Why China Is Unlikely to Invade Taiwan

Yves here. It’s good to see pushback against the received wisdom that China is planning to occupy Taiwan. This piece by Michael Klare has some sour notes, such as ignoring that China would not have to invade Taiwan to subdue it (a blockade would suffice) and that Russia has weathered Western shock and awe sanctions and none other than the IMF forecasts modest growth in 2023. But it’s still a big step in the right direction.

By Michael Klare. Originally published at TomDispatch

Is China really on the verge of invading the island of Taiwan, as so many top American officials seem to believe? If the answer is “yes” and the U.S. intervenes on Taiwan’s side — as President Biden has sworn it would — we could find ourselves in a major-power conflict, possibly even a nuclear one, in the not-too-distant future. Even if confined to Asia and fought with conventional weaponry alone — no sure thing — such a conflict would still result in human and economic damage on a far greater scale than observed in Ukraine today.  

But what if the answer is “no,” which seems at least as likely? Wouldn’t that pave the way for the U.S. to work with its friends and allies, no less than with China itself, to reduce tensions in the region and possibly open a space for the launching of peaceful negotiations between Taiwan and the mainland? If nothing else, it would eliminate the need to boost the Pentagon budget by many billions of dollars annually, as now advocated by China hawks in Congress.

How that question is answered has enormous implications for us all. Yet, among policymakers in Washington, it isn’t even up for discussion. Instead, they seem to be competing with each another to identify the year in which the purported Chinese invasion will occur and war will break out between our countries.

Is It 2035, 2027, or 2025?

All high-level predictions of an imminent Chinese invasion of Taiwan rest on the assumption that Chinese leaders will never allow that island to become fully independent and so will respond to any move in that direction with a full-scale military assault. In justifying such claims, American officials regularly point to the ongoing modernization of China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and warnings by top Chinese officials that they will crush any effort by “separatist elements” in Taiwan to impede unification. In line with that mode of thinking, only one question remains: Exactly when will the Chinese leadership consider the PLA ready to invade Taiwan and overpower any U.S. forces sent to the island’s relief?

Until 2021, U.S. military officials tended to place that pivotal moment far in the future, citing the vast distance the PLA needed to go to duplicate the technological advantages of U.S. forces. Pentagon analysts most often forecast 2035 for this achievement, the date set by President Xi Jinping for China to “basically complete the modernization of national defense and the military.”

This assessment, however, changed dramatically in late 2021 when the Department of Defense published its annual report on the military power of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). That document highlighted a significant alteration in China’s strategic planning: whereas its leaders once viewed 2035 as the year in which the PLA would become a fully modern fighting force, they now sought to reach that key threshold in 2027, by accelerating the “intelligentization” of their forces (that is, their use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies). If realized, the Pentagon report suggested, that “new milestone for modernization in 2027… would provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.”

Still, some Pentagon officials suggested that the PLA was unlikely to achieve full “intelligentization” by then, casting doubt on its ability to overpower the U.S. in a hypothetical battle for Taiwan. That, however, hasn’t stopped Republicans from using the prediction to generate alarm in Congress and seek additional funds for weaponry geared toward a future war with China.

As Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) put it in 2022, when he was still a minority member of the House Armed Services Committee, “China’s just throwing so much money into military modernization and has already sped up its timeline to 2027 for when it wants the PLA to have the capability to seize Taiwan, that we need to act with a sense of urgency to tackle that threat because that is something unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history.” And note that he is now the chairman of the new China-bashing House Select Committee on China.

A potential 2027 invasion remained common wisdom in U.S. policy circles until this January, when the head of the Air Force Mobility Command, General Michael Minihan, told his troops that he suspected the correct date for a future war with China was 2025, setting off another panic attack in Washington. “I hope I am wrong,” he wrote to the 50,000 Air Force personnel under his command. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. The United States’ presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025.”

Though his prediction was derided by some analysts who doubted the PRC’s capacity to overpower the U.S. by that date, Minihan received strong backing from China hawks in Congress. “I hope he’s wrong as well, but I think he’s right, though, unfortunately,” said Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

At this point, official Washington continues to obsess over the date of the presumptive Chinese invasion, with some figures now suggesting 2024. Strangely enough, however, nowhere in official circles is there a single prominent figure asking the most basic question of all: Does China actually have any serious intention of invading Taiwan or are we manufacturing a crisis over nothing?

China’s Invasion Calculus

To answer that question means investigating Beijing’s calculus when it comes to the relative benefits and perils of mounting such an invasion.

To start off: China’s top leadership has repeatedly stated that it’s prepared to employ force as a last resort to ensure Taiwan’s unification with the mainland. President Xi and his top lieutenants repeat this mantra in every major address they make. “Taiwan is China’s Taiwan,” Xi characteristically told the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) last October. “We will continue to strive for peaceful reunification with the greatest sincerity and the utmost effort, but we will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

In addition, vigorous efforts have gone into enhancing the PLA’s capacity to invade that island, located 100 miles across the Taiwan Strait from the Chinese mainland. The PLA has substantially expanded its naval arm, the PLA Navy (PLAN), and especially its amphibious assault component. The PLAN, in turn, has conducted numerous amphibious exercises up and down the Chinese coast, many suggesting practice for a possible invasion of Taiwan. According to the Pentagon’s 2022 report on Chinese military power, such maneuvers have increased in recent years, with 20 of them conducted in 2021 alone.

Exercises like these certainly indicate that Chinese leaders are building the capacity to undertake an invasion, should they deem it necessary. But issuing threats and acquiring military capabilities do not necessarily signify intent to take action. The CCP’s top leaders are survivors of ruthless intraparty struggles and know how to calculate risks and benefits. However strongly they may feel about Taiwan, they are not inclined to order an invasion that could result in China’s defeat and their own disgrace, imprisonment, or death.

