Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Great Leap Sideways

Interesting article here about the otherwise difficult-to-understand swivet that certain elements of the U.S. political establishment (hint; mostly the same folks who were all het up to invade the not-quite-yet-failed-state-that-rhymes-with-"buttcrack") seem to have about China.Don't agree with all Barnett's points, but certainly worth wondering; what ELSE is there to gain by ginning up a pan-Pacific superpower competition with a polity that has historically proven to have confined its ambitions to continental Asia and its near abroad?

(The image, BTW, is from the world's wierdest cartoon baby, Pobaby. He's...well, he's Chinese, and that's all I can figure out. Though you might watch the "Zorro" cartoon for what may possibly be the fucking oddest interpretation of that meme ever.


  1. With their manufacturing capability, sometime in the near future China may well end up in the role of the arsenal for themselves and their allies in the next major conflict. Our factories are long gone except for a few giant loners. We may need to be their ally, not their enemy.

  2. There really isn't much of a reason for us to BE their enemy. China has historically and is now primarily inward-looking; it tends to expand westwards and southwest rather than out to sea to the east.

    A more aggressive China would likely pull Japan, the Koreas, The PI, and most of the SE Asian nations into its orbit. It would probably sieze (or at least act more aggressively to push its claims on) oil-rich offshore tracts like the Spratleys. What it is unlikely to do - at least unlikely until the horrors of the Mao excesses are forgotten - is let a dictator get it involved in aggressive expansional wars at sea, and that's the only real likelihood of direct conflict with the U.S.

    We're being fools if we get into a fight over Taiwan. It's a nice little nation but it's part of China and needs to deal with that; risking global war over the fate of a breakaway Chinese province is ridiculous for the U.S. to even consider.

    And as you point out, the Chinese and U.S. economies are now so entangled that trying to break them out for warfare would be an ungodly mess.

    I'd say that this entire business ranks well up on the "stupidest foreign policy ideas in U.S. history" but then there's the whole "let's revenge 9-11 by declaring war on the Muslim World because...the Crusades worked so well last time" thing. WASF...

  3. Sometime in the next few years, China will go through another revolution. The lessons of the great Arab revolution are not lost on the Chinese. They will want a greater say in the running of their country.

    The current leadership of China are nervous for many good reasons.

    Cultivating a confrontation with China is a really bad idea.

  4. Ael: Dunno about the revolution; so far the Chinese leadership has done a pretty good job delivering the goods (which is their only real hold on the people there) - and there really IS no opposition. There might (and probably will be) rebellions, but that's another thing entirely.

    Agree that the Chinese center cannot hold in the long run. But in the short- or medium-run I don't see the Chinese people - or, particularly, the PLA - ready to explode just yet. Conditions were riper in '89 and we all know what happened.

    Am I missing something immediate that might send the Middle Kingdom up in flames?

  5. Hey Chief, settle down there. You refer to Taiwan as a nice little nation but part of China. That makes no sense. I've lived in Taiwan for about twenty years now and being from the southern part I can say that many Taiwanese definitely DON"T think of themselves as Chinese.

    In fact this can be a dangerous thing as about 35% of them want to declare Independence. I happen to believe that re-unification is inevitable but to many Taiwanese this is anathema.

  6. And two more things regarding the renegade province, Taiwan. First being, that there is some dispute as to whether Taiwan EVER belonged to China in the first place. The peace treaty with Japan after WW2 ceded rule to the ROC which never occupied Taiwan as it was currently fighting a civil war.

    The ROC only came to Taiwan in '48 ('49?). Which leads to my second point in that they instituted the White Terror starting with the 2-28 massacre of the local wogs. There's a large swath of Taiwan (read the Democratic Progressive Party, DPP) that says Taiwan is Taiwan. They recently controlled the presidency of Taiwan (Chen Shui Bien) and are looking strong in the polls for the next election cycle.

    Lastly, sorry about writing as anon, just too lazy to login. I've been following you for years at Grapghic Firing Table.

    James Caba

  7. Hey, James, welcome over here; as you've probably noticed, I've moved most of my political and military stuff over here. I still keep my hand in (a little) over at GFT, but that's become more of a personal (i.e. utter waste of time, mental-masturbation sort of) blog.

    Anyway; I do understand the complexity of the PRC/ROC/Taiwan question. IMO the BEST solution for the people on Taiwan would be what they have now - de facto independence. Given the mess that is the politics of mainland China the notion of becoming part of that corrupt corporatocracy would chill my blood, personally.

    But in terms of practical politics the people of Taiwan are Chinese, and the history of Taiwan has been largely Chinese over the past 300 years or so. The Qing ruled from the 1680s to 1895, the longest single period after the Dutch and Spanish invaded; the Japanese and the KMT are mayflies by comparison. So if Taiwan ISN'T a seperate polity it really can't be other than Chinese.

    But the real bottom line is that the U.S. has nothing to gain by antagonizing the PRC over Taiwan anymore than it would siding with Britain against Spain over Gibraltar; the locals don't want to be ruled by the continental power, the local (or Commonwealth) government is by far the more appealing...but the military situation is really intenable over the long and even medium term, and the place itself really offers little in the way of strategic advantage if it belonged to the would-be conquerors. In fact, I'd argue that Gibraltar would make a better hill - or rock - to "die on"; the British offer us broader geopolitical advantages than do the Taiwanese, and the Spanish are less of a threat if irked than the PRC.

    So I while I like the Taiwanese and wish them well, that's different than making strategic calculations for the U.S. In that respect the Taiwanese would be on their own, were I the King of America; Taiwan good, PRC bad (relatively speaking), but good and bad take second place to the larger political calculations...

  8. The exact same issues that sparked Tianamen in 1989, still exist today. Except that people now have cell phones and the internet to self-organize (which allows for much greater participation when the fear drops away).

    We only need a couple of bad harvests to set things off. (And world grain production is tight enough so it cannot make up the slack if the Chinese harvest fails). Until a few weeks ago, the Chinese wheat harvest was looking pretty dismal this year. Some snow and rain has changed the outlook from dismal to disappointing.