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How America can save Taiwan European allies can't be relied on

(Jia Fangwen/VCG via Getty Images)


November 9, 2022   9 mins

Current US policy is setting Washington up for a major crisis with its allies, especially in Europe. This is odd because everyone seems to be getting on. But here’s the rub: what happens if China attacks Taiwan and a major war breaks out in Asia? The bill will soon arrive — for Europe in particular.

This is an acute problem because, as is now quite clear, the United States is struggling to keep up with the military advances China is making to prepare for a conflict in the Western Pacific — the most plausible locus of such a war. Indeed, many of the most respected voices on US defence matters openly question whether the United States would prevail in a conflict with China centred on Taiwan. And while the Biden Administration’s rhetoric has been in many respects good and there are some promising initiatives underway, Washington does not appear to be taking the kind of dramatic steps needed to match China’s ongoing military buildup, which US defence officials term “unprecedented”.

At the same time, as the Biden Administration made clear in its 2022 National Defense Strategy, the United States does not have the capacity to fight both such an exceptionally stressing war with China and another significant conflict, such as in Europe against Russia or the Middle East against Iran, on even roughly concurrent timelines. This military scarcity confronting the United States is felt not so much in overall number of soldiers or total expenditures, but rather in the critical platforms, weapons, and enablers that are the key sources of advantage in modern warfare — heavy bombers, attack submarines, sea and airlift, logistics, and precision munitions. It is not clear America has enough systems just to win a war against China alone. Moreover, redressing this gap will be difficult, expensive, and take time. Just witness the challenges the US defence industry is facing in restocking the weapons donated to Ukraine.

In the meantime, there is a growing chorus of credible warnings that China might seek to move against Taiwan and precipitate a major conflict with the United States, possibly in the coming years. These warnings are not merely coming just from the military and conservative members of Congress (although they are). Rather, senior Biden Administration political appointees, such as Tony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and Bill Burns, have issued warnings over the previous months that together seem to indicate an assessment that is something like the following: Beijing is resolute about solving the Taiwan issue in its favour; it has moved up its timeline doing so; it regards the most reliable way to do that as through the employment of overwhelming force; and an invasion of Taiwan in the coming years is a distinct threat.

There is an active debate about just why Beijing might seek to move sooner rather than later. Some point to Beijing’s potential assessment that the 2020s might be its most propitious opportunity in terms of its relative military advantage over the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. Others point to Xi Jinping’s own personal calculus; Xi has explicitly linked the resolution of the Taiwan issue to his central project of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and generally gives the distinct impression of being in deathly earnest about the issue. Finally, some argue that China faces profound looming macroeconomic and demographic challenges, and thus must move before it is hobbled. To be clear, we do not know whether China will move against Taiwan in the coming years; it is quite possible that Xi does not know yet himself. But together these factors have resulted in a very distinct increase in the level of concern that Beijing might do so. And given that China appears to assume that the United States will come to Taiwan’s defence, such an assault would very likely embroil America — whether we like it or not.

How such a war would unfold cannot be known in advance. It is possible that China’s forces would prove as underwhelming as Russia’s, as many in America and Europe suggest. But there are compelling reasons to fear China’s armed forces would be far more effective in pursuit of their goal. China’s economy and population are an order of magnitude larger than Russia’s, while China dwarfs Taiwan in population by almost two orders of magnitude. China, while separated from Taiwan by the Strait, is far closer to Taiwan than the United States or its allies are, and Taiwan lacks land borders with US partners. Moreover, even as the Chinese have reportedly been improving their ability to operate jointly, the simple advantages of quantity and proximity may allow even a poorly performing PLA to overwhelm Taiwan, whose military appears woefully ill-prepared for a defence against China. As a result, it is simply a matter of prudence to anticipate that such a war would be at best a very stressing and consuming challenge for the United States, and that America could very well struggle — or even fail.

In light of this, how would America react to the outbreak of a war with China? Now, if the United States could handily defeat China as it could for many decades, there would be little problem. But this is now very much in doubt. And this is where the issue becomes very pointed for allies, including in Europe.

First and foremost, such a conflict would almost certainly suck away high-value US forces everywhere else in the world, including in Europe and the Middle East, and might do so very abruptly. US platforms, munition stocks, and key personnel would be depleted, relocated, or withheld for the priority fight. If the United States were locked in a desperate and uncertain fight over the world’s most important economic area (Asia) against its only peer rival (China), how could it sensibly keep forces locked up elsewhere rather than dedicate them to the main struggle? Iran, North Korea and even Russia pale in comparison to China’s power — so the United States would, rationally speaking, need to ensure it won the “biggest battle in the decisive theater”, as Churchill put it.

This would create vulnerabilities in other theatres — to Russia in Europe, Iran in the Middle East, and North Korea on the Peninsula. And such vulnerabilities could be lasting, whether because US systems had been depleted or because the United States needed to keep those forces in Asia, either in the context of a protracted war or to hold the line following the end of a conflict with China that had bloodied the American military. As a result of simple necessity, US allies in Europe and the Middle East would have to handle the threats posed by Russia and Iran much more on their own as the United States was consumed with taking on China.

Has Washington frankly and clearly prepared its allies in Europe for this reality? It certainly does not seem like it. In fact, US allies in Nato seem like they are betting on America maintaining its current high level of engagement indefinitely. This is a deeply imprudent approach — on both sides.

Second, the United States — especially if it does not adequately prepare its forces and posture in the Pacific for a fight with China — is likely to rely heavily on economic warfare against China in such a conflict. If the US military and its allies could handily defeat a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the role of economic sanctions would be secondary since the main focus of American defence strategy in such a conflict would have been achieved. But if the conflict is more evenly matched — let alone if China seizes Taiwan and otherwise gains the advantage over US forces in the Western Pacific — then the United States will need to generate enough coercive leverage over Beijing to prevail. Since in these circumstances America would not be able to rely on its military to generate enough such leverage, it would have to turn to non-military sources, of which the most salient is economic power.

Clearly the United States could not generate anywhere near enough such economic leverage over Beijing to even hope to shift its calculus without also having a lot of other important countries join its economic warfare effort. The natural candidates would include the important economies, and especially Washington’s traditional allies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia — and Europe. Europe’s market power is a vital ingredient to make this strategy even remotely plausible. Without it, such an economic warfare campaign would obviously be feckless.

This is not merely speculation. Washington’s behaviour indicates its revealed strategy is likely something like this. The Administration is not significantly increasing defence spending, nor is it sharply shifting US forces’ focus to the Pacific. In contrast, Washington has actually increased its forces in Europe. At the same time, the Administration has given off the distinct impression that it regards economic tools as a vital part of its strategy to deal with China, as evidenced by its recent move on semiconductors. Indeed, one might be forgiven for observing that the Administration appears to think that economic sanctions, international pressure, and diplomacy are the more sophisticated, “nuanced” approach to dealing with China, rather than a passe focus on hard military power.

At the same time, the Administration talks about allies — a lot. This seems nice and reassuring at first glance. But, put in this context, it takes on another complexion. The Administration is saying allies are America’s “centre of gravity”, its source of strength, the elixir of Washington’s strategy. What does this mean? Well, for this to make sense as a strategy, it must mean that these allies will step up and actually do more in confronting what the Administration itself is saying is the priority challenge: China — especially in the context of a desperate battle in the Pacific.

Washington’s actions on Ukraine — its leadership of the Nato response, its disproportionate degree of funding, its increase of forces on the continent — take on a different complexion in this context as well. It begins to look like a down payment. Washington has been there for Europe. Now it will expect Europe to be there for America if the balloon goes up in Asia. And it will be a big ask. Because our forces in Asia are not adequately prepared, our economic sanctions will have to do a lot more — and that will require heavy involvement by Europe in them.

