Category Archives: Trade

FRED REED: Musket And The Noodle Stall: A Strategic Comparison

America, Asia, China, Economy, FRED REED, Military, Trade

BY FRED REED

In big-chunk terms, in the world today we see a contest between the Chinese economy and the American military, between Chinese dynamism and American coercion. Sure, China has a military and the US has an economy. Yet the emphasis, and spirit are as described.

The United States gives priority to the military over civilian economy, with military spending increasing at the expense of internal infrastructure and social needs. By contrast, China focuses on infrastructure within and trade without. I wonder whether Americans are aware of the extent of this. And its likely consequences.

To read the Asian-based press—Asia Times, Nikkei Asia, the South China Morning Post, the Global Times, and various tech sites—is to see a constant stream of infrastructure projects in China and advancing trade outside.  As perhaps many know China promotes the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive program to connect all of Eurasia, as well as Africa and Latin America in a huge trade zone connected by rail, highways, fiber optics, maritime links, and commercial treaties. If completed it will dwarf the United States.

China, a rising technological center, leads the world in civil engineering, manufacturing, Five G, trade, and clearly intends to maintain the lead. All power ultimately rests on economic power. Below a few news stories more or less randomly chosen from around the web. Can you think of American equivalents?

China Mandalay Rail Line

“New international railway route from Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality to Mandalay, southern Myanmar, has officially started operation, with the first freight train departing from Chongqing on Monday, which will arrive in Mandalay about 20 days earlier than what it takes on traditional routes.”The port will also further connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative and increase Chinese influence in Myanmar. Key word: Trade.

America leads in phenomenally expensive aircraft carriers with serious developmental problems and no particular purpose. Google “Ford class carriers.”

China’s high-speed rail network hit the 40,000-kilometer mark by the end of 2021, reaching out to 93 percent of domestic cities with a population of over 500,000, An Lusheng, deputy head of National Railway Administration, said on Friday. This comes as the country ramps up a push to build itself into a transportation power.”

Fast, pervasive transportation greatly facilitates almost everything. Beijing has said it will have 30,000 miles in a few years. key words: manufacturing, trade, connectivity.

The first China-Russia highway bridge, which stretches from Heihe, a border city in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, to the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk spanning the Heilongjiang River, opened to traffic on Friday, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported. It will open a new international highway that will boost the connectivity between cities in China and Russia.“ A few days ago. Here we have more of China’s program to tie all of Eurasia into one interconnected web. Note that it says the “first” bridge. Key words: Trade, connectivity.

China plans new high-volume  space-launch facility

“The new Ningbo spaceport, the nation’s fifth such facility, will give a crucial lift to Beijing’s new space programs as its rivalry with the United States reaches space. The spaceport is said to be tailor-made for Chinese commercial aerospace manufacturers and service providers to one day wrest business and foreign orders from US rivals.”

Typical China. Planning five years in advance. If this follows the country’s pattern, construction will begin and continue without interruption until completed. Keyword: Commercial.

America leads world in overpriced fighter aircraft with history of unending engineering problems. Google “F-35.”

Cargo carried via New Land-Sea Corridor in western China grows 38% in Jan-May”

“With the RCEP coming into effect, the corridor has played a bigger role in boosting trade between China and ASEAN. On April 8, four trains left Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, carrying aluminum products, agricultural equipment, industrial equipment, chemicals and food to Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia

The RCEP, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, is a vast commercial agreement among whose members are all of ASEAN, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China.”

Key word: Trade.

Multi-functional modular seabed trencher developed by a Chinese firm has recently completed 100 kilometers of pipelines construction in “Bangladesh’s first marine pipeline project, setting two world records in directional drilling and deep trenching.”

My knowledge of pipeline trenching would be zero even after three cups of coffee and a hearty breakfast. I note, though that it is in Bangladesh: More connection of China and everywhere else. It also sounds like good engineering. Key words: Trade, connectivity.

The CKU Railways will create significant trade opportunities for Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan while linking China directly to the Middle East via Rail, with spin off benefits throughout the region.”

China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan will be tied more into the Central Asian ecosystem. Construction begins next year. Key words: Trade, connectivity.

