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What is the Chinese timetable for invading Taiwan?
Before he passed, my World of Tanks friend was convinced that China would never invade Taiwan, and if they did, could not do it successfully. I always disagreed because history is replete with examples of countries overestimating what they could and could not do in a conflict. Think Operation Barbarossa in WWII.
But, does China need to invade Taiwan? Likely they do, eventually. The question is how patient can they be? To Beijing, Taiwan is part of China and must be reunited. How would the US react if California or Texas were to secede?
Long-term, China assumes it will win but will more recent developments force their hands earlier than they might want? China certainly has a looming demographic crisis. The one-child policy has altered their demographics to a point that it’s s almost catastrophic. Their population is aging and they do t have enough young workers to care for them. Couple that with the ~40MM surplus in males that won’t t be getting married and having kids, and the strain that puts on women who increasingly seek careers for themselves and not bearing lots of kids and you add more fuel to a potential fire.
What spark can set off this fire? Well, one would be economic failure by China. They have been lucky to date that they haven’t hit a major economic turndown like the Japanese did in the ’90s with the lost decade, but the odds favor such an issue. This is more likely to happen if the US actually leads an international coalition to limit China’s abuses of the WTO and other trade treaties.
I’d recommend this article that got me thinking about this on a rainy Sunday morning.
Some questions that I ponder.
First, could we project power into the China Sea and stop an invasion of Taiwan? Such an invasion would likely not be like D-day, but rather more like the Vicksburg campaign. An economic and maritime blockade until Taiwan is forced to capitulate. Do we have the carriers and sea power to break such a blockade? Maybe. Our carriers are great, but can we sustain such an action for longer than a few months?
This brings to mind our second issue. Does the US have the endurance for such a conflict? Remembering 1991, that was a short and relatively bloodless conflict (for the US). 2003 was also relatively short and bloodless as well, but the aftermath was so taxing that it may have permanently damaged our psyche in a similar way to Viet Nam. There are similarities that deserve a deeper discussion I think. I have doubts that our putative leaders could actually gin up enough fervor to sustain anything longer than a six-month effort.
Lastly, the potential for a conflict to expand into a general war is not insignificant. There is no way that we can beat China in a general war, and they cannot beat us. Neither side could invade the other and win, absent the use of nuclear weapons. It would be a titanic clash of two Kaiju pounding each other and destroying the world around them until they are spent. Long before that happens the US government would collapse, and likely the Chinese as well.
And we haven’t discussed the issues of Chinese ownership of our debt and how much manufacturing is done in China. If we thought the toilet paper crisis was bad, think about how many things are Made in China that we wouldn’t be able to purchase.Published in