Has anyone been following events in China recently?

The China/India thing is pretty interesting, and clearly not likely to be settled any-time soon, if ever. Clearly both sides understand that the current skirmishes are a weird symbolic conflict. Neither side arm their soldiers with anything much more modern than a pointed stick. So both sides understand that an escalation with modern weapons will be very difficult to contain, and since both sides have nukes, potentially very very bad.

Given the symbolic nature, a breakdown in talks is a given. The talks are symbolic as well. What is extraordinary is that soldiers from either side are happy engaging in deadly combat in such a manner.

I disagree. For one thing, while it’s true that ON THE BORDER the troops that are at the very front patrolling that region have been disarmed (by an agreement to try and calm things down between India and China, border troops aren’t armed with guns), this isn’t the case for the troops that aren’t immediately on the border. There you have not only guns but tanks, anti-aircraft weapons the whole works…and more building up all the time.

So, you are taking the situation of the patrols right on the border and extrapolating that to ‘…both sides understand that an escalation with modern weapons will be difficult to contain…’, which, while true doesn’t really address that both sides ARE escalating in the region with modern weapons and building the facilities and infrastructure to increase their ability to pour forces into the region.

This isn’t a symbolic gesture, either the disarming of the troops patrolling the border or the talks. It’s not really extraordinary that the soldiers on both sides were ‘happy’ to beat each other to death last year with spiked clubs, rocks, or even their bare hands either, as the patrolling forces on both sides really, really hate the other side.

One thing I haven’t been able to find any articles about is suppose Evergrande does collapse and a recession in China isn’t fended off, what does that mean for all the Chinese-owned properties in the US considering the wealth tied up in property owning? Last I read this decade Chinese buyers far and away are buying the most homes from overseas. If there’s a recession are many of these overseas owners likely to dump their properties back onto the US market to try to stay solvent?

Not a Chinese expert but I recall reading about how the USSR would function. Some emergency would come - Moscow would be all set to starve because of inefficiencies of the system, for example - so the central government would do some research, identify a train full of food somewhere in Southern Russia and send out an order to government-controlled goons down along the path of the track and use threats, beatings, murder, and whatever all else was necessary to move that train up into Moscow, bypassing all their own rules, bypassing little questions like “Who owned that food?”, “Who is going to starve because the food was snatched?”, and so on. And that sort of thing was just what the government did, pretty much all day every day, dealing with constant crisises of various sizes, using any and all force and pressure to simply brute force it through to the outcome they needed.

My sense is that Xi Jinping still views the powers of government in the same light and, more importantly, doesn’t view a “crisis” in quite the same way as we do.

Here, if the stock market crashes then we all decide that the world has ended, buy newspapers that have declared that the world has ended, tell our friends that the world has ended, vote away our current band of elected officials for ending the world, and then get on our computers to complain about the end of the world while slurping down a Starbucks and adjusting the climate control.

I don’t think Xi thinks of things like that as being a crisis. If all the property in the country is overpriced, he just ordains that everything is now 20% of its previous price. It was always 20% of its previous price. The people who were employed on the basis of there being 5X times more money in the real estate market, they are now farmers. They were always farmers. The men who ran these businesses into a bubble, they don’t exist. They never existed. There was no bubble.

When you can simply ordain the reality you need, and there’s no choice in the matter, crisis only comes when you can’t change reality to something new that is stable. Constant instability builds up into dissatisfaction over time, but occasional resets every few decades, which feel fair and properly attuned to the precipitating event… That’s just solid government leadership.

I think the worries about military conflict are dramatically overblown. China does not have a record of large-scale military adventurism. In fact, since the Communist Party won the civil war, they’ve engaged in only very limited foreign wars, and none really since the 1979 incursion into Vietnam.

