Lawmakers war-game conflict with China, hoping to deter one

It’s April 22, 2027, and 72 hours into a first-strike Chinese attack on Taiwan and the U.S. military response. Already, the toll on all sides is staggering.

It was a war game, but one with a serious purpose and high-profile players: members of the House select committee on China. The conflict unfolded on Risk board game-style tabletop maps and markers under a giant gold chandelier in the House Ways and Means Committee room.

The exercise explored American diplomatic, economic and military options if the United States and China were to reach the brink of war over Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own. The exercise played out one night last week and was observed by The Associated Press. It was part of the committee’s in-depth review of U.S. policies toward China as lawmakers, especially in the Republican-led House, focus on tensions with President Xi Jinping’s government.

In the war game, Beijing’s missiles and rockets cascade down on Taiwan and on U.S. forces as far away as Japan and Guam. Initial casualties include hundreds, possibly thousands, of U.S. troops. Taiwan’s and China’s losses are even higher.

Discouragingly for Washington, alarmed and alienated allies in the war game leave Americans to fight almost entirely alone in support of Taiwan.

And forget about a U.S. hotline call to Xi or one of his top generals to calm things down — not happening, at least not under this role-playing scenario.

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