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Thursday, December 06, 20071196993359

Africa and Taiwan (Hedge it, don't wedge it)

China's growing stake in Africa changes the calculation of our relationship with Taiwan, and our Big War force in general.

"Hedging" against Chinese aggression to Taiwan by maintaining, and publicly emphasizing, our naval deterrent is important. China invading Taiwan would be a disaster similar to Germany invading Belgium in 1914: whether there is a response or not, a stable world system ends.

That said, China's investment in Africa essentially means that Beijing is opening up a "second front" against the Gap: not only is globalization not Americanization, the globalization of the gap will not primarily be because of Americans: it will be because of new Core powers like China.

Clearly, the worst thing that could happen would be if Chinese and American influence in Africa turn against each other, and lead to the destruction of governments in the way that American influence took down the Soviet, British, French and French colonial and neocolonial regimes. Thus, we need to be careful that our "hedge" around Taiwan doesn't become a "wedge" in the shrinking of the Gap.

Diplomatically engaging China over absurd or wrong policies is good, but the military should not be part of the toolkit. Pressing Beijing over its persecution of political dissidents, religious minorities, and others is good: pushing China in a way that alters her posture in Africa is not.

All talk of a "hedge" against a rising China must be balanced against the concern of putting a "wedge" in our efforts to shrink the Gap.

20:09 Posted in Africa, China | Permalink | Comments (35) | Tags: taiwan

Comments

"China invading Taiwan would be a disaster similar to Germany invading Belgium in 1914: whether there is a response or not, a stable world system ends."

Best one sentence summary of the situation I have seen.

Posted by: Lexington Green | Friday, December 07, 2007

That is a terrible one sentance summary. German invasion led to a domino effect of countries fighting and expanded invasion that lead to the collapse of the German Empire in Africa. China invading Taiwan without a response only changes the dynamic in China and Taiwan - the rest of the world and surrounding states would not in turn be invaded or fight back necessarily.

Claiming that American influence caused the end of the Empire in Africa is historically naive and does not give credit to the real factor - internal African resistance. Marginalizing them shows a clear lack of understanding of what really happened.

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Friday, December 07, 2007

I agree with Dan and Lex and disagree with Kauffman. War between China and the US would immediately destroy any Chinese desire to maintain a peaceful and non-confrontational rise with the United States. It would further confirm Organski's Power Transition Theory by eliminating any possibility of China being satisfied with their place in a world. The system would become bipolar instead of unipolar, and as Organski describes, this would lead to war.

The idea that the hedge should not be a wedge is also correct. By simply never putting military options on the table with regard to future disagreements with the Chinese, we demonstrate self-restraint. By doing so, we deny the Chinese any rationale to employ military force or violate the informal norms of our relationship. Dan is right on with this idea.

Posted by: Steve Pampinella | Friday, December 07, 2007

Lexington,

Thank you.

The best approach may be to arm Taiwan with a nuclear deterrent, and let her fate be decided through her democratic process. While most Taiwanese see themeselves as such, the KMT is a self-described Chinese Nationalist party, and American forces should not have to intervene every time Taipei holds an election.

J,

Thank you for your comment.

"Claiming that American influence caused the end of the Empire in Africa is historically naive and does not give credit to the real factor - internal African resistance."

So American anti-colonial efforts were constant, European resource expenditures were constant, and only African resistance varied?

It seems to be a better summary of the post-war period was increased American hostility towards the European empires, devestated European political systems and economies, and a continuation of the brush wars Europe had been fighting for a century.

PS: Are we going to resume our earlier discussion? [1]

Steve,

Great minds think alike! :-)


[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2007/12/04/genetic-and-environmental-causes-of-human-diversity.html#c1821503

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, December 07, 2007

Can you give any examples proving that America's influence was the reason for the collapse of a colonial state in Africa?
I gurantee you that in any instance you claim the real reason came about from African resistance and Europe's inablity to cope with it.
But go ahead and try to prove your point.



