Forgive me if there's one already, I tried searching for one but couldn't find any. Living in a current international catastrophe has made me interested in imagining world war 3 scenarios again. This is one I was working on now while quarantining.
I won't bring in COVID-19, as personally it's still too soon and it doesn't change the story much.
China's bloodless takeover of Taiwan is complete. The CPC managed a long con that combined growing economic and diplomatic strength to coax the Taiwanese government into accepting its one-China hegemony. The Taiwanese government doesn't want to become an international pariah as it continues to face economic downturns and political manipulations at the hands of CPC pressure.
The Taiwanese people begin protest, outraged that their government could be so easily sold out. They start demanding for the abdication of the current Taiwanese presidency and calling for American intervention.
The CPC does not directly engage in quelling unrest, instead going off of experience and letting the Taiwanese government handle its own people, while secretly sending support in the form of anti-protest equipment, training and instruction.
The CPC expects the US to retaliate little. How could they not based on recent US isolationist policy? Its withdrawals and failures in Afghanistan and Syria, its relatively lax response for Crimea. They expect sanctions but really, how is the US going to sanction China? Mainland China goes for the Taiwanese take-over with great confidence in its success. Nevertheless their military is kept on high-alert. Better safe than sorry.
In the US public, anti-China sentiment reaches a new height. The Taiwanese protests and eventually riots are focused on with much greater emphasis and vitriol than the Hong Kong protests. Strong anti-Chinese rhetoric surmounts the bi-partisan divide. It was a coup, it wasn't a peaceful takeover. This is an American ally akin to Japan or South Korea being swallowed by a new threat. Yellow Peril rhetoric is everywhere across the Anglosphere while the EU and other allies nervously shift in their seats as to what this will entail for them.
The American government views China's takeover of Taiwan gravely. It's a direct attack on the American world order. If the US can't keep Taiwan safe as an ally it'll be a huge blow to its other diplomatic relationships. The US calls on its Allies to form a coalition that will be sent to resecure Taiwan and bring order. Most of the EU decline, viewing it as unnecessary and out of their scope. However countries in the core anglosphere sign up to help, as well as a significant group of south-asian states who view it as an opportunity to finally retaliate against China in the south china sea conflict.
In the meanwhile, the Taiwanese military is in disarray as its torn by the political fragmentation occuring in its country. Pro-CPC and Anti-CPC movements grow with Pro-CPC being far more superior in resources despite most of the population being anti-CPC. Coup attempts happen but fail, military splinter groups form seeking shelter in the interior mountains, forcing China to become more militarily involved in the country's seizure. The current Taiwanese government is now made to fully subdue. China has been under extreme anxiety as they see things escalate beyond what they expected so in order to finally get things over with, they make the Taiwanese government accept mainland Chinese military aid in order to "stabilise" their country. China does this to ensure that the US doesn't try to "stablise" the country first.
In US negotiations with China, the US demands a full withdrawal of CPC troops from Taiwan, but China doesn't balk. Taiwan is just too close to China for it not to have a major influence in its other geopolitical issues. If they withdraw and secede to US demands, then it sets them back decades of geopolitical progress and this is something China can't afford. This is also a chance for them to break out from the US sphere of domination into a world order where they are now at least equal on stage. These negotiations thus breakdown, and their respective governments prepare for further action.
The US, once about to storm in to Taiwan now has to reshape strategy. Nukes are being used as deterrents by both sides, China especially. The US first attempts a proxy war but the nature of the conflict makes it extremely hard to make gains. China has the island on lockdown, and being so close to the mainland makes it nigh impossible to covertly send much aid to the anti-CPC factions. Frustration is mounting in the the US government as the consequences of losing Taiwan begin to show in other business and diplomatic effforts.
Military preparations are made for a full declaration of war on the now pro-CPC government of Taiwan by the coalition, still wanting to avoid direct idea of war with the CPC. The US wants to make this war as much about Taiwan as possible, something China understands and is willing to play along with only so far as to avoid a total nuclear holocaust. But make no mistake, all's fair in love and war, and in a war between the two most powerful states ever to exist, fractures will reach the world's furthest corners.
Everyone worried for the use of nuclear weapons in the Taiwan war. Indeed it was a shock to the world when the Chinese navy-- extremely outgunned-- fired a naval warhead to even the playing field. In the eyes of the CPC, their back was against the wall. The use of nuclear weapons began to become more and more tempting in its naval theater as opposed to a humiliating defeat against a much more experienced and advanced naval enemy.
The tactical nuclear warheads were small and strictly used against coalition navy ships. The coalition was outraged, but in war what more could outrage do? The coalition's war machinery would ramp up significantly, in American public discourse conscription is becoming a serious issue and proposal and military investment is climbing steeply. The coalition at first didn't wish to retaliate against the CPC with their own nuclear weapons, fearing where an escalation may go but eventually it was a weapon they couldn't afford to ignore any more. The tactical nukes worked too well for the CPC who themselves used it sparingly to try and avoid escalation. It wasn't to be. With the continued use of CPC nukes, the coalition would come to fire an extremely powerful nuke near a Chinese naval base or during a battle as a warning and deterrent.
