Lessons for China and Taiwan from the war in Ukraine

The situation of Taiwan and Ukraine is often compared. The logic is simple: a democracy is threatened by a repressive, authoritarian regime making territorial claims and denying it the right to exist.

Instytut Boyma 02.03.2023

The situation of Taiwan and Ukraine is often compared. The logic is simple: a democracy is threatened by a repressive, authoritarian regime making territorial claims and denying it the right to exist. However, ’Taiwan’s political and military situation is very different from that in Ukraine. It is mainly due to the different geographical conditions affecting the possibility of an invasion, defending against it and providing external support. Nevertheless, this does not change the fact that Russian aggression also provides Taiwan and China with much food for thought.

If Vladimir Putin told Xi Jinping anything about his invasion plans, he probably promised a quick and easy victory. It seems many earlier presumptions of Russian leadership as well as these of the Chinese Communist Party must be revised. The resistance of the Ukrainians and the unity and resolve of the West so far have surprised everyone.

The war is not just about Russia and Ukraine. Putin has made it clear that he wants to reshuffle the entire European and even global security system, or rather to turn the clock back to 1991. If accepted, the Russian security guarantees proposition from December 2021 would mean a reduction of the US military presence in Europe and Asia. As a result, Washington would enjoy some freedom of action only in the Western hemisphere.[1]

Another important fact from the point of view of our deliberations is that the war has not begun on 24 February 2022, but already in 2014 with the takeover of Crimea, and perhaps even earlier. Even in Europe, many had, and still have, problems accepting this fact and understanding all its consequences.


China -Russia relations are rock solid. But what rock?

China is an eager collaborator in the project of overthrowing American hegemony. However, there were not many delusions about cooperation with Russia. Yun Sun (2022) from Stimson Center researched how Chinese analysts assessed Russian potential and capabilities. From the outset, the Chinese assessment of the Russian economy and political efficiency was devoid of illusions. Instead, the efficiency of the Russian military and diplomacy, its ability to conduct hybrid actions and combine these three factors were rated very highly. It made Moscow an attractive ally for Beijing. In addition, Chinese analysts described Russia as a ‘‘destructive ’power’, very adept at sowing chaos, destabilising the situation and taking advantage of it.

Consecutively, it was considered better to have such power on China’s side and try to use it for own purposes.

Here we come to the more critical and pessimistic part of the Chinese assessment. Russia is perceived as a valuable source of raw materials and technology, but the latter only in the military domain. Moreover, the Russian market is assessed as less receptive to Chinese goods in comparisons to the Western markets, and the investment risk is assessed as very high.

In addition, there is a persistent lack of trust in bilateral relations. The Chinese supposedly constantly fears ’Russia’s betrayal and change of alliances. China sees itself as a power that wants to return to its rightful place in the international system, call it a revisionist power, but does not seek to destroy the existing order. The aim is to replace the United States as the world hegemon and to secure the power of the Chinese Communist Party. On the other hand, Russia is seen as a revisionist power seeking to destroy the existing order.

The very first days of the war have turned some of the previous Chinese assessments upside down. The Russian military, despite some early successes, was ridiculed, the intelligence services failed, and diplomacy was not very successful either. Furthermore, the Russian network of influence built in Europe with much financial effort and time was decimated. Contrary to ’Putin’s predictions, the Russian economy has proved relatively vulnerable to massive sanctions. China, in turn, has proved incapable and unwilling to replace the West as a source of money and technology. It is partly a result of fears that China would become a target for secondary sanctions, as well as the weakness of the Russian market compared to markets of the EU and the US. One also has to ask whether Beijing had any real will and capacity to do so.

In the following months, the Russian Ministry of Economy, thanks to enormous creativity and determination, has stopped the economic freefall. Nevertheless, it is unclear how long this will last. Russian-Chinese relations have seen a consolidation of ’Moscow’s status as a junior partner. China is buying Russian oil and gas at promotional prices, so bilateral trade has increased, and nice statistics can be used for propaganda. However, ’Beijing’s attitude towards greater economic engagement has remained steady.

Ideological bias

At this point in time, we are unable yet to predict if, in case of the risk of the fall of ’Putin’s regime, China would decide to throw a lifeline.

There are following arguments that they could. The close Sino-Russian relations are a personal project of Xi Jinping. The Chinese leader comes from a generation and a social milieu raised in the cult of Russian culture and a fascination with the Soviet Union. Xi is also said to admire Putin as a strong leader with whom the world reckons, even when Russia is weak. Furthermore, both politicians consider the fall of the Soviet Union a disaster (Nakazawa 2022).

There is also an ideological bias. The CCP leadership, in general, detest the West, especially the US, and believes it is doomed to fail, freeing up the place for socialist China. So tell the ““Marxist logic of history”” and theories of Wang Huning, a sociologist, turned member of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, and author of a popular book ““America Against America”,” heralding the inevitable and imminent fall of the US (Chang 2022).

Contrary to popular opinion, the Chinese leadership is not a group of only pragmatic realists. The ideology still plays an important role, and since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, we have observed its constantly growing importance. The fear that capitalist countries are hostile to the ’CCP’s rule and conspire to overthrow it is deeply rooted. It is not only a heritage from the Mao era but also a result of shock caused by the 1989 pro-democracy protests, the collapse of the Soviet block and finally, the fall of the Soviet Union. Even though most analyses assess a risk of foreign invasion or a major conflict undermining the communist regime as minimal, anxiety has remained (Goldstein 2003: 67, Cabestan 2013: 55-58).

During the ‘’90s, it had been concluded that the greatest threat to the ’CCP’s power came from the ideological sphere, making kinetic actions useless (Mattis, 2018). Consequently, Beijing began to look for methods to maintain a favourable international situation and shape opinions regarding the PRC abroad, especially in the US. Military and political theorists were faced with the challenge of creating an effective strategy to safeguard the interests of the state and the party, or rather to put it better, the party-state. Due to its military weakness at the time, Beijing relied on non-kinetic methods. The result is a significant emphasis on influence operations and hybrid operations concept known as three warfares (3W, sānzhǒng zhàn fǎ, 三種戰法), containing public opinion warfare (media warfare), psychological warfare and legal warfare.[2]

In short, propaganda and disinformation campaigns combined with psychological operations and information warfare are aimed to create favourable conditions for the PRC to pursue its goals. In the case of Taiwan, these goals are international isolation of the Island, imposing the belief that any resistance is futile, dissuading the US from intervening in case of invasion. In broader terms of undermining American hegemony, the goal is to drive wedges between Washington and its allies, predominantly Europe, South Korea, Australia and Japan.

China carefully observed Russian influence and hybrid operations and took many lessons from ’Moscow’s playbook. Close cooperation was also essential on the military ground. The PLA has not seen real combat since the 1979 invasion of Vietnam and, following it, border skirmishes in the next decade. In both these conflicts, the Chinese military performed relatively poorly. Therefore, the joint exercises with the Russians were an opportunity to gain the necessary experience.

There is one more important but often omitted issue. In Russia and China, the leadership sees their state in imperial terms. This rhetoric strongly resonates among societies. Hence the desire to create spheres of influence and grassroots support for such a policy. This is why Putin persists in trying to rebuild the Russian empire, probably not paying attention to the fact that it has collapsed twice in the last century. Similarly, Xi wants to go down in history as the renovator of the Chinese empire, which strongly stimulates his desire to annex Taiwan.

