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The dog that didn't bark

A while ago, I did a little roundup of some of my favorite technothrillers and where some of the better writers think might be the next international trouble spot. I didn't recommend doing anything too hastily, but I definitely thought they could use a little scrutiny.

Stephen Green reads the New York Times and does his own version of "reading tea leaves" over here, and it looks like a couple of those predictions might be on target.

I'm not saying I agree with his conclusion, but that's just my lazy nature and ignorance speaking; I don't know enough to dismiss his concerns. But I do think that his reasoning sounds valid, and it's certainly worth taking a hard look at.

And before anyone brings up China's huge dependence on its trade surplus with the US as having a mitigating influence on their conduct, let me remind you of a few things:

1) China had no problems acting as the injured party and demanding reparations when one of our big, lumbering, slow, clumsy, four-propeller-engine-driven chased down, attacked, rammed, and downed one of their front-line jet fighters back in 2001.

2) In World War II, France was Germany's biggest trading partners right up until Germany invaded.

3) Also in World War II, The Soviet Union and Germany's trade was going gangbusters right up until Germany invaded the Soviet Union. In fact, legend has it that trains of German soldiers heading east passed trains of Russian grain headed west.

Trade and economics often has a mitigating effect on potential hostilities. But it's a huge mistake to presumet that it will trump them every time.


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Comments (11)

Leaving aside the large que... (Below threshold)
Dodd:

Leaving aside the large questions about the rationality of Germany's WWII decision-making, a significant difference between #2 and 3 and China's situation is that, in both cases, Germany *invaded* the country. One could argue that they saw that trade continuing after they consolidated control of most or all of those countries, but with the receipts all being subject to German taxes, rather than just the half they were responsible for before the War.

Unless China intends, long-term, to invade and take control of the United States, their planning must necessarily be different. As they appear to be far more interested in control and direction of a regional spere of influence and are slowly moving toward a more open society (rather than a less open one, as Germany was), I think the applicability of those historical examples is limited.

Jay Tea, the link to Vodka ... (Below threshold)
fatman:

Jay Tea, the link to Vodka Pundit doesn't appear to be working. Although if Dodd ^^ was able to get there from here , maybe the problem is on my end.

As for Dodd's analysis of S... (Below threshold)
fatman:

As for Dodd's analysis of Stephen Green's hypothesis, two things:

1) China doesn't have to invade the U.S. to cause major problems. Short of a nuclear response, we wouldn't be able to stop them from invading and subjugating Taiwan for example, but we would have to respond, politically and economically. And that wouldn't do a thing for peace and stability in the region. Or in the rest of the world, for that matter.

2) I don't think that you can count on regimes that have known absolute power reacting rationally when that power is seriously (in the minds of the regime, anyway) threatened. It wouldn't be the first time a dictatorship has started a war to take it's peoples' minds off problems at home. And while an invasion of Japan or Vietnam or South Korea (through the North) might seem far-fetched, again,
what could we do ( short of a nuclear response, which I'm NOT advocating, BTW) to stop it, even if we weren't stretched as thin as we are?

Two points:Be wary o... (Below threshold)

Two points:
Be wary of the impulse to find an opponent to replace the Soviet Union. China doesn't fit that role very well. You'd be surprised how few elements they have in common with the Former Soviet Union.
90% of tension with China is over one thing: Taiwan. And tension over that issue has actually eased over the last 2 months.

Um, tension has eased? I'd ... (Below threshold)

Um, tension has eased? I'd like to believe that. On what basis do you make that assertion?

I agree that they may have ... (Below threshold)

I agree that they may have filled their stockpile. I would suggest that any stockpile, witness the U.S.'s, is hardly sufficient to ward of a sustained cutoff of supplies or to sustain a serious excursion into war.

Make no mistake. This is a decision of the centralized economic planners in Peking. Consumption has little or nothing to do with it.

My three part discussion on China here.

Owlish,According to ... (Below threshold)

Owlish,
According to the news articles I've read, Beijing seems rather pleased with the Taiwan opposition party leader visits to mainland China, and with how the popularity in Taiwan of those visits seems to have eroded the push for independence.

