Defending the Strait: Taiwan’s Naval Strategy in the 21st Century

The Taiwan Navy can no longer keep up with a Chinese military that commands vast material preponderance, both quantitative and, increasingly, qualitative. It should no longer try. Nevertheless, the strategic vision set forth by the Republic of China Navy (ROCN), or Taiwan Navy, aims at “sea control” in the waters adjoining Taiwan. Such supremacy is elusive following years of robust economic growth that enable Beijing to boost the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) budget by double digits every year. In short, the balance of maritime power favors Beijing and will continue to do so. Sea control increasingly lies beyond Taipei’s grasp. While sea control eludes the ROCN, sea power does not. “Sea denial”—the naval strategy of the weaker contender—promises to let Taipei ride out a Chinese onslaught for long enough to matter. Prosecuting a sea-denial strategy demands that the ROCN forego its desire for sea control and break with its longstanding approach to naval strategy.

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