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My question is not about the net gain that China could have for occupying Taiwan. I understand with military invasion, China has to undertake huge financial and human resources cost, suffering from high inflations and very hash sanctions from Western countries. Such cost may be likely much bigger than its gains.

To many people from China, taking over Taiwan is believed to bring a great glory to the country. But what about the benefits from the perspective of utilitarian? What the potential strategic/economic gains China could have after taking over Taiwan (with military force or not).


Some personal thoughts:

One possible benefit I am sure of is that if there is indeed a military invasion, PLA will gain real battlefield experiences, which may be helpful for building up its confidence in confronting U.S and Japan. P.R.China hasn't engaged seriously in a war for decades.

Other benefits might be (I am not sure)

(1) Taking control of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and put China into a huge advantage in high-end chip making. But I guess if there is a threat of war, Taiwanese chip makers will flee to other countries with their technicians and money?

(2) Breaking through the First Island Chain? Does taking over Taiwan change the military balance between China and U.S.?

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  • "Does taking over Taiwan change the military balance between China and U.S.?" Probably not, the world is huge after all and Taiwan relatively small compared to that.
    – Trilarion
    Feb 13 at 20:03
  • looks like you answered your own question there
    – Pete W
    Feb 13 at 23:23
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    I'm pretty confident taking over Taiwan is for ideological reasons of national pride, and not for the kind of gain you're thinking of.
    – Allure
    Feb 14 at 2:05
  • It removes a government which, in theory, claims to be a legitimate government of the one China. I would see a resolution of the civil war as more than just "pride" or "glory."
    – o.m.
    Feb 14 at 5:28
  • @PeteW Actually I highly doubt the TSMC and First Island Chain benefits for China. Do you think you could say something more?
    – No One
    Feb 14 at 19:46

3 Answers 3

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The major advantage is not the occupation of the island, but the tension, the cold war like situation that allows restrictive measures and controlling the local population. So, for the solidity of the position of the current leaders of the communist party, it is the threat of an invasion that has a strategic advantage, not an invasion itself. To change the status quo is not in their interest.

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  • It seems to me that this threat only encourages Taiwanese to separate from China (at least non-formally) and beefs up their defense by buying new weapons from U.S, and build up new allies with Japan etc. .... China's threat on Taiwan doesn't seem do anything good for China itself but helps Taiwan a lot...
    – No One
    Apr 10 at 17:51
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Taiwan is located very strategically in the middle of the island chain that restricts China's sea access. The ships can pass between the islands, but they make for a good place to fire missiles from, the passages can be mined, and so on - a navy in blue water is a lot less vulnerable.

Map

By subduing and integrating Taiwan, China can gain:

  • Political pride in reuniting as One China
  • Uncontested control of the South China Sea
  • Increased presence in the East China Sea, without Taiwan breaking up the line
  • Oil and gas fields around Taiwan
  • Unrestricted access to the North Pacific, if Taiwan's military bases are taken over or rebuilt
  • Possibly, Taiwan's semiconductor industry, if the takeover is relatively peaceful

The main difficulty for China in taking over the ROC is the risk of US involvement. Taiwan explicitly advertises itself as "A sea fortress against China", implicitly a fortress for the US. Should the West be distracted with another major war, however, China might take the plunge.

Currently, the US is bound by treaty to help Taiwan in such an event. This is the main barrier keeping the PRC at bay. In case the balance of power changes, such that the US won't risk a war with China, the ROC still maintains one of the strongest navies in Asia.

Should it be defeated, Taiwan's island status still makes a direct military invasion difficult. The PRC's main option would be a blockade.

If blockaded, Taiwan doesn't have the natural resources to be self-sufficient. Once they establish the blockade, the PRC would just have to cut the power and oil supplies, then wait for the peace treaty - preserving the semiconductor infrastructure and the population.

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  • You have some points. I think you should add that shipping lanes from Japan and South Korea to Europe, India, and oil producing countries go past Taiwan. In future conflicts and negotiations China would be able to use Taiwan to control those trade routes and make economic life difficult for South Korea and Japan.
    – Readin
    Mar 21 at 0:40
  • Sorry for the downvote, but you allowed for the possibility of the US not helping Taiwan. This is wrong, because the US is by agreement bound to help Taiwan. But seriously, if you only keep the picture and the paragraph after the picture you got the answer to the question spot on. I actually wanted to put that down as an answer, but no point now. lol. It's worth noting though that in the North, China faces a very similar issue with the island of Russia and Japan, some of which are disputed as well. Apr 10 at 15:02
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    @JoeyJoystick I think this possibility might exist sometime in the future - it could be 20 or 50 years from now, it could be some black swan event, who knows. But I've edited to insert the point that the US is currently under treaty obligations to help Taiwan. So this applies only if that changes.
    – HK-51
    Apr 10 at 15:56
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    @JoeyJoystick "US is by agreement bound to help Taiwan". Well, due to their strategic ambiguity, it is possible that U.S. only helps Taiwan with weapons and sanctions on China like for Ukraine but not with real U.S. troops. It is a still question how much sacrifice U.S. could afford for helping Taiwan with Korean war in 1950s in mind.
    – No One
    Apr 10 at 18:18
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One strategic advantage that to my knowledge China is claiming to desire is better open sea access. They fear that in a hypothetical conflict with the US the Chinese navy could easily be blocked from accessing any oceans that are not close to the Chinese coast. I don't know how relevant that is both from a point of realism of the scenario and from current military strategy but if you look at a map one can construct the following argument.

Starting from the north of the Chinese coast there is only a small straight between South Korea and Japan. There is an entire chain of Japanese islands down to Okinawa which has a major US military base. Starting from the south the Indonesian archipelago is full of small islands up to Luzon, the northernmost major island of the Philippines, followed by a chain of smaller islands.

Now if in this scenario you count Taiwan as hostile to China you get an essentially continous chain of islands between China and the Pacific ocean. If on the hand Taiwan were part of mainland China then it would be the main access point to the Pacific ocean and from there to the rest of the world.

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