Category China

“The Games the Marine Corps Plays”

An associate strongly recommended I look at this article. I would recommend the same to our readership: The Games the Marine Corps Plays |

It is written by Gary Anderson of GWU, who I do not know. But, to quote a few lines from the article:

  1. “You do not want prying eyes on your work that might question its rigor or validity.”
  2. “Since the Marines would be hundreds of miles away and irrelevant, they could be safely ignored.”
  3. “First, the Corps hired the most incompetent red team in the history of war-gaming, or their analysts cooked the books” (this sounds like a familiar problem, see:  Wargaming 101 – Sayers vs. The U.S. Navy | Mystics & Statistics (

Anyhow, it is not a long article. Recommend reading it.

U.S. Defense Budget for 2022

The U.S. Defense budget was signed into law on Monday. A few things that caught my attention:

  1. Increase of 5% (I guess we have to replace all that equipment left behind in Afghanistan).
  2. 2.7% pay raise (which I gather makes up around 2% or so of that 5% increase).
  3. Seems to be focused on keeping “pace militarily with China and Russia.”
  4. “The bill includes $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and a statement of congressional support for the defense of Taiwan, measures intended to counteract China’s influence in the region.”
  5. “It also includes $300 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a show of support in the face of Russian aggression, as well as $4 billion for the European Defense Initiative.”

Let’s look at what keeping “pace militarily with China and Russia” looks like in dollars and sense:

U.S. Budget: $768.2 billion (2022) or 3.42% of GDP in 2019.

Chinese (PRC) Defense Budget: $209.4 billion (2021) or 1.3% of GDP (2021)

Russian Defense Budget: 61.7 billion (2020-21) or 4.3% of GDP (2019).



Some Polling on Taiwan

This article showed up on my yahoo news feed that caught my attention:


  1. 86% of Taiwanese oppose “one country, two system” policy of Deng Xiaoping.
  2. 85% of Taiwanese support maintain the status quo, 7% say Taiwan should declare independence, and 1.6% expressed support for reunification.
  3. 69% of Americans support the recognition of Taiwan as an independent nations. 
  4. 53% of Americans support a formal alliance between the U.S. and Taiwan.

This last finding kind of surprised me so I pulled up that article:

The interesting aspect of that survey is: 60% of Republicans support sending U.S. troops to Taiwan’s defense, as do 50% of Democrats and 49% of Independents.

Pratas Island

Noted an article yesterday:

Basically, Taiwan is saying that China is considering invading Pratas island in 2024 or after (but not before 2024).

Now, Pratas Island is located 200 miles (310 kilometers) southeast of Hong Kong. It is 276 miles (444 kilometers) from Taiwan.

It is a circular atoll with a single island that is crescent-shaped (see picture).  It is that little piece of land in the western part of the atoll with a lagoon.

Map of Pratas Island (1969)

The island is about 430 acres (174 hectares) and measure 1.7 miles long (2.8 kilometers) and is only about a half-mile wide (0.537 miles or 0.865 kilometers). Not exactly a prize the size of Taiwan. There are “numerous” oil wells to the west of island. Not sure how much, if any, oil is being pumped there. 

The height of the island at the base of the “The Pratas Triangulation Point” is 2.4875 meters (8.16 feet). Sea levels are currently projected to rise 2-3 feet by the end of this century, so I gather this island is going to get smaller over time.

According to Wikipedia there are about 500 Taiwanese marines stationed there. The island has no permanent inhabitants. (see: Pratas Island – Wikipedia).

Pratas Island Lagoon

Now, I am not sure I am going to loose a lot of sleep over this one.

  1. It is a fairly insignificant piece of terrain.
  2. No one lives there.
  3. Is China really going to take the political and economic hit to take this?

If China grabbed the island, they were certainly take a political hit. They are not exactly the most popular country in the world right now, and this would have a negative impact to their world image and standing. I assume the local defense force would defend it, making it a bloody conquest. What would be the cost of this?

Militarily, it would serve to justify increases in the U.S., Taiwanese, South Korean and Japanese defense budgets.

