The Next War?
December 14, 2004 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Is the next war unavoidable? China is now building a large amphibious fleet, with the sole purpose of invading Taiwan. This joins its ever-growing and formidable surface and submarine fleets. Thousands of coastal surface-to-surface missiles, with dozens added each month, now face Taiwan. For its part, Taiwan is considering an $18 Billion arms purchase from the US. India is ramping up its military might, and even Japan is changing its neutral defense policies. Is a major Asian conflict coming soon?
posted by kablam (105 comments total)
Great. I just spent the first four hours of this fine Tuesday thinking happy thoughts and now this. Thankfully, this is all on the other side of the world from Colorado so it can't possibly affect my little world, can it.

*sighs, turns mind back to work*
posted by kozad at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2004

Gridlock Trumps War In Taiwan .
posted by xowie at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2004

A major asian conflict could definitely be an economic boon to the American aerospace/defense industry. This could help finance additional American wars in the middle east, which could in turn...

Wait, is it 1984 yet?
posted by Flem Snopes at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2004

Piece on NPR this morning discussing the possibility of the EU lifting the arms embargo against China. Specific mention is made of China's fear of European weapons in Taiwan.
posted by trey at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2004

anyone ever read Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card? It was a lot like this.
posted by skrike at 9:12 AM on December 14, 2004

Never get involved in a land war in Asia. It's the most famous classic blunder.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2004

posted by PossumCowboy at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2004

and here I thought war with China would be about Oil... silly me.
posted by Hanover Phist at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2004

Thankfully we can all take peaceful comfort in knowing the price of HDTVs and other electronic imported goods should still stay the same.
posted by Peter H at 9:41 AM on December 14, 2004

The Globe and Mail did a special china feature about a month ago, and one of the interesting points they made was that there are some projections indicating China will be on par with the U.S. in a non-nuclear conflict in the Pacific Theatre in between five and ten years.... so a great deal of the current projections w/r/t china's still being years behind aren't necessarily important, because if there is going to be a war, it's going to be at china's doorstep, giving them a pretty significant boost.
posted by cmyr at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2004

I have a feeling the United States cares more about economic ties with China than Taiwan's independence.

America doesn't love freedom. It loves money.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 9:44 AM on December 14, 2004

Aren't those the same things?

posted by shawnj at 9:45 AM on December 14, 2004

None of you are making any sense.

(drains a beercan, belches, eats a dorito,
clicks on Homeshopping Network holiday special,
dials phone to buy a Rhoomba)
posted by Peter H at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2004

posted by Peter H at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2004

Thankfully we can all take peaceful comfort in knowing the price of HDTVs and other electronic imported goods should still stay the same.

You sure about that? Where do Intel, AMD and IBM make their chips?
posted by black8 at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2004

I really don't think India and China will ever go to war. I think India will play Canada to China's US when the time comes, knowing that China could crush them in a war (they've been defeated before).

Sadly, I've never seen how defending Taiwan from China is in anyone's interest except that of the US. And not even. So, I don't think the escalation will be worth anyone's while. Poor Taiwan.

Can anyone explain to me why China wants it aside from the point of nationalistic pride?
posted by metaculpa at 9:49 AM on December 14, 2004

...on par with the U.S. in a non-nuclear conflict...

Who said anything about no nukes?
posted by Hanover Phist at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2004

black8, well - I'm not sure but doesn't China have the cheapest labor/exports of all of them? I ask this because I don't know but remember hearing something about it somewhere. (apologies for vague ignorance, too) Isn't it China that has the big trade deals with Walmart and all that? (again, something I swear I've heard but will happily admit to being wrong)
posted by Peter H at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2004

Is a major Asian conflict coming soon?


It just depends on your definition of "soon." The current situation in Asia is very reminiscent of pre-WWI Europe. You've got a group of nations that all have their own agendas, wants, and needs and they're not going to bend at all when it comes to fulfillment.

China is, of course, the big he-bull in the Asian sphere. They've got the population, and the economic powerhouse to back it. Sure, India has a huge population, but they have nowhere near the wherewithall China possessess in terms of money and manufacturing.

Meanwhile, you've got at least three nuclear powers in the region, India, Pakistan, and China. There's more than a halfway decent change that North Korea has nuclear capabilities. Even if they don't they surely have the capacity to produce a dirty bomb. North Korea is a loose cannon. The current rumours circulating around Asia is that Kim Jung Il is distraught over the death of his favourite mistress and that the country might now be under the control of the army. The way North Korea works, it's isolation, and it's totalitarian regime makes it very hard to confirm such rumours.

So an abbreviated scorecard reads like this. India and Pakistan are at odds and lobbing missiles at each other in a deadly game of "I'm not touching you." This puts both of them at odds with China who wants nothing less than a nuclear conflict on its northern borders. North Korea hates everybody, including itself. China is no longer it's official guardian as Kim Jung Il's regime increasingly alienated their Southern allies. China wants Taiwan back so bad it can taste it. Taiwan wants Chinese rule like most people pine for cancer. Japan and both Koreas don't really see eye to eye. Every now and again North Korea will fire a dummy missile over the Japanese islands just to prove they can hit them. China wouldn't mind ruling all of Asia, but knows that the international community wouldn't approve. (Keep in mind, the Chinese name for China, Zhonghua, means "Middle Kingdom." That is, the centre of the world.) Japan's so-called rejection of war is a feel-good story anyway. After all, no country is just going to let itself be invaded, unless it's France, and France isn't in the Pacific. (Unless you count Tahiti, and that's a whole different conflict of its own.) Oh yeah, China never forgave Japan for the Manchurian Incidents during the Second World War, especially Nanking. And I'm not even going to go into the problems in Southeast Asia.

All you need now is a spark. An assassination would do it. It worked for the Austro-Hungarian empire. An invasion would work, that triggered World War II.
posted by GreatWesternDragon at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2004

The year to fear for Taiwan: 2006?
posted by homunculus at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2004

Taiwan's latest election actually goes against this theory: the party that won the majority is the party that wants to regain relations with China. In fact, they may not go through with the $18B weapons deal because of lack of support. The BBC article is here. [more here]
posted by escher at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2004

I don't know that a major conflict is coming, or even possible. That part of Asia has been relatively stable for decades, and while tensions remain, India and Pakistan haven't fought a real war in years. Neither has China. Given that everyone in the region has nuclear weapons or access to the technology, what would be worth fighting over? Resources? Empire? Oil? Ideology? Religion? Possible, but I can't see it. Outside of Taiwan, that is, which will likely be resolved well before the US and China lob ICBMs at each other. The US certainly has interests, but as mentioned is rapidly losing its relative influence in the region.