Now, are Washington’s key allies ready to join such an effort? In Asia, probably yes, especially Japan and Australia. They are directly and fundamentally affected by how a war in Asia turns out.

But in Europe? I think scepticism is in order. Perhaps there is no more fundamental signal than the Chancellor of Europe’s largest economy explicitly saying last week that Germany would not decouple from China, and then his taking a trip with multiple CEOs of Germany’s largest companies to China. And that’s not even mentioning the sale of a big portion of Hamburg’s port to China. But, to be fair to Germany, most European countries seem to give little if any evidence of a greater willingness to decouple their economies from China, let alone join a massive economic warfare effort against it.

This has only become more apparent with the war in Ukraine. The bien pensant line is that the Ukraine war shows that aggression must be resisted. But the much more likely outcome is that the intense economic pain that Europe will feel as a result of the war will make it less, not more, likely to join an economic warfare campaign against China, which is such a significant part of European trade and investment. How likely are European capitals whose economies are taking body blows as a result of the war to dramatically intensify that pain over something happening halfway around the world? Not very, it must be said — and certainly not to the degree needed to make a difference in Beijing’s calculations about a war it would indubitably consider absolutely central to its interests.

Where is all this going to leave us in the transatlantic relationship if war breaks out in Asia? Nowhere good. Americans will feel they have been betrayed by ungrateful and perfidious Europeans. Europeans will feel put upon with ridiculous demands by Washington when they are already bearing the brunt of the pain of decoupling from Russia.

Even worse, such economic warfare is unlikely to work even if countries do join it. The reality is that China has enormous economic capacity and thus could weather much of the effects of such a campaign. Moreover, Xi is focused on strengthening China’s resilience to precisely such an effort through initiatives such as Dual Circulation. At the same time, Beijing could reduce the efficacy of such an effort by exploiting sympathetic or profiteering third parties, ranging from Russia through the Middle East and even, to be frank, parts of Europe. The reality is that the prices of intercourse with the Chinese economy will be far too attractive for many nations to ignore. Further, as famously nationalist China is likely to be highly motivated over such a conflict, especially over Taiwan, it is likely to be willing to put up with quite a lot of pain. It is worth bearing in mind that economic warfare has essentially never worked as the primary route to victory in major wars in the past.

This is where things are heading, and it is not good. It will not result in success in Asia, and it will create fierce tensions — if not crisis — in the transatlantic relationship. There is, though, a better path. It is one that is keyed to where Americans’ and Europeans’ respective interests are most directly implicated and what would most effectively deal with the potential for Chinese or Russian aggression, and thus where each side of the Atlantic should realistically best focus. This is more of a “division of labour” model, rather than what we are implicitly pursuing today — which is more akin to a Three Musketeers approach: all for one and one for all. This sounds inspirational. But it is not realistic.

Instead, America should laser-focus its military on Asia, reducing its level of forces and expenditures in Europe. This will allow America to hopefully deter and, if necessary, defeat a Chinese attack on Taiwan and other US allies in the region, using military force to defeat Chinese aggression rather than substantially relying on economic warfare. Meanwhile, Europe should focus on taking the lead on Ukraine and, more broadly, assuming the primary role in its own conventional defence. In this model, the United States can continue to provide more focused military contributions and support to Nato, but only consistent with a genuine prioritisation of the first island chain necessary to ensure prevailing there against Chinese attack.

In this approach, economic warfare would play a distinctly secondary role in dealing with an attack on Taiwan. This would impose far less political pressure on the transatlantic relationship. Indeed, in such a model the United States and Europe could continue trading with China. They would only need to decouple to the degree needed to avoid being brought to their knees by Beijing — for instance, in areas such as semiconductors, medicine, and PPE. Although they might well decide to decouple more for other valid reasons, it would not be strictly necessary from a strategic point of view.

This strategy correlates better both with what works and countries’ real interests in a Taiwan defence. We cannot expect Europe to do things for Asia that it will not do, and we must together adapt accordingly. There is a way to do so, but it requires Europe taking much more leadership and responsibility for its own security. Our current path risks not only defeat in the primary theater but a terrible crisis in the transatlantic relationship. Greater realism will help us avoid both awful outcomes.


Elbridge Colby is the co-founder of the Marathon Initiative and the author of The Strategy of Denial. He wrote America’s National Defense Strategy in 2018.

ElbridgeColby

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J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
1 year ago

This article seems uncontroversial and convincing to me, although persuading the Europeans to take ownership of supporting the Ukraine war seems a bit of a long shot.
The more interesting questions, at least for me, are who is Elbridge Colby, what is the Marathon Initiative he founded, and who are its backers? In other words, who is behind the strategy set forth in this article and what is their agenda? Maybe it’s the recent experience of the Covid Era, and all those experts and entities trying to “nudge” us one way or the other, but I’ve become quite suspicious.
The Marathon Initiative website reveals an impressive array of strategy experts associated with this organization, including Edward Luttwak who regular Unherd readers will recognize. Colby, it turns out, was a senior defence strategist in the Trump administration. Their “Our Work” tab lists several interesting strategy policy papers available for download.
No indication, however, of who or what is funding this initiative. There’s one article on google that suggests they are indirectly funded by the arms industry–I’ve no idea if that’s true or not.
Maybe I’m too easily led down rabbit holes, but I would like to know exactly who is recommending major geopolitical/defence strategy changes and why.

Jon Roehart
Jon Roehart
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Interesting points. How does that affect the logic in the argument that was put forward?

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Roehart

Fair point. I’m not questioning the logic of the piece so much as the assumptions and selection of facts on which it’s built. The article is structured in a way to draw us inevitably to the conclusion that Europe should strengthen its defence capability, take primary responsibility for the Ukraine conflict, and free the US to prepare for conflict over Taiwan. That might be a sound analysis, but there are other perspectives that might argue for a more balanced approach. Or perhaps the use of economic sanctions against China isn’t quite as hopeless as the author suggests.
I think what really caught my eye is the author’s role in a new “strategy” think tank, along with many other heavy-hitters in that field. They might be doing this out of altruism, or maybe they’re the voice of the US defence establishment. It’s impossible to tell.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree. Most of us don’t have either the depth or breadth of knowledge to truly assess these articles, so an idea of the potential agenda is helpful in identifying those areas to be most sceptical. This is certainly a call for massive levels of arms spending in both Europe (much bought from the US) and the US.

I’ve no doubt I’ll be hammered for my naivety, but it isn’t at all clear to me why the US (or Europe) should risk a world war to defend Taiwan. Taiwans existence is unfinished business from a Chinese civil war and, as a recent article in Unherd discussed in depth, seems utterly unwilling to defend itself.

A more isolationist US seems both likely, post 2024, and would surely be a better thing for the world based on the historical record since WW2. The political instability there also gives reasonable cause for concern about its reliability as an ally. Those are the reasons Europe should be building its own defence capabilities, not this convoluted, entirely US centric, analysis.

N T
N T
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

one word: semiconductors.

Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

Build a factory?