Economically, it might have little impact, but two of China’s major trading partners are the United States and Taiwan. There might be limited or extensive economic sanctions.

Is this a hit that China is willing to take? 

Things related to our discussion on invading Taiwan

Over the last month, we did something like eleven posts analyzing the possibilities and the ability of China to invade and occupy Taiwan. The summery post is here:
Will China invade Taiwan in the next 20 years? Summation: | Mystics & Statistics (

Just spotted a CNN article that is related: US Air Force to send dozens of F-22 fighter jets to the Pacific amid tensions with China

A few highlights:

  1. We are sending 25 F-22s to Guam and Tinian Islands (Northern Marianas).
  2. F-22’s are fifth-generation combat jets. China has 20-24. We have 180 F-22s (and then there are F-35s).
  3. Only about half of the F-22s “…are mission capable at any one time due to maintenance requirements.”
  4. 10 F-15s and 2 C-130Js are also deploying.

I copied the cover picture from the article. 

Excess Deaths in China

Still can’t get to the Johns Hopkins site to do my weekly update. Not sure why.

In the meantime, let me briefly address the issue of excess deaths in China, as that was not discussed in the Economist article.

An article of interest:

Also see:

Main points:

  1. This only looked at 1 January to 31 March 2020
  2. Overall deaths did not increase for most of China.
  3. Excess deaths were in Wuhan were 412 per 100,000.
    1. Or, to convert this to a meaningful number, population of the urban area of  Wuhan in 2018 was 8,896,900. 
      1. Population of the Prefecture is 11,081,000 in 2018.
      2. Population of the Metro area is 19 million.
    2. Therefore, excess deaths are at least 36,655 depending on which population is used.
  4. Outside of Wuhan city, the overall death rate was slightly lower. This is probably related to the lockdown.

I have not seen excess deaths calculations for all of China or excess death calculations after 31 March 2020. China reported as of last week 4,848 deaths. This is probably undercounted. The actual number of deaths in China from Coronavirus is probably in the tens of thousands and may exceed a hundred thousand. I have not seen evidence indicating that it is worse than that.

Will China invade Taiwan in the next 20 years? Summation:

This post is a summation of my previous ten posts on the subject. We first looked in two posts whether there was a reasonable threat of Taiwan being invaded in the next six years. Our conclusion was that the idea was “somewhat loopy.” I was surprised that I received no push-back from any readers on this. The two posts are:

Invading Taiwan in the next six years – wherefore and why? | Mystics & Statistics (

Invading Taiwan in the next six years – the fight? | Mystics & Statistics (

My nagging suspicion was that the claims made by retiring Admiral Phillip Davidson of the Indo-Pacific Command was a whole lot more related to preserving or generating budget than it was a realistic assessment.

I then looked at what is the costs and risks for China if they choose to invade Taiwan. They are significant and it is not just economic. I also looked at the leadership of China, which is more than one man. This is in this post: Will China take the risk and actually invade Taiwan? | Mystics & Statistics (

I then took a more long-term look (20 years) at the subject with an introductory post and six follow-up post discussing each of the six variables in depth. They are:

Will China invade Taiwan in the next 20 years? | Mystics & Statistics (

Variable 1: Who is the leader of China? | Mystics & Statistics (

Variable 2: What is the changing composition of the politburo? | Mystics & Statistics (

Variable 3: How is the economy of China doing? | Mystics & Statistics (

Variable 4: Is there a problem with internal turmoil and unrest in China? | Mystics & Statistics (

Variable 5: What is the degree of U.S. commitment to Taiwan? | Mystics & Statistics (

Variable 6: What is the size and capabilities of the Chinese Armed Forces? | Mystics & Statistics (

To try to summarize, the leadership of China is in their sixties. They tend to be careful, deliberate and somewhat risk adverse. They are not very likely do a high-risk operation that could undermine the Chinese economy and potentially Communist Chinese rule. Therefore, the Taiwan is really not at risk of invasion unless there is a leadership change and this is probably not going to happen in the next 10-15 years. That new leadership may also be risk adverse. So, kind of looking at less than a 25% chance of getting risk taking leadership who would be tempted to do this, and that window for that happening is probably 15-20 years out.

