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  • If China Attacks Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics
  • John F. Copper (bio)
Steve Tsang, editor. If China Attacks Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics. London: Routledge, 2006. xviii, 215 pp. Hardcover $150.00, ISBN 0–415–38018–9. Paperback $37.95, ISBN 0–415–40785–0.

In the preface to If China Attacks Taiwan, Steve Tsang defines the central problem he wants to deal with in this book: the Taiwan Strait is “one of the most serious threats to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region that remains after the Cold War.” Few experts would disagree; in fact, many, if not most, would say the Taiwan Strait is the number-one flashpoint in the world (meaning a site where major powers might use weapons of mass destruction against each other) since there are irreconcilable differences between the United States and China about Taiwan’s status and its future. The United States demands that, Taiwan being a democracy, the people of Taiwan should decide their own future—and they don’t want unification. The United States also wants a peaceful settlement. China claims Taiwan is its territory and refuses to renounce the use of force to realize that objective.

Tsang’s approach is different from that of a number of books on this subject. In the introductory chapter, he states several assumptions. He rules out economic integration as a solution to the Taiwan issue. In addition, he does not believe Taiwan’s declaring independence will cause China to attack. Some readers will not accept these premises, yet excluding these possibilities gives the book greater focus on the military equation. More specifically Tsang seeks to deal with capabilities and options, and he picks his contributors to do that.

Muchun Yu, in the chapter titled “Political and Military Factors Determining China’s Use of Force,” lays part of the foundation for Tsang’s view, though he is noticeably less sanguine about a peaceful resolution than his editor. He argues that, fundamentally, China’s military is aggressive and may not be under party control; People’s Liberation Army leaders, on the other hand, are constrained by the fact the Taiwan issue has become a global one and it must balance using force against Taiwan with other military objectives. He argues convincingly that the United States plays an important role in deterring the military; otherwise an attack on Taiwan would be much more likely.

In chapter 3, Richard Bush discusses U.S. China/Taiwan policy. He argues, in contraposition to most observers, that America’s One China policy is not founded on a rigid set of principles, but instead is based on distinct parts (issues) that must be read together and put in context. His answer is “dual deterrence”—keeping both Beijing and Taipei from a conflict that might draw the United States in. He offers this in place of strategic ambiguity, which he sees as a flawed policy.

Next, Jonathan Pollack examines what he calls the “most consequential” part of China’s military buildup to Taiwan: short-range missiles. Pollack looks at [End Page 245] China’s missile strategy, which, he says, looks formidable but may not be (especially after missiles are used). Taiwan, Pollack contends, has to look at options that include missile defense and deterrence. The writer concludes, though, that China’s missiles are both threatening to the cross-Strait balance and troubling to Taiwan and to the United States.

In chapter 5, Richard Fisher addresses China’s unconventional warfare stratagems. He includes among these political warfare, information warfare, electronic warfare, special operations, and decapitation strategies. Fisher argues convincingly that China’s most serious threat to Taiwan lies here. His argument is especially instructive if one believes China will likely choose to use one or more of these options—which many observers think is the case.

In the next two chapters, Kenneth Allen and Jeffrey Allen examine the issue of control of the airspace over the Taiwan Strait, and Bernard Cole looks at the problem of command of the sea. Allen and Allen search for lessons in the Iraq War and other conflicts, but conclude that it is not possible to predict who will be in control in...