What If . . . Alternatives to a Chinese Military Invasion of Taiwan


With the 20th Party Congress approaching and Xi Jinping seeking an unprecedented third term, it is important to explore the full range of actions Beijing could take to coerce Taiwan over the next 10 years. History provides a range of historical cases that suggest alternatives to a full-scale invasion.

As part of its On Future War series, the CSIS International Security Program adapted six historical cases of coercion China could use to target Taiwan short of a costly amphibious invasion. The report looks back to look ahead, using the logic of historical cases ranging from the 1948 Berlin Airlift to the 1980s Tanker War in the Arabian Gulf to identify ways and means Beijing could use to compel Taiwan. The resulting range of scenarios point toward an urgent need to develop new escalation management frameworks supporting the new integrated deterrence strategy.

This report was made possible through generous support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Benjamin Jensen
Senior Fellow, Future War, Gaming, and Strategy, and International Security Program
Riley McCabe
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant, Transnational Threats Project

Adrian Bogart

Former Research Assistant, International Security Program