IT’S the stuff of nightmares for every Western military commander and politician – China seizes Taiwan in a surprise attack that threatens to trigger a World War Three clash and a global economic Dark Age.
With the West’s eyes fixed on the war in Ukraine, ruthless strongman Xi Jinping orders warplanes, drones, battleships and troops to overwhelm the democratic isle.
Sun Man Nick Parker on Kinmen Island with the Chinese city of Xiamen across the water[/caption]
Thousands die as Taiwan’s American-led defenders are hammered by waves of state-of-the-art stealth fighters and hypersonic missiles.
China’s stunning triumph seals its position as the dominant power on earth as it grabs cutting-edge Taiwanese microchip factories vital to every Western economy.
And stock markets go into meltdown within hours, thrusting every family on earth into the grip of a global depression.
The threat of such a doomsday scenario is real, and is sparking serious concern in the West.
Britain boosted its defence spending by £5billion this week, warning that Chinese aggression posed an “epoch-defining challenge” and was the biggest threat to the UK economy.
But defence chiefs fear it may already be too late to stop President Xi unleashing a Pearl Harbor-style surprise before the end of the year.
And the danger was laid bare yesterday as The Sun visited the front line at Taiwan-controlled Kinmen Island, just two miles from the Chinese coast.
Explosions and gunfire could be heard as Taiwanese troops trained at secret military installations hidden from public view along the coastline.
Miles of spiked steel sea defences pointing towards China lined beaches ready to repel an amphibious landing.
Chinese drones have been taunting troops defending the island in recent months as spy ships disguised as trawlers lurked offshore.
The strategy echoes Vladimir Putin’s behaviour before he ordered Russian forces into Ukraine last year.
Dr Lin Ching-Yi, a legislator on Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, told The Sun: “They are exactly the same tactics as Russia’s before the Ukraine invasion.
“An information war sews doubt and interferes with the democratic process and we now have serious fears that military action will follow.
“Xi and Putin are both old men who want to make history and leave a lasting legacy. If Xi wants to achieve the unification (of China and Taiwan) that he has promised during his lifetime, that could mean war very soon. We need to be ready.”
Fears of an attack have also risen on Taiwan’s main island more than 100 miles to the east.
But Kinmen is Taiwan’s most threatened territory — an isolated isle in the shadow of the skyscrapered Chinese city of Xiamen across a narrow sea channel.
The threat is part of everyday life for the 130,000 residents of Kinmen — which was attacked by China twice in the 1950s, and the island’s elaborate invasion defences along its coastline and bunkered military bases remain.
Islander Ahguei Wu, a 53-year-old engineer, said: “They will go straight for Taiwan’s main island if they attack again — and I fear we will not be ready if it happens soon.
“But I don’t think the Chinese will attack Kinmen next time because there is nothing they want here now, no microchip factories.
“Our government has increased national service and we have weapons from America but China is strong — and it may not be enough.”
Kinmen taxi driver Shlie-Hsiang, 53, whose father fought the communists, said: “Everyone here believes they will bypass us if there is another invasion. We are surrounded by reminders of war but life goes on.”
Chinese nationalists took refuge in Taiwan and smaller islands including Kinmen in 1949 after fleeing communist forces after the nation’s civil war.
The communists have claimed the islands ever since but Taiwan’s government — despite having no international recognition — embraced democracy to become a high-tech titan.
Its cutting-edge microchip “foundries” now produce one in every five chips in every electronic gadget on earth, and it is this success which has emboldened Xi to eye the possibility of total control of the microchip market — and world domination.
He is watching the West’s response to his ally Putin’s Ukraine invasion before making his next move.
But Western military chiefs now fear he may strike within months to catch Taiwan and America napping and seize an unassailable advantage.
A report by America’s influential Pacific Forum research institute concluded that victory for China’s forces would be “devastating”.
Taiwan expert Ian Easton, who helped to produce the report, entitled The World After Taiwan’s Fall, outlined two “nightmare scenarios”.
