Join 3,439 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Chinese militarism
July 20, 2005 4:51 PM   Subscribe

China is scaring me. Specifically, the possibility that they'll make a play for Taiwan, the US will come to Taiwan's defense, and World War III (IV? V?) will break out. Are there good reasons this is unlikely?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Human Relations (59 answers total)
 
The fact that everyone is aware of that last fear.
posted by Gyan at 4:52 PM on July 20, 2005


I doubt the US would come to Taiwan's defense if it meant going to war with China, first of all... we have absolutely zero ability to fight another war at the moment.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:52 PM on July 20, 2005


Who says China has to be occupied?
posted by Gyan at 5:03 PM on July 20, 2005


Have you thought about the idea that China is scaring you precisely because the current US administration hints constantly that China is very, very scary, in an attempt to keep us nice and scared of the rest of the world?

Believe me, I'm well aware of China's growing dominance, demand for oil, and repressive political system. All are worthy of note and concern. But I also notice that I am being encouraged to start to think of China as a looming future threat, and when I notice that....I feel manipulated. Don't rule that out.
posted by Miko at 5:04 PM on July 20, 2005


I don't know about that, Miko. Just last week a Chinese general was musing out loud about nuking US cities in response to a Taiwan defense. They're engaging in a furious military buildup, with particular emphasis on ballistic weapons along the coast facing Taiwan. Their economy is developing a healthy little appetite for oil, which they don't have much of. These seem to be objectively scary developments.

To paraphrase Tom Friedman, some things might be true even if George Bush wants you to believe them.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:29 PM on July 20, 2005


First off, let me say that I am also scared witless by the U.S.'s relationship with China, why? The Taiwan Relations Act which says "In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 3301 of this title, the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability." (although I think that's a paraphrase). Meanwhile, Congress seems to be doing its best to provoke China into declaring Taiwan self-governed. Except, every time Congress reaches out (like in 1995 when they invited the then president of Taiwan to the U.S. for private talks) they do military "exercises" near Taiwan and cut off talks about policy issues.

I realize not all those links are amazingly current but they do give you the idea that U.S. interests in Taiwan are HUGE and the conflict between China and America certainly pre-dates Bush. Nothing horrifies me more then the idea of two of the world's largest military nations duking it out over a territory half the size of Ohio.

On Preview: The massive military build-up in China, to me is sort of like the build-up the U.S. experienced right after Pearl Harbor, economically speaking. China is using it's expansion of the military to provide jobs for millions while tightening it's stranglehold on it's citizens and intimidating it's enemies.
posted by cyphill at 5:36 PM on July 20, 2005


The best reason not to fear it, for the near to medium term, is that Taiwan could, probably, swat the PRC's air cover from the sky and beat the shit out of any amphibious force that came calling well before they sighted land. When the PRC has enough amphibious-assault ships for a few divisions, and enough of a navy to defend them, and an air force that could reliably wipe the floor with Taiwan's (and with the US Navy), then maybe start worrying.

I still don't think that the general's threat was meant for US consumption. It's like a skinny little dude walking up to a hulking, twitchy giant and threatening him with "If you do this, I'll kick you in the balls! HARD!" China could do bad shit to the US, but not cripple it, and the response back would probably be simple annihilation. I suspect it was get-tough noises meant for some Chinese constituency.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:42 PM on July 20, 2005


With the US military otherwise engaged, now would be a great time to do it. China hasn't because they are still undergoing their industrial revolution and don't have the infrastructure (economic, not just military) in place to win a war against the US and their allies. (Assuming they actually want Taiwan)

Frequently war is put forth as being something that stimulates an economy- and it does in the short term. But everything being produced for war is essentially being throw away in a economic sense. While the war is being fought, every bullet being produced is going to be shot, every tank assembled is going to be destroyed. The economy that produces them doesn't see any benefit from them, in fact they are just expensive liabilities. So in the long run, every man-hour, every metric ton of steel, every kilowatt of electricity used in a war is wasted.

No country in the world can maintain as constant state of war without heavy economic costs. China realizes that the US economy is more advanced than its own and that in a war of economic attrition, the US would win.

China won't move until their economy is more advanced than ours.

That and what the hell is so great about Taiwan that you would risk going up against the one nation on earth that could crush you to get it?
posted by 517 at 5:44 PM on July 20, 2005


Have you thought about the idea that China is scaring you precisely because the current US administration hints constantly that China is very, very scary, in an attempt to keep us nice and scared of the rest of the world?