I think it's interesting to speculate over another Sino-Russian conflict, however. Siberia is a plum, full of oil, gas and other resources that a maturing Chinese economy is practically salivating over, not to mention Japan and the other economies of the region. Who knows how things will work out, but if there is to be a flashpoint for conflict in the Far East, my money's on Siberia, not Taiwan.
posted by loquax at 10:09 AM on December 14, 2004

Is a major Asian conflict coming soon?

You worry too much... Since when has a stable, prosperous country invaded another sovereign nation in recent history? This is the 21st century after all!
posted by wfrgms at 10:10 AM on December 14, 2004

Im afraid I have been out of things for a time but I can not ever recall the US stating that it would defend Taiwan from the Chinese...I may be wrong on this. Our economic ties to China are getting closer and closer and thus it would not make sense for either country to want to go to war against the other... As for oil: China's needs are huge, and both countries are already competing for this resource. It will get "brisker."
posted by Postroad at 10:10 AM on December 14, 2004

How long did the US and USSR face off? How many trillions of dollars were spent of weapons system after weapons system over the span of that half century or so? Did any of the nukes actually get fired in anger by either side? Take a deep breath folks, its called brinksmanship, I know we forgot what it was like over the last decade or so, but hey, we also forgot about 80's fashions and see, they're back too.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2004

My NYTimes Sunday Edition had somewhere in it about elections in Taiwan favoring pro-PRC representatives.

The ROC may yet get absorbed as another "Special Administrative Region" of the PRC.
posted by linux at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2004

Where do Intel, AMD and IBM make their chips?

Taiwan has about 50% of the world's chip fab capacity, mcuh of which is contract fab. IBM has fabs in NY and VT, Intel in CA, but the all surely do business with Taiwan, too.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2004

MUCH. Damn.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:23 AM on December 14, 2004

We TOTALLY need a new war, 'cause the current one fucking SUCKS.
posted by mkultra at 10:26 AM on December 14, 2004

Long live the heroes of the eighteenth of November!
posted by ackptui at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2004

I agree with mkultra, this one's getting pretty boring.
posted by borkingchikapa at 10:43 AM on December 14, 2004

I suggest we war with Cuba.
posted by effwerd at 10:50 AM on December 14, 2004

It's pronounced "vendetta".
posted by dhoyt at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2004

I can not ever recall the US stating that it would defend Taiwan from the Chinese

The U.S. did sign a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan in 1954, but it was terminated in 1980.

But, yes, I don't think a war is likely given China's economic involvement with the U.S. (and the rest of the world). Particularly, I don't think China would want to jeopardize its access to foreign capital and technology for the sake of immediate reunification.
posted by Kevin1911 at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2004

GreatWesternDragon: You forgot the part where the West has become fat, lazy, complacent, and increasingly reliant on Far East manufacturing. If WWII broke out today, I doubt we would have the will, the strength or the ability to suceed like we did in the 40s.
posted by keswick at 11:04 AM on December 14, 2004

AMD also just opened a chip fab in Dresden.
posted by oaf at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2004

no country is just going to let itself be invaded, unless it's France

France lost 1,357,000 soldiers (16.36%) and 40,000 civilians in WW1.

Then in WW2 it lost another 210,000 soldiers and 350,000 civilians.

I note that mainly by limiting its engagement to late in the war when the Wehrmacht was largely exhausted, and through having the luxury of fighting not on its own soil, US casualties were relatively low:

WW1: 126,000 soldiers (2.89%) and negligible civilian casualties.

WW2: 292,000 soldiers and 6,000 civilians.

If you scale these numbers up for the relative sizes of the US and French populations, the you see that the myth that France "let" itself be invaded is childish. The French fought tenaciously against the most powerful military on the planet at that time. After their conventional forces disintegrated and the Vichy regime seized power, the resistance fought even more strongly against the occupiers, inflicting signficant losses on the Germans at the cost of an abnormally high number of civilian deaths.

I am really more interested in why anti-Gallicism seems to prevalent in the US. I think it's a combination of things that began with competition with Quebec for control over newly-conquered North American territories.

Today the popularity of identitity politics in the US means that practically every ethnic group with recent sizable immigration has strong advocacy groups watching for public expressions of racism and curtailing or opposing their nascent expression.

Except the French. Because French immgrants have never gone to the US in large numbers they lack an effective political force. Thus publicly acceptable racism, denied an avenue against people with black skin, with yellow skin, or from eastern or southern Europe, finds an outlet against France and French-Americans. It's the only overtly racist discourse allowed, in fact practically state-sponsored, on the mainstream media.

And so this racist environment spills over into all walks of life. Thus we see a stereotypical denigration of France thrown into a discussion about Asia for no conceivably valuable reason, save to display some unconscious visceral feelings of disgust for France that have been planted in many people's brains.
posted by meehawl at 11:22 AM on December 14, 2004

We will forget Taiwan.
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:22 AM on December 14, 2004

"AMD also just opened a chip fab in Dresden."


Dresden's been up for years. Sure, they just completed installation of facilities to support another shrink in feature size, but Fab30/Saxony isn't new.
posted by majick at 11:33 AM on December 14, 2004

Amen, meehawl. Often forgotten was well is that French took nearly 250,000 casualties in trying to defend the low countries against the Wehmacht in the early fighting, and basically were out maneuvered (They were also fighting using trench warfare against an enemy who had moved on to more modern tactics) and out gunned (the French didn't remilitarize to any significant degree after WWI such as the Germans did), and ultimately as you put it, betrayed by their political leadership.

That "if it weren't for us (and by "us" I mean my grandfather's generation) you'd all be speaking German" crap never ceases to annoy me. If it weren't for them, we'd be the largest member of the Commonwealth.
posted by Flem Snopes at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2004

So the United States wouldn't defend the democratic and freedom loving Taiwanese people from an invasion by a communist Chinese empire? I am so naive...

Why is all the crap in IKEA made in China anyways? Shouldn't they invade Sweden.
posted by disgruntled at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2004

Between The Grand Chessboard and that PNAC letter, I'd this was all laid out publicly in 1997. Everyone is still playing according to the script, imo.
posted by clubfoote at 11:43 AM on December 14, 2004

I feel bad for Taiwan. I am sure that dollars will come before democracy when it comes time for the US to decide which side it's on.