A China-US war is extremely unlikely - even in the case of Chinese aggression in Taiwan. Why would the US, or China for that matter, ever threaten such a properous and beneficial trade arrangement?

Arming Taiwan with a nuke is asking for world destruction in the event of an invasion - terrible idea. I think even the Taiwanese would rather be ruled by China than have nuclear war.

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Friday, December 07, 2007

TDAXP, I seem to recall that you proposed a 4GW-based Taiwanese different to the PRC maybe a year or so back. Do you have that link? I can't find it.

Posted by: purpleslog | Friday, December 07, 2007

Found it!

http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/07/06/conventional-defensive-thinking-from-taiwan.html


You wrote:

A much smarter policy would combine unconventional warfare and Taiwan's science and engineering infrastructure. Taiwan should build nuclear weaponry, and deploy bomb-wielding commando teams to the Pearl River Delta, Shanghai, and Tianjin, and Beijing.

China may rationally calculate that in a first strike, she can prevent Taiwan from launching her missiles in defense. But if nomadic nuclear Taiwanese patriots were in position in critical parts of China, Beijing would not tempt invasion.

Defend democracy. Think different.

Posted by: purpleslog | Friday, December 07, 2007

Steve's reference to Organski is welcome. Takes me back to Prof. Mearsheimer's "War and the Nation State" over 20 years ago. JK's statement that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would not implicate the rest of the world is mistaken. China attacking Taiwan, as Steve indicates, would be a transformation of China's relationship to the USA and the rest of the world. Further, unless the USA had already negotiated an abandonment of Taiwan, it would mean at least a regional naval and air war between China and the USA and the mobilization of US public opinion against China, not our favorite country anyway, as Americans died in the fighting. The entire international economic order that has been built up in recent decades would be destroyed in an instant.

Posted by: Lexington Green | Friday, December 07, 2007

DNI makes a similar point -- using military force to sole political problems turns political problems into military problems [1]

Beijing deserves to be rebuked from time to time -- but doing so through diplomatic channels doesn't empower their military faction, and getswhat we really believe across. (Say, releasing photos of the meeting with the Dalai Lama, rather than sending another air craft carrier to the Taiwan Straits, in reaction to not allowing the Kitty Hawk sailors to visit Hong Kong.)

[1] http://dni2.wordpress.com/2007/12/07/a-prisoner-to-primacy/

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, December 07, 2007

"The entire international economic order that has been built up in recent decades would be destroyed in an instant"

That is precisely the reason why there would not be a global war. No one is stupid enough to ruin the international economic order that has taken decades to build. The world economy was vastly different in World War I. Now, if the US or China entered into a war both economies would be on the verge of collapse - in WWI if US and Germany fought not as many suffered because of a loss of trade.

Still waiting for a colonialism example being ended because of America influence....

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Friday, December 07, 2007

"No one is stupid enough to ruin the international economic order that has taken decades to build."

If the Chinese invade, then they are precisely stupid enough.

I tend to think they won't. But they lack the vetting processes of a mature representative democracy, and in a crisis, there is no saying what the leadership will do.

"Still waiting for a colonialism example being ended because of America influence...." I wasn't in on that one, but I would point to US influence in Southeast Asia after World War II, helping to convince the British to wind up their affairs in Malaya. We were also pushing them on India. This probably had some impact. We certainly opposed the restoration of Dutch rule in Indonesia, and by denying them any support doomed their attempted return.

Posted by: Lexington Green | Friday, December 07, 2007

". No one is stupid enough to ruin the international economic order that has taken decades to build"

Plenty of smart people have done stupid things in this world.

"The world economy was vastly different in World War I"

I grant you that supply and production chains are more globalized now, but that doesn't change the reality that countries do desperate things when they are stressed. Japan attacked the US, Argentina attacked the UK, Britain attacked Germany, etc.

"Now, if the US or China entered into a war both economies would be on the verge of collapse - in WWI if US and Germany fought not as many suffered because of a loss of trade."

Well, there was Britain's starvation blockade of Germany....