America is unchallenged in funny-looking Batplane intercontinental nuclear bomber costing, says Aviation Week, $640 million a copy as America prepares to fill intense world demand for nuclear war. Google “B-21.”

 The China-Laos Railway: Yunnan to Vientiane by Bullet Train

Written by Coco Yang Updated Feb. 11, 2022

On December 3rd 2021, the 1,035-km (643-mile) China-Laos Railway was fully opened making possible a bullet train journey of only 10 hours from Kunming to Vientiane, capital of Laos. Key word: Trade.

China-Europe freight train trips top 50,000, yearly growth of 55% from 2016 to 2021

“The value of goods transported by the cargo service skyrocketed to $74.9 billion in 2021, up from $8 billion dollars in 2016, and its share in total trade between China and Europe has increased from 1.5 to 8 percent, according to the release China State Railway Group sent to the Global Times.” America will probably try to block this traffic because it goes through Russia. Again, coercion over competition. Key word: Trade, connectivity.

Proposed US military budget: $857 billion. Keywords:  Profits, stupidity.

China Hosts over Sixty Percent of World’s Five G  Base Stations

“China had set up a total of nearly 1.43 million 5G base stations as of the end of 2021….”

And many more this year. As can be found by browsing tech sites, China leads in Five G patents, installed base, technology, and manufacturing capacity. Keywords: Trade, manufacturing.

Many millions of Americans can’t read, a hundred thousand a year die of opioid overdoses, the economy is a trainwreck, and despair grows, but the Pentagon has Space Command to give America “Total Spectrum Dominance,” which presumably will pay our mortgages.

China’s digital yuan extends usage into finance scenarios

“SHANGHAI, June 17 (Reuters) – China’s digital yuan can now be used to buy wealth management products, pay for insurance policies, and extend bank loans, as the central bank further expands e-CNY’s application beyond retail shopping, though still only in pilot schemes.”

China is the world’s leading major country in digital currency. Beijing is low-key about it but implications for global finance worry the US. Keywords: Money, connectivity.

US leads world in pricey, unnecessary but glamorous and profitable nuclear-missile submarines. Google “Columbia class submarines.”

China moves toward STEM leadership

Worth reading. “American” prowess in technology increasingly rests on East Asian and Indian scientists and engineers as the US destroys its schools to further inclusiveness. Keywords: Abject, stupidity.

Value of China-Vietnam Cross-border Freight Trains More Than Triples in Q1”

US has both largest military budget and largest number of citizens living on sidewalks.

China leader in supercomputers: “As of June 2021, 188 of the world’s 500 most powerful supercomputers were located in China, a figure which is a third more than that of its nearest competitor, the United States, which accounted for an additional 122 supercomputers. Together, the two nations account for around 60 percent of the world’s most powerful supercomputers.”

This needs to be read with caution. How the two stack up in aggregate computing power, whatever that means, I don’t know. The US just announced the first exascale computer at Oak Ridge. The Sunway Oceanlight from China is on many websites said to be exascale, but isn’t quite. The important point is that it is entirely of Chinese design from architecture to chips, using silicon of Chinese design and manufacture. It is remarkable that China can manage this in the face of American attempts to strangle the country technologically.

China Launches World’s Largest container Ship

A gorgeous monster. Check photo. China also has seven of the world’s largest cargo ports. Keyword: Trade

Trade deficit with China. Boring but worth a glance.

“During 2021, the United States exported $151,065,200,000 in products to China, but then imported $506,366,900,000 in products from China, resulting in $657,432,100,000 in total trade between the two countries–and a $355,301,700,000 deficit for the United States.”

Keyword: Can you guess?

Read Fred’s Books! Or else. We know where you sleep.

******************************************

FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.

UPDATE (3/15): Ukraine: Republicans Revert To The Neoconservative Mean

Bush, Europe, Free Markets, Iran, Iraq, Neoconservatism, Republicans, Trade, War

Conservatism has tragically and unforgivably reverted to the neoconservative mean. Just as in 2016, 14 years after the invasion of Iraq, rose a presidential candidate against Genghis Bush and that man’s destruction of Iraq—in ten years time, perhaps, the GOP will field a presidential candidate who’ll quit moralizing and demonizing; will strive fiercely to negotiate and accommodate, won’t alienate and sanction, and will trade, trade, trade.