China has been in much, much worse economic and political turmoil since the Communist party took over, and did not feel the need to invade Taiwan or India during those times either. I think a lot of people buy into the myth of “fighting wars to keep the peasants quiet”, which is a canard that supposedly authoritarian regimes just do all the time to keep people quiet. I think it’s dramatically overblown as to both how often that happens and the scale of conflict when it does. While some sort of Nationalist saber-rattling ala minor clashes along the Kashmir border, or naval exercises in the South China Sea might steady support for a regime, a large full-scale war that could go sideways is a huge risk that could actually bring about the collapse of a regime. Remember the Argentine junta that started the Falklands War also fell shortly after because of that decision (and in part their miscalculation was just assuming seizing the islands would not lead to a large dust up with the United Kingdom.)

China knows that a serious war with India or Taiwan will be the biggest conflict they’ve been in since the Korean War, and unlike the Korean War where they were supporting an allied state, they would have their skin fully in the game with either of these wars. The escalation could essentially be infinite in magnitude.

Also at least with Kashmir, you’re not just rolling into India with a few brigades. If China was actually looking to fight a real war there you would see a massive mobilization on the Indian border, it can’t really be done covertly.

I do think the economic situation is very concerning as I already said. Western economists broadly believe that the government picking winners and losers and being heavily involved in the economy creates lots of waste and inefficiencies that hold back growth. That mostly has been borne out by historical example. It’s a fine line though, because there’s many examples where shrewd government industrial policy has reaped rewards probably not possible through a purely free market (see post-war German and Japanese industrial policy.)

Like @China_Guy said essentially since Deng the deal has been no political liberalization, but economic liberalization, let the party run the country, but we’re not going to get in the way of you making money. And hey foreign investors, we aren’t going to 100% open to whatever you want, but we’re willing to let you invest in our country, with some limitations, and make a lot of money here.

It’s mostly been a very profitable 35-40 years. I think the big threat is honestly that Xi and the faction he represents, believe this growth can be separated from some of the economic openness that went along with it. China has regularly “cracked down” on various things for years, but usually the crackdowns have tended to be more for show, and abate after a time. Xi has been steadily putting the screws to lots of private business activities, and also doing things that make China a less desirable country to invest in for foreign investors. This could see a real capital availability crunch for the Chinese economy, and could also stifle growth (the engine that has fueled the beast for the last 3.5 decades), if that stuff is starting to hit home at the same time as some other things like the real estate market potentially collapsing and other economic problems coming to fruition, it could be a pretty serious shock to the entire system and serious shock to the economic future of the country.

China’s growth from being essentially a quasi-medieval country in the early 20th century, to a more powerful one, was inevitable. It is not inevitable that China becomes a society where its people are as wealthy as first world countries, and many countries in the 20th and 21st centuries have struggled to ever fully complete the transition, or get out of the “Middle Income Trap.”

Xi Jinping has not left China for nearly 2 years and will not be going to COP26. Why? Because he is apparently paranoid and fears there’d be a coup (presumably A Coup With Chinese Characteristics) while there:

Anecdotal information suggests that most of the Chinese owned property in the US is by individuals, and not by cash starved institutions. Especially for the home market and not big commercial buildings

Even so, one assumes a lot of these properties are financed, and many individuals may become unable to meet payments as the Chinese situation worsens. I guess the usual big question looms. How leveraged is the average Chinese investor? Indeed, what has been the attitude of the Chinese government to highly leveraged investment all around? History shows us that governments have usually been quite lax when things are good, and it is only hard won experience that finally convinces them that it really won’t be different this time.

If there is a Chinese crash in values local investors may find themselves with negative equity. Those that have exposure to both local and international investments are going to spread some of the pain internationally. One thing the Chinese government won’t be doing is helping anyone with their international investment properties.

Whether China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that can circle the globe or not, there is a convincing argument that the country has emerged as a serious strategic rival to the United States.

With scores of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles, China already has the ability to strike the US mainland with devastating force. However, the hypersonic missile test – which the Chinese say was a peaceful spacecraft launch – can be read as a warning from Beijing that it could defeat, through its technological prowess, US missile defences.