OTOH, an asian war might be good for the US, as it will take some of the spotlight off of us and maybe even allow us to be the 'good guys' again, assuming we choose the proper side.
posted by eas98 at 11:52 AM on December 14, 2004

Shouldn't they invade Sweden.

That would actually be a piece of cake because, as we all know, Sweden doesn't have an army.
posted by Flem Snopes at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2004

meehawl: i'm sick of all the brain-free french hating too. my father, a bush brownnoser and republican apologist, when challenged with facts such as you posted, brushes them off and launches into a tirade about "what an asshole de Gaulle was in WW2". shrugs.
posted by quonsar at 11:55 AM on December 14, 2004

How ironic this should be posted today.

Just last night I caught the last half of a documentary about the guys that worked on India's Bomb project.

Towards the end, they had an interview with the head project manager (the the guy that I took to be the Indian equivalent of Oppenheimer (and no, I'm too lazy to Google to find out his name at this moment)).

He was asked to comment about possible targets and the range of current and near future Indian ballistic missiles.

He essentially said, what's the point to having a missile that has a range of 800 or so kilometers? 1800 to 2000 is much more practicable? Before the interviewer could get the next (inevitable) questions out, he simply stated: "China".

I looked over at my wife and said, "I knew it. They've been tweaked since '59 when the Chinese grabbed Tibet with way more than enough men and then just stopped. A lot of people in India, and a lot of people that specialize in South Asian strategic studies, took that as a warning shot. This could turn out to be really bad."

"I am become Death, the Shatterer of Worlds."

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of Los Alamos
Quoting Hindu scripture upon seeing the first atomic bomb test
posted by Relay at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2004

China doesn't want to get into any conflict with us, it's making too much money off of its economic dealings with the U.S. to want to mess this up.

The speculation about a pan-Asian war is just a mindless continuation of the same warplanning that went on at the Pentagon during the decade after the Cold War died out. Since there were no more big bad Communists to look out for, how ever were the generals and admirals to justify all of their newfangled defense systems? Why, China, of course! It's not a danger now, of course, they said, but we have to get ready in a decade when the Chinese Army just might be a big enough threat to give us a touch of the willies. You know what happened after that - we planned for something that never happened and let 9/11 sneak up on us.

borkingchikapa's comment that the Iraq war is getting "boring" brought to light the real problem. Yeah, we'd prefer a war when people would fight us straight up WWII-style, not all this ambiguous hit and run stuff. What fun is a war if you don't even have an idea who you're fighting, right?

Unfortunately, no one's going to be brainless enough to fight us toe-to-toe, because they know we can beat up anyone stupid enough to try. If we were willing to bomb Iraq into rubble for questionable reasons, what would we do to someone threatening us with ICBM;s, turn their country into a nuclear parking lot? So, we fantasize about a simpler enemy, looking only at troop statistics when we have no idea as to what are their real motivations or thought processes.
posted by Leege at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2004

How about two simultaneous asian land wars? We've already got one going.

If the PRC continues to become more capitalistic, the Taiwanese may decide to rejoin the mainland without a war. The cities in China have undergone enormous change in the last ten years, and are now largely modern. (This is based on my observations in Beijing over the last five years, and in Chongqing and Guangzhou last year.) My sense is that the Taiwanese still identify themselves as Chinese first, and object only to the mainland's form of government. As that government loosens its restrictions on the PRC economy, the Taiwanese may decide that it's not completely evil, after all.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:34 PM on December 14, 2004

Don't forget the recent arrest of Chinese dissident intellectuals.

I want to raise metaculpa's question again: what exactly is China going for, other than national pride?

I spent the summer hanging out with Chinese grad students in Qingdao, and found them amazingly open-minded about international affairs. Except for the question of Taiwan--they all seem persuaded that it is an necessity.

The only two remotely rational explanations that I got were:
1) The people of Taiwan want reunification, it's just the leadership that doesn't and
2) Taiwan could be a beach-head for an invasion of the mainland, so China should control it.
posted by allan at 12:38 PM on December 14, 2004

One of the biggest lies heard in the American media is that China may invade Taiwan. China has 1300 million people, so how can Taiwan with only 22 million people possibly defend itself. The simple answer is 100 miles of water, known as the Taiwan straits. A Chinese invasion would require an amphibious force larger than the Anglo-American force which landed at Normandy in 1944. China has only 10% of the naval power needed just to attempt a difficult invasion against Taiwan, which has only three practical landing sites, all heavily fortified. Anyone who performs some quick research will find that no expert believes China is capable of invading Taiwan, nor that it is building the naval force needed. All major powers acquire new warships every year, but every new Chinese warship is treated as proof of growing Chinese power by the American media.

The air forces among these two nations are considered an even match. China has more aircraft, but Taiwan has more sophisticated fighters with pilots who are much better trained. In addition, Taiwan's fighters operating in a defensive role would have the advantages of Taiwanese ground radar, E-2C airborne radar, and surface-to-air missile support. The Chinese Air Force could inflict damage on Taiwan, but would lose most of its Air Force in the process. It could fire some 300 missiles at Taiwan, but they are not precision guided and would have no military effect. In short, a massive Chinese air and missile attack could kill a thousand Taiwanese and cause some damage, but China's airpower would be sacrificed.

Likewise, the larger Chinese Navy could attempt to blockade Taiwan, but would be gradually sunk by sophisticated Taiwanese anti-ship and anti-submarine weaponry. Last May, Professor of the U.S. Naval War College, appeared on C-Span and informed America that China cannot invade Taiwan, and would be hard pressed to to blockade the island. The American media ignored this news, but made the U.S. offer to sell Taiwan "new" weapons a major story. Taiwan's lukewarm reaction confused most reporters. What happened is that the Pentagon was asked to develop a list of weapons to offer Taiwan, so the Generals and Admirals recommended that Taiwan buy used American weapons which they plan to retire. Most of these weapons are unsuitable for Taiwan's needs, and are overpriced considering their age.

Despite the image of a growing China superpower portrayed in the American media, China's military remains second class. Estimates of Chinese military spending range from the CIA's $12.6 billion a year, to $37.5 billion by the respected Institute of Strategic Studies, whose latest "1999" data will be cited throughout this article. Interestingly, both China and Taiwan (which spends $10.7 billion annually) devote a smaller percentage of their GDP to their military than the USA, which spent a whopping $305.4 billion in 1999. President Bush has also proposed a two-year increase in military spending that will exceed China's entire military budget. In contrast, news reports of China's "big military build-up" over the past two years fail to note that it just matches its economic growth, and amounts only $4 billion more each year. China does have nuclear weapons, but the USA has many times more and would use them to retaliate if Taiwan were nuked.

