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Thread: Is a China/Taiwan conflict brewing?

  1. #1

    Is a China/Taiwan conflict brewing?

    I know this is not a scientific question (well, may political science or world science? ), but with the diverse and intelligent membership here, I’m very curious what your opinions are on this.

    As most probably know, China is making noises about Taiwan again with the introduction of the bill authorizing military force against Taiwan. Is China making a statement here – “We’re taking Taiwan back and everyone stay out of our way”? or are they just posturing?

    If China does force the issue and invades Taiwan, what options do the Taiwanese allies (US, Australia, others?) have??

    One last question (and the one that has me most worried) – China moves on Taiwan and the US (and others)provide military support (of some sort) for Taiwan. What’s to stop China form saying – OK US, you’ve attacked us, so we’re nationalizing all companies/businesses in China – thereby allowing China to take control of all US or non-China owned factories, inventories, technology, etc. Many US companies have and continue to pour millions upon millions of dollars into building Chinese factories. What would it do to the US economy if China were to take control of these factories? I would expect many companies to be forced into bankruptcy.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  2. #2
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    Posturing.

    You need only ask one question: how does mainland China get its troops across the straights?

    There's only one country in the world with the shipping to land even a small invasion force into a resisting country. And that ain't China.

    An economic war wouldn't be much better. Yes, it would hurt for a while, but Walmart would eventually be able to buy it's cheap... er... "fine goods" from other south-asian countries.

    [Edit to add a paragraph]

  3. #3
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    Now--posturing. Mainland China may, just may, be able to get troops across the water but sustaining them would be beyond their current capabilites, IMHO.

    Later--say 20 years from now, if the status quo hasn't changed dramatically, then it might be a real possibility.

    And it could happen today if Taiwan was to declare Independence, the Mainland Government might feel that it has no choice but to invade or look weak and foolish, especially to it's population.

    A war there makes no sense economically or politically to any of the possible involved parties (China, Taiwan, US, Japan), but then again, when has War ever made much sense?

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    Wouldn´t China invading Taiwan be like the US invading Hawaii, or Britain invading the Falklands? 8-[

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    Quote Originally Posted by Argos
    Wouldn´t China invading Taiwan be like the US invading Hawaii, or Britain invading the Falklands? 8-[
    That's how China would see the issue, but not the rest of the world. Though I've no idea how the rest of the world would react. But I don't think that China really would risk a war, the Chinese are pretty rational in their politics. And Taiwan lives pretty well with the status quo. What could Taiwan gain by declaring independence?

    Harald

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    China invading Taiwan would result in China shooting itself in the foot economically. Trade between Taiwan and China is around $65 billion per year and Taiwan has invested around $80 billion in Chinese projects.

    IMHO, I think mainland China is posturing - they don't want to look weak to their citizens and are trying to prove who is the dominant power in the region.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kucharek
    Quote Originally Posted by Argos
    Wouldn´t China invading Taiwan be like the US invading Hawaii, or Britain invading the Falklands? 8-[
    That's how China would see the issue, but not the rest of the world. Though I've no idea how the rest of the world would react. But I don't think that China really would risk a war, the Chinese are pretty rational in their politics. And Taiwan lives pretty well with the status quo. What could Taiwan gain by declaring independence?

    Harald
    I don't know what they would gain (but symbols are important to people), but thety would risk losing the treasures of the Sierra Madre, err, the Forbidden City. Those are partly in Taiwan (about one fifth in quantity, I believe, but many of the best parts are in Taiwan), but China can hardly demand that they be returned to China, as that would mean for them to acknowledge that Taiwan is not a part of China. So for now, Taiwan can keep them and use them as touristic fundraisers (I hope you know what I mean).

  8. #8
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    I believe the US has a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan - so if China goes to war with Taiwan, it may wind up being a US-Sino affair.

    there's an interesting book out called "Future Wars" which talks about the trouble spots of the world and how they might erupt into shooting wars. The original came out in the early 90s, i think. Tehre's probably a few clones of it out by now. So pick your poison.

    John

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    One of the reasons China periodically threatens Taiwan is to remind Chinese citizens that the Chinese government is powerful. It helps to prevent Tiananmen Square type incidents.

