What would the west do if China grabbed a chunk of Siberia?

Let’s ignore whether or not this is plausible (some people think it is and that China is just waiting for the right moment as Russia is already over extended in the west).

China’s attitude in some ways is that land that has once been part of China is always part of China, so looking at a map of the greatest extent of the Qing dynasty you will see an interesting chunk in the north east that included Vladivostok.

Lets assume Russia is not willing to use nuclear weapons since China makes clear that they are stopping at the extent of the map shown, and they hold this territory against Russian conventional forces. What could the west actually do? Sanctions against China would be ruinous to the west, we simply don’t have the manufacturing capability in any other country to replace Chinese factories. The largest tech companies in the US would be lobbying against sanctions. How many years would it take to replace China’s manufacturing capacity and develop equivalent in another country? Can that even be done?

Apart from sternly worded UN resolutions with no bite to them (which China could Veto), I can’t see what the west could do in this case?

Why would the West want to do anything in particular? Seems like they’d mostly be enjoying the schadenfreude at Russia’s expense.

If China glommed as big an area as shown in the first map, nuclear weapons would fly.

In the second scenario…with the loss of Vladivostok, I can’t see any possible way to keep the missiles in their silos. Russia would not be able to countenance that kind of aggression.

The west wouldn’t have much say in the outcome either way.

QFT. I myself would just laugh.

Well for one thing if the West does nothing, letting China get away with it is likely to trigger a cascade of other invasions and border disputes (Taiwan for example) and also make China be more aggressive in grabbing other land in the spratleys and South China sea.

So while sure I’d enjoy the irony of seeing Russia eaten away at like this, the west doing nothing would be very bad for long term stability.

Russia arguably has more willingness to go to war than the United States or the rest of the West. So the US and Europe would kick back and watch as Putin obliterates Chinese civilization and kills hundreds of millions of people. Let’s not forget that for all the influence of economic power, Russia has thousands of nuclear weapons and could easily set back by decades any nation of their choice. There’s no reason to believe that Russia would simply cede a substantial portion of the earth without recourse because of a non-credible promise made by a hostile state.

Perhaps China will simply try to buy Siberia from the Russians one day, maybe after the last dollar of natural resources is extracted and the land left worthless. But they won’t take it by force.

One thing that often gets overlooked by people who start these threads, and then pounded home by the commentariat, is that China needs the West much more than we need them. The US can survive for a few years without cheap consumer junk while we rebuild internal industrial capacity. China cannot survive without our advanced machinery exports and other high-tech products.

Our biggest priority in such a situation would be doing everything we could to prevent it from going nuclear. And the odds would be against us.

But quite frankly, I don’t see any realistic scenario where this would happen. Sure, China is claiming all that territory. But they’re realists and they understand there’s no way they’re getting it back from a nuclear power. China didn’t invade back in the nineties when Russia was a lot weaker than it is now.

So what? Not worth going to war over.

Well we’d basically be ceding control of most of the Pacific to China if they grabbed Vladivostok and the South China Sea. Japan and Korea would be screaming at the US to do something fearing they would be next.

Doing nothing may not be an option.

If Russia isn’t willing to fight a war with China to protect its own territory, why the fuck should America start a war with China to protect Russia’s territory?

If China invades Russia, there’s going to be a war, and if China starts winning, then nuclear bombs start going off in various places around the world. Hundreds of millions of people would die.

But the real answer is that China has all it can handle within its already existing borders. It already has to deal with vast territories in Central Asia that aren’t part of China proper.

And controlling Vladivostok doesn’t give you control over the entire Pacific. It gives you an ice-free Pacific port city. Russia has one of those, Vladivostok. China has dozens. Vladivostok is a prize for Russia, it’s a backwater for China.

China has no need to formally annex Siberia, or the Russian Far East, any more than the United States needs to annex Mexico or Canada. What would be the point? What does Canada provide that could be obtained more cheaply by invading, conquering, and enslaving the Candadians, rather than by peacefully trading? And far from wanting to add more Mexicans to our empire, we’re trying to keep them on the other side of the border.

If China ever comes to dominate Siberia, it will be because a weakened Russia is reduced to a client state of China. China will control the region not through direct annexation, but by bossing around their neighbors and imposing their own versions of the famous unequal treaties.

Hopefully there would be a period of escalation. Russia wouldn’t simply nuke Beijing and Shanghai. Instead they’d launch a tactical nuke against some target like a bridge or a mountain pass - some place that would have an effect on the war but wouldn’t produce a huge number of casualties. This would send a message that nuclear weapons are now in play and give China a chance to rethink its situation in view of the raised stakes.

