A week ago, China got credit for arranging a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran which involves these two long-time antagonists resuming diplomatic relations and, purportedly, halting military operations against each other. This is a major achievement for China, which has long been neutral, or pro-Iranian, in the sometimes violence conflict between Iran and the Arabi oil states as well as most Western nations. While this preliminary agreement makes for great headlines and indicates a decline in American influence in Saudi Arabia, it is not a done deal. The announcement was about intentions not actual accomplishments. Iran has a long history of violating agreements. Iran is still subject to economic sanctions by Western nations because of continued Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons. With nukes, Iran could more easily intimidate neighboring countries and resume its historical role as the regional superpower.
Iran, China and Russia are now allies, diplomatically if not economically and militarily. Despite that, there are still suspicions. For example, Russia has sent troops stationed on border areas to Ukraine, but still keeps somewhat more than token forces on portions of its 4,200-kilometer Chinese border. There Russia faces, for the first time, a larger, better armed, trained and led Chinese army. China has unresolved claims on most of the Russian Pacific coast territories. Russia also has a 17-kilometer border with North Korea and Russian troops are sometimes seen here as well. Since the Ukraine War began, fewer Russian troops have been seen on other foreign borders. That’s because the crisis in Ukraine demanded more troops to replace losses. The scale and scope of Russian army losses in Ukraine is unprecedented. While air forces and navy losses were relatively minor, the SRF (Strategic Rocket Forces) and their thousands of nuclear warheads still have the same number of troops (I expect some to a lot of the SRF security troops have been sent to the front), so the Russian State is still secure. Neighboring China also has lots of nukes, with more of them aimed at Russia than ever before. That is not the major Chinese threat to Russia. Rather it is Russian dependence on Chinese economic and military cooperation. China remains on good terms with Russia economically and militarily. China warned Russia to back off on nuclear threats over the Ukraine War and made it clear that China considered the Ukraine War a major mistake. Before 2022, Russia and China were seen as a powerful military and economic alliance. Now the Russian military is revealed to be much less capable than previously thought. Western sanctions have devastated the Russian economy and China will benefit from that at the expense of Russia. What happened to Russia in Ukraine also caused China to review its own military policies in the South China Sea, against Taiwan and, less obviously, the Russian Far East territories.
China insists it will continue to maintain pressure against its opponents in territorial disputes. Chief among this is the Chinese effort to gain control of Taiwan and Indian territory that China claims is illegally occupied by India. Then there is the most blatant claim of all; ownership of the South China Sea. All these claims are vigorously opposed by growing coalitions of powerful countries.
China is most active on its border with India. At the moment, China and India have a ceasefire that suits China more than India. The ceasefire involved both sides moving most of their troops from portions of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in India's Ladakh State. Also known as the Macartney-MacDonald Line the LAC is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is found in the Indian States of Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Arunachal. On the Chinese side it is mostly Tibet. China claims much territory that is now considered part of India. There have been several thousand armed and unarmed confrontations over the last decade as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops' ' of crossing the LAC. The mutual troop withdrawal in Ladakh reduces tensions there but not along other LAC segments where there are still a lot of Chinese and Indian troops confronting each other. China is slowly winning this border war because it uses largely non-violent tactics. China pushes its troops, often while unarmed, across the border and forces the Indians to try and stop them. This has led to casualties, but not from the use of military weapons. If the Indians fire on the unarmed Chinese troops, then India is the aggressor and China can shoot back. Often China does not and shames India into backing off. India realizes that China has a more powerful military and Indians do not feel confident about their ability to handle a large-scale battle on the border. India is still haunted by the last battle between Indian and Chinese forces. This took place back in 1962. In a month of fighting that began on 20 October 1962, India lost 7,000 troops (57 percent prisoners, the rest dead or missing) compared to 722 Chinese dead. China declared a ceasefire that India accepted. China actually advanced in two areas, a thousand kilometers apart and ended up taking 43,000 square kilometers of Indian territory.
