By Categories: FP & IR

Context–  Recently Taiwan has invoked the ‘porcupine strategy’ to protect itself if China attacks.

What is a porcupine strategy?

  • The “porcupine doctrine”, which was proposed in 2008 by US Naval War College research professor William S Murray, is a strategy of asymmetric warfare focused on fortifying a weak state’s defences to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses rather than taking on its strengths.
  • It is about building defences that would ensure that Taiwan could be attacked and damaged but not defeated, at least without unacceptably high costs and risks.

Experts have identified three defensive layers in the porcupine approach.  They are:

  • The outer layer is about intelligence and reconnaissance to ensure defence forces are fully prepared.
  • Behind this come plans for guerrilla warfare at sea with aerial support from sophisticated aircraft provided by the US.
  • The innermost layer relies on the geography and demography of the island.
  • The ultimate objective of this doctrine is that of surviving and assimilating an aerial offensive.
  • While the outer surveillance layer would work to prevent a surprise attack, the second one would make it difficult for China to land its troops on the island in the face of a guerrilla campaign at sea using agile, missile-armed small ships, supported by helicopters and missile launchers.

Need for such a strategy?

  • China enjoys overwhelming military superiority over Taiwan
    • China has developed far more accurate and precise weapon systems to target Taiwan and has been vocal about its intention to “reunite” the island with the mainland.
  • New strategy of limited nuclear first use
    • It would enable Chinese leaders to deter US intervention in a war over Taiwan.
  • Chinese leaders likely set 2020 as a key milestone for the PLA to develop the capabilities needed to invade Taiwan.
    • To achieve this goal, for nearly two decades the PLA has systematically planned, trained, and built the forces it believes are required to invade the island.


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