In the first, Taiwan falls meekly without US or Allied intervention — and in the second, the island is stormed and occupied by China.
A full-scale invasion force would seize US weapon systems on the island and make a beeline for Taiwan’s microchip plants.
In the second scenario, Taiwan falls after thousands of US Marines land on the island but surrender after suffering 50 per cent casualties, and most of the US Pacific Fleet is sunk.
And the West learns — the hard way — that China’s space-age military is far more powerful than Russia’s poorly-supplied forces in Ukraine.
Chinese Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighters would lead the charge, supporting H-6 bombers which unleash state-of-the-art YJ-21 hypersonic missiles.
The US has admitted it currently has no way of stopping hypersonic missiles — which fly at ten times the speed of sound, or 7,000mph — from decimating its vital aircraft carriers.
Mr Easton added: “This would be a traumatic — and potentially catastrophic — event in the history of American foreign policy.
“Nuclear arms racing would start and could easily spiral out of control. The likelihood of World War Three breaking out could climb higher than anything previously seen.”
As fighting escalates, Japan would be sucked into the widening conflict as Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear-armed North Korea enlists China’s help to attack pro-West South Korea.
And the global economic impact would be enormous, as trade and industry across the world implodes.
China manufactures a third of the world’s goods, and war would destroy US corporate giants such as Apple and a swathe of big Western firms.
Mr Easton said: “It is possible that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would cause a 21st-century version of the Great Depression.
“Globalisation would probably cease to exist as the world splintered into hostile trade and security blocs.”
US fighter bombers would need 1,000 to 1,200 long-range anti-ship missiles to “destroy the Chinese navy”, according to US Pentagon analysts — but they have just 250.
And unless production is stepped up, it will take until 2035 to stock up.
Xi has warned that reunification with Taiwan will happen by force if necessary, with predictions that his forces will be battle ready by 2027.
He recently ordered military spending to rocket by 7.2 per cent this year, to a staggering £186billion.
UK defence analyst Paul Beaver said: “America, Britain and the West need to wake up to the imminent threat to Taiwan. The established wisdom is that China will be ready to invade by 2027 — but history tells us to be wary of a surprise attack.
“The bottom line is that war in Taiwan would make the Ukraine conflict look like a playground spat — these are dangerous times.”
Islanders ready to battle China
TAIWANESE fighters who joined Ukraine’s forces in battling the Russian invasion are returning home in case China attacks their country.
Tour guide Chuang Yu-Wei, 52, flew to Europe days after Vladimir Putin’s forces attacked Ukraine last year and survived six months of bloody trench warfare.
Fighters from left, Yu-Wei, Tony and Ling Lee with the Ukrainian flag[/caption]
He said: “The first day I got there I was sent into battle north of Kyiv with a rifle, one grenade and just 60 bullets.
“Shells and bullets were flying both ways but we fought hard and held the line.
“I’m now sharing my knowledge of how to fight and save wounded comrades with first aid. War like Ukraine’s will come to us, we must be ready.”
Cheng Ling Lee, 35, put his four years’ experience with Taiwan’s army and the French Foreign Legion to use in Ukraine from last April to December.
He saw action in the city of Kharkiv and said: “I didn’t feel anything when I killed men who were trying to kill me.
“I’m a trained soldier so it felt like work, nothing more. But now I’m ready to fight for my own country. If there is war here we will resist like Ukraine.”
Butcher Tony Lu, 34, was trained to use rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons and is now sharing his knowledge after a three-month frontline stint in Ukraine.
He said: “It was terrifying trying to fight and stay alive under constant shellfire and I lost seven friends while I was there.
“The most important thing is not to be afraid of war and to be ready to fight like the Ukrainians if you want to stay free.”
The trio met yesterday at Taipei’s National Defence Shooting Education Centre, where hundreds of local volunteers are learning military skills.
Trainer Richard Limon, a former US Marine, said: “I’m teaching people aged 17 to 70 to shoot. There’s a great determination to learn to fight.”