China's Insane World War 3 Plan

China's Insane World War 3 Plan

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If you go ahead and spin the  proverbial wheel of global worry today,   there’s a good chance you’ll land on the words  “China” and “World War III.” Unfortunately,   there are several reasons for that and they all  lead to the question no one wants to think about:   Is China getting ready for World War 3? It’s true that nowadays you can’t go far   without someone talking about the  perils of Taiwanese reunification,   artificial Chinese islands, Cold War 2.0, or the  specifications of the latest hypersonic missile.   Add to that the increasing frequency of  Chinese incursions into Taiwanese airspace,   Japan’s recent decision to purchase hundreds  of new weapons for its own defense like these   American-made Tomahawk missiles, and closer  military cooperation between the US and Australia   and we are starting to see the signs of another  global conflict on the horizon, one that is likely   to begin somewhere in the Indo-Pacific. It all adds up to another doomsday scenario   waiting in the wings and some believe  it could take place as early as 2024.  

Does China have a World War 3 plan in  place and if so, what does it look like?   China’s rise over the past few decades seems to  indicate that the worrisome and likely answer   to the first question is ‘yes’. Here’s why. Tensions between China and the West have not   been this high in a long time. Rewind several  decades, and many experts would have laughed at   you if you claimed you were a time traveler  from the future and China posed a serious   geopolitical threat to the international order. That’s because the 1990s were a strange time—and   not just because of the oversized jeans and the  kids’ obsession with green slime. It was a period   of untempered western optimism—yeah, you heard  that right—optimism. From our pessimism-soaked  

vantage point today, the geopolitical arc  of that decade was almost unicorn-like,   a surreal period of national unity, hope, and  security brought back down to earth with the   9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers. But for a while, things seemed, well, good.   Emerging victorious from its forty-five-year  ideological standoff with the Soviet Union,   for a brief unipolar moment in time the United  States enjoyed unmatched power and prestige on   the global stage. There were no more near-peer  threats; while terrorists and revolutionaries   conspired at the peripheries of power, America’s  military and its coalition partners, equipped to   the eyeballs with the latest technology and fresh  off their rollicking victory in the Persian Gulf,   bought into the idea that democracy was  spreading and would continue to do so with   assistance and persistence around the globe. It was in this geopolitical climate that things  

started to really change for China—not that many  western observers really noticed. Between 1949   and 1971 it had existed “behind the ‘Bamboo  Curtain,’” a totalitarian dictatorship under   the authoritarian communist revolutionary Mao  Zedong. Things changed when the United States   sought rapprochement with China in the 1970s,  thereafter reopening diplomatic relations and   turning China into a willing Cold War  partner through strengthening economic   relationships and a degree of exposure to the  west it had not enjoyed since World War II.   China started modernizing. Like, a lot.  Americans profited. China grew. As China grew,   Americans hoped the exposure to western values  and ideas would liberalize and democratize   China. There were social and cultural reforms  amid the modernization, yes, but not many.  

China’s benign growth lulled the west into a false  sense of security. Some pundits argue that it was   in the 1990s—the heyday of American optimism—that  China started really playing the long game,   hatching a secret fifty-year plan to  “achieve the great rejuvenation of the   Chinese nation” after a century of downturns. Entangling its economy with the United States, it   grew fast enough to convince the west it deserved  a place in the World Trade Organization (WTO),   something it achieved by the early 2000s. “Yes,  we will play by the rules of the international   order,” Chinese leaders proclaimed with enough  zeal to make their western partners proud.  

It was around then its economy started  booming, growing almost 10% every year for the   next two decades. Between 1980 and 2000, its GDP  quadrupled. Starting at under $90 billion in 1980,   it now hovers around $13 trillion, the  fastest growing increase in human history;   hundreds of millions of Chinese residents were  lifted out of poverty as the country’s economic   potential skyrocketed. As globalization continued  and China received hundreds of billions of dollars   of global investment, it established a trade  footprint to rival much of the rest of the world,   providing cheap labor that built most  of the products now adorning your home   while becoming competitive in cutting edge  cyber, space, and technology sectors.   It has long since become East Asia’s economic  titan par excellence. It thrived under the   auspices of global capitalism. It took on  some of the trappings of the west—especially   its business and trade practices. But it never  really democratized. To this day it maintains  