Considering what countries will go through in order to win, saying that there could not be a Sino-American War because of a drop in GDP -- when great powers have sacrificed much more for much less -- seems wrong.

"Still waiting for a colonialism example being ended because of America influence...."

I like Lexington's examples, but you might compare the Boer Wars (Britain and friends subdue the Boar Republics, America doesn't care) against the Suez Crisis (Britain and friends attempt to subdue an Arab Republic, Egypt wins.)

Unless you don't believe that Anglo-Franco-Israeli intervention in Egypt was a form of "colonialism"? Or that the Boer Wars weren't (either?)?

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, December 08, 2007

"No one is stupid enough to ruin the international economic order that has taken decades to build."

I winced when I read the above. I have worked with really smart people for 20 years and I often see the leaders make dumb decisions...even destructive decisions.

I do agree with the idea of non-military rebuking. Occasionally shaming/ridiculing PRC leaders on the world stage could be as effective as moving around carrier strike groups. This would be an information warfare capability. The US really sucks at this. If you only have a hammer, all problems seem to resemble nails...

Posted by: PurpleSlog | Saturday, December 08, 2007

"No one is stupid enough to ruin the international economic order that has taken decades to build."

Such an occurrance would be the kind of black swan that Nassim Taleb speaks of in his book: "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable"

Part of Taleb's thesis is that such black swans aren't predictable, but can be planned for.

I'm not sure if I agree with Dan's thesis that China acts as an agent of the Core in the Gap (though I'd like to think so). However, I whole-heartily agree with his prescription for hedging.
Keep in mind also that the Party, which most directly benefits from trade, doesn't completely control the PLA (which cares less about trade, despite its large economic profile).



http://www.amazon.com/Black-Swan-Impact-Highly-Improbable/dp/1400063515/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197134015&sr=8-1

Posted by: ElamBend | Saturday, December 08, 2007

ElamBend,

Excellent comment! Great comment to Black Swan.

Re: the PLA, I agree. On the flip-side, that makes me pretty happy when I hear reports about corruption and PLA-owned factories in China. I'd rather have a PLA general or colonel use their career to gain a nice pension than plan for glory.

Re: China in Africa, could you elaborate?

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, December 08, 2007

You said American influence toppled colonial regimes. Perhaps you should not how your original argument mentioned American influence - that's why I asked for American examples. I hope you realize that using Britian, France, and Israel as examples fails to address America projecting influence to topple a colonial regime in Africa.

You still haven't mentioned how America exerting influence ruined a colonial regime in Africa. Your examples don't address that.

Reagan's support of South Africa sure didn't matter in protecting the Apartheid regime.


Purple Slog,
Anecdotal stories aren't too convincing - or legitimate.

Dan,
You argued that countries do desperate things when they are stressed. China invading Taiwan doesn't put stress on the American economy. Your argument also comes to the conclusion that countries can't show restraint if stressed - I'm sure realize that that's not true.

Germans starving because of British blockade - what's your point? Back in WWI if a war was fought between Britain and Germany those countries actions would effect each other, not necessarily other countries. Now, a war necessarily effects other countries in a degree that would not have necessarily have happened.

What countries will go through to win - America won't even take more than 5,000 deaths in a war they started by choice. Do you really think they'll stand for a war with China and the casualties that would entail over something that doesn't directly effect them.

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Saturday, December 08, 2007

"You said American influence toppled colonial regimes. Perhaps you should not how your original argument mentioned American influence - that's why I asked for American examples. I hope you realize that using Britain, France, and Israel as examples fails to address America projecting influence to topple a colonial regime in Africa."

Excuse me. I assumed that knowledge of how the Suez Crisis ended was common knowledge. Wikipedia has a good summary. Books have been written on the subject, [2] as have academic articles [3]. The Suez Crisis ended when the American government caused a collapse in the value of the British pound. This weakened the British economy, caused the fall of the Eden government, etc.

"You argued that countries do desperate things when they are stressed. China invading Taiwan doesn't put stress on the American economy."

Such an action would put stress on America's strategic posture.