But, in addition to getting the leaders who would take the risk, the Chinese also needs to build up a navy and air force to do so. They really don’t have the air force. For example, they only have 400 modern aircraft. Taiwan alone has 159. Add a few hundred aircraft from the U.S. inventory of 2,700 and any invasion is in trouble. Good luck conducting and sustaining a large amphibious operation when the defenders have air superiority. I don’t recall this ever being attempted before. Basically, for China to do anything militarily, it has to build another 1,000 or more modern aircraft. This is expensive. Certainly can’t be done with present defense budget. So, what we will see, and it we will have years of warning, is a significant increase in Chinese defense budget (above 2% of GDP), building of hundred of aircraft, building more naval assets and so forth. So we will know if they are really serious by the budget expenditures. Right now, their defense budget does not really give them the ability to invade Taiwan.

Now, of course, such a scenario does require U.S. assistance to defend Taiwan. This is discussed in “variable 4.” The real key is that to defend Taiwan can be done primarily with air assets. This is a much less lower threshold for engagement then sending troops, and we have not been that adverse to sending troops around the world (Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria for example). Do we have enough commitment to send just air forces? 

The real key is whether U.S. commitment declines over time and whether China does indeed build up. This does create a window say 15-20 years out where China may have the capability in place and U.S. commitment is wavering and the Chinese leadership is willing to take a risk. The problem is that China has a demographic problem. According to some reports, their population is already declining. This is going to create a drag on their economy. 

We have been talking about this for a while: Demographics of China | Mystics & Statistics (

Witness Japan: Where Did Japan Go? | Mystics & Statistics (

So, the drag on the Chinese economy from their demographics, along with possibly other economic or political problems may well become a major factor in the next ten years. How does this play out if their window of opportunity for doing this military and politically is 15-20 years out? Does this mean that they really will never be in position to invade Taiwan? This does look to be the case. 

Now, this does not rule out a mis-calculation or a major mistake by the Chinese leadership. History is full of such idiocy, like Japan attacking a country in 1941 that had over ten times the GDP that they did. So we cannot rule out, no matter how the situation looks on paper, that someone will ignore the statistics and do it anyway. There are plenty of examples of this in history.

Now, I do believe that it is essential that the U.S. maintains its commitment to Taiwan to maintain the deterrence. This certainly includes maintaining fleet presence in the area, arm sales to Taiwan, and conducting exercises with South Korea and Japan the emphasizes reinforcing the area. This are all good and what we have been doing. Of course, plopping a brigade in Taiwan would be the ultimate commitment, but I don’t think that is on anyone’s agenda.

Still, my conclusion is that this is:

  1. Not going to happen in the next 6 years.
  2. Probably not going to happen in the next 15 years.
  3. May be a threat in the next 15-20 years, but only if
    1. The new Chinese leadership is willing to take a risk.
    2. The Chinese economy is growing.
    3. The Chinese governance is stable.
    4. The Chinese military has been built up significantly.
    5. The U.S. commitment has weakened.
  4. Could always happen if the Chinese make a major mis-calculation.

My overall conclusion is that this is not very likely to happen. Still, one must be prepared for it, and by being prepared for it, it decreases the likelihood of it ever happening.



—–some additional ruminations from the first draft of this blog post that was done about a month ago——-

It is clear that the danger to Taiwan will become obvious over time. The army may be capable of conducting an amphibious invasion now, but the navy and air force is not large enough. With a concerted effort, certainly the Air Force could be built up and modernized over a decade or so, but it going to take longer to build a fleet that at least temporarily contest the seas with the U.S. These are build-ups that will develop over time and will be noticed. So we will know when were are truly moving into a period of real exposure. Whether the political leadership will react in the proper and timely manner is another subject.

But, there is also the possibility of a changing regime in the People’s Republic (more democratic or in political turmoil) could obviate the threat to Taiwan or much less likely, a changing regime in the Democratic Republic (Taiwan) could take away the need to defend it (they might want to join China?). So the problem could magically go away, but we have no indication of that now.

