do to you…?

  12. Wang Wei Lin says:


    My apologies to Taiwan. I was just thinking out loud. It is my opinion that the international community has pretty much screwed over Taiwan just to kiss China’s butt.

    When I look at how to build a country from the ground up Taiwan is my go-to example in the modern era — a remarkable country compared to the Third-World CCP/CPC.

  13. Sam J. says:

    “… Alistair says:
    September 28, 2018 at 12:10 am

    Sam; You don’t work with military analysts or operators. Respectfully, it shows. This is all a bit too “techy whizz”; engineers playing at war. There’s so many lazy assumptions you make about networking and the kill chain…these things you describe have all been thought of, to a degree. If they haven’t been implemented; there is a reason…”

    I understand you’re saying I’m too stupid to know that I’m too stupid to understand and I disagree. I didn’t go into every detail but I’ll be glad to elaborate. As it is you in no way negated what I said except for to say networking in a war environment will not work. OK then what are the US forces doing about this? Can the drones not use laser to network? Can they not use tight beam microwaves to network? If they are being jammed will the network jammer not be a huge massive glowing super target???? How will the Chinese keep this jammer going in a war??? To stop a frequency shifting network you’re going to have to have some massive jammer. As for frequency hopping here’s a programmable frequency radio you can get for $35. I have no doubt a $2 micro-controller could change the frequency over time in some sort of programmed way. This is not star wars laser stuff. The Taiwanese make a very large proportion of the motherboards used on the planet. Surely they can work something up.


    Am I not right about troops glowing in thermal? Yes I know they can cover up with foil but they have to see where they are going. There will some areas uncovered.

    Look at this video again and tell me could it be used to train a visual system that if it sees any radiation in the heat range of a human it could not shoot at it?

    Am I not right about anti-tank anti-personal carrier weapons? They can be guided by fiber optics from a distance. How are the Chinese going to dominate if they are constantly attacked everywhere they go with a myriad of anti-tank missiles?

    Could the ships be attacked by a mass of helicopters or even ultralites with fiber-optic guided missiles? I’m not the only one that sees this. From the link below.

    “…The EFOGM (below) is basically a long-range TOW anti-tank guided missile perfected by the US Army in the 1990s. It flies a flat trajectory guided by a TV camera in the nose of the missile that remains connected to the launcher by spooling out fiber optic cable thinner than a fishing line. A soldier watching a video screen guides the missile with a joystick and crashes it into the target. It can strike armored vehicles, helicopters, or any tactical target within 10 miles…”

    Off the shelf.

    Are you going to say this guy is stupid too? If so what’s stupid about what he says.


    Long range artillery can be targeted in groups and spotters could just call out the prearranged group to target.
    So far what I’ve talked about is not gee-wiz. The anti-tank stuff is off the shelf. Thermal cameras off the shelf. The software to recognize objects, off the shelf. Software to aim the guns at what the thermal sees, not off the shelf. I suspect if you gave some game programmers a pile of money and left them alone for a few months you could have this.

    What about drones for targeting. Off the shelf. They would need infrared communications. I don’t know about military drones but do know commercial drones that have this.

    I suspect some of the reasons that this is not done is because the military just refuses to in many cases. There’s no big “fuck the taxpayer-Lockheed Martin” scam to make money off of. While I’m ranting the military can’t even make a rifle worth two shits.

    I just watched a video a few days ago “machine guns of WWI” on the FANTASTIC video channel, Forgotten Weapons. In it he talks about the massive failure of the WWI participants to understand the machine gun. He reads from a book written by a machine gunner active in the Colonial wars before WWI. They had an exercise with British troops and Calvary which he participated in. You should watch this. He first talks for a minute about the misunderstanding then reads from the book.

    Start at 15:02 to get to the part about the military misunderstanding the technology.