its communist, centralized authoritarian regime  under the singular vision of its latest ruler,   Xi Jinping. And Xi has a vision, alright. Having covertly flourished under the umbrella of   American power for several decades, China is now  preparing the next phase of its grand strategy:   To catapult itself into the realm of peerless  global hegemon—one that can impose itself in its   Indo-Pacific neighborhood at will while projecting  enough global influence to shape the “rules-based   international order” in its own image. It’s taken them fourteen “Five Year Plans” to   get to the point, but they have finally arrived.  Now China wants to “build a community of common   destiny,” essentially, a nice way of saying  it wants to coercively achieve what it views   the US doing all over the world—leading  international organizations, becoming a   political and economic model for developing  countries, being able to project world-class   military power all across the globe, all while  leveraging its trade relationships, allies, and   partners to achieve its interests—AKA replace “the  United States as the world’s leading state.”   They chose 2049 for the date to achieve all  of this—the centenary of the founding of the   People’s Republic of China (PRC). But each  successive milestone for modernization has  

amped up the tension between China and the  West. National security insiders have been   sounding alarm bells for a decade now, but only  recently have things started getting real.   Over the past three decades China has spent its  way to military might. In 2019 it was spending   more than South Korea, Japan, India, Russia, and  Taiwan combined, accounting for over half of Asian   GDP and half of all Asian military expenditures. China didn’t have to just outspend their  

competition, however. Over the past decade a  growing number of Western defense officials have   started kicking themselves for not realizing the  pitfalls of economic interdependence with China.   It’s been no secret that for decades Chinese  spies have been stealing valuable intellectual   property—including U.S. military secrets. Just  look at their latest stealth fighter, the J-20.   It’s a surreal mashup of the latest in stealth  technology, the type of thing you might get if an   American F-22, F-35, and a Russian MiG 1.44 walked  into a bar, had one too many, and started spilling   their secrets within earshot of a Chinese spy. China has stolen immense amounts of data,  

too—some we unwittingly give them by opting in  to use Chinese-owned platforms like Tik Tok—data   that U.S. officials claim gives them enough  “personal information to identify potential   targets for intelligence collection and other  subterfuge.” Just like the West can—and probably   does—China uses this data to geolocate top  national security targets, recruit spies,   conduct massive remote cyberattacks, and  steal military and technology secrets.   The issue isn’t just that China has shiny new  advanced submarines, missiles, aircraft, drones,   and other toys to play with. It is that it now  looking like it has the logistics, infrastructure,   and know-how to utilize them effectively. And  that’s something we need to explore further.   Now, you know as well as I do that nation states  can’t just fling military power around the globe   willy nilly. You have to have the national  industrial base to build up your power,  

the domestic support to use it, the  transport infrastructure to move it,   agreements in place to base it, and an  effective doctrine and strategy to employ it.   It took the United States four years of total  war and victory in two theaters to emerge as a   bonafide global superpower after World War  II. Were it not for the destabilization in   the aftermath of that war and the exigencies of  the Cold War that followed it, it would not have   many of the military basing agreements or the  alliances and partnerships it now enjoys around   the world today. Many of those relationships—and  the infrastructure sustaining them—took decades,   even generations to build. And today that  is something we often take for granted.  

But not China. They know the price  of obscurity, and the difficulty of   restoring national power and prestige back to  superpower levels. Their long-term strategy,   in part, is to achieve the same degree of  global agency the United States enjoys—it,   too, wants bases for its military all over  the world, flourishing economic relationships,   and safe trade routes for its commercial fleet. Without a world war to create the conditions   for its rise to power, China has had to  engineer its rise artificially—partially   through guile and subterfuge, partially using  state-sponsored initiatives that scream “we   are trying to go global, and we will make  it happen whether you like it or not.”   One of China’s global projects stands out  from the rest in terms of ambition, scale,   and significance: The One Belt One Road Initiative  (Or Belt and Road Initiative, BRI). Much like  

the ancient Silk Road that connected Chinese  traders and goods with rich foreign markets,   the BRI strives to achieve the same degree of  global influence for China in the modern era.   To understand China, you have to grapple with the  BRI. Many analysts view the project as China’s   answer to the Marshall Plan—a post-WWII economic  assistance package that sought to revitalize   war-torn Europe. Unlike the Marshall Plan the  BRI is extended to any willing economic partner.   Formal agreements between China the a host nation  to build economic and political ties generally   precede a litany of Chinese investment, funding,  infrastructure projects, tech collaboration,   and more. In the process, China gets access to  ports and airfields, markets for state-owned   companies, safeguards for international  trade, and international influence.   For years the BRI has been the litmus test for  global Chinese power projection. “The Belt”  

