China’s military could isolate Taiwan, cripple its economy, and make the democratic island succumb to the will of Beijing’s ruling Communist Party without ever firing a shot, a prominent think tank warns, Report informs via CNN.

Fears the Communist Party might make good on its promise to one day take control of Taiwan, by force if necessary, have been heightened in recent years by Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s increasingly bellicose actions towards the self-ruled island.

China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only added to those fears.

In such a scenario, analysts and military strategists have long focused on two key options available to China – a full-scale invasion or a military blockade.

But a Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), warns there is a third way, one that will make it far harder for the United States and other like-minded countries to counter: Quarantine.

Using “gray zone” tactics – actions just below what might be considered acts of war – the China Coast Guard, its so-called maritime militia and various police and maritime safety agencies could initiate a full or partial quarantine of Taiwan, possibly cutting off access to its ports and stopping vital supplies like energy from reaching the island’s 23 million people, a newly released report from CSIS says.

The naval, air and ground components of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest military force, might play only auxiliary and support roles, authors Bonny Lin, Brian Hart, Matthew Funaiole, Samantha Lu and Truly Tinsley write.

“China has significantly increased pressure on Taiwan in recent years, stoking fears that tensions could erupt into outright conflict. Much attention has been paid to the threat of an invasion, but Beijing has options besides invading to coerce, punish, or annex Taiwan,” the report says.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore earlier this month, Chinese Defense Minister Adm. Dong Jun warned those who support any moves for Taiwan independence will “end up in self-destruction.”

“We will take resolute actions to curb Taiwan independence and make sure such a plot never succeeds,” said Dong, speaking through a translator, while slamming “external interfering forces” for selling arms and having “illegal official contacts” with Taiwan.

Beijing’s military and economic intimidation of Taiwan, a highly developed free-market economy, has grown much more pronounced under Xi.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the island as its own, despite never having controlled it, and has vowed to “reunify” with it, by force if necessary.

But the CSIS report says Beijing has strong options that could not only keep the PLA out of the fight but could actually put the island administration or its supporters like the United States in the role of initiators of military conflict to preserve Taiwan’s autonomy.

The report notes that the China Coast Guard – like most coast guards around the world – is considered a law-enforcement agency. This means it can stop and regulate shipping around the island in what is termed a quarantine, which differs from a blockade.

“A quarantine (is) a law enforcement–led operation to control maritime or air traffic within a specific area while a blockade is foremost military in nature,” the report says.

International law considers a blockade an act of war, experts say.

“A quarantine led by China’s coast guard is not a declaration of war against Taiwan,” the report says, and would put the US in a difficult position, its authors warn.

Washington is legally required – under the Taiwan Relations Act – to provide the island with the means to defend itself, and it supplies it with defensive weaponry.

US President Joe Biden has gone further than the legal requirement, saying repeatedly he would use American troops to protect Taiwan, a warning that appeared to deviate from Washington’s previous stance of “strategic ambiguity” and one that the White House officials have walked back.

But if US military ships or aircraft intervened in what China says is a law enforcement operation, the US could be seen as initiating military hostilities.

The report puts the China Coast Guard numbers at 150 ocean-going vessels and 400 smaller ones, like the PLA Navy, the world’s largest force in terms of fleet size. Beijing has hundreds of more vessels in its Maritime Safety Agency and maritime militia, fishing boats integrated into China’s military and law enforcement services.

Taiwan’s coast guard, with only 10 ocean-going ships and about 160 smaller ones, lacks the numbers to push back a quarantine effort, the report says.