In conclusion, we can point out a few lessons and dilemmas that could seem important to China:

  1. ’Russia’s actions can have a negative impact on you, even if you are allies. Chinese companies do not want to become victims of secondary sanctions if they seize the opportunities on the Russian market. Nevertheless, China is hit by growing commodities prices. Furthermore, close ties with Moscow bring a risk of reputational damage,
  2. Building a ““sanction-proof”” economy in a globalised world is hard. Autarky has a high price. Furthermore, the crippled Russian economy is not an attractive partner for business; nevertheless, it gives Beijing potential leverage in bilateral relations,
  3. Despite seemingly considerable combat experience, the Russian army has huge problems fighting theoretically weaker but NATO-trained Ukrainian military. Critical factors in the modern battlefield prove to be not only technologically advanced equipment but also the ability to use it effectively and the overall morale of troops and society,
  4. It is impossible to hide preparations for invasion, and modern war causes destruction and casualties on a massive scale. Therefore, it seems right to presume that any military confrontation between peer or near-peer opponents would lead to a stalemate and prolonged, high-cost war of attrition.
  5. The fragility of influence network and importance of media warfare. Russia was considered very skilful and effective in such operations. However, since the very early hours of the war, Ukraine has established unchallenged domination in the media, at least in the West, and Russia was broadly condemned as an aggressor. As already mentioned, the Russian influence network in Europe was much weakened. It raises questions about the effectiveness of Chinese influences and propaganda in case of an invasion of Taiwan. Right now, China actively supports and multiplies Russian propaganda; however, in the case of both countries, these efforts are aimed primarily at the domestic audience, but resonate in the Global South
  6. Here comes another important lesson – the need for tight control over the information space. In the case of China, a visible sign of efforts in this field is growing censorship. In the PRC, censors were ordered to delete any texts and posts supporting Ukraine and the West, and already in early March 2022, provincial governments mandated primary, middle and high school teachers to attend ““lectures correcting ’one’s thoughts on Russian-Ukrainian situation””, where attendees are told Russian military action is legitimate, and it is all NATO/US/’Ukraine’s fault. In the field of propaganda, Beijing clearly supports Moscow with all force.
  7. West is not in decline; the Russian invasion has given it a boost in unity not seen in decades. The US is consolidating its leadership within the Free World, not only through NATO but through new projects, including energy security and coherence of the financial sector. It is still too early to assess whether this process will be sustainable; however, European allies signal a willingness to deepen transatlantic cooperation and EU integration; they also gradually change their perspective on Russia and China,
  8. The processes mentioned above signal a heightened risk of a more rapid division of the world into two rival blocs. The PRC may be the second-largest economy in the world but is dwarfed by the combined economies of G7, EU and Australia. Potential allies to China in Cold War 2.0, except Russia, might be Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Venezuela, all pariah states with impoverished economies. It is highly doubtful if China has the capacity or the will to give them all a lifeline. In the case of the situation when China itself becomes a target of sanctions, the economic isolation and weakness of these potential allies make sanctions evasion harder.
  9. Even if the government controls the media and the war has broad support in society – as in the case of Russia – it does not mean people are ready to make sacrifices, especially when casualties are much bigger than expected.
Constants and reshuffles

Despite vocal voices in the early weeks of war calling China to abandon Russia,[3] there are no signs of radical revaluation and change of course. On the contrary, the Taiwan Crisis of August 2022 probably even strengthened supporters of close relations with Moscow.

However, it does not mean there were no reshuffles. In June 2022, Le Yucheng, deputy foreign minister and chief architect and implementer of Russian policy, was dismissed. Given his role and position, he was an ideal scapegoat to take the blame away from Xi.

In the same month, Xi and Putin held a telephone conversation during which they agreed to ““work together against the international order dominated by the United States and democratic European states””. The goal of both leaders is to create a more” “fair and just”” world order. This choice of words makes clear the intentions of both partners. The Chinese leadership shares the ’Kremlin’s imperial worldview and considers abandoning Russia would mean accepting the primacy of the United States. In turn, this means resignation from ““reunification”” with Taiwan.

Nevertheless, Beijing has begun to reassess the situation in the context of eventual conflict over the Island. According to the Taiwanese daily Taipei Times, already in March, Chinese analysts have been tasked with exploring the option of unification with Taiwan, also by force. The newspaper cites an anonymous Chinese official who said the CCP has begun work on an ““overall strategy for resolving the Taiwan issue in the new era””. Plans are to focus on peaceful methods, but military actions are not excluded. Hence the close watching of ’Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the ’West’s response and consideration of the potential effects of sanctions on China (Chen and Madjar 2022).

Of course, Beijing will try to choose the least costly solution and seek to create favourable conditions for the annexation of Taiwan. However, as already mentioned, the calculations and assumptions made before the war proved to be faulty. Therefore, much depends on how the war in Ukraine develops.

Three possible outcomes of Ukraine war and their consequences for the Taiwan

According to a Taipei Times source, China is considering three scenarios. In the first one, Vladimir Putin succeeds in achieving all his goals. Such a development would be nothing but an invitation for Xi Jinping to invade.

The second scenario assumes a prolonged conflict, causing ’Russia’s economic collapse. Nevertheless, Putin is not expected to abandon the war for fear of losing power. In turn, the countries of Europe and the US, plagued by the refugee crisis, inflation and high energy prices, are to turn to China for help, and the price of this help will, of course, be Taiwan. This scenario clearly suggests that the CCP will try to do anything to break the solidarity of the West and sow discontent among societies using economic and refugee problems. It confirms that in the eyes of Xi and his entourage, the West is doomed to fall, and China is somehow supposed to be invulnerable to inflation, the economic troubles of its major trade partners and own domestic and economic problems. The ideological bias is visible here.

The final scenario is a victory for Ukraine and the removal of Putin from power. It is not an optimistic scenario in ’Beijing’s eyes, as it may encourage Taiwan to declare independence and will undoubtedly further strengthen the Taiwanese ’people’s will to fight. Xi may then order an attack in an attempt to claim victory before the Island completes its defence preparations. The anonymous official suggests that a possible war could be an attempt to cover up domestic problems. In doing so, he points out that each option is subject to numerous variables and could be subject to far-reaching modifications.

The last scenario brings other potential threats from the side of China. ’Putin’s downfall can only deepen the paranoia of the CCP leadership. The result could be further isolation of China from the outside world and an even more hostile stance towards the Free World. Jude Blanchette (2022) from the CSIS argues that Beijing would then engage in the conflict, trying to help Putin stay in power or at least assure that the new leader of Russia would remain an ally. Such a turn of events would give Taiwan more time. However, Xi Jinping has made it his personal goal to annex Taiwan, and there is no indication that he intends to abandon it.[4]

There is also the issue of the economy. China is definitely more resistant to sanctions than Russia; however, this is only part of the picture. The Chinese economy is much more integrated into global markets than the Russian one and, therefore, more sensitive to turbulence. As the example of Huawei proves, sanctions against Chinese companies and entities can be very effective if carefully tailored and consequently implemented. Setting such a regime against the PRC would be challenging but not impossible. Experiences from Ukraine tell us that the easiest target would be Chinese financial reserves[5].

However, the situation may change, even during this decade. We observe a slowly growing sanction imposed on China by the US and the EU due to the genocide of Uighurs. Further, the growing control of the CCP over the economy and the consequences of three years of the ““zero-COVID”” policy encourage a growing number of businesses to relocate outside China. Finally, there is the issue of China decoupling itself from the global economy. Xi Jinping openly admits he aims to obtain technological autonomy and thus limit ’China’s dependence on imports (the dual-circulation economy). Irrespective of all the negative consequences of any attempt to build an autarkic economy, it creates conditions under which the Chinese economy would be more resistant to sanctions, but at the same time, a political decision to sanction the PRC would be easier.[6]

The future of Putin is probably a crucial factor. ’Russia’s defeat may cause a renewed power struggle within the CCP. As of now, Xi Jinping holds a virtually unchallenged position, and his anti-US, pro-Russian bias has the strong support of both left- and right-wing of the party. However, all the shortcomings and limitations of the one-man leadership that Xi is successively building up, replacing the earlier system based on collective decision-making by the Politburo Standing Committee or the Central Committee, are more and more visible. Nonetheless, the opposition proved to be unable to block ’Xi’s staying in power for the third term during the 20th CCP Congress or limit his power. Furthermore, Xi may start a war to cover domestic problems or if he feels threatened.

