24 August 2022

Video of the day -- war with China?

An American who lived in China for ten years assesses the prospects of a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan.  In brief, China's military would perform disastrously against Taiwan, and wouldn't stand a chance against the US, if it came to that.  The last time China fought a real war was in 1979 (and they lost).  In addition to the points he makes here, I'd mention that a huge proportion of China's food and oil is imported by sea -- in case of war, a blockade would quickly bring the collapse of power generation and eventually mass starvation.  China is dangerous as long as the present fascist regime remains in control, but it's utterly delusional to imagine that it's a serious rival to the US, or will be anytime soon.


Anonymous NickM said...

All good points but I'd like to add a couple of my own...

The Taiwan Strait is a bit further to cross than the English Channel where the D-Day crossings happened. This is calls for a mighty amphibious effort. Does China have any experience of doing this? I don't think so. The Allies did in '44. Furthermore geography-wise the Allies had a much wider range of sites to choose from and of course also managed to convince the Germans the landings would probably take place in the Pas-de-Calais - quite a way from where they did. I utterly fail to see how China could manage any form of strategic surprise at any level simply for geographical reasons alone. That is not even taking account satellite and ELINT etc. Expect to see much of the fleet at the bottom of that strait over the 5-6+ hours it would take to cross.

Second. Whilst aircraft numbers are mentioned a very key issue here is operability. A corrupt nation like China is very unlikely to be able to field anything like as many aircraft as it has even if the claimed totals are accurate.

24 August, 2022 06:58  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

I agree with you on what you said.

24 August, 2022 13:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO China is most likely to rattle swards and make rude noises but stop short of invasion, blockade or anything kinetic. There is simply too much at risk and too little to gain. I could be wrong but a few of the factors at play:

Taiwan is the holder of the only remaining genuine Chinese culture. Mao systematically erased the original Chinese culture. What remains is on Taiwan and is embodied in the Taiwanese population and zeitgeist. Taiwan is far too small a place to posit that this culture would remain intact if China enacts the sort of comprehensive violence necessary to conquer Taiwan.

China is a nation on the edge of a demographic cliff. Princelings from a single child family coming back maimed or dead are going to be very bad for the party.

The Taiwan strait is close to 120 miles across. Lots of things can happen in the time it takes to cross. Invasion of a defended shore is a complex maneuver. It took the US a few tries to get even the basics right in WW2. China has no relevant experience.

Invading Taiwan is going to be a single-shot, perhaps once in a lifetime event. They get one try. Lacking experience and few mulligans, failure is not just an option, it is the most likely outcome.

So China took the shot and failed. What then? China suffers a massive blow to the ego and standing. The claims of a peaceful and rational state are going to ring hollow for generations. Defeat tends to sour relations. China's friends wake up in bed with a murderer. Hilarity ensues.

I've thought one answer was to give Taiwan a half-dozen subs. I hear the Germans make quiet ones. Modify these to carry nuclear-armed missiles. Say, three or four per boat. Something around 100KT yield and 2500 km range. Rotate boats so Taiwan has four at sea and two in home port. Assuming a third of the subs survive and only a third of the missiles launched make it China still loses two major ports. A very high price to embrace a population that is going to hate on you for generations.

Like the Russian situation in Ukraine, I have a hard time imagining a scenario where the attacker, even assuming very favorable events, looks back and thinks the victory was worth the price. Every potential victory is Pyrrhic. The range goes from bad to disastrous. There is, IMHO, no up side profit. No economic, social, or political benefit.

24 August, 2022 16:59  
Anonymous Reaganite Independent said...

I would agree with the premise and most points made in the article, excellent read.

And the Taiwanese are indeed impressive, they’ve had their own indigenous fighter plane for over 30 years. Rough terrain to conquer too. They would indeed fight

However -due to the various shortcomings of the Chinese military- I thought the most Xi might attempt in the next five years might be a full blockade of the island, intended to force at least some concessions. They’re certainly practicing for it now.

And I’m not sure how that would prevent Beijing from achieving imports on the mainland, you’ve got a lot of ports and air/land transport options.

Unfortunately Xi has built his agenda on the goal of conquering Taiwan since he first came to office, & has domestically painted himself into a corner on this issue. If he backs down on his publicly stated goals a lot of people are gonna wonder why they need him around

Linked at my place

25 August, 2022 05:03  
Anonymous NickM said...

You been reading my mind?