    As other people have said though, China does not have a strong enough navy (by several orders of magnitude) to get an invasion force anywhere near Taiwan. Where do you think all those submarines that the US built during the cold war are right now? Enough of them are near Taiwan at any given time to make a sea-borne invasion impossible.

    They could airdrop troops, or even just bomb the island, but there's no way they could bring enough combat power to actually hold it. Furthermore, knowing that the US can handle the water approaches, the Taiwanese government has spent its money build up air defenses. China can expect heavy, heavy aircraft losses if they try anything - and aircraft loses are very expensive.

    They could try nuking Taiwan, but that would open up a whole new can of worms that they probably don't want to deal with. The only remaining military option would be a terrorist campaign, and like going nuclear, I don't really see what the point would be.

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    Here is a question though. Is Taiwan worth a war with China, for the US? Also, I can't remember where I read it, but maybe around 4-6 months ago I remember that a lot of the countries in the area were saying that they would not get involved if China took action regarding Taiwan. I don't remember many specifics, but I seem to remember Australia was one of those countries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Musashi
    Here is a question though. Is Taiwan worth a war with China, for the US? Also, I can't remember where I read it, but maybe around 4-6 months ago I remember that a lot of the countries in the area were saying that they would not get involved if China took action regarding Taiwan. I don't remember many specifics, but I seem to remember Australia was one of those countries.
    i think it becomes (if nothing else) a matter of principle and reputation for us. back in the cold war we swore on a stgack of bibles that we would defend tiawan to trhe death against mainland china.

    given our current state of diplomatic disrepair, we probably can't afford not to defend the taiwaneese.

    remember, WWI started in part because the russians woulnd't back down as the protector of Serbia. the reason the central powers initiated the crisis was that russia backed down the couple of times before. going to the well too many times is massively dnagerous in globalpolitics

    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by Musashi
    Here is a question though. Is Taiwan worth a war with China, for the US?
    But China has to ask itself, given that 1) we can't possibly win the island, and 2) this is going to be very expensive, can *we* afford a war with the US?

    After all, since Taiwan could be defended with just submarines that the US isn't using anyway, there is a near 100% chance that the US would defend it. What could China do in response? I guess they could fire (hopefully conventional) ballistic missiles at us, but soon we'll have a reasonable effect defense system against that.

    I just can't bring myself to the place where I believe China is this stupid.

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    Also, there´s the Russia factor. China has received modern weapons from Russia in recent years: submarines, destroyers, Su-27 and Su-30 fighters and surface-to-air missiles. Would Russia remain impassible with such developments in a region that is also of its interest?

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    Perceptions of honor can cause illogical reactions.

    China has stated time and again that they'll not let Taiwan go. If Taiwan does declare independance, it'll force China's hand.

    Either they do nothing and, even if it's just to themselves, be shown as weak-willed to the global community and lose face. Or they act to prevent it even though they know it's a no-win situation with a vast potential for negative PR.

    Another option is Taiwan doesn't delcare independance, but works with China until at some point in the future, there's a good-willed parting of ways.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose
    Posturing.

    You need only ask one question: how does mainland China get its troops across the straights?
    Hovercrafts!

    Note- I have no idea how well this would work in practice. But I think that Hovercrafts are cool (is that even the plural of Hovercraft?).

    I agree though that this current action is just posturing.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by tofu
    Quote Originally Posted by Musashi
    Here is a question though. Is Taiwan worth a war with China, for the US?
    But China has to ask itself, given that 1) we can't possibly win the island, and 2) this is going to be very expensive, can *we* afford a war with the US?

    After all, since Taiwan could be defended with just submarines that the US isn't using anyway, there is a near 100% chance that the US would defend it. What could China do in response? I guess they could fire (hopefully conventional) ballistic missiles at us, but soon we'll have a reasonable effect defense system against that.

    I just can't bring myself to the place where I believe China is this stupid.
    Don't bet the farm on the ABM shield just yet, and given how much the US softshoes on Taiwan, China smells an opening. Lets face it, SARS ravaged Taiwan pretty much unchecked early on because China blocked WHO from assisting. I don't put much beyond their capacity for, and tolerance of, inflicting human suffering there.

