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Future scenarios about a potential U.S.-China nuclear war in Taiwan and South China Sea

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In light of the recent accusations leveled by the US Department of Defense “the Pentagon” against China, regarding the development of its nuclear capabilities at a pace that threatens the United States of America, the international military question has arisen strongly, about:  The path of the new global armament?, especially with what a number of American military and strategists have raised about the current trend towards (a tripartite or multipolar nuclear world and international nuclear parties), in reference to the American, Chinese and Russian nuclear power, as well as the Pakistani, Indian and North Korean nuclear powers, and others.

  But, the Egyptian researcher will focus mainly, as an expert in Chinese political affairs, on Beijing’s nuclear capabilities and the extent and how of their use and employment by China in the event of a war with the United States over Taiwan. This is as follows:

  China is now fully committed to developing what it knows (smart ways of war or future military methods), which are those methods that rely on advanced technological techniques, in particular artificial intelligence techniques.  And granted (the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences) a mandate to ensure that this is achieved, through the “merging of military-civilian sectors”, ie: a merger between the technologies of private sector companies in China and the institutions of Chinese military industries.

 Here, China may already be doing (using artificial intelligence in the fields of military robots and missile guidance systems, as well as in the fields of aircraft and unmanned gunboats). China has already conducted several large-scale cyber operations outside its borders.

  We find that during July 2021, the United States, the European Union and Britain pointed the finger at China of being responsible for a major cyber attack targeting (Microsoft Exchange servers). The Chinese attack is believed to have harmed more than 30,000 companies worldwide, and was intended to facilitate large-scale espionage, including the Chinese acquisition of personal data and intellectual property.

 From my point of view, I believe that Western and American officials themselves have tended to (exaggerate the threat posed by Chinese hypersonic missiles, as they seek to prove the necessity of providing the relevant funding for the development of military space technologies). Hence, we can consider that the Chinese nuclear threat, even if it is real, may be exaggerated by Washington and the West.

  Chinese President Comrade “Xi Jinping” pledged to fully modernize the Chinese armed forces by 2035, while stressing the (commitment of his country’s armed forces to become a “globally superior” military force capable of “fighting wars and achieving victory in them” by 2049). China itself criticizes the level of the US nuclear stockpile, which contains 5,500 nuclear warheads, at a time when the accelerating pace of Chinese nuclear armament is seen as one of the most serious threats to Western military supremacy.

  In this regard, China is trying to work on (developing the speed of hypersonic missiles to five times the speed of sound). Although their speeds are not equivalent to the speeds of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which makes it difficult to monitor them during their flight, one of the most important (advanced Chinese air defense systems in confronting any US violations of its neighboring and direct territorial borders in the future).

  China’s fears of the US-Western nuclear race increased in its confrontation, especially after the signing of the “Aukus Military Defense Nuclear Submarine Agreement with Australia”, led by the United States of America with Australia and Britain. That is why the Chinese state media criticized the agreement in several editorials, and the Chinese official newspaper “Global Times” confirmed that: “Australia has now turned itself into a nuclear opponent of China, due to the United States of America sharing its nuclear submarine technology for the first time in 50 years, after  the USA has only shared its nuclear capabilities with Britain”.

  Under the Aukus Nuclear Submarine Defense Agreement, (Australia will be able to build faster nuclear-powered submarines, and therefore they will be difficult to detect through conventionally powered navies, and they can remain in the water for several months), as well as their ability to launch missiles over long distances, though Australia says it has no intention of equipping it with nuclear weapons.

  The most prominent Chinese military analyzes and writings indicate that the (People’s Liberation Army) will remove all US military bases and aircraft carriers in the (Indo-Pacific) region between the Indo-Pacific oceans, and on the banks of the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas. Emphasizing the (deterrent power of the Chinese nuclear arsenal, and its nuclear ability to repel all the attacks of the United States of America on the Chinese mainland).

  In order to achieve American military superiority over China, a number of American military and strategists believe that striking the Chinese mainland’s nuclear bases at the outbreak of any conflict is important, believing that (the superiority of American nuclear power will deter China from responding or reciprocating). However, the military expectations of the US and Chinese sides indicate that the use of nuclear weapons by any party, or the Chinese and US parties together, may cause a large-scale war to erupt rather than prevent it from happening.

