That’s not to say someone won’t try. And the obvious country in question is China, of course.
One non-factor is the growing number of Americans living within Taiwan. Based on Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, in 2009, Americans made up approximately 2.5% of the island nation’s 350,000 alien residents. While that number has grown since, and will likely continue to grow, it would never be enough to affect America’s alliance with Taiwan, R.O.C. one way or the other.
So, what are the reasons an invasion of Taiwan is untenable?
The United States will always prefer Democracy over Communism. Likewise, America has a tendency of siding with smaller countries and standing against bigger ones. Taiwan is a small democratic republic that gets along with everyone. China is a large socialist-communist nuisance. Do the math. America will always side with Taiwan because they know, if anyone invades Taiwan, Hawaii will likely follow. And Japan remembers what that would mean.
Taiwan has some of the tallest mountains in the world, though they don’t rival Everest. Formosa, the historic name of Taiwan’s main island, isn’t a mere “hilly tropical island” in the West Pacific. It’s more akin to a fortress.
Most of the population lives near the west coast of the island, off the Taiwan Strait, which large naval ships don’t get too close to. If a force ever did take the plains on the western side, they’d have to deal with a military onslaught from atop Taiwan’s complex mountains with rolling foothills. Not to mention rivers that sprawl every which way as they exit those mountains and empty into the strait.
The east side of the island is filled with mountains – right on the coastline in many places. Any east-side plains are small and sheltered. Historically, the Dutch were not able to overtake the Aborigines who lived in the eastern mountains. Only the Christian missionaries could reach them, with the gospel from the Prince of Peace, which is why so many Taiwan Aborigine tribes are Christian to this day. Even then, from a military perspective, taking those eastern mountains wouldn’t accomplish much.
Lastly, there’s Taipei, the nation’s capital. Far in the North, the entire city, also Taiwan’s largest city, is inside an enormous “bowl” of mountains. This even affects the weather because both hot and cold air get trapped in any season. The only access is narrow or from the sky.
For similar reasons to the difficult terrain of the United States, Taiwan’s geography definitely favours the force who was there first.
3. Prepared Militia
Taiwan military service is compulsory for all healthy males older than 18 not enrolled in school. This means that almost every adult man has already been trained in the structure, chain of command, procedure, and equipment of Taiwan’s military. If needed, a civilian military could be raised quickly and would be effective since everyone has already been trained.
4. Skilled Military
On the surface, Taiwan’s military may seem to be unthreatening. But that’s only the surface. America and Israel are not the only nations in the world with deadly Special Forces, which, technically “don’t exist”. So, technically, this reason “doesn’t exist” either.
Unofficially, if any invader parked their navy off the coast of Taiwan, the main threat to those maritime vessels would not be an air strike nor torpedo assault, but amphibious Special ops from Taiwan, capable of commandeering command.
Notwithstanding that Taiwan has no small Air Force.
5. Regional Allies
Japan is one of the few countries to recognise Taiwan as a full-fledged nation. In WWII, the Japanese occupied Taiwan. Since then, there has been forgiveness and friendship, similarly with the United States and Japan. Taiwan reportedly delivered more aid to Japan after the tsunami in 2011 than any other country – by accident. Taiwan simply loves Japan and Japan knows it.
Taiwan’s current island dispute with Japan is mostly accepted by Taiwanese. It’s China who has a beef to grind.
If harmed, Taiwan wouldn’t depend on help from only the Yanks. Okinawa isn’t all that far away either.
6. Jeremy Lin Chose a Career in Basketball
In other words, he’s famous and has family from Taiwan. That’s not to say Jeremy Lin would come out with an opinion. But, certainly, someone in the mass media would ask him for one. And that’s all it would take. Everyone knows Jeremy and that helped make Taiwan famous. Taiwan couldn’t get attacked without the the world of NBA knowing about it.
7. International Business
Believe it or not, many Apple products depend on engineering and development done in… you guessed it! Taiwan.