Weighing the Risks

Even under the best of circumstances, an amphibious assault on Taiwan would prove exceedingly difficult and dangerous. Transporting tens of thousands of PLA troops across 100 miles of water while under constant attack by Taiwanese and (probably) U.S. forces and depositing them on heavily defended beachheads could easily result in disaster. As Russia discovered in Ukraine, conducting a large-scale assault against spirited resistance can prove extremely difficult — even when invading by land. And keep in mind that the PLA hasn’t engaged in significant armed combat since 1979, when it lost a war with Vietnam (though it has had some border skirmishes with India in recent years). Even if it managed to secure a beachhead in Taiwan, its forces would undoubtedly lose dozens of ships, hundreds of planes, and many thousands of troops — with no assurance of securing control over Taipei or other major cities.

Just such an outcome emerged in multiple war games conducted in 2022 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank. Those simulations, performed by figures with “a variety of senior governmental, think tank, and military backgrounds,” always began with a PLA amphibious assault on Taiwan accompanied by air and missile attacks on critical government infrastructure. But “the Chinese invasion quickly founders,” a CSIS summary suggests. “Despite massive Chinese bombardment, Taiwanese ground forces stream to the beachhead, where the invaders struggle to build up supplies and move inland. Meanwhile, U.S. submarines, bombers, and fighter/attack aircraft, often reinforced by Japan Self-Defense Forces, rapidly cripple the Chinese amphibious fleet. China’s strikes on Japanese bases and U.S. surface ships cannot change the result: Taiwan remains autonomous.”

Those like General Minihan who predict an imminent Chinese invasion usually neglect to mention such hardcore assessments, but other military analysts have been less reticent. Buried deep in the Pentagon’s 2022 report on Chinese military power, for example, is the following: “An attempt to invade Taiwan would likely strain PRC’s armed forces and invite international intervention. Combined with inevitable force attrition… these factors make an amphibious invasion of Taiwan a significant political and military risk for Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party.”

Surely Xi’s generals and admirals have conducted similar war games and reached comparable conclusions. Chinese leaders are also painfully aware of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine and recognize that an invasion of Taiwan would automatically result in similar penalties. Add in the potential damage to Chinese infrastructure from U.S. bombers and the country’s economic prospects could be crushed for years to come — a likely death sentence for the Chinese Communist Party. Why, then, even think about an invasion?

There’s No Hurry

Add in one other factor. China’s leaders seem to have concluded that time is on their side — that the Taiwanese people will, eventually, voluntarily decide to unite with the mainland. This approach is spelled out in Beijing’s recent white paper, “The Taiwan Question and China’s Reunification in the New Era,” released last August by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the PRC’s State Council. As China grows increasingly prosperous, the paper argues, the Taiwanese — especially young Taiwanese — will see ever greater benefits from unification, diminishing the appeal of independence, or “separatism.”

“China’s development and progress, and in particular the steady increases in its economic power, technological strength, and national defense capabilities, are an effective curb against separatist activities,” the paper states. “As more and more compatriots from Taiwan, especially young people, pursue their studies, start businesses, seek jobs, or go to live on the mainland… the economic ties and personal bonds between the people on both sides run deeper… leading cross-Straits relations towards reunification.”

And keep in mind that this is not a short-term proposition but a strategy that will take years — even decades — to achieve success. Nevertheless, most of that white paper’s content is devoted not to military threats — the only parts of the paper to receive coverage in the West — but to bolstering bilateral trade and increasing China’s economic appeal to young Taiwanese. “Following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the mainland has improved its governance and maintained long-term economic growth,” it asserts. “As a result, the overall strength and international influence of the mainland will continue to increase, and its influence over and appeal to Taiwan society will keep growing.”

In such a take-it-slow approach surely lies a recognition that military action against Taiwan could prove a disaster for China. But whatever the reasoning behind such planning, it appears that Chinese leaders are prepared to invest massive resources in persuading the Taiwanese that reunification is in their best interests. Whether or not such a strategy will succeed is unknown. It’s certainly possible that a Taiwanese preference for political autonomy will outweigh any interest in mainland business opportunities, but with Beijing banking so heavily on the future in this manner, a military assault seems far less likely. And that’s something you won’t hear these days in an ever more belligerent Washington.

Considering the Alternatives

It’s difficult for outsiders — let alone most Chinese — to know what goes on in Beijing’s closed-door CCP leadership councils and, of all state secrets, that leadership’s calculations about a possible invasion of Taiwan are probably the most guarded. It’s certainly possible, in other words, that Xi and his top lieutenants are prepared to invade at the earliest sign of a drive towards independence by Taiwan’s leaders, as many U.S. officials claim. But there’s no evidence in the public realm to sustain such an assessment and all practical military analysis suggests that such an endeavor would prove suicidal. In other words — though you’d never know it in today’s frenzied Washington environment — concluding that an invasion is not likely under current circumstances is all too reasonable.

In the belief that Beijing is prepared to mount an invasion, the United States is already providing Taiwan with billions of dollars‘ worth of advanced weaponry, while bolstering its own capacity to defeat China in any potential conflict. Sadly, such planning for a future Pacific war is likely to consume an ever-increasing share of taxpayer dollars, result in ever more military training and planning in the Pacific, and as Rep. Gallagher and Republican House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy suggested recently, ever more belligerent attitudes toward China. Given the reasonable probability that Chinese leaders have decided against an invasion, at least in the immediate future, doesn’t it make sense to consider alternative policies that will cost all of us less and make all of us safer?  

Imagine, in fact, adopting a less antagonistic stance towards Beijing and seeking negotiated solutions to some of the issues dividing us, including China’s militarization of contested islands in the South China Sea and its provocative air and sea maneuvers around Taiwan. Reduced tensions in the Western Pacific might, in turn, make it possible to avoid massive increases in the Pentagon budget, thereby permitting increased spending on domestic priorities like health, education, and climate action.

If only….

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  1. rosemerry

    Of course he has to write CCP and not the correct designation CPC . I suppose anyone from the UAS cannot comprehend Communist Party of China is a different name, as the UAS would be for the USA.

