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What in the World?

What’s stopping China from taking Taiwan?

Sep 27, 2021


Taiwan’s newly elected leader is pledging to renew stalled talks with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory. This comes after China has stepped up military and political pressure against the island.

Do these developments mean we are about to see a major shift in the region?

For starters, it’s unlikely China will take any aggressive action. Just look at Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, the strength of its population, and a bit of history to understand what in the world is stopping China from taking Taiwan.

Hey everybody. I’m in Southwest Island, and the ground is on fire. So I thought this was a great time to talk about Taiwan. 

Okay. There’s been a lot of talk recently with everything that’s going on in Afghanistan, about the United States not having Taiwan’s back and all that good stuff. 

I really think that’s overlooking a lot of problems that Beijing has in theoretically taking the island, problems that aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and are the primary reason that Beijing hasn’t taken the island for the last 40 years. First of all, let’s say they win and they get control of that massive semiconductor industry that everybody’s all concerned about. 

Well, the design for almost all the chips that are made in Taiwan come from the United States. 

So the idea that the U.S. would continue to supply the intellectual property to make that happen is kind of silly.

Second, the Taiwanese, the highly skilled, freedom-loving Taiwanese. They make those chips. Yeah, you can’t do that with indentured servitude. So sure, the Chinese could theoretically seize control of the industrial plant, but then it would just be a giant paperweight. 

The idea that the Taiwanese would be alone is kind of silly. 

You’d probably have Japanese and American aircraft carriers to the east of the island, able to run as many sorties as they want. 

So the Chinese are basically going to be sailing into a blender. 

And third, the Taiwanese are no joke. Sure. There’s only about 25 million of them, but it really doesn’t matter because if the Chinese mobilize so that the Taiwanese know it’s coming, give them a week or two, and they can develop some crude nuclear devices. 

Taiwan’s an advanced power. It has its own nuclear power system. It would not be a technical challenge. 

So if the Chinese go by a normal military process, they probably lose Shanghai and Fujian, and there is even right risks to Beijing.

So they’d have to do it from a cold start and then just throw people in the hundreds of thousands, into fishing boats and do a mass sailing across. You’re talking about casualties, at least in the hundreds of thousands. 

So the military consequences for doing this are huge. 

And then again, let’s assume that they win. Well then what? The Chinese economy is completely dependent upon the import of raw materials, especially energy, and the export of finished goods as part of a supply chain to the wider world.  

A war would destroy the supply chain and it would easily break up any sort of access they have to resources the world over. 

So you’re talking about 70% to 80% of the oil inputs suddenly becoming unavailable. 

All the United States or Japan or Vietnam or India would need to do is have a few destroyers, near the south part of the South China Sea, or the Indian Ocean, and all the energy flows from the Persian Gulf are done. 

So from an economic and strategic point of view, an invasion of Taiwan is national suicide for the Chinese.

Does that mean I think it’s impossible? No. 

If you’ve been following my work, the Chinese are facing a simultaneous demographic collapse with the financial crisis and a political mess. Sure, there’s a word for that. And the supply chain system that is completely vulnerable to decisions that are made by countries beyond the horizon that the Chinese can influence.

They are in their witching hour already. So the logic would be if you throw a million people at Taiwan, even if you lose, if you choose the time and place of the conflict, you can generate a nationalist impulse that might allow Chairman Xi to persist and the Chinese communist party to continue to exist in an environment of demographic financial and economic collapse. So the reason you would do it is to pick a fight so that you could choose when it happened. That’s really the only reason to do it.

So, no, I don’t find it likely.

I don’t think the American withdrawal from Afghanistan changes the strategic calculus one iota for either the Taiwanese or the Chinese or the Americans or the Japanese. It’s a null issue. If anything, I think of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, kind of like when Reagan ordered the withdrawal from Lebanon back in the 1980s.

We forgot about it in two weeks.

And a lot more Americans died in the final weeks of our presence in Lebanon than have died in Afghanistan. It’s like 250 people versus the 13 we’ve had so far. So that’s it for me until the next time, until the next mountain.

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