Uh, it's a bit more than that. I'm knowledgeable about the Chinese Navy, I can say they've been building up their Anti-Submarine, Littoral Combat Ship and Amphibious assault programs. They now have a long-range nuclear sub (The Type 94) that's on par with anything the US has.

The problem with China has always been their Nationalist/Expansionist outlook on international politics. They used to just buy shitty Russian weapons and reverse engineer them, but they're not doing that anymore. They've reached a point where they can develop their own weapon systems that rival what the US makes.

I expect China to move on Taiwan sometime after the 08 Olympics, as they're spending billions on the Beijing games and see it as their entrance to the World Stage. If anything, Terrorism is far more of a "Boogieman" problem, with easier solutions than the China situation.

I doubt the US would come to Taiwan's defense if it meant going to war with China, first of all... we have absolutely zero ability to fight another war at the moment.

You're mistaking politics for strategy. We've already pledged military support to Taiwan in the event that China makes a run across the Taiwan Straight. On preview, see Cyphill - Nails the big points.

(Assuming they actually want Taiwan)

Are you kidding me? It's illegal in China to print maps that identify Taiwan as a separate country. They've been fighting against it's independence for years. They WANT Taiwan, if for nothing more than Nationalist pride.
posted by SweetJesus at 5:47 PM on July 20, 2005


.The best reason not to fear it, for the near to medium term, is that Taiwan could, probably, swat the PRC's air cover from the sky and beat the shit out of any amphibious force that came calling well before they sighted land

I am telling you right now, that is bullshit. Taiwan could be crushed at ANY point without the help of the United States. It's just not in China's intrest (yet) to go get it.
posted by SweetJesus at 5:49 PM on July 20, 2005


devilsbrigade writes "I doubt the US would come to Taiwan's defense if it meant going to war with China, first of all..."

Really? I don't think the U.S. has given itself much of a choice in this matter. It's conceivable that we'd back down, but unlikely. Also consider that the military resources necessary to defend Taiwan (ships, planes, ICBMs (gulp!)) don't have much overlap with those resources that have been dedicated to Iraq. I think most of the ground troops in such a defense would be coming from Taiwan itself.

And even if the U.S. did back down, and let China invade Taiwan, it would be a hellish, bloody fight. And it would fuck the region up supremely: Japan would almost certainly go nuclear, as would South Korea, and who knows how the fuck North Korea would respond to that turn of events? Korean involvement would bring U.S. involvement; we have troops there.

That said, I can't see how China would dare make a play for Taiwan. It would bring world opprobrium down upon them and crush their international trade, and therefore their economy. As I see it, there's no better way to prevent war than to increase economic interdependence between nations....

The rhetoric is pretty scary, but I think it's just rhetoric. As the situation stands, China's practically looking at mutually assured destruction, at least in economic terms.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:51 PM on July 20, 2005


It seems they are quite conscious of their (preliminary) success in the global market, I don't see why they'd jeopardize it for such a small prize. China could be No.2 economy and real world power if they play their cards right -- then would be the time to do it (thinking very practically) -- not now.
posted by uni verse at 5:52 PM on July 20, 2005


The 21st Century will be known as the Chinese Century. You should be very afraid. However, its victory over the US won't be military but economic.
posted by sic at 5:52 PM on July 20, 2005


Japan would go nuclear
You sure about that? I don't see it being appropriate for their country's experience, although I'm not up to snuff on current politics.
posted by uni verse at 5:54 PM on July 20, 2005


China could be No.2 economy and real world power if they play their cards right -- then would be the time to do it (thinking very practically) -- not now.

Unless you count the EU, they already are the second most powerful economy in the world...
posted by SweetJesus at 5:57 PM on July 20, 2005


And besides, who is going to stop them? Give China 20 years and they'll be able to take whatever they want. It's not a question of them "playing their cards right", it's a question of the rest of the world being prepared for China's emergence, not the other way around.
posted by SweetJesus at 6:01 PM on July 20, 2005


Ah yes, I meant #2 a ways in the future. It won't be easy competing against Japan.
On preview: "not a question" Well no one is guaranteed to be strong in the future, the US or China, it depends also on trade agreements, deals made based on mutual interests, investments from other countries, etc. If they act as aggressors those might be harder to come by. In theory.
posted by uni verse at 6:04 PM on July 20, 2005


I wonder what would happen if the US and China would go to war. So many American products are made in China, in fact, at least as of a few years ago, the US military would be temporarily without hats. Who has more to lose?

It's been said that one of the things preventing India from going to war with Pakistan is that US companies with branches in India were strongly opposed to the idea.
posted by drezdn at 6:04 PM on July 20, 2005


uni verse writes "You sure about that? I don't see it being appropriate for their country's experience, although I'm not up to snuff on current politics."

