Should Taiwan be sweating?
According to media reports China will double the number of its Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Divisions (AMID) from two to four. Initially, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fielded two AMIDs, one stationed in Guangzhou, the other in the Nanjing Military Region, with a total number of about 30,000 men. Now total manpower in the AMIDs will be around 52,000 – 60,000. These new amphibious forces are meant to complement the roughly 20,000 strong elite PLA Marine Corps in future conflicts over the East and South China seas as well as Taiwan, although the PLA Marine Corps and the AMIDs still lack a joint command system.
In comparison to the PLA Marine Corps, the AMIDs are mostly suitable for conventional large-scale amphibious assaults, such as would occur in a full-scale invasion of Taiwan. However, as a report by the U.S. Department of Defense on military and security developments in China notes: “Large-scale amphibious invasion is one of the most complicated and difficult military operations the PLA might pursue in a cross Strait contingency. Success would depend upon air and sea superiority, rapid buildup and sustainment of supplies on shore, and uninterrupted support. An attempt to invade Taiwan would strain China’s armed forces and invite international intervention …. China does not appear to be building the conventional amphibious lift required to support such a campaign.”
The report continues:
“The PLA is capable of accomplishing various amphibious operations short of a full-scale invasion of Taiwan. With few overt military preparations beyond routine training, China could launch an invasion of small Taiwan-held islands in the South China Sea such as Pratas or Itu Aba. A PLA invasion of a medium-sized, better defended offshore island such as Matsu or Jinmen is within China’s capabilities.”