"Your argument also comes to the conclusion that countries can't show restraint if stressed - I'm sure realize that that's not true."

No, my argument comes to the conclusion that riskier situations generate riskier policies, especially as compared with normal situations that generate normal policies.

"Germans starving because of British blockade - what's your point? Back in WWI if a war was fought between Britain and Germany those countries actions would effect each other, not necessarily other countries. Now, a war necessarily effects other countries in a degree that would not have necessarily have happened."

I think I misunderstood you. Are you saying that America and China could not go to war, because such a conflict would harm the economy of a noncombatant state?

"What countries will go through to win - America won't even take more than 5,000 deaths in a war they started by choice. Do you really think they'll stand for a war with China and the casualties that would entail over something that doesn't directly effect them."

I'm not sure how a critique of slow anti-insurgency operations (occurring over multiple election cycles) matters in judging the likelihood of swift naval combat (my guess is lasting three weeks, taking 10,000-20,000 American lives, causing significant damage to the Pacific fleet, and the destruction in detail of the People's Liberation Army Navy)

Nor am I sure who you mean by final word "them." If by "them" you mean whatever American Administration happens to be in power then: probably.

Wrt your comment to PurpleSlog, btw, evidence for the existence of stupid decision making is a perfectly valid response to a claim that "No one" could make a very stupid decision. (Logically, all you need to defeat a claim that beings "All..." or "No..." is the existence of one case")

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis#End_of_hostilities
[2] http://www.amazon.com/Economic-Diplomacy-Suez-Crisis/dp/0807819670
[3] http://www.cairn.info/revue-economie-internationale-2004-4-page-39.htm

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Saturday, December 08, 2007

Suez Canal - That's not the American government causing an in place colonial regime to collapse. That's preventing the renewel of British influence. America didn't force an in place British government to leave Egypt after years of colonial rule. You do remember that Egypt wasn't ruled by a British colonial regime at that point.

So can you please point out how a colonial regime in Africa fell primarily because of British influence.

WWI - I'm saying that your comparison to WWI is invalid because a war in 1914 wouldn't necessarily effect other countries in a drastic manner. Even though it did entangle much of the world, a war then wouldn't necessarily entangle the entire world. However, in the present an American war with China would necessarily effect all of America's allies in a substantial way. Making your comparison between now and WWI erroneous.

America stomaching casualties: Do you serioulsy believe that if American public opinion and leadership can't stand 5,000 deaths that it could stomach 20,000? Why have you decided the war would only last three weeks with 20,000 American deaths.

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Saturday, December 08, 2007

"So can you please point out an example of how a colonial regime in Africa fell primarily because of British influence."

British is supposed to be American......my bad

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Suez Canal - That's not the American government causing an in place colonial regime to collapse. That's preventing the renewel of British influence. America didn't force an in place British government to leave Egypt after years of colonial rule. You do remember that Egypt wasn't ruled by a British colonial regime at that point."

Egypt was never annexed by the United Kingdom -- since the 19th century, it had been a supposedly intepdenent state that Britain had substantial sway over. From time to time, when the Egyptian government would not comply with London's wishes, Britain would intervene.

The Suez Crisis began as a typical intevention. It ended disasterously for Britain, however, because of America's anti-colonial intervention. From World War II on, the US government starkly differntiated between her support of the European democracies and her opposition to their empires.

"So can you please point out how a colonial regime in Africa fell primarily because of [American] influence."

It's fair to say that all such regimes fell primarily because of European weakness after the World Wars. The friend that the West European states relied on to save their internal societies after World War II - the US government - was either actively hostile (Egypt) or maliciously indifferent (Africa) to European goals in Africa.

"WWI - I'm saying that your comparison to WWI is invalid because a war in 1914 wouldn't necessarily effect other countries in a drastic manner. Even though it did entangle much of the world, a war then wouldn't necessarily entangle the entire world. However, in the present an American war with China would necessarily effect all of America's allies in a substantial way. Making your comparison between now and WWI erroneous"

Really? China's and America's current percentage of World Trade, or world economic output, or whatever, is greater than the combatant European states' share in 1914? What are the figures? By how much?