Russian failures and the Taiwan Crisis have not discouraged Beijing. The Taiwan White Paper published on 10 August goes closely to lines signalled by the source of Taipei Times. The document sets guidelines for the PRC policy towards Taiwan. Previous White Papers published in 1993 and 2002 emphasised the need for peaceful reunification, treating a military solution as a last resort. Taiwan was promised broad autonomy under the ““one country – two systems”” model, including, inter alia, not sending mainland officials and PLA troops to the Island.

There are major changes in the new document, above all in the language used. Peaceful reunification is still the desired option, but the suggestions for the possible use of force are very clear. Provisions for a transition period have been watered down. Apart from vague announcements of maintaining the ’Island’s “current social system”, promises not to send officials and troops have disappeared.

There are other signals. According to CIA Deputy Director David Cohen, Xi Jinping has told the PLA leadership that he wants to have the capability to take control of Taiwan by force by 2027. That does not mean, as Cohen underlined, that any final and binding decision has been made in Beijing. However, in the report to the 20th CCP Congress in October 2022, Xi, for the first time, declared that China “will never promise to renounce the use of force” against Taiwan.

Ready or not?

As was expected during the party congress, Xi placed in the Central Military Commission (CMC) officers who are loyal to him and support the use of force against Taiwan or are familiar with the local theatre of operations. The CMC’s second vice-chairman has become general He Weidong, former commander of the PLA Eastern Theatre Command, which area of responsibility covers Taiwan and the East China Sea. Furthermore, general He joined the CMC Joint Command Centre, the top command and control body of the Chinese armed forces as well has become a member of the CCP Politburo. Another CMC member with a “Taiwan background” is admiral Miao Hua. Just like He, Miao served in the 31st Group Army based in Fujian province, where he was a political officer. Later, in the years 2014-17, Miao was PLAN political commissar (Hadano 2022b, Lang and Wang 2022).

This approach may suggest that not all PLA leadership supports the idea of military action against Taiwan or shares the view that such an operation can be prepared by 2027. As mentioned above the Chinese military lacks fresh combat experience, and exercises with the Russian Army were considered the best way to check and evaluate own training and operational concepts. The poor performance of Russian troops in Ukraine might question the value of military exchange with Russia. Furthermore, as Desai and Kevalarmani (2022) argue, despite much progress, the results of military reforms initiated by Xi are still far from intended, and it is doubtful they will be achieved by 2027.

Here we come to a crucial question: how does the PLA assess lessons from the war in Ukraine? Sadly, all available western analyses, irrespective of their quality, are speculations. There are nearly no official comments or statements from the Chinese military and discussion among the Chinese military and security experts community gains pace slowly since the February 2023. Nevertheless, we can surely assume that the conflict is closely observed, and Russia’s military performance below expectations is also a surprise in China. Nevertheless, the war is still far from the end. Thus the PLA may wait until some turning point to get a more detailed picture.

Quite a popular opinion says that the first lesson for Beijing from Russian failures is the need to bolster own nuclear deterrence (Hadano 2022a, Finkelstein 2022). The argument goes that the Russian nuclear arsenal and risk of escalation stopped any potential direct intervention by NATO and slowed down the assistance for Kiev. Therefore, another argument strengthening this opinion has to be signalised recently bolstering of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.

However, there are some doubts if the Chinese nuclear built-up is related to Ukrainian war at all. First raises the question if a direct NATO intervention was ever an option, even without the Russian nuclear arsenal. Given the poor preparation of European allies for a full-scale land conflict, it is doubtful. The deterrence argument can be reversed. Maybe it was NATO nuclear arsenal that stopped Putin from taking open military actions against the Baltic states or retaliating against Sweden and Finland when they decided to join NATO. Finally, since the 1960s, the PRC has pursued a “credible deterrence”. From consecutive biannual Defense White Papers emerges a picture of an insufficient nuclear triad. Right now, China may be finally capable to build a “credible deterrence”. Again, deterrence is a two-way road. We have to assess how the US nuclear arsenal impacts the Chinese risk assessment.

Wuthnow (2022, 2) speculates that war in Ukraine as a land-centred conflict may be less interesting to the PLA. A Taiwan contingency, both a full-scale invasion or a blockade, would be predominantly an air-sea operation. It was clearly visible during the military exercises launched after Speaker Pelosi visited Taiwan. The most active parts of the PLA were the navy, air force and rocket force. The location of seven Exercise Zones covered areas crucial for any attempt to put a blockade on Island and prevent the US intervention from Japan, Guam or the Philippines (Lin et al. 2022).

Furthermore, Whutnow is right to point out that upon the last 40 years, the most analysed conflict in China and Japan was the Falkland War of 1982. Both British expedition to the South Atlantic and Argentinian attempts to defend the captured archipelago provides extensive food for thought for anyone who plans operations during an air-sea centred conflict.

However, the Russo-Ukrainian war may give some important lessons to the PLA. First is the Russian inability to dominate the skies above Ukraine. It is especially surprising given the quantitative and qualitative superiority of the Russian air force and the huge investment in A2/AD systems. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian air force still actively operates, and according to gen. James Hecker, commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, about 80% of its power survived strikes in the first days of war (Parsons 2022).

Even more striking are the limited results of naval operations in the Black Sea. Again, despite the huge disproportion of forces, it has been Ukrainians, not Russians, who effectively used an A2/AD zone, preventing any attempt to land by Odesa and sinking the cruiser Moskva, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. Another issue is the Russian failure to fortify and keep Snake Island. Russian power projection was refused, and the theoretically weaker side achieved success in the creation of an A2/AD zone. On the other hand, the case of the Black Sea shows how complicated modern naval operations are (Tavsan 2022).

Here comes the main difference between Russian and Chinese war plans. From what is known, the PLA plans to start the military part of an operation with massive missiles and airstrikes against the Taiwanese critical infrastructure. The goal is to eliminate the air force, stockpiles, military and civilian command and control centres, power and water supply of defenders in one fell swoop. It is exactly what Russia had not done in the first days of the invasion. On the other hand, China takes this issue very seriously and gathered across the Taiwan Strait an impressive, at least on paper, number of assets like ballistic and cruise missiles and multiple rocket launcher systems with range covering the whole Island.

Given the sheer numbers, it should be enough to suppress the defence and create conditions for a virtually unopposed landing before the US could come to help. However, as Russian experiences from Ukraine show, even massive artillery fire does not guarantee success. Furthermore, given the high level of urbanisation, it would be impossible to avoid heavy casualties among civilians and the destruction of physical infrastructure, which might later negatively affect the advance of landing forces.

A critical issue is the size of Chinese munition stockpiles and the ability of logistics to ensure swift and uninterrupted deliveries. Another important issue is preparation to resist Taiwanese counterbattery fire. During the last decade, Taiwan has invested many resources in capabilities enabling retaliatory strikes against targets deep into the mainland.

The initial long-range fires play a crucial role in PLA invasion plans. From what is known, the whole concept assumes that massive precision strikes pave the way to a successful landing, after which nearly all resistance crumbles. This assumption is based on additional considerations: the special operation forces (SOF) are able to “decapitate” the Taiwanese leadership, as well as PLA is able to block any attempts to come to help by the US and, eventually, its allies. These may prove to be weak points of the whole doctrine, especially if defenders are warned in advance and on alert, just like in the case of Ukraine.

Furthermore, how well the PLA is prepared for post-landing operations like prolonged guerrilla combat in the urban environment and occupation tasks is unclear. The latter would demand the engagement of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) (Whutnow 2022, 9). The question is if the PAP would provide only relevant training or send troops, what would put additional strain on command and control (C2), and logistics systems. Nevertheless, Beijing has to have prepare occupation plans. Based on what was seen in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and even China proper, the perspectives for Taiwanese under the occupation regime look grim.