The most ignored aspect of the China-Taiwan conflict is China's other national security concerns. It has a long disputed border with unstable Russia (which spends $55.0 billion each year on its military). China also has a disputed border with India ($10.7 billion) which resulted in a short war in 1962 and a 1986 border clash. India's population will surpass China's by 2020, and Indians are irritated by Chinese military sales to their archrival Pakistan. Tensions with Vietnam ($0.9 billion) remain since 1979 when China invaded to teach them a lesson about invading Cambodia, resulting in a stalemate which killed 55,000 Chinese. Finally, China is wary of the Japanese, who killed millions of its citizens during World War II. Japan spends more on its military than China ($41.1 billion in 1999) and possesses the most powerful air and naval force in the Western Pacific. Japan may seem docile today, but politicians change quickly, and all Asian nations worry since Japan has begun building amphibious ships.

China's leaders have profited from better relations with the West. They are modernizing and enjoying the benefits of technology and trade. Starting a winless war with Taiwan would result in trade embargos and increased internal unrest among China's diverse cultures. The billions of dollars in new Taiwanese and American investment in China would end forever. China's unfriendly neighbors would support Taiwan and deploy forces to their borders in protest. Meanwhile, China's Air Force and Navy would suffer devastating losses fighting Taiwan, leaving the entire nation vulnerable to land grabs by hostile neighbors and internal revolts. A senseless war with Taiwan would cause China would lose everything it has gained over the past 20 years.


From August of 2001, admittedly, but not totally outdated....

A full scale amphibious assault by China would be further frustrated by the poor quality of her troops, her lack of good leadership on the officer and NCO level, as well as command, control, computers and intelligence (C4I) deficiencies.

A recent report from the Pentagon provides a good gauge of the poor quality of Chinese troops and their leadership. While acknowledging that Chinese troops are generally patriotic, fit and good at basic infantry fighting skills, the report also suggested that "Ground force leadership, training in combined operations and morale are poor. The PLA is still a party army with nepotism and political/family connections continuing to pre- dominate in officer appointment and advancement. The soldiers, for the most part, are semi-literate rural peasants; there is no professional NCO corps per se. Military service, with its low remuneration and family disruption is increasingly seen as a poor alternative to work in the private sector."

Chinese capabilities are limited to the orchestration of only a few hundred air sorties a day, a direct consequence of China's poor C4I. To quote the Pentagon again, "China's C4I infrastructure cannot support large-scale, joint force projection operations at any significant distance from the country's borders."

We thus see that China currently possesses none of these four key elements necessary to conduct an amphibious assault on Taiwan.

Pointer - Journal of The Singapore Armed Forces (Apr - Jun 2003)

China has slowly developed currency as a mainstream state - for the first time ever. Should Beijing use military action against Taiwan without a horrible provocation it may well lose that image.

If a fracas with Taiwan got ugly, China's more than $50 billion a year in direct investment could dry up, jeopardizing its booming east coast manufacturing infrastructure. Its trade surplus with the US, between $60 and $100 billion a year, would likely suffer as well. New interest groups inside China - in banking, manufacturing - could begin a major grumbling campaign if money stops arriving, sources say.

"For political and economic reasons [a military solution to Taiwan] is a big loser for them," says Derek Mitchell, Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "China wants to focus on internal development, peace, and stability. They don't want to signal that they solve problems with a gun."

Military action could also destabilize Asia. China would force small regional states to choose between the US and China - something few want to do.

More significantly, cross-straits violence could waken a deeply contentious undercurrent between Japan and China. Should China attack Taiwan, nationalist factions in Tokyo could have "every excuse they need," one Japanese scholar says, to develop the nuclear-weapons capability that many in Tokyo are already hinting about.

The consequences could bring a changed Japanese economic strategy: The Japanese would do everything they could, a Tokyo source in a Taiwan trading house states, to redirect the markets of Asia, including its own, away from China. "We will lose money" to restructure east Asian markets and "change the future," the source says.

Nor would Moscow ignore an attack on Taiwan. On the contrary, a foreign diplomat here argues that military action across the straits could provide Moscow an excuse to sell oil exclusively to Japan. Russia is not desirous of China developing quickly into a superpower; it can use oil as a stick, not a carrot, in the relationship. An aggressive China "presses a lot of old historical buttons," for Russia says one diplomat. A pipeline across Siberia that may well branch off to both China and Japan could be scrapped - leaving Japan the sole beneficiary. Oil is a highly sensitive question in Beijing: China reportedly has only a 20-day reserve, and is now 75 percent reliant on the Middle East.

Finally, China has no desire to destroy its relationship with the US.

Would China invade Taiwan? Christian Science Monitor
posted by y2karl at 12:38 PM on December 14, 2004

I welcome our French neighbors, O great bringers of the Crossan'wich and the Wendy's Chicken Cordon Bleu sammich.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:38 PM on December 14, 2004

Wow Meehawl, damn.

Okay you're going to make me come clean aren't you? Okay I actually don't believe what I wrote about France. I don't. France didn't just sit back and take the invasion like I said they did.

You see, what I wrote is called "a joke." I know that such things may be sparse and nonforthcoming around here. Howeve I do like to maintain a sense of humour when talking about history, since many people find history to be boring at best and irrelevant at worst.

Seeing as how I am a historian, with degree, and a secondary specialty in World War II. I know well how France fought and how well it's underground functioned in the fight against the Nazis. But I'm also very aware of mistakes made by France and all countries during the war.

Can anyone say Maginot Line? And, for balance, there's this take.

My apologies if I offended any Frogs. (Psst, this is also a joke.)
posted by GreatWesternDragon at 12:45 PM on December 14, 2004

y2karl, when you copy and paste an entire article even after linking to it, it is really fucking annoying.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 12:57 PM on December 14, 2004

"How about two simultaneous asian land wars? We've already got one going."

I seem to recall Afghanistan is also in Asia. So that would actually be two going right now.

Interesting post, and good response y2karl... but even tho I know it's your style, you probably don't need to do more than post the links. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2004

(Keep in mind, the Chinese name for China, Zhonghua, means "Middle Kingdom." That is, the centre of the world.)

?? originally referred to a certain set of states in the central area of what is now the PRC. It also eventually gained the connotation of a centrally-administered state, e.g., one that was not run in a federalist/feudalist manner; also it was sometimes used to refer to the areas around the capital (a different sort of central.)
After the fall of the Han, separate empires in the region began to refer to themselves as ??, and the enemy or rival empires as something else (usually derogatory.) It took on a sense of meaning the 'true China', the legitimate kingdom of the Chinese world.