"America stomaching casualties: Do you serioulsy believe that if American public opinion and leadership can't stand 5,000 deaths that it could stomach 20,000?"

Yes, because it would be quicker.

"Why have you decided the war would only last three weeks with 20,000 American deaths."

Those are upper bounds, from conversations. I'm sure you can find much better analysis here and there. Clearly a nuclear exchange, if it came to it, would be much worse.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, December 09, 2007

If America was indifferent. That means that Europe could not cope with internal African resistance. So are you helping to prove my point?

Like the quick casualties that can occur in Somalia didn't turn the American will sour in 24 hours.

It's funny that you say a weakend Europe was the reason for abondonment of colonies. Especially since FIDES and the British Welfare Act incorporate the largest ever single spending project by either governments to their African colonies.

Do you disregard Mau Mau, the windfall of 1960 French Africa being preceeded by increased self-fule, the 1958 Ultimatum, Southern Rhodesia declaring independence, the Algerian War, the dissallusionment of the Northern Rhodesian-Southern Rhodesian-Nyasaland Federation, the riots in 1960 before Lumumba's quick rise and demise, the constant struggles of Portugese possessions being too much for a new Portugese government in 1970, and virtually every African countries stories?

In regards to Egypt - Britian retained forces, civil servants, and direct oversight of Egypt's funds ever since Egypt allowed Britian, in conjunction with France, to buy out their shares of the Suez Canal. I believe that in 1956 Britain did not directly rule over Egypt's decisions.

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Sunday, December 09, 2007

"If America was indifferent. That means that Europe could not cope with internal African resistance. So are you helping to prove my point?"

I think we share the idea that Europe could no longer cope with her African colonies post-WWII. Clearly, the Empires did not fall willingly. I think we differ in that you believe European power essentially was unchanged from pre-War levels, but that African resistance to colonial rule amped up. My belief is that European power was greatly diminished from pre-War levels, but that African resistance was constant.

How should we solve this dilemma?

"It's funny that you say a weakened Europe was the reason for abandonment of colonies. Especially since FIDES and the British Welfare Act incorporate the largest ever single spending project by either governments to their African colonies."

Cash hand-outs is politically and monetarily cheaper than providing security. It's not surprising that a weakened Europe woudl rely more on the former than the latter in an attempt to maintain her control, and not surprising that failed.

"Do you disregard Mau Mau, the windfall of 1960 French Africa being preceeded by increased self-fule, the 1958 Ultimatum, Southern Rhodesia declaring independence, the Algerian War, the dissallusionment of the Northern Rhodesian-Southern Rhodesian-Nyasaland Federation, the riots in 1960 before Lumumba's quick rise and demise, the constant struggles of Portugese possessions being too much for a new Portugese government in 1970, and virtually every African countries stories?"

No more, I imagine than you disregard pre-1945 African resistance :-)

"In regards to Egypt - Britian retained forces, civil servants, and direct oversight of Egypt's funds ever since Egypt allowed Britian, in conjunction with France, to buy out their shares of the Suez Canal. I believe that in 1956 Britain did not directly rule over Egypt's decisions."

Indeed, home rule was established in 1936.

Still, recall my point about constant levels of African resistance but declining levels of European power. 1882 saw an intransigent Egyptian government, used to controlling its affairs, booted out by an Anglo-French expedition. The Suez Crisis saw an Egyptian government, used to controlling its affairs, victorious against an Anglo-French-Israeli expedition because of American assistance.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, December 09, 2007

I agree that weakened European governments contributed an enourmous amount to the fall of thier regimes. However, weakened European governments does not equal America telling them they had to leave or they'd withdraw economic aid to post war Europe.

I am not discounting pre-war African resistance. However, post WWII resistance was on a scale and level of coordination that had not been seen for several decades. Pre-WWII most African leaders weren't calling for independence. However, post WWII African populist leaders demanded either independence or complete political, economic, and racial equality - demands and pressures that colonial governments were forced to grant. As a result of these new pressures, along with the decline of European will and assets, the colonial governments were forced to leave.

