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Will China invade Taiwan as a diversion?

Sep 26


On Sept. 19, during his address to the House Armed Services Committee, Major General Joseph McGee explained why a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would likely fail. Some experts propose that China might consider using such a conflict as a distraction from its ongoing economic and political difficulties.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan highlights critical reasons why an invasion by China seems unlikely but refrains from entirely dismissing the possibility.

Excerpted from Peter’s Sept. 26 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

China invading Taiwan isn’t a new topic, but would China ever use this war as a diversion or distraction? This is an unlikely scenario, but as long as Xi is in charge, we must consider every possibility.

Despite challenges to China’s political and economic system, with a leader like Xi, there isn’t a need to “rally support” for a war. In addition, capturing Taiwan wouldn’t provide China with a strategic advantage, and it would likely lead to hefty economic vulnerabilities.

The odds of a “diversionary” war happening are never zero, though. In a system like China, all it would take is a miscalculation on Xi Jinping’s part or some dark realizations setting in…

Hey everybody, Peter Klein here coming to you from Colorado. Now, last week, I released a video on why none of us should be really surprised if the Chinese system falls apart. We’ll leave the link here for those of you have not seen it. But the most common follow up question that I’ve received from viewers has been, wouldn’t this justify in the Chinese mind a diversionary war or distraction war to increase public support? I can’t rule it out. But I don’t think that’s going to go down for three or two reasons. Number one, this is not a democracy. This is an autocracy where the CCP has control of the public space is huge, and their ability to shape public opinion is massive. And in that sort of environment, you don’t get the same relative effects. And you also don’t have the same instability, from economic problems that you might have in a more pluralistic society. So I don’t want to say no, but the government’s ability to shape public opinion and distort nationalism is pretty robust. If anything, the government sometimes has a bit of a problem containing the nationalism, not not getting it going. So from a legitimacy point of view, I don’t think it’s really necessary. Second, anyone in China who can read a map and do math knows that if they launch a war for Taiwan, it will, it will not end well not in the war itself, what happens to the next day, China is dependent upon the international community for roughly three quarters of their energy sources. And most of that comes from a continent away. On top of that, China is in terms of absolute volumes, the most dependent on imports and exports of any country in the world. And they import the vast, vast, vast majority of the materials that allow them to grow their own food. So if you have even a moderate effort by a small number of countries to go after Chinese commerce and the aftermath, or because of a war, this country will be facing a industrial collapse in just a matter of months, and a famine that’ll kill half the population in a couple of years. And I have no doubt that at least several years ago that the Chinese leadership understood that and so they primarily use Taiwan as a rhetorical issue. And most of the threats that we’re seeing now are not necessarily coming from the decision makers. Third, let’s assume that the Chinese can capture Taiwan in a matter of weeks with minimal damage, that doesn’t really give them anything. I mean, yes, it technically is a break in the first island chain. But the Chinese are still dependent upon the international system to get everything that they need. And they’re dependent on the US Navy to patrol the global oceans so that their commercial cargo can come and go. In fact, this would actually put their potential ceilings by Taiwan in greater risk from the Japanese who have a better, longer range Navy than anything that the Chinese have. And then there’s talk of the semiconductor industry that the Chinese will be able to. But the Chinese can’t operate their own semiconductor industry. It’s not just run with foreign equipment and software, it’s run by foreign personnel, and the Taiwanese facilities are the most advanced in the world. And honestly, the Chinese wouldn’t know what to do with it. I don’t mean that as a slave of the Chinese, I don’t think any country that took them over would be able to operate them in anything less than a decade timeframe for the Chinese would take a lot longer than that. So it really doesn’t check any boxes now saying that it wouldn’t work saying that a diversionary war would be unwise, and would achieve nothing for the Chinese is not the same as me saying, I don’t think it would happen. But the rationale would be very, very different. So two things. Number one, it could be a miscalculation, not in the traditional sense that, you know, we don’t think anyone will do anything but miscalculation by GE, remember that GE has formed such a tight cult of personality that no one’s bringing them information. So he’s literally making information making decisions in a box without any idea of the information that flows in or the reality of the world around him. In that sort of decision making structure. Sure, you could pull the trigger, but it wouldn’t be because of any of the reasons that you would normally expect. So whether it’s economic, strategic, political, or whatever, whatever we would say, you know, this might force a country to pull the trigger. None of that applies to you because it’s all in his head. And it’s not something that we can really guess at, because we don’t know what’s shaping his decision making because we know he’s not being fed the information he needs to run the country. The second reason is quite darker. If you’re like me, and you believe that we’re looking at the end of the Chinese system over the next decade, for demographic reasons alone, forget politics, forget energy, forget vulnerability, forget the debt, forget trade wars, forget everything else. Then there’s something to be said for pulling the trigger. Because if the Chinese system is facing that same industrial collapse, and that same population collapse for other reasons, and there’s nothing that the Chinese government can do to stop that maybe by a little bit of time, and that’s it. Then pulling the trigger, choosing the time and the Place of a war even if you think you’re gonna lose, even if you know what’s going to result in the death of half your countrymen if it allows you to command the narrative of the future. Well, that means that the CCP for the low low price of half the country’s population might be able to rule into the next era of Chinese history. And if you’re completely amoral about it, you got to admit, that might be a compelling reason to launch a war that you know what will destroy you for dark, not saying that’s happening, but we can’t rule it out at this point.

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