According to a prominent think tank, Taiwan is likely to defeat a Chinese invasion if the US comes to the island’s defence, but such a victory would come at a “enormous” cost, including the loss of tens of thousands of lives and damage to Washington’s global position.

In a report (PDF) released on Monday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) stated that the high costs strongly argue for avoiding war with China, and it urged the US and Taiwan to immediately strengthen military deterrence.

They discovered that the invasion was always preceded by a Chinese bombardment, which destroyed Taiwan’s navy and air force within the first few hours of hostilities. Following that, the Chinese navy encircled the island as tens of thousands of soldiers crossed the Taiwan Strait in a mix of military amphibious craft and airborne troops landing behind beachheads.

According to the CSIS, Taiwan was able to defeat China in the majority of scenarios. The willingness of its people to fight was critical to Taiwan’s victory.

The report warned that the cost of such a conflict would be “high and sobering in all iterations,” predicting “tremendous” losses not only for Taiwan and the US, but also for Japan and China.

“The US typically lost hundreds of aircraft, two aircraft carriers, and up to two dozen other ships in four weeks of fighting,” Cancian said. “Guam’s bases were destroyed. The Taiwanese economy was severely harmed. Japan was frequently dragged into war.”

“China also suffered terrible losses, frequently involving more than 100 warships and tens of thousands of soldiers killed, wounded, or captured,” he added. “Such a failure could jeopardise the Chinese Communist Party’s hold on power.”