There's been discussion of it in response to North Korea's development of long-range missiles. It's very controversial, but they have the technical expertise on hand to make it happen, tons of weapons-grade plutonium from their breeder reactor program, and it would be the only really logical strategic response to a bellicose China. Especially if the U.S. proved itself untrustworthy in a failure to defend Taiwan.

SweetJesus writes "And besides, who is going to stop them? "

You know, I was just thinking about this today in a long-term geopolitical strategy kind of way... How about India? Their economy isn't that far behind China's, they have a well-established democracy, and they're a nuclear power. A bipolar Asia in the 21st century could go a long way towards defusing any Chinese expansionist tendencies....
posted by mr_roboto at 6:07 PM on July 20, 2005


The rhetoric is pretty scary, but I think it's just rhetoric. As the situation stands, China's practically looking at mutually assured destruction, at least in economic terms.

But do they CARE... something to think about.

China will not become an economic super power for quite sometime, they are still very traditional in many ways..

but as things are going now anyway we will be so over populated in 75 years, maybe we should just duke it out...

there are natural protections against over population, disease, conflict, etc...
posted by crewshell at 6:08 PM on July 20, 2005


what about India?
Makes me think of all the neighborhood boys growing up and starting their own gangs, in the same area. Except with nuclear weapons. There will be no lack of tension for the future, I'm sure.
posted by uni verse at 6:17 PM on July 20, 2005


You know, I was just thinking about this today in a long-term geopolitical strategy kind of way... How about India? Their economy isn't that far behind China's, they have a well-established democracy, and they're a nuclear power. A bipolar Asia in the 21st century could go a long way towards defusing any Chinese expansionist tendencies....

India is wicked disturbing, and the India-Pakistan Kashmir situation is doubly so. In India, and in Pakistan (but to a lesser extent) there is a cult-of-personality around the idea of nuclear weapons. It's really, really fucked up. There is the idea (common-place in India) that Pakistan, or whatever other country, would be completely destroyed by an Indian first-strike, and wouldn't be able to retaliate. They associate Nuclear weapons with the Buddha, and the BJP does nothing to dissuade people from this ignorance... There is a fucking FANTASTIC movie that shows this called "War and Peace", but be warned - it's 4 hours long.

But India has lots of problems, problems that China doesn't have to deal with (Caste system, widespread utter poverty, urban infrastructure). I think it's nice that they can provide educated workers for blue-colar US tech jobs, but China actually 'builds" everything (China exports EVERYTHING to the US, and pretty much only imports raw materials). In the long run, China is in better shape.
posted by SweetJesus at 6:25 PM on July 20, 2005


Anyone know of a site or a book that details the various capabilites and sizes of the world's big militaries?
posted by Gyan at 6:43 PM on July 20, 2005


FWIW (at least for Sec. Rumsfeld's hillarious polit-speak) , a DoD News Briefing from earlier today:
Q Mr. Secretary, may we go back to the Times report just for a moment? With the massive buildup, [snip] is the United States now willing to go to war to protect Taiwan in this day?
And I suppose, General Pace, even though it's a nuclear situation -- but can the United States win such a war?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Our position with respect to Taiwan and the People's Republic of China hasn't changed in years, to my knowledge. It is what it is. It is a -- to oversimplify an understanding -- that our view is that whatever changes are to be made in that connection should be made on a peaceful basis by both countries. [snip] Our country is capable of doing those things that we've indicated have the capability of doing.

[snip] GEN. PACE: If I might add, the -- you judge military threat in two ways: one, capacity, and two, intent. There's lots of countries in the world that have the capacity to wage war. Very few have the intent to do so. And clearly we have a complex but good relationship with China. So there's absolutely no reason for us to believe there's any intent on their part.

posted by michaelkuznet at 6:47 PM on July 20, 2005


I know of two good ones I use everyday - FAS (Federation of American Scientists) and Global Security.

Janes
is neat too, but the subscription prices are insane if you don't work in the industry.

On preview: God, I wish I could speak like Rumsfeld. That guy has doublespeak down to an art form, like really good poetry.
posted by SweetJesus at 6:51 PM on July 20, 2005


Be careful what you wish for ...
*dramatic pause*
posted by uni verse at 7:00 PM on July 20, 2005


Rather than comparing militaries, wouldn't it be easier to point out that it's in neither the US or China's incentive to go to war b/c our economies are so interlinked?

Anyways, I have two questions:

(1) This may sound stupid, but why does China want Taiwan so bad, if you don't count nationalist, let's-beat-up-the-KMT-and-restore-the-ming-dynasty-empire impulses?

