Dealing With China

James Traub over at Foreign Policy has an interesting article about how the United States should deal with China.  While acknowledging that China is rapidly becoming powerful, Traub downplays any aggressive intent on China’s part, while also discounting any muscular, American response to China.  The only really good thing I can say about the article is that it at least is an acknowledgment that China has to be dealt with in some fashion…for too long we’ve been blinded by an idea that all China wishes to do is make money, or that they were in some manner a strategic partner of the United States.  But I do believe that Traub is not quite understanding what the Chinese government will do.

Tyrants cannot hold still – they must continually advance, or they will fall.  In Churchill’s trenchant phrase, they ride to and fro on the backs of tigers, and the tigers are getting hungry.  The tyrants of China made a de-facto deal with the Chinese people post-1989:  let us be in power, and we’ll let you get rich.  This has, in fact, worked out to only a select few getting rich, mostly by ripping off the broad mass of the Chinese people…but the growing prosperity has kept dissent down in the cities while the army and security forces have proven capable of keeping dissent down in the countryside (though there are plenty of tales of riot and rebellion in the backwaters of China).  The problem for China is that they have advanced about as far as they can under their current system.  They can advance further – but only by bringing rural China in to the economic mainstream, and by freeing up the political system so that corrupt (which eats like a cancer at the Chinese economy) can be fought.  Neither course of action appeals to China’s Ruling Class.

But they can’t stand still – they can’t do what is necessary to make the next step forward economically, but they also can’t just let things stagnate…what is already bound to be a Chinese recession will become a very hard landing unless China changes internally…or finds some external means of deflecting attention.  The recently aggressive behavior of China in foreign affairs is not a reflection of China’s actual might – they don’t have that sort of power as of yet.  Won’t have it, really, for 20-30 years, if ever (China’s coming demographic decline may rob China of the sinews of power just when the infrastructure if finally there).  They are blustering…hoping to grab what they can, and preparing for a foreign confrontation which will (in the Ruling Class’ view, at least) cement the loyalty of the Chinese people and serve as the excuse for the coming bad economic times.

The bottom line for us is to get prepared for this – by forging a rock-solid alliance with India, making a defense arrangement with Vietnam, and re-founding our alliances with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.  It is a certainty that China will try something – what it will be remains to be seen.  I suspect a move against Taiwan in conjunction with a Chinese-inspired, North Korean attack on South Korea and/or Japan (ie, draw off American power to northeast Asia while China moves in the South China Sea…we can’t be everywhere at once, and Taiwan for most Americans would be a doubtful proposition for a full scale war…it shouldn’t be, but it would be).  But as we can’t know for certain, better to be prepared for all eventualities…and if this takes some increases in naval and aerial strength, then we’re going to have to bite the bullet and do it (as an aside, the really good thing about alliances and agreements with India and Vietnam is they provide ample land power without the United States having to deploy millions of troops).

The most important first step is to recognize that China is an enemy State…that we must not have close economic and military relationships with the Chinese.  That we must inform them that any attempt to change the status quo in Asia and the Pacific will be met with a forceful American response.


Will Taiwan Remain Free?

Asia Times has a bleak report about the ability of Taiwan to fight off an attack from China – the bottom line of it being that by 2020 China may have the capability to force a Taiwanese surrender.

The growth of Chinese military sophistication and China’s continual build up of weapons systems designed to counter American power is increasingly leaving Taiwan in a strategically untenable position.  If Taiwan cannot count on rapid and powerful American support, then resistance to any Chinese attack would be exceptionally difficult, and very likely doomed if China deployed all its power.  In the end, all a really firm resistance by the Taiwanese can accomplish – absent US support – is to make a graveyard of Taiwan (while also killing some hundreds of thousands of Chinese in payment).  So, what does Taiwan do?  And what does America do about it?

It is still some years before China can feel certain that a sea-borne invasion of Taiwan could be carried out in the face of US naval intervention – both in the air and undersea, the Chinese military is not even close to being able to stop us from blocking a move to Taiwan.  They can rain down death and destruction, but that is not what China would prefer to do.  Taiwan is very wealthy and China would like to capture it intact (Taiwan’s 23 million people produce $35,700.00 in GDP per person, China’s 1.3 billion produce $7,300.00 in GDP per person).  Raining down death and destruction (or threatening to) can get Taiwan to make a huge amount of concessions…but only a credible threat to leap across the sea and invade would convince Taiwan’s government to surrender.  That, as I said, is some years away…so Taiwan and the United States have a window of opportunity to make plans to deal with this.

The best way to deal with it, in my view, is to make Taiwan a nuclear-armed power.  Taiwan, un-aided, will forever lack the ability to defend itself in conventional war against China – the population disparities are so great that if China attacks, then Taiwan is ultimately doomed, even if they do put up a spirited fight and make the Chinese pay a usurious blood price for conquest (and, of course, the Chinese government is never chary with the blood of the Chinese people…sacrificing a million of them to gain prestige may be seen as all in a day’s work by the Chinese leadership).  Taiwan, aided by us, wins the war against China.  But can Taiwan really count on US aid?  Suppose we have a flabby President at the time?  Suppose our military has been hollowed out by budget cuts to preserve free birth control?  Suppose China’s cat’s paw in North Korea is ordered to engage us in war there just before China attacks Taiwan?  Counting on us is not something Taiwan can do.  So, self defense – but that is only possible for a small State like Taiwan via nuclear weapons.

Taiwan has the wealth and the technical capacity to build nuclear weapons, install them on missiles and deploy those missiles on submarines.  A force of four or five “Dolphin” class submarines, like those Israel has, armed with nuclear-tipped missiles would be sufficient for Taiwan to retain at sea a credible nuclear deterrent (you need four or five so that you can always have two or three deployed).  Israel would probably even be willing to help out, and we can provide clandestine assistance as well, though Taiwan would have to be on its own as far as nuclear weapons development due to our treaty obligations on non-proliferation.  Taiwan, right now, has just enough time to do this before China becomes powerful enough to enforce a surrender.  Faced with the prospect of a dozen or so nuclear weapons being detonated over Shanghai, Hong Kong and other major Chinese cities, the Chinese government simply would not attack – not ever:  it would never repay the cost (monetary, I mean, not blood…as I said, I doubt much that the Chinese government cares how many people die).

The choice is ultimately Taiwan’s – do they wish to be free?  I, for one, will always back coming to Taiwan’s aid because my view is that the United States can never afford having a free people be conquered by external tyranny.  Even at the cost of World War Three, we should fight China if China ever attacks Taiwan.  But Taiwan simply cannot count on my view holding majority support in the United States…or, even if it does, count on the American government at the time being able and willing to assist.  If Taiwan’s people wish to remain in freedom, then their choice is clear…build nuclear weapons and count on the ability to destroy China as their assurance against Chinese attack.