  2. TomW

    Taiwan gets a say in this hypothetical conflict. They can see the outcome of a small country becoming a military ally of the US to challenge a neighboring regional hegemon. Taiwan would be wrecked in almost any military scenario.
    Taiwan will want to defer conflict to the indefinite future under almost any circumstances. China is in no hurry. The only sense of urgency is the US National Security special interest groups.

    1. Cat Burglar

      So, will the governing class in Taiwan allow the US to lead them down Mearsheimer’s “primrose path,” as the Ukrainians did? How much pay and adulation will it require for them to become US tools?

      The US window of opportunity seems to be very short, which would require conflict soon.

  3. digi_owl

    Sadly after Ukraine i fear that whenever USA goes “XYZ will invade!!!” they mean “we will make them invade”.

    Also, China taking the long, patient, view, reminds me of the benefit of a single party nation. Because in a “populist” democracy like most of the west, thinking beyond the next election cycle seem virtually impossible. The biggest period of “progress” my home nation had for example was when the same party held unchallenged majority for over a decade.

    1. some guy

      I don’t think America is strong enough to make China invade. China will just continue a very slow and thorough pressure and then if necessary a pre-violent strangulation campaign, lasting a couple more decades if necessary.

      ” Vee haff vays to make you VANT to join us.”

      1. AG

        why is it that after so many years Third Reich gone I still erupt into lavter ven I hear German accent


    it’s very funny that i searched the word “embargo” and i didn’t find anything, though it would be the most probable scenario, much more than an American style invasion. this article is full of american exceptionalism and assumption of chinese weakness. it all doesn’t make much sense cause the chinese will probably forced to fight a war in 2025, and then we’ll see if they’re so weak.

    1. Cocomaan

      China hasn’t ever really deployed their military. Think of how badly the USA did in Afghanistan and Iraq and consider that the US military has been in an armed conflict every decade if not every few years. The Chinese have numbers but zero real world training.

      I’m also skeptical of the CCPs ability to create viable equipment. There’s videos out there of Chinese rifles keyholing at ten yards. They also are still using flamethrowers like it’s world war 2.

    2. SeventyTwoTrillion

      Exactly – I was reading this and going “Wow, America has learned precisely nothing!”

      It’s utterly bizarre to watch people look at the Ukraine conflict and go ‘Well, this proves that industrial warfare is still a thing, and relying on relatively few extremely high-tech weapons (that might not even work) isn’t a viable strategy for near-peer conflicts’ and then turn around to look at Taiwan with seemingly total amnesia and seem to essentially imply ‘Aha, well, we can see that the United States runs its warships and aircraft carriers with freedomium, an element that can deflect hypersonic missiles and allow them to conduct a war within a few hundreds of miles from China’s coastline while their country is on the opposite side of a gigantic ocean’ and conveniently ignore that China’s industrial production is greater than Europe and America’s combined.

      We might well see some flashy action in the first few months of a war, but when the attrition warfare is ongoing in earnest, we’ll see increasing amounts of panic from the West. We might – and probably will – have a Snake Island incident or some Kharkov counteroffensive equivalent for the propaganda but the inexorable grind of equipment will bring the West and its proxy to its knees just the same as it has in Ukraine. I expect the same amount of grace and humility from the West in Taiwan too – that is, none at all.


        the Pentagon is talkin about an “ufo mothership” these days. i wonder how can they be taken for serious and considered a deterrent. the russian began to destroy their drones, a clear sign that the usa military complex don’t scare the enemies like in past years

    3. John k

      I wonder if us having access to Taiwan chips but not China might become intolerable. Those fabs can be taken out from afar, no invasion necessary… and that might reduce Taiwan’s attractiveness to us.

  5. Lex

    The CSIS war game set mentioned in the piece also painted a terrible picture for the USN. I don’t remember the specifics but it included at least one aircraft carrier sunk.

    I read all the China will invade Taiwan dates as when the US will make a Taiwanese conflict happen rather than when China will attack. Simply because China doesn’t need to attack.

    1. Rob

      The CSIS is a think tank funded by the defense industry. One would expect their war game exercise to show a favorable outcome for the US against China. In contrast, the Department of Defense’s own war games a few years ago had the exact opposite outcome. Which source is more trustworthy—the Pentagon or the weapons manufacturers?

  6. JB

    I won’t forget the bad call on Russia not invading Ukraine from everyone, while they were literally amassing troops on the border.

    If China are to invade Taiwan I’d say it will be telegraphed long in advance – such as with a gigantic industrial buildup of missiles along the Chinese coast – for bombarding Taiwan.

    A simple graph of Chinese conventional missile stockpiles is probably going to be a pretty reliable (though of course not sole) indicator.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      With all due respect, you apparently have not been paying attention. Russia had massed troops on the Ukraine border multiple times before, most recently prior to the invasion in March-April 2021. Ukraine (which had obvious incentives to say the reverse) took the position in February 2022 that the Russian force buildup again was saber rattling, not a plan to invade.

      As for China, you also seem to miss that Taiwan is a part of China. The US officially takes that view while fomenting mischief. And as stated before, China has no reason to invade. The most it has to do if it thought it needed to get ugly is a blockade.

      1. Sara K.

        That ‘Taiwan is a part of China’ statement needs a ton of qualifiers.

        Taiwan has never been under the rule of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The current government of Taiwan is the Republic of China (ROC), so in that sense it’s accurate to say that Taiwan is part of ‘China,’ just as it would’ve been accurate to say from 1895 thru 1945 that Taiwan was a part of Japan. It’s also accurate that most Taiwanese people identify as 華人, which imprecisely translates to English as ‘ethnic Chinese.’ Many Taiwanese people from the older generations, who were educated under the dictatorship, also identify as 中國人 which imprecisely translates as ‘Chinese national’ (though the term can apply to either the ROC or the PRC). However, the vast majority of the younger people insist they are not 中國人, they are 台灣人. Most Taiwanese people in the generation educated after the end of the White Terror would prefer full independence in the absence of a military threat from the PRC.