  Chinese military analyzes also confirm that the war between China and the United States of America near the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea is likely to turn into a nuclear war, emphasizing that in order to change the course of the war for the losing or defeated party, the party that will lose its war with  The other, may have to compensate for his loss and defeat, by displaying his nuclear power and tactical nuclear weapons to strike the winning side, by using several (tactical nuclear weapons, that is, using a number of warheads of limited power, but they can accurately destroy military targets).

  In the event that China succeeds in paralyzing and obstructing the American military force near the areas of direct Chinese influence, Washington may respond to China to save its face in front of its people and other international and regional powers to save Taiwan, for fear of an invasion by China, through the possibility of (the use of tactical nuclear weapons by the United States of America against China’s ports, airports, sea and air fleets). This is not just a baseless analysis without real indications of it, as the US armed forces are currently developing nuclear weapons to deter China primarily in Taiwan and the South China Sea in the event of a war between them, through the development of Washington for the “cruise missile” program with nuclear warheads to be (launched by US nuclear submarines located near the areas of direct Chinese influence), the US military and its forces in the Indo-Pacific region could use these nuclear weapons, near China, to achieve an American nuclear military victory over China.

 According to my analysis of the US-Chinese military scene, according to the indicators of nuclear power between them, I can understand that (the outbreak of a war between Washington and Beijing, may turn into a conflict in the region neighboring China in East and Southeast Asia as a whole, especially with the support of Washington’s allies after Washington signed “Quad Quartet Agreement” with Australia, Japan, and India. Besides, the “Aukus Military Defense Nuclear Submarine Agreement” between Washington, Australia and Britain). Thus, any US-Chinese conflict is likely to spread across many regions on several Asian fronts, and here either China or the United States of America may use their nuclear weapons to snatch victory when losing the war front.

  For the direct preceding scenario, Chinese military analyzes indicate that the “People’s Liberation Army” (PLA) has begun an unprecedented expansion of its nuclear arsenal. The prominent Chinese military generals and strategists have stated that (China can use its nuclear weapons in the event of a war with American forces  near its borders, which poses a threat to the fate of the Asian region due to the use of each of the parties to the conflict with its nuclear arsenal in the face of the other). This is something that will almost certainly happen, because Beijing will be completely keen not to lose any war or potential conflict in the face of the United States of America over Taiwan.

  Perhaps in my opinion, the threat to use the nuclear arsenal of China or the United States of America in defense of Taiwan, is just a (war of statements or propaganda wars or just speculation and military and psychological deception plans) to thwart each other, which may come in the form of (unofficial allegations and deception plans) between the American and Chinese parties. However, Chinese military analyzes confirm the possibility of China launching one of its nuclear weapons (perhaps against the huge US military bases in Guama near South Korea or the Japanese island of Okinawa or near them), especially in the event that China faces the possibility of any defeat it will not accept.  By Washington, and therefore will respond to it nuclear to compensate for its loss and defeat in any conflict, in order to restore China – even in the event of losing the war with the United States of America – to a tactical advantage or shock Washington into a cease-fire in the face of the armed and military forces of the People’s Liberation Army  Chinese.

  Hence, we conclude that the last option that China or the United States of America has in the event of any open dispute between them over Taiwan is to try to avoid that nuclear war in the first place or as a first option, but instead of that, China may (expect to fight a long war to suffocate Taiwan) by besieging it, or perhaps bombing it to force it to surrender to mainland China, or (Chinese forces blowing up the American and Taiwanese electrical and communication networks through the use of several cyber attacks).

  But on the other hand, China may be able to (using conventionally armed hypersonic missiles to strike targets in the American interior itself, or spreading many misleading Chinese information to limit the process of American progress and impulsion), which will require Washington and Taiwan to develop other tactical plans and measures, including: confronting any Chinese military measures, through several defensive preparations, most notably: (securing networks of sensitive importance, expanding the Taiwanese system for civilian shelters, increasing the Taiwanese island’s stockpile of fuel, food and medical supplies needed with American assistance).

Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit

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A war where the machine decides who to kill! (LAWs wars)

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Which country wants to be attacked by an AI-controlled system with no one in command? Which country wants their soldiers to be killed by an autonomous machine, and potentially, some civilians by mistake? The answer is evidently no one! No country wants that. But which country intends to possess such weapons, then the answer is more ambiguous. The last report of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) reflects this. After a week (25-29 July) of discussion at the Palais des Nations, UN Geneva, the adopted report is hollowed without meaningful conclusion or commitments.

Lethal autonomous weapons

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are military system that can autonomously search for and engage targets based on programmed constraints and descriptions. LAWs are also known as killer robots.