The source of the 1962 war and current border disputes are a century old and heated up again when China resumed control over Tibet in the 1950s. From the end of the Chinese empire in 1912 up until 1949 Tibet was independent. But then the communists took over China in 1949 and sought to reassert control over their "lost province" of Tibet. This began slowly, but once all of Tibet was under Chinese control in 1959, China had a border with India and there was immediately a disagreement about exactly where the border should be. That’s because, in 1914, the newly independent Tibet government worked out a border (the McMahon line) with the British who then controlled India. China considers this border agreement illegal and wants 90,000 square kilometers back. India refused, especially since this would mean losing much of the state of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India and some bits elsewhere there and all along the new northern border.
India feels more capable in opposing China because of growing Indian economic power. Indian GDP nearly doubled in the last decade; from $1.7 trillion to the current over $3.5 trillion now. This made India the fifth largest economy, surpassing Britain ($3.2 trillion) and France ($3.2 trillion). The rest of the top five are the U.S ($21 trillion), China, Germany ($4.1 trillion) and Japan ($4 trillion). Chinese GDP growth is slowing although in the last decade it more than doubled from $6.1 trillion to $18.3 trillion. Over three decades of spectacular economic growth in China resulted in the Chinese GDP becoming over fourteen times larger than it was in 1989. In that same period the U.S. GDP doubled. After World War II India had a larger GDP than China and never felt the same urgency as China to modernize and expand its economy.
But India has not been as effective in keeping up with the Chinese military in terms of modernization. Indian threats to oppose Chinese military moves carry little weight with the Chinese or anyone else who analyzes the situation. Actions have consequences and, in this case, it means China can push India around on their mutual border. China intends to keep pushing until it regains its claimed lost territories. Currently the Indian GDP growth rate is increasing faster than China’s. The Indian defense budget does not benefit and military modernization plans remain on hold as the politicians try to figure out how to enrich themselves from all the additional money now available for spending. China notices this and is encouraged to push ill-equipped and supported Indian troops back from the border.
March 16, 2023: China has been blaming NATO for the war in Ukraine but realizes that the Ukrainians are not going to give up and are now talking to the Ukrainians about how China can help in bringing the war to an end. China has already told Russia that the war is a mistake and damages the Russian-Chinese alliance.
March 9, 2023: So far Russia has been unsuccessful at persuading China to provide military aid. Any country that does send military aid to Russia faces heavy economic sanctions. This would cause substantial economic and political problems for China. Russia argues that military aid from China would enable Russian forces to deal with another Ukrainian offensive. With Chinese military support Russia believes it could turn the Ukraine War into at least a stalemate. This would also demonstrate that Russia and China have a robust and effective alliance. China is not so sure. Russian forces have performed so poorly in Ukraine that Chinese military aid would have little impact.
March 8, 2023: China’s leader Xi Jinping again warned that the Chinese military had not yet achieved world-class standards and urged that there be more efforts to turn the Chinese military into a world-class force. Chinese leaders have been repeating this message since the 1990s. Complaints about the state of their armed forces are nothing new in China. The critics include many irate generals and admirals. Increasingly the complaints are published, so that everyone knows the problem is still seeking solutions. Initially these complaints were confined to private meetings, but so many people attend these meetings that details eventually get out to the general public. Since these leaks do not represent official policy, they do not get repeated in the Chinese media, and foreign media tends to ignore it as well. It's more profitable for the foreign media to portray the Chinese military as scary. China’s military is scary, but not in the way some Westerners believe. Chinese armed forces are less formidable to Chinese leaders than to foreigners. The Chinese military exists to frighten foreigners, not fight them.
Xi personally needs a more effective military because in 2022 he engineered a switch from limits on Chinese leaders back to the more traditional dynastic “ruler for life” model. Supreme leader Xi Jinping got another five-year term in late 2017, allowing him ten years in office. His predecessor. Hu Jintao, had served for two terms and did not approve of a third term for Xi, who had Hu removed from the podium during the closing ceremony, where Hu was seated next to Xi. This was another demonstration that Xi would not tolerate any opposition to his staying in power as long has he wanted. To emphasize that need for compliance, Xi added the heads of national intelligence and the national police to the two dozen member Politburo while removing or replace members with banking experience or reputations as economists. This was significant because it confirmed that Xi was preparing to use force against any popular resistance to his rule while reducing the influence of economic and banking experts. The Politburo votes every five years to select a new leader and had already been purged of any anti-Xi officials. This further confirmed Xi’s intention of becoming leader for life and surviving any popular resistance to his rule. Xi has since confirmed that he will serve for a third five-year term and as many more extensions as needed.
