As the invasion of Ukraine continues, China – with the world’s third strongest military – is flexing its muscles on this side of the globe.
China’s state-run Global Times published a video on Saturday to promote China’s aircraft carrier program, which clearly hinted at the launch of a third Chinese aircraft carrier. The South China Morning Post reported that the People’s Liberation Army Navy planned to launch the new carrier on Saturday, but it was postponed as the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai delayed shipment of critical components.
Using shipbuilding expertise gained from building the Liaoning and Shandong aircraft carriers, China’s new carrier is to be equipped with an innovative device called an electromagnetic catapult, which enables aircraft to accelerate and take off from the ship, a said Chinese military expert Song Zhongping (宋忠平) mentioned.
The Chinese Navy has never shied away from aspiring to be as powerful as its American counterpart. The upcoming launch should not only demonstrate its growing naval capabilities, but also that it is on track to achieve the ambitions and goals set by the Chinese Communist Party.
While this development could increase the threat to Taiwan, Taipei should not be discouraged too quickly with its national defense strategy.
The recent sinking of the Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, could perhaps give Taiwan’s national defense a boost. The ease with which the pride of the Russian fleet was sunk with two locally-made Neptune missiles shocked military experts. They are now wondering if Chinese aircraft carriers such as the Liaoning could be eliminated as easily as the Moskva, because China bought many of its submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers from the Soviet Union, or made them redevelop there.
Experts have suggested that the quality of armor used in Russian Cold War ships may not be better than that of the Moskva against anti-ship missiles. Moreover, its sinking proved that missiles could become the Achilles’ heel of aircraft carriers and large-scale aircraft carriers, as their large size makes them easy targets. Seen in this light, Taiwan made the right investment with its 2017 national strategy.
Taiwan’s comprehensive defense concept is based on an asymmetric warfare strategy. Instead of acquiring expensive jets and submarines, the strategy focuses on deploying mobile and concealable defensive weapons across Taiwan, particularly missiles for use against ships and aircraft. This is the “porcupine strategy” – the pain of stepping on the quills of the animal becomes the main deterrent to crushing it.
Taiwan’s air defense missile density now ranks second only to Israel’s, with the intention of eventually overtaking that country. Its locally developed Hsiung Feng III and Hsiung Feng II missiles can now hit targets anywhere in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan is also protected by the sea and natural fortifications such as mountain ranges, which makes the nation more difficult to penetrate than Ukraine.
As the invasion of Russia turns into a quagmire, there have been suggestions that Russia’s military strength has been overstated. Likewise, Taiwan should not jump in the mere shadow of China’s third aircraft carrier, but focus on building up its own military strength to become the most impregnable “porcupine” island fortress in the world.
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