Reading Time: 9 minutes
In the year 2015, China published a strategy document – China’s military strategy, on the future PLA war designs. This enumerated shifting the focus from the ‘offshore waters defence’ to “open seas protection”. The vision for a blue water Chinese Navy was laid out by then-President Hu Jintao in his Christmas eve speech in 2004. Dubbed as “New Historic Missions”, this was designed to restore China’s lost glory. The plan was further explained in a 2008 defence white paper. In 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping finally cemented the plan of a ‘world-class’ military by 2035, capable of winning wars across the globe by 2050. Today PLAN is 350 ships strong (130 major surface components) and the largest Navy in the world, at least, numerically.
China’s ambitions would mostly depend upon PLA Navy assisted by PLA Rocket Force (PLARF), PLA Air Force (PLAAF), and PLA. The PLAN assets consist of:
- PLAN Warships and Submarines: 350
- PLAAF Aircraft: 3010
PLA Rocket Force:
- The number of missile brigades – 40, Men – 100,000, Bases – 6(numbered 51 to 56)
- ICBMs – 200, MRBMs – 300, SRBMs – 1150, Cruise Missiles – 3000
- Base 52, which has most of its launch brigades garrisoned along the country’s southeast coast opposite Taiwan, controls much of the Rocket Force’s short-range conventionally-armed ballistic missiles.
All strong Navies of the world heavily depend upon strong logistics support systems. The PLAN is sustaining the logistics of task groups in alien waters courtesy of state-owned enterprise – China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO). This shipping company has a shore-based support system existing at all the major ports. Another innovative strategy of PLA Navy is a portable underway-replenishment system with 3500 merchant vessels flying the Chinese flag. All these preparations point in one direction: China’s global ambition, and preparation for war.
The PLAN’s aims in the short-term are well defined:
- Solve ‘the Taiwan Problem’
- Proclaim and achieve ownership of the South China Sea Islands.
- Proclaim and achieve ownership of the East China Sea Islands.
- Infiltrate and subjugate Australian institution and secure mining rights.
- Resolve the ‘Malacca Dilemma’ and ‘Hormuz Dilemma’
- India Factor:
- Establish an alternate route to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- Weaken India’s position in Siachen Glacier. Deny India access to Shyok and Nubra valley and eventually cut off India from Siachen.
- Redraw the LAC south of Saser La and cut off DBO completely from India.
- This would facilitate the proposed road connecting Tibet with Gilgit-Baltistan in POK and secure the CPEC project from Indian interference.
South China Sea Campaign
Pre-empting China’s nefarious designs, it became incumbent upon the US, India, Japan and Australia to come together, form the Quad and secure their interests. What could be better to divert the attention of Chinese citizens from skyrocketing unemployment, food shortages, and collapsing business than to invade Taiwan? Involvement of Quad forces in the so-called war is a certainty. War is an ever-changing vista with not much certainty; therefore I present here a wide scenario of how the war may unfold.
- The invasion of Taiwan may take place in a staggered manner:
Courtesy: Google Maps
- First Phase: Invade Kinmen County: Just 6 km from mainland China, these islands would be first but not that easy to fall, with its fortification and underground tunnels.
- Second Phase: Invade the PengHu County – Archipelago of 90 islets, 30 miles from mainland Taiwan, is key to occupying mainland Taiwan. It is protected by a long-range radar plus Huiung Feng II anti-ship cruise missiles, Sky Bow III surface-to-air missiles, a 60000-strong permanent garrison, seventy M-60 tanks, an artillery battalion, and routine deployment of a missile destroyer. Therefore, success in Penghu would demand an element of air superiority and sea control.
- Third Phase: Invade Taiwan – Considering the Quad doesn’t come to Taiwan’s rescue:
- Taiwanese forces have 117 ships, 289 fighters, 1200 Tanks, and 1650 Artillery on its inventory.
- PLAAF would employ ‘Suppression of Enemy Air Defences’ tactics.
- PLA Rocket Force will start with decapitating missile attacks on air bases, fuel depots, ports, ships, communication hubs, and radar facilities.
- Swarms of combat drones would be used to neutralize shore-based anti-aircraft batteries.
- Followed by the utilization of aerial attack aircraft, the J-10s, and J-11s to ward off Taiwanese F-16s and F-CK-1C. J-16s, multirole fighter(carrying four YJ-83 anti-ship missiles) to take on all aerial, maritime, and land targets. PLAAF may test the capabilities of J-20 and FC-31/J-31.