On the issue of the crossing...

I almost added the sub oprion - the German U212/214s are what I was thinking of too. Very quite and capable of staying completely under for a month due to their hybrid fuel-cell power-packs. Israel has a few for very similar reasons. They wouldn't even have to have nuclear weapons. It would be enough for the PRC to strongly suspect it. Taiwan has nuclear power stations and as to the electronics etc could the RoK do that? I'll bet my sweet ASUS they could very quickly. It is possible they could (do?) have nukes in kit form as has frequently been rumoured about Japan.

I hadn't thought of the demographic issues with the PRC. Saving Private Chong would be rather a different movie from Saving Private Ryan.

25 August, 2022 06:03  
Anonymous NickM said...

Yes, the blockade does indeed look imminent but it would backfire. Certainly PRC industry requires RoC semi-conductor tech for their manufacturing of all the stuff we buy but what if Taipei said, "Fuck it! We're looking at India or Malaysia or Indonesia or... to buy our cunning little chips..."

25 August, 2022 09:09  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

When I spoke of a blockade in the post, I was talking about the US blockading China (since this is mainly about a scenario where the US gets drawn into the war), not about China blockading Taiwan.

NickM: Good point about the analogy with D-Day. Eisenhower certainly wasn't sure of success, and the allies there had a degree of air superiority over Germany that China wouldn't have if it tried to invade Taiwan. After six months Russia still doesn't have air superiority in Ukraine, and China probably has the same corruption/bad maintenance problems, if not worse.

Mary K: Thanks.

Anon: That's true, a failed invasion of Taiwan would be a disastrous humiliation, probably the worst imaginable from the regime's viewpoint. They're unlikely to try unless they feel certain of victory, which there will be no basis for, for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, Putin apparently felt confident of a quick victory in Ukraine. By the time it was clear that wasn't going to happen, he was committed.

Falling birth rates will hopefully make wars less appealing even to gangster states. Especially with China, as you say, all those families that have only one child due to government diktat would be all the angrier if that one child is killed in a war of choice.

I too think Taiwan should have a nuclear deterrent. That takes invasion completely off the table, even if the enemy is much larger. It's worked for Israel for decades.

Reaganite: A blockade is generally considered an act of war. It's a legitimate move when two countries are already at war (as I envisaged with the scenario of the US blockading China), but if China tried to blockade Taiwan, that wouldn't really be a step short of war.

In that scenario, I'd guess the US and Japan would provide overwhelmingly-powerful naval escorts to ships trying to get through the blockade, and dare the Chinese to try to stop them.

Xi will never explicitly give up on trying to conquer Taiwan (I suppose China will eventually produce an Anwar Sadat figure who will do that, but not for a while yet), but if he's smart he'll confine himself to menacing rhetoric for domestic consumption.

25 August, 2022 10:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one more, not so small, fly in the ointment if China takes over Taiwan: They lose one of their most popular excuses for why things so often fail to work out as planned.

25 August, 2022 21:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Indeed, every corrupt and failing regime needs a scapegoat.

26 August, 2022 03:46  
Anonymous NickM said...

I have an idea! Don't buy (as far as poss) anything involving Foxconn - the PRC's biggest computer etc. producer. You won't see that brand on anything but if you dig it'll be inside a lot of stuff and basically everything Apple (who are anyway as much a cult* as a business).

*Very well-off people sleep rough outside Apple shops to get their latest fix on release. I've seen it in Manchester. There are people sleeping rough all the time because they don't have a pot to piss in or a window to through it out off. Outside the Apple shop though, pre-release of a big new like whatever the bien-pensants kinda join them in their Berghaus hard weather gear to be the first to get their hands on a piece of kit costing as much as I make in a month. And they believe they are buying from the "nice", "Think Different" outfit rather than those nasty capitalists. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing people he didn't exist. Look up Foxconn worker suicide rates. That is the PRC and that is where the self-righteouses tech is actually made.

26 August, 2022 06:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

NickM: I've never been an Apple fan anyway. Too many horror stories about repair difficulties, and incompatibility with programs I use. And if they use a lot of Chinese-made stuff, those repairs are going to be needed often.

28 August, 2022 00:09  
Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

I hope to shout

28 August, 2022 12:51  

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