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War game simulations find China failing to invade Taiwan at a huge cost to all, including US and Japan

Image of a CSIS wargame simulation
via Center for Strategic and International Studies

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    A Chinese invasion of Taiwan will result in defeat but at a huge cost to all parties involved, including the U.S. and Japan, according to a war game analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

    The Washington, D.C.-based think tank brought together military experts to predict possible outcomes for the hypothetical conflict, which remains a global concern amid persisting strait tensions and China’s ultimate goal of reclaiming the self-governed island — by force if necessary.

    In a total of 24 war game simulations, the CSIS found that China experienced the most casualties, suffering losses of about 10,000 troops, 155 combat aircraft, 138 major ships and imprisonment of some 30,000 Chinese survivors on the island. Such a failure, as well as counterattack damages in mainland territories, could destabilize the ruling Communist Party, the experts said.

    Still, China’s military might is expected to cripple the victors for a long time. Taiwan is expected to lose around 1,100 troops, as well as all of its destroyers and warships; Japan, acting as a U.S. base and reinforcement, is bound to lose 112 aircraft and 26 warships; and the U.S. could lose 3,200 troops, 270 aircraft and 17 warships.

    Such losses would “damage the U.S. global position for many years,” according to CSIS, leaving Washington with a “pyrrhic victory” in which it suffers “more in the long run than the ‘defeated’ Chinese.”

    “We reached two conclusions,” said Eric Heginbotham, report co-author and security expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to AFP. “First, under most circumstances, China is unlikely to succeed in its operational objectives, or to occupy Taipei. Second, the cost of war would be high for all involved, certainly to include the United States.”

    The CSIS report also noted that there is no “Ukraine model” for Taiwan. The island’s victory hinges on a few factors: its determination to fight back, Japan’s permission to allow the U.S. to use its territories and Washington’s ability to “strike the Chinese fleet rapidly and en masse from outside the Chinese defensive zone.”

    “Once the war begins, it’s impossible to get any troops or supplies onto Taiwan, so it’s a very different situation from Ukraine where the United States and its allies have been able to send supplies continuously to Ukraine,” said Mark Cancian, co-author and senior adviser with the International Security Program at the CSIS, as per CNN. “Whatever the Taiwanese are going to fight the war with, they have to have that when the war begins.”

    In October 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping set a goal of modernizing the People’s Liberation Army by 2027. Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes providing $10 billion worth of assistance to Taiwan in the next five years.

    Read the full report here.

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