(2) Okay, let's assume the 21st century is the Chinese century--so what? How does that change your life? For example, my Dad has all these high-up PRC connections, but he doesn't really want to get into investing in China because--well mainly because he's retired but also because he's very risk-averse and doesn't like the general steroid-injected market there. How does the growing Chinese economy, etc., affect your daily life? Do you make any decisions differently than you would otherwise?
posted by kensanway at 7:13 PM on July 20, 2005


SweetJesus: Uh, it's a bit more than that. I'm knowledgeable about the Chinese Navy, I can say they've been building up their Anti-Submarine, Littoral Combat Ship and Amphibious assault programs. They now have a long-range nuclear sub (The Type 94) that's on par with anything the US has.

Your link points out that none of those have been built yet. I am not very enamored with the US war machine, but to suggest that Chinese designs are equivalent is silly.

Anyway, Gwynne Dyer has some interesting things to say about this subject: Bogeyman China.

As to China's strategic intentions, the record of the past is reassuring in several respects. China has almost never been militarily expansionist beyond the traditional boundaries of the Middle Kingdom (which do include Tibet in the view of most Chinese), and its border clashes with India, the Soviet Union and Vietnam in the first decades of Communist rule generally ended with a voluntary Chinese withdrawal from the disputed territories.

The same moderation has usually applied in nuclear matters. The CIA frets that China could have a hundred nuclear missiles targeted on the United States by 2015, but that is actually evidence of China's great restraint. The first Chinese nuclear weapons test was forty years ago, and by now China could have thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on the US if it wanted. (The United States DOES have thousands of nuclear warheads that can strike Chinese targets.)
...
The Beijing regime is obsessed with economic stability, because it fears that a severe downturn would trigger social and political upheaval. The last thing it wants is a military confrontation with its biggest trading partner, the United States. It will go on playing the nationalist card over Taiwan to curry domestic political favour, but there is no
massive military build-up and no plausible threat of impending war in East Asia.


And on another note, along with Japan, it seems we can also add South Korea, and possibly even Taiwan to the list of ambiguous but likely nuclear weapons states.
posted by Chuckles at 7:24 PM on July 20, 2005


I have a more fundamental question.
Why would China invest in the US if they plan on invading Taiwan? One would think those investments would be at extreme risk. Given the choice between following rhetoric and money, I'd say follow the money, and the money says they're not invading (yet).
posted by forforf at 7:40 PM on July 20, 2005


China has 32 ballistic capable nukes - maybe 40, not more. They probably wouldn't all hit and detonate at their target, because nukes are an ill-tested technology like that.

US has something like 2,200 ballistic nukes, enough to carpet all of China with unlivableness.

That's why China isn't going to get into WW III with us.

But there's also a lot of mutual interdependence going on. According to Thomas Friedman, the U.S. and China are joined at the hip. China owns something like $1 trillion US dollars, in the form of T-bills. Remember how terrorist assets all got froze on 9-12-05? Declaring war on USA would cost China $1 trillion on the first day, and that would pretty much bankrupt them, rendering them unable to fight a war. Also they sell us a lot of stuff, which they couldn't do if they were warring with us.

Chinese folks think a little different than us Amurkin types, but they're not bloodthirsty, mad, or even fundamentally different. They do have a political process in place and if you look at the long view (last 30 years) instead of the posturing and grandstanding of the last couple weeks, every trend is towards more openness, better relations, more Westernization. This is good for us and good for them and it will probably continue.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:41 PM on July 20, 2005


"...we have absolutely zero ability to fight another war at the moment."

Incorrect. If you're talking about boots-on-the-ground war, then yes, we are stretched a bit thin...but our goal in China (if they attacked) would not be to "control" it -- we would simply let fly the ICBMs and utterly destroy their capacity to wage war. No way does China want that kind of pain. The Chinese leadership may be crazy, but not stupid. Or vice-versa.
posted by davidmsc at 7:43 PM on July 20, 2005


Er, terrorist assets were frozen on 9-12-01. Duh.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:43 PM on July 20, 2005


This is the nightmare scenario here in Korea that my (adult) students and I talk about sometimes. If US v. China is a go, over Taiwan, dollars to donuts Kim Jong Il says to himself 'Well, the Chinese'll back me now against the Yanks if I go large against South Korea -- it's my best and last chance!' and it's 1950 all over again.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:53 PM on July 20, 2005


Your link points out that none of those have been built yet. I am not very enamored with the US war machine, but to suggest that Chinese designs are equivalent is silly

Ok, you want proof? For starters, take a look at the Type 94 link I posted. That is a fucking state-of-the-art Nuclear Submarine comparable to an Ohio class sub. It carries 16 JL-2 (NATO CSS-NX-4) missiles, which are three stage intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles. Again, the JL-2 is as good as the Trident, America's best ICBM. By the way, they're building a whole bunch of Type 94's now, and they're already completed a few of them. I can't post links to Janes, it's subscription based, otherwise I'd send you the link.