    As far as I’m concerned all you have done is point and shriek about how stupid I am. I have shown that a great deal of everything I mentioned could be put together with commercial off the shelf parts. True they would need to be some software glue in some of them but a great deal of what I said you could just buy off the shelf and build some concrete pits to fire them from.

    My belief is that you can do a great deal with well trained special forces soldiers moving quickly but I think it’s very, very difficult to take over large areas with a well armed people who don’t want you too. Limited objectives yes. Taking a country is very difficult today because of microprocessors. Mass armies have lost a lot of their power. I don’t see you’re “you are stupid” comment clarifying that in any way good or bad.

    The world is full of smart people who believe stupid things, have very little common sense and feel no one but them knows anything.

  14. Sam J. says:

    Don’t forget to see the part where he reads from the book written by the machine gunner at 17:45 here. Very good and highly appropriate to the criticism of what I said.


  15. Alistair says:


    Respectfully, your ideas are not bad, in principle, but you extend them too far in the presence of countervailing factors, countermeasures and don’t give enough thought to force integration. I would not say you are stupid; you’re clearly intelligent; but you do lack experience and education in this sub-field.

    C’mon; lets be honest; you’ve never held a commission or worked in Defence Analysis or Operations Research or Defence Systems Engineering or even Intelligence work have you?

    If there was a general fault running through your post, it was “fallacy of engineering perfectibility”; you’re not leaving anywhere near enough tolerance for friction, and translating performance linearly into capability. Engineers do this all the time when dabbling in military affairs. Compare with Kirk; he’s an operator who has been around the block a lot. He’s sceptical about “killer app” solutions and knows nothing works half as well as it does on paper.

    As for detail in what’s wrong, there’s only so much I am going to into in this forum, especially about EW affairs. But broadly, a lot of the technology you suppose really doesn’t work perfectly in the field, and can indeed by jammed or degraded by a dozen different means or environmental conditions, or are impractical due to some other development and support issues.

    I’ll take just one of your examples and pull it to bits as a junior analyst would: the EFOGM. This is actually a kinda substandard version of the LR Israeli SPIKE system. It is not a super weapon. Consider:

    Targeting and PID is difficult in the first instance (professionals worry much more about early than late kill chain). Targeting drone EO/OR is hyper-vulnerable to modern SRAD. Launch, gather, and terminal control requires considerable training. Drone can be jammed. Drone comms suffer terrain obscuration. Drone requires separate base station/TEU. Drone bandwidth is non-trivial. Target handover is difficult; user has only seconds to acquire and guide to impact. Target deconfliction among multiple operators difficult. Target handover is complicated in unfamiliar terrain without known visual cues. Targets are often visible to 3rd party but not to “low trajectory” weapon, especially in urban. Low cloud severely degrades system capability. Fibre optic links are robust to jamming, but limit speed and manoeuvre. Launcher and crew and vulnerable to counter-battery through visible launch detection. Weapon is vulnerable to new era DAS fits and high-end SRAD. Weapon is relatively heavy and non-dismountable; requires vehicle and crew. Weapon is relatively slow over full range. Weapon is defeated by battlefield smoke. System very prone to friendly fire incidents if friendly forces close. Weapon is moderately expensive.

    It. Is. Just. Not. That. Easy.

    You have a sharp mind and are enthusiastic, but you’re really not the first person to think of stuff like this. Your input is valued and interesting, but just calm down and read a bit more about how militaries actually work; could I recommend anything by Jim Dunningan as a starting point?