In regards to economic policy being more cost-effective than counter-insurgency operations:
I agree that the colonial governments believed that development equaled stabilisation. But I don't believe that the reason for development was based solely on the belief that it was a more cost effective strategy. The protracted Algerian War, British counter-insurgency against Mau Mau, and the Anglo-French-Israeli expedition clearly indicate that they did have the money to carry out prolonged anti-insurgency campaigns - they just weren't effective in the face of constant African resistance. If the strategy for stability required anti-insurgency the colonial governments did not hesistate.

Posted by: J. Kauffman | Sunday, December 09, 2007

"I agree that weakened European governments contributed an enormous amount to the fall of thier regimes."

Agreed.

"However, weakened European governments does not equal America telling them they had to leave or they'd withdraw economic aid to post war Europe."

Indeed. While America's attack during the Suez crisis seemed design to drive France and Britain into recession, America sharply differentiated her support of the Western democracies from her opposition to the Western empires.

"However, post WWII resistance was on a scale and level of coordination that had not been seen for several decades."

Indeed, weakness is an invitation for attack.

That said, that Europe was able to actually expand iher influence the last time "resistance was on [that] scale and level of coordination," but was not able to do so again, is that Europe was able to pay the price the first time but not the last time. In other words, what varied was not the strength of resistance, but rather the strength of Europe.

"In regards to economic policy being more cost-effective than counter-insurgency operations:"

I disagree. Economic policy is cheaper than counter-insurgency. That doesn't make it as effective.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, December 09, 2007

J.K.

"Purple Slog,
Anecdotal stories aren't too convincing - or legitimate."

It is you making the extraordinary claim, not I. It is on you to support that claim, not on me to disprove it. Your assertion != facts|proof.

I find it hard to follow anything else you conclude on this matter since an early premise of yours is flawed.

Posted by: PurpleSlog | Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dan,

"Clearly, the worst thing that could happen would be if Chinese and American influence in Africa turn against each other,..."

So you think that Africom and China should become collaborators, much like Russia and the US military?

Is this just wishful thinking, on your part, or do you see specific events unfolding in this direction?

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Sunday, December 09, 2007

Larry,

The US and USSR military, political, and economic systems were all radically different, so I do not think that a comparison to US-USSR collaboration during World War II is a good analogy.

A better one is to work between the UK and Germany before World War I. Large economies, professional militaries, and a democracy where money mattered (London) v. an oligarchy pragmatically concerned about the welfare of its workers (Germany).

Of course, the Britain and Germany would come to blows. Hopefully everyone has learned from the collapse of those empires...

Purpleslog,

Agreed.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, December 09, 2007

Back to your original point on hedging against Chinese aggression against Taiwan it seems that there is the option of making Taiwan unattractive to the current leadership of China.

This would happen if Taiwan became a majority Christian nation. If Korean missionaries were to spend their efforts in Taiwan rather than Afghanistan they would actually make a contribution to making the world, and particularly their corner of it, a safer place. US missionary efforts as well if directed to Taiwan might see a significant increase in the percentage of Taiwanese who declare themselves to be Christian.

As an interesting feedback mechanism, a Chinese government that would not mind adding millions of Christians to China would also be more likely to be the sort of government that Taiwan would be more interested in joining peacefully.

Posted by: Mark in Texas | Saturday, December 15, 2007

Umm, the Chinese government doesn't seem too interested in Buddhists either, and Taiwan already has plenty of those.

Somehow, I don't think dissuading Beijing will be that easy:P

Posted by: Michael | Saturday, December 15, 2007

Certainly local hostile religious majorities did not stop the CCP invasion of Tibet or East Turkestan...

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, December 16, 2007

I don't think we have to worry much about China in the medium to long term, given the demographics.

China's TFR is somewhere between 1.2 (official government figure) and 1.7 children per woman (CIA World Factbook figure).