HTC, Google’s favoured Android label, is a Taiwanese company.
Giant, the bicycles – Taiwan.
Many large companies have offices in Taiwan, from all around the world. If those offices came in harms way, every government in the world would be knee-deep in telegrams from the big players in business.
When the Japanese occupied Taiwan, they built a vast and extensive train system. Taiwan’s high speed rail aside, with airports everywhere, nearly every road paved, and trains up the “Yin-Yang”, mobilising within Taiwan would be no problem for the Taiwanese military or the local economy. In the event of fuel shortage, many people get to work by bicycle anyway – and there are plenty of great bicycle manufacturers on the island. Streets are littered with bicycles.
Unlike Hawaii, Taiwan grows most of its own food – and much of everyone else’s. The plains grow rice and soy in surplus. The mountains supply plenty of tea… an Asian staple. Formosa also grows fruit that many people have never heard of.
In a blockade scenario, the price of tea would likely go up – not in Taiwan, but everywhere else in the world, driving more international pressure, especially among the British – who drink tea almost as much as the Taiwanese. But, the price of tea would probably drop inside Taiwan, since it wouldn’t be exported.
If an invading force began with a blockade, it would probably improve Taiwan’s economy, if anything. It would be the perfect alibi for Taiwan to stop exporting Apple’s stuff to America, not being allowed to sell Apple products in their own nation until months after being shipped out and sold elsewhere.
Maybe then, Apple could sue China for economic damages – just like they sue everyone else. An American judge would probably agree. And, consequently, Taiwanese companies wouldn’t have to worry about exporting to America and getting sued by Apple. It’d mostly get Apple out of the way… no offence to Apple’s great computers. They really are great computers. They’re partially designed in Taiwan, after all.
In any case, if Taiwan were ever attacked, Apple wouldn’t be happy. Everyone knows, if Apple isn’t happy, nobody’s happy. An App would soon be written to update people on the situation.
11. The Seventh Fleet of the US Navy
In the last three decades, all those wars, Iran’s drama with Reagan, two wars with Iraq, Afghanistan not to mention the drama in Syria and Clinton’s fiascoes in Africa, the Seventh Fleet didn’t leave China’s coast for even a moment. It’s stayed closer to Taiwan than a hop, skip, and a jump. Right now, it’s main mission is to prevent any disturbance, not so much in the South China Sea, but around the Taiwan Strait.
There are three nations that seem to get supernatural help whenever it’s needed. Israel, the United States, and Taiwan.
Most readers know about the six-day war and Israel’s long streak of “luck” in military matters. Some readers know about the strange “fortune” America had in fighting the British, as well as their own Civil War… Even the hurricane that wiped-out the British army that came to “Occupy DC” in the War of 1812.
Taiwan has its own stories where “acts of God” worked in their favour. Remember the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, when Taiwan helped out more than any other nation? In Taiwan the tsunami was barely noticeable. One beachfront hotel evacuated and the owner was angry that the wave didn’t damage anything. Japan might have loved to swap Fukushima for Taiwan’s “luck”.
So invading Taiwan would be a bad idea, to say the least. Even if it happens, the invader, no matter how big, would likely lose. They’d lose not only their military forces, but their reputation, money, and their pride. Of course, losing one’s pride isn’t a bad thing, but it’s best to lose pride without losing a war first.
Will China attempt the untenable? I hope not, though it seems to be their pattern. Recently, Beijing seems to want to fool the world into thinking that they respect other free people’s intelligence, that they respect their neighbours, that they respect their own people, and that they respect the West’s ability to gather intelligence about their intentions. That propaganda also, is untenable. One only need read the newspaper to see why. Beijing is only fooling Beijing.
- In passport row, Taiwan is stickin’ it to China (chinadailymail.com)
- Pop culture draws Chinese tourists to Taiwan over New Years (wantchinatimes.com)
- Are Senkaku islets first line of defense against rising China? (japantimes.co.jp)