This lead to both sides negotiating on the use of nuclear weaponry. The talks involved Russia who warned that any escalation of a nuclear war by the US against China would lead to Russian involvement but that this condition will only hold if China's use of tactical weaponry doesn't extend into civilian centers.
For the enemies of China and the United States, this new conflict is a godsend. Public focus is placed solely on the conflict. World War 3 is shouted around while pundits predict the entry of Russia into the war, or the Chinese invasion of South Korea. However the war will turn to occur in a much more malignant manner.
Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and a huge swath of African countries suddenly realize that the US gaze is gone with most of its military resources being shifted to face the eastern giant.
Iran was the first to take advantage of the shift in political climate. Annexation of parts of Iraq, and a full Iran-backed coup in Iraq occurs with Iran announcing very loudly that they also have nukes. Other countries don't buy it, and a GCC coalition begins a new front in Iraq and Syria. Israel decides to stay out of the war directly yet still offers aid for this new coalition against Iran. The US also begins a new theatre of operation against Iran, withdrawing its limited amount of troops from Iraq to bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. Turkey adopts a stance of neutrality.
The last thing Russia wants to do is begin a conflict with the EU. Instead, the war brewing in the middle-east gains most of its interest. Syria, Iraq and Iran now in total war require Russian support to make it through, and Russia gives it.
The war in the middle east becomes more destructive than the Syrian civil was. The mass mobilization of armies upends everyone, and the migration crisis that it causes dwarfs any kind in history.
In Africa, Egypt begins operations against Ethiopia to destroy the Nile dam, and regimes that required foreign support and backing to survive start to fall into disarray. Separatist groups, insurgencies both religious and ethnic spread across the continent as conflict spreads conflict. Europe begins to expend its resources into quelling all this brewing unrest as well as involve itself in the war in the middle east. The millions of migrants that threaten to flood into the continent as a consequence of the wars and famines cause fervent anxiety among much of the political elite as this wave of migration will cause more instability than the last one ever did.
So unlike the first migrant crisis, the EU begins to hold a much harder line. Refugee camps are set up in many different centers, all martially managed. The conditions worsen as time goes on and the resources to manage these camps deteriorate. Whole cities come into France, Spain, Italy, and Greece in the span of a month.
In Kashmir, a more ominous story is beginning to unfold. Unlike those involved in the Taiwan theater, India and Pakistan don't have the history or experience of dealing with nuclear diplomacy. As the Kashmir conflict flares, there are worries that nuclear weapons will be used there as well but so long as direct invasion is avoided, the Indian subcontinent is safe.
It wasn't long before the war in Taiwan spilled over.
Both powers had been eyeing Korea with nervous hesitation. Both sides knew that a war in korea would make a largely naval and island conflict into a full-scale land war, bringing them that much closer to Nuclear war. The US had no desire to bring in another nuclear nation into the war but if either country begins losing Taiwan, or if a stalemate is reached, or if either governments believe in escalation, a desperate attempt at another front will start.
Both North and South Korea have already cut ties with each other, following after their allegiances. The North Korean regime is scared. It has lasted decades finding relative self-stability in a post-soviet environment. It's no longer interested in war so much as it is its own survival and this world war threatens it. The North Korean people want war to protect its ally, sure, but the regime doesn't.
The US calls for an invasion of North Korea, and again North Korea specifically. An operation is set in motion to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons and it's relatively successful, North Korea fails to launch any of its nuclear weapons in time. The war in Korea starts with large gains for the allies before China is again able to begin a serious defense, but it isn't until Manchuria until the defense stops the advance and in a counter-attack China again begins its reuse of nuclear weaponry.
The occupation of North Korea had gone far more smoothly than expected. Guerrilla warfare and resistance has barely occurred. Quick arrests are made of North Korean officials who didn't run to China while most other North Koreans either escaped to China or stayed to begin a "denazification" campaign of previous DPRK propaganda. The rest died.
Russia is also watching carefully what's unfolding in its North Korean border.
The use of nuclear weapons by China forces the coalition to adopt a new mode of warfare. Unable to use nuclear weapons directly against Chinese population centers. Anti-Nuclear weapons technology receives significant investment. The arms race brings both sides into styles of war that we can only dream about. The incorporation of technology into weaponry moves from capitalist perversion to pure military necessity, and the weapons that result from the streamlining of progress will baffle us with every breakthrough. For example, the idea of space weaponry is involved again. Imagine watching from your home as earth to space missiles soar above to clear any foreign satellites that are either unidentified or identified with the enemy.
And that's all I've written. I'm not going for complete accuracy, it's not a research study or anything just how I imagine world war 3 playing out. What are your world war 3 scenarios?