Taiwan is a self-governing island that Beijing regards as a separate province.

Beijing has said it would pursue unification through force if necessary, and Taiwan's military has been increasing its budget and training in order to fight off such an assault.

Scores of fighter jets and dozens of warships have been added to the Chinese military. If it invaded Taiwan, it would face a scenario where high-end weapons would be of little advantage.

'An equalizer'

Taiwan marines urban combat warfare
Taiwanese marines during an urban-warfare drill at Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, August 27, 2013.
Ashley Pon/Getty Images

Most of Taiwan's 23 million people live in several major cities where a war for the island would be won. Taiwan has the advantage of defense, which its military is betting on, but China has superiority on almost every level.

The Chinese communist troops will be invading and landing in coastal towns. The fighting will move into more populated areas and eventually into mountainous villages. Any future battle to protect Taiwan will be an urban warfare, according to an instructor at the Taiwan Army Infantry School.

One of the most challenging military operations is urban warfare. The city streets and alleys are easy to barricade. To capture a city, a military has to be strong.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine shows how expensive urban warfare can be. Russian forces have been trying to capture the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol for weeks, but they have been defeated by defenders with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.

Taiwan Army
Taiwanese soldiers take part in a military exercises in Hualien, eastern Taiwan, January 30, 2018.
Associated Press

China's military is taking notes from Russia's operations in Ukraine to inform its own plans for a potential invasion of Taiwan, but fighting in urban environments will remain costly for even the most technologically advanced military.

Urban warfare is like water. When you put a bunch of city blocks in the equation, you and the opposition are on a more even scale. A US Army Special Forces officer, who is on active duty and requested anonymity, told Insider that he sees any technological advantage that you have devalue.

The officer said that the advantages of defense are increased in an urban environment.

The Russians have been attacking the Ukrainians for weeks. The officer told Insider that the Russians lack our precision-strike capabilities, which could explain why they resort to indiscriminate shelling.

There is more freedom of movement within the city for the defenders. Heavy casualties can be inflicted on the attackers at times and places of their choosing.

Chinook helicopter carries Taiwan flag over Taipei
A Chinook helicopter carries a Taiwanese flag over Taipei during a rehearsal for National Day celebrations, October 7, 2021.

The skills of regular infantry are not as good as those of top-tier special-operations forces.

The officer said that Taiwanese forces could hold out for a good amount of time. They are well-prepared and know where the enemy will be.

Should China invade Taiwan, it would have to make sure that it can defeat the defenders in a few days or that it can blockade Taiwan to prevent outside intervention for an extended period.

The Chinese might win at the end of the day because of their sheer numbers, but it won't be easy and it will cost them a lot. The officer told Insider that the best deterrence Taiwan could ask for is unfolding in Ukraine.

A defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran, and a graduate of the University of Baltimore, are some of the things that Stavros Atlamazoglou is.