Friday, August 19, 2022

War over Taiwan may be imminent as China's domestic problems balloon out of control


A whole raft of economic bad news is coming out of China right now.  I'm sure you've read something of it in the mainstream news media, but a lot of Americans haven't realized how deeply the rot has set in.  Try any of these headlines for more information.

An Internet search will produce many more such articles.

The problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is that it dare not lose control of the internal situation.  If people come to believe that the CCP doesn't actually care about them at all, but only seeks to control and exploit them for the Party's own interests, it may actually lose control of parts of the country;  and if that happens, where it might end is anybody's guess.  It's the CCP's nightmare at any time, but particularly now, as that country's economy continues to transition from massive exports (now imperiled by Covid-19, supply chain snafus, collapse in demand as nations spend scarce foreign reserves on food rather than consumer products, etc.) to trying to generate massive internal consumption, to create an internal market for what it used to export.  Hence the call (linked above) to buy more than one property - something like 80% of China's consumer economy is tied to property, and if that falters, immense sums of money loaned to developers and builders will fall into default, imperiling the country's entire banking system.

The CCP can undoubtedly crack down on dissent, and is already doing so in many ways;  but the stresses on Chinese society, made much worse by uncompromising, zero-tolerance Covid-19 lockdowns, are growing dangerous.  That's why the Chinese government is whipping up such xenophobia and anger among its people about Pelosi's visit to Taiwant, and goosing it even higher after the follow-up visit by more congressional representatives.

It's one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook - dating well back to the earliest centuries of recorded history - for a ruler to whip up domestic sentiment against some external enemy, so that instead of overthrowing him (usually him, occasionally her), the people will expend their anger and energy against the designated opponent du jour.  China is no different.  Whether the CCP defines the enemy as "the bourgeoisie", or "the Four Olds", or capitalism, or Taiwan, or America, is basically irrelevant.  It needs a focal point for the people's unhappiness, and thanks to its almost total control of the news media and the Internet, it can use anything or anyone as the target for their anger.

If things go off the rails in China, I fully expect it to launch an invasion of Taiwan to divert its people's attention away from internal problems and towards an outside enemy.  That might happen very soon - much sooner than people think.  After all, the Chinese know full well that President Biden is incapable of running this country, and they've bribed and suborned sufficient senior politicians in both mainstream US political parties to be confident they can delay or divert any US response until it's too late to make a difference.  They've done their political calculations long ago, and I'm sure their propaganda and disinformation campaigns are as well prepared as are their military strategy.

The real problem, one that most people are ignoring, is that Japan has all but committed to helping Taiwan defend itself.  It's facing Chinese territorial demands of its own over the Senkaku Islands, and it knows that if China "gets away with it" over Taiwan, those islands must soon follow.  South Korea is also a potential player:  it must surely realize that if China can destroy and/or absorb Taiwan, it can do the same to the entire Korean peninsula.  An invasion of Taiwan might run headlong into such potential alliances - the last thing China wants or needs.  For more on the international situation, try these articles:

Taiwan is a real flashpoint right now.  If I were a foreigner there, I'd be leaving as soon as I could buy a plane ticket;  and if I were an investor, I'd be very cautious about committing more funds to the island until the situation clarifies.  Furthermore, if war breaks out there, it's going to disrupt world trade in a big way, bringing severe economic consequences to almost every nation.  Where that might end is anybody's guess.

Keep your eyes and ears open and your powder dry, friends.



Michael said...

China is a dangerous distraction. Most of our troubles are much closer to home.

Given the ongoing Famine War (droughts, fertilizer issues, diesel fuel prices and so on) we are slowly awakening too, given that Tiawan makes the bulk of the micro-chips that are found in almost everything in my house from coffee maker to freezer.

Oh, and the IRS is openly arming itself for war on American Taxpayers (mostly the Republican Voters btw).

Not that the RINOS like Cheney and the rest of the current crop (aside from Dr. Paul) are any better all feeding from the same pig trough.

