Thursday, 26 October 2017

China and the Taiwan Question

The end of the American Empire is approaching.

This is not a bad thing. It is not even an unexpected thing. But there is a thing about collapsing empires – rarely do they go gently into the night.

Instead, they tend to deny their own approaching demise, and lash out, attacking real and perceived enemies at random, trying to maintain the illusion that they are still strong, that they still matter, that they can still rule over all.

This has major repercussions for everyone when the empire concerned has the ability to destroy the planet several times over – and when its principal adversaries do so, too.

The fact that the American Empire is ending may be something that the people in power there refuse to admit, but it is perfectly obvious to everyone else – to its own citizens, to the people of all other countries, and most of all to the governments of those countries as well.

One of those major countries happens to be the People’s Republic of China.

It’s a fairly open secret that the ridiculous “Russian collusion” accusations against Donald Trump have nothing to do with Trump; they don’t even have anything directly to do with Russia. Russia, while much stronger than the shambolic wreck that it was twenty years ago, is much smaller and nowhere near as strong politically or militarily as the Soviet Union was even in its period of decline in the 1980s. However, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is not an adversary of China – it is a burgeoning military and political ally and an indispensable economic partner.

And if there is any one nation that can take over the prime leadership role once the American Empire ends, it is that same People’s Republic of China.

This is basically what the “Russian collusion” myth is about. It’s not about Trump, who is just as much a neoliberal puppet as his blood soaked war criminal predecessors Barack Hussein Obama and George W Bush. It’s not even about Russia, which, despite the fevered imaginations of such impeccable organs of truth as the New York Times and the CIA funded Washington Post, has no designs on the slagheaps of the Baltic statelets and has even refused to use force to oust the Nazi coup regime in Rump Ukraine. It is all about containing and weakening China by attacking its friends and bolstering its enemies.

And of those enemies, one name jumps out immediately: Taiwan.

Until 1895, Taiwan was a part of China. Towards the end of the 1894-5 Japanese war against China over Korea, Japan invaded Taiwan and captured it, forcing the decaying Qin Empire to cede it to the Japanese. They held the island for the next fifty years, until defeated in the Second World War, whereupon they handed it back to the then Guomindang (“Kuomintang”) government of Jiang Jieshi (“Chiang Kai-Shek”). In the Chinese civil war that followed, the Guomindang was defeated by the People’s Liberation Army of Mao Zedong and its remnants, abandoning the mainland, fled to Taiwan in 1949. But the rump Guomindang regime on Taiwan continued to pretend that it ruled all China, and therefore continued to recognise that Taiwan was a part of China.

This was the exact same position held by the new People’s Republic of China, which also stated that Taiwan was a part of China. The positions of the two governments – the Communist Party in Beijing and the Guomindang rump on Taiwan – on China’s external borders were largely identical. Incidentally, India found this out in 1962 when, in the act of losing a border war, which he had instigated, to China, Nehru appealed to Taiwan to invade the Chinese mainland. The Guomindang rump regime replied that on the question of the borders of China there was not the slightest difference between it and the People’s Republic.

But that was then. Today the Guomindang, far from being the pretender to rule all China, does not even rule Taiwan. It’s reduced to the status of a second string opposition party. And the successors to it have no desire to attempt to take over China – far from it. The thing they would love to do, if only they could get away with it, is secession.

Until now, that has never been a realistic possibility, because almost everyone is committed to the status quo of a single China with two competing governments. And in recent years the two have increased economic interactions, and the current Taiwan government is perceived to be friendly to China, much more so than the previous one. As far as the current situation of Taiwan vis-a-vis China goes, it is fairly satisfactory for Beijing; about as good as it can get without the island being brought under full formal control, actually.

But this is now. It may not always stay that way.

There are two possible scenarios that would change the status quo.

In the first, the decaying American Empire, in its drive to try and attack Chinese interests in all ways, will incite the Taiwanese rump regime to formally declare independence, promising to come to its aid. Until the Taiwanese rump regime formally declares independence, in fact, America can’t station forces on its territory, because that would constitute an invasion of China; and China is not Syria, riven by violence and loss of state control, where American invaders can operate in relative safety.

So, if the Taiwan rump can be incited to officially announce secession, American rapid deployment forces could be rushed to the island in a matter of days, and then any attempt by China to take the island would risk starting a full on nuclear war.