- H-6 bombers(carrying four YJ-12 anti-ship missiles) would be used to neutralize warships and ground facilities(30 in number).
- Y-8 anti-submarine warfare(ASW) aircraft would be utilized to locate and attack Taiwanese submarines and clear the Taiwan Strait for a ground assault.
- PLAN warships and minesweeping robots would clear the strait of mines.
- Fire support should be provided by naval gunfire, close air support, and field artillery.
- The final task would be landing the 25000 marines(Chinese marine corps strength) on the beaches and achieving superiority. However, most PLA marines brigades are not yet manned and fully operational. They don’t have sufficient armoured vehicles, helicopters, and training. Therefore, the PLA is concentrating on the Army amphibious units and Airforce airborne troops for Taiwan.
- Taiwan would employ a mix of asymmetric and hedgehog strategy to ward off China, till friendly help arrives.
Reach of PLA Rocket Force: Map Courtesy Google
The Pacific Ocean Campaign
While China would be invading Taiwan, it will try to keep the surprise element. The PLA may divert the attention of the world by carrying out an operation in India (Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh) or Japan (Senkaku Islands). The invasion may take place in the guise of an exercise. China’s major task would be to limit the US resources in the South China Sea, by keeping the US Navy and Airforce busy in the pacific.
- The whole campaign may look somewhat like this:
- The US to enhance its capacity and capabilities in Guam.
- The US Air Force’s first missions would be to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance using RQ-4 Global Hawks or Space assets.
- Ensure China doesn’t succeed in the proposed leasing of the island of Tulagi (Solomon Islands) for 75 years. This would give China a foothold in the southwest Pacific.
- Upgrade assets at Yokota and Misawa (Japan), and Osan and Kunsan, airbases (South Korea).
- The US bomber operations from naval bases at Diego Garcia and Guam.
- Air Force Bases at Whiteman(B-2) and Minot(B-52H) will be pressed into service.
- The US would adopt a strategy to counter PLARF’s over 1300 GLBMs and GLCMs.
- With air dominance, PLAAF aircraft flying over the Miyako Strait(east of Taiwan) would be 1500 km from Guam putting it within the range of the CJ-20 LACM.
- The PLAN warships without air cover would restrict themselves within 200-300 NM from the mainland.
- Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and Shandong with ski-jump take-off, have weight penalties on fighter operations. However, their operations in the Pacific could give extended air defence for the Chinese fleet.
- PLAN’s 19 SSNs & SSBNs(Nuclear-powered submarines) would play an important role in the Pacific. The US has 69 such boats.
- The US 7th Fleet would require the support of the San Diego-based 3rd Fleet for dominance in the Pacific.
- P-8A Poseidon ASW aircraft would be in great demand to hunt down Chinese submarines.
- Heavy lift aircraft C-130s and C-17s would be pressed into service to move troops and equipment.
- The US ammunition production capabilities would be stretched, if preparations are not done in advance.
- Small units of Island hopping Marines along with unmanned aerial vehicles, surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-ship missiles, and cyber-attack equipment would be an asset in the war.
- Vietnam and the Philippines would be most important in the SCS and Island states of Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific.
- Most notably the US should be ready to fight the war without GPS. That is one asset that China will take down first.
East China Sea Campaign
Japan(US assets -54000 troops, F-15 fighters, KC-135 tankers, HH-60 helicopters) and South Korea’s(28500 US troops, 90 combat planes, 40 attack helicopters, and 60 Patriot missile launchers) role will be important in supporting the war against China.
The US Forces in Japan: Courtesy Ministry of Defence, Japan
China’s Northern Theatre Navy Headquarters, Qingdao, would be responsible for this area:
- Chinese Assets: 77 Ships and Submarines
- Japanese Assets: 81 Ships and Submarines, 310 aircraft
- The US Pacific Fleet & Japanese naval alliance have together over 7,600 missiles stacked up against China.
- If Russia doesn’t interfere, Japan can blockade over 15 percent of oil import from Russia. Another 12 per cent oil coming from South America would be blocked by the US.
Indian Ocean Malacca and Sunda Campaign
- Indian Navy Assets: 228 Warships, Submarines and Patrol Boats, 232 aircraft.
- Indian Airforce: 2123 aircraft
Over 40 percent of Chinese oil passes through the Hormuz Strait and around 80 percent through the Malacca Strait. China is very vulnerable in both the straits. When the hostilities break out China would not be in a position to spare a large number of naval assets to look after these vulnerabilities.