connects China with Europe and the other dozen  nations on its borders via a series of overland   trade routes, while “The Road” refers to its  maritime interests—fueling stations, ports,   industry, infrastructure scattered throughout  Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.   A great example of “periphery diplomacy,” BRI  projects can now be found from the Himalayas   to the Horn of Africa and Mediterranean basin.  It has funded infrastructure deals in Malaysia,   gas pipelines and railroads in  Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Kenya,   maintains port operations in Greece, projects in  Sri Lanka, and has other projects in the works.   The west has viewed the BRI warily. Some  criticize China’s “debt trap diplomacy,” a   tactic of luring economically vulnerable states  into taking out Chinese loans and then jacking   up the rates to unpayable levels as a form  of coercion over the government in question.   Others fear China’s growing telecommunications  and economic influence over Europe and the   Global South. But there still hasn’t been a  really unified response. And China continues  

to shovel money into this initiative—with  another $124 billion pledged in 2017.   One of the big warning signs came that same year,  when China decided to establish a hub in Djibouti,   a developing nation strategically located  in the Gulf of Aden on the horn of Africa.   China had essentially said it would never open an  official military base there. And then they did,   calling it a “logistics facility” even though  PLA Navy Marines and other forces regularly   mull about with armored vehicles and artillery. It is considering similar projects in Cambodia,  

Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia,  Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates,   Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and  Tajikistan—evidence of China’s expanding   military footprint around the globe. These  military bases hold great potential for regional   destabilization. Such developments are a warning  that countries can become unwitting partners to   PRC military expansion by giving China access to  airfields and ports it would otherwise lack.  

A global footprint, therefore, is a prerequisite  for China’s national rejuvenation, and has   certainly empowered its actions at home. Maritime  disputes in the waters around China are so common   they’ve almost become normalized. These waters  in the South China Sea are heavily-trafficked,   including some of the richest shipping lanes  in the world. Xi Jinping made a promise not   to militarize certain islands China artificially  built in the South China Sea. Now the Parcel and   Spratly Islands are militarized, and  can be used to intimidate and coerce   coastal states throughout the region. The bullying continues in the East China  

Sea as Chinese merchant vessels regularly  dominate lucrative shipping lanes, coast guard,   military, and commercial ships deprive  foreign fisherman of access to resources,   and policymakers make ambitious maritime claims  that are frequently rejected as lacking basis in   international law. (For the record, territorial  waters are considered up to twelve nautical miles   off a country’s coastline—a fact China ignores).  China wants to monopolize the natural gas, oil,   and hydrocarbon reserves it feels it has  a claim to, even hundreds of miles away.  

A lot of the tension arises near the Senkaku  Islands, a group of uninhabited islands that   in 1971 reverted back to Japanese administrative  control under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement.   Over these seas China has set out to  create Air Defense Identification Zones,   increasing its operational reach even further. Taken together, China’s economic and cultural   influence combined with its renewed military  strength add up into a scary equation for   Beijing’s neighbors. There have also been regular  border conflicts on the China/India frontier since   a PRC instigated-clash in 2020 left dozens dead.  India claims China has the onus to withdraw;   they haven’t. South Korea is worried about  North Korea, China’s only major Asian ally,  

doing something stupid. Even Japan, you know—those  guys who were so committed to pacifism after World   War II they called their military a “Self  Defense Force”—are now so alarmed they’re   arming themselves with hundreds of Tomahawk  missiles, writing “counterstrike capabilities”   into their fighting doctrine, and conducting  joint-military exercises with American and   Australian forces—an image that surely would have  made our grandparents both proud and perplexed.   And nobody should be more scared than Taiwan.  I’ll spare you the history lesson, but the  

small independent island nation will  almost undoubtedly be ground zero in any   World War III scenario with China. Here’s why: China is bent on reuniting Taiwan with mainland   China. The spat goes back to World War II, when  nationalist rebels fled to the island and created   a vibrant democratic society—one China refuses  to acknowledge or respect. Ever since, China   has wanted Taiwan back more than a prepubescent  teen who accidentally traded their holographic   first-edition Charizard for a bag of potato chips.  And this is a problem, since the United States has   all but formally pledged to intervene and protect  Taiwan in the event China decides to invade.   And boy has it probably thought about it. In  August 2022 The China State Council produced  