Supreme leaders serving for no more than ten years had been the custom since 1982 when it was decided that a “collective leadership” was a good idea and supreme leaders should serve for only two five-year terms (or just one if there were problems.) Since 1982 this has worked but Xi Jinping wanted more and is getting it. This time he put ineligible (too old and more loyal to Xi than able to take his place) men in the Politburo Standing Committee from which the next leader is selected. Xi did not designate a preferred successor. And as “ruler for life” he no longer has any legitimate opposition to his power to do whatever he wants. There is one source of criticism that Xi cannot control, and that is Chinese stock and bond markets. When his third term was announced, Chinese stock markets reacted with a record six percent decline. Xi has not been able to reverse the steady decline of the stock and bond market, nor a growing exodus of educated Chinese as well as frustrated entrepreneurs.
Another pattern noticed by foreigners (working from public records) is that “tigers” accused of corruption tend to be disproportionately people who had not supported Xi Jinping in the past. Those who did support Xi Jinping for a long time before being caught at corruption still tend to get punished, but in the form of quiet retirement and are often allowed to keep much, if not all, of the wealth they stole. One area where this “friends of Xi Jinping” angle does not work so well is the military. The senior officers accused of corruption had fewer opportunities to support (or not) Xi Jinping, who came up through the civilian and CCP (Chinese Communist Party) bureaucracy. Corruption in the military has been an ancient tradition and there’s a lot more opportunities to steal now. Xi Jinping has made it his personal goal to break that tradition, or at least greatly erode the extent of corruption in the military and that means a lot of the accused “tigers” tend to be generals and admirals.
Xi Jinping has a solution that does not involve democracy but will succeed or fail depending on how effectively it imposes accountability and honesty on a CCP bureaucracy that is more concerned about getting rich any way they can. Xi Jinping, like Deng Xiaoping, is willing to tolerate some bad behavior if it produces a net benefit for China and its rulers. So far that has led to the prosecution of the many more inept and corrupt officials and at least encouraged local officials to do something about practices that lead to pollution, waste and abuse of power. Despite enormous efforts to censor the Internet, bad news (of CCP misbehavior) still gets out and causes unrest.
Xi Jinping gained followers in the bureaucracy by demonstrating his appreciation of how important the loyalty (and effectiveness) of the military and national police was. Xi Jinping also pushed for greater emphasis on seeking new ways to use the Internet rather than just fear and seek to control it. Many Chinese admire the way the government has used Cyber Warfare and Internet based espionage to gain information (commercial, military and so on) that would otherwise be unavailable. To many Chinese, especially CCP members, this is admirable, not criminal behavior.
Xi claims that by having all this power he can more quickly and effectively deal with any problems China encounters. This has already backfired as the Chinese are suffering from several major problems that Xi did not anticipate and has been unable to contain. This began when Xi had to impose large-scale covid19 related shutdowns. This triggered widespread and very open popular resistance. Xi backed down, unwilling to literally go to war with the Chinese people over this. This crisis was caused by Xi insisting that there would be covid19 infections at all in China. Any outbreaks were met with quarantine shutdowns. Most Chinese, however, paid attention to what was happening in the rest of the world and concluded that some infections and deaths were preferable to the shutdowns, and took to the streets to coerce the government into shutting down the shutdowns. The breadth and depth of their protests was unprecedented in the history of Communist China, and so threatened the power of Xi and the Chinese Communist Party that he submitted to public demands. This set a dangerous precedent for the future.
