What could happen if China invades Taiwan?

Military flyovers from China and tough talk in Washington have made a possible conflict over Taiwan feel more real in the past month. That is true for Chen Yi-guang, a retired finance professional.

US-Taiwan relations

The Taipei dweller and his family have casually deliberated overstocking on food and water. They could flee if attacked, he said, but flights might all be cancelled. “There’s always the possibility of invasion,” said Chen, 52.

Escape, survival and rebellion with aid from Western allies are among the scenarios typically imagined if a sudden Chinese occupation that costs Taiwan its autonomy occurs. The former British colony Hong Kong experienced a sea change with the implementation of the National Security Law in 2020 that many Taiwanese say is too close to home.

“Taiwanese have seen what happened to Hong Kong and they’re very scared of that,” said Shane Lee, a retired political science professor from Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan.

More than half of Taiwan’s residents combined want to keep the status quo indefinitely or decide later on the question of unification with China or independence according to a survey by the Election Study Center, National Chengchi University. Only 1.5% of the people surveyed wanted reunification “as soon as possible.”

Old embers, new sparks

China claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island 160 kilometers away and has not dropped the threat of force, if needed, to capture it. The two sides have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party retreated to the island after losing the mainland to Mao Zedong’s Communists.

Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed earlier in the month to pursue “peaceful” unification with Taiwan.