Military Strategist Shows How China Would Likely Invade Taiwan | WSJ

The Wall Street Journal
12 Mar 202410:12

TLDRThis video by the Wall Street Journal delves into the strategic considerations of a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, using simulations developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The war games are turn-based strategy simulations, revealing the complexities of amphibious assaults, air mobile operations, and the heavy reliance on U.S. and Japanese bases. Despite numerous scenarios, the recurring outcome is a minor U.S. coalition victory, with Taiwan remaining autonomous but at a great cost to all parties involved. The analysis suggests that such a conflict would result in heavy losses for both the U.S. and China, potentially destabilizing the Chinese Communist Party.


  • 🔍 The CSIS war game simulates a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan, highlighting the strategic military maneuvers and outcomes.
  • ⚠️ The scenario underlines China's longstanding claim over Taiwan and its preparation for potential reunification by force.
  • 🌐 The involvement of the US and its allies is depicted as crucial, with various outcomes based on military strategies and positioning.
  • 🎮 The war game is described as a turn-based strategy simulation, using maps and computer programs to determine combat results.
  • 🚢 The script details the tactical challenges of amphibious and air mobile operations, noting the difficulty of such military actions.
  • 💥 The results of the war game show heavy losses for both sides, emphasizing the high cost of military conflict in the region.
  • 🛡️ Despite the challenges, the war game concludes with a minor US coalition victory, where Chinese forces face setbacks and supply issues.
  • 📈 The impact on Taiwan is significant, with serious implications for its economy and infrastructure due to the prolonged conflict.
  • 🔑 Key strategic locations like airfields and ports are focal points in the conflict, with both sides striving to control these critical assets.
  • 🕊️ The final takeaway stresses that while the US and its allies can help maintain Taiwan's autonomy, the price in terms of human and economic costs is substantial.

Q & A

  • What is the primary concern regarding China's stance on Taiwan?

    -The primary concern is China's longstanding position that Taiwan is a part of China and its willingness to seek reunification by force if necessary.

  • What does the war game developed by CSIS simulate?

    -The CSIS war game simulates a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan, analyzing potential outcomes and strategies through turn-based strategy simulation and combat result calculations.

  • Why did CSIS choose to make their war game unclassified?

    -CSIS aimed to create an unclassified war game to facilitate discussions with a broader audience about the potential outcomes and implications of a conflict involving China, Taiwan, and the US.

  • What challenges do Chinese forces face when landing in the north of Taiwan according to the war game?

    -Chinese forces face significant challenges landing in the north of Taiwan due to the heavy presence of Taiwanese military capabilities, making it very difficult to invade there.

  • Why is it strategically advantageous for the Chinese to land in the south of Taiwan?

    -Landing in the south of Taiwan presents fewer initial military obstacles compared to the north, allowing Chinese forces a better chance to establish a foothold, despite the strategic disadvantage of being farther from key political and industrial centers.

  • What role do US forces play in the CSIS war game scenario?

    -In the war game, US forces respond to the Chinese invasion by deploying aircraft and ships to attack Chinese naval forces and by using submarines to disrupt Chinese operations.

  • What are the consequences of the Chinese decision to strike Japan in the war game?

    -The Chinese decision to strike Japan in the war game represents a significant escalation, targeting US and Japanese bases to disrupt the US ability to support Taiwan, thereby altering the regional strategic balance.

  • How are the outcomes of the war game determined?

    -Outcomes in the war game are determined by turn-based decisions and strategies executed by the players, followed by calculations of combat results using tables and computer programs to assess losses and territorial gains.

  • What does the war game suggest about the potential cost of a conflict over Taiwan?

    -The war game suggests that any conflict over Taiwan would be devastating for all parties involved, with heavy casualties and economic damage, potentially endangering the stability of the Chinese Communist Party.

  • What was the overall result of the most likely scenario played in the CSIS war game?

    -In the most likely scenario played, the game concluded with a minor US coalition victory, where Chinese forces established a presence but were unable to expand due to continuous US and allied attacks, leading to a scenario where Taiwan remained autonomous and democratic.



🎯 Scenario Analysis of a Hypothetical Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

This segment delves into the complex and grim scenario of a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, showcasing how both China and Taiwan, along with the US, prepare through military drills and strategic war games. The narrative unfolds a war game conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that simulates a Chinese amphibious invasion in 2026, depicting the strategic moves of both sides. The war game, played with detailed maps and turn-based strategy, reveals various military tactics and outcomes, including the strategic disadvantages faced by Chinese forces when landing in the south of Taiwan, as opposed to the more defended north.


🚨 Evaluation of Military Strategies and Outcomes

In this part, the focus is on the ongoing and intense military engagements described in the CSIS war game. The narrative captures the evolving battlefield dynamics where Chinese forces face significant resistance and suffer losses, particularly around a strategically important airfield. Despite initial advances, the Chinese troops struggle to secure key positions, leading to high casualties on both sides. This analysis extends to strategic decisions affecting broader regional security, such as the Chinese decision to target Japanese bases, which dramatically escalates the conflict. The summary of this war game scenario suggests a minor US coalition victory, emphasizing the substantial costs and enduring impact on Taiwan's autonomy and economy.