But it might be too late by then for realpolitik.

The Republicans are pushing for war and that no-fly zone. They are admonishing Biden for his so-called weakness—for that is how they frame avoiding a nuclear war with Russia. The War Street Journal has only rebuke for Biden’s policy of “containment against Russia.” On Fox News it’s rah-rah for war (i. e., a no-fly zone over Ukraine) all day long. The female journos and pundits, especially, choose to use incendiary verbiage, pregnant with provocation, such as “a red line”; “this was a red line for Obama… will Biden consider it a red line.. blah-blah.”

Translated it’s, “Come on big boy; sock it to Putin.” War porn.

Rand Paul is no Ron Paul. But at least the senator from Kentucky has berated the forever-war, dastardly GOP for rejecting diplomacy with Iran, the mention of which has not even crossed their lips with respect to Russia.

UPDATE (3/15): War always brings the neoconservative to the fore. Victor Davis Hanson is one. A nice man, but never-the-less, a neoconservative, front-and-center in the enunciation of consummate neoconservative abominations known as “The Bush Doctrine,” which was responsible for the noxious bifurcation knows as, “If you are not with us, you are against us.”

The West has been caught sleeping and … an opportunistic dictator … saw a chance and … took it just like he did in 2014. 

Neocons love sanctions, which are as useless in achieving political ends as they are ruthless in their effects on the most vulnerable. As far as their ultimate outcome—embargoed are counterproductive. “Nicholas Mulder, assistant professor in the history department of Cornell University in New York, is the author of ‘The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War’ (2022)'”:

Sanctions alone have a poor record of halting military adventures. During the 20th century, only three out of 19 attempts to use sanctions as a policy to impede war have been successful: two of these were the work of the League of Nations. It nipped in the bud incipient border wars in the Balkans, between Yugoslavia and Albania in 1921 and between Greece and Bulgaria in 1925. The other successful use of sanctions was American financial pressure on sterling, which forced an end to Britain’s Egyptian military expedition in the Suez war of 1956.

FRED REED: Plumbing The Chinese Dijjywan

Asia, Business, China, Economy, FRED REED, Government, Trade

“… When America cuts a country off from SWIFT … the blow is economically devastating. The mere threat of disconnection intimidates. Consequently many countries would like to have an alternative to [spiteful American economic strong-arming via] SWIFT.”

By Fred Reed

Normally I write about things I know. In the case of digital currencies, and in particular the digital yuan (hereinafter dijjywan) I write about something that piques my curiosity. So little seems to be known that it is difficult to find anything definitive. Yet the question is so important, digital currencies so new, the implications so sweeping, that discussion seems a good idea. The following therefore is a sort of declarative question, a listing of ideas from many sources, perhaps sometimes wrong, about which I hope readers can enlighten me. To avoid endless qualifications and caveats, I write affirmatively things that I don’t really know. Correction and thoughts welcome.

Some things to know: The dijjywan, being rolled out in the Winter Olympics, is not a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, intended to maintain anonymity of users: all transactions are or can be known to Beijing. A dijjywan account is not a bank account, though it is administered by PBOC, the People’s Bank of China.  You don’t need to have a bank account to use it. It does not earn interest. You cannot speculate in dijjywan any more than you can with normal yuan, because the digital yuan is the normal yuan, but in digital form. A dijjywan account does not provide access to credit. It is as close to being physical currency as you can get without being physical currency. Transactions are instantaneous and final.

So how does it work? As an individual, you will download an app that China calls a digital wallet to your cellphone, as you would any app. This is currently being done in China. You do a face scan and the system gives you a unique QR code. You now have a dijjywan account. No bureaucracy, filling out of forms, demands for identification, or examination of financial history. There is nothing new or Star Wars about this. Everyone in China has already done it to use WeChat Pay or Alipay.  Some eighty percent of retail transactions in China are made by cellphone app, making acceptance there likely.

Suppose that you are in Kathmandu and I am in Cancun and you want to send me five hundred dijjywan. You call up the app, go to contacts, tap Fred, type in 500, and hit send. Five seconds later in Mexico, I have the money. (I made that up, but it is close to payments I have seen made in Chengdu.) For practical purposes instantaneous, no bureaucracy.

