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March 31, 2021 52 min

China’s takeover of Hong Kong, and its increasingly aggressive military manoeuvres in the South China Sea have many wondering whether Taiwan is the country’s next “reunification” target. While politicians debate whether it’s in the West’s interest to step in, strategists say the more pertinent question is whether a military defence of Taiwan is even possible. China now boasts the world’s largest army, conventional air force, coast guard, and navy. These vast military resources provide Beijing with the capacity to overwhelm Taiwan through a combined amphibious assault using nuclear attack submarines, destroyers, and aircraft carriers, and an airborne assault using strategic stealth bombers, fighters, and helicopters. Some experts argue that it is wishful to think that the US can defend Taiwan militarily from half a world away unless there is a radical reset of American military strategy and posture towards China. But others contend that despite China’s clear military superiority over Taiwan, the island nation enjoys many advantages when it comes to fending off an invasion. Taiwan’s unique geography and navigational challenges of the Taiwan Strait mean that an amphibious invasion is a daunting task even for a navy the size of China’s.  The country has one of the best early warning systems in the world, and combat aircraft sequestered in mountain locations across the island that could repulse a large scale airborne assault. The almost two million Taiwanese who are trained to defend the country - guerrilla tactics included - vastly outnumber any possible Chinese invasion force. Add in US aircraft carriers, ballistic missiles, armed drones, and high tech minefields, and a Chinese military conquest of Taiwan could end up handing Beijing its biggest military defeat since WWII.

Arguing for the motion is Oriana Skylar Mastro. She’s a Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of "The Costs of Conversation: Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime".

Arguing against the motion is Michael Beckley, Associate Professor at Tufts University near Boston, and also a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of "Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower".

Sources: Formosa TV English News, CNA, Arirang News, ABC News, Senator Tom Cotton, BBC News, US GEGE, CGTN, France 24, RTI

The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.  

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