🕊️ Long-Term Implications and Strategic Takeaways

This brief concluding segment reflects on the overarching consequences of the war game scenarios explored earlier. It underscores the profound, long-term strategic and humanitarian costs associated with such a military conflict in Taiwan. The narration hints at the potential political repercussions for the Chinese Communist Party, suggesting that the outcome of such extensive military engagements could pose a significant threat to its stability. Soft music in the background underscores the somber reality of war and its devastating impact on all involved.



💡Amphibious Invasion

An amphibious invasion refers to military operations that involve forces landing from the sea onto a land territory. In the context of the video, it describes China's hypothetical military strategy to invade Taiwan by deploying troops from the sea to Taiwanese shores. This type of invasion requires extensive coordination of naval and ground forces, and it's highlighted as a central component of the war game scenarios, demonstrating its significance in the potential conflict dynamics between China, Taiwan, and the US.

💡War Games

War games are simulated exercises that militaries or think tanks use to predict the outcomes of hypothetical conflicts. In the video, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) conducted a war game to explore the outcomes of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. These simulations, unlike their portrayal in movies as computer simulations, are described as complex board games with detailed rules and outcomes calculated after each move, helping experts understand potential real-world conflict scenarios.

💡Turn-based Strategy

Turn-based strategy is a type of gameplay used in simulations and games where players take turns making decisions or moves. In the context of CSIS's war game, this method allows structured analysis of military strategies and outcomes. Each turn represents a specific time frame during which both sides, represented by the US and Chinese teams, execute and then review their military strategies and maneuvers, reflecting the methodical pace of strategic military planning.

💡Combat Result Tables

Combat result tables are tools used in war games to determine the outcomes of military engagements based on predefined probabilities and scenarios. These tables were employed in the CSIS war game to calculate the results of military actions after each turn, providing a systematic approach to simulate the complex dynamics of a military conflict between China and Taiwan, along with the involvement of US forces.


Reunification, in the context of China and Taiwan, refers to China's goal of integrating Taiwan with the mainland, governed by the principle of 'One China'. The video mentions China's longstanding position that Taiwan is part of China, emphasizing the geopolitical tension surrounding Taiwan's status and China's willingness to use force if necessary for reunification.

💡Military Buildup

Military buildup describes the process of enhancing military capability through increased deployment of troops, weapons, and technology. In the video, China's military buildup is a cause for concern as it prepares for a potential conflict with Taiwan. This preparation includes increasing the readiness of Chinese forces, which is crucial for executing any large-scale military operation such as the depicted invasion scenario.


Submarines play a critical role in modern naval warfare by providing stealth and significant firepower. In the CSIS war game, US submarines are positioned strategically to counter Chinese naval movements around Taiwan, demonstrating how submarines contribute to deterrence and defensive strategies in the context of regional security threats.

💡Air Mobile Troops

Air mobile troops are military units capable of being transported by helicopter over terrain that is difficult to access by ground. In the video, Chinese air mobile troops are used in an attempt to quickly capture strategic positions such as airfields during the invasion of Taiwan. However, their operations are noted as risky and less successful, reflecting the challenges of airborne assaults in contested areas.


Fortifications refer to military constructions designed to defend against enemy attacks. In the video, Taiwanese defensive lines are reinforced with fortifications, slowing the advance of Chinese forces during the war game. This illustrates the strategic use of fortifications in enhancing the defense of critical locations against an invading force.


Casualties in military context refer to soldiers who are killed, wounded, or captured during combat. The video frequently references casualties to describe the losses suffered by both sides in the simulated conflict, highlighting the heavy toll and high cost of warfare on military forces and by extension, the civilian populations involved.


Narrator introduces the context of potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan and mentions training drills by both militaries.

Explanation of the longstanding Chinese position on Taiwan and the military buildup as causes for concern.

Details of the war games developed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to simulate a Chinese amphibious invasion.

Narrator explains the strategic importance of landing locations in Taiwan for Chinese forces.

Initial turns of the war game show Chinese military landing troops in the south of Taiwan.

Details on the difficulties faced by Chinese air mobile and parachute troops in capturing a key airfield.

Discussion of US military responses, including strategic deployment of aircraft and submarines.

Significant shift in strategy as China decides to strike Japanese bases hosting US and Japanese aircraft.

Narration on the Taiwanese military's movements to counter Chinese landings.

Outcomes from a second turn reveal heavy casualties on both sides with detailed battle results.

Strategic developments three weeks into the game, showing Chinese advances and Taiwanese defenses.

Final turn of the game shows Chinese forces established but contained, with diminishing logistical support.

Game concludes with a scenario deemed a minor US coalition victory, emphasizing the endurance of Taiwan as autonomous and democratic.

Narrative on the varying outcomes of different war game scenarios, highlighting the crucial role of Japanese bases.

Highlight on the devastating costs of the conflict for all parties involved and potential political repercussions for China.