Interesting question: What would easy, convenient, fast transfer of funds by cellphone do to Western Union? What would it do to debit cards from Mastercard and visa? American credit-card companies get a percentage of every sale. If China, as a tactic of economic warfare, did not take a rake-off or took a smaller one, what would this do to Visa and Mastercard? Merchants would certainly favor a system that cost them less.

When China goes cashless with the dijjywan, which is its stated intention, it will improve efficiency within China but have no great effect in the outside world.  Who outside of China would want to use a Chinese digital currency?

Perhaps lots of people. There being many Chinese tourists in Cancun, hotels and restaurants would like to grab business from Chinese who didn’t want to bother with currency conversion. Mexico likely would be happy to have the money come into the country.  People in Zimbabwe, whose currency is worthless anywhere else, and who might worry that Harare would print even more money and destroy their savings, would be happy with dijjywan that could be taken out of the country or spent internationally online. Such a nation, if it wanted a stable currency, might make the dijjywan the national currency, or a national currency, as Panama and Ecuador do with the dollar. People without bank accounts, estimated at two billion, would find it useful. The result would be a distributed all-yuan Sinocentric financial ecosystem.

The Chinese currency would appeal to the many countries that do not want American influence over their finances. Dijjywan would be a reliable store of value for, say, people in Brazilian favelas as robbery would be nearly impossible: An armed robber could force his victim to transfer money to his phone, but this would create a record in the Chinese cloud of time, place, amount, and identity of both parties. The authorities could simply extract the stolen lucre and replace it with the rightful owner, and freeze the thief’s account. Digital policing of this sort has been mentioned by Chinese authorities.

Intriguing, though not related to China: America is dabbling with the idea of a digital dollar. If America went cashless (granted, not likely before the heat death of the sun), the illegal drug trade would disappear overnight. In retail transactions, on which the trade depends, with the friendly corner crack merchant, the identities of both buyer and seller would be recorded. This would not be good for business.  Dealers could easily be detected. No arrests would be needed, as freezing their dijjywan account would suffice. Since accounts depend on face recognition, the dealer could not set up another account. Totalitarianism has its appeals.

Digital-currency accounts would be programmable. If a country went on an anti-booze crusade, people could be prevented from buying more than a certain amount of liquor per month. China has pointed out the virtues of the dijjywan in stopping money laundering. These ideas justifiably upset civil libertarians, but they represent an upside to the downside. What would be the social effects of ending the drug business in black ghettoes?

The possibilities for surveillance and social control are obvious but, since China is going all-digital anyway, alarm is unlikely to have much effect. Perhaps worth noting is that America is going fast in the same direction, with much of  the surveillance and censorship ‘being done by semigovernmental enterprises such as Google and Twitter. With many countries considering digital currencies, it appears that we will fairly soon have them anyway. And, if history is a guide, the likelihood is that most people would accept surveillance as the price of convenience.

But let’s get to the serious stuff: America’s financial sanctions on countries it doesn’t like. As perhaps most people know, international payments, as for example for oil, go through the SWIFT financial payment system, headquartered in Brussels, supposedly independent but in fact under American control. It is the only practical way for countries to do business with each other. When America cuts a country off from SWIFT, as it has with Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba, the blow is economically devastating. The mere threat of disconnection intimidates. Consequently many countries would like to have an alternative to SWIFT. So where does the dijjywan come in?

Note that the digital yuan is scalable. In principle it is as easy to send a million as a hundred dijjywan, making it practical as a means of paying for, say, petroleum from sanctioned countries. Further—read this carefully: dijjywan transactions are completely independent of Washington, completely independent—eeek!—of SWIFT, and, thanks to heavy encryption, opaque to the US. This threatens America’s ability to strongarm other countries and, if widely adopted, would result in a major diminution of US power in the world.  It may be that China has thought of this. The US certainly has.

Why could a tobacconist in Paris not buy five thousand dollars of cohiba cigars from Cuba, or China a tanker of oil from Venezuela, or any business in Europe goods to or from Iran, or from each other, in dijjywan? The US might make it difficult for sanctioned countries to convert dijjywan to other currencies, but this would simply force those countries to trade more with China.

