Ukraine war as guide, China will suffer deeply if it invades Taiwan

Commentary

Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist
Archive |

For decades “strategic ambiguity” has been the U.S. policy towards Taiwan, but recently, President Biden said he would intervene militarily if China invaded the self-ruled island. With Russia’s Ukraine invasion as backdrop, Beijing now has a model in which to compare. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan breaks down the assumptions China has been operating under for decades and argues that the Ukraine war is proving them all wrong.

Now, a lot of folks were worried just before the Russians moved in, honestly, just in the first couple days of the war as well, that the master plan was that the Russians would go for Ukraine, and the Chinese would go for Taiwan and more or less the same time, and then the United States would just kind of be left, unable to intervene in both.

Now, clearly, things have not broken that way. And I think it’s worth discussing why. Now, the single biggest issue is that the assumptions that the Chinese government has made since the 1950s, when we first have the split between the mainland and Taiwan, has proven to be completely false. Every single assumption that the Chinese have made is wrong.

The first big one was the idea that the war would be quick, that the Russians could provide a template that you can just kind of roll in there and take over a country in no time at all. Well, clearly, that is not how this has gone. And while I still have very huge concerns about the Ukrainians ability to win this war. The point is it take time. And in the case of Taiwan, you’re talking about a country that has been preparing for a mainland invasion for 16 years.

The second big idea is that the Chinese would be able to take over the semiconductor sector within Taiwan and then suddenly leapfrog to become the most powerful semiconductor country in the world. Yeah, that’s just stupid. 

The idea that China could just impose a done deal on the rest of the world and make everyone just suck it up and take it. Yeah, that one’s false too. Not only would be a fight for Taiwan be at least as bad for the Chinese as a fight as the Russian fight for Ukraine.

Everything about the Chinese economic system is based on mass imports, mass exports, tech transfer and foreign markets and without global foreign corporate cooperation with the Chinese economy. There is no Chinese economy. So every single assumption that the Chinese been operated under since the 1950s The Russians have proven false in less than three months.

That may actually be one of the biggest outcomes of this war. China having to go completely back to the drawing board and start completely over, because if they follow the plan as it exists right now, that’s an excellent way to ensure that the Chinese system dies within a year. 

Hey everyone, hello from Colorado, I am transmitting here from the same spot that I did about three days ago when we had two feet of snow. And today there is a somewhat less crazy world.

Today I wanted to talk about another kind of crazy what’s going on between the Chinese and the Taiwanese in light of the Ukraine war.

Now, a lot of folks were worried just before the Russians moved in, honestly, just in the first couple days of the war as well, that the master plan was that the Russians would go for Ukraine, and the Chinese would go for Taiwan and more or less the same time, and then the United States would just kind of be left, unable to intervene in both.

Now, clearly, things have not broken that way. And I think it’s worth discussing why. Now, the single biggest issue is that the assumptions that the Chinese government has made since the 1950s, when we first have the split between the mainland and Taiwan, has proven to be completely false. Every single assumption that the Chinese have made is wrong.

The first big one was the idea that the war would be quick, that the Russians could provide a template that you can just kind of roll in there and take over a country in no time at all. Well, clearly, that is not how this has gone. And while I still have very huge concerns about the Ukrainians ability to win this war. The point is it take time. And in the case of Taiwan, you’re talking about a country that has been preparing for a mainland invasion for 16 years.

Now, you can all say that the Ukrainians have over performed, and they absolutely have. But Ukraine has only really existed as a functional country. Since the Donbass war back in 2014. Taiwan has a lot more nationalism under its belt, and oh, yeah, it’s an island, they’ve got a moat. So any meaningful conflict where the Chinese actually go for Taiwan means that we’d have to surge all of their forces into things like fishing boats, and just make our mad dash for it, you’d be talking hundreds of 1000s of deaths from ships being blown up in the Taiwan Strait. The alternative, of course, is to do a slow mobilization, like the Russians did for Ukraine. But Taiwan’s first nuclear power reactor is was built 40 years ago, and the Taiwanese, if they had noticed, would absolutely be able to bring a few nukes to the party. So that’s not an option.

The second big idea is that the Chinese would be able to take over the semiconductor sector within Taiwan and then suddenly leapfrog to become the most powerful semiconductor country in the world. Yeah, that’s just stupid. Two things wrong there. Number one, the Chinese are not very good at semiconductors, they only make the very, very low end bargain basement stuff, the things that go into like the Internet of Things. The chips that go into, like a climate control system, or smart light bulb, are about as good as the Chinese were able to do. They don’t have the technical skills. They don’t have the workforce, they don’t have the command of the supply chain. And oh, yeah, all the designs for Taiwan’s chips, they come from Japan in the United States. Which brings us to the third assumption that is incorrect.

The idea that China could just impose a done deal on the rest of the world and make everyone just suck it up and take it. Yeah, that one’s false too. Not only would be a fight for Taiwan be at least as bad for the Chinese as a fight as the Russian fight for Ukraine.

We now know that the West actually has some cultural gumption. Again, if you were to take the sanctions that the West has put on Russia and put them on China, it’d be catastrophic, say what you will about the Russian economy, but it is a massive surplus producer and exporter of both foodstuffs, and energy. China is the world’s largest importer of all of that, especially for the inputs necessary to grow food, which means that if we put the sanctions on China that we put on Russia, you would have a deindustrialization of the entire Chinese system and under a year, but I think what is terrified the Chinese most about the Ukraine war, or the boycotts. The idea that private companies can change policy and challenge states, the idea that shareholders or board members or individual consumers can take a stance that will force a change in corporate policy that is so alien to the CCPs ideology and worldview, that they still don’t know how to process that.

Everything about the Chinese economic system is based on mass imports, mass exports, tech transfer and foreign markets and without global foreign corporate cooperation with the Chinese economy. There is no Chinese economy. So every single assumption that the Chinese been operated under since the 1950s The Russians have proven false in less than three months.

That may actually be one of the biggest outcomes of this war. China having to go completely back to the drawing board and start completely over, because if they follow the plan as it exists right now, that’s an excellent way to ensure that the Chinese system dies within a year. Okay, that’s it for now. Until next time.

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