There were more covid19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths, but the economy got moving again. Despite that, the Chinese economy is no longer the powerhouse that it once was. A banking crisis, caused by too many bad loans and a real-estate bubble, limits what the government can do to deal with other problems. Annual GDP growth continues to decline and the labor shortage gets worse because of the three-decades enforcing the one child policy. The birth dearth caused problems in more ways than expected. For example, as the military completes its decades old modernization program it is now running into a severe shortage of qualified recruits. This was due to the growing shortage of working age Chinese created by the one child policy. The government saw this labor shortage coming and relaxed the one child policy in 2015 and basically turned it into a two-child policy. Young couples did not respond as expected. In response to that the government offered cash incentives to couples who have a second child. That did not work either. Surveys found that 60 percent of young couples were reluctant to have a second child mainly because of the expense involved. In 2016 there were nine percent more births which was only 1.3 million more babies and not enough to make a dent in the growing shrinkage of the working age population, which declined over four million in 2016. The government had expected three million more births a year. It appears that China has, since implementing the one child policy in the 1980s, managed to acquire the “affluent mother” syndrome. That means better educated and paid women refuse to have a lot of children. South Korea, Japan and Singapore already suffer from this as does most of the industrialized world. This hit the military particularly hard as the Chinese have, for all practical purposes, come to depend on volunteers to staff the growing number of demanding technical and management jobs. Too many of the too few potential recruits want to make a career of the military or, if coerced, spend much time in uniform at all. But the Chinese military, as it modernizes (even with manpower reductions) cannot find enough qualified people. This situation is made worse by the requirement that all officers and key technical people be loyal to the communist party. The requirement is rigorously and repeatedly enforced by the party leadership even if it means the military is not as capable as everyone is led to believe. This illusion is difficult to sustain in some cases. The best example is the expansion of the navy with over a dozen major warships entering service each year and there are not enough competent officers and sailors to run the ships. The navy has urged more women to join the navy and go to sea but it’s not enough.
March 7, 2023: The Taiwanese Island of Matsu is only 19 kilometers off the Chinese coast (but 210 kilometers from Taiwan) and its 14,000 inhabitants blame China for recent damage to undersea Internet cables with Taiwan. Matsu has seen these cables cut 27 times in the last five years, often by accident when a Taiwanese fishing boat snags and damages a cable.
March 5, 2023: China is again trying to force the Philippines to abandon Pagasa Island. This is one of the Spratly Islands and for several years China has been blockading the island for a while. This time China has deployed one warship and at least forty ships belonging to the Chinese naval militia.
Pagasa is the second largest of the Spratly Islands and also claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The Philippines is the only claimant with a settlement and military garrison on the island. The Chinese are using non-lethal (most of the time) force to drive everyone else out the South China Sea islands they claim. The last time China used force (against Vietnam) was in the 1970s, before China became dependent on the sea lanes that pass through the South China Sea to the Middle East, Africa and Australia.
While the South China Sea combat is non-lethal, the economic damage to other nations with legal claims to portions of the South China Sea is very real. As this shoving match escalates, other major trading nations, especially the United States, Japan and South Korea, as well as more distant industrialized nations, are lending military support. While everyone is under orders to not open fire, unless facing a lethal threat, the risk of the shoving match turning into a shooting match increases.
China created the current crisis over who controls Pagasa Island and nearby sandbars. Since 2019 China has sent a record number of ships to block access to disputed islands, especially, Pagasa. Most of these are Chinese fishing boats pretending to be fishing but in reality, are members of the Chinese naval militia which is now composed of about a thousand ships that are paid regularly to be available when called upon to carry out paramilitary duties, usually in the South China Sea. China insists it has not ordered its naval militia fishing boats to physically block Filipino commercial or military ships from getting to Pagasa. Despite that pledge it has become more difficult for Filipino fishing boats to operate in areas they had long worked. China has been threatening to cut off access to Pagasa since 2014 but has never followed through, possibly because the Philippines has often stationed a warship off Pagasa. China claims ownership, despite Pagasa being closer to the Philippines than China and long occupied by Filipinos. Also called Thitu Island, Pagasa is the second-largest (37.2 hectares/93 acres) of the Spratly Islands and is inhabited by 200 Filipinos civilians and a similar number of police and military personnel.