In the second scenario, the American Empire does not incite the Taiwanese rump to secede; but the Taiwanese regime, watching the decline of the Empire, thinks that it’s its last chance for independence before America gets too weak to help it, and so declares independence unilaterally.

In both circumstances, China will have no option but to retake Taiwan by force. There are two more reasons for this:

The first is common to all multi-ethnic nations, from Turkey to Spain, from India to Nigeria and Pakistan to Russia. If any ethnicity of the nation is allowed to secede, the result is likely to be the secession of other ethnicities as well, causing the disintegration of the state, or at the least a massive, ruinous war to prevent this disintegration. That is the primary reason Spain continues to hold on to Catalonia (or else the Basques would secede), Nigeria to the Ibo areas that used to be Biafra (or else the Muslim Fulani areas of the North would go too), Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran to the Kurdish areas, India to Kashmir and Nagaland, Pakistan to Balochistan, Russia to Chechnya. Nobody wants to end up like another Yugoslavia, where the failure to crush initial secessionism led to the total destruction of the country.

(Czechoslovakia is often held up as an example of how two ethnicities can secede without harming each other. False analogy. The country only had two main ethnic groups, and though they separated into two nations, both of them merely traded their Czechoslovak citizenship for the status of slaves of the European Union and cannon fodder for NATO.)

So, China would have to crush any secession attempt by the Taiwan rump regime; it would be an existential threat to the entire Chinese nation, which is well aware that the same American Empire is stoking secessionism among the Tibetans and Uighurs. It would have no choice; the fact that invading Taiwan will be a difficult and costly business, both in terms of blood and money, makes no difference.

And this is why analyses that claim that the economic and political pain of a military campaign to take Taiwan would be so great that China would be deterred miss the point. Without exception, all these analyses are American, and are therefore the product of an Empire owned by Wall Street, whose entire foreign policy depends on the balance sheets of the oligarchs there. American think tankers can only conceive the world in terms of money; they have long since abandoned all ideas of nationalism except as a tool to brainwash and manipulate the masses. But not all nations think this way. And China, which has had the profoundly scarring experience of a century of humiliation by Western and then Japanese imperialists, from the 1830s to the 1940s, certainly does not think that way.

The second reason China would have to crush Taiwanese separatism has everything to do with that century of humiliation. Perhaps surprisingly, for a nation that covers such an immense land mass, almost all invasions and aggressions against China in the modern era have come from the sea. It is the Western sea-borne foreigners who coerced the Chinese to buy opium at gunpoint, hand over their cities as “settlements”, and virtually become a series of colonial enclaves. It was the sea borne Japanese who also invaded first Korea and then Taiwan; who carved out Manchuria, and then invaded Shanghai and Nanjing, and massacred millions. And it is the sea-borne American fleet which still threatens China today.

For hundreds of years, Chinese seaborne abilities were almost nonexistent – a situation that persisted, in fact, until a few years ago. When in 1996 the American Empire sent an aircraft carrier into the Taiwan Straits, China could do nothing, and if the Taiwanese had declared independence at that point could have done little except massed missile barrages and perhaps nuclear war. But it served as a wake up call, and set Chinese defence sights from the land to the sea. Ever since then, the Chinese have been building up their naval capabilities, acquiring new submarines, destroyers, and now aircraft carriers. Most significantly, all the latest acquisitions are not only Chinese built but Chinese designed; in the field of aircraft carriers, for example, China is already decades ahead of Russia and far ahead of India, which has fifty years more experience. This means that, again for the first time ever, China is not beholden to anyone for its naval defence acquisitions.

This naval buildup is inexplicable except as a means of guarding Chinese shores and the increasingly vital trade lanes, including those through the Straits of Malacca, which are chokepoints through which most shipborne Chinese trade passes....and as an essential means to isolate and close off a secessionist Taiwan from American reinforcement.

Simultaneously, the Chinese are urgently building up their Marine Corps – from twenty thousand troops to a hundred thousand – and upgrading their amphibious assault capabilities. China isn’t in the business of invading and annexing other countries, or even sending troops abroad. It’s only now tentatively setting up a military base in Djibouti in East Africa. But it has realised that its security lies in controlling the sea near its shores, and it intends to control it. And for this, and to enforce Chinese territorial claims in the islands of the South China Sea, a strong Marine Corps is essential.