Amphibious Assault Vehicles? How about amphibious tanks! The Type 63A, the a modern version of the Type 63, is the only modern amphibious tank in the world. China is one of the few countries that operates an amphibious tank program. The US doesn't, to my knowledge. Now, who do you suppose China would want to use those amphibious tanks on? Why would they spend all that money making a tank able to move on land, as well as on sea (for short distances)

I can go on and on. Do some research on this (I support war games for a living) and you'll find out I'm right. The United States needs China too. China's got a bunch of our money invested over there, and we're binded to that. There may come a time where China will be in a situation that it feels it can make a grab for Taiwan and it wouldn't be in the US's interest to come after it (who knows where we'll be in 2009). Treaties don't mean shit.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:05 PM on July 20, 2005


China has 32 ballistic capable nukes - maybe 40, not more. They probably wouldn't all hit and detonate at their target, because nukes are an ill-tested technology like that.

Where are you getting THAT figure? They put more than 32 on two subs...
posted by SweetJesus at 8:06 PM on July 20, 2005


I should add, the Trident II, is better than the JL-2. But the Trident I is damn good missile, so that's no comfort.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:12 PM on July 20, 2005


Lemme copy-n-paste my comment from a previous MetaFilter discussion:
The DOD's Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China [PDF]

Robert Kaplan's "How We Would Fight China" (Atlantic link for subscribers), described by The Pentagon's New Map author Thomas Barnett as "Kaplan's strategic lap dance for the U.S. Navy and Pacific Command" [PDF]

Regarding US prospects in war with China, I think Kevin Bacon said it best [.wav] in Animal House.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:19 PM on July 20, 2005


SweetJesus: That is a fucking state-of-the-art Nuclear Submarine comparable to an Ohio class sub.

That is a paper state of the art submarine comparable to a 30 year old design (is it only 25 years old, whatever...)

SweetJesus: I support war games for a living

Cute... Mr. Dyer had something to say on that topic too (from the same link):

China's defence budget this year is 247.7 billion yuan : around US$30 billion at the official exchange rate. There are those in Washington who will say that it's more like $60 billion in purchasing power, but then there used to be "experts" who annually produced hugely inflated and frightening estimates of the Soviet defence budget. Such people will always exist: to justify a big US defence budget, you need a big threat.

posted by Chuckles at 8:20 PM on July 20, 2005


I always get a kick out of the US pointing towards China and saying "They're spending 90 billion dollars on defence. That's obscene!", when the US's budget is somewhere over 400 billion. I'll start to worry when China's budget is, oh, I don't know, half of the US's....
posted by Elpoca at 9:01 PM on July 20, 2005


A few things off the top of my head:

1. China holds a lot of US Debt. If we get into a shooting war with them, we won't pay back their debt.

2. Taiwan's value lies in its semiconductor industry. Most of the big players are already expanding their operations to mainland China. Eventually they will drive a peaceful merger between the two countries. A shooting war would likely destroy the cleanrooms, rendering the transaction valueless.

3. The US is China's biggest customer. An actual war would destroy this relationship and set china's economy back to where it was in the ' 80s. Ask anyone you know from China what life was like back then, it wasn't very nice.

4. Japan. If China opens a war up and Japan signs up with the US, we will likely give them great as much leeway in running military operations as they want. No one wants to see the Japanese get back into the war business.

5. Iraq. The war in Iraq demonstrates that Americans are willing to go to war over just about anything. We might be stretched a bit thin, but we could institute a draft and retarget civilian resources for military applications should the need arise.

6. Hu loves the Army, Jian lived in constant fear of a military coupe. Like Bush, Hu is part of a complicated political machine and the real directors are very much hidden from view. Jian retains significant power, and will liekly retain his power as long as he lives.

7. A cold war is vastly more profitable than a shooting war. It might be in both the US and China's interest to get into a new cold war, but no nation wants a nuclear exchange of any kind.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:23 PM on July 20, 2005


SweetJesus

As an Indian...

There is the idea (common-place in India) that Pakistan, or whatever other country, would be completely destroyed by an Indian first-strike, and wouldn't be able to retaliate.