        And really, if Taiwan is a part of China as anything other than a diplomatic cover which includes both the PRC and the ROC, why would China blockade Taiwan? Why, after all, would the United States blockade Hawaii in the 21st century, long after the U.S. government established rule over those islands? By discussing the possibility of blockade, you’re admitting that Taiwan is de facto independent from China.

        1. John k

          Imo east Ukraine and Taiwan are somewhat similar, in one case closely related to Russia and the other to China, and neither with long historical independence. Most important, both are very close to a regional great power that is in the process of establishing that power. I see this as similar to Mexico wrt us, nominally independent but not sufficiently sovereign to able to lease, say, Ensenada to China for use as a naval base… it is too close to the local great power to be fully sovereign.
          For this reason I don’t think Taiwan has sufficient independence to withhold its strategic chips from China for long… it’s simply too easy to take out the fabs, no need to invade. After that, just wait, us might eventually find far away proxy fights expensive as asia unites and withholds critical commodities. Would the fab workers rather emigrate to China or us, given a us/China Cold War?

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          1. Only 12 countries recognize Taiwan, none of any consequence. That number dropped by 1 due to Honduras dropping its recognition.

          And the key bit here is that the US officially does not recognize Taiwan.

          2. Separatist movements exist everywhere. The old IRA. The Basques. The Chechens back in the day. The Kurds.

          1. Potomacker

            Separatist movement? Has there ever been another separatist movement which once held a seat on the UN security council? China is simply a vaguely defined geographic term that refers to the lands under Han dynastic control. We do well to refer to the proper names of these countries in the same manner as we when referring to Korea as either the DPRK or the Republic of South Korea. Which one of these two Koreas is the separatist?
            And just how many other countries does a nation need for proper recognition? It’s well past the time that more countries stop buying into the diplomatic fiction that the Republic of China is somehow ‘part’ of the People’s Republic of China in order to rationalize from one’s keyboard the territorial expansionism of an authoritarian regime. Or is the Czech Republic also of no consequence?

        3. hk

          With all due respect, “countries” exist more than on sentiments. How willing are Taiwanese to fight a war, to have their “country” destroyed, to lose tens or even hundreds of thousands dead, and most of their wealth destroyed so that they can avoid being called “Chinese”? I don’t care much for PRC, but what’s going on nowadays is shameless attempt to spark a very dangerous armed conflict soon rather than any effort to de escalate and avoid conflict. I think the Taiwanese not wanting to be ruled by Beijing is just a fig leaf being massively abused to justify this. Indeed, I don’t think Taiwanese desire to be a normal country, so to soeak, actually has anything realistic to do this warmongering, except to bait the skeptics into sounding like giving excuses for Beijing.

  7. John

    First Ukraine, then China? The US is indeed “the Empire of Chaos.” Did the geniuses in the DC Bubble and Echo Chamber forget that one ought never to “march on Moscow” and “never to bluff Beijing.”

    Almost forgot, is the assumption that the CPC will be ousted from power anything more than wishful thinking?

  8. Don Cafferty

    “As more and more compatriots from Taiwan, especially young people, pursue their studies, start businesses, seek jobs, or go to live on the mainland… the economic ties and personal bonds between the people on both sides run deeper… leading cross-Straits relations towards reunification.” This is the long term trend already underway that makes it possible for China to sit and wait patiently for reunification. It is the United States that perceives the need for war now rather than later.

    The United States has targeted Russia and now China for conflict in a last gasp attempt to maintain a hegemony that it has already lost. Alexander Mercouris has highlighted more than once that China’s share of global manufacturing value added is more than the United States and the EU combined. [The source of the data is the World Bank and the graph is published in the Financial Times.] What nobody seems to be advising the US government is that war against peers will diminish the US further. As retired Colonel Douglas MacGregor said in a recent interview nobody seems to have advised the US Congress and Senate on the reality of the current US military. US lawmakers believe in a military superiority that is no longer true.

  9. Alex V

    I think an invasion is highly unlikely for one main reason – the main Taiwanese asset, semiconductor manufacturing, can easily be destroyed in a native scorched earth response, rendering the economic benefit of a takeover worthless. Yes, the equipment is expensive, but the real value is the manufacturing and management knowledge contained in the companies, which can be easily evacuated. And the largest company by revenue Hon Hai (Foxconn) has immense investments in the mainland which would be instantly expropriated. Those with real economic power in Taiwan absolutely do not want war or even provocation. So it makes little sense for the mainland to encourage a destruction of the main industries of Taiwan.

    1. jan

      If TSMC is destroyed that will hurt the USA as well though. The plants being built here in the USA are not as flexible as the one in Taiwan, from what I understand. The hurt will go both ways. Which will make sense to us, but I wonder if our dear leaders think like that.

      1. John k

        I might be wrong, but I think Alex meant China would rather destroy the fabs than let us get the benefit while China is denied, as I mentioned above. I agree destroying the plants is much easier than invading.

    2. elkern

      “Economic benefit” is probably a tertiary aspect of China’s interest in Taiwan.

      Nationalist *sentiment* and strategic concerns are probably the top two motivations.

      The CPC probably uses [Han] Nationalism as a lever to maintain power internally and bolster the ability to project power beyond their borders, but the people in the CPC are humans, and us humans tend to (1) invent reasons that fit our internal feelings and preferences and (2) believe our own BS, so that aspect is not merely propaganda.

      A quick look at Earth shows that Taiwan is a serious strategic area for China. From a defensive standpoint, the island is within striking distance (300 mi?) of a huge portion of China’s population/industrial centers, so China can’t risk allowing an “enemy” to base missiles and bombers there. From an offensive view, the island blocks China’s access to the Pacific.

      Note that I don’t think this means that China is itching to invade Taiwan; but if it does, the motivations will not be primarily economic.