In the land dimension of military preparations, there may be also one another important lesson for China. During the reforms initiated by Xi in 2015, the PLA emulated the Russian concept of battalion tactical groups (BTG), where the smallest unit of combined arms is a battalion. It is even reflected in the Chinese terminology, where combined arms battalions replaced most of the previous tank, infantry etc. battalions (Whutnow 2022, 8). BTGs were considered an effective solution, successfully tested in the years 2014-2015 against Ukraine in Donbas. However, what was effective during a low-intensity conflict, failed in the full-scale war. Battalion proved to be a too small level for combined arms troops, putting too much burden on commanders.

Many of the Russian setbacks are rooted in insufficient command and control (C2) systems and a lack in jointness. It should be noted that Chinese exercises around Taiwan put much emphasis exactly on these issues (Lin et al. 2022).

Is this a prove the PLA takes lessons from the war in Ukraine? Not necessarily. Building C2 and jointness that can rival the US military has been one of the top priorities since the reforms initiated in the ’90s after the First Gulf War. Due to confidence in their own efforts and achievements, the Chinese civilian and military leadership may ignore Russian failures and build a false sense of own superiority (Whutnow 2022, 2). The degree of overconfidence depends on the extent the Chinese establishment, especially Xi himself, believes their own propaganda and – just like Putin – underestimates opponents.

Confirmed assumptions

However, the course of the war in Ukraine may confirm earlier PLA assumptions in some instances. It applies mainly to the large-scale use of various UAVs and UCAVs. Drones, both military and commercial, have become an indispensable tool for the modern military. In the last two decades, China has invested much effort in creating a thriving drone industry, able to deliver systems to own military and export users, as well as producing software enhancing capabilities of commercial systems.

There are other possibilities. The PLA may carefully analyse the conflict and learn many valuable lessons, there  is always a huge gap between proper assessment and subsequent implementation of a new solution (Whutnow 2022, 3). The inertia typical for all big institutions – the military included –  may play against the efficacy of the PLA. Eventually, implementing lessons from the war may endanger the interests of influential groups or go against the political lines. There is a number of options between those two extremums.

Another issue in the case of both Russia and China is rigid and extensively hierarchical military cultures. The career path has a clearly defined pace in which outstanding officers who could introduce ground-breaking changes have to wait for their turn for promotion. Thus shifts in approach often have a generational character. Nevertheless, it is not a problem of Russia and China only. To various extent, it applies to any military, the US and Taiwan included (Desai 2023).


American support

Since the Clinton administration, the US started to limit military support to Taiwan in the name of better relations with China. Nevertheless, this never meant abandonment. On the contrary, Washington pursued policy of ensuring Taiwan has basic capability to defend itself. However, what this basic capability is has never been precisely defined. The Bush administration accepted sell of four decommissioned Kidd class destroyers (Kee Lung class) and FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles, while the Obama administration gave the green light to sell AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and modernisation of Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) F-16A/B jet fighters to F-16V version.

However, it was the Trump administration that once again changed the course. Military support to Taiwan grew significantly in terms of quantity. Among numerous contracts were: M1A2T Abrams tanks, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, M142 HIMARS rocket system with GMLRS missiles and ATACMS ballistic missiles, AGM-84H SLAM-ER anti-ship cruise missiles. These “headlines” weapons are supplemented by less flashy but not less important deliveries of munition, radars, electronic warfare (EW) and reconnaissance equipment. Last but not least, American companies are engaged in the Taiwanese Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) project. The Trump administration also launched a program of enhanced economic cooperation.

All these projects are continued by the Biden administration. It also initiated new ones like the technology-oriented AUKUS alliance or the creation of “China-free” supply chains in crucial technologies like semiconductors, medical technologies or electric vehicles as well as supporting “China+1”business practices in other sectors. Moreover, the summit of democracy in December 2021 showed that Washington is strongly interested in cooperating with Taiwan in new multilateral formats.

Recently US intelligence showed its capabilities and regained prestige sharply undermined two decades ago in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. It gives hope that intelligence information on China would also be correct and precise. Due to its covert nature, it is very hard to evaluate the degree of data sharing and information exchange between the US and Taiwan. However, due to the decades-long cooperation, it may be even much stronger and deeper than in the case of Ukraine. 2.2 Pitfalls of intelligence cooperation

On the other hand, intelligence sharing demands solid counterintelligence protection. In the case of Taiwan, there is considerable degree of risk in this issue. For decades the Islands were targeted by large-scale espionage operations of Chinese intelligence services, which brought numerous successes. In late 2021, it was revealed that the security detail of President Tsai Ing-wen had been compromised (Lee, Lague 2021). In the last months of 2022, media reports disclosed that the infiltration of the Taiwanese military and administration by Chinese intelligence rapidly expanded. It raises serious concerns about the security of not only shared data but the defence plans as well. Maybe the most valuable lessons Taiwan can learn from Ukraine are not from the battlefields but from counterintelligence protecting the political and military operations and military planning.

Intelligence will be crucial to assess if China is really preparing for an invasion. War in Ukraine gives here several valuable lessons. First, Russian preparations could not be hidden; they lasted nearly a year, and some 190,000 troops were assembled. Given the scale of the naval invasion, preparations in China will have to be carried out with even greater vigour and will be even more difficult to conceal.

Can the invasion be successful?

Contrary to popular belief, even among analysts, the invasion of Taiwan would be nothing like Normandy 1944. As Ian Eaton (2021) from Project 2049 Institute points out, a vision of a large-scale operation led by a huge fleet and combining an air and sea landing undoubtedly appeals to the imagination, but it is fundamentally false. Normandy in 1944 was a rural, sparsely populated area with beaches suitable for landing. Taiwan is a mountainous, heavily urbanised island with only limited number of landing sites along its entire coastline. However, direct assaults at ports cannot be excluded. Given the conditions, an airborne/heliborne assault may be preferable for the PLA. The attackers and defenders, therefore, face very different conditions.

Interestingly enough, other world war two operations that combined air and sea landing are rarely brought into consideration, at least in the western public discourse. The German invasion of Crete in 1941 (operation Merkur) and the allied landing on Sicily in 1943 (operation Husky) were attacks on mountainous islands. Despite final successes, both operations proved to be complicated and hard-won, with airborne troops paying a high price in blood.

Eaton estimates the forces needed for the invasion of Taiwan between 300 000 and 400 000. However, this refers only to troops directly involved and a best-case scenario in which Taiwan’s command and communications systems are paralysed, and the head of state is kidnapped or killed. In worse scenarios, the war could involve between 1.35 million and even 2.25 million men from the regular forces and paramilitary formations supporting them. It opens up a whole list of questions about the extent to which Chinese C2 systems can cope with directing such a mass of men and equipment. Further questions relate to the ability of Chinese logistics to supply the invasion force, which will consume vast quantities of fuel, ammunition, food and medicaments. In addition, the invasion will require massive mobilisation among merchant ships and civil aviation, adversely affecting the economy if the conflict is prolonged.

However, Jeffrey Hornung (2022) of the RAND Corporation describes several factors that indicate that the PRC is preparing for an invasion, not large-scale exercises. It will be inferred from the build-up of larger stocks of ammunition, food and fuel in the area of operations and the setting up of numerous field hospitals. Thus, constant observation, satellite reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering are crucial. A key factor will be extensive cooperation and information sharing not only between the United States and Taiwan but also by drawing in other allies and partners such as Japan and Australia.

Eaton also draws attention to another often overlooked aspect of the theoretical consideration of invasion. Contrary to the war in Ukraine, conflict around Taiwan would be the first battle fought by modern armed forces with capabilities to operate not only in traditional battlefield domains but also in cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum and to a limited extent in space. It leads to a huge number of variables that, in many cases, have probably not yet surfaced, and military planners on both sides are unaware.