Therefore, if the Taiwanese rump declares independence, China will not just have the compulsion to invade it, it will, for the first time ever, have the ability to do so. This will act as a deterrent against any secessionist attempts by the Taiwanese rump, and help maintain the status quo, which is certainly what China would also prefer. Beijing does not want a war; it will want to wait for economic and social unification to lead to the return of Taiwan to China by peaceful means.

But if it does go to war over Taiwan, it is almost certain that America can be counted on to only respond with bluster and raving – not even the (fairly ineffective) “economic sanctions” it imposed on Russia. Ask yourself this – would the average American Wall Street powermonger (the only creatures who matter in the American political structure) be willing to risk his or her sire, dam, mate, litter-mates and spawn being reduced to nuclear ash over the rump Taiwan regime? Yes or no? The answer is obvious. Look how even North Korea, with its obsolete armed forces, has successfully deterred America with a handful of missiles and nuclear warheads. China can wreak far more destruction on America than North Korea ever could, not to mention American vassals like Japan and South Korea.
Therefore, the chances of actual American help to the rump (as opposed to screaming about going to war, and chest thumping) are minimal. And China will undoubtedly be aware of that.
So let’s imagine a situation arises where China has to invade Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait, while fairly narrow, has strong winds and high seas, so that the window for a successful amphibious invasion is allegedly only a couple of months a year. I say allegedly, because there are few natural barriers that cannot be overcome when the need is there. I strongly suspect that China will be looking to invade not during the “windows of opportunity”, when the invasion is to be expected, but during the period when it is not. Hovercrafts, especially, will play a part.
However, what will not happen is that an invasion will start with a missile barrage, or a blockade, let alone an amphibious landing. What will happen first (and has already started) is normalisation of Chinese troops in close proximity to Taiwan, with regular movement of forces in the locality, movement of ships and aircraft round its perimeter, and increasing presence of marine forces in the mainland within striking distance of Taiwan. The rump regime in Taipei will never be certain when these forces might invade, and, therefore, cannot be tipped off by a slow and visible troop build up.
The second phase will comprise a landing of commando forces in small numbers to set up bases, reconnaissance teams, and assassination squads. This could take place over several months, with the commandos being landed by submarines or small boats, to spread out in those famous jungles and mountains in Taiwan which are supposed to “help” the rump. Instead, the bases would be used to pin down the locations of those equally famous missiles, to be ready to cut off communication links, to guide in air and missile strikes, and, very importantly, to take out rump regime politicians and military officials as soon as the war starts, while the element of surprise is still on the Chinese side.
Once these troops are in place, but before they begin overt hostilities, China can turn on the blockade. Despite all the big talk, the Taiwanese rump is unlikely to be able to fight hard, no matter how “determined” in public relations tub-thumping. Effete capitalist societies grown fat on the profit motive, with the youth obsessed with video games, are not the best material for resistance, no matter how “motivated”. China’s blockade, when it becomes obvious that Warshington’s response will be limited to hooting and howling but no more, will, more likely than not, cause the rump to surrender in a month or less.
But suppose it does not. What then? Then the PRC will launch the commando raids first, followed by the famous missile barrages afterwards. Even assuming that the commandos fail to eliminate the rump military and civilian leadership and it continues to function at full capacity (extremely unlikely), they will still be enormously important. The location of the rump defences will be clear from satellite pictures as well as the commando team information, and they can be taken out by missile and stand-off air strikes with little trouble. Apart from targeting information, the commandos will aid by blowing up bridges, taking out telephone services, and attacking air defence and missile bases. This phase should not take longer than 48-72 hours before rump defences are paralysed. Remember that the Taiwanese will not attempt to defend their entire island, which is impossible; their forces will be gathered on the west coast, especially around Taipei, which means that they are much more concentrated and more easily wiped out by massive missile barrages. Also remember that the total destruction of rump forces is not necessary at this stage; all China needs is to degrade rump capabilities to stop an amphibious invasion. This can be achieved by concentrating on three things: rump missile bases, airports, and naval bases, none of which can be easily concealed. Once these are effectively knocked out, if the rump regime has not already seen the hopelessness of its position and surrendered – and the Chinese will almost certainly offer surrender terms including some degree of face saving autonomy at this stage – then, and only then, will the invasion start.
And by now the military position of the rump will be extremely dire, with its ability to stop an invasion further degraded. To flush out further missile defences, the PRC could well sent disposable remote controlled empty “invasion ships” in the first wave, and then eliminate all missile positions that fire on these ships. The actual invasion forces will land in a second wave, accompanied by heliborne landings which will use dropping zones cleared by the commando teams. Once they are ashore, their qualitative superiority over the rump forces –who by now will be undoubtedly degraded, disorganised, and demoralised – will ensure rapid battlefield dominance. I expect this phase to take no more than three to four days at the most.
At this stage, it is likely that attempts will be made to flee Taiwan en masse by ship by surviving rump politicians, military brass, capitalist fatcats, and sundry civilians, like the “bug out” from Vietnam in 1975. This will fail for two reasons: America will not be able to approach close enough to help without being embroiled in the conflict, and Chinese aircraft carriers, submarines and other ships will have cordoned off the island from the Pacific side. Unless China decides that letting these defeated enemies go would be politically more expedient, they will mostly be sunk or rounded up and brought back.
So, the entire major campaign will be over, from first shot to last, in a week. The question is whether America is then going to attempt to pay for a guerrilla campaign in Taiwan. Such a campaign is most unlikely to succeed just like American-instigated guerrilla campaigns in the 1950s and 60s failed in Tibet. Besides, Taiwan is not Syria, the PRC can lock down the towns without too much trouble, and the effete capitalists I mentioned would not be particularly effective guerrilla fighters anyway.
Again, this is only what would happen if Taiwan upsets the status quo. If it does not upset the status quo, Chinese domination and American decline will mean that Taiwan, in any case, will ultimately be taken over without a shot.
But if the collapsing American Empire continues down its current path, a showdown with China is inevitable; and having once stood up, as Mao Zedong declared, the Chinese nation will not lie down again.

