Richard Bush and Michael O’Hanlon offer the following guidelines “that should inform Chinese and American leaders if they found themselves in the early stages of a military conflict” over Taiwan in their forthcoming book, A War Like No Other: The Truth About China’s Challenge to America:
- Not to expand the geographic scope of any U.S.-PRC fight beyond Taiwan’s immediate vicinity, with a particular effort to avoid attacks on mainland China, Japan, and Guam (or the territorial waters surrounding them).
- Not to escalate to general conventional war (with possible attacks on command and control sites or other facilities near Beijing, Honolulu, San Diego, and so on).
- Not to fire (even conventionally) upon the other major power’s nuclear forces.
- Not to ready nuclear weapons for use.
- Not to use nuclear weapons in any way, even against ships or isolated land bases or (via high-altidude bursts) against electronics.
As should be clear from the nature of the discussion, the authors, despite the title, don’t actually believe that China’s “challenge to America” is especially profound. Rather, they worry that China might “challenge” America by seeking to exercize de facto control over the entire extent of China’s de jure territory.
UPDATE: I’m not saying it’s a bad idea to try to preserve Taiwanese autonomy from the PRC, which is certainly a complicated issue (see here for the case for abandonmnet). Nevertheless, this simply isn’t an instance of a Chinese challenge to America (we derive no tangible benefits whatsoever from Taiwanese autonomy). There’s a Chinese challenge to Taiwan and the possibility of an American challenge to Beijing on behalf of Taiwan.