a white paper whose table of contents made  China’s position on the issue explicitly clear:   Chapter 1: Taiwan is part of  China—This is an indisputable fact.   Chapter 2: Resolute Efforts of the CCP to  Realize China’s Complete Reunification   Chapter 3: China’s Complete Reunification  is a Process that Cannot be Halted   Chapter 4: National Reunification in a New Era Chapter 5: Bright Prospects   for Peaceful Reunification It’s okay, you can tell us how   you really feel, Beijing. “We are one China,”  the paper alleges, “and Taiwan is a part of   China. This is an indisputable fact supported  by history and the law. Taiwan has never been   a state; its status as part of China is  unalterable. The CPC is committed to the   historic mission of resolving the Taiwan question  and realizing China’s complete reunification.”   So China is overwhelmingly focused on reunifying  Taiwan. They say they won’t use force. Hmm…where  

have I heard this before…authoritarian leader  claims he won’t use force to reunify territory   he believes is rightfully his? But hey, this type  of tension has been brewing since the 1996 Taiwan   Strait Crisis when the PRC had a showdown with an  American carrier group after conducting a bunch   of missile tests in the Taiwan Strait. The outcome of the Taiwan issue has real   global bearings. Taiwan is the epicenter of  the global semiconductor industry. What’s a   semiconductor, you say? Anything that has an  electronic chip—your phone, your computer,   your wireless modem, your electronic toys, your  average ballistic missile, medical instruments,   televisions, cutting edge satellites—they  all rely on semiconductors for computing.   It is a $556 billion dollar industry, one that  for better or worse hinges on the whims of a   Taiwan-China-US love triangle. You see, the US  sells 46% of global semiconductors, but only   manufactures 12% of them; China consumes the most,  importing $378 billion dollars worth and putting   what it buys into 35% of the world’s devices.  And Taiwan, as you might expect, has 53% of the  

global semiconductor market share—and produces  90% of the world’s most advanced ones, ones you   might see in cars, smartphones, and military  tech. That’s a serious share of the market!   Interdependence is a problem. The US is now trying  to decouple itself from the Taipei-Beijing chip   drama and become self-sufficient. But Taiwan’s  predominance on the global chip market is one   reason Beijing literally cannot afford to let  Taiwan continue to independently exist. It needs   to set the terms of trade in the region, not  Taiwan and the other western-facing nations.   Otherwise it will always be seen as a second-rate  power. What does this all amount to? Well,  

this situation has produced the “worst security  crisis in the Taiwan Strait in 20 years.”   China means business. As Taiwan becomes more eager  to carve out its independence from the mainland,   China views its very sovereign existence as  an existential threat. China worries about   being hamstrung behind the “First Island Chain,”  a series of nations that includes the Philippines,   Borneo, Japan, and the Ryukyu Islands that it  fears can contain and limit its ability to project   power beyond its shores. Taiwan is at the heart of  this island chain—a cornerstone of western power  

in the region, one that perpetually transmits  dangerously subversive messages of western-backed   prosperity while it remains independent. With Taiwan under America’s orbit, it is a   thorn in Xi’s side; with a reunified Taiwan, China  gains the ability to break the first island chain   and wield influence deep into the Pacific. Predictably, China is throwing caution to the   wind regarding Taiwan’s territorial  sovereignty, violating Taiwan’s Air   Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and the  Median Line dividing the Taiwan Strait once   considered an invisible barrier between the  two entities with frightful regularity.   Between 1954 and 2020 there were only four Chinese  violations of these internationally recognized   demarcations. In 2020 alone there were  380. And there were more than double   that number the following year with 969  incursions. The biggest came on October 4,  

2021—a day that saw 56 aircraft enter Taiwan’s  air defense zone unironically coinciding with   China’s national day of celebration. By May of this year there had been a   50% increase in the number of incursions over the  same span in 2021. Partially to send a supportive   signal in response, the US conducted a series of  high-profile political visits to the island. China   didn’t buy it. To them, the visits were needlessly  escalatory. They responded with more overflights,  

setting a new record for monthly sorties.  Since the summer, the PLA Air Force (PLAAF)   has flown over 1,000 sorties near Taiwan, 40%  of them in the ADIZ or over the Median Line.   Today, it is coming into Taiwanese airspace on  a near-daily basis, ramping up its intimidation   efforts around Taiwan in other ways too—from  anti-submarine warfare, drone reconnaissance,   and cyber attacks to the growth of its  naval and missile presence in the region.  