  10. The Rev Kev

    Washington can talk about going to war with China in 2025 and thumping their chest about how they will beat them but suppose that things don’t go according to plan? Yes, I know that that is a shocking thought but hear me out. Suppose that China opts for a long war instead of a short war like the Russians have done. How long until the US military runs out of spare parts? How much ammo will the US have by 2025? China might let both Japan and South Korea know that they will not launch any missiles at those two countries unless they, or US forces in their countries, launch missiles first. That might give them pause before doing something stupid. And suppose that China does not try to invade Taiwan as that would be just a kill box but keeps fighting a low key war. Like wiping out all those “missile Marine” detachments that will be spread on the inner islands. And as the US has already promised to smoke Taiwan to leave nothing for the Chinese, would that be cause for a possible civil war in Taiwan itself as there would be a lot of people who will not want their country to become Ukraine 2.0? The NATO-Ukraine war has been running now for 13 months and counting. Anybody think that the US could fight a 13-month fight with China?

    1. SeventyTwoTrillion

      Yes, these are pretty much my thoughts.

      The United States knows that they must have their war soon or not at all given China’s rate of growth, both politically, economically, and militarily; while US allies in the region might not be breaking now, can the US guarantee that they won’t in 2 years, or 5 years, or 10 years given China’s growing strength? China knows that the United States knows this, and so won’t be easily baited into the trap – or if they are forced into the trap by something truly insane (idk, US suggests giving Taiwan nukes or something; the threat of this happening in Ukraine was part of what prompted Russia’s invasion) then they’ll play it very carefully and methodically.

      China knows what its strengths are – they are able to use their industrial power to sustain internal production and thus a long term war where American forces can be slowly but surely removed. They know what their weaknesses are – a lack of recent war experience and thus proven generals, that could reliably plan and execute very complex operations like an amphibious assault on Taiwan. America knows what its strengths are – its control of the global financial system that can (…could…) bring countries to their knees if executed rapidly, plus their global diplomatic control to isolate certain countries. America knows what its weaknesses are – its inability to sustain industrial warfare given its financialized economy, and falling behind on key technologies compared to China.

      Both sides are obviously going to play to its strengths and try to exploit each other’s weaknesses – that’s almost a banal thing to say. America will try a short, snappy war to take down China, and China will try a long war to attrit America and break its neocolonies like Japan and South Korea. I just think that America’s strengths aren’t quite as strong anymore, and their weaknesses are growing, and the reverse is true for China.

      To be clear, this isn’t to say that it’ll be an easy victory for China. Unless I’m wrong, and I’m open to be wrong about it, the United States doing to China what it did to Russia would be very damaging to China. It’ll be a difficult slog either way. But China has the edge the longer they can delay things.

      1. RonR

        If the US gets involved in a Taiwan/China conflict would not the US west coast be an instant target for China subs?

    2. shinola

      “That might give them pause before doing something stupid.”

      Rev Kev – ever the optimist…

    3. tevhatch

      “….fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases…”

      Never underestimate the universality of venal pander in business, it exists in Japan and South Korea just as strongly as it exist in the USA. Their respective MIC-IMATTs are just as choc-a-block full of individual agents all driven by greed toward what may well be a very unhealthy end-goal. They arm themselves for defense against their largest trading partner because it is profitable to key stakeholders, not because of a public logic.

    4. Mikel

      “How long until the US military runs out of spare parts?”

      It was discovered with the pandemic that the USA doesn’t have a lot of “spare” anything.
      Plenty of magical thinking to spare.

  11. Neil P

    how many more years can the USA keep scaring us about a potential Chinese war that never materialized before people get wise to the propaganda and fear mongering tactics? If they wanted Taiwan, they would have taken it the day the USA pulled out of Afhangistan and the collapse of that country ensued. Or why not the very say day that the Russian’s invaded Ukraine? The war hawks would of course say, they are secretly planning for a better moment to attack. they want to shore up their resources and production of x,y and z. come on. A good window of opportunity is more important than any amount of resources…

    1. Sara K.

      Believe it or not, not everything which happens in the world revolves around how the U.S. government acts. What connection would China taking over Taiwan have to the USA pulling out of Afghanistan, or Russia invading Ukraine? Those dates would have had unfavorable weather conditions for operating in the sea around Taiwan, why would China choose to invade during weather conditions which are more likely to destroy their ships than during time of more favorable weather (specifically, April and October)?

      (That said, the weather factor is one reason why I expect a Chinese invasion, if it happens, to be telegraphed in advance, it’s much harder to invade by surprise when one is limited to certain times of year).

      China hasn’t taken Taiwan because Taiwan has a military which can make the cost high, plus the risk that other countries (including the United States, though also Japan, India, etc.) would also get involved (for example, India might take advantage of the distraction to secure what its government considers to be the proper border). On top of that, after taking over, the People’s Republic of China would have to deal with a hostile population.

    2. Grebo

      Did people get wise to the 75 year propaganda campaign against the USSR? Most seem to still be in thrall to it, 30 years after it ended.

      You can fool most of the people all of the time.

  12. Alex Cox

    Klare makes the interesting observation that Chinese leaders “… are not inclined to order an invasion that could result in China’s defeat and their own disgrace, imprisonment, or death.”

    I wonder fate awaits NATO leaders when they lose their war against Russia in Ukraine. Could disgrace, imprisonment, or death be their reward, also?

    One can always dream…

    1. Polar Socialist

      Nah, for some weird reason only autocratic leaders are punished when they make huge mistakes. Leaders in “liberal democracies” face no consequences, ever.

  13. Cetra Ess

    Perhaps if the US stops with its permanent agenda of starting wars everywhere the UN would finally be able to function as a peaceful dispute resolution mechanism and we can at last experience world peace. For that, we’ll need for the US to start its last war, thereafter ending war.

    Maybe this will be the one. A hopeful outcome would be for terms imposed on the US, so punishing and crippling it will permanently sour the American hunger for nationalistic glory and everyone else can finally stand down and focus on more urgent and universal problems without having to worry about military matters.