It has never meant anything like 'the centre of the world'.
posted by blacklite at 1:30 PM on December 14, 2004

Hey, that is weird. When I previewed that, the chinese characters displayed fine, now that it's posted, I just get '??'.
posted by blacklite at 1:31 PM on December 14, 2004

Over the years, the US has been buying billions of dollars worth of cheap plastic crap from China. China (and other central banks) now have a huge dollar surplus.

In respect of a Sino-Taiwanese conflict. What leverage do you think China might exert on the US if it were to, say, threaten to dump some of this paper on the market.?

Especially right about now say?

No - when the shit hits the fan the US will stay out. And at the risk of sounding gnomic, I believe China will have Taiwan.

One the things about the Chinese that is hard for us to truly grasp is that they have been around for a while and expect to be around for a while more. They don't think in terms of four year - election driven - plans. They do think carefully and strategically - something the US hasn't done in a while.
posted by fingerbang at 1:31 PM on December 14, 2004

Sweden doesn't have an army.
Then what is the mandatory service in that the men are required to do two years?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:34 PM on December 14, 2004

They do think carefully and strategically

So did the Soviets.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:40 PM on December 14, 2004

The United States doesn't even fully recognize Taiwan. Look at the CIA World Factbook for Taiwan - first notice in the drop-down list that Taiwan is at the bottom, after Zimbabwe. Then you can read that there aren't "official" diplomatic relations. I believe it's some sort of sticking point in relations with mainland China - if we even said "Taiwan is independent," they would diplomatically flip a shit.

"Sweden doesn't have an army.
Then what is the mandatory service in that the men are required to do two years?"

We know Sweden has an army. Bush thinks Sweden is "the neutral country."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:44 PM on December 14, 2004


Dresden's been up for years. Sure, they just completed installation of facilities to support another shrink in feature size, but Fab30/Saxony isn't new.

Fab 30 has been up, but AMD did just start a fab in Dresden—Fab 36, which is not an upgrade to Fab 30, but a separate facility. My point is that AMD's newest facility went to Germany, not China.
posted by oaf at 2:00 PM on December 14, 2004

Anyway, besides that being false, it is also silly; every sufficiently ancient civilization has considered themselves the centre of the world at once point. You have to put something in the middle of a map. It certainly doesn't mean that China has more hubris than anyone else.

The current state of global economics and politics seems to indicate that, in the long run, the big powers don't actually need to invade local compliant weak countries. It would be a waste of effort. Example: Canada. Canada is huge, has trillions of tonnes of important natural resources including the (estimated) largest single oil deposit in the world, the Athabasca Tar Sands, a strong, productive, technological economy, and a fair bit of money (per capita, anyway.) If we were living in a time before the global capitalist market, any number of countries might want to invade Canada, but in the current climate, Canada is basically owned by the United States. The Canadian government is trying to lean a bit further from them, and there have been definite murmurings about a trade war, but realistically I don't think we (Canada) will be able to pull it off.

China exercises so much influence over the nearby countries that it just has to twitch a bit and things happen. It clearly will not hesitate to invade (see Tibet). The Taiwan issue is definitely sticky, and it is definitely a matter of national pride -- it does not look very good to have someone claim that they are the proper and legitimate instantiation of your own country -- but Taiwan is very well defended and very passionate about doing so. I don't think China needs Taiwan. Not right now, anyway.

China and India are developing more military power because they don't want to be outdated or overpowered. This is what countries need to do as a matter of course. Nothing special.

India-Pakistan, however, that could be bad. I don't know what to say about that, except that I really hope someone starts paying as much attention to Kashmir as is paid to Palestine.

(Also: it is really interesting what sort of special dispensations are given to Taiwan as a 'foreign organization' by each country, rather than as an actual 'foreign country'. Canada doesn't even issue proper diplomatic license plates to Taiwanese officials, they get special orange plates, e.g. at the bottom of this page.)
posted by blacklite at 2:04 PM on December 14, 2004

I actually don't believe what I wrote about France ... You see, what I wrote is called "a joke."

I'm glad you cleared that up. But you need to work on your delivery. Don't give up that day job!

And regarding the Maginot Line, one of the articles had this Patton quote: Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. It's a good thing Patton never went into real estate. It's all about location, location, location. I wonder how Patton's opinion might have changed had he been at Monte Cassino. Maybe he was lucky to have been relieved of his Italian command.

Fighting through Italy's difficult northern mountainous terrain bristling with forts might have made him doubt himself. I believe the Allies required 2-3 times general numerical superiority, total air control, and punishing attrition to break through the Winter Line. And they never really made much of a dent against Kesselring's Gothic Line until Germany itself was in collapse in spring 1945.
posted by meehawl at 2:17 PM on December 14, 2004

I read, probably here in Meta, that India and China may get into war against each other for women. Both counties lack women and they will fighr for them. I can't find the link. Has anyone heard about this theory?
posted by dov3 at 2:19 PM on December 14, 2004

That doesn't make any sense. If both countries lack women, then they're both poor places to invade for women.
posted by COBRA! at 2:27 PM on December 14, 2004

All righty, last post on this one, cause arguing with someone on the Internet is like running a race in the special Olympics. Time to move on.

In Zhonghua, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is traditionally considered to be the centre of the world, hence the name. The only person allowed in the Temple was the emperor.
posted by GreatWesternDragon at 2:48 PM on December 14, 2004

Cheers Meehawl, I too am rather exasperated at this endless display of (often willful) ignorance packaged as humor, especially by the US media and other propagandists. It's really just so FOX news. The best joke of the bunch was of course "Freedom Fries" but I'm fairly sure that the loudest laughter came from the rest of the world.
posted by sic at 3:10 PM on December 14, 2004

Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man. It's a good thing Patton never went into real estate.
I took the quote’s interpretation meaning; it's better in battle to be on the offensive than defending one spot, broadening your boundary lines. He did appreciate real estate, the enemy's.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:14 PM on December 14, 2004

I once read that if the whole Chinese populace were to jump up and down in unison, in rhythm, it would create a tsunami capable of destroying the entire western seaboard of the United States.

Is that true?
posted by gsb at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2004

"I am really more interested in why anti-Gallicism seems to prevalent in the US. I think it's a combination of things that began with competition with Quebec for control over newly-conquered North American territories."

Hah. It's nothing so historical or complicated. Rather, it is because the French have their "culture" and their "couture" and their "intellectualism" and their "literature". They're intellectual, refined, and proud of it. This doesn't fly in the heartland of America.

