Impact of China-Taiwan War: Cut underseas data cables, blocked global sea lanes

FPI / August 31, 2022

In the event of a war between China and Taiwan, undersea cables which carry Internet and telephone traffic could be cut and global shipping would likely be significantly disrupted, a U.S. think tank said in an Aug. 29 report.

The report by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center said that, as part of an attack on Taiwan, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could cut undersea cables or attack landing stations on land to disrupt both civilian and military data and communications.

Ships move through the Taiwan Strait as seen from the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, the closest point in mainland China to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan in southeastern China’s Fujian Province on Aug. 5, 2022. / AP Photo / Ng Han Guan

Taiwan also is a central stopping point for trans-oceanic undersea cables.

The report said Taiwan is connected to 15 undersea fiber optic cables that come ashore at three on-shore stations in Taiwan.

“These landing stations connect high-capacity cables in which U.S. technology companies have made significant investment,” the report said. “For instance, the Pacific Light Cable Network is owned by Google and Meta and became ready for service in January 2022.”

Undersea cables are not clearly protected under international law, making them vulnerable targets in a conflict.

The effects of a conflict or Chinese blockade of Taiwan would have a huge impact on the U.S. economy, the report said.

“The potential effects of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan on the U.S. economy are far greater than those of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the report said. “Container shipments to and from major ports in the region, as well as digital flows, would be at direct risk.”

The report is based on an open-source analysis of Chinese data revealing hundreds of potential targets, including both military facilities and key digital infrastructure such as submarine cable landing stations, noted security correspondent Bill Gertz in a report for The Washington Times.

In this week’s Dossier report, cites independent journalist Steve Rodan as noting that, in the event of an invasion of Taiwan, China “would block the Gulf of Aden and much of the Red Sea. That would isolate the U.S. naval presence in the South China Sea and prevent reinforcements from arriving to the Strait of Taiwan. At that point, Washington would have a choice of either fighting China throughout the world or limit the conflict and quietly leave the strait. It’s a gamble that leads the agenda of President Xi Jinping, who seeks another term.”

Yemen sits on the southwestern side of the Arabian Peninsula. The Yemeni coast covers the Gulf and Red Sea, with the choke-point at Bab El Mandeb.

“In other words, control of the Yemeni coast could stop U.S. Navy ships in their tracks, whether from the Indian Ocean or Mediterranean Sea,” Rodan noted. “Yemen’s strategic location is what drives Beijing. It is the same strategy that has led to a Chinese presence in the Panama Canal and Suez Canal. And all of this is aimed at the United States.”

The communist regime in Beijing “envisions the conquest of Taiwan and elimination of the U.S. military presence from the South China Sea. In early August, China tested these plans in its massive naval exercise — more than 100 attack aircraft and 10 ships — that focused on speed, interoperability and firepower,” Rodan wrote.

The Mercatus Center report warns that the PLA has “planned extensively” for an invasion of Taiwan, which is located about 100 miles off the Chinese mainland coast.

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