China’s end goal is clear. Taiwan has voiced  alarm and concern over their “near-constant   encirclement drills,” labeling them the escalatory  equivalent of a sea and air blockade of the   island. If these are, in fact, dress rehearsals  for a full-scale invasion, China will continue   to ramp up the pressure as time goes on. The on-ramp to war, then is there—and it is   volatile. Some pundits compare the existing slate  of geopolitical relationships in the Indo-Pacific   to the entangled alliance systems in Europe  on the eve of World War I. This is, at least,   a line of reasoning Hal Brands, a prominent  political scientist at Johns Hopkins University,   has espoused, comparing Japanese, Australian,  and American collaboration as a “latter-day   Triple Entente—the pre-World War  coalition that sought to contain   Imperial Germany—in the Western Pacific.” It didn’t take much for the World War I power  

keg to erupt in the Balkans, fueling a chain  reaction that resulted in the First World War;   if history is any guide, it won’t take  much to escalate a regional clash in the   Indo-Pacific into a global war, either. “It is here in Asia’s maritime heartland,   where all the ingredients of a global cataclysm  are conspiring against the post-Cold War period   of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,”  one analyst observed. “It’s also here where   the naked edge of China’s hegemonic ambitions  are on full display, with dire consequences   for smaller neighbors and the broader liberal  international order. Here lies the defining  

geopolitical dilemma of our times.” Well-put. So how are the major players   gearing up to play their part? We’ve already talked about China, at   least their geopolitical maneuvering. Militarily  they’ve been following the same path, modernizing   at an impressive rate to add bite to their bark  as they pursue their strategy of recasting the   global governance system in its own image. Its to-do list has, so far, taken a page right  

out of America’s playbook. China has adopted  the model that made America powerful, first   building a “moderately prosperous society in all  respects,” then using that as the foundation to   build a truly competitive “world-class military.”  The fusion of civil-military power is deliberate.   Industrial developments in quantum computing,  AI, robotics, and biotechnology not only help   China become competitive in the civilian sphere,  these technologies can be appropriated to help   the Chinese network their military forces. And  make no mistake, this is something it is eagerly   doing. To create a state of the art force, it has  set a goal to fully network its combined and joint   chains of command by 2027. Advancing dual-use  technologies—ones that can benefit civilian and   military infrastructure alike—will enable rapid  information exchange between its army, navy, air,   rocket, and yes, even its space forces, easily  setting the Chinese military apart from anything   America’s nearest peer, the Russians, have been  able to achieve in Ukraine if they succeed.  

For awhile now the CCP has portrayed a west in  relative decline. This narrative fuels Beijing’s   hopes it can supplant the United States as the  preeminent global superpower. And to be fair,   things in the United States haven’t been all that  peachy over the past decade or so—race riots,   populism, rampant misinformation and  fake news, capital uprisings, COVID,   political polarization, mistrust, and fear have  exposed internal fractures and brought American   democracy to its weakest point in generations. But America has been gearing up for its marathon   clash against China for years now in the hopes  that if things did spill over into a full-scale   war, it would be ready. American leaders,  regardless of political party, are now mostly   unified on this; they know the coming struggle  will be ideological and cultural as much as it   will be an out-and-out technological,  economic, and military competition.   Still, it wasn’t really until 2018 that the  United States officially changed its strategic   posture to address China’s rise. At the tail end  of two fruitless decades in the Middle East, its  

national security strategy shifted to recognize  China, not terrorists or Russia, as the main peer   adversary. This year the Biden administration  updated its national security strategy but   did not depart from the rhetoric of strategic  competition that pervaded earlier iterations.   American strategy emphasizes this as the “decisive  decade” to get ahead and “win the competition for   the 21st century.” Some people criticize  American strategy for reviving antiquated   Cold War mentalities, painting over Soviet tropes  with Chinese skins in another zero-sum adversarial   competition that could needlessly escalate into  war. Vastly different political systems aside,   there are more similarities than differences  between China and the United States than there   were between the US and the Soviet Union,  especially in the realm of economics.   The two competing powers are not mutually  exclusive. But disagreements and mistrust  