Autonomous weapons have existed for many years; for example, land mines trigger and kill or an injury without any human action. With emerging technology, including AI, we understand the interest of certain states to include these technologies in weapons to improve their autonomy. Since the 70s, the US has used the Phalanx CIWS, which can autonomously identify and attack incoming missiles. With AI, its capacities are considerably increased! Continuing with the example of mines, Russia’s anti-personnel mines of the POM-3 type are particularly deadly. They are disseminated in the land of operations but do not explode immediately. When activated, they rise in the air before exploding and causing multiple ravages, which can be fatal within a radius of 16 meters. Equipped with sensors and software, they choose their target, when they explode or not, depending on the identity of the people or equipment that approach. There are, unfortunately, so many other systems that will be too long to cite here. To conclude this part, in Libya in 2020, a Kargu 2 drone hunted down and attacked a human target. According to a report from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya, published in March 2021. This may have been the first time an autonomous killer robot armed with lethal weaponry attacked human beings. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_robot]

We quickly understand all potential ethical and legal issues. Autonomous systems can make mistakes; who is responsible then? Like mine killed millions of civilians, new systems may have bias and kill unstintingly, with no one to stop them. The range of potential problems is extensive.

A slow-downed convention

For nine years, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons or CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, has tried to regulate it with its GGE. For the most ambitious, it would be a question of agreeing on a treaty, or another international instrument, which would guarantee the prohibition that a weapon can operate autonomously, i.e., without the intervention of human supervision. Many Latin Americans, and European states are now advocating for this outright ban. The answer is less clear-cut for other states, including the USA. They consent to the prohibition of specific weapon systems as well as to a certain regulation but refuse a binding legal framework. Finally, Russia is slowing down all negotiations and reducing its content.

Russia and the game of consensus

A majority of States are now convinced of the need to act significantly, even asking for more days to debate in 2023. But the main problem is the rule of consensus, which prohibits any discussion breakthrough”.

Many little disagreements, for instance, delegations, wasted time discussing whether the CCW is an appropriate forum or the only appropriate forum for dealing with the issue of autonomous weapons.

These discussions have even been theatrical when Russia attacked many times the presence of civil societies to limit their intervention and participation in informal meetings. It was a tool to slow down the discussion, focusing the debate on organizational points. At the same time, we can also be afraid that this Russian posture is appearing in others GGEs. Meanwhile, some other states, like Israel and India, are discrete and do not oppose it. They probably use this condition to their advantage. Russia is doing all the work for them.

Therefore with the refusal of a few states, all the details about elements and possible measures for an agreement on autonomous weapons were removed. All conclusions about what kinds of control are necessary, and possible processes to achieve that control, were taken out. The present conclusions section just outlines the types of proposals discussed, recognizes ethical perspectives, and repeats the respect for international humanitarian law. It confirms then that states are responsible for wrongful acts in accordance with international law [link to report], so no new laws. 

Not only are the conclusions disappointing, but the way the discussion was carried out was disappointing, and the mandate for 2023 remains uncertain.

We can not wait on CCW, the urgency of the problem is too critical.

The slow process is to the advantage of countries using these technologies. The Russian POM-3 mines, for instance, have been used in Ukraine, accordingly to Human Right Watch. The development and deployment by Russia and other countries will continue as long as no agreement is reached. LAWs have to be outlaws! And the CCW seems not to be anymore the right platform.

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Escalating Big Power Contestation on Taiwan: Can It Lead to War?

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Xi Jinping is seeking to hide his humiliation over US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. His premature and unjustifiable warning to the US about the visit caused him embarrassment, and Pelosi’s purposeful visit after the warning not only hyped it, but humiliated him. China is using its Three Warfare Concept  which entails public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare along with aggressive military posturing, air violations, firepower power exhibition and some symbolic economic boycott of Taiwan, thus creating  heightened tension around Taiwan as a face saving exercise to amuse its domestic constituency. China is attempting to turn it as an opportunity to stoke national sentiments in favour of Xi Jinping on ‘Anti America’ theme highlighting Chinese mutilated version of his heroics to ensure that he doesn’t lose out on his third term in the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) later this year.

The US side has likewise been under similar pressures. Following the announcement of Pelosi’s visit and the contentious debate between President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the US found itself in a difficult situation. The USA was unable to cancel the trip in response to Xi’s warning because doing so would have indicated that Joe Biden was caving in to Chinese pressure. This would have been catastrophic for the Biden Administration, which is already struggling to recover from the disaster in Afghanistan and the difficulties brought on by the Russia-Ukraine War. Although the visit was a risky move, it is still unclear whether the US will follow it up by replacing strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity to support Taiwan in any prospective Chinese attack or not.