That was actually my assumption. In recessions everyone is cash starved, though.

I’m not convinced anyone thought that the US was ever in a position to defend against an ICBM attack from China. They certainly never thought they could from the USSR. That is the whole part of the MAD doctrine, and why, curiously, an effective counter ICBM capability is actually a bad thing.
China demonstrating hypersonic capabilities is ensuring that the MAD doctrine remains in force. China certainly has no mechanism to defend against a US ICBM retaliatory attack.

The Guardian is however always to be relied upon to find the most miserable interpretation of any event. (I subscribe to the Guardian, it provides a useful balance to other mainstream news sources. But its permanent left leaning and generally miserable outlook on life is usually so obvious that it needs taking with a goodly addition of salt.)

I assume that, to some degree, the really big investments overseas are backed by the government in some form or another. Buying property overseas is most likely part of China’s global strategy. There’s a reason Chinese ‘investors’ buy real estate and farms. A lot of it is purely economic but the implications go beyond economics.

I would add that my anecdotal experience is the same as ChinaGuy’s. Most Chinese property investments I’ve encountered - all in fact - are people moving here or having ties here and investing in property because they want somewhere safe to put their money.

It gets weird. China has imposed a 220% tax on Oz wine - killing imports into what was by a large margin our biggest export market, and basically prohibited import of any Oz coal. There are significant Chinese investors in both industries that will be hurting quite significantly. The coal ban is a significant contributor to the current energy crisis. Clearly the leadership is happy to inflict pain, even on their country, in the pursuit of other goals. How this translates to handling a downturn will be very interesting. Right now I would bet they will be happy to cut loose anyone with overseas investments.

I think their point is that China is warning the US about interfering if they do anything about Taiwan.

I agree that it’s unlikely that China will do anything drastic in the foreseeable future, even if there’s an economic meltdown. And the West has a major interest in preventing any economic meltdown in China, because it would be hurt the whole world economy.

Weird indeed. I can only guess that China believes it has the ability to inflict acute injury on Australia and is trying to throw its weight around. I think China’s strategists, whoever they are, suffer from their insularity and miscalculate in these kinds of situations.

I’m by no means a China wonk but I remember my time spent in the Asia-Pacific region back in the 00s. It seemed at that time that the view, even among Australia and NZ, was that China was a stabilizing counterweight to an increasingly erratic United States foreign policy. I get the sense now that the script has been flipped – people still regard the US as an unstable partner, but the blinders are off re: China, which is viewed unambiguously as a regional security threat, despite being an important trading partner.

As I understand it, American missile defenses were never meant to defend against a major foe like Russia or China. It was always assumed that they’d get through.

Missile defense is meant to defend against small attacks only - such as North Korea lobbing one or a few nukes at America, or some terrorist group managing to launch one, etc. For tiny attacks (“tiny” yet still equivalent to a thousand 9/11s) like that, a missile shield might suffice to stop it, such as the interceptors at Fort Greely in Alaska.

Like how a Kevlar vest may be able to stop a bullet or two but was never meant to stop 300.

The more things change:

The key part is near the end:

Back in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, to build some kind of anti-ballistic-missile system. McNamara was opposed to an ABM system. He’d recently ordered a study that concluded an ABM would be futile because the Soviets could counter our defensive missiles by just slightly increasing the number of their offensive missiles. But an order was an order, so McNamara gave a speech in which he outlined all the reasons an ABM was a bad idea—then concluded that we needed to build one anyway to defend against an attack by Red China.

So ABMs were first needed against the Soviet Union, until they could overwhelm the system; then China, until they could overwhelm the system; now North Korea - until they build a handful of boosters and overwhelm the system. Then, it’ll be someone else…


I disagree. This China saber rattling over Taiwan has been going on for decades. 'Tis nothing new.