China keeps strategic oil reserves of up to 80 days. Indian Navy can choke the Chinese supplies in both locations. If at all, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) gets connected with Gwadar port, to meet China’s emergency energy demands, it would the first one to come under attack from Indian Air Force(IAF) and Navy. Part of CPEC passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK) would also be rendered useless by the Indian Army and the IAF. That could be the reason behind China going slow on Gwadar and the proposed development of Jask(Iran) port. It takes China closer to Hormuz Strait and gives much better control.
Courtesy: Google Maps
A strange development is that Pakistan is buying eight Type 039 submarines and four Type 054A guided-missile frigates from China. The total cost of the acquisition is over $6 billion. The state of Pakistan is bankrupt and cannot afford such expensive acquisitions. The whole deal looks fishy. It could be speculated that to counter India and to look into the Hormuz dilemma, under the guise of sale, China is positioning its most advanced naval assets in the region.
The next choke points are Malacca and Sunda Straits. India can seal them off with impunity.
Map Courtesy: Google
The Philippines Sea and SouthWest Pacific Campaign
Australian Naval and Air Force Assets:
- Royal Australian Navy – 46 Ships, Submarines, Patrol Boats
- Royal Australian Air Force – Total assets: 259, Combat Planes: 110
- Australia would be a key player with its presence in the northwest, north, northeast, east, and south Australian seas.
- China may utilize the Lombok Strait or the route south of Australia to meet its energy requirements. China could position it’s surface and subsurface elements to support the activities.
- Papua New Guinea would be a very important player in this campaign. Australia must use its influence over the country to dominate the region.
Mother of All Wars
The big question is, when would the balloon go up? This depends upon the PLA and its preparedness. There is only one certainty and that is, that the invasion of Taiwan will happen. The whole scenario discussed has kept countries like Pakistan and North Korea, who may come to fight for China, out of the discussion.
How much ever China may have progressed, odds are heavily in favour of the Quad. Still, what would decide the outcome of the war?
- Effectiveness of newly formed Chinese Theatre Commands.
- How good are PLA systems in surviving electronic, cyber, and physical attacks on launch facilities, guidance systems, and command-and-control centres?
- Effectiveness of PLA’s unique dual-command system of the commanding officer and political officer. In war scenarios when quick decisions are required to be made, would they be stuck in the bureaucracy?
- The readiness of PLA to fight on varied fronts, with such large forces.
- PLA’s ability to replenish and replace it’s widely dispersed forces on various fronts would also be a big challenge. China’s merchant vessel’s logistics program would come under attack first. Reports say that China has developed a cruise missile with EMP warhead that is hidden inside a shipping container on a cargo ship that can destroy military sites, manufacturing facilities, and the power grids.
- Taiwan would also not give up easily:
- The rugged and mountainous terrain of Taiwan would give hard time to invading ground forces.
- The Taiwanese mine, moored in the strait, could sink Chinese assault ships carrying helicopters and the thousands of troops.
- The anti-ship missiles from the hidden bunkers would also do a lot of damage.
- The supersonic missile Yun Feng with 200 kg warhead and thousands of miles range can create havoc on mainland China.
- The Philippines has to be made to understand that if Taiwan falls to China, then the Philippines is next in line. The Philippines would be a very important component, due to its unique location in the SCS. The Philippines’ coming on board is important to bring down the curtain on the war at the earliest.
The End Would Be Devastating:
- China would not back down easily, rather it will double down on the path of mutual destruction.
- The decisive moment would come when PLAN attack a US aircraft carrier. The US would treat this as just short of a nuclear attack.
- Since the US has not adopted a no-first-use policy, a ballistic missile attack from China could also be mistaken for a nuclear warhead and in retaliation, a nuclear attack on mainland China cannot be ruled out.
- An unfortunate and inadvertent nuclear attack would lead to nuclear winter and incapacitate China. Maybe the country will not be able to recover from it for a long time.
- A defeat in war will obviously see the ouster of Xi Jinping and the emergence of a new China.
The blitzkrieg of Chinese economic development has led to its hot-headedness, premature assumptions, poor strategy, ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, and usage of undiplomatic language. Overestimating its power, China under Xi Jinping began to upset the US, the EU, India, Japan and Australia preternaturally. That is one geostrategic blunder, its leaders would live to regret.
Total Page Visits: 7518 - Today Page Visits: 1