Is China prepared for war?

Is China prepared for war? Featured

MY last two articles touched on the coming conflict with China. A case was made on a proposition advanced in a book by Graham Allison, Destined for War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). His conclusions make war inevitable. Xi Jinping's declaration to recover by force China's renegade province, Taiwan, could be the trigger. US military prediction is that this war could happen sometime between the years 2025 to 2027.

But there is another facet to this geopolitical development negating this inevitability. A compendium of contrarian views inundating mass and social media are condensed in this column. The thesis is: China will not invade Taiwan (for now)!

Military complexities

First, such invasion involves amphibious operations where the logistics are excessively complex comparable to land invasions, like Russia invading Ukraine. True, China may now have the largest naval force, but China never did have the experience with joint sea-land operations. Its last was the Battle of the Yalu River in 1894 where the Japanese Imperial Navy trounced the Chinese Beiyang Fleet. America is formidable in combined sea-air-land strategies, being the quintessential warmonger these last hundred years, going through the Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1959-1975; Gulf War, 1990-1991; Iraq 2003-2011; Afghanistan, 2001-2014; not to mention America's invasions of Grenada, 1983, and Panama, 1989, deposing strongman Noriega, etc. The possibility of the US getting directly involved in Taiwan's defense is what could deter China.

Also, Taiwan's defenses are daunting, with its forest, mountains and high cliffs and potential vulnerable landing points facing Fujian province plugged. More importantly, it is designed to withstand China's onslaught for hours/days until the US, Japan and other allies come to its defense. Taiwan's strategic partnerships are critical, which includes South Korea, Australia, India, Indonesia and the Philippines — part of the first island chain fronting China. Only North Korea is a willing but problematic Chinese ally, while Russia is absorbed with its own problems.

Political ramifications

China's leadership has always been belligerent about their intentions to reunify Taiwan, from Mao to Deng to Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin targeting the year 2049. But recent pronouncements by Xi Jinping hints of earlier adventurism. Experts, however, consider this as simply braggadocio designed to intimidate Taiwan and partners and not an indicator of actual military intent. This bluster feeds into its narrative and propaganda reflecting China's emergence as an economic force in Asia. It bolsters Xi's international image among the leading nations — projecting China as America's equal helping him consolidate power internally. It is even more crucial at this time that China's economy has contracted from a decades high of 7.9 percent GDP growth at the beginning of Xi's tutelage to 6 percent pre-pandemic to 2.3 percent post-Covid. China must maintain an image of invincibility — a matter of saving face for Xi. An actual invasion of Taiwan with its unacceptable risks could obliterate that image.

US historian Gordon Chang at the Institute of World Politics (IWP) proposes that China is casualty-averse, contrary to what is peddled about America being one particularly after its Vietnam debacle. Chang's hypothesis is that China's one-child policy is an empirical restraint. Any death of a male heir ends the bloodline. The CCP understands only too well the repercussions of a military misadventure. Popular support will fizzle out.

Economic consequences

Since the Republic of China's creation, Taiwan has not severed its economic ties with the mainland. Over the intervening decades, their economies intertwined relying in each other for their own prosperity. In 2019, China and Hong Kong were Taiwan's most important export partners. "... with cross-strait revenue source amounting to $150 billion. Taiwan provided China with $188 billion of FDI between 1991-2020 and is the largest chip and semiconductor manufacturer in the world producing 84 percent of the world's most advanced chips, under 5 nanometers." (Kamome 163 video capture)

The attendant political and economic risks may be too much of a gamble for China — shrinking further its economy, isolating the country as a pariah, not fit as Asia's hegemon thereby threatening Xi's hold on power.

Hiatus

But it doesn't mean abandoning the idea of reunification. The Chinese perspective, seen through the prism of its cultural orientation, typically a society that has survived millennia, is fixed in terms beyond years that the West seldom fathoms. This hiatus is not a rapprochement. They built the Great Wall over the centuries to ward off the barbarians, not annihilate them. They can very well tolerate Taiwan until such time that the old hegemon America collapses, ushering in China's century.

Xi Jinping and his China

Since October 2022 when China was co-opted by the modern version of a communist emperor, the political architecture was drastically altered with Xi demonstrating a distinctive leadership style and dominance over the CCP. "Xi inherited a consensual political system in 2012 where power was shared among the CCP outstanding committees, and the wider public bureaucracy and no Chinese leader got too much credit or blame because of consensus. Xi became very popular with the anti-corruption campaign ... but then he eliminated political rivals by jailing them." (Gordon H. Chang, IWP)

Xi, unanimously elected for an unprecedented third term, warned that "the path ahead of China is perilous...and [must] not allow this problem (Taiwan) to be headed from one generation to the next." He has made it known that Taiwan was not only to be recovered "...but the destruction of Taiwan's democracy is critical test for his personal legitimacy. His concept of China and its role transcend 300 years of traditional relations, since 1648 — the Treaty of Westphalia establishing the international system of sovereign states." (Gordon Chang, IWP) For Xi, America is an existential threat. America's values negatively impact on China's people. And Taiwan's democracy, at China's doorsteps, along with America, must be destroyed. This megalomaniacal view is what drives Xi to eventually do what he must.

Can China win?

Having witnessed America's debacles, particularly Vietnam and Kabul, Xi may have arrived at these conclusion. With these assumptions, America can be defeated.

– Xi executes a swift successful invasion, presenting America and allies with a fait acompli. This entails a quick and decisive first few hours' battle — throwing in hundreds of thousands of China's sons — despite it being casualty-averse.

– China possesses first strike missiles capability (short of nukes), destroying allied forces in the region in the first half-hour of any conflict — before US bases in Guam, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and the Seventh Fleet have time to react.

– China believes that a substantial portion of Taiwanese will welcome it with open arms.

– America, even prior to Trump's ascendancy, has been polarized and absorbed in its internal politics and may not have the stomach for its sons dying in Taiwan. Now Trump is back! Biden's unequivocal responses supporting Taiwan are oftentimes contradicted by his advisers, hinting hesitation in putting boots on the ground.

China has been updating its technology and quality of arsenal for a cross-strait invasion. It has a superb but inexperienced air force. Professionals agree that China has the weapons and missiles. And China's forces fronting Taiwan are on "unsinkable aircraft carriers." America's are not.

Today Xi is the CCP, and the CCP is Xi. And they can wait!

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Read 453 times Last modified on Saturday, 15 April 2023 09:28
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