We historically approach them with an agenda based on overlown old fears and government-spawned hatred, and they respond back with calm facts. What bastards!

As we generally cannot win the rational argument with them, our country resorts to ad hominem attacks. "They're a bunch of effeminate cowards!" Nevermind that with 1500 troops in Afghanistan, they're one of our largest partners there.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:44 PM on December 14, 2004

Yes, they call it Project: Goh Pao Nao. The reason Nixon was so nice with them was because they were planning to inact the plan, obliterating us entirely. While our scientists were arguing over the logistics (exactly how high can they jump?), Nixon went through with the trade.

And now you know!
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:52 PM on December 14, 2004


In the sense that Patton was a leading practitioner of the art of manouevre war, I think you should view his comment in context: a fixed enemy can always be circumvented and dealt with later. While it is easy to point to Monte Cassino as a refutation of his thinking - in the sense that a fixed defence held up the Allied advance for many months - you're missing a critical point: in the period immediately before the Battle for Monte Cassino, it was not a prepared defensive position and the potential threat to Clark's progress was not seen until very late on. It cannot strictly be described as a "fixed fortification".

The fact that the garrison consisted mostly of German Parachute soldiers with minimal heavy weapons - essentially light infantry - demonstrates the hasty, ad hoc nature of the defence. In short, the German command made a rapid tactical decision to defend a fixed position and as such inflicted a considerable shock to the Allied generals. A similar argument could be made for all the so-called "lines" constructed by Kesselring in the course of his impeccable fighting retreat - they were not completely fixed, or known years before to the opposition and as such can be viewed as pro-active time-sensitive tactical manouevres rather than a passive sticking-out-of-the-chin for the Allies to bop as they choose.

All this said, you're right to say location, location, location because there aren't too many theatres of war with the constraints of the narrow Italian peninsula. Further, even with this advantage, Kesselring's staccato static defence only ever achieved local, tactical successes and could not forestall the strategic reality: "success" meant at best, only a delay to the inevitable retreat. This can only be pointed to as a very limited and highly specific exception to Patton's principle.
posted by pots at 3:59 PM on December 14, 2004

Meehawl: you sound like a cheese-eating surrender monkey.
posted by esquire at 3:59 PM on December 14, 2004

We historically approach them with an agenda based on overlown old fears and government-spawned hatred, and they respond back with calm facts. What bastards!

Totally untrue. The French and Americans don't like each other because both countries are full of bastards and aren't afraid to show it. The only reason France was against invading Iraq was because it was America not France doing the invading. Calm facts?! c'est absurde!
posted by chaz at 4:03 PM on December 14, 2004

There was a discussion a few days ago in regard to fingerbang's last point (and to metaculpa's and allan's question). I want to say in the Green, but I can't find it (there or in the Blue). Anyway, the point was that Chinese (sorry for the broadness) see many Asian people as Chinese, regardless of nationality. Ergo, the people on Taiwan are really Chinese (i.e., Han) (as are various other groups) and should eventual be reunited with their "siblings" on the mainland.

I should really find a link to the discussion, it was quit good....
posted by MikeKD at 4:09 PM on December 14, 2004

you sound like a cheese-eating surrender monkey

Mmmmm, cheese! Vive le Saint Agur! It's from Auvergne and it offers simple nirvana in each bite.
posted by meehawl at 4:15 PM on December 14, 2004

"The only reason France was against invading Iraq was because it was America not France doing the invading. Calm facts?! c'est absurde!"

Would you like some cheese with that whine, Chaz?
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:35 PM on December 14, 2004

Found it. The "discussion" was on /. (of all places). This is the comment I was referencing. Also, check out the whole thread (filtered at "5") for some interesting views.
posted by MikeKD at 4:43 PM on December 14, 2004

Chinese (sorry for the broadness) see many Asian people as Chinese, regardless of nationality. Ergo, the people on Taiwan are really Chinese (i.e., Han)

Hànrén / Hàn Zú ("Han people") is an overly broad classification for the ~90% of Chinese that nominally belong to the Han ethnic group. The other 10% of Chinese make up the 56 official Mínzú nationalities. Even within Han, the language differences are such that many people's spoken language diverges more than the differences between Latin-derived languages or Germanic-derived languages. How similar do you consider yourself to a German, or an Austrian? And then within the Han you've got groups like the Hakka ("guest worker families"), the Islamic Han, and many Han consider these people to be suspect.

And many people forget that as well as the descendents of the Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese invaders from the 1600s onwards, Ilha Formosa was settled and still supports a large population of aboriginal Taiwanese, the yuánzhùmín (or if you're in the PRC, the Gaoshan ("High Mountain People"), numbering around half a million and quite determined to maintain their own distinct culture. Many of the self-identified "ethnic Han" in Taiwan are in denial concerning their aboriginal Taiwanese roots and only DNA tests unequivocally display their ethnic origin.

Of course, ethnic distinctions have a way of blurring together when viewed from afar...
posted by meehawl at 4:44 PM on December 14, 2004

in the period immediately before the Battle for Monte Cassino, it was not a prepared defensive position and the potential threat to Clark's progress was not seen until very late on

Monte Cassino has been an Italian Masada since the the Roman Republic. It's always had some kind of fortification on top of it, generally maintained by religious shock troops, sorry, monks. You'd think someone would have got around to mentioning it to them.
posted by meehawl at 4:57 PM on December 14, 2004

Nice reference MikeKD, I think the /. poster was very eloquent and made some very interesting points.

What was also interesting was the (angry and defensive) reaction he provoked. Other slashdotters just couldn't get what he was trying to say.

And that, in a nutshell, proved his point.

Namely that in other places in the world - in this case China but also in the Middle East - people do not have a shared base (I want to say superstructure) of beliefs. Accordingly they think differently and in ways that often shock us.

The fact is that the attachment we have to concepts like 'democracy' and 'human rights' and 'freedom of blah' are often seen as forces that are destructive of society and must be carefully controlled or they may cause tremendous damage. (Perhaps better to say that they are seen as tools; means to an end, and not ends in themselves).

I really hate to say this but I am always struck by the fact that it is this point more than any other that Americans in particular are resistant to. I really think it will eventually prove to be their undoing.