Can it Lead to War?

With unprecedented military posturing by China, live missile fire  East of Taiwan close to its coastline, and US aircraft carrier and maritime forces located not too far, the situation is tense and prone to accidental trigger causing escalation. It does not make any strategic sense for China to invade Taiwan, as it has all the negatives except false bravado, with bright chances of loss of face globally and domestically, in case the operations fail; hence, likely to contend with activities short of war.

Chinese strategist Qiao Liang, a retired PLA Air Force Major General, has warned that taking Taiwan by force is ‘Too Costly’. Chinese redline of “Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence” has not been crossed as yet, giving no justification for China to cross US red line of ‘Changing status Quo by Force’. Xi Jinping may find it too costly to take such a risk before sealing his third term. The military drills near Taiwan have been conducted by Taiwan and US also in past and  the much publicised blockade of Taiwan through military drills, if prolonged may invite similar military drills by US and other democracies in Malacca Strait too, to block Chinese Sea Lines of Communication, beyond the realm of optics of the current Chinese aggressive posture, and it is well aware of this vulnerability.    

Taiwanese President Tsai has bravely given bold statements during visit of Speaker Pelosi and earlier to take on Chinese aggression. Taiwan with its national spirit, modern arsenal from US, determined armed forces and US backing is unlikely to give a walkover, although the first onslaught of potential offensive will have to be borne by it, till global response gets activated. Comparisons are being made with Hong Kong, but the major differences is that leadership, hierarchy in Hong Kong and police was manipulated by CCP, whereas  the leadership in Taiwan is strong and resolute refusing to give in to Chinese coercion. The need for amphibious assault due to terrain friction makes Chinese misadventure in Taiwan more difficult than Hong Kong.

Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US warships like the USS Ronald Reagan are around. China has enough missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a massive destruction of Han Chinese (95 percent of Taiwanese population is Han), who have relations, investments and inseparable linkages with their relatives in mainland and vice versa will not go well with domestic population of mainland. Over two million Taiwanese live in China, mostly in Coastal areas, and over 20 per cent have married there.

This will also destroy Chinese and Taiwanese economy, which does not suit Chinese leadership struggling to revive its economy marred by trade war, failing BRI and COVID effect. China is top destination for Taiwanese export accounting for approximately 40% of total exports, with Taiwan having  overall trade surplus of US$104.7 billion in 2021 with China.

A public opinion poll in Taiwan in 2020 indicated 73 percent people identified themselves as Taiwanese, who were against China, and 77 percent  supported democratic movement in Hongkong and this figure has increased in last two years. Getting Taiwanese under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China, which CCP may not be used to handle. Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom and prosperity, which is the main reason for success of President Tsai. The conflict if imposed by China will be deadly and Chinese, who want to win without fighting are not known for their appetite to accept body bags of Han Chinese, for a cause which doesn’t give them economic benefit but takes it away its dream of national rejuvenation, as indicated by General Qiao. 

Why Taiwan is a US-China Issue?

PRC may keep claiming Taiwan to be its domestic issue, but it has much greater external dimensions. Diplomatically US may claim to follow ‘One China Policy’ but it treats Taiwan no less than an ally. The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, effective from March 26, 2020 is an indication. The Taiwan Relation Act,1973, Taiwan Travel Act signed 2019, and National Defence Authorisation Act signed earlier this year to facilitate sale of state of the art weaponry and joint exercises justify the statement. US will always like to trade and strategically partner with democratic Taiwan outside Beijing’s influence, and not Taiwan under CCP.

In any potential invasion of Taiwan, the spill over of the battle space to Japan is obvious due to geographic proximity, an ally which US is obligated to protect. Chinese initial offensive can be on Taiwan, but US could join forces with its allies in the region to use their sea and air advantages to cut off Beijing’s maritime lifeline in and outside South China Sea. Chinese supply lines outside Nine dash line are still vulnerable to choking, and it will draw out PLA to get into war outside its comfort Zone. Taking Taiwan by force, therefore involves mobilisation of all its combat resources, expecting an escalation from limited war to an all-out war, as the operation amounts to crossing US redline of “No Change in Status Quo of Taiwan”. Economically Chinese heavy reliance on the US dollar is far from over, and such a war over Taiwan would be a massive economic blow to China, that would see capital flooding out, and companies moving of the country, much sooner than it thought.