The end result is I do not think there is a real threat of it happening any time in the next decade. I think in the second half of the second decade (more than 15 years from now) China could have all the pieces in place to make it happen, but we will see them develop it over time. Right now, with defense spending at 1.7% or less of their GDP, they may not get there in two decades. But regardless, it will be clear if it is happening.

So, I sort of discount the possibility that China will invade Taiwan in the next 20 years. It could happen. To do so would require 1) new leadership that is willing to take the risk, 2) significant build up of the air force, 3) build up of naval and sea-lane control assets, 4) the correct internal regime conditions (desire and sufficient economic/political stability), and 5) a favorable international situation (U.S. lack of commitment). Will all these conditions track in a manor favorable to invading Taiwan in the next 20 years? I would not stake money on it.

Variable 6: What is the size and capabilities of the Chinese Armed Forces?

I think I covered most of this in my previous posts, for example: Invading Taiwan in the next six years – the fight? | Mystics & Statistics ( But, let me walk and talk through the subject one last time.

An amphibious invasion of Taiwan is going to require China to not only put an army across that can defeat the 130,000-man Taiwanese Army, but to also supply that invading army for the duration of the operation (which could takes weeks or months). This means maintaining control of the sea and the air. So while China probably has the army right now that is capable of doing this, if the United States supports Taiwan, it does not have the navy or the air force to do this (especially over time).

So, for the Chinese armed forces to invade Taiwan, they will need not only an army (which the have), but a navy (which they currently do not have) and an air force (which they really don’t have) that can control the sea and the air around Taiwan.

So, for the Chinese to invade Taiwan, they need to either 1) build up their navy, 2) built up and modernize their air force, and/or 3) make sure the United States does not intervene. As this last point is covered in the last post, let us just look like at what they need to do to address the first two points.

The Chinese navy currently consists of 2 small carriers and 36 destroyers. The U.S. navy consists of around 11 large carriers, 9 amphibious carriers, 22 cruisers and 59 destroyers. This is a gross mismatch. See: .

See: The Size of Fleets in the South China Sea, Part 1 | Mystics & Statistics (

And: Size of Fleets around the South China Sea, Part 2 | Mystics & Statistics (

The U.S. Navy is here: U.S. Navy Compared to Russian Navy | Mystics & Statistics (

Therefore, over the next 20 years, any significant build-up of naval capabilities will be a strong indicator of intention. The build-up has to be more than another small carrier or two and more than a few more destroyers. They have to build up a capability to at least seal the Straits of Formosa from U.S. naval intervention for at least a month. Now that can be done with air, missiles, smaller surface ships, submarines, etc., but without a deep water navy, they will have lots of other problems (economic interdiction, interdiction of oil supplies, loss of the Spratly Islands, etc.). It is not a pretty picture for them no matter how they look at it, and building up a navy that can take on our deep water fleet is a very tough task to do in next 20 years. Kind of reminds me of Kaiser Willy’s attempt before the Great War to build a battlefleet to challenge the British. That did not work out well either.

And then there is the air. Now according to an article Clinton Reilly just posted in the comments (and I saw not reason to cross-check their data) the U.S. Air Force has nearly 2,300 warplanes in service and 1,422 aircraft for the U.S. Navy and Marines. So, 3,700 + Taiwan’s air force (300+) + anyone else that wants to help (S. Korea, Japan and Australia come to mind). China has 1,264 airplanes. Furthermore, among the most advanced planes are 19 J-20s, 50 J-16s, and 235 J-11s (a variant of the Su-27), 24 Su-34s, 76 Su-30s or 404 airplanes that hold my attention. In contrast the United States Air Force has 432 F-15s, 939 F-16s, 186 F-22s, and 283 F-35s or 1,840. The U.S. Navy has 532 F-18s and 18 F-35s while the USMC has 273 F-18s and 57 F-35s. Taiwan has 113 F-16s and 46 Mirage 2000. So a total of 2,720 vice 404. 

So while one can talk about differing world-wide missions and obligations for the U.S. air forces; for a short period of time, it ain’t that hard to quickly shift a lot of the planes to the defense of Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China (Red China) kind of needs to be able to take on over 2,000 hostile modern fighter aircraft. Hard to do with only 400 of their own.