Also, don't be confused by the name into thinking that maneuver Warfare does not extend into defense. Arguably, the 1916 German pamphlet 'On the Conduct of the Defensive Battle' was one of the drivers of this approach, and as you can guess from the title, it's not about movement, (let alone 'Centers of Gravity'. 'Boyd Cycles' and all that crap).
posted by fingerbang at 5:45 PM on December 14, 2004

what about the 2nd world axis of, uh, former and upcoming superpowers!? :D "Russia is again calling for a Moscow-New Delhi-Beijing axis, an alliance of three nuclear-armed countries of some 2.5 billion people that theoretically would be able to balance US power in coming years."

meanwhile, the US is trying to lure india into its orbit and russia and china are planning joint war games, while india and pakistan are in détente! (if not rapproching :)

not so long ago in a different world (pre-9/11) rumsfeld was cruising to shift "emphasis in United States military deployment from Europe to Asia, with China supplanting Russia as America's principal foe, [...] the heart of the Bush administration's long awaited defence strategy review." (also see the struggle for mastery in asia) recall the spy plane incident?

it followed the PNAC and NSS scripts (in the words of condoleeza rice, "to maintain a balance of power that favors freedom") all high-minded and stuff, but increasingly giving way to practical reality, whether musharraf's backtracking on democracy, putin's slide back into authoritarianism, looking the other way on uzbekistan's human rights record (we use their bases as a staging area for ME and CA deployments) and indeed matters of trade wrt china (i think they're our third largest trading partner now after canada and mexico?).

and like escher points out, increasing economic ties between taiwan and the mainland (over time -- chinese are patient :) i think will render invasion moot. only then will china revalue and buy wal-mart!

btw, meehawl makes a good point that there's native aboriginals, taiwanese-speaking hokkien and mandarin nationalists.
posted by kliuless at 5:55 PM on December 14, 2004

Fingerbang, on your post concerning democracy: manifest destiny not in land but in ideals has been what America has been seeking for several decades, at least since World War II. Kissenger outlines this viewpoint in detail in his book 'Diplomancy'. Why do you feel this will be the downfall of America?
posted by sleslie at 9:01 PM on December 14, 2004

uhm... diplomacy.
posted by sleslie at 9:03 PM on December 14, 2004

as regan sed, we're a shining city on a hill :D

america is an idea1!
posted by kliuless at 9:12 PM on December 14, 2004

uhm... reagan??
posted by sleslie at 9:15 PM on December 14, 2004

yes! but donald maybe, as an exemplum :D
posted by kliuless at 9:26 PM on December 14, 2004

The United States doesn't even fully recognize Taiwan. Look at the CIA World Factbook for Taiwan - first notice in the drop-down list that Taiwan is at the bottom, after Zimbabwe. Then you can read that there aren't "official" diplomatic relations. I believe it's some sort of sticking point in relations with mainland China - if we even said "Taiwan is independent," they would diplomatically flip a shit.

No-one recognises Taiwan, as far as I know. The S Pacific nation of Vanuatu made moves to, a few weeks ago - and they've just sacked their Prime Minister as a result. You're right, if any country recognised Taiwan formally, the PR Chinese would be very, very unhappy indeed. (Note that Taiwan (The Republic of China) was a founding member of the UN, and lost that seat to the PR China in 1971)
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:55 PM on December 14, 2004

If we've lost Vanatu, as it would appear, and we lose Grenada, as also seems possibly, I think we'd still have 25 allies left, mostly in South America and Africa.

Aborigines constitute a small minority of the population here, less than some groups of foreign workers. Taiwan is for the most part full of Han peoples who came here from mainland China. Except for the very old, just about everyone speaks and understands Mandarin and Minnan, the two major languages.

The pan-green (pro-independence) parties lost the recent legislative elections because Chen Shui-bian and Lee Teng-hui, both of whom I've met, pushed too far in radical, pro-independence rhetoric. Most people here recognize the trouble that could get us in and voted to keep the KMT and PFP in charge of the legislature. The US, via Colin Powell, dashed the green assumption that the US would defend Taiwan if it declared independence. Chen tried to tell voters to "disregard" the US state dept's warnings before the election, but at least some of the voting population could see through that. At least the guy I voted for (Wu Yu-sheng, of the KMT) got in.

Officially declaring independence would not cause any nation in the world to come to our aid, and only cause China to take extreme measures. Personally, I think the best deal Taiwan will be able to get in the long run is part of some kind of Asian confederation, if it can negotiate well enough. But anything can happen over the next few years. If Ma Ying-jeou gets the presidency in 2008, as many expect, perhaps cooler heads will prevail.
posted by Poagao at 11:41 PM on December 14, 2004

Vanuatu, etc. Sorry for the spelling errors. Also, I'm stuck in the ROC army reserves for another decade (mandatory until 45), so of course I don't look forward to any war scenarios.
posted by Poagao at 12:42 AM on December 15, 2004

Since no one even tried to answer my deadly serious comment from earlier, here's some more links regarding escalation.

Please don't drag me into this fight. pleeease!
posted by gsb at 1:35 AM on December 15, 2004

Excuse me, I responded to it, GSB
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:40 AM on December 15, 2004

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

It would probably be a sea war, but I get the movie reference. Have fun storming the castle, boys!

"If the PRC continues to become more capitalistic, the Taiwanese may decide to rejoin the mainland without a war." -- Kirth Gerson

Isn't this confusing economic liberalism with political liberalism?

y2karl's G2Mil editorial is rather good (I think I might subscribe). I think, however, it places undue emphasis on technological superiority. Remember, when the fledgling Red Army first campaigned against the Kuomintang, they had nothing. No navy, no air power, no armour that I'm aware of and very little artillery. Even their rifles were out-dated. However, the KMT was eventually forced off the Chinese mainland to - you guessed it - Taiwan

Also, I become wary whenever someone writes that such-and-such a place has only x possible amphibious landing sites. The thing is, decisive battles often begin with a surprise landing at a so-called 'impossible' landing site. MacArthur's landing at Inchon during the Korean War springs to mind.

As Poagao pointed out, China has managed to politically isolate Taiwan, mostly by way of intimidating nations who seem to be getting too close. Another strategic advantage for China.

A blockade could work for China - people who are starving can't defend themselves terribly well. Or it could backfire, by provoking other nations into coming to Taiwan's aid. By the same token, a strong pro-Taiwan line from the White House might provoke the Chinese. Or so the Chinese would have us believe.

I also think that it is unrealistic to expect economic blockades from Russia or Japan if China attacks Taiwan; recall that it was the US cutting the Japanese oil supply that provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor. Russia and Japan might not like China, but they're not prepared for a war.

One thing is for certain: for the US to go for a straight fight with China is lunacy. Even with bases in Okinawa and the Philippines, US supply lines would be vulnerable to attack. In any case, the US has always had far more success getting what it wants through political and economic means than when it chooses to employ force, and this is the line I expect the Americans will continue to take regarding Taiwan.