Going to get really bad for "We the People".

Might "Accidently" be grid "issues" around areas that don't please the Demo-communists. Plan on power troubles.

Do a weekend GRID DOWN exercise now. That will focus your prepping needs to what is going down very soon. Pumping water *might* be a lot higher need than AC, just saying.

Tempus fugit.

John in Indy said...

Agree with Michael on effects here. China is not the only .gov focusing on enemies because their policies are failing.
However, the China / Taiwan issue has a weather / timing component as well. The window for China to crosd the Taiwan strait is between the end of the Summer Typhoon season and the start of the Winter storms. Late October through mid December, or the same period in Spring.
China may try a blockade first, to try to keep Japan and Korea out of the conflict, and try to take Taiwan intact, but stupid is as stupid does.
John in Indy

James said...

While I agree with the 2 first commenters, here's something to think about. The Chinese governments have "lost the will of heaven" a number of times over the centuries with a slaughter like unto several WWIs. There was one around the end of our Civil War that counted the deaths in many multiples of a Million. Some American officers were hire by one or another Chinese factions.
If something like that were to happen today I fear an internal nuclear exchange, between factions, then a great many bets would be off the table.

Tim said...

No invasion is possible with China's current forces if Taiwan and Japan contest it, even without US involvement. They cannot force the straits yet.The ensuing debacle could well bring down the CCP.

John Fisher said...

The other consideration for China is the possibility (and I believe a strong one) that Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are all a 'quarter turn of a wrench' from being nuclear powers. I imagine that the possibility of Shanghai and the Three Gorges Dam disappearing in bright flashes that combined killed 70 - 100 million Chinese give even the CCP pause in their consideration of invading Taiwan.

Beans said...

First, Japanese subs, though diesel-electrics, are some of the best in the world, even giving US attack subs some problems.

Second, both South Korea and Singapore are seriously against any ChiCom advances towards Taiwan. Think about it. As bad as Koreans hate Japanese, they'll join WITH Japan against the ChiComs.

Only problem is, expect North Korea to get frisky if the ChiComs get frisky. The question is, which way will North Korea jump? South, where they'll get their arses handed to them or North, where ChiCom has to pull forces from to support the invasion or to at least cover areas where invasion forces have been drawn from.

Spicy times.

And how good is China if their forces on the Indian border get their hands, heads and arses handed to them regularly by the Indian Army? Last time it was literally a hand-slapping experience as Indian troops went hand-to-hand, well, with some clubs and such, against larger numbers of ChiComs. Like a bad Bollywood movie, but in real life. Curry-Fu wins over Kung-Fu every time.

Tim said...

And something I didn't know until recently was that the original Formosans, who were on the Island prior to world war II have closer ties to Japan than to China, and were not all that thrilled when the Kuo min tang led by Chiang Kai Check (forgive my spelling) occupied the island. So do not be surprised if the Japanese go all in.

Winterborn said...

Been going through a lot of Peter Zeihan’s old presentations. (Thank you Peter!) and have read 3 of his books so far on a lot of these subjects s. Agreed with most of the comments on here, China may want too go after Taiwan real bad, and after Ukraine has shown, it just ain’t gonna happen. Taiwan can have nukes over a long weekend (if not less) & have had a nuke program since the 70’s… Just dormant. Etc. Ukraine/Russia war that is screwing Russia… China doesn’t acknowledge that that kind of thing could even happen, (something something Communist A-holes, “all power from barrel of a gun” )would have shattered their economy already.

Ukraine, 8 years prep getting ready for Russia, poor country, yes with massive aid now. Taiwan, rich country, getting ready a fight like this since the 1950’s. You can walk to the Ukraine, you better really be able to swim for that 100 miles moat to Taiwan

Another quote “China has known the cost of doing business is at least 1 million men just to get on the island” That is a long ass way to get to step 2. Taiwan could sink Chinese landing craft (and any ferry named) in the harbor from the word go. Think Taiwan doesn’t have HumInt assets all over the place in China?