So, for China to be able to establish permanent control of the airspace around Taiwan, do they need at least another 1,000 planes? May be…probably. Not sure how they do so otherwise. So, then means a pretty serious building program over the next 20 years. We will see this coming. 

So, to have a serious threat to invade and maintain that invasion force they are really going to have go through a serious build-up of both naval and air assets. Far more than what they are doing right now. Furthermore, we will see it coming for years. Added to that, we can also respond in kind. So…..

Variable 5: What is the degree of U.S. commitment to Taiwan?

The people who are saying with certainty that China is going to invade Taiwan in the next two decades seem to be discounting a lot of factors that would indicate that China would not do so, regardless. For example, I would guess that there is at least a 50% chance that the Chinese economy would stagnate or slow down in the next two decades. This most likely precludes them taking a step as drastic as invading Taiwan. Then there is the current leadership of China, which tends to be careful and cautious. I do not think the current leadership of China is likely to invade Taiwan. They may well be in power for the better part of the next two decades. So, one could make the argument that there appears to be a least a 75% chance that China will not invade Taiwan in the next two decades, regardless of the degree of U.S. commitment.

Now, I have heard some people talk about this invasion as almost a certainty. To bring me on board with their thinking they would have convince me that: 1) Xi Jinping and the current politburo are ready to take such a gamble, 2) that the Chinese economy will be continually stable and  growing for the next two decades, and 3) that they have built up their air and naval capability to ensure such an effort. I don’t think one can make a rational argument that it is almost a certainty. Still, it is a possibility and a very real possibility, which leads us into examining U.S. commitment.

The degree of U.S. commitment is a significant variable, and perhaps the most difficult element to predict. There does some to be some sort of “conventional” wisdom that the United States is hesitant to commit troops to fight in far off places. Yet, the actual track record is the reverse. So, for example, it appears that some people (including Joseph Stalin) assumed that the United States would not intervene if there was an invasion of South Korea. So North Korea rolled across the border in 1950 with their T-34s, the U.S. responded, and my father ended up fighting there.

Then there is Vietnam, where we had a large military assistance program of tens of thousands of people and the South Vietnamese government was still losing the war. So we then decided to send hundreds of thousands of troops there to engage hundreds of thousand of Vietnamese guerillas and even some North Vietnamese troops, putting us into the fourth bloodiest war in U.S. history. My father ending up fighting there twice.

Then there is Kuwait, where the United States had no political, legal, alliance, or defense obligations; yet when they were invaded in 1990 by Iraq, we sent over hundreds to thousands of troops and drove the Iraqi’s out in the 1991 Gulf War. None of my family were involved in that one, although Trevor Dupuy did some estimates for congress that are worth noting (see: Forecasting the 1990-1991 Gulf War | Mystics & Statistics ( and Assessing the TNDA 1990-91 Gulf War Forecast | Mystics & Statistics ( and Assessing the 1990-1991 Gulf War Forecasts | Mystics & Statistics (

Then we were attacked on 9/11. In response in 2001 we invaded not only the country that was housing Osama bin Laden (Afghanistan), but in 2003 we also invaded Iraq. Threw both governments out of power and occupied both countries. My brother was in Afghanistan a half-dozen times. None of my family were involved in Iraq, although I did do an estimate of casualties and duration for a guerilla war in Iraq: See America’s Modern Wars, Chapter 1.

And then there is also the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), the Invasion of Grenada (1983) and the Invasion of Panama (1989), among many other interventions. My father was deployed in the first one as part of a projected amphibious invasion force. We have no direct connection to the other two events.

So, if you have smugly adopted the “conventional” wisdom that the U.S. won’t commit troops to fight in far off places, well you probably should re-evaluate the basis for your smugness. It does not match with my personal experiences.

The real discussion:

So, will the United States intervene to support Taiwan? Well, that does not have to be answered with a definitive “yes.” A simple “maybe” is probably enough. It is a case of deterring the Chinese from determining that this could be a successful course of action. If it is uncertain, will they then undertake it? 