    Not only is China posturing on Taiwan, they've actually gone and insinuated to Australia that it should reconsider its military ties to the US, because they may end up in conflict with China because of them. Somebody care to sound off on that little gem of diplomatic brinksmanship?

    Big picture, folks, this is a bit more than posturing, this is saber-rattling.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...-2005Mar9.html

  17. #17
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    “We’re taking Taiwan back and everyone stay out of our way”? or are they just posturing?
    Posturing. But the posturing will be enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by Musashi
    I remember that a lot of the countries in the area were saying that they would not get involved if China took action regarding Taiwan. I don't remember many specifics, but I seem to remember Australia was one of those countries.
    It is Australia's ties to the USA via the Anzus treaty that will see our involvement in a conflict in Asia. Basically, if the USA get involved, we get involved - our current Prime Minister seems intent on getting onto George Bush's christmas card list.

    Australia is currently striking a free trade deal with China, and politically it would be pretty stupid to get involved in a conflict over Taiwan out of a desire to play with the big boys - but that's what we've been doing for years and I don't see that changing.


    edited to add last thought

  18. #18
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    My Chinese history is rusty, but isn't it true that the island of Taiwan has historically been part of China? It was only after the last wave of dueling warlords (the Communists vs. the Chiang Kai-shek group) that the losers (Chiang's folks) retreated to Taiwan and the winners, (who can be seen as the next dynasty) have been trying to root them out ever since. Without U.S. support for Taiwan, they would have been successful a long time ago. I'm not expressing support for either side, just saying that China has a long history of upheaval--the dynasty in power gets senile, the peasants revolt, the warlord with the most support and biggest army becomes the new emperor, and the masses go back to work. I would guess that those in power in China see it that way anyhow.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Not only is China posturing on Taiwan, they've actually gone and insinuated to Australia that it should reconsider its military ties to the US, because they may end up in conflict with China because of them. Somebody care to sound off on that little gem of diplomatic brinksmanship?
    Makes sense to me. It's a regional dispute, and Australia is in the region. We should be forging relationships with our neighbours rather than racing halfway around the world to fight wars we don't believe in. If Australia gets involved in a dispute over Taiwan it should be because we truly believe we should be there, not out of some percieved loyalty to the USA.

  20. #20
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    One of the reasons we had planned to defend Taiwan ROC is that we were counterbalancing the spread of communism. Global communism has essentially collapsed and those communistic countries remaining have a lot of capitalism in them now. I'm less concerned with the communism aspect of China PRC and more worried about the growing capitalism. With an increasing economy the PRC is becoming a rival to the US. China's imports of petroleum and other resources is going to strain global resources and raise prices for US consumers. This will lead to war. Taiwan is simply a lever to be used to instigate hostilities when China (or the US) feels ready. The PRC know this as does the US, NATO, Russia, and just about everybody, even though they may not publically admit it. North Korea is another potential trigger. In fact, I suspect NK will create a diversion allowing for a real or feigned attack on Taiwan ROC to force a move by the US.

    True to Sun Tzu the PRC is trying to wedge our alliances, like ANZUS, apart. But to our credit we've got Pakistan nominally on our side when the PRC would prefer it was their counterbalance to India which is a thorn in their side. Russia seems to be on their side as they sell weapons to the PRC, but Russia sells weapons to anyone... and Russia has always been ill at ease with the overpopulated PRC next to their underpopulated and resource rich siberian territory.

    In the Line of Fire are Taiwan ROC, Japan, and South Korea which have adequate defenses but would probably need to be buttressed by the US in the event of a concerted attack. The potential enemies of our potential enemy are Russia and India. India might be countered by Pakistan and Russia's ability to mount a viable defence along China's border is iffy. So how do three countries defend against or defeat a massive land army if they can't get enough men and equipment into the theater of operations? [Jack Ryan voice]How do you get three nuclear powers to stop China...[/Jack Ryan voice]

    So China's posturing and saber-rattling is probably nothing more than a dry run for a prelude to global thermonuclear war. Have a nice day.