China has said repeatedly that, why, no, it has no thought of using the dijjywan for international settlement payments. As Deutsch Bank says, it is being set up for domestic use. However, China is working with—whatever exactly that means—Hongkong, Thailand, and the UAE for just this purpose. Why the UAE? Not because China wants to further retail sales to the Emirates by Alibaba, since they have the aggregate population of a large city bus. But they have oil. Interesting. Let us remember that China very, very much wants to internationalize the yuan.

A concern mentioned by the Treasury Department, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute,  is that there could result a distributed Sinocentric financial ecosystem independent of the West. Many countries that trade heavily with China, or have poor relations with America, might come aboard. The Central Asian stans, the BRICS, Latin American countries tired of being under the US boot. China might make use of the dijjywan a requirement for loans and participation in the BRI. It would not be either the dijjywan or the dollar as countries could use both.

American officials often say complacently that the yuan accounts for only a small percentage of international commerce and that the dijjywan is no threat to the dollar’s hegemony. Perhaps. But the world’s economic and technological center of gravity is moving to the east, a market as huge as China’s has persuasive powers all of its own, many countries want to avoid American domination, and the digital yuan is something entirely new. I don’t think anyone really knows what effects we will see.

Thoughtful comments welcome and, again, I throw these ideas out in search of enlightenment, not because I regard myself as an authority.

Read Fred’s Books! Or else. We know where you sleep.

******************************************

FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.

FRED REED: War With China! Another Bright Idea From The Yankee Capital

America, China, Foreign Policy, FRED REED, History, Military, Russia, The South, Trade, War

America starts its wars by overestimating its own capacities, underestimating the enemy, and misunderstanding the nature of the war it is getting into…And the Chinese are not little-leaguers

By Fred Reed

Discussions of war with China over Taiwan often assume a short, regional war won by superior American technology, after which things go on approximately as before. A few observations:

First, overconfidence is an occupational disease of militaries and militarists. Wars very often fail to proceed according to the expectations of the aggressors and not infrequently end in catastrophe.  The American Civil War was expected to be over in an afternoon at First Manassas; wrong by four years and 630,000 dead, equivalent to over six million today.

When Napoleon invaded Russia, he did not foresee Russian troops marching in Paris, which is what happened. When Germany invaded France in 1914, it expected a short, victorious war of movement, and got four years of a losing attrition war. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, GIs sleeping with their daughters in Tokyo was not among their war aims, but it is what happened.

When the French went back into Vietnam after WW II, being catastrophically defeated by les jaunes at Dien Bien Phu was not a strategic objective. When America invaded Vietnam, Washington did not expect a panicked flight from atop the Embassy. When Hitler invaded Russia, GIs in Berlin were not in his plans. When Russia invaded Afghanistan, it did not expect the same outcome that the Americans should have expected, but didn’t, when they did exactly the same thing. The list could be extended. Caution often is a wiser plan than martial enthusiasm.

Second, America starts its wars by overestimating its own capacities, underestimating the enemy, and misunderstanding the nature of the war it is getting into. There is probably a manual on this. Usually the US has no end game and no “what if” plan in case the unforeseen occurs. These traits are clear in America’s wars since Korea.

The reason for this curious behavior is that war is only tangentially a rational endeavor, being chiefly a limbic, instinctually driven habit probably of genetic provenance. War is just what men do, tribe against tribe, country against country, empire against empire, world without end. War is a major, perhaps the major, focus of human endeavor. A glance at history reveals it to be chiefly a tapestry of war. The literature of civilizations reflects this: The Gilgamesh Epic, the Iliad, the Aeneid, El Cid, Orlando Furioso, Lord of the Rings.

Does America have a clear reason for defending Taiwan? It is not of vital importance to America, and arguably not of minor importance. Few Americans know quite where it is, and few can distinguish it from Thailand. If it became part of China almost no one would notice. Before getting into an unpredictable war with a massively populous nuclear power of formidable economic and military resources on the other side of the world, it might be wise to answer the question, “Why? What do we gain? How do we get out of said war?”

