Taiwan’s ‘porcupine strategy’


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    • Recently, China launched aggressive and unprecedented military exercises near Taiwan in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island that China claims as part of its territory.

    About porcupine strategy

    • Overall Defence Concept 
      • It was adopted by Taiwan in 2017 when Lee Hsi-Ming, then-chief of the Taiwanese military forces, referred to it as the “Overall Defence Concept” (ODC).
    • Asymmetric warfare 
      • The “porcupine doctrine”, which was proposed in 2008 by US Naval War College research professor William S Murray, is a strategy of asymmetric warfare focused on fortifying a weak state’s defences to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses rather than taking on its strengths.
      • It is about building defences that would ensure that Taiwan could be attacked and damaged but not defeated, at least without unacceptably high costs and risks.
    • Three defensive layers in the porcupine approach
      • The outer layer is about intelligence and reconnaissance to ensure defence forces are fully prepared.
      • Behind this come plans for guerrilla warfare at sea with aerial support from sophisticated aircraft provided by the US.
      • The innermost layer relies on the geography and demography of the island.
    • Objective
      • The ultimate objective of this doctrine is that of surviving and assimilating an aerial offensive well enough to organise a wall of fire that will prevent the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from successfully invading.

     Need for such a strategy?

    • China enjoys overwhelming military superiority over Taiwan
      • China has developed far more accurate and precise weapon systems to target Taiwan and has been vocal about its intention to “reunite” the island with the mainland.
    • New strategy of limited nuclear first use
      • It would enable Chinese leaders to deter US intervention in a war over Taiwan.
    • Chinese leaders likely set 2020 as a key milestone for the PLA to develop the capabilities needed to invade Taiwan
      • To achieve this goal, for nearly two decades the PLA has systematically planned, trained, and built the forces it believes are required to invade the island.