Gary Knight
Gary Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Or rather, build a whole bunch of them. I believe that was tried, and the cost of labour and infrastructure gravitated back to Taiwan and Malaysia. But that raises a possibility: build more factories more broadly in Malaysia. Or else robotize these factories so much more as to reduce labour costs. Trouble is, low-cost robot parts are mostly sourced in China.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Knight

Absolutely, a product with an almost limitless world market, that is currently overwhelmingly supplied from a “threatened” state feels like it should be more of an opportunity than a threat.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Knight

TSMC is the big one and all it takes is one big explosion to take it out. The Chinese don’t have the technology or expertise to rebuild it and they are already now banned from getting even the machinery for trying to make new chips. That would apply to Taiwan as well if they conquered it. Maybe even the low end as far as bans on technology transfer. And even where the manufacturing has been moved overseas, most of the design work is still done in the US. We’re building new high-end semiconductor manufacturing capability here in the US. Give it a few years and we can take the loss of Taiwanese semiconductors if it came down to that. The low and mid-level semiconductor manufacturing capabilities are already moving out of China.
The supply of the ultra pure quartz needed to make high end silicon wafers comes almost exclusively from one mine in North Carolina. That means it’s also under the control, if needed, of the US government.

Doug Pingel
DP
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Stop the sale of the biggest in UK (to China) as was suggested before the sale went through – oops!

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Taiwan has been under the control of the mainland for all of 4 years out of the last 125. It was controlled by Japan from 1885 to 1945 and Mainland China didn’t pay much attention to Formosa even before the Japanese grabbed it. It was mainly left to the natives. Then the mainland got it after the Japanese surrender, through the civil war, and then it’s been separate again since 1949 when the Kuomintang retreated there. Mainland China’s claim on Taiwan is actually pretty weak.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Merriam

Not sure you have the right end of the stick there, the Chinese have mixed with the Taiwanese for centuries, Kuomintang was Chinese and their rule was disputed by the USA:
The Kuomintang (KMT),[I] also referred to as the Guomindang (GMD)[35] or the Chinese Nationalist Party,[1] is a major political party in the Republic of China, initially on the Chinese mainland and in Taiwan after 1949. It was the sole party in China during the Republican Era from 1928 to 1949, when most of the Chinese mainland was under its control. The party retreated from the mainland to Taiwan on 7 December 1949, following its defeat in the Chinese Civil War. Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law and retained its authoritarian rule over Taiwan under the Dang Guo system until democratic reforms were enacted in the 1980s and full democratization in the 1990s. In Taiwanese politics, the KMT is the dominant party in the Pan-Blue Coalition and primarily competes with the rival Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It is currently the largest opposition party in the Legislative Yuan….

More history:
In 1662, Koxinga, a loyalist of the Ming dynasty who had lost control of mainland China in 1644, defeated the Dutch and established a base of operations on the island. His descendants were defeated by the Qing dynasty in 1683 and their territory in Taiwan was annexed by the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty gradually extended its control over the western plains and northeast of Taiwan in the following two centuries. Under Qing rule, Taiwan’s population became majority Han due to migration from mainland China. The Qing ceded Taiwan and Penghu to the Empire of Japan after losing the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895. Taiwan experienced industrial growth and became a productive rice and sugar exporting Japanese colony. During the Second Sino-Japanese War it served as a base for launching invasions of China, and later Southeast Asia and the Pacific during World War II. Japanese imperial education was implemented in Taiwan and many Taiwanese fought for Japan in the last years of the war.
In 1945, following the end hostilities in World War II, the nationalist government of the Republic of China (ROC), led by the Kuomintang (KMT), took control of Taiwan. The legality and nature of its control of Taiwan, including transfer of sovereignty is debated, with the United States and United Kingdom saying there was no transfer of sovereignty.[4][5] In 1949, after losing control of mainland China in the Chinese Civil War, the ROC government under the KMT withdrew to Taiwan where Chiang Kai-shek declared martial law. The KMT ruled Taiwan (along with the islands of Kinmen, Wuqiu and the Matsu on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait) as a single-party state for forty years until democratic reforms in the 1980s.
Sources: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Taiwan
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang
The Chinese have a long history with Taiwan, I can understand why they don’t want Pelosi parachuting in whenever she feels like it, waving the big bossy American stick about. And basically it was ruled by the KMT Chinese party until the 1980s. Think that’s about right, corrections welcome.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

An excellent synopsis, if I may say so Miss Emery, which to my shame I had missed earlier!
I seem to recall lurid stories of buxom,blonde, Dutch female ‘slaves’, still being present on Formosa a decade after the conquest of Koxinga.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Thanks, poor Dutch ladies, missed those stories myself. I won’t hasten to Google that either, I might see things I can’t unsee.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Yes even the vaunted VOC couldn’t prevent those ‘poor Dutch ladies from becoming concubines to the Chinese conquerors!
Is history about to repeat itself?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Well I would like to hope if we could just stop pissing china off hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. Pelosi caused that blockade, if she parachuted herself into my back yard I wouldn’t be too happy either, I’d rather perforate my own ear drums than have to listen to her nonsense.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Pelosi is vile.

Her voting record says it all, and she and her husband have somehow become immensely rich.

Perhaps there is Camorra blood there as some maintain?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

I don’t think I’d put anything past her, already having a good go at the Americans at the bottom of this thread, so I shall leave it there, or I shall lapse into ranting paragraphs again 🙂

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

I am not so sure that Taiwan is as “woefully unprepared” as all that. They’ve been preparing for this eventuality since 1949, are a modern, motivated country with a modern armed forces and a large moat separating them from the Mainland. They also know what’s in store for them should the Chinese succeed in overcoming them. Finally, Amphibious assaults also are notoriously difficult, esp. if help is on the way from the U.S. and its allies, in particular Japan and Australia.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

“Amphibious assaults also are notoriously difficult” Really?

Julius Caesar (twice), Aulus Plautus, William of Normandy and William III, seemed to have managed it without too much difficulty?

Currently Sinbad Zog & Co have managed to put nigh on 40k on the beaches of Dover, so it is very easy to exaggerate the problem.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
1 year ago

Landing on an undefended beach, as Caesar and both Williams did, is not an amphibious assault.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Caesar’s first assault was opposed!
Surely you haven’t forgotten the wonderful account of the Aquilifer of Legio X leaping into the water shouting “ follow me chaps and defend your Eagle!”
Or perhaps sadly you have never read the account?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I have just set that account for my Latin group to translate; a wonderful little piece.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago

Must admit it didn’t figure in my Naval History learings at Dartmouth. Might follow Linda’s class just out of interest.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Your own understanding of the difficulty of historic amphibious assaults seems sadly rather limited. But then you needed an opportunity to show off some knowledge, rather sarcastically too.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What a bitter remark, what is wrong with you, besides the obvious?
My point is that Amphibious Assaults are not NECESSARILY “notoriously difficult “. Perhaps you will share with us your opposition to this tenet, sarcastically if need be.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Doug Pingel
DP
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

The Taiwan Strait is notorious for sudden bouts of bad weather and the distance is 4 X greater. Unless rough weather training is undertaken by all the land combat units you could lose a lot of men from ‘Mal de Mare’.

Ted Ditchburn
TD
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Hitler and his generals, and Napoleon and his, couldn’t manage it..so the Chinese will need better generals than those two had, at the very least or it could be a colossal disaster.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

The Normandy beaches were well defended and there were huge losses on both sides. Plus the channel is only 20+ miles across, and China would have to cross 90+ miles, giving adequate warning. To Taiwan – a very mountainous country which cannot be easily crossed by large armoured vehicles.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

With the exception of Omaha Beach I thought the losses at Normandy were rather modest, all things considered?
However I take your point about the complexity of an assault and conquest of Taiwan.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

didn’t sound like it when you referred to William III’s unopposed landing in 1688. Hardly an “invasion.”