  14. HH

    Power in Washington is in the hands of neocon ideologues whose cult of hegemony is entirely detached from economic and military reality. However reluctant the Chinese are to go to war, the neocons will keep pushing and provoking until conflict ensues. Professor Klare’s appeal to reason is naive. The neocons have no reverse gear.

  15. elkern

    I view China as *fundamentally* Conservative – in the traditional sense of a risk-averse preference for slow change – so I believe they will continue to “conquer” the World Island economically and carefully avoid any big wars. Conversely, the USA will continue to bleed itself to death via belligerent Foreign Policy primarily motivated by domestic political concerns (winning – or not losing – the next election).

  16. Not Qualified to Comment

    What does ‘war with China’ actually mean? The ‘victory’ over Germany in WW1 in which the US participated was largely achieved when Germany was exhausted economically and militarily (and then destroyed economically in the next decade), and the ‘victory’ over Germany and Japan in WW2 was achieved by occupying the former (with a little help from Russia) and threatening the latter with weapons of mass-destruction to which it had no response. Its one significant ‘victory’ since then, in Iraq, was again achieved by a ground war against a outclassed, half-hearted opponent and a military occupation of the country destroying its society and administration.

    None of the above scenarios are conceivable in a conflict with China. For all its superior ‘sophisticated’ weaponry there’s no way on earth the US could actually invade the Chinese mainland to subdue it militarily, and China has nuclear weapons to throw back against that threat. The US might be able to beat off an attempted invasion of Taiwan, at considerable military cost and significant damage to Taiwan itself, but this would merely reset the status quo ante – the US might win round one, but be left with a bloody nose and the fight just beginning, and with much of the American public asking why it was losing real American lives and treasure defending an island they know little about on the other side of the world.

    No, the US warhawks might be trying to provoke China into a conflict but it would only happen if China was foolish enough to respond, and the Chinese have never been fools. It is watching the US continue to voluntarily beggar itself and fall apart at the seams, and knows it only has to wait until the US becomes yesterday’s great power to have the field to itself.

    1. Polar Socialist

      (with a little help from Russia) and threatening the latter with weapons of mass-destruction

      Understatements of the month, me thinks.

      1. digi_owl

        Never mind that the WMD angle on Japan is oversold. while the destruction was massive, Japan had already seen Tokyo get devastated by firebombing. What freaked Japan out was the Red Army entering Manchuria.

    2. hk

      I agree. I don’t see a Chinese “invasion” taking place unless something extraordinary happens. They know full well 1) they lack the necessary tools for invasion on that scale–in fact, I don’t think anyone ever had a genuine amphibious invasion this big. I don’t think an invasion has a serious chance of success, now, in near future, or ever, at least in conventional military terms. One might mention Shi Lang, but he was practically an inside man on Taiwan (an island Wu Sangui?). 2) The cost of war, not just in terms of military and economic losses will be devastating. The entire international order would be shattered and picking up the pieces and starting anew will be extremely headachy even for the Chinese. Between these two reasons, I expect that the Chinese will attempt to integrate the Taiwanese into the Sinosphere as much as possible through peaceful means, in every dimension conceivable–economic, social, cultural, etc. I was of the impression that this was causing consternation among pro-independence Taiwanese even a decade plus ago. Certainly, this would create plenty of people who’d rather not rock the boat and, for the foreseeable future, an ambiguous relationship where Taiwan recognizes Beijing’s “suzerainty” and behaves accordingly would suit the PRC fine, I should think, for decades at least.

      This brings the question, rather like in Ukraine, to the socio-cultural underpinnings of a potential crisis. I tend to think the reason Ukrainian, eh, ultranationalists went whole hog with their ridiculous russophobia was in recognition of the enormous soft power Russia has in Ukraine for historical and cultural reasons. It’s not Poland or Baltic States, or even Georgia, whose cultures and histories were definitely alien from the East Slavic peoples. But can the Taiwanese, who are themselves from mainland China only a few centuries ago in most case, actually desinify Taiwan without an even bigger blowback than in Ukraine in the medium run? So I don’t see any way for Taiwan to be substantially “free” of China, ever, unless, again, something cataclysmic happens soon, and even then, I suspect plenty of Taiwanese would decide they’d rather be Chinese if they are so cornered–again, like a substantial fraction of Ukrainians decided that they’d rather be Russians once things started falling apart, after Maidan. So plenty of Shi Lang’s, then. And the remaining Taiwanese would be eager to fight China to the last American, like Zelensky and his crazy gang now. As an American, I don’t think I want to see hings get that far.

      The best that can happen is for Taiwan to “integrate” with China, but retain a certain amount of dignity–maybe like Canada vis a vis US? Difficult, but perhaps doable?

  17. Tim

    The idea of an owner instigating a war against its largest customer by far is stupid. Simple as that.

    The upside of Taiwanese tax overflow and beneficial pricing to the China mothership is peanuts by comparison to losing its largest customer the USA.

    1. John k

      Per cnbc, Taiwan exports to China+Hk is nearly 3x exports to us… and note that chip exports to China is curtailed. Taiwan prefers independence, but a trade embargo with China would be a disaster.

  18. Sunny Tzu

    About the invasion, there is another alternative. I agree that currently there is no need for Mainland China to launch an invasion, but if conditions were to change, there is no need at all to make a physical invasion of the island. Taiwan can be easily blocked and sieged, and air attacks can destroy completely the entire island without risking any navy or army unit. In fact, I think the Navy surely would be employed in defeating US assets, leaving submarine drones and submarines proper the blocking of the island.

    All in all, this strategy would be less harmful for civilians and the island will fall in weeks, if not days. Even more, I can’t see what the US could do.

    My bet is China is working this, that’s the reason she needs the war in Ukraine lasts all it can to erode West and buy time to put on her side the resources. In fact, I believe China actually has decided to go to war against the US, since it is imposible with current elites to agree nothing. Of course, war in Chinese terms, which is to say Sun Tzu’s, not USA’s. Timing included.