The Philippines has played nice with China for over a decade while also upgrading its naval and air forces. The Filipino rearmament program has been aided by American, Japanese and Australian donations of warships and aircraft as well as offers of low-cost military equipment. Because of that the Philippines now has enough warships and patrol aircraft to maintain constant patrols of disputed areas. China responds with larger (often over a hundred at a time) unarmed ships as well as a growing number of armed ships and aircraft. Despite the military buildup, Filipino leaders still have to face the fact that they cannot use force to oppose the Chinese. More powerful allies are needed for that. That has led to closer military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States.
March 3, 2023: It was recently noticed that the Chinese TJS-3 satellite, launched in 2018 into high (GEO) orbit, was not, as claimed, an experimental communications satellite but actually an intelligence gathering satellite that has been regularly stopping and examining other satellites, especially ones newly put into GEO orbit. TJS-3 apparently transmits the results of those inspections back to China. China is also seeking ways to deal with the American Starlink satellite network. The effectiveness of Starlink as used by the Ukrainians in its war with Russia has alarmed China, which has nothing like Starlink. China discussed with Russia ways to disrupt Starlink. So far, no workable method has been developed. Russia made some effort to disrupt communication with and control of Starlink and Maxar (commercial photo) satellites. While these disruption efforts were theoretically possible, they did not work for long because the two American firms involved (SpaceX and Maxar) had ample technical resources and capabilities for countering EW (electronic warfare) attacks.
Physical attacks on satellites turned out to be a more theoretical than practical threat. This was especially the case with Starlink, which used thousands of small satellites to provide its services. Maxar uses hundreds rather than thousands of satellites but is also testing use of smaller satellites and more of them. This is a trend on satellite tech and Starlink was the first such large network to deploy and enter service. Russian and Chinese ASAT (anti-satellite) tech has not yet caught up.
March 1, 2023: Off Taiwan, 21 Chinese military aircraft flew into the Taiwan ADIZ (air defense identification zone) without identifying themselves. These aircraft were all fighters and included 17 J-10s and four J-16s. Worldwide foreign aircraft identify themselves when reminded that they have entered an ADIZ. Chinese military aircraft approach or enter the Taiwan ADIZ without warning and that often means Taiwan sends up fighters to double check. ADIZ intrusions have increased sharply since 2021, with Chinese military aircraft ADIZ violations in February 2023 were 61 percent more than in February 2022.. This activity often involves a lot of specialist models, like ASW (anti-submarine warfare) aircraft (like the American P-3) as well as a lot of EW (Electronic Warfare) and ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) aircraft. There was also an appearance by the new Chinese SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) aircraft, the J16D. Specialized SEAD aircraft were first developed over half a century ago by the United States and nicknamed “Wild Weasels.” The latest American SEAD aircraft is the F-18G. Most of the intrusions are carried out by fighters and a growing number of bombers.
February 27, 2023: Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko went to China for a three day official (state) visit that involved discussions with China about increased trade and, indirectly, helping Belarus retain its independence from Russia, even if that means becoming dependent on China.
February 20, 2023: China is increasing its trade with Afghanistan. In December 2022 China imported $9.1 million worth of Afghan goods while selling Afghanistan $59 million worth goods. At this rate China will become Afghanistan’s second largest trading partner, after Pakistan.
February 19, 2023: China backs Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Other nations that support the Russian invasion have a lot in common with Russia as they tend to be aggressive and warlike dictatorships or those with ideological or economic reasons to back Russia. These supporters also include Belarus, Eritrea, India, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. All these supporters agree that the West is a problem for them and Russia. Even before the 2022 invasion, Russia insisted that its operations in Ukraine were part of an effort to defend Russia from growing NATO efforts to destroy Russia.
February 18, 2023: An Iranian government delegation visited China in an effort to make deals with China that will stabilize the Iranian economy. The Chinese do not give anything away and are aware of the political instability in Iran. The Chinese are unsure of who will be running Iran in the near future and are unwilling to offend the current or any future government. In other words, the Chinese prefer to wait rather than choose the wrong side right now.