Regarding war in Chinese waters:

The US fleet has not been in combat since 1945, over seventy-five years ago. American pilots have not flown against a competent enemy since 1973, almost half a century ago. Enormous changes in technology and armament have occurred in the intervening years. Nobody really knows what a battle of naval forces against modern antiship missiles would look like. Those who can guess are not sanguine. Most warships today lack armor. Anyone looking at what a couple of French Exocet missiles did to the USS Stark in 1987 would not bet on equally unarmored Ticos or Arleigh Burkes. An aircraft carrier is a large bladder of aviation fuel wrapped around high explosives. Look at the accidental launch in 1967 of one Zuni five-inch ground-attack missile aboard the USS Forrestal, igniting raging fires, cooking off bombs, killing 134 sailors and putting the ship in the repair yard for many months.

Militaries grow slack in extended periods of peace. Training decreases to save money. War stocks of tank treads are cannibalized for training and aren’t there when war comes; the company that made them has gone out of business. Supplies of critical parts dwindle as budgets go to procurement of future hardware. After all, nobody really expects war. Rapid mobilization, it turns out, is impossible.

If the war was not won as quickly and decisively as hoped, as it very likely would not be, would an American public already under severe economic stress support the heavy cost of a war having no obvious end point or relevance to their lives? Conscription?

Within the Beltway many seem to think that China is Cambodia with more people. Some in Washington harbor a residual belief that America is militarily supreme, that its mere entrance into war seals the outcome. Think again, carefully. Rand has wargamed regional war in the Strait and South China Sea and concluded that America has a very good chance of losing. he Chinese are smart, and excellent engineers. Chinese students dominate America’s best technical universities and the elite high schools. CalTech and MIT, for example. Look at the Chinese space program, the upcoming 360 mph maglev trains using high-temperature superconductivity. The Chinese are not little-leaguers. They have put many resources into antiship missiles specifically designed for US carriers. These, note, greatly outrange carrier aviation. Iraq was predicted to be a “cakewalk.” China won’t be.

Allies? In naval circles there is much talk about the First Island Chain and an assumption that Japan will join a war against China to protect Taiwan, or at least let its bases be used by American forces. Are we sure? Japan is within missile and air range of China. All of its petroleum arrives by sea, and China has pretty decent submarines. Japan’s trade mostly moves by sea. China is a crucial trading partner whose elimination in a war would devastate the Japanese economy. Japan is close to China. America is not. Tokyo might worry that America would grow weary of the war and go home, as it usually does, and leave Japan, all alone, in a shooting war with China. How would that end?

What stake does Japan have in the independence of Taiwan? Today it trades with both Taiwan and China. If China absorbed the island, Japan would continue trading with both. Only the letterhead would change. Are we quite, quite sure Tokyo would want any part of this?

South Korea? Its cities and entire economy are within missile range of China. Does it really want to get into a shooting war with its huge neighbor, which has a land border with the peninsula, to maintain American hegemony in the Pacific? Having gotten into a war, how would it get out? The Koreans may have thought of this.

Wars as imagined inside the Beltway often seem to assume that the enemy will just lie there and be bombed without doing anything untoward or unexpected. Are we sure? The United States has 28,000 troops and their families within range of Chinese weaponry, the killing of whom would force Washington into desperate measures. Could China encourage North Korea to attack southward, creating a two-front war far beyond Washington’s ability to handle? Or Kim to think he saw a chance and attack on his own initiative? Might China annex Myanmar? Perhaps this is farfetched. Perhaps it isn’t. Remember that nobody expected China’s entry into the Korean war.

One might suspect that Taipei, seeing overwhelming forces arrayed against it across the Strait, will one day cut the best deal it can with Beijing rather than be devastated first and then have to accept whatever conditions Beijing chose to impose. It could get a sweetheart deal as Beijing would much prefer this to invading with all of its risks. Here is a factor I am not competent to judge, but that might be worth judging: The Chinese, as I knew them long ago when I lived in Taiwan, are (very) racially aware and nationalistic. The Taiwanese are Chinese. You can bet they know of the Legations, the Opium Wars, the Boxers, the burning of the Summer Palace, the Korean War. As I write, the most popular movie on the mainland is about a Chinese victory over Americans in the Korean War.

