Taiwan: Wargame simulation suggests Chinese invasion of Taiwan will fail at huge cost to US military, China and Taiwan


Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2026 would result in thousands of casualties among Chinese, US, Taiwanese and Japanese forces and is unlikely to result in victory for Beijing, according to a prominent independent think tank in Washington that has conducted war game simulations of a possible conflict that concerns the military and political leaders in Asia and Washington.

A war over Taiwan could leave a victorious American military as crippled as the Chinese forces it defeated.

At the end of the conflict, at least two US aircraft carriers will lie at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and China’s modern navy, which is the largest in the world, will be in “ruin.”

These are among the conclusions of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) after conducting what it claims is one of the most extensive war game simulations once led to a possible conflict over Taiwan, the democratically-ruled island of 24 million people that the Chinese Communist Party claims is part of its sovereign territory even though it has never controlled it.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refused to rule out the use of military force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.

CNN reviewed an advance copy of the report — titled “The First Battle of the Next War” — about two dozen military scenarios run by CSIS, which said the project was needed because previous government and private military simulations were too narrow or too opaque to give the public and policymakers a true view of how the conflict across the Taiwan Straits may play out.

“There is no unclassified war game looking at the U.S.-China conflict,” said Mark Kanchian, one of the project’s three leaders and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Of the games that aren’t classified, they’re usually only done once or twice.”

CSIS ran this war game 24 times to answer two main questions: Will the invasion succeed and at what cost?

The likely answers to these two questions are negative and overwhelming, the CSIS report said.

“The US and Japan are losing dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft and thousands of servicemen. Such losses would damage US global standing for many years to come,” the report said. In most scenarios, the US Navy loses two aircraft carriers and 10 to 20 large surface combatants. An estimated 3,200 US soldiers will be killed in three weeks of combat, nearly half of what the US has lost in two decades of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“China is also suffering badly. Its fleet is in disarray, the core of its amphibious force is broken, and tens of thousands of soldiers are prisoners of war,” the statement said. The report estimated that China would suffer about 10,000 soldiers killed and lose 155 combat aircraft and 138 large ships.

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The scenarios paint a bleak future for Taiwan even if the Chinese invasion fails.

“Although Taiwan’s military is intact, it is severely degraded and left to defend a crippled economy on an island without electricity and basic services,” the report said. The island’s army would suffer about 3,500 casualties and all 26 destroyers and frigates in the fleet would be sunk, the report said.

Japan is likely to lose more than 100 warplanes and 26 warships if US military bases on its home soil come under Chinese attack, the report said.

But CSIS said it did not want its report to suggest that war over Taiwan “is imminent or even likely.”

“The Chinese leadership may adopt a strategy of diplomatic isolation, gray area pressure or economic coercion against Taiwan,” it said.

Dan Grazier, senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), sees a direct Chinese invasion of Taiwan as extremely unlikely. Such a military operation would immediately disrupt the imports and exports that China’s economy relies on for its very survival, Grazier told CNN, and disrupting that trade risks collapsing the Chinese economy in short order. China relies on food and fuel imports to power its economic engine, Grazier said, and they have little room to maneuver.

“The Chinese will do everything they can, in my judgment, to avoid a military conflict with anybody,” Grazier said. To challenge the United States for global dominance, it will use industrial and economic power instead of military might.

But Pentagon leaders called China America’s “immediate threat” last year as well Report on China’s Military Power authorized by Congress said that “the PLA has increased provocative and destabilizing actions in and around the Taiwan Strait to include more flights in the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone and conducting exercises focused on the potential capture of one of Taiwan’s outlying islands.” ”

In August, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island sparked a wide-ranging show of military might by the PLA, which included sending missiles over the island as well as into Japan’s exclusive economic zone waters.

Since then, Beijing has stepped up tactics of aggressive military pressure on the island, sending warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the body of water separating Taiwan and China, and into the island’s air defense identification zone — an airspace buffer commonly referred to as the ADIZ.

Speaking on Taiwan at the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October, Chinese leader Xi Jinping won thunderous applause when he said China would “pursue peaceful reunification” but then issued a grim warning, saying: “We will never we will not promise to refrain from the use of force and we reserve the right to take any necessary measures.

The Biden administration has been unwavering in its support for the island, as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act, under which Washington will provide the island with the means to defend itself without committing American troops to that defense.

The recently signed National Defense Authorization Act commits the US to a program to modernize Taiwan’s military and provides $10 billion in security aid over five years, a strong sign of long-term bipartisan support for the island.

However, Biden has said more than once that US military personnel will defend Taiwan if the Chinese military launches an invasion, although the Pentagon insists there is no change in Washington’s “One China” policy.

Under the One China policy, the US recognizes China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never formally recognized Beijing’s claim to the self-governing island.

“Wars happen even when objective analysis may show that the attacker may not be successful,” Kancian said.

The CSIS report said that for US troops to prevent China from taking ultimate control of Taiwan, there are four constants that emerge among the 24 iterations of war games it runs:

Taiwan’s ground forces must be able to contain the Chinese beachheads; The US should be able to use its bases in Japan for combat operations; The US must have long-range anti-ship missiles to strike the PLA fleet from afar and “en masse”; and the US should fully arm Taiwan before the shootings begin and immediately enter any conflict with its own forces.

“There is no ‘Ukrainian model’ for Taiwan,” the report said, citing how U.S. and Western aid has slowly trickled into Ukraine well after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor began, and no U.S. or NATO troops is actively fighting against Russia.

“Once the war starts, it is impossible to get any troops or supplies into Taiwan, so the situation is very different from Ukraine, where the United States and its allies were able to continuously send supplies to Ukraine,” Kanchian said. “Whatever the Taiwanese are fighting the war with, they must have it when the war starts.”

Washington will need to act soon if it is to implement some of CSIS’s recommendations for success in the Taiwan conflict, the think tank said.

These include strengthening US bases in Japan and Guam against Chinese missile attacks; shifting its naval forces to smaller and more survivable ships; submarine prioritization; prioritizing sustained bomber forces over fighters; but produces more cheaper fighters; and Taiwan’s push for a similar strategy, arming itself with simpler weapons platforms rather than expensive ships unlikely to survive a Chinese first strike.

These policies would make victory less costly for the US military, but casualties would still be high, the CSIS report said.

“The US may win a pyrrhic victory, suffering more in the long run than the ‘defeated’ Chinese.”

“Winning isn’t everything,” the report said.

Taiwan: Wargame simulation suggests Chinese invasion of Taiwan will fail at huge cost to US military, China and Taiwan

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