Way Ahead

If Chinese aggressive posturing, air incursions and military drills announced for four days end as scheduled without escalation, may be that situation may still remain under control, as US and Taiwan have also done military drills in that region earlier. If it escalates into an attempt to unite Taiwan by force, it will certainly up the ante with US, prove China as irresponsible bully, may lead to loss of life of Han Chinese both ways, lead to economic destruction of its one of the largest investors and jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation. Internationally, China may have miscalculated US resolve and Taiwan’s resistance and all may not go their way. If Chinese ambitions grow beyond global tolerance, it has bright chances to bring rest of the world against China. While the visit of Nancy Pelosi may have given a strong message to China, but the US resolve is still under test, because Taiwan can’t be expected to handle Chinese aggression alone, more so if it has been hyped by super power contestation. US therefore must consider starting similar military exercise in Malacca Strait with other navies to remind China of its vulnerable SLOC before it starts blocking Taiwanese shipping.

The aggressive posturing in Taiwan Strait, South and East China Sea will continue, even if the current crisis slows down. PRC’s aim is to pressurise President Tsai Not to declare independence, keep pressure on, hope DPP loses next election and work out favourable arrangements with opposition likely to be favourable to China. Neither China nor US want war, but none wants to give walkover as well, hence this strategic gaming and posturing is on and will continue.

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Why would a peaceful country join NATO?

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Image source: war.ukraine.ua

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a security alliance between Europe and North America.  It was established in the 1949 having goals of protecting democratic freedom but its sole purpose was to counter any future aggression from the Soviet Union and hence this organization was anti-Soviet accord that established the balance of power in Europe. Under the Article 5 of NATO it obliges all member states to protect each other in state of war, this allowed the NATO member states to share their military capabilities and pool their resources in time of attack or invasion. Besides having collective security goals and containing USSR, NATO served as an engine to democratization.  NATO clearly was a threat to the sovereignty of USSR and to counter Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact, Moscow had all the reasons to justify formation of this pact. After the Berlin wall fell and Soviet Union disintegrated, Germany was faced by a serious question of whether to join NATO or the Warsaw pact.  The US President made an offer to Russian President, suggesting that if Germany joined NATO, NATO would stop its expansion.  Moscow bought this offer and demolished the Warsaw pact hoping that the west would follow suit that NATO too would dissolve.  NATO continued its expansionist process and included ex-Soviet republics as well. The Russian President Putin on many instances asked NATO that against whom this expansion intended to. An organization initially targeted towards countering a country is now getting so close to them that there intensions can even be sniffed from the border, is causing a security dilemma.  The war in Ukraine is the living example that US did not do as promise, a stab in the back of Russia. This act is clearly a proactive one and number of US’s political analyst opposed this step.

Ukraine being a sovereign country and knowing its history with Russia still wants to join and the question rises, why? Well Ukraine has become a country just like Afghanistan or Vietnam where the two world powers can have their proxy wars. Former Ukrainian presidents either supported to join NATO or opposed it under the influence of these foreign powers. Joining NATO means taking side with the western power and this would seriously be taken as a treat by Russia, as NATO is an organization that talks about collective security with the help of its military alliance. Why Ukraine wants it? Was Ukraine threatened by the Russians of any invasion or were they forced by the western powers to join? What benefits Ukraine would have after joining NATO?

To answer the above questions one must first understand that situation of security dilemma exits between Ukraine and Russia and to assure its security Ukraine needed backup in the form of NATO. Moscow has adopted a policy toward Ukraine and Belarus throughout Putin’s term in power based on the presumption that each former Soviet country’s national identities are artificial and thus brittle. Vladimir Putin frequently exhibits what historians refer to as the “politics of eternity,” in order to restore the lost essence of the Soviet Empire. One of the reasons why Ukraine needed security assurance. This was only possible if a state stronger than Russia supported and formed alliance with Ukraine, hence Ukraine turned towards joining NATO.

Now that Russia has annexed Ukraine, it clearly depicts the Russian insecurity as well in context with the Western imperialist nature. The people of Ukrainian are still in state of shock as to why Ukraine, a peace loving country wants to join an organization that is more in to waging war rather than building cooperation and peace.  The Ukrainian President, Zelensky, recently posed for a Vogue magazine depicting in the background the war torn Ukraine, receiving a major backlash questioning whether all this is just a good background for a cover magazine.

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