The main thing is that it needs to be clear that the answer is not “no – we won’t intervene.’ We also have to ensure that the Chinese do not make the mistake of assuming that it is “no” or calculating that if they move quick enough, it can be presented as a fait acompli (much like Stalin tried with North Korea in 1950). So, the most likely U.S. strategy is that they will continue to make it clear that they are willing to support, able to support Taiwan. The problem is that not only do they need to make it clear, but they need to make sure that China believes it.

Now, the actual level of support for Taiwan in the U.S. may decline over the next twenty years. There are three major factors driving this 1) the U.S. does not have strong ties to supporting Taiwan, 2) the current Republican Party appears to be leaning towards being anti-interventionist, 3) the Democrats have traditionally not been interventionist (although WWI, WWII, Korea, Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam occurred on their watch). Lets address each of these:

  1. Are the U.S. as willing to defend Taiwan because it was a democracy as they were when they were “anti-communist?” The PRC is still one of four communist countries in the world, but the policy of containment and anti-communism is not what it once was. Do we care as much about supporting democracies as we did about containing communism? Probably not. There is not a track record to strongly indicate otherwise.
  2. Elements of the current Republican Party appears to be anti-interventionist. This is not the first time. They were very much that way in the 1920s and 1930s and there have been significant isolationist and anti-interventionist movements in the party in recent times, including Pat Buchanan’s runs for president in 1992, 1996 and 2000 and Ron Paul’s campaigns for president in 2008 and 2012. The last Republican president appeared to be instinctually an isolationist and anti-interventionist. Is this the future of the Republican Party going forward? Hard to say. I saw Liz Cheney tweeting this week about defending Taiwan, but she is kind of on the outs with a lot in people in the party (they voted her out of her leadership position in the House). So, it may well be. As it is, I suspect they will be out of power more often than they are in power for the next 40+ years (See: Is the United States on the Verge of Becoming a Single Party Democracy? | Mystics & Statistics (
  3. Then there is the Democratic Party, which has been anti-interventionist since the Vietnam War (they were not before the Vietnam War). Still, since the Vietnam War we have seen intervention by Democratic presidents in places like Kosovo, Syria, Libya, etc. So, they are not completely anti-interventionist, but this is a strong tendency in the party.

So, we are staring at a situation where the vast majority of the electorate, many congressmen and many senators don’t really have a strong opinion on this. This creates an environment where there is not a lot of clear underlying support for Taiwan.  

The key then becomes who is president. That seems to be driven by whoever is randomly in office (and sometimes it does seem random). Would we have sent over a couple of hundred thousand troops to liberate Kuwait in 1991 if Michael Dukakis was president instead of George Bush Sr.? Would the United States have invaded Iraq in 2003 if Al Gore was president instead of George Bush, Jr.? It is clear that who is in charge makes a big difference in these types of decisions. So, the question is: who will be in charge of the United States from 2029-2036 (assuming the current president serves for two terms, which is the most likely scenario) or 2037-2044? That is a pretty tough guess at the moment, although I do believe it will most likely be a Democrat. Will that individual be willing to intervene to protect Taiwan? Keep in mind, they actually don’t have to intervene, just have to appear to be willing to.

While I don’t think the U.S. policy on Taiwan will officially change over the next twenty years, the issue will be whether the United States has a credible deterrence. The key adjective is credible. As long as the Chinese believe there is a good chance that the United States will intervene, then there is deterrent value to the policy. If they do not believe we will, then that deterrence is gone. 

Now, the one thing we could do to maintain a credible deterrence is to base troops there (like we do in South Korea). I don’t think that anyone senior in the last or the current administration is recommending that. I also don’t think that this is likely to be U.S. policy going forward. Still, it is an option worth considering, for even if the vast majority of Americans are not interesting in supporting Taiwan, having troops there serves as a trip wire. It almost guarantees U.S. involvement and therefore serves as a very credible deterrent. Still, I suspect this would be a very hard sell for the American people. Also, if the U.S. did deploy troops to Taiwan, there would certainly be an outcry and some kind of response from China. That may not be worth the pain.