  16. Sam J. says:

    “…If there was a general fault running through your post, it was “fallacy of engineering perfectibility”…”

    I get this and understand. You don’t help your case by keep telling me to “Tone it down” or “calm down”. I’ve given concrete examples of weapons systems to counter the Chinese and you’re reply is to pretend that I’m raving. (Whether you’re doing this on purpose or not, this is a common method to derail an argument about facts by questioning the mental state of the person making an argument). I reject this as irrelevant to the talk about the defense of Taiwan. I’m countering arguments with “logical expositions of the situation”. If anything your response,”you’re not a military analysis” is not helpful. So? My arguments stand on their own. The best military minds have made a LOT of mistakes. If you saw the video I linked that’s just one really big one. There’s many, many more. My main serious beef is not that you can think up ideas to counter the ones I have or that this is difficult, it’s the tenor of the argument that,”Taiwan is fucked, give up”. Hell no it’s not and I can come up with many, many ways that that they can use to defend themselves. I also see that while the, “Taiwanese should just give up” argument is false the, “…It. Is. Just. Not. That. Easy…” applies just as much and more to the Chinese who after all have to cross a large body of water, attack a shoreline then take over a country.

    I not going to go on and on but I can easily see ways to counter your counters, fire the fiber optic missiles out of tubes with gas to hide where they come from and really it doesn’t matter where they come from as you can optically link them to concrete bunkers. Thermal can see through smoke and any smoke that blocks the defender also blocks the attacker. Anything that jams can be hit by radiation seeking bombs. The Chinese will only have a little bit of aircraft time on site, etc., etc.

    My main point is that the microprocessor has fundamentally changed the nature of war. We are going back to a situation where Defense is the stronger force. I also believe I have showed how a determined Taiwanese with a little thought could keep the Chinese from taking their country. If they were determined the Chinese could not take it by force if they prepared correctly. Maybe they could kill everyone on it but that would defeat their purpose I believe. At least they couldn’t take it with the type weapons they have today and what I’ve seen they are building if the Taiwanese bought mostly off the shelf military equipment.

    Complaining I “…don’t give enough thought to force integration…” is a bit much for a few lines tossed off on a blog post don’t you think?

    You’re arguments seem Passive-Aggressive to me.

  17. Alistair says:


    Thank you for the response. I really don’t want to come across as passive aggressive. It’s difficult to criticise some of your thoughts without spending a year and day on the reasons why they haven’t already been adopted wholesale and without a “common frame” of expertise / jargon with you.

    Contrary to what is widely believed, the military does put an awful lot of effort into concept development. They do indeed get things wrong as you surmise, but nearly everything has been thought of to some degree, including all the “solutions” you propose. If we want to move the debate forward, we should perhaps show some awareness of why they have not, generally, been adopted, rather than waving the effector “solutions” around and complaining no one recognises our genius! Rather like the old saw about logistics, amateur discuss effectors, professionals discuss enablers and experts discuss architectures.

    Look at my takedown of the EOFGM concept. Honestly now – how many of those issues had even occurred to you? Your counter-countermeasures are…well… respectfully, no. This is sub-Clancy. Read a real primer. Dunnigan is good. Most of the tech and CONOPS involved here really does NOT work the simple way you imagine and confer the assurance you seek.

    I would emphasise Force Integration issues again because that was my strongest indicator that you were not a professional (meant without malice); Amateur force development pundits always focus far too much on weapons and not enough on enablers, sensors, and C4ISTAR. Look at your list; its all weapons and the odd MALE UAV.

    Sam, please be assured I am entirely aware of the Theory about microprocessor impact on military affairs (and the issue rate of MGs to pre-WWI British Bns). It is not novel to me. As part of my day job I have to discuss at MSc level most revolutions in military affairs going back the 13th century. I would ask; have you even heard of the 2nd and 3rd offset? Are you aware of the main contemporary debates in exactly this area?

    I leave the defensibility of Taiwan to one side. It’s not one of my specialisms. I am sure we both wish them well in their efforts to remain independent.

    With kind regards,

  18. Slovenian Guest says:

    My money would be on China still, just because of all the fifth columnists & infiltration, nothing in Taiwan is really hidden from China, so no surprises, they know all plans, and loose lips sink islands too!

