Sunday, October 10, 2021

Is DC Trying to Goad Beijing Into Invading Taiwan?

Ever since Barack Obama announced a "pivot to Asia," tensions between DC and Beijing have been steadily ratcheting up on various issues, ranging from plain vanilla trade wars, to "national security" theatrics around Chinese influence on tech and academia, to the status of various contested islands, to the status of Hong Kong, to the status of Taiwan.

I think there's a reasonable case to be made that the DC foreign policy establishment is showing by its actions that it wants these tensions to come to their big head with a Chinese invasion/annexation of Taiwan, rather than with just a less dramatic "new Cold War."

The big question, of course, would be "why?"

An obvious answer would be that the US military-industrial complex just really, really, really needs the US to be constantly at war, and the more expensive the war the better. China's the obvious gold standard on that count. The required mmo/bomb provisioning, base maintenance, etc. would probably make Iraq and Afghanistan look like small beans. No need to "win" anything, just keep big bucks flowing to "defense" contractors via the "defense" budget.

But what if it's more complicated than that? What if there are actual political goals involved beyond shoveling money into the maws of Boeing, Raytheon et al?

Hypothesis: Remember the 1980s, when the US goal was to turn Afghanistan into the Soviet Union's Vietnam? I think DC would like to turn Taiwan into China's Afghanistan -- a long, draining, violently opposed occupation that would keep the People's Liberation Army occupied, making it and the Chinese Communist Party look incompetent, and opening up a couple of very real foreign and domestic areas for exploitation by DC.

In terms of trade and economics, we've been hearing for years about how the world (especially the US) is "dangerously dependent" on China for the manufacture of high-tech equipment. Guess who else we're "dangerously dependent" on for chips? Yep, Taiwan.

A Chinese invasion of Taiwan would probably seal the deal on calls for the US to be "chip independent" -- getting chip foundries back here.

One problem with that idea is that some of the components in our tech depend on rare earths and such. 

Those things tend to come from Africa.

And Beijing has been moving into and dominating the African sources of those things for years.

Did you notice that there were two US pivots as the war in Afghanistan drew down? One was toward Asia with e.g. the AUKUS submarine deal. But the other was re-booting and escalating the "war on terror" in Africa.

So, imagine something like this:

Beijing finally pulls the trigger on an invasion of Taiwan.

The US "defends Taiwan" mainly in the form of sinking some Chinese ships (slowing down Beijing's progress in building a competitive blue water navy) and perhaps bombing some mainland Chinese targets selected less for their military value than their economic value. Shenzhen, for example.

Then the US backs off for the most part -- except for "sanctioning," with military effect, Chinese vessels traveling between China and Africa -- and leans on African regimes to transfer those rare earth concessions from a China that can't use them, can't defend them, and has its hands full with Taiwan, to a US that can use them and can probably defend them.

And in the meantime, the US Navy probably lost a few vessels and aircraft, and went through a bunch of bombs and missiles, all of which will need replacement funding in future "defense" budgets, keeping the MIC's stomach full for the foreseeable future.

No, I'm not saying all that would work. I'm just saying I think it's what the US foreign policy establishment may have in mind.

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