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    Agreed. Taiwan would be a prelude to a China conflict the way slavery was a prelude to the U.S Civil War. It really wasn't the cause, just one of the hot-point manifestations of the debate over states rights that was never settled after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    As China's economy grows, and hence as their influence on all issues worldwide grows, the issue of recource allocation is going to be forced. And almost all wars are about resources nowadays. China will get what they need, or they will get more and more pushy, and more and more difficult to deal with peacefully.

    The noise they are making about Taiwan is positioning. Positioning on all sides is taking place all the time. If it is positioning that has suddenly become more prominent, or is getting a lot more attention, then THAT is significant. If you've read any of my long-winded rants on previous threads, then you might remember my prediction that China will become the next great superpower. They will get a turn at the top next. That much seems pretty certain given their growing economy and the momentum their population will create. History proves nobody stays on top forever. Not believing that is just a manifestation of ego- and ethno-centrism.

    With China on deck, the real question is: Who's in the hole?

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjumperdon
    Agreed. Taiwan would be a prelude to a China conflict the way slavery was a prelude to the U.S Civil War. It really wasn't the cause, just one of the hot-point manifestations of the debate over states rights that was never settled after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    As China's economy grows, and hence as their influence on all issues worldwide grows, the issue of recource allocation is going to be forced. And almost all wars are about resources nowadays. China will get what they need, or they will get more and more pushy, and more and more difficult to deal with peacefully.

    The noise they are making about Taiwan is positioning. Positioning on all sides is taking place all the time. If it is positioning that has suddenly become more prominent, or is getting a lot more attention, then THAT is significant. If you've read any of my long-winded rants on previous threads, then you might remember my prediction that China will become the next great superpower. They will get a turn at the top next. That much seems pretty certain given their growing economy and the momentum their population will create. History proves nobody stays on top forever. Not believing that is just a manifestation of ego- and ethno-centrism.

    With China on deck, the real question is: Who's in the hole?
    I agree with your analysis but not with your conclusion. China PRC wants to be the next big superpower, but I don't think it will happen. I know there is the old hypothesis about world empires blooming from east to west and that China may be next, but I don't agree with it. I think China had a chance to emerge as a world power long ago and did so in their region but limited their ambitions for one reason or another. Therefore I feel the hypothesis or prophesy will not hold.

    More to the point, I think that the world is at such a point now that there can not be another bipolar split (cold-ware style) or the emergence of a new superpower. We wouldn't be fighting for hearts and minds or over vast unexplored and unexploited resources like in the cold war. We'd be fighting for real possession of more limited resources. Heck, all this posturing over Taiwan may be a diversion for a future incursion into Siberia. Some people are making comparisons to WWI... ok, but think of it as WWI with nukes. There might not be much left to be a superpower over afterwards.

    Maybe after a nuclear war there will be a power vacuum that China PRC can move into, but right now there isn't. The entire globe is administered and there is no room for expansion. There are no weak governments to expand into which are not either inconsequential or bulwarked by more powerful allies.

    For all its problems, I think the world might prefer the US as an economic superpower. People immigrate to the US in search of opportunity and freedom. Does anyone think this paradigm would hold true for a Chinese Superpower? How many mexicans will China allow into their society to work low paying jobs so they can send that money home to Mexico? How many Poles or Nigerians will China allow in? None, I suspect. The rest of the world has a vested interest in preventing or restricting Chinese dominance and hegemony. China PRC knows this and they feel beset on all sides by enemies. I do not envy their position. They cannot succeed and will not, without some great international tragedy. I think they will only reach global dominance through global thermonuclear war. And I suspect that whatever is left of China will be almost unrecognizable from it's current government.

    I think there may be one chance to prevent that conflict if we establish a new international system, but China would and will only ever reach a parity, but not a rivalry, with the dominant powers. Any other path leads to misery.

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    And since this is a science board as well, if China is just patient for a few million years Taiwan will eventually accrete on the mainland as a terrane.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander
    And since this is a science board as well, if China is just patient for a few million years Taiwan will eventually accrete on the mainland as a terrane.
    "To the PRC.

    Keep your shirts on. We're coming.

    ROC."

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    Maybe we should rename Taiwan to "Sudeten Island" and let the Maoists reunite their "lost province"? Cripes, Neville Chamberlain would look at this burlesque show we're putting on and applaud with tears of joy in his eyes.