What might a Chinese attack on Taiwan look like? The Chinese general staff mysteriously does not confide in me, but a good guess is easy. The Chinese often do beach-assault exercises on their side of the strait, obviously practice for the genuine assault. One of these turns suddenly into the real thing. Ballistic missiles crater Taiwan’s military runways, missiles in large numbers hit air defenses. Troop ships head for Taiwan, getting there in eight hours at fifteen knots, helicopters and paratroops in less. China’s large and reasonably good air force bombs and bombs and bombs. After twenty-four hours, the US is still trying to decide what is happening, talking to the JCS, asking the President what to do.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, the talented Confederate general, is said to have said that the secret of victory is to “git thar fustest with the mostest.” In the event of a surprise attack, how long would it take—in the real world, not in PowerPoint slides—for America to get there with how much of what? If the Chinese got substantial forces ashore, it would be the end of the story. Keeping troops out of an island is one thing, getting them out quite another. Not even John Bolton—perhaps not even John Bolton—can imagine that America could win a land war with China in Asia. Selling the American public on a large war over things in which it has no interest would be difficult. Under these circumstances, the chances are nonnegligible that the US would make loud noises, huff and puff, save face as best it could, and do nothing.

But let us assume that Washington fought and lost the regional war, Taiwan perhaps surrendering after the U.S. lost a dozen ships and a carrier was disabled. What would Washington do after such a humiliation? Never underestimate the influence of vanity on world affairs. The hawks in DC have elevated titles and, sometimes, considerable ability, but they also have the same hormones and egos as patrons in Joe’s Bar in Chicago. A Chinese victory in the style of Tsushima Strait would end the world’s view of America as an invincible hegemon. The fernbar Napoleons might well decide to up the ante and turn a regional into a world war. This it would win. “Win.” Perhaps by blocking the Strait of Malacca and threatening the Three Gorges Dam. The expectation in the Pentagon would likely be that Beijing would see the futility of resistance and surrender. But if it did not?

America’s trade with China in goods in 2020 was $660 billion, $120 billion of that being exports, making it America’s largest trading partner… Cutting this off would wreck the American economy. This is far more than a matter of iPhones and cheap plastic buckets for Walmart. Though most may not know it, America is an economic dependency of China.  The US gets from China countless things it cannot make but cannot do without. For example, cars require computers to control their ignition and transmissions. Where do we think these are made? Companies like Boeing sound American but many vital assemblies come from China. High-end semiconductors, crucial to today’s economies, come predominantly from East Asian companies, notably Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Samsung, both of which would be hostage to Chinese attack. The great majority of rare earths, critical to the manufacture of chips, come from China. Similar considerations exist for industry after industry. While America has the technology to make most of the things it gets from China, it does not have the manufacturing capacity, and would need years to develop it.

Has anyone in Washington checked industry by industry to see what the effects of the end of imports would actually be?

Further, China is the largest trading partner of most of the world, Germany and the European Union for example, and close with most of the rest. If an American war took China out of the global supply chain, the resulting depression would make 1929 look like the height of prosperity, turn the entire earth against the US, and likely lead to the lynching of everyone in Washington.

Never mentioned is that America is trying, with considerable success, to block China’s economic progress by preventing its acquisition of advanced semiconductors. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the world’s largest and most advanced manufacturer of chips, is in Taiwan. Reunification of Taiwan with China would solve this critical problem. Beijing has probably thought of this.

Considering the costs, risks, and benefits if any of such a war, the question may be, “How bright an idea is this?”

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FRED REED describes himself as [previously] a “Washington police reporter, former Washington editor for Harper’s and staff writer for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Marine combat vet from Viet Nam, and former long-haul hitchhiker, part-time sociopath, who once lived in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the Yankee Capital.”
His essays “on the collapse of America” Mr. Reed calls “wildly funny, sometimes wacky, always provocative.”
“Fred is the Hunter Thompson of the right,” seconds Thomas E. Ricks in Foreign Policy magazine. His  commentary is “well-written, pungent political incorrectness mixed with smart military commentary and libertarian impulses, topped off with a splash of Third World sunshine and tequila.”

FRED’S BOOKS ARE ON AMAZON, HERE

FRED’S ARTICLES ARCHIVE

Killer Kink

Hardboiled is back! (The exclamation point is to arouse wild enthusiasm int the reader, a boiling literary lust.) Gritty crime fiction by longtime police reporter for the Washington Times, who knows the police from nine years of riding with them. Guaranteed free of white wine and cheese, sensitivity, or social justice.

* Image courtesy FP