Me thinks, more importantly that after the past at least one administration it is reigning in the Chinese aspirations over the entirety of the south China Sea. It was a true fuck up that Hilary and then Trump didn’t go for the TPP as an economic counterbalance. Given US imeptitude, now the TPP is basically co-opted by China. :scream:

I disagree with your disagreement. :slight_smile: While it’s true that this is nothing new wrt China wanting to take back Taiwan, what’s ‘new’ is that they have actively been building a military designed to do just this. At the same time, they have ramped up pressure on Taiwan and the world, threatening companies and nations (check out John Cena’s groveling apology…in Mandarin…to the Chinese people for angering them by just saying Taiwan was a ‘country’…and there are plenty of examples of this same thing in the last few years), etc. Hell, John Oliver broke with his seeming near-silence on China (he’s done very few shows basting China on his program, at a guess because of the studio’s pressure not to rock the boat) recently by doing a (puff piece IMHO) on this topic…even he is seeing that this isn’t just the same old same old.

Well, I mainly agree with you here…Trump fucked up (which is pretty much all the guy ever did, so no surprise) by this. However, China (the mainland) has not been accepted (yet) by the TPP, and there are a few countries that are opposed to their inclusion. Ironically, I think Taiwan is also applying, so that should be…interesting.

The article is confusing to me, if literally anyone in the U.S. defense, national security, intelligence etc establishment hasn’t seen China as a serous strategic threat since say, the mid-1990s, those people need to be fired, and I question why they hadn’t been already.

Right, I mean hypersonic missiles and their development has been long coming, and is part and parcel of why most experts think ABM spending, at least for things like systems to shoot down ICBMs, was always kind of a pipe dream. It looks like with current generation ABM systems for much simpler short range rockets like you might find in the hands of insurgents (Iron Dome, the newest generation Patriot system etc), ABM has good application. But I think most people that knew their shit knew that strategic ICBM ABM efforts were always going to be doomed to failure, because there was just going to be an arms race between the slow development of ABM capability against ICBMs and better ICBMs being built.

Additionally typical ICBM systems are multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, so one missile carries lots of warheads and all can be targeted on the fly as they come down. The other big reason strategic-ICBM level ABM was always kind of a pipe dream is with nuclear weapons you have to have a reliable 100% success rate, even one of those little reentry vehicles getting through your defense and you take a nuclear strike, an unacceptable outcome for most countries in their way of thinking. Even without hypersonic missiles, best case scenarios were still saying that we’d never be able to deploy enough ABM with a high enough success rate to avoid a scenario where a Russia or a China could “overwhelm” the systems by just launching lots of missiles.

MAD is, and remains, in force and the U.S. pipe dream of somehow circumventing it with missile-killers was never likely to bear fruit.

China has made it pretty clear since the first days of normalization that we would have to agree to disagree on Taiwan, and that they would obviously not appreciate any interference. We’ve maintained a deliberate policy of “strategic ambiguity” about what we would do if China invaded Taiwan. That’s intentional. FWIW I would say there is virtually no chance if China invaded Taiwan and we used naval/land/air forces to help Taiwan fight the invasion, that China would launch a nuclear strike. Countries don’t choose to end their existence, and push the world into armageddon, over a localized conventional war (that China due to extreme advantages in manpower and military force would probably be able to brute force win even with us helping Taiwan, Taiwan is likely just too small and too hard to defend.)

I’d agree it isn’t the same old same old, but I still think invading China would be a larger risk than invading Vietnam was in 1979, and the Chinese leadership has been shockingly averse to serious risk for 40 years, I’m skeptical Xi will pull the trigger. Now that’s just us talking here, you don’t base strategic decisions on what you assume your enemy will do, you have to plan for worst case scenario of what they might plausibly do. We need to step up arms sales to Taiwan and help them improve the condition of their military, which hasn’t been in great shape for years now.

I was stationed in Germany for a chunk of the Cold War, we never once thought we’d stop the Soviets from pushing us back at least into France and maybe further. We were there to bloody their nose and so they’d know if they tried it, they’d be at war the United States, and that would create massive systemic risks for the USSR beyond the immediate military situation in the Western European theater.