    Maybe, someday in the future, they can be reunified, but not today. Not with China as it is now. This idea that China can be manipulated into becoming a productive and trusted member of international society without a complete regime change is utterly bizarre thinking to me. All you get with a wealthy dictatorial regime is a regime that can afford to stay in power. The Soviets went down because they went bankrupt. Even as a new generation of dictators try rising to power in Eastern Europe, they're being toppled and stymied in most cases because they're broke. This idea that being flush with money is going to make the Communists into Capitalists is laughable idealism and its going to earn us a well deserved sucker punch if we dare buy into it. If you think for a minute the Maoists are interested in preserving any element of capitalism, read up a few recent articles on the shuffling of power going on in Hong Kong. Let China have Taiwan back if you think that's where it will stop. Put the blinders on to what happened to Tibet and what's happening to Nepal. Try to imagine that if you just give them that little piece of land they want, they will stop there and ask for no more.

    If anyone comes looking for me, I'll be at the bar with George Satayana, mourning the lost lessons of history.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    If anyone comes looking for me, I'll be at the bar with George Satayana, mourning the lost lessons of history.
    Not all the Government Analysts and advisors have lost the lessons of history. We may be fighting an uphill battle, but some of us do know our history.

    edit: correct a tag

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Maybe we should rename Taiwan to "Sudeten Island" and let the Maoists reunite their "lost province"? Cripes, Neville Chamberlain would look at this burlesque show we're putting on and applaud with tears of joy in his eyes.
    Are you responding to someone in particular or is that apropos of nothing?

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jpax2003
    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Maybe we should rename Taiwan to "Sudeten Island" and let the Maoists reunite their "lost province"? Cripes, Neville Chamberlain would look at this burlesque show we're putting on and applaud with tears of joy in his eyes.
    Are you responding to someone in particular or is that apropos of nothing?
    Well, since the world at large seems to have forgotten exactly what the nature of the beast we're dealing with is, it seems appropriate to the nauture of this thread. I mean, it seems like most people here would gladly hand the PRC the keys to the executive suite among normalized nations in spite of its actions. The occupation of Tibet is accepted so quietly because governments bought into the idea that its the result of a 'popular uprising' within that nation, despite the Chinese fingerprints all over the crime scene. As far as the appropriateness of that line, lets look at history. The German motivation for invading Poland and the demands for the Sudetenland strike me as a direct parallel to this recent legislation by the PRC. Its nothing less than political justification for an invasion at any time they feel momentum is gaining for Taiwanese independence. Its appropriate because if the world is so deeply afraid of holding China accountable for its actions and desperate to give them whatever they want to get on their good side, the world might as well go the whole nine yards.

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    There is one important difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Quote Originally Posted by Jpax2003
    Quote Originally Posted by Doodler
    Maybe we should rename Taiwan to "Sudeten Island" and let the Maoists reunite their "lost province"? Cripes, Neville Chamberlain would look at this burlesque show we're putting on and applaud with tears of joy in his eyes.
    Are you responding to someone in particular or is that apropos of nothing?
    Well, since the world at large seems to have forgotten exactly what the nature of the beast we're dealing with is, it seems appropriate to the nauture of this thread. I mean, it seems like most people here would gladly hand the PRC the keys to the executive suite among normalized nations in spite of its actions. The occupation of Tibet is accepted so quietly because governments bought into the idea that its the result of a 'popular uprising' within that nation, despite the Chinese fingerprints all over the crime scene. As far as the appropriateness of that line, lets look at history. The German motivation for invading Poland and the demands for the Sudetenland strike me as a direct parallel to this recent legislation by the PRC. Its nothing less than political justification for an invasion at any time they feel momentum is gaining for Taiwanese independence. Its appropriate because if the world is so deeply afraid of holding China accountable for its actions and desperate to give them whatever they want to get on their good side, the world might as well go the whole nine yards.
    Oh, I thought you might have been responding to me which didn't make sense to me. I suspect we'll nuke them within a decade for one reason or another. I also don't think that Russia will complain and so the rule that if "one flies they all fly" may be proven false.

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