My thanks to a commenter who provided links to a recent RAND study of a hypothetical US-China conflict over Taiwan. The Air Force Times has a summary:

The democratic Republic of China, commonly called Taiwan — which America backs and the communist People’s Republic of China considers part of its territory — frequently irritates Chinese leaders with calls for greater independence from the mainland. But while the American military mulls its options, Chinese missiles hit runways, fuel lines, barracks and supply depots at U.S. Air Force bases in Japan and South Korea. Long-range warheads destroy American satellites, crippling Air Force surveillance and communication networks. A nuclear fireball erupts high above the Pacific Ocean, ionizing the atmosphere and scrambling radars and radio feeds.

This is China’s anti-U.S. sucker punch strategy.

It’s designed to strike America’s military suddenly, stunning and stalling the Air Force more than any other service. In a script written by Chinese military officers and defense analysts, a bruised U.S. military, beholden to a sheepish American public, puts up a small fight before slinking off to avoid full-on war.

This strategic outlook isn’t hidden in secret Chinese documents. It’s printed in China’s military journals and textbooks. And for much of last year, Mandarin literates and defense experts — working for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Rand Corp. on an Air Force contract — combed through a range of Chinese military sources.

They emerged with “Entering the Dragon’s Lair,” a lengthy report on how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would likely confront the U.S. military and how the Air Force in particular can brace itself. In many cases, the theoretical enemy nation China’s officers discuss in these scenarios isn’t explicitly named but is unmistakably the U.S.

“These aren’t war plans,” said report co-author Roger Cliff, a former Defense Department strategist and China military specialist who spoke to Air Force Times from Taiwan. “This is the military talking to itself. It’s not designed for foreigners or even China’s general public to read.”

In other words, China’s military thinks it can make a surprise attack on US bases — on US territory and Japanese territory! — and then the US will stumble around blindly and sheepishly let them have Taiwan. And somehow Japan will mysteriously not retaliate, and neither will South Korea. Say what? That’s so dumb, I have some trouble believing it. Yet the recent Kitty Hawk affair, when the military and the ministries were on totally different pages, lends some credence to the idea… Paul M. Fussell once observed of World War II:

“For most Americans, the war was about revenge against the Japanese, and the reason the European part had to be finished first was so that maximum attention could be devoted to the real business, the absolute torment and destruction of the Japanese. The slogan was conspicuously Remember Pearl Harbor. Nobody ever shouted or sang Remember Poland.”

Does history repeat itself? Read the Air Force summary:

China’s experts concede its army would lose a head-on fight, with one senior colonel comparing such a scenario to “throwing an egg against a rock.” Instead, the Chinese would attempt what Rand calls an “anti-access” strategy: slowing the deployment of U.S. forces to the Pacific theater, damaging operations within the region and forcing the U.S. to fight from a distance.

That was the Japanese plan too — defeat the US Navy in the opening punch or a later decisive battle, then use diplomacy to end the war. Only the US didn’t play ball — it opted for unconditional surrender and the destruction of the Japanese empire. What do you think will happen if China launches a surprise attack on US bases.

Good thing China is a force for stability, eh?

To read the entire document, the links are on the RAND website.