Given the 3W doctrine, any military action would be preceded by a series of cognitive actions aimed to present the operation as legal and in line with international law, isolate Taiwan internationally, break its will to fight and sow chaos, as well, as well as boost morale in China. However, in practice, it would mean a colossal propaganda and disinformation campaign and psychological operations combined with increased Chinese activity in international organisations.

Given the experiences of recent conflicts and the PLA strategy, the first stage of the military operation will combine massive missile and airstrikes, cyber-attacks and special forces operations aimed to disrupt Taiwanese military and civilian command and control chains, suppress air and coastal defence, kill or capture the top leadership. The war in Ukraine showed the importance of active political leadership to maintain morale and lead the resistance. Already in 2015, Chinese special forces trained an attack on a facility very similar to the President’s Office in Taipei.

Why Ukrainian example matters for Taiwan?

The successes of the Ukrainians against the invasion are proving very important for Taiwan. In short: they give Taiwanese people the will to fight and the hope of victory. Global Views Monthly, known for its politically neutral views, regularly conducts surveys of citizens’ readiness to defend the country. In a survey at the end of December 2021, only 40.3% of respondents reported a willingness to fight. By early March 2022, this group had grown to 70.2%. Similarly, the number of respondents refusing to fight decreased from 51.3% to 20.8%.

It is a very significant development, posing a serious problem for Beijing. Years of cognitive and agent activities in Taiwan may come into question. Also important is the domestic front, where China resembles Russia in some respects. Years of turbo-nationalist propaganda verging on fascism have led the majority of the population to support the annexation of the “rebellious province” to the motherland, but the prospect of war and fighting against people perceived to be Chinese raises some doubts.

As preparations for an invasion can be easily identified, the preparations for defence or at least minimalise effects of attacks on key military and civilian infrastructure may be started in advance. The same applies to the security of the most important VIPs, especially the president. Special forces have first to get to the Island. Even if they get there undercover before the war, there are still plenty of opportunities that something may go wrong, especially when intelligence and counterintelligence work properly and the population remains vigilant.

The crucial issue is resilience against expected massive missile and airstrikes. Previous Taiwanese defence plans were based on the assumption of fighting under a contested air and naval environment, which was giving an advantage to defenders. However, during the recent decade, the balance shifted in favour of the PLA. In case the RoCAF proves unable to contest the airspace over the Island and its direct surrounding, chances to repel invasion rapidly diminish.

Capabilities needed for successful defence

As a result, four issues become a priority for Taiwan’s defenders. First is a multi-layered air and missile defence system able to limit the activities of the PLAAF and intercept at least part of incoming ballistic and cruise missiles. Second, a valuable option, taken into account by the Taiwanese military, is the deployment of CRAM (counter rocket, artillery, mortar) systems for the defence of crucial infrastructure. Third, Ericson and Collins (2022) point out also for electronic warfare systems able to jam the Chinese satellite guidance system, as well as numerous UAVs and UCAVs.

The second crucial and probably most critical issue is the creation of a dispersed logistics system. Numerous small storages, fuel and ammunition depots increase the chances to limit damages caused by missile and air attacks.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even if storage facilities in secure locations like mountains survive strikes, the supplies must be transported to the troops. In the case of PLAAF winning control over the airspace over the Island, it would quickly become a nearly impossible task. So, dispersed logistics must not be limited to storages but include an elastic, resilient and sustainable transportation system.

Facing a sure perspective of naval and air blockade and an eventuality that conflict can be limited to such operations, Taiwan needs to prepare sufficient reserve of everything from fuel to food, medicaments and water. Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs estimated in 2020 that the local food and key goods stocks as sufficient for 1-3 months. However, these are very general numbers that do not enable correct planning for military and civil defence, as well as withstanding a prolonged blockade.

Similar insufficient are fuel reserves. Taiwan’s government is obligated to store petroleum stocks equivalent to 30 days of consumption from the previous year. Ericson and Collins (2022) suggest 60 days of liquid fuel in hardened and dispersed locations. Again fuel storage is just an element of a broader problem. Given the high urbanisation and population density level, the Chinese strikes would greatly affect civilians.

The most effective way to increase resilience in this field seems to be decentralising the energy and water systems. Power generators and wells at the community level would maintain electricity and fresh water at a minimum necessary level. Here also opens a field for broader use of renewables, especially solar panels, used at the level of individual households. Furthermore, the former Chief of Staff admiral Lee His-min sees a military use for renewable facilities. For example, offshore wind farms can be used to impede a seaborne landing (Lee and Lee, 2020).

Finally, an issue worthy of attention for Taipei is building of hardened air raid shelters for civilians. During the Cold War, Taiwan built a vast network of various shelters. However, since the 90s, many of them went out of the use or were turned into commercial facilities like restaurants. Moreover, there is a lack of information about the current number of available air raid shelters and their status in open sources. It may suggest that Taiwanese residents are unaware of them as well.

Preparing a well-functioning system of shelters would not be an easy issue. Just reopening old facilities definitely would not be enough. An important matter is the provision of these facilities. In addition to access to water, energy and medical supplies, there are issues of adapting shelters to the needs of the elderly, disabled and children. A partial solution is the adaptation of subway stations and permission to construct private shelters.

Can Taiwan strike back?

Successful defense would require the ability to execute retaliatory strikes. Since 2018 the top Taiwanese leadership has paid more attention to deterrence. Thus, programmes already initiated years earlier gained more political support. The first effects are already visible in the forms of indigenous cruise missiles: air-launched Wan Chien (200 km range) and ground-launched Hsiung Feng IIE (HF-2E, 600-650 km range). It gave Taiwan the capability to strike all relevant facilities on the coast between Hong Kong and Shanghai. In time, the range of the HF-2E is to be increased to 1,500 kilometres. In 2019, news emerged of a more ambitious Yun Feng missile design with a range of up to 2,000 kilometres. They are to be complemented by US ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles.

Among the possible targets of Taiwan’s cruise and ballistic missiles in case of aggression are seaports, airfields, command centres, fuel depots, storage facilities and railway lines in mainland China. Another possible use may be counterbattery fire against PLA rocket artillery. Nevertheless, there are numerous concerns. For example, is Taiwan able to procure in time enough missiles to build credible deterrence or, in case of war, inflict significant losses to the enemy? Further issues are the ability of Taiwan’s missiles to penetrate China’s missile defence system and battlefield survivability. For the latter reason, mobile launchers were considered the most optimal.

The procurement of missiles is just half of the whole issue. To conduct a successful retaliation, one needs to know where to strike. So a burning necessity becomes building an effective ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance). Reliance on information from allies and commercial systems like Starlink has its limitations. Taiwan’s defence ministry has commissioned the development of a rocket designed to launch microsatellites weighing 50-200 kilograms into low earth orbit. It might be an initial phase in building own space-based ISTAR capabilities. Other options that may be attractive for Taiwan are high altitude long, endurance UAVs and pseudosatelites. Same as by missiles, the questions of sufficient time, resources allocated and political will may be critical for a successful deployment of theses systems.

In case of conflict, the cyber warfare will be implemented by the two technically advanced societies at a previously unknown scale. This new domain of the battlefield is hidden in secrecy. We know that both sides have the ability to wage intensive cyberwarfare, but its course and effect on military operations and the functioning of states remain speculative. Nevertheless, we know as the matter of fact that the PRC and its military pay much attention to cyber capabilities seen not only as a tool of operations, but also as an enabler and amplifier of other capabilities.