It fell below the replacement level of 2.1 sometime in the late 1980's, and is still falling rapidly.

In the urban areas, where 40% of Chinese now live and where most will live soon, it's around 1 or even less. Urban Chinese have the lowest birth-rates of any large group in the entire world; they've essentially stopped having children.

So China's population is now aging rapidly -- it either has now, or soon will have, a higher median age than the US -- and it will soon age even faster and also begin to fall in absolute terms. This is inevitable.

And since China's TFR fell so rapidly from such a high level, around 7 as recently as the 1960's -- by way of comparison, only Mali and Niger in all the world now have TFR's over 7 -- the overhang of retired persons is going to be fearsome.

There's a huge "bulge" of people born at those high TFR's making its way up the Chinese demographic profile; the first of them are already in late middle age. Meanwhile each successive age-cohort turning 18 is smaller than the one before.

30% of Shanghai's popualtion is already over 60.

This is going to crush China economically and politically over the next two generations; they'll have German or Japanese-style demographics without anything like the accumulated wealth of those countries.

Posted by: S.M. Stirling | Sunday, December 16, 2007

"This is going to crush China economically and politically over the next two generations; they'll have German or Japanese-style demographics without anything like the accumulated wealth of those countries."

But, you have to admit they have gain quite the assets. Plus, manufacturing is wealth. Also, by being the largest importer in Asia must give them some form of wealth.

I mean if you got the corporate leaders of some America corporations literally bowing before them, you are talking some kind of power if not wealth, wealth being the ability to use energy over a period of time (in units of power).

So I am not convinced that the Chinese are lacking in wealth by other name, although I do see the possibility of somekind of depression for them.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Sunday, December 16, 2007

S.M. Stirling,

Thanks for visiting tdaxp! It is an honor!

I agree with the demographics. My concern is that it is rational for desperate regimes to do desperate things, as taking on risk is smart when the "normal" strategy probably leads to regime change anyway.

Larry,

I think there's some irony that the greatest man-made cause of pollution the atmosphere has ever accepted is partially a result of the greatest "social security trust fund" building in the history of man... :-)

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Monday, December 17, 2007

Larry,
Many of the gains of China are material, yet they have not yet created the more important institutions that would carry it through the hard times, like a stable banking system or even acceptable social contract. Many institutions that once did exist, remnants of Confucianism has been swept away by the communists and then by subsequent material and social changes. Now China's cities are full of young women working hard, young men expecting to be treated by lords (setting up for disappointment), and old people who can no longer expect filial duty not communist largess to provide support in in their old age. [okay, this is bit of an exaggeration]
It is these lack of stable institutions and the unknown variable of just how the populace might react and those in control likewise in the tough times.

Posted by: ElamBend | Monday, December 17, 2007

"Many of the gains of China are material, yet they have not yet created the more important institutions that would carry it through the hard times, like a stable banking system or even acceptable social contract."

True, and apparently much of the problem is because of corruption and the lack of transparency throughout the system. However, I believe much of China can be thought of as a giant network in which the resource flow outward from the center by explicit laws. This kind of creates a decentralized system with speed and a deceptively amount of resiliency, which I think is hard to visualize.

Because it acts like a network all the nodes try to run at the same potential (voltage), but corruption acts against this network attribute. Corruption gives certain node within the network greater potential and acts as a regulating voltage throughout the system. Maybe we don't see this because it doesn't exist, but still the system seems stronger than what people would think of a system of corruption and little wealth.

"It is these lack of stable institutions and the unknown variable of just how the populace might react and those in control likewise in the tough times."

A strong vertical force willing to apply itself to preserve order kind of trumps the unknown. My guess would be that those in control would use every means available to preserve the network. Would they have the backing of the military, how about the warlords?

In 4GW you can apply as much force as your own society is willing to bear. In a totalitarian society, if millions started dying in China, who would come to their rescue? Possibility the US if they started destroying US interest in China. But then who is they, and who would be destroying what? I am not sure it is a question I want to think about.

Posted by: Larry Dunbar | Tuesday, December 18, 2007

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