New explainer on the risks of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan

Invading Taiwan is a risk China cannot afford, says former top UK diplomat

In a new ‘Explainer’ paper by Charles Parton OBE, a former British diplomat with over 20 years experience working in or on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, it is explained why China would be risking too much to invade the island, despite recent aggressive rhetoric and actions which have suggested an invasion could be forthcoming.


The ‘Explainer’ makes clear the six reasons why an invasion of Taiwan by China is too great a risk for the Chinese Communist Party to take. These reasons are:

  1. The People’s Liberation Army are incapable of an invasion
  2. The chances of success are too low
  3. The prospects of a US military intervention are too high
  4. An invasion could ruin the architecture of the state in Taiwan, significantly increasing the costs of an occupation
  5. The Taiwanese economy would be destroyed with a knock-on effect for associated businesses on the Chinese mainland. Inevitable Western sanctions, meanwhile, could cause a serious economic crisis in China which could threaten the stability of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule
  6. The Taiwanese semiconductor industry could suffer irreparable damage and threaten China’s imports of the important and hard-to-procure components

The paper goes on to explain the CCP’s strategy for eroding Taiwan’s ‘will to resist’ and, in light of this strategy’s failure, explains what the CCP might do next. According to Mr Parton, this could occur in a piecemeal fashion by

  • Firstly, exerting diplomatic and financial pressure on countries and businesses dealing with Taiwan
  • Secondly, the CCP could replicate elements of the Hong Kong national security law in an effort to exert a globally intimidating influence upon Taiwanese nationals
  • Thirdly, China could coerce the Taiwanese islands of Jinmen and Mazu near China to ‘request’ unification by cutting off power supplies and then go on to invade the islands of Pratas, Taiping and the Penghu Islands
  • Lastly, China might institute an air and/or naval blockade of Taiwan, cutting it off from all external contact

Finally, the paper makes a number of recommendations to policy makers in Britain, and beyond. These recommendations are for free and open countries to make clear that any forced unification of Taiwan will incur severe diplomatic and financial repercussions, to reject China’s spurious claims to Taiwan, facilitate further cooperation for Taiwan in international bodies and increase both official and cultural relations with Taiwan.

Charles Parton, James Cook Associate Fellow at the Council on Geostrategy, said:

Recently there has been increased discussion of possible armed conflict occurring over Taiwan. This talk is exaggerated and serves the Chinese Communist Party’s interests by reinforcing the view that unification, if necessary by force, is inevitable and irresistible.

War is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future, but the status of Taiwan will be a major geopolitical issue for the UK and other liberal democracies over the next decade. Free and open countries will need to design clear policies to prepare for this developing issue.

James Rogers, Director of Research at the Council on Geostrategy, said:

This explainer makes clear why, despite a lot of sabre-rattling, the threat of invasion to Taiwan remains low in the short-term.

Any invasion now would be an enormously difficult undertaking which, even if successful, would leave China in possession of a shell with a devastated economy, ruined infrastructure and potential unrest back on the mainland, as well as China becoming an international pariah.

Free and open nations should leave no doubt in the minds of the Chinese Communist Party that any hostilities against Taiwan will incur consequences and work to facilitate Taiwan’s ability to engage with other countries globally.