February 17, 2023: In Central Africa, Congo's state audit agency (Inspection Generale des Finances) demanded that a Chinese investor provide an additional $17 billion in investments in Congo in order to fulfill China’s commitments in the 2008 infrastructure-for-minerals deal. That deal is being renegotiated. The Chinese embassy in Congo said the auditor’s report and demands were full of prejudice. Former Congolese president (and dictator) Joseph Kabila’s government made the deal, in exchange for a 68 percent stake in Sicomines (a cobalt and copper minerals joint venture with Gecamines, Congo's state mining company). One of the terms of the deal was that China’s Sinohydro Corp and the China Railway Group Ltd. would build roads and hospitals and other infrastructure. China got its minerals but did not build all the promised infrastructure.
February 16, 2023: Iran announced that it would have to complete major oil industry projects without Chinese investments or Chinese specialists. While China quietly withdrew its participation, Iran had to explain the change, especially since Iran will miss the Chinese money most of all because Iran is very short of cash. A delegation of senior Iranian government officials ended its official visit to China today. The Iranians wanted more cooperation and investment from China and instead were told there would be way less until the political and economic situations in Iran calm down. The growing unrest since last September and Iranian involvement with Russia in the Ukraine war are seen as creating a very risky situation for foreign investors.
February 15, 2023: The growing Chinese fleet and aggressive operations around Taiwan and in the South China Sea have the Americans worried about their ability to sustain a war with China in the West Pacific. For over a decade the U.S. Navy has been fighting a losing battle to obtain enough cargo and fuel ships to support a major military operation in the Pacific against China. During World War II the U.S. Pacific Fleet consisted of 250,000 personnel and 200 warships plus even more supply vessels keeping the combat ships in action. Currently the entire U.S. fleet consists of 340,000 personnel and 300 warships with over half in the Pacific. The Chinese fleet has 240 warships and 200,000 personnel, all of them in the Pacific. Only the presence of the South Korean and Japanese fleets, and naval bases American ships have access to, even things up. What is still missing is sufficient American supply and support ships to support major military operations in the Pacific against the Chinese.
One reason for this disparity is the fact that China has become the largest shipbuilder in the world and the largest owner and operator of cargo and tanker ships. To support a major naval campaign in the Pacific the American fleet needs dozens of tankers and cargo ships present to operate near the fighting and even more to bring forward fuel and other supplies to the combat ships. Recent simulations of campaigns in the Western Pacific show that the U.S. Navy needs about twice as many supply ships as they have now. This is not a new problem.
Modern at-sea replenishment methods were developed out of necessity by the United States during World War II because of a lack of sufficient forward bases in the vast Pacific. The resulting service squadrons (Servrons) became a permanent fixture in the U.S. Navy after the war. Ships frequently stay at sea for up to six months at a time, being resupplied at sea by a Servron. New technologies were developed to support the effective use of the seagoing supply service. Few other navies have been able to match this capability, mainly because of the expense of the Servron ships and the training required to do at sea replenishment. China adopted this approach to enable their warships to remain at sea for longer periods, especially if engaged in combat operations.
China has some major advantages in seagoing logistics, while the advantages the United States enjoyed in the 1930s and 40s have faded. Over the last two decades China has become the largest builder and operator of merchant ships. By 2019 China’s two major shipbuilders, CSSC and CSIC, merged to create the largest shipbuilder in the world with 310,000 employees. A decade earlier there were nearly half a million employees but recessions, continued competition from rivals South Korea and Japan forced the change. The new company, CSG (China Shipbuilding Group), as well as the two it merged from are all state owned. The merger was a return to the situation in 1999 when CSSC and CSIC were created from the then single state-owned shipbuilding operation. This was meant to encourage competition and it worked.
Chinese shipbuilders, mainly the two large firms, account for most of the shipbuilding in China and were striving to overtake their main rival South Korea as the largest shipbuilder in the world in all categories. There are several ways to measure shipbuilder output. South Korea was the champion in most of them. Japan was once in first place but now must settle for third place. South Korea and China have been close competitors for first place since 2012 and to that end the two largest South Korean ship builders also merged in 2019.