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

It should have been but for the wind being an easterly and thus trapping the (Royal) Navy at the the Nore.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

William III came invited, so his “glorious” arrival proves nothing about invasions.
During the D-Day landings in Normandy, however, the estimated total battle casualties for the United States were 135,000, of which 29,000 killed. The other 106,000 were either wounded or missing, and some were never found. I would NOT call that “modest

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

William was ‘invited’ by a tiny clique. Had they lost, ‘they’ would have been hanged, castrated, drawn and quartered, quite correctly as traitors.

D Day: 156,000 landed, 4.4 thousand KIA. That is MODEST.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Hey Wim you won that one. Charles doesn’t like conceding though.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Do you dispute the D Day figures Mr Stewart?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Nope, just thought Wim had a better put argument.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Really? ‘Wim’s’ knowledge of the so called Glorious Revolution appears feeble at best! Whilst his D Day figures are WRONG.

QED.

B Emery
BE
B Emery
1 year ago

Think I might have have to agree with Mr Stanhope on this one regarding amphibious assault, having seen the Chinese drills after pelosi visited, I don’t think they will struggle to get near the island, they reckon they’d fired missiles right over the top of it and they effectively blockaded it during the drills in August, just after she left. They got 10 miles from the coast:

A New York Times map of the planned drills shows how in some places they will occur within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coast, well past areas that previous live-fire drills have targeted and within areas Taiwan designates as its territorial waters. Two of the regions where China’s military will shoot weapons, likely missiles and artillery, are inside what Taiwan calls its marine border. In total, the five zones surround the island and mark a clear escalation from previous Chinese exercises.
Source:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/live/2022/08/03/world/pelosi-visit-taiwan-china.amp.html
No reason why they couldn’t say they are doing an ‘excercise’ again and go for it. Taiwan have said they will defend it but it looks like the Chinese have no problem getting in close if they want to. They rolled these exercises out pretty fast too in response to pelosi.
More info:
https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202208030018

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Thank you Miss Emery for such an unexpected and yet erudite response.

‘Kitty’ my favourite ‘Hunter’ went lame today, so she is safely back in the stable.
However ‘Jock’, a real beast of boy, will be action for the foreseeable future.Tally Ho!

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

No problem Mr Stanhope. Oh wow, he sounds like a mighty high horse, you take it steady.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Thanks!
He’s a good boy, never let me down. Not for me the fate of quadriplegia and the wheelchair, unlike many of my unfortunate friends.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Don’t tempt fate!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Good points. Though there are plenty of academic military sources that indicate that “Amphibious assaults also are notoriously difficult”, here’s just one authoritative source:
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/06/23/the-questionable-future-of-amphibious-assault/

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thanks, will check it out, remember that traditional amphibious warfare is probably a thing of the past, china have developed stuff like swarm drones, then you have your aerial drones, marine drones. Think if it comes to fighting for Taiwan it won’t be what we expect.
https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1203857.shtml

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Agreed. Technology is leading to new methods that are difficult to foresee. Although the Chinese don’t even need to occupy Taiwan to win a war against it, so why waste time and resources doing that.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

William I faced a tired army before the age of gunpowder, William III faced nobody. D-day was pretty much a surprise attack and yet the going was extremely difficult, and the Germans weren’t even fighting for their own territory and preferred the West to the Russians. Your comment is unserious.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

To be fair, D-Day was not a surprise attack, at least not in the sense of Pearl Harbor. The buildup of forces in southern England was noticed by the Germans. They knew an invasion was coming. They did not know exactly when, or more importantly where it would happen. The weather played an important role here as the Germans did not believe the allies would risk an assault in anything other than ideal conditions. Because of this, most of the German high command and Hitler himself believed Normandy to be a feint for another strike elsewhere. Thus, they waited too late before moving reinforcements appropriately, allowing the allies time to gain a crucial foothold. Much of the success of that operation can be put down to luck and mistakes by the German leadership. It might still have succeeded even without these factors, but it would have been much more difficult.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I am NOT even certain Pearl Harbour was a surprise attack.
Just a very convenient one, rather like the destruction of USS Maine 43 years before, and the Twin Towers, 60 years later.

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
1 year ago

Strategically, no; the USA absolutely knew Japan was going to move.
Tactically, very much yes, the Americans were stunned by the location and nature of the attack (although Taranto should have given them a clue about the latter).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

“the USA absolutely knew Japan was going to move.”

Precisely because of all those sanctions ‘you’ placed on them including Oil, 18 months before PH, plus sending the US Fleet from San Diego to PH in late 1940?
‘You’ were obviously riled that ‘they’ would pinch China before ‘you’ could.

Also what about ‘cracking’ the Japanese Naval Code(s)? Even we (the rinky-dink UK) managed that one!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

No, yours is obviously NOT serious because you have studiously avoided Caesar have you not?
Incidentally gunpowder has little to do with it.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago

Shlepping Julius Caesar into a discussion about a modern amphibious military assault is in itself unserious.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

Spot on.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

You need to do more research Mr Stewart, 2,000 odd books is simply not enough in your case.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

You could put a better argument then using that breadth of understanding to give us some of that insight too instead of being so selective to merely be devil’s advocate.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What a long, incoherent sentence! Can’t you be concise?

So far you have contributed little to this discussion bar infantile, snide remarks.

You must do better if you wish to be taken seriously, must you not?

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Ooh ad hominem attacks? So much for 2000 plus books.

harry storm
HS
harry storm
1 year ago

So have you.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What a long sentence, can’t you be concise?

N T
N T
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

It would be hard to be prepared for the kraken, which is what is coming for them.
There are complications that make this situation more complicated, no? China would have to execute access denial to prevent men and material from arriving. China would have to deal with the Taiwanese not being able to flee once the blockade goes up.

Gary Knight
Gary Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

And how can an island defend against missiles from several simultaneous directions? England would have fallen if Von Braun had perfected the V2 in time, especially if it had an atomic payload.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Knight

Deleted

Kat L
KL
Kat L
1 year ago

We can’t save ourselves let alone Taiwan…

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Kat L

Given the Great British Public’s reaction to the COVID-19 farce, I am not sure that ‘we’ are worth saving.

Gary Knight
Gary Knight
1 year ago

Worth saving but sadly inept to make good of the victory.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