Except that we have declared an explicit "no first strike" policy.

They associate Nuclear weapons with the Buddha

WTF? Where on earth have you been hearing this?
(Buddhists are a very small minority in this country anyway.)

and the BJP does nothing to dissuade people from this ignorance

The BJP isn't in power as of one year ago.


There is no way India will get involved in a Sino-US tangle. We will just be crossing our fingers and hoping that the Americans target their weapons right, because we're right next door. We're not nuts.

But that shouldn't be a problem because the Chinese know that they are largest exporter to USA, and economic concerns trump everything else. USA knows that China is not as easily put down as Iraq. So that answers the original question.
posted by madman at 9:55 PM on July 20, 2005


As someone who has lived in China for three years, I regret to say that I think a conflict between Chinese and Taiwan is more and more likely. The reason I say is that anti Taiwanese independence along with anti-Japanese propaganda is the main way that the communists keeps the population in a nationalistic mood and away from looking at the government’s policies to closely.

Most of my Chinese friends are well educated, middle class and urban and their attitudes toward Taiwan scare the shit out of me. If anything they are more militaristic than the official government stance. I have had people tell me they want to join the Chinese special forces so they can go assassinate Chen Shuibian, Taiwan’s president. They feel like China has lost massive face because of the rest of the world and that countries like the U.S. do not take China because of reunification issues.

If the China were to go to war, the population would be behind it. If things go bad economically, the government might would be very tempted to distract the people by starting a popular war with Taiwan.

Furthermore most people discussing this ignore actual situation on Taiwan. The majority of the people there are native Taiwanese, as opposed to the people who came over with the KMT. The native Taiwanese have no desire to reunite with china. They will vigorously resist any attacks.

What will the U.S. do? I’d guess they would have to come to Taiwan’s aid. Or else they would lose all military respect in Asia. Anyway not coming to Taiwan’s aid would be appeasement of the worst kind.

After seeing how irrationally nationalistic the Chinese behaved earlier this year over a Japanese textbook, I’m terrified of the prospect of Chinese-Taiwanese relations taking a turn for the worse.
posted by afu at 10:06 PM on July 20, 2005



WTF? Where on earth have you been hearing this?
(Buddhists are a very small minority in this country anyway.)


Doh, you're right. I remembered something completely wrong. They tested a missile near Pokhran in 1998, rife with religious and nationalist imagery. Nothing to do with Buddha. Here's an interesting link...
posted by SweetJesus at 10:11 PM on July 20, 2005


That last post comes across sarcastic to me now that I'm re-reading it. The link deals with Hindu nationalism with regards to the atomic bomb.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:14 PM on July 20, 2005


Where are you getting THAT figure? They put more than 32 on two subs..

Off the top of my head, actually. But if you want evidence:

Those subs, and the DF-31s that are supposed to go on them, aren't deployed. That means they're not a threat. I'm talking about intercontinental ballistics: China-launched vehicles that could strike US targets today.

This article suggests that the actual number is "less than 25."

American attack sub technology is no joke, either. I would not be surprised to learn that each of these Chinese subs, if/when deployed, had an American attack sub on its little tin ass at all times.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:56 PM on July 20, 2005


Doh, you're right. I remembered something completely wrong. They tested a missile near Pokhran in 1998, rife with religious and nationalist imagery. Nothing to do with Buddha.

Well, given that the majority of our population are Hindus, not Buddhists, I'd say your conclusions about Buddha being involved are a little off.

Yes, there was much chest-beating and a misplaced sense of pride in the 1998 Nuclear test, but I attribute some of that to the long-standing border conflict with Pakistan.

Regardless, we're still a democratic country, far less likely to operate on the whims of a military dictator (hello, Pakistan) and send nukes across the border. So to answer your original assertion, being jubiliant about developing nuclear capability doesn't automatically put us in the nuthouse and "high risk" category. Both countries, despite their bravado, know that a nuclear war is not feasible for either side.
posted by madman at 11:19 PM on July 20, 2005


Well, given that the majority of our population are Hindus, not Buddhists, I'd say your conclusions about Buddha being involved are a little off.

Hrm. Actually, I think I know where SweetJesus got this idea. "smiling buddha" was the codename for the first device India exploded, back in '74.