  19. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    Gold egg laying geese have been kiled before but I don’t see it happening here.

  20. WillD

    These days it is becoming much safer to assume that whatever the US says on the subject is either an outright lie, disinformation or some other manipulative statement. China knows this, and reacts much much smarter politically and diplomatically than the US.

    My, albeit limited, understanding is that China does not want to use direct hostile behaviour because it wants to ‘persuade’ the Taiwanese to re-join the mainland peacefully. It does not want to subjugate them to its will.

  21. AG

    if anyone cares, a good 30 minutes conversation between Ellsberg and Chomsky. (mainly E. speaking of course.)
    also about how US Marine tactics currently is altered to more of amphibious style landing.

    “Chomsky and Ellsberg on the Present Danger”

    It appears as if part 2 will follow.

    This part 1 ends on the note: “Why should China invade Taiwan.”
    Sort of a cliffhanger that hooked me.

  22. AG

    and here a conversation with Lyle Goldstein, I have yet to check myself though, Goldstein is not always particularly a progressive as far as I remember but he surely knows things, his expertise, I think, being clearly with China, less Russia.

    transcript & podcast:

    “Lyle Goldstein on U.S. Strategic Challenges: Russia, China, Ukraine, and Taiwan”, 72 min.


  23. Chinese diaspora

    Chinede diasporum
    I have a feeling the title is correct.
    Consider these facts:
    1. After achieving elimination of extreme poverty in the whole country, China embarks on the next project, which will impact the world positively and profoundly, probably more than the effect of China joining WTO. And the project is Modernization of Entire Chinese Population. As population dividend slows, China looks forward to grow and harvest Talent Dividend.
    China has mastered manufacturing. It is the only country on earth to have comprehensive manufacturing capacity in entire 400 sectors of manufacturing. Its manufacturing capacity is that of US+EU, and may be even by now US+EU+Japan. Moreover the percentage of GDP due to manufacturing is shrinking, meaning the rise of economic power is not manufacturing alone. And chinese come to a realization that key of economic advancement is manufacturing. China has then take it into the next stage, 4th industrial revolution for which china has its own interpretation. China can now manufacture largest mega container ships, megacrane, aircraft carrier. LNG transporting ship. Tunnelling shields, Space Station, Mega radio telescope,
    Experimental Advance Superconducting Tokamak, Largest Wind Tunnel, Molten Salt Thorium Reactors and more, 5G abd into 6G.The shipyard capacity is said to be something like this: a single naval shipyard was seen by satellite as having 5 ships in construction simultaneously. And one shipyard production capacity is said to be that of all US naval shipyards combined. And china had 13 of those shipyards.

    BRICS, power, leadership , organization , management.
    BRICS GDP greater than G7
    Iran and Saudi set to join this year in BRICS 2023. In that case, BRICS is a major petroluem power. Russia+ Iran+Saudi.
    There are many applications for membership of BRICS.
    Consider petrol yuen. Consider China demanding of rmb for purchase of its goods. Less dollar required.

    Different Civilization, Different Thought Process.
    Science, STEM, Pragmatism, Perpetual Reforms

    China has been influenced by three big schools, taoism, buddhism, abd confucianism. None of these are spiritualism.
    And post formation of people’s republic of China, China hold “only matter-sm”唯物論, versus “only perception – sm” 唯心論。Chinese believe only thing he can see touch. Which means he has to rely on himself and family and kins and nation to help. No supernatural being going to come and help you. Pragmatic and down to earth. And china went through the horrible convulsion of cultural revolution, iconoclast to change people mindset. This lay the foundation of firm believe in science over superstition. And china has a very long history of meritocracy dated back thousand of year. Officials are selected through examinations. And China is a power house in producing graduates of STEM. That said, Chinese conclusion from its own unique system and experience is Modernization is not Westernization.
    China also concluded that the superiority of west is their mastery of manufacturing with industrial revolution, with machines. The west then transferred that to superior civilization, and eventually, to superior westerner. That is not the case. It can be taught, it can be learned.

    Peace Diplomacy.

    China has proposed 12 points peace plan for the world. It proposes indivisibility of security. Sit down and talk. How to achieve security for you and security for me? In contrast to the western push of zero sum, country versus country, block versus block, type of thinking.
    And post 2 session meeting conclusion, Xi held a meeting with Global Party Leaders. This has a civilizational character. And there will be a meeting china will be hosting between iran and gulf states where the language use will be Arabic, Persian and Chinese. No english will be used. So the diplomatic push already in place for a new style, new thinking, new model to say that there are viable alternative civilizations. China playing again asymmetrical struggle. Instead of force, coercion, china positions itself as peace , dialogue, negotiation. The united West (13%) is separated from the Rest (global south 80%).

    US debt.

    Dollar is based on trust.

    Dollar is back by military.

    First time in 74 years bank deposit shrinks. Credit card loan record high. 50 % population do not have 1000 usd for emergencies, many living pay check to pay check and many children go to bed without meal.
    Crumbling infra. Homelessness increasing.

    Now looks like US has to choose one of two red pills.
    Inflation, or collapse of banking system.

    USA has no intention to pay back its debt.

    Consider China asking rmb for payment of its good from the world.
    Consider petrol yuen.
    Consider what if china weaponizes
    Semiconductor, solar panel, battery, rare earth, medication antibiotic.

    Xi prefers unifying Taiwan by non military way. For now he needs to do is avoid big war. All he needs to do is to observe aggressively (lol) as US unravels.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Your comment troubles me. It reads as if you collected bullet points from one of the official diplomatic white papers posted recently. On first reading your comment I immediately thought of the line from an old movie: “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” If you are a real life person and you do not live under a bridge, I think you might want to lay off the Kool-aid.

