China and the island of Taiwan have been going through a phase of heightened tension since the beginning of August after the visit of the US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on the 2nd, to Taipei.
How do their war arsenals compare in the case of a hypothetical armed conflict?
Mainland China’s superiority is immense, as can be seen in the charts below — although at the moment, according to analysts, we are apparently not on the brink of a conflict in the region (read more below):
Infographic shows comparison of forces between China and Taiwan — Photo: Arte/g1
International military analysts believe that a possible direct attack from China would be able to destroy more than half of Taiwan’s armaments in a matter of hours with prior planning that targeted the island’s air and sea bases.
As it was a confrontation that would take place in the Taiwan Strait (see the map below), the most relevant equipment would be guided missiles, planes and ships.
The Chinese have more than 10 types of combat vessels, from submarines to drone carriers (the world’s first), for example, most equipped with the 3M22 Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile.
Infographic shows the main Chinese weapons available in its arsenal — Photo: Arte/g1
Beijing does not recognize the island of 24 million people as a state, and is looking for ways to expand its influence and even take control of the territory.
China’s law requires the country to act in the face of any imminent threat to its territorial integrity. This arrangement is known by the name of “One China”.
At any time, if Beijing considers that its territory is threatened, the constitution provides for the possibility of intervening militarily in the region.
China conducts missile-firing exercises off Taiwan’s east coast
Chinese President Xi Jinping during an event on June 30, 2022 — Photo: Selim Chtayti/Pool via REUTERS
This, however, is not likely at the moment. General Mark Milley, the top US military official, told the BBC in July that “there are no indications or signs” that a Chinese attack on Taiwan is imminent.
However, he warned that China “is clearly developing a capability” to attack, adding that the US “watches very carefully”.
“China is trying to warn the US and Taiwan against taking additional measures that challenge Chinese boundaries,” Bonnie Glaser, Asia Program director at the German Marshall Fund US, told Al Jazeera.
“The US and many other countries have their own ‘one China’ policies and they don’t accept the ‘one China’ principle of China,” she said on social media.
Military and demographic superiority
In addition to having more resources to invest in its military, China has vastly larger territory and population than Taiwan. While Taiwan has approximately 23 million inhabitants, China has 60 times more people in its territory (approximately 1.4 billion).
This is reflected in the number of active units within the country’s armed forces. According to a BBC survey based on “The Millitary Balance 2022” and data from the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies), China has more than 2 million troops in action, while Taiwan has only 169,000.
Despite being less populous, Taiwan has more than three times as many reservists as China. However, in the event of supposed China’s swift action, these reservists could not immediately help in the fight.
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China and Taiwan have been separated since 1949, when Mao Zedong’s Communist troops defeated the Nationalists, who took refuge on the island.
The Chinese consider the island one of their historic provinces, but do not control the territory.
The day before the start of the war in Ukraine, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “Taiwan is not Ukraine and has always been an inalienable part of China”.
The Chinese government is opposed to any contact between representatives of Taiwan and those of other countries. China’s government has increased military and diplomatic pressure against the island since the 2016 election of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who is a pro-Taiwan independence policy.