are common enough destabilizers that many fear  the status quo can’t be maintained for long.   China is aware that it still cannot compete  with the United States in many areas. The   United States Navy for instance, though  technically smaller than the Chinese Navy,   continues to patrol strategic waterways in the  Indo Pacific, ensuring vital sea lanes remain   open for free and flourishing international trade.  American carrier groups have bases throughout the   first island chain. American submarines and  aircraft tend to be more robust, possessing   longer range and better stealth technology  than their Chinese counterparts. Chinese jet  

engines are not as advances as American ones; its  military suffers quality control issues with its   imbalanced admixture of antiquated and modern  military systems and vehicles. Its logistics   and transport capabilities lag far behind their  globetrotting American adversary. And, above all,   the Chinese lack concrete fighting experience,  having fought (and lost) their last major   operation in Vietnam in 1979—experience the United  States, coming off its own unfortunate Middle   Eastern odyssey, nevertheless has in spades. But the PLA’s military strategy is catered to   overcome these shortcomings. In a World War III  scenario—especially one involving Taiwan—the   United States, its allies, and partners, namely  Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines,   and possibly India—would have to operate in  China’s neck of the woods at the tail end   of an incredibly long logistics network.  The United States’ geographic isolation   makes it reliant on small overseas bases,  refueling tankers, transport vessels, and   carriers to convey and sustain its units abroad. While China continues modernizing its forces and  

develops its own expeditionary capabilities, it  has developed an Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD)   strategy to keep America and its allies at bay  in the Indo-Pacific. The strategy has seen China   prioritize the construction of a bristling  array of ground-based missiles, naval assets,   and aircraft equipped with the latest air-to-air  and air-to-ground missiles that can outrange   their American counterparts—and thus discourage  them from intervening in a regional conflict.   This active defense strategy will make  American intervention in Taiwan both   risky and potentially deadly. Most security experts will be the   first to tell you that war against China is  anything but inevitable. If both powers learn   to manage their competitive relationship,  they can peacefully coexist despite their   adversarial posture. But wars can ignite from  inauspicious sources. As Peter Warren Singer,  

a strategist and senior fellow at a think tank  called New America and award-winning author,   has written, “In the coming decades, a war might  ignite accidentally, such as by two opposing   warships trading paint near a reef not even marked  on a nautical chart. Or it could slow burn and   erupt as a reordering of the global system  in the late 2020s, a period at which China’s   military build up is on pace to match the US.” Singer has spent a lot of time thinking the type   of war we might expect in the Pacific. The war,  he argues, will be a multi-domain conflict,   meaning it will transpire in the traditional  domains of air, sea, and land, as well as   futuristic domains like space, the lifeblood  of modern military communications, and cyber,   where digital military systems and civilian  infrastructure may be prone to attack. The   United States has not waged a multi-domain war  against a peer adversary since 1945, and so many   of the lessons it learned in Iraq and Afghanistan  may not be as relevant to a war with China.  

Likewise, America’s traditional approach to  wars has been to “overmatch” its enemies,   relying on military technology at least  one generation ahead to produce qualitative   advantages on the battlefield. “US forces can’t  count on overmatch in the future,” Singer argues,   since much of America’s intellectual property has  been stolen outright by Chinese spies, while its   R&D has been accelerating its experimentation with  space, drone, hypersonic, and cyber technologies.   Still, experimentation is not the same as  full-scale acquisition and implementation.   China’s two biggest vulnerabilities are  historically significant: First, that   it is reliant on imported semiconductors and  microchips, things it cannot produce itself,   and second, that it is heavily reliant on imported  oil. The situation is not unlike Japan’s in the   early 20th century—a rapidly modernizing imperial  power with a plucky navy totally reliant on oil   imports to sustain itself. As it started to expand  into China and the Pacific seeking access to raw  

resources, the United States embarked the  export of oil and other military goods.   Pearl Harbor, the start of the last world  war the United States fought in the Pacific,   came in part because Japanese leaders viewed war  with he United States as inevitable. It needed an   independent oil supply—something it would seek  in the oil-rich Dutch East Indies—and it knew   if it attacked the US would come knocking,  so it needed to prevent its own geopolitical   encirclement by striking a knockout blow on  the American fleet, then stationed at Pearl   Harbor. It had a narrow window, given its limited  oil reserves at home. And so they attacked.  