I don't think there'll be a war. Okay, sure, the Chinese are increasing their naval and amphibious-attack capabilities. So what? The US is spending billions on a system to shoot down ICBMs. It doesn't mean the US is going to start a thermonuclear war.

I think prior to any attack on Taiwan, the Chinese government will engage in a propaganda blitz aimed at the Chinese people. It is, after all, primarily an authoritarian government, and that's what authoritarian governments do when they're about to invade another country. There doesn't seem to be any such thing happening at the moment, so I'm inclined to believe the Taiwanese invasion plans are still on the shelf.
posted by Ritchie at 4:16 AM on December 15, 2004

India and Pakistan are at odds and lobbing missiles at each other in a deadly game of "I'm not touching you."

I was under the impression that things had calmed down somewhat.

Im afraid I have been out of things for a time but I can not ever recall the US stating that it would defend Taiwan from the Chinese...I may be wrong on this.

'Fraid so! Under a 25-year-old US law, the United States acknowledges Beijing's position that Taiwan is part of China but is bound by law to provide weapons to help Taiwan defend itself if its security is threatened.

A republican perspective on this issue.

If it weren't for them, we'd be the largest member of the Commonwealth.

Too true! Nigel Ferguson, Cambridge history don Nigel Ferguson posited this as an alternative not that long ago. Made for fascinating reading!
posted by dmt at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2004

Officially declaring independence would not cause any nation in the world to come to our aid, and only cause China to take extreme measures.

But it sounds like those extreme measures would not currently be sufficient to conquer Taiwan, so how does this make strategic sense? Why not declare independence sooner, rather than later, so that Taiwan has years to consolidate its political position before China is in a position to invade?
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:30 AM on December 15, 2004

...or is it simply that the current unspoken international recognition of Taiwan's de facto independence is political position enough, and they don't really need to declare it formally?
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:34 AM on December 15, 2004

Because, although China _might_ not be able to take Taiwan by pure force, there are lots of other nasty things it can do, via missiles, blockades, even EMP attacks. What I'm saying is, as Taiwan is about as independent as it can be under the circumstances, what good would a formal declaration do?
posted by Poagao at 7:56 AM on December 15, 2004

re: ultra-serious jumping tsunami of death. Sorry, TwelveTwo. I missed that gem amongst all white and blue, my scanning capabilities are obviously crap.
posted by gsb at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2004

The stronger Taiwan can make itself socioeconomically, the more leverage it has against China invading by force. Other nations (including the U.S.) have too much invested in China right now to risk helping Taiwan should such an invasion happen - I think most would rather pull out of Taiwanese holdings than give up trade relations with China. So officially declaring independence can't happen until they're sure they're economically powerful enough that China invading would do just as much damage to other nations' stakes in Taiwan.

On preview, Poagao's right. Limbo is pretty much all Taiwan can get right now.

I'm just hoping I'll be able to get my entire extended family out if the invasion does happen. My grandmother went through the whole Kuomintang era when Taiwanese identity was extremely suppressed in favor of one-Nationalist-China-ism, and the last time she visited here she handed me a whole stack of pro-independence pamphlets like they were Resistance documents and it was still Vichy France. Politics there is nasty business, and (just like the U.S. perhaps?) domestic issues are largely ignored in favor of external stuff.

Oh, and when I was a kid (very near the end of the KMT era ) the relatives would send over typical children's books for us to read, and now when I go home and look them over I find they're full of all sorts of subtle reunificationist propaganda. Holy kiddie-indoctrination, Batman!
posted by casarkos at 8:18 AM on December 15, 2004

I'm going to taiwan in a couple of weeks! I'll let you know if it gets invaded.

In the mean time, here's an extremely cheesy media-player promo for taiwan...
posted by leibniz at 10:59 AM on December 15, 2004

The current government of China won't go to war with Taiwan. There would need to be a major government shakeup.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 AM on December 15, 2004

"If the PRC continues to become more capitalistic, the Taiwanese may decide to rejoin the mainland without a war." -- Kirth Gerson

Isn't this confusing economic liberalism with political liberalism?

No. I deliberately made no reference to political liberalism. For most people, ideologies are complications they don't need in their lives. This is especially true among people who feel their lives are subject to forces they can't control. For them, talk of 'freedom' or 'liberty' or, yes, 'democracy' is just a reason to fear a reaction from the power structure. Witness Tianamen Square. Witness whatever Iraqi city we are currently destroying in order to root out those we call 'insurgents,' who no doubt consider themselves 'freedom fighters.' The vast majority of people in the world are more interested in providing for their families than they are in what political system they live under.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:25 PM on December 15, 2004

people who still think China is easily dismissed crack my shit up. incidentally, this is also one of the biggest reasons i lovelove the economist; they've been very matter of fact about this issue for years now. wake up, people. no empire lasts forever, though it seems inevitable for whoever's on top to go about their business as if they're the globally mandated exception. i'm not placing sure bets, but i would not be at all surprised if the shift of superpower status from the u.s. to china happens in my lifetime. if the world survives it anyway. :b
posted by ifjuly at 7:40 PM on December 16, 2004

i would not be at all surprised if the shift of superpower status from the u.s. to china happens in my lifetime

Chung Kuo is a fun Dune-esque scifi romp about a world dominated by China in the 22nd century. Or maybe the 23rd? I am not entirely sure. Anyway, it's good stuff. In this world a Chinese despot conquered most of the world around 2050, and retroactively revised all the history records to describe how China encountered the Roman Empire around 200AD, conquered them, and went on from there.

It's worth noting that Chine and Rome in reality were always seperated by the intractable Huns/Turks ("Xiongnu ") and the Parthians. China knew about Rome way before Rome knew about China. In 132 BCE Chang Ch'ien returned from mesopotamia with quite accurate descriptions of the extent of Roman influence at that time. In 97CE China dispatched an envoy called Kan Ying but he was dissuaded from finishing his journey by the Parthians, who feared losing their piece of the action from the silk trade.

Finally in 166 CE an envoy sent by Marcus Aurelius (known in China as ("An Tun") reached the Chinese capital Luoyang and was greeted by the Han Emperor Huan. There were no other diplomatic contacts recorded after that by either the Romans or the Chinese, although trade between the mediterranean and the east asian economies continued to grow until peaking in the 9th centuries when war and migrations cut off the overland trade routes for a few hundred years.
posted by meehawl at 9:43 AM on December 17, 2004

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