Japan, number 3 economy in the world, number 2 navy. China landing cruise missiles in their economic zone? Not well received. Japan knows a couple things about ships. Definite maritime power. Has two carriers already (hilariously called “ multi- purpose Destroyers”) that are 814ft long. They’re looking at 12 to 14 F35 STOVL real soon. Have upgraded deck or in process.

Chinese Navy, can’t go more than 1000 miles (slowly, NOT in combat operation tempo) from bases. Figure 400 miles realistically? Yeah they can have fuel ships etc… wonder how well they’ll do at that, and if they don’t replicate the Russians 40 mile column to Kiev, that forgot to bring enough fuel, oh and food. Walked out.
China has no foreign basing rights ANYWHERE. The comment Zeihan has made a LOT is “2 destroyers in straight of Malacca and China shuts down, 45-90 days, trucks stop running. Power goes out. 1 year, 500 million dead from starvation.

Having said all the above… Xi might pull that lever. Number 1 trading partner of Germany before WWII was France as I remember. The demographics on China are even worse than we’d thought for a long long time. Last interview I watched him do was here: The comment on Chinese demographics is to the key of “they’ve over counted by 100 Meeellion. And instead of being half by 2100, it’ll be 650 million by 2050. Their demographics look like a mushroom cloud. The boys are literally on the other side of whole provinces as the girls are herded into factory jobs on the coast. Oh and the imbalance from the horrific 1 child system, they’ve said 10-15% imbalance boys without enough girls. Yeah, probably much closer to 20-30% or worse. Sounds like one hell of a dating scene. Xi also wasn’t told about rolling blackouts in China… started in April? May? No one told him until September and wasn’t fixed until November. He may go just pull that lever, cause no one is telling the Emperor he doesn’t have any pants on.

Will said...

Peter Nealen's "Option Zulu" is an interesting read on this subject. I'm wondering if Taiwan's defenses are as good as projected in his book.

Francis Turner said...

Prior to February I was expecting an invasion of Taiwan in NOvember (as JOhn in Indy points out there are meteorological reasons to not go earlier (or for that matter much later)

But I think the abject fuster-cluck in Ukraine has caused a rethink in the PLA, and particularly the PLAN, about whether it is possible without first doing a major audit of actual resources to be sure that the ones that are supposed to exist actually do. (My betting is that many of them do not).

However ratcheting up the pressure while preparing for an invasion is quite likely. Though those steps could well lead to a war anyway

The PRC might try to enforce a blockade though I think that is quite likely to escalate into war if it tries. As I noted in the blog post you quoted some moths back, Keelung port is conveniently close to Japanese waters and I could see a blockade ending up with PLAN vessels in Japanese waters and chasing Japanese owned ships. That would definitely trigger the Japanese MSDF to get involved.

Another option is to take some of the Taiwan controlled islands that are much closer to the mainland. Again I don't think this will be as easy as the PLA might hope and I think it quite likely that even such a limited invasion might cause mistakes to be made that bring in other belligerents but it is slightly safer.

Having said that I'm not planning to leave Japan because I feel that war with China is less likely than many of the other potential disasters that are likely to hit the rest of the world. Japan is not dependent on Russian gas so it won't freeze. It can feed itself (not well but survivable, plus I live in the countryside) and there's no sign of civil war/disturbance as in the US.

IamDevo said...

The only way PRC "invades" Taiwan is if the government of Taiwan wishes to be "conquered." A simple review of the enormous difficulties encountered by amphibious invaders will show that such an endeavor without overwhelming force is doomed. Even the world's largest military could have been repulsed had Hitler not been convinced that the Normandy invasion was a feint and the "real" invasion was to come at the Pas de Calais, thereby withholding his panzer divisions until the Allies had established a sufficiently large foothold to resist dislodgment. Not to mention the Allies complete air supremacy that eliminated most of the German Luftwaffe as a factor. Any discussion of a PRC "invasion" of Taiwan is simply an exercise in fantasy.