Threats to Taiwan’s Security from China’s Military Modernization

Threats to Taiwan’s Security from China’s Military Modernization

by Paul Huang
January 6, 2022

This essay assesses the principal security threats that China’s military modernization poses to Taiwan, the potential responses by Taiwan, and opportunities for cooperation with the U.S.



Security is only as strong as its weakest link. In the case of Taiwan’s defense against a potential attack from China, the loss of air power following a missile attack is the single point of failure that would likely cause a general collapse of Taiwan’s overall defenses. To mitigate this threat, Taiwan must rethink and reformulate its defense strategy by investing in survivable platforms that can sustain the island’s defense for a meaningful period of time even in the face of a modern and ever-expanding People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

  • Taiwan’s air force, with only conventional fighter jets, would likely be knocked out of action at the onset of a conflict with China as the few available runways on the small island are bombarded and paralyzed by PLA ballistic missiles and other long-range munitions.
  • Due to Taiwan’s own limitations, yielding air and sea space completely to China is not an option. The loss of air power is expected to lead to a cascading failure of Taiwan’s military defenses in the air, the sea, and across the theater.
  • To prevent a quick collapse and capitulation, Taiwan’s defense planners must find ways to preserve some form of air power.
  • A fleet of short takeoff and landing aircraft, such as the F-35B, could improve the currently unfavorable offense-defense balance. Despite many difficulties involved, Taiwan and the U.S. should consider this as the most viable option for building Taiwan’s future force structure.

Paul Huang is a Research Fellow at the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.