China: Bullets Rather Than Ballots


April 25, 2023: China is quietly expanding its supply of nuclear weapons. This is a major change because for years it was believed that China only had about 300 nuclear weapons for use on land and sea (submarine) based missiles. Now China is expanding that to about a thousand by 2030 and 1,500 by 2035. This means that Russia and the United States will no longer be the only two nations with large nuclear weapons stockpiles. In 2021 the United States revealed that it had 3,750 nuclear weapons. That’s down from the maximum (31,255) in 1967 and 22,000 in 1991 when the Cold War ended. The two major nuclear powers, the U.S. and Russia, agreed to several nuclear reduction agreements during the 1970s and the end of the Cold War in 1991 led to major reductions in the number of nukes maintained by the U.S. and Russia. China developed nukes in the 1960s but until now never spent a lot of money on building a large stockpile. Most of the new Chinese nuclear warheads will be used on mobile (truck or railroad car) mounted missiles, most of them ICBMs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles). A few hundred will be immobile (silo-based).

The Myanmar (Burma) military government took power in early 2021, ousting an elected government that opposed Chinese influence. Since the coup, several rebel groups have fought the military. The Myanmar armed forces depend on Russia, China and Serbia, in that order, for weapons and ammunition. Since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago, Russia has reduced its arms sales to Myanmar. That was a lucrative business, amounting to over two billion dollars’ worth of weapons a year. China is now the main supplier of all the fuel, bombs, shells and other munitions needed to keep the fight going. The army ground forces are reluctant to fight when they encounter armed resistance, which continues in the tribal areas. The urban rebels are slowly arming but still depend on a lot of demonstrations by unarmed protestors. So far, Burmese soldiers and police have killed over 2,000 people and imprisoned nearly 20,000. Aside from China, most nations in the region want the military government to free the elected and appointed officials of the overthrown government. Without Chinese support the Burmese generals could not have sustained their coup and might not even have attempted it without assurances of Chinese support. Russia and China have supplied Myanmar with combat aircraft and weapons for airstrikes against rebels in remote locations. Many of the dead from the air attacks are civilians. India and other nations bordering China see the Burma coup government as a threat.

China continues to ban any weapons exports to Russia or any dual-use items that are vital to Russian weapons production or maintenance. The latest example are ball bearings. The major manufacturers of ball bearings are in the United States and Europe. China competes on price by offering lower quality ball bearings that are adequate for many uses, but not railroad cars or combat vehicles because of potential reliability problems. Russia had a stockpile of Western ball bearings when they invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and soon found they were cut off from Western supplies of ball bearings because of the invasion-related sanctions. Russia did not expect a long war in Ukraine and did not expect to lose most of their modern tanks in the first few months of fighting. It soon became apparent that there were not enough ball-bearings, particularly the easy to install, more reliable and significantly more expensive coil bearings, to keep the rail cars operational and build new tanks. Because of that the Russians brought in older T-62s and T-55s. China noted the vital importance of high-quality ball bearings and added that to its list of things China had to achieve. There are a lot of high-tech items China is still unable to produce itself but they are determined to continue working through their long list of high-tech items that China is still unable to produce and must import. This is why China complies with the sanctions. The alternative is crippling a lot of their industries because a lot of key components are no longer available.

While China complies with the sanctions, they are openly backing Russian claims that Ukraine has no right to be independent and is actually a portion of Russia that was illegally detached after the Soviet Union collapsed. China sees an independent Taiwan in similar terms. China is less eager to discuss how fragile the current unity of Russia is. Both nations were created by merging dozens of independent regions and many of these areas would prefer to be independent once more. Western nations have similar problems but as democracies the voters can decide how to keep everyone satisfied enough to remain. In some cases, democracies agree to grant autonomy or independence to areas that demand it. Undemocratic Russia and China tend to deal with dissatisfied citizens using bullying or bullets rather than relying on ballots.