I’m not sure the author is reading this situation correctly. I’m not sure, for example, moving more forces to Europe during the Ukraine conflict says much of anything. The US military has been geared towards conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan, favoring a nimble force suited to small to medium scale conflicts in multiple locations. As unsuited as it is to a war with China, the American military can reposition troops far more quickly and easily than China can, and it is unlikely ground troops would play much role in a Taiwan conflict anyway. It is naval power that will be required in that theater, and America’s naval power is heavily concentrated in the Indo-Pacific. Further, a Taiwan invasion would require hundreds of thousands of troops and all the weapons and supplies to support them, and it would require the ships to ferry them across the strait. There is simply no way to keep such a large operation secret. There would be months of buildup and ample time to prepare. It would be similar in scope to the D-day invasion, and this occurred in an area before sophisticated air reconnaissance and satellite observation, and the Germans still knew it was coming. They just didn’t know where. There are few suitable places to land an army in Taiwan, and they are already known and defended. Further, Taiwan is not as easy a target as the author seems to believe. Their military is much more formidable and advanced than is Ukraine’s. Taiwan already possesses the same weapons systems the US has been sending to Ukraine, and many others that the Ukrainians do not. Also, the US is already laser focused on China. America’s ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan was, among other things, a tacit admission that other threats were taking precedence and that futile attempts at nation building in the Middle East were a luxury America could no longer afford. Also, many US strategists do not see Russia and China as two foes, but rather as one given their already friendly rhetoric and diplomatic collaboration, so weakening one also weakens the other. I believe the author has a limited grasp of military strategy and/or the logistics of the Taiwan scenario specifically. However, the author’s economic analysis is spot-on. Even if America did not directly aid Taiwan militarily, it would certainly mark the end of any cooperation and the beginning of a new Cold War. Decoupling from China would be painful for America, but worse for Europe. A war with China would be a mixed bag for America, which is manufacturing poor at the moment, but remains rich in resources and is largely self sufficient in terms of food and energy. There would have to be an immediate intervention to shore up manufacturing, but in the long-term, a war might actually improve America’s economic prospects and domestic political situation by giving the government a legitimate pretext to invest directly in building manufacturing capacity, and by refocusing public anger on a foreign foe that is almost universally disliked. Europe, on the other hand, would be caught between two behemoths with little influence over either. Both sides would use every non military tactic available to pressure Europe into taking one side or the other, and there would be consequences regardless of whether a side was chosen, or which. The best scenario for all, including the Chinese themselves, is for the CCP to just give up on Taiwan. Europe would be wise to do everything in its power to convince them of this.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Andrew F
AF
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Great post.
Question is not whether Taiwan and USA are capable of defeating China invasion, they surely are.
Question is whether there is political will to take military decisions necessary.
There is another aspect that many commentators ignore.
Let say China is about to succeed in taking over Taiwan.
Surely USA will destroy all Taiwan’s technology assets.
Including people.
West is in terrible bind over Taiwan.
While I greatly admire Taiwanese people hard work in creating silicon industry manufacturing base, West needs to onshore all of it, whatever the cost.
Regardless of whether we have cold or hot war with China.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
1 year ago

The US has not been protecting Europe. On the contrary, its foreign policy in Ukraine and the Middle East has strengthened Turkey and favoured massive migration to Europe. US military interventions since 1950 have mainly ended up with a calamitous situation for the invaded country and a defeat for the US troops, except perhaps in Grenada in 1983. Many years later, Grenada had its cricket stadium built by the Chinese.
Such promotion of international insecurity via US laser-focused military interventions favours arm dealers and radical groups. Not the people, and certainly not Europe.

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago

That’s a pretty wild take given the US weaponry’s role in Ukraine as well as the fall of the USSR and subsequent rise of countries like Poland, Latvia, and Estonia. I would also point out that much of Europe strongly disagrees with that position as evidenced by the German freak out over Trump’s threat to close down Stuttgart’s base in addition to the expansion of NATO with Sweden and Finland. Clearly, European nations prize US military guarantees enough to enter an alliance in the face of a Russian threat.

The intervention in Korea turned out well. Iraq part 1 went well too. For the most part though, foreign adventures have been miscalculated and costly.

Anyways, Europe still needs to answer for Libya and the Sahel. The US did not intervene much in Syria but Europe had no answer there either.

Gary Knight
Gary Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

US weaponry’s role in the fall of USSR ? Huh? I was populist movements, Lech Walesa and pope John Paul II, not weaponry. This is because USSR brand communism was so top-heavy it corroded from within. What is different about China (for which the same top-heaviness is true) is what the PPC learned from Russia, taking absolute and desperate measures of force and detention of its entire citizenry to quell populist movements. The citizenry is so used to privations that China’s regime knows it can weather economic sanctions in the interest of idealogical nationalism. So I doubt whether EITHER a military or economic strategy can prevail without a much more spiritual weapon. Prayer and conversion !

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Knight

I think there is a misunderstanding.

The previous comment claimed that the US has not been protecting Europe.

I disputed that with (1) the current supply of weaponry, intelligence, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, (2) the commitment to the defense of western Europe through the ultimate defeat of the USSR from 1945-1989, and (3) the eagerness of European governments to either join NATO (like Sweden or Finland) or placate US concerns over funding (like NATO members did in 2018 when Trump threatened to pull US troops from Germany).

I did not reference China and I highlighted recent failures of European military initiatives that had little to no American involvement.

I will add one more note—America was vital to the rise of China. Any aid or developments China provided to the Global South must also reckon with the immense tailwind America provided China through its technological transfers, financial expertise, and the opening of American markets to Chinese businesses.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 year ago

Your examples are not part of Europe, except perhaps the city of Istanbul.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

There are a couple of important points to raise in response to this article, and they both relate to Russia.

Firstly it is not correct to assert that economic measures have never settled conflicts before: the end of the Cold War was brought about by such measures – albeit following over forty years of military brinkmanship. But it is true to say that the USSR was ultimately defeated by the USA’s massive economic advantage because the USSR economy simply could not provide the wealth to sustain an equivalent military capacity.

The other point is surely that if the USA decouples from Europe in the manner described, this would effectively grant to Russia the overwhelming military and nuclear weapons supremacy over Europe it has always sought but never achieved. It is possible that what’s recommended above would not produce such a situation, but if so it really ought to be explained fully.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Noel Chiappa
NC
Noel Chiappa
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Also, the British blockades of Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler were significant factors, and they were economic measures.


Brian Villanueva
BV
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Great article. This winter will be very interesting. If more European govts collapse under the threat of energy shortages and the resulting economic damage, I would think that would move up China’s calendar. Governments elected largely on dissatisfaction with Washington’s last proxy war (against Russia) would be less willing to engage in the next one (against China).

Today’s American election today may also hold clues. If Republicans win big, China way decide to hold off for a Trump or DeSantis or some more isolationist President in 2024. If tonight is more of a red ripple (than a red wave) in America, invasion while the White House is occupied by an early-stage dementia sufferer who barely knows where he is half the time would make more sense. This article could be reality as soon as 2023.

Brian Villanueva
BV
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

12 hours later, it’s clear last night was a ripple not a wave. Donald Trump says he’s running in 2024, but tonight’s results say he can’t win.
My money is now on China moving prior to 2024. The US is distracted, lead by a fool, has a shortage of military hardware, and lacks the industrial capacity to sustain a long conflict. What advantage does Xi gain from waiting?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

A number of possibilities. What I’ve heard is that even by drafting merchant vessels, China barely has the naval assets necessary for the amphibious assault. He could be waiting until he has enough long range missiles and nuclear weapons to bluff the US off taking any direct military action over Taiwan. He may be trying to wring as much money and resources as he can from global trade because a preemptive strike on Taiwan would almost certainly end any economic relationship with the US, and there would be heavy pressure on allies to take sides in similar fashion to the Ukraine situation. He may be more concerned about the political situation in India, Japan, and South Korea, concerned that they might align with the US against him and waiting for more neutral governments to come to power. In short, he’s a sane and calculating tyrant who doesn’t want to be remembered as the Hitler of the 21st century and the man who started WWIII. He’s looking for an opportunity to take what he wants without bringing destruction to himself and his country. In order to do so, he has to position China militarily and strategically to deter an outright military response and weather the inevitable economic response. Here’s hoping he doesn’t roll the dice at all because no matter how well he rolls, nobody is going to win that game.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Wim de Vriend
WD
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

What I have not seen yet in this discussion is how a Taiwan conflict might jeopardize China’s food and energy imports, both of which are huge, and have preoccupied China because of its geography, with the South China sea surrounded by several island chains. Since the American Navy has a much greater depth and reach than China’s, in case of war it would seem easy to block those inter-island shipping lanes — and then what?