Now, in the past, deterrence has worked. Obviously, it has not always worked (Korea 1950), but in the case of the cold war, western Europe was not invaded by the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union and the United States did not fire nukes at each other. So, in those cases deterrence did work for 40+ years. The question is: can the U.S. maintain a credible deterrence against China in the decade after next. I do have my doubts. Of course, this does not automatically mean that Taiwan gets invaded, but it does open the door to that possibility.

Variable 4: Is there a problem with internal turmoil and unrest in China?

Depressions begat revolutions. Now it ain’t so simple as that, but there is a big enough correlation here that every time there is a economic downturn, a nation’s leaders should be looking over their shoulder in concern. If they are a democratic government, it probably means they will now have time to write their memoirs. If they are a dictatorship, they could end up dangling from a meat-hook.

The seminal quantitative work on this subject was two separate studies done in the 1960s by Ted Gurr and the couple Ivo and Rosilind Feierabend. Ted Gurr’s work was summarized in his book Why Men Revolt, while the Feierhabend’s never issued out a book (which is a shame as their work was as significant). There has not been much of significance done since then (which I think is fairly bizarre actually… it is not like revolutions are a dead subject).  We have blogged about this before.

So Variable 3 is “How is the economy of China doing?.” As long as the China economy is growing and thriving over the next 20 years, then this only increases the danger to Taiwan. On the other hand, there are lots of reasons to doubt that their economy will continue to thrive over the next 20 years. If the economy is not growing, then this fourth variable comes into play: Is there a problem with internal turmoil and unrest in China?  This affects the odds that China will decide the invade Taiwan in five ways:

  1. The reduced economic growth probably reduces their “defense” budget.
  2. If there is unrest or political turmoil, it probably distracts the government to worry about internal issues, vice invading their neighbors (although it some cases, it can actually do the reverse).
  3. It may result in a leadership change:
    1. This leadership could be even more internally absorbed.
    2. This leadership could be even more nationalistic.
    3. This government could be unstable.
  4. It may result in a change of the form of government:
    1. Communism collapses.
      1. It becomes a democracy
      2. It becomes a dictatorship.
      3. The new government could be unstable
      4. Central government may collapse entirely.
    2. Communism is reinforced (sort of another cultural revolution)
    3. Communism is de-stabilized, but returns back in control.
  5. It may result in no government at all (more on this later).

So, what are the odds that China will have a economic slow-down in the next 20 years? Is it 25%, is it 50%, is there no chance at all? 

If there is an economic slowdown, what is the chance of political turmoil, and then what is the extent, nature and virulence of this political turmoil? Is it a bunch children of “princelings” that can be run over with tanks, or is something more broadly based.

The problem with revolutions, is that once they start, they gets pretty hard to predict where they are going to go. For example, when the Shah of Iran abdicated in 1979, much his vocal opposition came from the left, often college students. The country ended up being taken over by Ayatollahs. The Russian revolution started in 1917 with the moderately liberal Cadet Party and Alexander Kerensky running the country in a somewhat democratic manner and ended up with Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin in charge. The Russian revolution of 1991 ended up with Boris Yeltsin in charge of a developing democracy and ended up with Vladimir Putin in charge. The Arab Spring of 2010-2012 resulted in demonstrations and revolts in 17 or so different countries. In four of those countries the governments were overthrown (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen). Only one ended up with a democratic government in its aftermath. 

And then there is always the possibility that China could end up with no central controlling government at all. This is not all that far-fetched. China has spent almost of much of its history broken up into smaller states as it has spend unified as a single state. There is no strong reason to assume that over the next decades that China will remain unified. There is no history that suggests such a pattern.  

Modern countries do break up. Yugoslavia comes to mind. There are significant independence movements in Catalonia (Barcelona) and Scotland. So the image of China as a dominating unified state may not be the image moving forward.

Anyhow, I suspect we are looking at maybe a 50% chance of a major economic slowdown in the next 20 years (this is just a wild guess, I have no idea what the odds of such an event are). If there is an economic slowdown, then I am guessing maybe a 50% change of unrest and turmoil. So….there is no guarantee that China will be in a position or place to even consider invading Taiwan in the next 20 years. Maybe a 50% chance that this is the case.


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