As Desai (2023) pointed out:

Over the years, the PLA has developed “system-breaking warfare” as a core theory of guiding warfare (體系破擊戰, tǐxì pò jí zhàn). This means paralysing and destroying the enemy’s operations system. This is coupled with a new combat concept, “multi-domain precision warfare”, which focuses on breaking through the enemy’s blind spots through the “command, information, intelligence, surveillance” (C4ISR) system combined with big data and artificial intelligence and launch precision strikes through joint operations (多域精確戰, duō yù jīngquè zhàn). Military warfare theory and military technology are the two wheels driving military modernisation for the effective implementation of “System-breaking warfare” or “multi-domain precision warfare” in the future.

Own cyber capabilities become in such conditions crucial to defend own systems and thwart the execution of opponent’s plans.

Applying cognitive warfare

More complicated is counteracting cognitive warfare. It is especially complicated in democratic societies like Taiwan, which are not subject to an elaborate control system. Basing on Indian experiences Singh (2013, 40) identified four main methods: developing institutional framework and responses; creating awareness of 3W techniques and developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for effects mitigation; focusing on flexible and sustainable responses; and pre-empting attacks, taking into consideration shifts in the political and military situation.

It is essential to move beyond the division between wartime and peacetime operations. Supremacy in the information sphere depends on modern information technologies. The collection and transmission of information is an integral part, but also the ability to degrade its quality, whether by slowing down transmission or inserting false or inaccurate data.

It is also essential to bear in mind that China’s media and psychological warfare targets not only officials and government functionaries at all levels – from government members to ordinary officials, from generals to privates – but also society as a whole. Attacks target not only the physical information infrastructure and the data that passes through it (the scope of activities includes cyberattacks and the spread of fake news) but also the people who interact with this data, especially decision-makers. Therefore, it is crucial to sensitise telecoms and social media (Singh 2013, 40) and build a relatively secure telecom infrastructure.

In the case of Taiwan, coordinated cooperation with the US in the information domain would be no less important than intelligence, military and economic support. During the conflict, a crucial issue would be denying China any occasion to overtake narration on ongoing events. Nonetheless, building a positive image of Taiwan in Europe and other countries labelled as the Free World before any war occurs is equally important. Gaining the sympathy of the European media and public opinion will enable them to exert pressure on governments to take action. Gaining new allies will also be very important for Taiwanese morale. The Tsai administration is working to capitalise the growing Western concern with the politics of autocratic powers (Oswald 2022). A visible sign of success in this field may be a larger number of parliamentary delegations from the US and the EU visiting Taiwan.

Taiwan: too important to be left alone?

Another trump card for Taiwan could be its status as the global leader in the production of semiconductors (Arcuri and Lu 2022). This fact can be used to encourage governments of developed countries to offer measurable support in the already mentioned four crucial areas: economy, intelligence, military and technology. Yet the same advantage might be a disadvantage. Facing a shortage of semiconductors in 2021/2022 – which would only deepen during a contingency, be it blockade or war,- the US, Japan and European countries launched programs aiming to rebuild their own production capabilities. One of the methods is luring Taiwanese companies to build foundries and research facilities.

It is an attractive solution for companies, enabling protection of at least part of assets in case of crisis. However, it undermines Taiwan’s position in semiconductors as a crucial country. Under such circumstances, in the mid-to-long-term perspective, importance of the Islands as a producer and, thus, the political leverage, will wane.

Taiwan’s role as a hub for semiconductors production diminishes for China as well. Beijing considers correctly that a dependence in this field is a weakness. Hence the efforts in building own capabilities. The PRC already has numerous achievements, often spurred by US sanctions. Nevertheless, it is probable that in long-term US sanctions efforts implemented in October 2022 would effectively slow down Chinese progress. In case of escalating conflict, Beijing may consider the attack on Taiwan as a way to cut off the US and the West from semiconductors and cripple their economies.

Regional impact of the conflict

The US sticks to the policy of “strategic ambiguity”, considered a form of deterrence against China.[7] However, some scenarios of invasion take into account Chinese pre-emptive strikes against American forces in the Western Pacific. This possibility includes not only Guam but also installations in Japan and – rarely mentioned – in South Korea.[8] Moreover, if Chinese missile and cyberattacks affect non-US infrastructure, it can quickly lead to escalation.

Furthermore, the 2021 White Paper “Defense of Japan” has made it clear that the security of the country is directly linked to the security of Taiwan. The PRC was identified as Japan’s most significant security challenge and threat, ahead even of North Korea. Such a perspective has been repeated in the 2022 National Security Strategy. The direct reference to Taiwan and the high profile given to the Islands’ security is new but not surprising. As early as March 2021, Tokyo reported that Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had agreed to make the cooperation even closer between the two countries in the event of an invasion of Taiwan by China.

Of course, it is unclear if Japan would take direct military action even under attack. For Tokyo, a preferable choice is always delivering defensive and logistic support to US forces. South Korea, until now, has not addressed the Taiwan issue officially. However, under President Yoon Suk-yeol, a more assertive policy towards China and closer cooperation with the US and Japan has been introduced.

Given tense relations with Beijing, a potential partner for Taiwan can be Australia, which has started to build an ever-closer alliance with Washington. Given the surprisingly strong Australian economic and military help for Ukraine, support for Taiwan is even more probable. Other countries coming into play are primarily the UK and France, which are increasingly sceptical of China and expand their military presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Other potential European partners include the Netherlands and Germany, which published their own respective Indo-Pacific strategies. However, given their limited power projection capabilities, they should not be counted on too much. The same applies to other European states; their security interests focus on Europe and its direct neighbourhood. Furthermore, the US press European allies to concentrate on Russia.

Until recently, the mood regarding the war against China was pessimistic in the US military. However, General Clint Hinote, US Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategy, argued that the successful defence of Taiwan would be possible first in the year 2030 (Insinna 2021). Basing on the series of war games, Hinote pointed out that China could be defeated in its backyard, but the US have to be prepared for heavy losses, with the Chinese losses being even heavier. Hinote raises an important question: how many casualties are the Americans prepared to sustain? At the same time, he indicated that the aim is to create the situation in which decision-makers in Beijing conclude that it is not beneficial to start hostilities due to the poor chances of success. And thus, in the final analysis, no one will die.

On the other hand, the Chinese leadership has the same calculations – create a situation in which US decision-makers come to the conclusion that Taiwan is in a hopeless situation and attempt to stop the PRC is futile.

However, not everyone has been so pessimistic. Hsieh Pei-hsueh of the Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INSDR) argues that the defence of Taiwan can actually be done now, and only the support of the reorganised US Marine Corps would be needed. Hsieh is far from being over-optimistic; he is clear that repelling an invasion does not mean winning the war. Nevertheless, the example of Ukraine has given not only hope and courage but, more importantly, valuable lessons on modern warfare and, most probably, a headache to the Chinese leadership.

It is the society who fights

Finally, an important lesson from the war for Taiwan is the need to create a robust reserves and mobilisation system. In December 2022, President Tsai Ing-wen and her administration decided to re-extend conscription from four months to one year and increase conscripts’ salaries. Furthermore, the military would be divided into four tiers with clearly divided tasks. The core of the army is to remain the volunteer professional “main combat force” designed to perform the main missions of peacetime security and offensive operations during the war. “Garrison forces” made up of conscripts are to be responsible for national defence, including the protection of key installations and facilities. The civil defence system is to be the last line of defence, although its tasks have not yet been made clear. The last tier would be the reserve system (Everington 2022).

However, with extended military service, Taiwan faces similar problems to Russia. After years of personnel reductions and budget cuts, the military has neither enough training facilities nor enough officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to support re-extended military service. As a result, the whole training system for conscripts and reservists has to be reorganised throughout to perform the foreseen tasks. However, critics point out that until now, the Tsai administration more talked about it than took serious actions (Hong 2022).

Nonetheless, the main problem of Taiwan’s defence is the huge disproportion of forces against the PRC. An attempt to respond to this challenge was the “Overall Defense Concept” introduced in 2017 by the then Chief of the General Staff, admiral Lee Hsi-ming. The doctrine put much emphasis on asymmetric operations, many small, mobile and inexpensive weapons that could survive PLAN’s initial attacks, especially long-range missiles and combat aircraft. In this group were drones, naval mines, mobile anti-ship cruise missiles launchers, fast attack crafts, more drones, portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems, electronic warfare systems and, once again, more drones.