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
1 year ago

The article is unfortunately written in a vacuum.
If the US wanted to depend on an economically strong Europe, it should not have set Europe on a path to total deindustrialisation.
A deindustrialised Europe will not be able to build a strong military. And it is a question of rebuilding something that no longer exists. The UK has cut its military strength to practically nothing, France is overstretched, and in Germany, a string of incompetent Defence Ministers – beginning with Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, who is now working her magic on Europe – have gutted its military. Europe has no command-and-control, no logistics, no intelligence – the US has been keen for the Europeans to spend, but not on them building independent capability.
As a US Defence Secretary has said, you go to war with the military you have, not the one you’d like to have. It’s not looking good.

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

Germany cut its defenses long before von der Leyen. I am also not sure you can blame the US for the deindustrialization of Europe. It was Europe after all that destroyed itself a century ago. Besides that, you have to reconcile that Germany ran a trade surplus with every nation, even China, until this year. The Netherlands and Denmark have plenty of industrial champions (ASML). Plenty of European business leaders eagerly offshored their manufacturing hubs, first to Eastern Europe after the Wall fell, and then to China when the U.S. supported its admission to the WTO.

As for military capabilities, you’re correct that the US played a big role in keeping Europe’s military strength relatively tamed. Only the UK managed to maintain global projection until perhaps the last decade. France did as well though to a smaller extent than the UK. Notably, non-NATO countries kept their military capabilities in top shape (Sweden and Finland). The US will need to encourage European military independence but it risks losing its leverage when Europe votes on shortsighted policies like Russian gas or Chinese investments.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
1 year ago
Reply to  Garrett R

It seems we agree on the substance

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

I think we do. What I disputed is that the US set Europe on a path to total deindustrialisation. The US in the early to mid -20th century did not possess the capabilities to single-handedly do that. I think that’s even questionable at the peak of its relative powers in the 1950s and 1990s.

I was just arguing that Europe played a huge role in that matter and its own role was larger than any American one.

Douglas Proudfoot
DP
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

To win, the PRC has to get hundreds of ships to Taiwan. If they can’t, then Red China loses. Any war in the Pacific is going to be an amphibious war.

That means in the Pacific, precision anti-ship weapons are the most important capability, just like anti-tank weapons were at the start of the war in Ukraine. That means that Taiwan’s and US ammunition stocks of all kinds of ground and air launched anti-ship weapons need to be built up big time. They don’t necessarily have to be hugely expensive, but there does have to be a lot of them, like hundreds and hundreds of all different types from drones to cruise missiles to ballistic missiles.

The next level is air defense. Taiwan needs dense ground based air defenses against drones, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, helicopters and manned aircraft. That’s the lesson of Ukraine. The US method of manned aircraft air defense doesn’t work for allies. They need ground based anti-aircraft defenses. Even obsolescent systems can help if there are a lot of them by saving the more capable systems for the most difficult targets.

Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago

So America, having as usual caused so much trouble, would go into Taiwan.Twenty years later, having been thoroughly defeated as usual and having more or less destroyed the country, They would then pull out unannounced and leave the place to those they had been fighting for years.
Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Vietnam….

Andrea Rudenko
AR
Andrea Rudenko
1 year ago

The Taiwanese are a freedom loving people, very much in alignment with the West. That alone should be justification enough for us to save them from being swallowed by a communist dictatorship. It would be shameful to allow Taiwan to go the way of Hong Kong.

I think China will act soon, taking advantage of the U.S.’s commitments to Ukraine and the perceived weaknesses of the Biden administration. If Ukraine had been admitted to NATO a couple of years ago, while Putin would have made a lot of threatening noises about it, I think the current war would not have been started. I hope the global leadership that is on the side of freedom will come up with a strategy to secure Taiwan permanently from any Chinese takeover – before China starts. However, if we wait and publicly debate strategy and continue to hear pronouncements by our military leadership to the effect that the U.S. is woefully unprepared, then I think we can be sure China will move swiftly.

If it’s too dangerous for the Taiwanese to remain where they are, perhaps we could bring Taiwan over here, and leave China with the island. The population is about 23 million. Between the U.S. and Canada, we could probably accommodate them. I’m only being slightly facetious; we will have to do things differently to avoid another war.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea Rudenko
Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 year ago

The bottom line is that the world is at the economic mercy of China. This is a result of very deliberate long-term planning by the PRC. Only the unlikely catastrophic imploding of China will loosen the grip.
It would appear that the economic inter-dependence of the USA and PRC would preclude military confrontation. However, one cannot dismiss China’s preoccupation with Taiwan. China and Russia are alike in that both are only deterred by the strength of their opponent. Putin saw Biden(and the West) as weak and pounced. China will do the same.
Therefore, there are only two potential solutions. First, reduce economic dependence on China to create leverage. Second, build a stronger military presence in the South China Sea. The first is not likely to ever occur.
The author then correctly points the way. “America should laser-focus its military on Asia, reducing its level of forces and expenditures in Europe.”
Europe is more than capable of defending itself, but is willing to let the US do the work for them. If China were serious about invading Taiwan, we would see a build of forces as we did with Russia on the Ukraine border. The invasion was telegraphed months in advance. Biden(Europe’s) ineptitude has resulted in a far greater financial and human cost than if we been proactive. Hopefully future administrations will not make the same mistake.

Liam F
Liam F
1 year ago

Good article. Problem is I just can’t see how Europe will help out though. The EU is what ever Germany wants it to be.
Germany is effectively a mercantile state reliant upon a sweetheart deal with Russia for ultracheap energy to undercut local EU industrial rivals . And reliant on China for its exports . So it’s never gonna support Western sanctions or get involved if it can help it.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
MB
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
1 year ago

China will be vastly richer in a few decades. So it won’t attack now.

N T
N T
1 year ago

I think that is unlikely. The population is aging, and at least some of the world is motivated to cut them off.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

Indeed. China has not yet solved the middle-income trap. Doing so may push out its global hegemony ambitions into the end of this century – and as you say, the demographics make even that difficult.

Or it might simply innovate its way around the problem. We don’t know.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 year ago

Unherd is providing the American angry warhawk neo-con view of the world. This Colby guy lays it all out. God help us.

Diane Merriam
Diane Merriam
1 year ago

There is actually a pretty good way to crash China. It imports the vast majority of its energy. One fleet in the Indian Ocean could block its supply. Shoot, India itself could do that, if it came down to it. China has a lot of ships, but it’s not a blue water Navy. It’s not designed to operate far from port.
China also doesn’t grow enough to feed itself. African Swine Fever is back and they will probably have to cull their hogs … again. That hits their main protein source.
It’s still stuck in Zero COVID and that’s not sustainable either. Omicron is about as contagious as measles now, even if less deadly than it used to be.
It wouldn’t be pretty, but a war with China is still winnable in the medium term, even if they succeed in taking Taiwan in the short term.

B Emery
BE
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Diane Merriam

India is very much more interested in maintaining membership of the BRICS alliance, its very unlikely they would participate in a blockade.
China is 80% self sufficient in energy:
China’s capability in ensuring energy security has constantly improved over the past decade, with the country’s energy self-sufficiency rate maintained at more than 80 percent, which helped it to withstand the tests of the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and international energy market volatility, the official said.

