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December 06, 2011


Dan Hardie

Hmmm... I really don't know that studying the Falklands would be encouraging for the PLA at all- not if their officers are intelligent and they're reading the right books.

Any sensible British book on the war stresses that it was a very close-run thing: not on the ground, but in the air-sea war. The Argentine fighters very nearly sunk enough British ships to cripple the Task Force. Total casualty figures are not too relevant here: the British could have got the troops ashore and then found it impossible to resupply them if enough ships had gone down.

The Argentines had not properly prepared for an air-sea war, starting with not buying enough Exocets. The PLA surely can't think that the Taiwanese would have as few air or ground-launched ship-killing missiles as the Argentines had. Or, come to that, that Taiwanese infantry would be anything like as bad, or as poorly-supplied, as most of the Argentines were.


Also there's a fair difference between a poorly-equipped, poorly-led conscript fighting for a scrap of rock and a largely professional army fighting in defense of their homeland against the Main Opponent they've trained for for sixty years.


I'll leave others to ponder the closeness of this analogy in purely technical, military terms but I can't help but think there are two other 'lessons' from the Malvinas that China ought to think deeply about:
1. The difficulty of imposing a 1982 style news management operation, Ian McDonald and all;
2. The rather central importance of squaring things with Washington


Wouldn't the PLA be playing the Argentinians, with the Americans as the British?


Another thing that strikes you about the Falklands is that San Carlos was an unopposed landing. No preliminary bombardment, some sort of minor scuffle off at Fanning Head, and that's it. Four battalions ashore, no waiting.

Dan makes a good point: but the PLA would have the tremendous advantage of only having to cross about 100 nm of sea, rather than 4000 nm. So having a Task Force at sea might not be so much of a factor. You could do air cover from bases on the mainland - no flat tops required.

Chris Williams

I'm with skidmarx here. In the putative Taiwan War, there is one party trying to project power over several thousand miles in the face of half-decent though technically inferior land based air. The ROC gets to play the intial Royal Marines detachment: somehow I doubt they will get off with no fatalities.


Chris: but is the US really planning to retake Taiwan after a successful Chinese invasion? Because that would be massively difficult.
(For one thing, IIRC Taiwan leans left, geologically speaking; most of the good beaches are on the west coast and the east coast is more cliffs and mountains. This pretty much means that you have to invade from the Strait. Good luck getting your Task Force in there when both sides of the Strait are PLA-occupied.)

Most of the stuff I've read assumes that they will be helping Taiwan defend itself.

Chris Williams

I know, the analogy falls down in this respect. Though it's fun to speculate, I would imagine that the PLAN's interest in 1982 is precisely because it was the most recent air/sea battle in which the sides were reasonably evenly matched.


I'd bow to the obviously superior knowledge of almost everyone else in these parts but I can't help asking myself whether a war between China and the United States would, under any conceivable circumstances, go down in the books as 'the Taiwan War' rather than WW3/The Great Pacific War or some such.

Now I've read opinions which suggest that certain triggers might, just might, force Beijing's hand- if the island declared independence for example - but otherwise surely anything which could even roughly be described as a 'Taiwan War' would first depend on sidelining the Americans and making sure they stayed out of it?

chris y

The analogy is surely with the Penghu archipelago rather than Taiwan as a whole. Somebody correct me, but my understanding was that grabbing the Pescadores was regarded as a lot more realistic in the short term than annexing Taiwan as a whole (frex, the Americans less likely to nuke you, because they don't much care).

So, with Taiwan featuring as the Awful Argies and Beijing as the plucky Brits, and the not in themselves very important islands with the adjacent mineral wealth featuring as the not in themselves very important islands with the adjacent mineral wealth, a story emerges.


Well obviously the vast US debt to China is part of a cunning long term plan to gain enough leverage over the USA that it can't intervene when they take back Taiwan...

Martin Wisse

There's of course always the possibility Chinese generals study the Falklands Wars to convince themselves and their political masters of the folly/dangers of invading Taiwan, rather than as a howto.

Retro Jordan Sale

the most classic case between two determined warring nations involvingthe use of sea, air, and ground forces, with long-range expeditions and close engagements. The war also had heavy casualties including the loss of major warships and fighter jets. It is a case all major powers study. But China is clearly more interested than any other nation in studying this war, presumably for this case’s remarkable resemblance to the Taiwan issue...

British casualties, and the PLA would see itself in the role of the 'British', in the sense that they were doing the definitive invasion, were light by the

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