      I believe the u.s. Empire has grown very old in the life cycle of Empires. The nascent Chinese Empire is younger and for the present may very well embody some or part of the great principles and ideals you cite in your comment. The u.s. Empire was built on great principles and ideals. It was an industrial power. I read much of your comment as swagger. I believe you might have saved a great many words by staying with your last paragraph. I believe Taiwan will become part of China as a matter of time. Through ties of culture, language, trade, and geography Taiwan is already a de facto part of China.

      Bullet point 3 mixes in ideas that suggest you might want to go back and study your Sun Tzu — “…know the enemy and know yourself…”. The u.s. Military Industrial Complex [MIC] is neither spiritual nor pragmatic. The goals of the MIC are very much focused on immediate Wealth and internal empires rather than a rational national strategy. And some components of the u.s. MIC are not sane. The MIC thrives on conflict for the fat cash flows that feed DoD procurements. I believe Xi may need to “observe aggressively as the US unravels” — whatever you mean by that — but more importantly Xi needs to patiently tolerate u.s. provocations while showing clear intent and ability to engage and prevail if his hand is forced.

  24. Chinese diasporum

    Thank you, Jeremy for speaking to me.

    I am not a bot. Am a retired Orthopaedic Surgeon, a third generation Chinese diasporum somewhere in peaceful part of Asean, who has done a Spine Fellowship in UCSD in the 90s and is grateful and indebted to my professor who is such a wonderful and generous teacher, and to USA too. I like USA. I will say that culturally i am chinese educated. We dont have communist indoctrination. After primary school, in the transition to secondsry school, i had to carry a mandarin-english bidirectional dictionary every day at school and slept with it. I play Claire de lune, fantasie impromptu, but cant sing a single western or mandarin pop song. Because of my medical training, i tend to believe i have more science less superstition. I read some management books, attended talk eg.speaker like michael porter. Some how i dont like christianity although frens brought me to church and listen and i read bits of bible here and there when i was young.

    And you are absolutely spot on in your opening comment.
    I do not have first hand knowledge like Deborah Brautigam, who spent 40 years tracking Chinese development projects across Africa.
    I gathered my “info”, from youtube :
    Hoover institution, Watson institution, CSIS, Asia Society. Kevin Rudd, Hugh White, Chas Freeman, GlenBeck, Kyshore, and Martin Jacque, Richard Wolff, Stiglitz, Ruebini, Marc Faber, Ray Dalio, Kieneman, Oxford debates, TED talks. And a few books, John Dsrwin After Tamerlane,, Europe A history Norman Davies, bits here abd there.
    All major news network including russian Indian german french arabic us African channels. And CGTN. I no longer listen to salesman, moneyman. I travel to China many times. I have apartment there. I have bank account, deposit and an account with brokerage where i buy shares of largest bank in the world. The returns of the shares and interest are not much, but they are very safe (i believe so, dont know it is true or not). I travel in china on and off last 45 years whenever time permit me as a very busy surgeon. The change is jaw dropping. As a chinese i feel very proud. And i feel so many western talking heads are very shallow and dont know what they are talking about. Anywsy, it is not Asia’s responsibility to explain to the west. Anyway , there are so much subtlety and nuance as to make translation impossible. In general i feel western speakers lazy, shallow, and has crazy sense of confidence. Unlike kevin rudd who takes pain to understand some part of chinese culture, thinking, position. According to Rudd, he gone through the chinese white papers , policies statement, publication after 2 session etc etc.

    So back to the thing we are talking.

    1 the west now has to contend with emergence of a great power , rising peacefully , backed by a civilization very different and alien to Anglo-Saxon, christian europe, the collective west, making up of 13% of world population. And that civilization is pushing forth with ways thst west does not understand and thus very anxious. Anxiety is you sense there is a threat, but do not know what is the threat. Fear is you see a snake, you fear , but you can see the snake, it is a snake.

    They are coherent, competent, powerful, with 5000 years of continiuty, can execute to timeline. What will the west do?


    And over and above western serfs, some westerners think there is a supranational structure may be Davos Globalist, Bilderberg groups whatever who rules. That Globalist loves China model until it can not.

    Who is in charge of the west anyway? Jack ? Victoria? Globslists? A hundred or two people inside and outside Whitehouse?

    2 there is no coherent thought, strategy in the west. They have not have important reforms for decades. Many ad hoc action to multitudes of unsolved problems that can not be solved. There are no important westetn thinker, philosophers, leader. Like rome, the society has gone in a certain path and evolved to such sophistication that it brings on unsolvable problems. It is an ossified society. Provide rooms and needles for injection is such example. Much like rearranging deck chair. Not saying west is heading for annihilation, but old, waddling, yousters whez you by. Soon the african you enslaved, slaughtered.

    3 Sure US is still militarily a top player. Your military cards are excellent, that alone will not ensure you come out on top. Depends on howvyou plsy them. (Joseph Nye ).

    So west, still great, has to plan an exit strategy. The world wont end tomorrow if west chooses the blue pill and cooperate with the Rest. Look at Britain, after ww2, it accepted USA as big boss and can muddle through for another 80 years. The standard of living will drop. The current life style of west is unsustainable anyway in we Asian eyes. Slower pace, less wastage, live the grandpa type of life is not neccessrily bad.

    The Ideals and Principles of USA were great, ( without parsing them, lol) But do you practise them? Can you practise them beyond you yourself ? What has gone wrong to the once mighty USA?

    Listen to Pat Buchanan, do you agree with him? Suicide of An Empire, something like that.

    The last part is a sarcasm. USA budgetted 1.5 billions to spend on the media to demonize whatever chinese, we know that. There sre media ngos in my country on the payroll of endowment for democrasy.

    The proper sentence is : all xi has to do is just to observe as us unravels.

    Then one of my classmate added the word aggressively to the word observe before the anti china people could add it. It is a joke on the anti chinese. Like we all know the anti chinese brigade will put a negative adjective or adverb to modulate, Sort like neuro linguistic programming. Dont believe? Listen to Paul Keating shaking down a naive anencephalic white female journo asking about chinese building naval vessels, as “why is chinese so provocative”, something like that.

    Best regards.

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