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Xi’s Taiwan strategy is veiled in unpredictability

Mar 6

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On March 5, China’s National People’s Congress, the nation’s highest legislative body, commenced a week of meetings aimed at providing insights into the government’s plans for the upcoming year. In addressing Taiwan, a self-ruling island democracy that China claims as its territory, Chinese Premier Li Qiang reiterated the official stance on “reunification” as part of the “overall strategy.” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his New Year’s address that reunification is inevitable.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan contends that, in the China-Taiwan dynamic, not much has fundamentally changed, except for America’s ability to anticipate the unpredictable actions of Chairman Xi Jinping. Zeihan also revisits some of his 2023 predictions, acknowledging areas where he was mistaken.

Excerpted from Peter’s March 6 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

This is the third episode of our new series ‘Question Time with Peter Zeihan!’ Every week or so I’ll be sitting down with one of the team members from Zeihan on Geopolitics and have them dish out some rapid-fire questions from the ‘Ask Peter’ forum. Kyle, our Social Media Manager, will be joining me for episode three today.

In this episode, we’ll be discussing the complex relationship between China and Taiwan, China’s struggle with youth unemployment, and a look back at some of my predictions from 2023.

KYLE: Any updates for us on the China Taiwan relationship

PETER ZEIHAN: we have been months away from a war over Taiwan for five years now, nothing’s changed. There’s one decision maker, it’s G, he’s not getting good information. He’s no longer a competent decision maker. And the entire chain of command bought bought below him is seized up. So fear mongers, that’s the wrong word that’s not being fair. People who are concerned that Taiwan will fall or that the Chinese are gunning for it, it’s not that they’re wrong, it’s that we no longer have the capacity to predict what China’s going to do, because the decision making system has collapsed. If China were to go for Taiwan today, would they be able to capture it? I’d say even odds that they are. And yes, with every year that passes, their technological leaps will continue. And they’ll have more chips that were designed specifically for that task. But you got to keep in mind, if Taiwan falls, though, we’re going to be under some version of a naval blockade. And it’s going to be an order of magnitude more painful for the Chinese and what’s going against the Russians. Because the Chinese import most of the inputs for their own food and most of the inputs for their manufacturing system, and they need access to the world’s consumers in order to function. You put a few destroyers in the Indian Ocean base, and you shut the entire system down. Now, five years ago, Chairman G knew that. But in the last five years, he’s destroyed the decision making apparatus and the information flows within the country. So the status of what’s going on in his head guy, I mean, we’ve all had a boss like this, you know, the guy who has multiple conversations in his head with himself and expects everyone to catch up with where he is without him saying anything to you. That’s the whole country now. And so we’re seeing policy failures across the board. The Taiwan policy in China as part of that,
we’ve talked a lot about China, and a lot of people disagree with what you’ve said in the last couple years, specifically, some other experts recently pointed out that unemployment among the Chinese youth is quite high, and seemingly quite different from what you’ve said, and what’s causing the discrepancies and information problem or what’s going on
the Chinese to a certain degree, have some of the educational disconnects that we have in the United States. So the baby boomers worked primarily in blue collar work. Actually, that’s, that’s not quite right. But there was a higher propensity blue collar work, especially in the silent generation. And then in the boomer generation. And everyone was like, you know, we don’t want our kids to be working in the factories, we want them to be stockbrokers or lawyers, or whatever. And so we pretty steadily shifted to a white collar economic system. And so now going back to a system where we build a lot of things is going to be a problem. And we have a skilled shortage. And a lot of blue collar sectors, which is one of the reasons I’m so bullish on organized labor moving forward. The Chinese did the same thing. The older Chinese are mostly blue collar, they built the country physically, they did the manufacturing in the infrastructure, but they wanted their kids to do something more value added in their eyes. So the entire educational system of China was shifted to white collar work. But the economy didn’t turn. In the United States, we were able to do design and outsource manufacturing, China has outsourced nothing. So you’ve got this big swell of relatively well educated young Chinese, and not very many of them because of the demographic collapse. That is completely unsuited to what their economy looks like. So you can have both, you can have skyrocketing labor costs, and an unemployment problem at the same time. And overall, this is part of the problem with central planning, is if you get it right, it’s brilliant. But if you get it wrong, you fucked yourself. And that’s exactly what’s happened there in terms of the youth. Got
it? Alright, we’re down to our last two questions. One easy one and one that might not be so rapid fire. Will you be doing an audio version of our new book that just came out? over
the 10 years on accidental superpower? Yeah, I did the original audio when it drops 10 years ago. And the add on chapters, I did the audio as well. It’s available now.
Awesome. We’ll put a link in this video. So you can all find it there. And now the not so rapid one, what predictions did you get wrong? And 2023? Will they come true in 2024? Or Are you abandoning knows?
I mean, the biggest problem that with everything is going to be the Ukraine war because the Ukrainians have proven far more capable than we thought, but not on defeatable. Like it seemed like they were for a while in 2022. And the Russians the same thing performed ever more badly, but then yet still was able to learn. I think anyone who is watching the Ukraine war who hasn’t been humbled is a little bit of an idiot because so many of our conceptions and our frameworks for how this might go with proven wrong. And everyone who’s attempted to shift gears to make a new long range production has also been proven wrong, which is why I kind of focus, focus just on the factors in play of the day, and no more than a quarter forward. The problem, the opportunity, not sure what the right word is a lot of what’s going on with the Russian system, and the Ukrainian system is very fragile. It is now dependent upon events that occur far beyond their shores that they can’t influence much less control. That’s true for Russian materials, exports and energy exports. That’s true for Ukrainian weapon flows. And we have a much more enmeshed system that’s a lot messier than it used to be. So I can tell you without a doubt that the entire industrial base of Russia is weak and breaking and that the entire export regime of Russia will fail. That doesn’t mean it’s going to fail tomorrow. There’s a lot of pieces in play here. And never never forget the boogey man here. If the Chinese break today, tomorrow, a year from now, that is going to overshadow everything is going to go on in Ukraine almost immediately. And it’s going to impact a much wider array of factors. So all of the issues that I’m concerned about are all still in play. But the the hardest part of my job is putting a date on things. That’s why until now I’ve tried not to. But until now everything was not in motion. It’s only been in the last two years that things are really broken free, and this interregnum that I was hoping I was going to be retired from his now. Here, we’re in it. And as things break, they will shift the timeframe on everything else. So we’re kind of just marking time while things go away. And try to guess what they’re going to sweep up
with them. You know, I don’t think it would be a proper end to a video if we didn’t end on a note like that. So thank you for that
row.

KYLE: So that wraps up our first try at a rapid fire question series with Peter. Drop what you think in the comments below. And we’ll continue doing these every two weeks, you know, ended of the new year. If you have questions. We’ll also put the link to the ask Peter forum on our website. So drop your questions there if you want to see him featured in the future. Thank you for your time, Peter, and looking forward to seeing you next time. Until next time

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