Some say another Pearl Harbor is brewing,  this time with Taiwan at the epicenter.   Reunifying the island by force will give  China access to the semiconductors it needs,   but it would have to ensure the United States  could not meaningfully intervene. Toshi Yoshihara,   a China expert who works at the Center  for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment,   has warned that the PLA’s views on a Pacific  conflict are “consistent with Pearl Harbor,” that   they are “predisposed to delivering a decisive  first blow against U.S. forward deployed forces   in the western Pacific, particularly those  in Japan.” Chinese doctrine indeed emphasizes   surprise at the outset of war—all part of a  “counterintervention strategy” to keep the   Beijing—Tianjin—Shanghai—Nanjing—Guangzhou—Shenzen  corridor open. Its precision-strike arsenal,  

primarily made up of DF-21C missiles, are  capable of hitting any target on the entire   Japanese archipelago, while its DF-26 missiles  can fire conventional and nuclear warheads almost   4,000 kilometers—far enough to strike  the strategic US base at Guam.   In all likelihood, if it were to spring  an amphibious invasion of Taiwan,   China’s tactic would be to saturate America’s  roving carrier groups and their escorts with   waves of ballistic anti-ship missiles, overcome  their defenses, and send billions of dollars of   valuable equipment to the bottom of the  ocean before it can be brought to bear.   This would help overcome the early  gulf in military shipping, aircraft,   and tonnage between the two sides. They would  then target vulnerable American sensor aircraft,  

refueling tankers, and cargo ships to curtail  America’s ability to get close to Chinese   territory. The United States has far more battle  force missiles than the Chinese—meaning the total   number of missiles capable of being fired  in combat before resupply—but the Chinese do   have enough to saturate and destroy three American  carrier groups simultaneously, potentially turning   the American naval forces in the Pacific into  a moot point before a war begins. There is even   evidence they have been practicing such preemptive  strikes in the Gobi Desert in western China.   Such a move might be good in the short-term,  but short-term tactical victories do not win   wars. China would then have to contend with the  galvanization of American morale, the mobilization   of its entire economy for war, and the possibility  of intervention from its many regional and global   partners—one of whom is Japan, the world’s third  largest economy with a powerful navy of its own.   If China went to war, it would be anything  but subtle. For an operation that big in the  

twenty-first century, it’s almost impossible  to achieve the element of surprise. Observers   would see a flurry of activity in China’s Eastern  and Southern Theater commands opposite Taiwan for   weeks and even months prior to invasion—ports  of embarkation, airfields, field hospitals,   and mobile command posts buzzing, units  deploying with oil and gas pipelines,   transport ships loading, commercial  ships looking to provoke and escalate.   The forces far from Taiwan would be placed on  high alert, national mobilization efforts would   increase, and the military would begin  commandeering civilian vessels, ferries,   aircraft, trucks, and trains. China would have  to surge its production of ballistic long range  

missiles and cruise missiles for a massive  anti-air, anti-ship, air-to-air, and beach   bombardment. It would need to achieve a degree of  economic self-sufficiency in anticipation for the   sanctions that would undoubtedly be implemented. It would be a lot like what we saw in Ukraine with   Russian forces massing not he border—not unlike  a classic game of Risk: You mass on your enemy’s   border, you claim you “come in peace!” You  are only there to defend yourself, you claim.   Meanwhile, battle plans are circulating and you  are one move away from starting World War III.   Unlike the Japanese at Pearl Harbor who  failed to authorize a third strike to   neutralize the American carrier and submarine  fleet, the Chinese would have to find a way   to continually pressure the Americans in  the Pacific to deter further intervention,   making it so prohibitively costly it’s morale  and will to assist Taiwan would crumble.   An invasion of Taiwan would be tantamount  to Germany’s invasion of the Rhineland in   1936. Unless the west is willing to stand up  and deter Chinese aggression from the start,  

an invasion could spark emergency  rearmament programs, mass mobilization,   and quickly escalate into a global war. Xi and the CCP are no fools, however. They   know it would be a Rubicon moment if they  were to invade Taiwan, something they could   never walk back from. They will have been watching  Putin’s adventure in Ukraine with great interest,   observing firsthand how aggressive regional  land-grabs can spiral into an out-and-out, no   holds barred contests against deceptively capable  nations with western backing. They know if they   act, they will immediately forfeit their national  image abroad and become international pariahs.  

In the end China will to figure out what ultimate  victory would look like, and if it will be worth   the price of an all-out world war. The ball is  really in their court; reunifying Taiwan by force   is a massive obstacle—overturning an entire global  order is even harder by an order of magnitude.   Could China do it? Is war really inevitable?  Tell us what you think in the comments below.

2023-04-03 22:05

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