This might be what he misremembered....
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 PM on July 20, 2005


Japan would almost certainly go nuclear

Share your information with us. The consensus seems to be that Japan doesn't have nuclear weapons.
posted by biffa at 2:18 AM on July 21, 2005


China could not take Taiwan any more than the Nazis could have taken Britain. Taiwan and the US have pretty much total air and naval superiority, even though the chinese could probably land a lot of troops, they would never be able to supply them. China would also be the underdog in any nuclear confrontation. Also, a lot of their economical growth and pretty much all diplomatic progress with western countries would be undone by such an operation. Now the chinese leaders are not stupid, they know all this. The reason why a chinese general would make such thinly veiled nuclear threats is that the chinese want to keep the Taiwanese sufficiently scared so that they won't pursue their independence too hard.
This is not to say that the situation is not volatile. But neither the fuse nor the match that might light the fuse have been lit.
posted by lazy-ville at 2:30 AM on July 21, 2005


economic concerns trump everything else.

Read more history.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:19 AM on July 21, 2005


Three simple reasons why it'll never happen.

(1) China is a nuclear power. There can be no 'limited engagement' with China. War with China would be fantastically bloody.

(2) There could be no coalition. China is kind of like WalMart. Everybody wants to trade with them. Nobody wants to potentially lock themselves out of the next big market. Again, there could be no limited engagement.

(3) There's far, far, far too much money to be made with peace. The US attacking China would be economic suicide for the entire world. It would bring down the US economy overnight (watch those rates climb!) and the world would follow. The WW2 situation isn't comparable.

Economic concerns do indeed trump everything. If China did make a serious play for Taiwan (and this is relatively unlikely, again see #3) it wouldn't be another Iraq. The US would appeal to the UN, and there would be a decision process set up very quickly. Again, there's nobody on the planet, in either camp, that wants to see such a conflict.
posted by nixerman at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2005


Well, given that the majority of our population are Hindus, not Buddhists, I'd say your conclusions about Buddha being involved are a little off.

Well, I know that, but I was trying to remember something I read and saw probably 2 years ago. Cut me a break. But, consequently, mr_roboto remembered for me why Buddha stuck in my head.

Regardless, we're still a democratic country, far less likely to operate on the whims of a military dictator (hello, Pakistan) and send nukes across the border. So to answer your original assertion, being jubilant about developing nuclear capability doesn't automatically put us in the nuthouse and "high risk" category. Both countries, despite their bravado, know that a nuclear war is not feasible for either side.

Well, I'm more than a little disturbed by the creeping nationalism embodied by the BJP. Its good to hear they weren't able to form a government, but that doesn't rule anything out in the future. To me (not having visited India, but from what I've read), it seems that there is a common perception that nuclear weapons are the "ultimate" answer, and the solution to all global conflicts. India sees (or, at least the BJP saw) nuclear weapons as India's way into G8, and as a way to gain respect on the world stage.

Consequently, to justify the expense and the public toll, they tried to inter-connect Hinduism with nuclear weapons. That is cause for concern. Being out of power for one year doesn't reverse anything, they've already poisoned the well.

And please don't talk about Democracy when 25% of Indians are Dalits.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:05 AM on July 21, 2005


It looks more like a sixth of India's population are Dalits, from what I can see. 1, 2 And they can vote. Not only that, but they benefit from affirmative action in legislatures and the bureaucracy. So yes, discrimination still exists in Indian civil society, but to say that invalidates Indian claims to democracy is akin to claiming that the U.S. isn't a democracy when we still have racial discrimination here.

If you really wanted to criticize India's internal affairs, you might point to the continuing occupations of Kashmir and Punjab, as well as various intercaste and intercommunal massacres that crop up from time to time (sometimes with clandestine assistance from local government officials). But India's government is still secular, they still have free and fair elections, expression of dissent and discontent in print and on the street are not only possible but quite common, people can practice their religions as they choose - in short, India is far more of a liberal democracy than China in practically every way.

That said, I also doubt that India would get involved in a Sino-American war over Taiwan. India's beef with China concerns their common border, not some island in another ocean half a continent away. It is a strong ally of neither Taiwan nor the U.S. At most, India would shut down trade and cut diplomatic ties with China, if the latter attacked first. The U.S. wouldn't need India in the war (for bases, airspace, or war materiel), and is not likely to press it for assistance.
posted by skoosh at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2005


The 21st Century will be known as the Chinese Century.

Yes.

However, its victory over the US won't be military but economic.

Yes.

You should be very afraid.

No. Economics ain't a zero-sum game. :)
posted by lbergstr at 10:59 AM on July 21, 2005


biffa writes "The consensus seems to be that Japan doesn't have nuclear weapons."

By "go nuclear", I meant "develop a nuclear weapons program". Sorry for the lack of clarity.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:23 AM on July 21, 2005


It looks more like a sixth of India's population are Dalits, from what I can see. 1, 2 And they can vote. Not only that, but they benefit from affirmative action in legislatures and the bureaucracy. So yes, discrimination still exists in Indian civil society, but to say that invalidates Indian claims to democracy is akin to claiming that the U.S. isn't a democracy when we still have racial discrimination here.