<a href="http://www.cefc.co... (Below threshold)

link explaining some of the above situation.

Right now, there's more tension between PRC-Japan...but they seem to be hammering it out in the political sphere.

Fatman we could stop an inv... (Below threshold)
Sultanofsham:

Fatman we could stop an invasion of Taiwan and it wouldn’t be that hard, certainly far far short of a exchange of nuclear weapons. Chances are we wouldnt be in position to stop the initial air landings (though if we see it coming it I doubt anyone would make the flight across) but the Taiwan airforce would get their shots in and once the light PRC airborne are down on the ground they will face units backed by armour and other heavy equipment close to their points of support and supply. Without being able to get more forces across via ship they wont last and given that we keep a number of attack subs and surface ship in the area at all times their brown water navy wont be able to cross to help them. If theres a carrier battle group in the area at the time then its just worse for them.


We also can shut down Chinas economy because a fair amount of oil that they need is shipped in via tankers. They also do a lot of bulk movement by sea where it can be done from city to city on the coast which also would be vulnerable. And last but not least we could lock down exports and imports. All easy because we have a real navy and they do not.

No need for nuclear weapons at all.

Hmmmm.1. "And tens... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmmm.

1. "And tension over that issue has actually eased over the last 2 months."

Sorry? No offense but Germany and Russia were the best of pals before Germany stuck the shiv in Good Ole' Joe's back. Not every conflict starts off with an escalation of bad behavior. The USSR invaded Afghanistan after arranging a major diplomatic trip to Kabul. Almost the entire goverment of Afghanistan was at the airport when the Spetznaz emerged with weapons firing.

2. " No need for nuclear weapons at all. "

I take it you didn't read this then?

It has *always* been Chinese policy to immediately escalate into a nuclear exchange if the mainland is threatened in any way. This is why MacArthur was sacked remember? He wanted to drive across the border after nuking the Chinese forces there.

Any armed confrontation with China must be gauged with the possible, if not probable, use of nuclear weapons. If China invades Taiwan then we will respond. The only question is how quickly and to what extent. If the Chinese are able to consolidate their hold on Taiwan quickly, then it's a fait accompli and there's nothing else that can be done. But if the Taiwanese are able to go guerilla or stave off the invaders, which will be extremely difficult due to 5th column saboteurs and agents, then we *might* be able to intervene.

It'll take a few days, or even a week or more, to really assemble the necessary naval forces to fight that battle.

This might help.

Keep in mind that China has 700 anti-ship missiles along the Chinese shore facing Taiwan alone. China has 3,500 combat aircraft, of which about 2,000 are rather old and obsolete. But that leaves about 1,500 very modern fighters. And the Chinese still follow the old Soviet doctrine of massive amounts of air defense. And I wouldn't use GWI or GWII as examples of how to deal with that sort of thing. The Iraqis couldn't find their arse with both hands. The Chinese pump out thousands of engineering PHDs every year. That is a massive difference.

At best it will be a nasty brutal fight that'll end with one country pretty much at the mercy of the other. And if either China or America ends up like that, then you can definitely expect things to go nuclear.

I'd also like to add another possible reason for China invading Taiwan. CASH. Taiwan's banks have billions of dollars, some estimates are as high as $800 billion, all ripe for the plucking. If China were to really crack down and try hard to squeeze every last penny from Taiwan, which they will, then they could walk away with trillions of dollars of hard currency or assets.

The possible reason for this is that the Chinese banking system, which is completely controlled by the central government, has been subject to a constant and continual looting by the central government. The government forces the banks to loan money, gained from the life savings of Chinese depositors, to government owned companies that would otherwise go bankrupt.

The available estimates are that the Chinese banking system is anywhere from $600 billion to $2 trillion in the hole. And the government doesn't want to pay for that out of it's pocket. But something, and someone, will have to pay for it because in 20 years or less there will be hundreds of millions of Chinese workers who will be drawing on their non-existent savings.

Sultanofsham, I was going t... (Below threshold)
fatman:

Sultanofsham, I was going to try and respond to your comment, but ed did a so much better job of it than I could that all I can say is "what he said ^^".

I will add that I'm not advocating kicking Taiwan to the curb.




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