I agree. The Chinese are very aware of this kind of strategy because they were on the receiving end of it. Like Europeans did in China in the 19th century, China would seek to get political and economic concessions from other countries while nominally respected their sovereignty. So China wouldn’t seek to occupy Siberia; they’d rather let Russia keep Siberia while pressuring them into selling China the raw materials it wants at a discount.

One possible reason China could possibly do something like this is the following.
The survival of the Communist party control of China depends entirely on their continued strong economic growth, as long as everyone is getting rich the majority of the population support the Communist party.

The first time they have a burst bubble, recession or depression, lots of the new wealth is going to flee China and it will cascade out of control. Traditionally going to war has been one way of avoiding a depression, create a war economy to feed the machine. Although they could of course pick on a weaker non-nuclear neighbour like Vietnam or Mongolia…

Russia might let China get a few hundred miles without going nuclear. But thousands of miles, all the way to the Urals?

The second map I posted has them only grabbing Outer Manchuria which used to be part of the Qing Empire.


Why do people think a war would be good for the economy? Yes, we have the example of the United States in WWII. Where we kick-started our economy out of the depression by massive government spending on the war. Meanwhile, over in Europe economies were crumbling, because they were spending everything on the war, and most of what they bought was expended making the other guy’s stuff explode.

War could be helpful if it allowed the government to carry out actions that it was normally unable to do, such as impose confiscatory taxes, nationalize productive assets, and force a lot of people to work at gunpoint at stuff they wouldn’t normally do for any amount of money.

However China does not seem to have that sort of problem. China has a fairly strong government, at least compared to other countries in their economic tier. And the government still rules by decree, and can order uncooperative people to be arrested, or shot in head, if they start getting funny ideas.

And note that the whole premise of “war is good for the economy” is that you put everyone to work in factories cranking out goods, and those goods are shipped off to the front where they get exploded and have to be replaced again. Yay, full employment for the workers! And half your work force gets shipped off to the front, where they get exploded and have to be replaced. Yay, more work for the survivors! Except even though the factory workers are nominally getting paid good wages working in those factories, they can’t actually spend that money on useful goods and services because everything is on a war footing. You can’t buy a car or a radio or food with that money, because everything is rationed, and only people critical to the war can get assigned a car.

But note that this scheme–put everyone to work in factories making shit that gets shipped overseas–is exactly what China is already doing, the only difference is they’re exporting manufactured goods around the world instead of exploding them. This is, you know, better for the economy that producing goods and services that are only useful for destroying useful goods and services.

So what we are finding is that the world economy can produce a lot more goods and services than we can use. Paying people to stay at home watching TV is a lot better for the economy than paying them to drop bombs on stuff. Even better is paying them to produce stuff that people actually want.

Anyway, this is a longwinded way of saying that the notion that war is good for the economy is insane. War might be good for the leadership of the country–it might strengthen their position, help them overcome their rivals, and so on. But even if you win the war easily you generally send your country into an economic tailspin. Like I said, it would be better to pay people to stay home and watch TV, the only problem is that for some reason various countries find it easier to justify wars of conquest than paying people to do nothing. War is the health of the state, because it justifies all sorts of state actions. If you can justify those actions without war, then you’re way ahead of the game.

Lemur866 I agree with everything you say. However history shows us that leaders do generally prefer to go to war rather than pay people to do nothing and watch TV. War gives them an excuse to crack down on dissidents and accuse anyone who opposes the war of treason.

Uh, excuse me? The Siberian fur trade? Why it was worth 10% of Russia’s annual revenues*. Why it could be just the sort of economic bonanza that could seriously turn around the Chinese economy*.

But if you discount that juicy plum*…yeah, there really isn’t much point.

  • In the 17th century.

Don’t think it is going to happen. Nothing that China could hope to gain by conquering Siberia (even if they could actually pull it off) would even remotely balance the enormous cost. It is not like the Chinese really need the space to live there. If they want to live in a vast, empty inhospitable terrain, they have plenty of those inside their borders already.

As for the OP question: *If *it actually happened, the west would certainly protest as we would with any obvious war of aggression. Beyond that I could see us lend some support to Russia like lifting trade sanctions, maybe even providing military intelligence. We would not want to see China win this one.

This thread reads like a Tom Clancy novel…:cool:


I’d imagine we’d desperately try to mediate the situation, as well as make a huge point that whatever the two of them did, Taiwan, Japan and S. Korea are off limits.

Otherwise, it’s ultimately not worth American blood or treasure to intervene between China and Russia in such a conflict.

Isn’t there supposed to be a lot of oil in Siberia though?