By Jack Phillips
Several former military officials said that the United States could face significant shortfalls if there is ever a conflict with the Chinese regime over Taiwan, coming as U.S. military jets shot down a Chinese spy balloon that drifted across the United States.
“Unfortunately, talking broadly and in overall terms, the Chinese have dramatically increased their air, sea, space, cyber, and missile capabilities in the last couple of decades,” James Anderson, acting undersecretary of defense for policy under President Donald Trump, told Fox News.
“In some of the scenarios that could happen, we might well be at a competitive disadvantage initially because they have home-field advantage in terms of their capacity to quickly mobilize local forces,” he said, “and that’s really important to the [Chinese military].”
Last week, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the new chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, said the odds of conflict with China over Taiwan “are very high” after a U.S. general released a memo about a potential conflict with the regime in 2025.
Gen. Mike Minihan, who heads the Air Mobility Command, wrote to the leadership of its roughly 110,000 members, saying, “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”
“I hope he is wrong … I think he is right, though,” McCaul said in an interview last week.
Although the general’s views do not represent the Pentagon, it shows concern at the highest levels of the U.S. military over a possible attempt by China to exert control over Taiwan, which Beijing claims as a wayward province. “We’re preparing for it and we should,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the Senate leadership, told news outlets last week in response to a question about a possible U.S.-China conflict. “There are four countries around the world that we watch very carefully in terms of our own security. China is number one.”
But those fears were exacerbated after a Chinese spy balloon floated over much of the United States over the past several days before it was shot down off the South Carolina coast by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet. The balloon’s presence over the United States, first detected in Montana, prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to announce that he’s canceling his scheduled trip to China this year.
Meanwhile, the United States hasn’t been involved in such a conflict in decades since World War II, it has been noted. A possible conflict would require a large number of warships and aircraft carriers to exert control over the Pacific Ocean.
“The United States hasn’t been in such a conflict since 1945 and the casualties would come in a very short period of time. The war game covered three or four weeks,” Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told WJAR-TV last week. Such a conflict “really requires a cultural change in the U.S. military,” he said.
One issue, Cancian noted, is U.S. industrial production has slipped in recent decades. A large number of U.S.- and Western-based countries have outsourced manufacturing to China and other countries in recent years, according to economists, namely after China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001.
“It certainly is a realistic concern,” he told the outlet. “Our inventories are not large and our ability to replace them, the surge capability of our defense industry is not great so that in a long conflict we will risk running out of key munitions and weapons.”
Heino Klinck, a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, told Fox News on Sunday that it’s difficult to predict what could happen.
“There are areas in which they have dominance, and there are also areas in which we have dominance, so it’s not exactly an apples and oranges type of comparison,” Klinck, who previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia before leaving in 2021, told the outlet. “China certainly has geographic advantages just based on the fact that it’s only 100 miles from Taiwan, so that’s something that requires advanced logistical planning,” he added.
Anderson noted that China hasn’t conducted a significant military operation in decades. Beijing last fought a conflict with Vietnam in 1979 along the two countries’ borders, while the United States has partaken in many conflicts since the end of World War II.
“The fact is they have no experience conducting a major amphibious assault on the scale that would be required to take the island of Taiwan,” Anderson told Fox. “Yes, they did attack various outlying islands of Taiwan during multiple crises in the 1950s, but those were very small-scale operations.”
He added: “There are no good parallels, and … from our perspective, the fact that the Chinese don’t have a good parallel is good news because this is a competitive disadvantage for them.”