  19. Sam J. says:

    “…It’s difficult to criticise some of your thoughts without spending a year…”

    I agree and maybe you should give me the same courtesy for something I dashed off in 4 or 5 minutes.

    “…Look at my takedown of the EOFGM concept…”

    I don’t think you did take this down. Mostly I was trying to show there are alternatives to, “we’re all going to die and there’s no sense in fighting”.

    There has to be some point where you buy some sort of weapons and work with what you have. You’re diminution of EOFGM, artillery, drones, rockets leaves not much to work with. That you see problems in all of these doesn’t negate the idea that you must have something to fight with.

    It immediately flashed in my mind a sci-fi story I read once. One society had this super high tech weapon and another just made a shit load of conventional weapons. The high tech weapon would transport a ship to an infinitely far distance then transport back in a different location. The problem was it never was exactly the same as when it left. The radios would be mistuned, the bolts different sizes from normal. They of course lost to the ones who took a path and stuck to it.

    There’s also the fact that one of the biggest reasons one weapons system is picked over another is some General likes one and not the other and totally sabotages any work on anything not “his baby”. This has very long term consequences. A generals whim stopped the advent of the .280_British intermediate cartridge and substituted .308 NATO.


    There’s no really good reason I’ve seen for this. Later we went with .223 and “now” they’re talking about needing a little more power and we’re essentially right back to the British cartridge that was figured out after WWII.

    Rickovers obsession with pressured water reactors killed off the molten salt reactor which could have much more met the civilian power reactor needs. Technological paths are frequently taken entirely by whim. Yes I know Rickover wanted a reactor “now”.

    I’m not saying your not a great deal more knowledgeable than I am on these issues but I’ve seen a great deal of nonsense. I’m looking at the electromagnetic launcher for aircraft carriers the other day and it makes me sick. Now the reason they said they needed these was the fine control of steam sytems left a lot to be desired. I look at all this complexity and…I’m astounded. They take a nuke, make steam, lose a least 50% of the power making electricity, store it in a capacitor or flywheel, then have to control vast amounts of amperage…it’s just silly. Someone just got the idea that this would be nice and spent billions to make it so. If control was the problem why didn’t they make a smart launcher that used a accelerometer in the shoe(I think the thing that pulls the plane is called a shoe) and then let it fine control the steam????

    This sort of thing happens a lot. I don’t doubt that you’re much more intelligent than I am but intelligent people believe a lot of nonsense sometimes because they live in their heads and have little common sense. I’m not saying this is you but it could be. Look at all the things I threw out there that you had “problems” with. Well what will you fight with??? Why is it that all this smoke and ECM interference that you throw up doesn’t effect the Chinese??? Why can’t the Taiwanese have smoke and ECM jamming???? You only throw out negative and provide nothing to do anything practical with.

    Hell for good measure here’s another idea that you will think up some smoke to defeat. The idea is to hammer the Chinese all the way to the beach then crush them on the beach. So you fill the Island up with cheap rockets. Normal scouting missions, maybe balloons like Googles “Loons” look for mass boat invasion. When they see them they gave a general direction. A lot cheap rockets (make them solids with steel or wood cases)fire near their boats. Sonar tracks the boats and blows them up. You could use patterned sonar chirps that would be answered by friendly boats for IFF. At the same time the Taiwanese air force is firing at the boats and Chinese planes. The Air Force will probably be taken by the Chinese but not before large losses by the Chinese. Just how many boats would the Chinese have to have? A lot. A whole lot.

    If the Chinese were smart they would rattle chains but never actually attack.

  20. Huey Jarvik says:

    Taiwan is like Hong Kong used to be before the PRC moved in and ruined the neighborhood. China needs that sort of halfway house intermediary between it and the real world whether it knows it or not. Better to keep the status quo rather than to go out on one too many limbs and crash/burn.

    China is far more vulnerable to internal/external perturbation than the pundits understand, just like the USSR was in the 1980s. Who else predicted the fall of the USSR?

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