“China’s domestic energy stability will bring stability to the global energy market,” Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Monday
Source: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202210/1277295.shtml
We were actually hoping they would export Europe some lng and diesel but it doesn’t look like they are going to now, probably because we are pissing them off, though that’s not the reason they have given:
https://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/China-To-Stop-Reselling-LNG-To-Europe.amp.html
Food probably not a problem, that Russian grain has to go somewhere and it can travel via rail through the belt and road initiative.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

On the main point about multiple conflicts with other major powers such as China or Russia – this is why the Ukraine war is a glorious opportunity for the USA to crush Russia militarily for the next 20 years, without any risk of direct involvement, so that the USA can then focus on China and the Pacific. (Iran and North Korea are small beer.)
But the writer seems to exaggerate the weakness of the USA too.
“This is an acute problem because, as is now quite clear, the United States is struggling to keep up with the military advances China is making to prepare for a conflict in the Western Pacific”
The USA defence budget is three times the Chinese defence budget. They may be daft in how they spend it, but it won’t take them long to overtake China if they choose to, which is likely.
“In the meantime, there is a growing chorus of credible warnings that China might seek to move against Taiwan and precipitate a major conflict with the United States, possibly in the coming years.”
And there is a strong chorus that disputes this too:
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/china/weakness-behind-china-strong-facade?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=fatoday&utm_campaign=Africa’s%20Past%20Is%20Not%20Its%20Future&utm_content=20221110&utm_term=FA%20Today%20-%20112017

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Dick Illyes
Dick Illyes
1 year ago

An honest question: How much of the US national debt does China hold? If aggression against Tiawan happened would declaring it uncollectable markedly ease the US debt problem?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

This does rather remind me of TS. Eliot’s wonderful poem, “Growltiger’s Last Stand” :

“Then Gilbert gave the signal to his fierce Mongolian horde;
With a frightful burst of fireworks the Chinks they swarmed aboard”.

Martin Layfield
ML
Martin Layfield
1 year ago

I’m no expert but couldn’t China impose a blockade around Taiwan rather than full scale invasion? Granted the US Navy has a lot of firepower but the Chinese will be able to concentrate its large number of ships to the conflict. If it went to war with the US and even if the Chinese fleet took heavy damage, the damage to the US Navy could be dire – a few sunken carriers could be approx 10k killed, for example.
Also, I’m surprised there’s no mention in the article about US (and global) dependency on Chinese rare earth elements. There are significant supplies in places like America and Australia, but they’d probably require regulatory changes plus years of work to be in a situation to replace the Chinese supplies.
Plus if China are wanting war with Taiwan, it;s probably in their interest for the war in Ukraine to keep going. As the US and its allies are sending huge amounts of high tech weaponry to Ukraine, depleting stocks that can’t go to Taiwan or be used to defend Taiwan, and will take years to replenish (unless Biden converts to a more overt war economy, which seems unlikely).
Finally, if it does come to war, I just hope my country (Britain) avoids the temptation to get militarily involved.

Doug Pingel
DP
Doug Pingel
1 year ago

We (Britain) are already militarily involved in both theatres. NATO and various defence agreements which arose out of SEATO, Etc. If you want us to stay out of any fighting OK but what happens when the Chinese tell the UK (or what’s left of it!) “In that case please send your Royal Family and both Houses of Parliament to China for Re-education and Spiritual Retraining?

Martin Layfield
ML
Martin Layfield
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

The best way for Britain to defend itself from China is to economically decouple from it as much as possible. It seems stupid to send our aircraft barriers to potentially get sunk in the Taiwan Strait while allowing so much CCP economic clout here.

B Emery
BE
B Emery
1 year ago

We cannot economically decouple uk from China without committing economic suicide. We do not have the manufacturing capacity or raw materials to make up for that shortfall. Reshoring at the moment is impossible with the energy war, a third of German industry is shut due to gas shortages, it would take years and cost a fortune, SUICIDE. No decoupling. Let china and Taiwan deal with their issues and we can keep our noses out. We have traded with China for years! Its so stupid to now turn around and flat out refuse to deal them or negotiate on Taiwan. Bloody Pelosi couldn’t resist stirring the pot.

B Emery
BE
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Would like to add I just read this, excellent analogy of how America is attempting to shoot itself, and us in the UK, in the foot with the NOPEC bill, and why decoupling is unlikely to be successful for us, hold on to your hats cos if this goes through its going to cause carnage:
https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-Growing-Anti-OPEC-Movement-Is-Disastrous-For-Oil-Markets.html
Quote:
In any market, it’s not so much about who represents the most demand that can move the market where they like. It’s about who represents the most supply. This is perhaps the best argument in favor of the energy transition and the electrification of transport, so it is quite unfortunate that China looms so large in that department, just as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and their friends in OPEC+ loom large in oil.

Also in todays news the European energy market is about f******, though this is not new news, good luck with reshoring with this mess:
https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Europes-Multi-Trillion-Euro-Energy-Derivatives-Market-Is-Under-Scrutiny.html

No decoupling. No war. Free trade.

R Wright
RW
R Wright
1 year ago

“Instead, America should laser-focus its military on Asia, reducing its level of forces and expenditures in Europe. This will allow America to hopefully deter and, if necessary, defeat a Chinese attack on Taiwan and other US allies in the region, using military force to defeat Chinese aggression rather than substantially relying on economic warfare. Meanwhile, Europe should focus on taking the lead on Ukraine and, more broadly, assuming the primary role in its own conventional defence.”
The writer doesn’t seem to understand that the U.S treats the European nations as puppet states. Europe will not ‘take the lead’ on anything so long as it is a junior subservient power underneath America.

Noel Chiappa
NC
Noel Chiappa
1 year ago

I think that on a strategic level, the author is completely correct: it makes much more sense to divide the work of opposing hegemonist autarchies.
The practical flaw I see in this concept is getting Europe to step up and do its half. I think 7 decades of relying on the USA’s umbrella, so they could focus on living well, has left Europe incapable of the sacrifices needed to build their own umbrella.
I think this is definitely shown by the limited European role in supporting Ukraine. Yes, Europe is doing a lot, but the lion’s share is being done by the US. And one would think that with Russia on their doorstep, and a horrible and visible invasion, the need would be obvious to the least perceptive person in the street (who are the real ‘shot-callers’ in a democracy – as Churchill proved in the 30s; even he was unable to rouse the PITS). But no, once again, it’s ‘Uncle Sam will provide’.
Maybe I’m wrong; in fact I would desperately love to be wrong! But that is the way I see it.

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
1 year ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

I see my comment got a down-vote; too bad the person didn’t take the time to write a note saying where they thought I was wrong.
I generally really like UnHerd comments; I’m a big believer in the concept that debate is by far and away the best way to find truth, and many UnHerd commenters (like the early days of Quillette) take the time and mental energy to write things which aren’t a quick retort, but contain thought and insight. Too bad this person didn’t take time to explain where they thought I’d gone off the rails.

Brooke Walford
Brooke Walford
1 year ago

Any chance of Taiwan approaching China for greater incorporation into the mainland with some kind of special status autonomy? That way Taiwanese stay alive, China and US save a shit load of defence expenditure and Xi gets to bask in the long held dream unification glory. You can tell I don’t like reality…

Brooke Walford
BW
Brooke Walford
1 year ago

Any chance of Taiwan approaching China for greater incorporation into the mainland with some kind of special status autonomy? That way Taiwanese stay alive, China and US save a shit load of defence expenditure and Xi gets to bask in the long held dream unification glory. You can tell I don’t like reality…

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

I think America should forget defending Taiwan and start developing a sensible dialogue that doesn’t involve pulling us all into ww3. Depending on the scale of escalation I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians will be so kind as to neatly confine their wars and missile strikes to just around taiwan and Ukraine. I’m pretty sure a war in the indo Pacific will collapse global shipping supply chains, they’re creaking as it is. This article forgets the tensions with North Korea, South Korea and Japan which are amping up, what if in tandem with China North Korea attacks South Korea or Japan while China attacks taiwan? Then what do the Americans do? Could they deal with that? What if the Russians have another go at the same time? There are tensions in the Eastern med over the gas fields there especially between Turkey and Cyprus, Azerbaijan and Armenia war amping up again, home to some very strategic pipelines, Iran has been involved in sending drones to Russia and China has heavily invested in Iranian infrastructure, they have quite an axe to grind too. Its far to simplistic an approach. Us hegemony is over, they need to accept that and have a major rethink on their approach, one word – hubris. Too much of that from America right now.

