China’s Coming War with the World

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan
Tue, 20 Oct 2020
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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.


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Dec 30, 2020
Your write-up speaks volumes about the intentions of Chinese. It may be in their own AOR or outside their jurisdictions, the Chinese want to own everything with force and deception which are their weapons. Even in Covid-19 pandemic conditions, China has been acting as though this was the opportunity of lifetime to purchase lands on lease, purchase the companies thru any methods legitimate or illegitimate, browbeat the neighbours into submission by the use of PLA and thru GLOBAL TIMES publicity stunts. They want to have their rights on South China Sea, East China Sea, forcibly occupy the neighbors islands or by construction of artificial islands and having rocket force on these so as to browbeat. Then there is the case of force keeping or you can say it 'KIDNAPPED' two cargo ships ' and these are stationed since long. I am really very happy that the differences between India and Nepal are narrowing down with the discomfiture to Chinese. This intransigence is not merely the Chinese neighbour, China wants to be the world lord which could get what it wants - through the coerciveness or through design as has been done to our neighbour by loaning them billions of dollars which they cannot pay in in the process have lost their sovereignty as has been observed. When that country will realize I cannot fathom. It has become a colony of Chinese. India has to make concerted efforts in keeping itself on the alert. We should not be taken in by their talk-talk till the other party gets tired and may not be able to make preparations to keep itself ready when D Day dawns?! Therefore, our country has to be very wary and careful lest we are taken by surprise. We are facing the internal problem. The farmers' agitation is a part of that problem. Then there are people who are disrupting the telecon towers. Are not such people doing a disservice to the country as a whole? I am really disappoint about the state of affairs,,, With regards HARBANS


Oct 28, 2020
Par Excellento Sir 👍👏👏 Excellent Indepth Analysis Would be very interesting to watch, as the events unfold. Kudos


Oct 25, 2020
Well argued and insightful article. China's requirement for energy seems to be its Achilles heel. If and when China attacks Taiwan, the Quad+ should focus on destroying China's strategic oil reserve and blockading China from receiving new shipments of oil. I suspect Taiwan would be on its own for the most part. I suspect the Communist Party of China (CPC) is China's critical vulnerability. Cut off the head of the snake (the CPC in this case) and the body (PLA) will quickly lose its will to fight.


Oct 25, 2020
I strongly believe that COSCO is an integral tool of China's ambitions. Malacca and Hormuz plan could be a reality soon. Accession of Taiwan could be a walk-in event.....but the World's reaction would change the whole scenario. Fantabulous analysis and sketch plan by the Author.....hope the Chinese don't hire him to be part of Conceptual team of PLAAF!!!! (◔‿◔)


Oct 25, 2020
Yes as of now, China is on the receiving end. Reaction of Quad appears to be optimistic as dust settle down normal economic and national priorities will overtake. China will not rest as it is destined to move towards its destruction if its leadership continues to have such aspirations but there lies the danger for India for which it should be prepared Therefore, there is need to factor in China's technological progress, aspirations and gaps in Indian capability. I look forward to a plan for India with some foresight to prepare for future challenges

Sid Gupta

Oct 24, 2020
I must say, a well assimilation of facts to define the future relevance of ‘cause and effect’. Great in-depth analysis. I will wait to see how it actually sinks in.


Oct 24, 2020
I must say, a well assimilation of facts to define the future relevance of ‘cause and effect’. Great in-depth analysis. I will wait to see how it actually sinks in.


Oct 24, 2020
The article provides deep visibility with data & numbers on forces which otherwise cannot be explored easily.. for example PLA rocket force....phase wise secret occupation plan of CN defence is explained nicely capturing from Kinmen island, PengHu island and then Taiwan.. I could visualise how step by step CN forces will act and how Quad forces can react to it.. It needs a great sense of imagination to pen down " Mother's of all War".. Kudos to the author for having great writing skills with conviction.


Oct 24, 2020
Always insightful with a different perspective, Sandeep always is able to give an all round panorama with insightful scenarios which are well researched. Succinct, yet detailed, his analysis are well worth reading. I sincerely hope, the Chinese think tanks also read it and learn to advise Xi, its not easy baby!!