As the major producers of commercial ships, China was able to design and build supply ships for the Chinese Navy quickly. This included designing and building two Sansha class supply ships by 2014 for use in supplying new naval bases in the South China Sea. The design of the Sansha’s was unique and to speed up the construction process China bought the rights to an existing European design that had not been built yet. This degree of ship building skill and innovation was something the United States no longer has. Since World War II, when the U.S. was the largest shipbuilder in the world, the American shipbuilding capability diminished. Currently the U.S. can build ships but slowly and in small quantities and most of those built are warships. American yards are not as efficient as the Chinese shipbuilders and take five to ten years to complete a warship China can complete in a year or two. This includes non-nuclear aircraft carriers.
February 14, 2023: China has long learned from Soviet and Russian mistakes, and is now nearly equal to the West in terms of tech, and a much more formidable foe for the West and, if need be, Russia. China is replacing Russia as the primary trade partner of the Central Asian states that were more part of the Soviet Union and later post-Soviet Russia. The war in Ukraine has given China the opportunity to completely replace Russia in Central Asia, where Russia has long been facing growing Chinese activity. Russia long believed their eastern flank was secure but now there is a potential threat from China and a two-front war if Russia survives the current conflict with Ukraine and NATO nations that supply Ukraine with weapons and much else.
February 9, 2023: China was warned by UN security experts that in Afghanistan, ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate, ISK (Islamic State Khorasan) is planning attacks on the embassies of India, China and Iran in the Kabul Green Zone. This is part of the ISK effort to prevent the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) from establishing diplomatic and economic relations with foreign nations. Most nations are still reluctant to establish an embassy in the IEA controlled Kabul.
February 7, 2023: Chinese aggression in the South China Sea has led to the Philippines allowing the United States to use four Filipino bases and undertake joint patrols with Filipino forces in disputed areas of the South China Sea. The Philippines already had an MDT (mutual defense treaty) with the United States but it is not always adequate to deal with Chinese tactics. American government priorities can change radically every four years because of presidential elections. The current U.S. president is seen as less steadfast in dealing with China and Russia. The Americans did join NATO efforts against the Russians so the Philippines hopes that extended to increased aggression from China in the South China Sea. Now American policy towards actively supporting the Philippines in dealing with the Chinese threat has changed. China criticized this increased American support because it might make the situation worse. For Filipinos the situation can’t get much worse and more American support will, at the very least, slow down the Chinese.
February 6, 2023: China has been reluctant to attack Taiwan because such an operation is not guaranteed to work and failure costs China a lot more than Taiwan. If the Chinese attack fails, the Chinese communist government, supreme leader Xi Jinping and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) are in big trouble because of the economic damage that will do to China. Sanctions and blockade imposed on China will be far worse if the fighting, or Taiwanese “scorched earth” tactics, significantly damages or destroys key Taiwanese electronic component manufacturing operations. Taiwan is the sole source for many of these components and losing that production will have far reaching economic repercussions worldwide.
Taiwan is seeking to reduce that dependence on production that takes place only in Taiwan by establishing plants in other countries to provide another source for these components. That is a work-in-progress that will take several years to complete. Taiwanese military reforms follow a similar timeline. These reforms have to carefully translate Ukrainian experience and Western training methods into something that works for Taiwan. This requires cooperation between Taiwanese military procurement efforts and military reforms already underway.
The Ukrainian experience has already persuaded most Taiwanese that they could reliably defeat Chinese attack plans. Taiwanese also note that CCP rule in China is failing, especially since Xi Jinping reversed many of the reforms the CCP implemented in the 1980s to get the Chinese economy going and curb most government efforts to disrupt that economic growth. Democracies have similar problems but, because they are democracies have an effective way to fix things by electing new officials.
February 2, 2023: Chinese exports to the United States in January were 20 percent less than in January 2022. This trend is expected to continue downward because of economic and political problems inside China and the growing number of foreign countries, especially the United States, moving production from China. This work often goes to other countries in the region. Even India is benefitting from this exodus. China is also seen as an unreliable customer and supplier of electronic components. Reliability is important and the main reason for reducing economic ties with China. An example of this is the American decision to cut exports of key microchip manufacturing to China and spend a lot of money to do more microchip manufacturing in the United States or Mexico. This is more expensive but much more reliable, and will have the welcome effect of reducing potential Chinese competition and military tech enhancement. Now China faces the prospect of having to import increasingly scarce vital foreign items if it invades Taiwan.