The “Overall Defense Concept” aims to survive the first strike and endure until the arrival of the US troops. Lee labelled legacy platforms, such as tanks, submarines and aircraft, as generating high costs, resulting in a lack of funds to purchase cheaper systems that could otherwise be fielded in large numbers. Other unconventional ideas were portable ski-jumps for V/STOL aircraft, employment of modern equivalent of Q-ships, or already mentioned offshore wind farms as anti-landing obstacles (Lee and Lee 2020). This asymmetrical approach gained applause from the Pentagon and the US think-tank community.

However, after Lee retired in 2019, implementation of the “Overall Defense Concept” slowed much down. Lee is still calling for a revolution in the armed forces, which is never well received. The establishment in Taiwan’s defence ministry and military has been wary of such voices over the years. On the one hand, the concept of asymmetric deterrence and drones have been developed, while on the other, there is a large investment in very expensive projects of an indigenous submarine program, the modernisation of F-16 fighters and the purchase of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks.

Such policy causes intensive debates between Taiwan and the US. However, there are reasons for Taipei to invest in legacy platforms, especially aircraft and naval. Irrespective of the real risk of invasion, there is an issue of Chinese intrusions across the median line in the Taiwan Strait. Here the PRC is testing how far it can go. The only way to check and intercept such intrusion and showing by this own resolve is to employ fighter aircraft and warships.


The Russian invasion of Ukraine raised international tension to the level unseen since the end of the Cold War. According to CIA Director William Burns, Russian setbacks in the war against Ukraine may sobered Xi Jinping in his pursuit to “reunify” Taiwan with Mainland, by force if necessary. Nonetheless, the PLA has been ordered to be ready to conduct an invasion by 2027. Contrary to numerous Pentagon officials, Burns emphasised that it does not mean China will start a war in 2027 (Martina and Brunnstrom 2023). Moreover, it does not mean either that the military will also be ready to execute an invasion order by that date. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to underestimate Xi’s ambitions.

Setbacks in the introduction of the “Overall Defense Concept” shows that Taiwan’s military may have problems with the implementation of lessons from the war in Ukraine as well. Thus any analysis should avoid the schema in which Russian failures apply only to China, while Ukrainian successes only to Taiwan. Both sides of a potential conflict are learning. Another issue is the institutional ability to properly asses and implement lessons.

The PLA has put much effort into preparations for “reunification” and confrontation against the US and its allies for years. However, the spectacular crash of Putin’s initial plan gave Taiwan a golden opportunity to reassess own strengths and weaknesses and better prepare for an eventual contingency. Such an opportunity sould not be wasted.


  1. Arcuri G. and Lu S. (2022), Taiwan’s Semiconductor Dominance: Implications for Cross-Strait Relations and the Prospect of Forceful Unification, CSIS:
  2. Blanchet J. (2022), The worse things go for Putin in Ukraine, the more China will back him, The Washington Post:
  3. Cabestan, J-P. (2013). Polityka zagraniczna Chin. Warszawa. Dialog.
  4. Chang C. (2022), How a Book About America’s History Foretold China’s Future, The New Yorker:
  5. Chen Y-f. and Madjar K. (2022), Official says Chinese academics told to study unifying with Taiwan by force, Taipei Times:
  6. Desai S. (2023), The PLA Bulletin 1/2023, [access: ]
  7. Eaton I. (2021), Why a Taiwan Invasion would look nothing like D-Day, The Diplomat:
  8. Erickson A. and Collins G. (2022), Eight New Points on the Porcupine: More Ukrainian Lessons for Taiwan, War on the Rocks:
  9. Everington K. (2022), Taiwan to extend conscription to 1 year, raise pay to NT$20,000, Taiwan News: [access: ]
  10. Feigenbaum E. and Hooper Ch. (2022), What the Chinese Army Is Learning From Rusia’s Ukraine War, Carnegie Endowment for Peace:
  11. Finkelstein D. (2022), Beijing’s Ukrainian Battle Lab, War on the Rocks:
  12. Goldstein, A. (2003): “An Emerging China’s Emerging Grand Strategy: A Neo-Bismarckian Turn?”. International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific. Columbia University Press. New York.
  13. Hadano T. (2022a), Russia’s woe’s to make China search for Plan B on Taiwan, Nikkei Asia:
  14. Hadano T. (2022b), Xi poised to build support on Taiwan with senior military picks, Nikkei Asia:
  15. Hadano, T. (2022b), Xi poised to build support on Taiwan with senior military picks, Nikkei Asia: [access: ]
  16. Hong Ch-Ch (2022), 義務役延為1年 初步規畫95年次後適用, United Daily News: [access: ]
  17. Hornung J. (2022), Ukraine’s Lessons for Taiwan, War on the Rocks:
  18. Hunzeker M. (2021), Taiwan’s Defense Plans are Going off the Rails, War on the Rocks:
  19. Insinna V. (2021), A US Air Force war game shows what the service needs to hold off — or win against — China in 2030, Defense News:
  20. Lau J. and Wang A (2022), China’s reshuffled military leadership sends clear signal on Taiwan focus, South China Morning Post: [access: ]
  21. Lee H-m. and Lee E. (2020), Taiwan’s Overall Defense Concept explained, The Diplomat:
  22. Lee Y. and Wague D. (2021), T-DAY: The Battle for Taiwan, Reuters: [access: ]
  23. Lin B. and Wuthnow J. (2022), Pushing Back Against China’s New Normal in the Taiwan Strait, War on the Rocks:
  24. Lin, B., Hart, B., Funaiole,, Lu, S., Price, H., Kaufman, N. (2022), Tracking the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis, CSIS: [access: ]
  25. Lopez T. (2022), China May Draw Lessons from Russian Failures in Ukraine, DoD News:
  26. Martina M. and Brunnstrom D. (2023), CIA chief warns against underestimating Xi’s ambitions toward Taiwan, Reuters:
  27. Nakazawa K. (2022), Analysis: Xi’s pro-Russia stance rooted in fear of Gorbachev model, Nikkei Asia:
  28. Oswald R. (2022), Taiwan, US struggle over differences on weapons to counter China, Roll Call:
  29. Parsons, D. (2022), Ukraine Situation Report: 80 Percent Of Kyiv’s Airpower Remains Intact, The Warzone: [access: ]
  30. Singh, A. (2013). China’s “Three Warfares” and India, Journal of Defence Studies, Vol. 7, No. 4.
  31. Sun Y. (2022), China’s Strategic Assessment of Russia: More Complicated Than You Think, War on the Rocks:
  32. Tavsan S. (2022), Russia’s failure to cement Blacks Sea dominance has lessons for China, Nikkei Asia:
  33. Tavsan, S. (2022), Russia s failure to cement Black Sea dominance has lessons for China, Nikkei Asia: [access: ]
  34. Wuthnow J. (2022), Rightsizing Chinese Military Lessons from Ukraine, Strategic Forum, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University.






[1] More on this topic: Budzisz M. (2021), “Rosyjska rozgrywka. Początek,” Układ Sił Numer 32 (8/2021), 8-15.

[2] More on this topic: Charon, P. and Jeangène Vilmer J-B. (2021), Chinese Influence Operations. A Machiavellian Moment. IRSEM; Behrendt P. (2022), San zhong zhanfa or Three Warfares. Chinese hybrid warfare. Boym Institute.