Cdr Sreenivas

Oct 24, 2020
Fantastic article Sandy. I try to reserve your analysis for weekends, fursat se. You seem to have created a War room at home with battle plans, Task forces, doctrines, strategies and relative strengths and weaknesses. PLA will get it's nose bloody in Taiwan but giving submarines to Pak is not good for us. Hope like other Chinese equipment they don't dive! Keep writing!


Oct 24, 2020
Excellent overview - very nicely laid out

बी राजा

Oct 23, 2020
गम्भीर विचार, गवेषणा युक्त, सटीक प्रस्तुति अद्भुत लेख, जो सामयिक प्रजातन्त्र और सामरिक विषयों में दिशा देते है, उन्हें पढ़ना चाहिए


Oct 23, 2020
Very vivid scenarious. Very well articulated. The scenarios are plausible, except the element of surprise. Surprise would be perhaps economic or even the recent biological one still unfolding, but surely would form part , or slow minor occupations in ever expanding lines over land and sea, a kind of work in progress and slowly the jigsaw of enslaved debt ridden countries and economies encapsuled or obliterated. Perhaps no country or allies or even China would risk an Armageddon as there would be no winner or vanquished and may not happen in our lifetime. Of course consirable Sabre rattling and skirmishes would unfold. Thought provoking.

Arun jha

Oct 23, 2020
Author undeniably has carried out in depth analysis. Following him regularly as it gives an interesting read.


Oct 23, 2020
Well reseearched, as always. The Taiwan invasion is almost a certainty. The diversion could come in any of these scenarios.


Oct 23, 2020
Exceptional analysis on what seems to be an imminent situation in days to come. Sincerely appreciate the 360 coverage encompassing all dimensions of the playing (battle) field.


Oct 23, 2020
China has expansionist plans undoubtedly...but they remain totally isolated Their only ally, a forced marriage, is Pakistan...Pakistan's economic situation is precarious...their civil military relationship is at a breaking believe they'd gladly jump into war with China is rather unlikely Alliances or steps towards that are being forged between the forces of Australia, USA, Japan and India History shows that no nation can take on a global might and sustain it China has immense nuisance quotient and no'll keep nations more China is like an overgrown kid that can be pummelled into place by a single blow India cannot let its guard down...but India needn't worry about an apocalypse

Sanjay Jaiswal

Oct 23, 2020
What a planning for China, hats off to the writer who compiled and planned Chinese strategy and the reaction of QUAD.. Let us wait and watch, how the What a planning for China, hats off to the writer who compiled and planned Chinese strategy and the reaction of QUAD.. Let us wait and watch, how the scene builds. An excellent article. Congratulations

Sanjay Jaiswal

Oct 23, 2020
What a planning for China, hats off to the writer who compiled and planned Chinese strategy and the reaction of QUAD.. Let us wait and watch, how the What a planning for China, hats off to the writer who compiled and planned Chinese strategy and the reaction of QUAD.. Let us wait and watch, how the

Subrata Bose

Oct 23, 2020
Interesting read


Oct 23, 2020
Excellent write-up. The whole world is so upset with China that the scenario presented here seems plausible. I was not aware of many aspects, what you brought out here. So, thank you for that. I hope people in the right places are listing to you and taking note of your expertise.

CHINA’S COMING WAR WITH THE WORLD - Insightful Geopolitics

Oct 21, 2020
[…] How China plans to attack Taiwan and how the free world would take on China, continue to read on India’s most respected Think-Tank platform, ‘Chanakya Forum’: […]

Wendell Bruges

Oct 20, 2020
A bit lengthy one, but you have worked hard on this one. A lot of data to assimilate along with the presentation of full war in just over 2000 words is not an easy task. There has been a recent development. Manas Naval Base in Cambodia, where the US Navy had a facility, has been razed, and now China is going to operate its warships from there. I learned that from your tweet, however, this article must have gone for print by that time. Congratulations.

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