Ian Stewart
IS
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Don’t know why you’re getting the downvotes for this well put view. Agreed there is a wide range of issues globally, but the USA is still well placed to take them on by taking them on piecemeal where possible, and manipulating or exploiting events that allow for a piecemeal strategy.
That’s why I support the Ukraine war as it takes out Russia as a useful Chinese ally and reduces their capacity for making global trouble for the next 20 years. Hubris is a flaw obviously, but in this case the USA sense of superiority seems justified to me – as long as they don’t go down the road of isolationism. Good article here about potential GOP foreign policy reverting to the Reagan philosophy:
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/fight-future-republican-foreign-policy

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Think I have upset our American friends, lots of down votes 🙂 thanks for the link I will check it out! I take your point and you may be right, you’re probably older and wiser than me so it’s likely 🙂 I have to say I feel I think too many people are underestimating Chinese tech capabilities, manufacturing capacity, and control of resources. They also underestimate how much shit the dollar is in. I would respectfully refute the fact that America is well placed to deal with this now. They have lost control of opec, check out the NOPEC bill I shared above, very isolationist, they have pretty much lost Saudi as an ally, the Saudis wouldn’t raise oil production which really upset the US, the Saudis then offered £400million in aid to Ukraine. Well the Americans hit the ceiling and threatened to stop ALL arms sales to Saudi. Also America have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. Remember them saying if we voted brexit we would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal? Biden interfering in the Northern Ireland business? Bush and his WMDs? Do you know that AMERICAN parts were in the Iranian drones they shot down in Ukraine? America are making the shit to bomb the country they are defending! This is how stupid this has got! The Americans are saying they haven’t a clue how Iran hit hold of this stuff. If they have a clue that’s bad, if they genuinely don’t know how Iran are managing to get American tech that’s even worse. And we armed Asov. The longer the Ukraine war goes on now the more and more dangerous it becomes. Especially with the Saudis sloshing money about getting involved and they aren’t on Americas or Europes side. So I don’t think it’s a good time to attempt to ‘crush russia’. I think it was disgusting how the un walked out on Sergey Lavrov, turned their backs on the Russians, it undermined the point of these institutions and the responsibility of escalation I feel lies with every single person that refused to sit down with the Russians in the first place. The war in the Donbas could have been solved without all this, if the diplomats won’t even sit and talk though there never was any hope was there?
https://www.google.com/search?q=sergey+lavrov+walk+out&oq=sergey+lavrov+wa&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0i512j0i22i30l7.6745j0j9&client=ms-android-ee-uk-revc&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#fpstate=ive&vld=cid:142aa9bf,vid:ViaBYRnWHFM
https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Saudi-Arabia-Announces-400-Million-In-Aid-To-Ukraine.html
https://www.google.com/amp/s/oilprice.com/Geopolitics/International/US-Tech-Is-Being-Used-In-Irans-Controversial-Drones.amp.html

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Ach no one really wants to see Russia crushed, but it gets very emotional seeing them bomb civilians – a real big step backwards for the west (yup, I’m ignoring everywhere else). But the USA is just such a behemoth, and it can change direction so quickly (unlike China or Europe), that in the end, like the Unherd comments, they’ll sort it out – though with mistakes and much pain along the way.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
B Emery
BE
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I think that’s a fair conclusion and you could play the who has committed the most atrocities till the cows come home I suppose on both sides to be fair, russia is far from perfect and neither is china. If nato get dragged in I will have to begrudgingly accept that America are our allies anyway I suppose and find some enthusiasm and optimism for their cause, I better go get the stars and stripes out the bin 🙂

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thanks, tried to reply Ian, mods are holding up my comments I think… its disappeared into the ether….
There it is 🙂
Oooo its gone again?
They disappeared me on two different threads!

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Yeah the comments function is pretty weird here, but it works in the end.

P Branagan
PB
P Branagan
1 year ago

Anyone who thinks the US is a friend of Europeans is utterly gormless. The US wants to impoverish Europe by destroying it’s industrial power (eg by blowing up gas pipelines). It wants to convert it into a cheap human zoo for visiting Americans.
Europe wake up – stop being the US’s patsy.

Andrew F
AF
Andrew F
1 year ago
Reply to  P Branagan

Really?
You only write this nonsense in English and not in German or Russian because of USA.
What about Marshall Plan?
What about preventing murderous, economically incompetent regimes like in Eastern and Central Europe from taking hold in the West?
Only morons, or traitors of the West, think that world ruled by Russia or China would be better for humanity.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I’m a moron and a traitor too. I think p branagan makes excellent points.
We are not talking about a world ‘ruled by China and Russia’ We are talking about a world in which us hegemony is waning, and we may have to take Chinese and Russian interests into account a lot more than we have been used too. You cannot continue to ‘rule the world’, and frankly you’ve done a sh** job. China have caught up. You made a disgrace of yourselves in Afghanistan and by association, us as well. If I remember rightly it was the SAS that left the airport in Afghanistan to get people, not the Americans. I hate to think our lads here will get sent to die in the indo Pacific because of American bloody mindedness and a complete lack of diplomatic skill. Iraq all over again. You are shafting us in the UK and Europe right now, our gas and electricity prices are through the roof, but you still sell lng at four times the price to us and you promised to send us diesel after the sanctions here come into action February, sanctions pushed by the US, it doesn’t look like that diesel will be on the way now as your moronic president has drained the SPR to scrape the election. Thanks for grinding our whole economy to screeching halt. You’re going to feel it too, it’s just a matter of time, he’s got his election in the bag now though so I suppose he doesn’t care. And that right there is why we should ditch America. If China and Russia gold back takes off dollar hegemony is screwed, and so are you. I don’t want to be dragged down with your sinking ship thank you very much.
We have traded with China for years and so has the us. Not a problem was there? They haven’t been funding protest movements like blm and extinction rebellion in this country either, you would need to look to your own elites for that one. Funny how Kwasi was in America when he got sacked too. Don’t even get me started on bush, or hillary Clinton, she’s the epitome of the most god awful Liberal bollax you have been drowning us all in for years. You’re the bloody home of ‘woke’. Megan bloody merkle is the epitome of that one, you can keep her too.
And you can b****r off with the ‘speaking German’ part too, we fought that war with many thousands more lives than you Americans did, we might have been glad of your help but you did not single handedly win ww2. You have watched too many American movies. You didn’t join in properly until the end, your part in the d day landings was a disaster, then you topped it off by creating and unleashing the atom bomb, nutters. Wow. I’ve been going for ages. Think you may have touched a nerve. I think it’s very important to resist war with China here in the UK. In case you couldn’t tell. And the encroachment of American politics and elite money, its poison. Shall I stop?
I’ll wait to be smoted by American hoards and take you point for point. C’mon, I’m ready for you 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery
Jeanie K
Jeanie K
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Brilliant.
As creepy, hair-sniffing Joe and his ilk have just proved; USA is the most corrupt country in the World.

B Emery
BE
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeanie K

Creepy hair sniffing joe amazing 🙂 Totally agree! America has no moral high ground left.

Last edited 1 year ago by B Emery