Taiwan will remain for a long time the center of the most disturbing news in the world and a hotbed of constant threat of armed conflict, which in its scale will greatly exceed the effect of the events that have been taking place in Ukraine since February 2022. Now this small island is the point of the most acute confrontation between Beijing and Washington, which is getting closer and closer to an hot phase. China indeed deployed many medium-range hypersonic missiles in close proximity to Taiwan in the summer. We are talking here about DF-17 missiles, which fly at a distance of up to 1,000 kilometres and at a speed of 5-10 times the speed of sound. These are the missiles that China used in exercises around Taiwan during Nancy Pelosi’s visit. They can reach the island within 6-8 minutes. The U.S. is already actively sounding the alarm, because Taiwan’s weak air defence will not be able to cope with a serious missile attack. In this way, military bases together with warehouses and hangars storing fighter jets could be destroyed in the first hours of the conflict.
In addition, the leaked classified documents provide a very critical assessment of Taipei’s actual capabilities to counter China’s army in the event of a hot conflict. Taiwan’s air defence systems, which are considered outdated, are unlikely to be able to detect missile launches from military bases in mainland China, which number are in the hundreds. Taiwan has a problem with counter-battery radars – and communications encryption systems. Of Taiwan’s 300 F-15, F-16 and Mirage 2000 fighter jets, only half are capable of combat missions. Now Taiwan is urgently buying another 66 F-16 fighters from the U.S., but there’s a problem and delivery of the new fighters should wait until after 2025. In addition, it will take Taiwan a full week to hide the fighters from missile attacks. During this time, China cannot only destroy them, but also land its troops on Taiwan. The U.S. believes that the target of the landing will be the port of Taipei, where it will be easier for China to supply its troops with fuel across the strait.
In fact, Taiwan has no chance to compete with China on its own. It can only rely on U.S. intervention but the Pentagon fears that their capabilities will be limited, especially if U.S. bases in southern Japan and the Philippines are destroyed by Chinese hypersonic missiles. Total U.S. losses, according to military models, risk being colossal: several sunken aircraft carriers, dozens of ships, hundreds of fighters and thousands of soldiers. In addition, China is deploying longer-range DF-26 missiles. They fly at a distance of up to 3,000 kilometres and can already threaten Guam. China is just testing the use of hypersonics on American aircraft carriers. In 20 out of 20 war simulation, the Chinese managed to sink the newest aircraft carrier Gerald Ford with 24 hypersonic missiles.
Against this background, a military model confrontation has begun in absentia between the United States and China. Washington has long published the results of a simulation of a possible conflict over Taiwan with an assessment of American and Chinese losses. Now China has decided to share its own data. Chinese scientists have modelled a hypersonic strike on the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford with the outcome already described above. During the construction of the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford, Pentagon assumed to make it virtually invulnerable to conventional weapons. However, hypersonic missiles change all the odds. The Chinese used a complex missile attack of three waves, which allowed overloading the air defence and destroying the aircraft carrier. Moreover, hypersonic missiles can even be launched from the Gobi Desert 1000 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean. According to the Pentagon’s military models, in the event of a direct clash with China around Taiwan, the United States risks losing several aircraft carriers, dozens of other warships, 500-900 fighter jets, and thousands of soldiers. However, the current revelations of the Chinese indicate that the losses could be even more extensive in the case of active use of hypersonics. China itself is painstakingly studying the experience of the Ukrainian conflict, including the use of hypersonics against Western air defence systems. The U.S. is increasingly concerned about its lagging behind in the hypersonic race, because the recent tests of Lockheed Martin’s most promising missile ended in failure, and the timeline for hypersonic development is moving years ahead. This is already jeopardizing the U.S. position in the Pacific in the face of China’s rapidly growing military capabilities.
Amid military escalation, Taiwan is losing its last allies. Following Honduras, Guatemala may break diplomatic relations with Taipei. The United States is trying to hastily launch a Taiwanese chip factory in Arizona but even here there were problems, and the deadline for the opening of the enterprise has been pushed back to 2025. America simply does not have the necessary engineering base left after decades of exporting factories to third countries. American society remains split over the war on two fronts: 38% think the U.S. should focus more on Ukraine, while 34% want to switch focus to Taiwan. An election year is approaching – when the situation in the U.S. will escalate to the breaking point and the Pentagon is afraid that at this very moment, amid electoral chaos in America, China may strike. Because of this, the U.S. is concerned about the increase in China’s military budget. In 2023, Beijing’s defence spending will increase by 7.2% to a record level of $230 billion. The increase in military spending will be significantly higher than the inflation rate of 2-3%, and also higher than the expected economic growth of 5%. China will continue to build up its military capabilities this year. China’s third aircraft carrier is expected to be launched in the summer, and that’s considering that the second aircraft carrier came only a year ago. China is also accelerating the production of its fifth-generation Chengdu J-20 fighter jets, which the U.S. compares to the U.S. F-22.
Of the 20 largest military corporations in the world, seven are based in China and the largest of them, the China Aerospace & Industries Corporation, is larger than Britain’s BAE Systems and many other Western defence companies. The fear in Washington is that the U.S. is beginning to fall behind in military competition with Beijing. As we have said before, China is obviously further ahead than the U.S. with the development of hypersonic missiles. The Middle Kingdom is already overtaking America in the number of warships as well, and now U.S. dominance in the aircraft carrier sphere will also gradually fade into the past. By the end of the decade, China could triple the number of its nuclear warheads to a thousand. Militarists in Washington suggest preparing for more war with Beijing in the coming years before China becomes the strongest military power in the Pacific. Others call for now to increase pressure on China with the help of third countries such as Japan, South Korea or the Philippines. In any case, the arms race is already in full swing, turning the Indo-Pacific region into a springboard for a new Cold War and Taiwan may well become the first “hot” page of the new world reality book.