[3] The most attention gained analysis by Hu Wei, deputy director of the Public Policy Research Centre at the Counselor’s Office of the State Council published on March 5. According to Hu Putin has ceased to be an asset for China and has become a burden. In view of the consolidation of the West under the leadership of the USA, the most sensible solution is to cut ties with Russia as soon as possible. He argued further that Beijing should actively engage in mediation, not to help Putin but to gain a political capital in the West. However, the scholar strongly underlined that the window of opportunity to do this is limited to a maximum of two weeks. Hu Wei (2022), Possible Outcomes of the Russo-Ukrainian War and China’s Choice, U.S.-China Perception Monitor: [access: ]

[4] One more thing should be noted at the margin. Launching invasion of Ukraine Putin clearly miscalculated, most probably due to information bubble and positive loop – delivering the leader only information his entourage thinks would please him. The question is to what extend it applies to Xi Jinping and the answer is rather gloomy. According to various sources Xi is no more surrounded by advisors but sycophants. This significantly increases the risk of miscalculation.

[5] For more on economic statecraft see: Blackwill, R. D., Harris J. (2016), War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft, Harvard.

[6] In recent years, let’s mention only cases of Australia and Lithuania, China showed it’s more than eager to wage economic warfare even if it causes more harm to itself than to opponent. Such an approach suggests that most probably Beijing would be the first to shoot in an eventual trade war against the EU.

[7] Nevertheless, it should be remembered that “strategic ambiguity” has equally to deter Taipei from taking any bolder moves, like declaring independence as Taiwan and thus provoking the PRC.

[8] Strangely enough South Korea often is missing from equations. The US bases on the Peninsula in case of military clashes can be as much useful as bases in Japan, offering crucial support for air and naval operations in the East China Sea.

Paweł Behrendt

Analyst on Security and East Asia (China and Japan). PhD candidate at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Vienna. Major areas of interest include: foreign and defence policy of Japan and China, international relations and security in East Asia, conflicts in Asia. Author of books "Chińczycy grają w go" and "Korzenie niemieckich sukcesów w Azji”, as well as several dozens of articles on history and security issues in Asia published in Poland and abroad.

TAGI: / / / /

czytaj więcej

San Zhong Zhanfa or Three Warfares. Chinese Hybrid Warfare

Cognitive operations are becoming an increasingly significant and common element of non-kinetic military operations. States and other political players deliberately manipulate the way their actions, those of their allies and those of their adversaries are perceived by the governments and societies of other international players.

Book review: “Unveiling the North Korean economy”

Book review of "Unveiling the North Korean economy", written by Kim Byung-yeon and published by Cambridge University Press in 2016.B. Tauris in 2017.

China – USA in the South China Sea

The trade war is just one of the problems of confrontation between the United States and the People's Republic of China. Many aspects of this competition coincide in the South China Sea.

Patrycja Pendrakowska for Observer Research Foundation: “Managing fear and easing lockdown in Poland”

We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Patrycja Pendrakowska - the Boym Institute Analyst and President of the Board.

Opportunities and challenges of India’s G20 Presidency

Ada Dyndo conducts an interview with Shairee Malhotra on India’s role in G20. Shairee Malhotra serves as a Coordinator of the T20 India Taskforce on Reformed Multilateralism for India’s G20 presidency.

Patrycja Pendrakowska for Observer Research Foundation: “Guiding democracy through Covid19: Poland shows us what not to do”

We would like to inform, that Observer Research Foundation has published article of Patrycja Pendrakowska - the Boym Institute Analyst and President of the Board.

Book review: “Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?”

Book review of "Europe – North Korea. Between Humanitarianism And Business?", written by Myung-Kyu Park, Bernhard Seliger, Sung-Jo Park (Eds.) and published by Lit Verlag in 2010.

Patrycja Pendrakowska as a founding member of the WICCI’s India-EU Business Council

By sharing knowledge, business opportunities, and best practices the Council generates awareness of women's contributions in developing the India-EU relations.

The phenomenon of ”haigui”

After the darkness of the Cultural Revolution, the times of the Chinese transformation had come. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping realised the need to educate a new generation of leaders: people proficient in science, management and politics. Generous programmes were created that aimed at attracting back to China fresh graduates of foreign universities, young experts, entrepreneurs and professionals.

Online Course: “Conflict Resolution and Democracy”

The course will be taught via interactive workshops, employing the Adam Institute’s signature “Betzavta – the Adam Institute’s Facilitation Method“, taught by its creator, Dr. Uki Maroshek-Klarman. The award-winning “Betzavta” method is rooted in an empirical approach to civic education, interpersonal communication and conflict resolution.

Women’s change in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan, under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has embarked on a path of reform. Almost daily, the media there report on new initiatives and projects. It is no coincidence that in December 2019 The Economist awarded Uzbekistan the country of the year title.

Liquidation of the Polish colony in Manchuria (north-eastern China)

Ms. Łucja Drabczak - A Polish woman born in Harbin, she spent her childhood in China. She returned to Poland at the age of 10. She is the author of the book 'China... Memories from my childhood'. She contacted us to convey special family memories related to leaving Manchuria in 1949.

Indian Roundtable – Poland’s Challenges and Opportunities in the Subcontinent

In recent years, India has been the fastest growing among the major countries' economies in the world. (...) In the coming decades, the Subcontinent's largest country may remain one of the pillars of global economic growth. This is one of the reasons why the country is already the most popular destination for Polish foreign investment in the Asian-Pacific region.

A Story of Victory? The 30th Anniversary of Kazakh Statehood and Challenges for the Future.

On 25 May 2021, the Boym Institute, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, organised an international debate with former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski (1995-2005).

Book review: “North Korean Defectors in a New and Competitive Society”

Book review of "North Korean Defectors in a New and Competitive Society", written by Lee Ahlam - assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Human Resource Development at Xavier University Cincinnati, Ohio.

What connects shamans and generals? On the problem of verification of internal conflicts of North Korea

The number of confirmed executions and frequent disappearances of politicians remind us that in North Korea the rules of social Darwinism apply. Any attempt to limit Kim Jong-un's power may be considered hostile and ruthless.

“May you be the mother of a thousand sons” – the status of women in Indian society

The 1950 Indian Constitution introduced the principle of equal opportunities for gender equality, which grants women and men the same rights in family life, political, social and economic life. So why is it that nearly forty per cent of girls aged 15-17 do not attend school, the custom of dowry giving is still cultivated and prenatal sex selection is still a huge social problem? 

Dr. Nicolas Levi with a lecture in Seoul

On May 24 Dr. Nicolas Levi gave a lecture on Balcerowicz's plan in the context of North Korea. The speech took place as part of the seminar "Analyzing the Possibility of Reform and its Impact on Human Rights in North Korea". The seminar took place on May 24 at the prestigious Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

WICCI’s India-EU Business Council – a new platform for women in business

Interview with Ada Dyndo, President of WICCI's India-EU Business Council and Principal Consultant of European Business and Technology Centre

Transcultural Winter School 2021 (8th of November — 12th of November)

This year’s research project TSRG 2021 as a collaborative initiative between Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin and the Boym Institute continued with a Transcultural Winter School in Zeppelin University, in Friedrichshafen.

Historical vs Current Emissions: Towards an Ethical and Political Synergy in International Climate Policy

Environmental problems transcend not only national borders but also historical periods. And yet debates on the necessary measures and timelines are often constrained by considerations of election cycles (or dynastic successions) in any given country.

“Green growth” may well be more of the same

Witnessing the recent flurry of political activity amid the accelerating environmental emergency, from the Green New Deal to the UN climate summits to European political initiatives, one could be forgiven for thinking that things are finally moving forward.

Voices from Asia – introduction

We would like to cordially invites all to the new series "Voices from Asia" that is devoted to the Asian perspectives on the conflict in Ukraine. In this series, we publish analysis by experts based in Asia or working on Asian affairs who present their positions on this matter.

Global Security Initiative and Global Development Initiative: Two Wings for Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind

Peace and development as the call of our day again face severe challenges on a global scale, with more prominent instability, uncertainty and complexity