You're probably right, that figure was based off a quick Google search. It wasn't my intention to compare China's human rights records (which is abhorrent) to India's, as if two wrongs make a right. It was more of a response to the "Hey, look at Pakistan" comment, the pot calling the kettle black. Democracy has nothing to do with the ability to protect nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands, in the long-term. What happens in the event of a nationalist coup? What if the BJP were to get back into power?

Fostering that sort of nuclear-worship is irresponsible, especially at a government level. So, it really gives me no comfort that India is a democracy, at least when you have politicians talking about Hinduism being intertwined with nuclear weapons. I feel the exact same way about the Pakistan. I feel the same way about the right in this country when they talk about God and morality being intertwined.

But at least morallity won't cook me from the inside-out. I can't say the same for nuclear weapons.
posted by SweetJesus at 11:38 AM on July 21, 2005


Military prowess aside, afu made a great post addressing the current situation and attitudes in China. While recent events do support the possibility of an invasion, I think it's unlikely to occur. In my view, unless China has aspirations that reach beyond Taiwan, China has little to gain and everything to lose by taking Taiwan through force. Taiwan's semiconductor and manufacturing industries are heavily invested in China. A significant portion of China's GDP is in exports to North America, Europe, and neighboring Asian countries. In short, most of China's last decade of economic progress is directly attributable to heavy investment from and export trade to the very nations whose relationships with China would be at risk in the event of a Taiwanese invasion.

The upside of a successful invasion? China gets a rocky piece of land the size of Connecticut with no natural resources, crappy ports, little strategic value, and a native population that has no love for its new conquerors, not to mention a significant hit to its export business in all parts of the world and alienation from the global community. Speaking from experience in a traditional family, if there's anything that could make Chinese accept "losing face," it's losing money.
posted by junesix at 11:44 AM on July 21, 2005


That and what the hell is so great about Taiwan that you would risk going up against the one nation on earth that could crush you to get it?

Taiwan is a great place, and of the two self-identified Chinas it's the one that actually has freedom, democracy, and a good standard of living. When I was living there, in the late '70s, this could not have been said: the KMT (ruling party) was viciously repressive. But, miracle of miracles, the country has somehow de-repressified itself (whaddaya mean, that's not a word? I'm languagehat, and if I use it, it's a word, dammit) and is a vibrant, contentious, alive place. This is one of the few long-term success stories of US foreign policy in the postwar era; if it hadn't been for American support (based, yes, on reprehensible Cold War motives) the people of Taiwan would have suffered even worse than other Chinese over the last 60 years (worse because they would have been seen as "fascist gangsters" and borne the brunt of all the repressions of the '50s, '60s, and '70s). Everybody else in the world was ready to leave them to their fate; I'm proud my country didn't, and I don't want it to now.

As to the possibility of war, none of us knows, but those of you who smugly tout the primacy of economics have your heads deeply in the sand. Most wars are insane from the economic point of view; countries invade other countries for all sorts of reasons of foolish pride, internal politics, you name it. Look at the War of Jenkin's Ear or the Eritrea-Ethiopia war of the '90s or (directly relevant here) China's invasion of Vietnam in 1979. Chinese (including those in Taiwan) believe Vietnam is historically part of China; the fact that it broke free a thousand years ago doesn't matter. You think a mere half-century of independent existence carries any weight? China wants very badly to reincorporate what it believes to be its territory as much as Americans believe Texas to be theirs, and if they see a chance to do it without nuclear annihilation, they will, regardless of economic cost.
posted by languagehat at 12:56 PM on July 21, 2005


Off-topic: This has been a great thread with some terrific answers, and I'm sad to see it's now off the front page.

On-topic: languagehat has the basic reason why China is going to go full-tilt in making sure that Taiwan continues to be a part of the mainland. China's governement has always made a huge deal about what is there property (even if it hasn't been part of China for a thousand years). Plus, China has been using Taiwan as focus-point to create rampant nationalism. By drumming external involvement, mostly the U.S.'s I'm afraid, they've made Taiwan's search for independence into an attack on China's soveriegnty. To release Taiwan without any fight would be admitting defeat, and in country that seems to rely dramatically on propaganda, I'm not sure they would want that.

(where the hell is my spellcheck?)
posted by cyphill at 2:13 PM on July 21, 2005


« Older I'm looking to compile some bo...   |  My partner shows all the class... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.