Chinese marines landing with amphibious tanks [Source].


  1. It's rather sad that the United States feels that it should have control of the South China Sea. Geography will speak volumes in this matter.

  2. One minor typo: The Qin Dynasty was contemporaneous with the Roman Empire. The last Dynasty was the Qing.


    At the end of the previous era, a Greek historian went to Egypt and found histories that went back 10,000 years. Modern historians say that history started just 5,000 years ago. I'll assume the dates the Greek historian saw might not have been accurate, and we only have 5,000 years of history. For 90% of history, China was the richest, most powerful nation on earth.

    Then, in the 15th (Western) century, China was on the verge of an industrial revolution, and the emperor felt much as Dickens would feel when the industrial revolution hit England. The emperor ordered that if Confucius didn't have it, China didn't need it (a precursor of the Amish.)

    After which, the Manchu conquered China, then the British, who generously shared, first with all the other European mercantile powers, then with the US, and finally with Japan, all of whom had 'concessions' where the laws for invaders were the invaders' laws (the Chinese were under both the Chinese and invader's laws, whichever was harsher). The invaders took most of the food, and many Chinese starved to death.

    Then the invaders had a war among themselves, after which Chairman Mao was able to drive the few remaining invaders out of China, and he also forced every Chinese child to learn to read.

    Then, after Mao's death, came Deng, who introduced modern agricultural methods, which meant less than 10% of the peasants were needed for agriculture, so 90% went to work for industrial (and now service) companies that produce much of what the rest of the world imports.

    And China is, as it usually was, the richest (by PPP) nation on earth, and a significant military power.

    None of which the US knows. The US has anti-missal tests, where the US missiles used for the tests have self-destruct devices set to go off when the anti-missal is launched, so the anti-missal system always works perfectly.

    The US is certain MAD is no more. The US is now so powerful that if any nation is so foolish as to stand up to the US, it will be the AD of America's enemies. If the US orders Putin to step down, he'll have no choice but to meekly step down. And the same goes for Xi.

    The chance that the Americans are right is slim. The chance that they think they're right is close to a certainty.


  3. Well, having managed to survive the damn fool war of choice in Vietnam, I for one, hope that the PRC can hang on and wait to reunite with Taiwan in an economic way that will not include any war.
    Yes, 'Merikkka IS a dying empire and as you pointed out, empires do not die quietly. They lash out against all enemies, real and imagined. Hell, this damn fool empire is doing great harm to its own citizens right here in 'Merikkka itself. Giving extra tax breaks to the very, very rich is "good for the economy". Feeding and housing, let alone giving health care, to the working class and poor is vile, nasty socialism. 'Merikkka still claims to be "exceptional" and/or "indispensable". What a bloody damn joke! The only way this country of my birth is exceptional is in the way it tries to be the global police force, and NOT to protect and serve as so many US police cars have that slogan on them. The only protecting and serving is for the very richest of the ruling class.


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