April 21, 2023: China sent four warships and 12 military aircraft on a cruise around Taiwan. One of the Chinese aircraft, a Z-9 ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) entered the Taiwan ADIZ (air defense identification zone) without identifying itself. 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. Japan is also having problems with Chinese ADIZ violations in 2022, but those were down about 25 percent compared to 2021 and more of them were UAVs or surveillance balloons. Japan noted the American aggressive response to these balloons and now threatens to shoot down these balloons if China does not stop using them over Japanese territory or airspace.

April 20, 2023: Chinese exports to North Korea rose sharply in the last few months. In January and February exports were 161 percent higher than a year ago and 142 percent in March.

April 17, 2023: In the United States the FBI raided several Chinese “police stations” (as American media describes them) in major cities and arrested 44 Chinese who were working out of these facilities to harass Chinese in America who oppose Chinese government activities. Most of the men arrested turned out to be members of the Chinese MSS (Ministry of State Security) while two members of CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China) were also involved. The MSS members were assigned to plainclothes duty in the United States. The Chinese agents kept track of Chinese who migrated to the United States and may be vulnerable to threats and intimidation. They also organize protests against Western policies China disagrees with or local Chinese who criticize China. The Chinese operatives work out of office space rented in neighborhoods where many Chinese live or work. These work spaces are not identified by any signs or registered as a business with local governments. China has long used facilities like this to organize and carry out intimidation of Chinese critics in foreign countries. The intimidation often serves as a tool for espionage because some of the intimidated can also provide valuable information on economic or local political matters. China expanded this program and hired more operatives and rented more space for them to operate from. This made the operation more visible and vulnerable.

April 15, 2023: China, Taiwan and the United States are all studying the Ukraine War for useful lessons and found one in the huge quantities of artillery ammunition expended. This can have an impact on a Chinese attempt to seize Taiwan by forces. Taiwan has been increasing its weapons and munitions stockpiles for years as well as training more men for combat duty. While China has long planned to use over a thousand ballistic missiles and lots of airstrikes, they still have to get troops onto the island and deal with Taiwanese ground forces. At that point both sides would be depending on artillery a lot and the Ukraine War has demonstrated that a lot more artillery ammunition is needed than anyone planned for.

March 28, 2023: Iran is a major factor in Russian efforts to keep its economy going in spite of the economic sanctions. Russia also depends a lot on its most loyal trading partners; China and India. These two nations assist Russia in exporting its oil despite the sanctions. They can also obtain some items Russian can no longer obtain from Western suppliers. Care must be taken because many of these components can easily be identified and traced back to the last legal purchaser. Ukraine has been diligent about collecting debris from Russians weapons that are not supposed to exist because of the ban on selling Russian essential components. This has led to the discovery and elimination of several smuggling operations. This often involves sanctioning Chinese or Indian businesses and some of their key personnel. China, more than India, has to be careful about this because Western sanctions on Chinese firms means China can no longer obtain key components from Western suppliers. This sort of thing didn’t start with Russian operations in Ukraine and has been encountered for decades as Iran copes with similar sanctions.

March 24, 2023: In Afghanistan the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government cooperated with China, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, India, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia to reoccupy their embassy buildings and offices and use them to facilitate trade and other matters of mutual interest. The IEA treats these embassies as diplomatic operations and provides protection even though no ambassadors have been sent to Afghanistan yet. Some of these nations have said they will soon send ambassadors and the others are monitoring how this process is going. Foreigners, and many Afghans, still consider the IEA unstable and unpredictable.

March 20, 2023: Chinese leader Xi Jinping traveled to Russia to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The two announced efforts to replace the American dollar with the Chinese yuan as an international currency. For years China has been trying to make this happen. The biggest obstacle is the refusal to allow the yuan to be traded on financial markets. Instead, China simply pegs the value of the yuan to the American dollar. The heavy use of yuan by Russia in 2022 boosted the yuan to fifth place in international currencies with about seven percent of the market. The American dollar and the European euro continue to be the most commonly used currencies for international trade. China has achieved a reputation for making the yuan useful for outlaw states or firms that have problems gaining access to dollars or euros.

March 18, 2023: Chinese GDP growth was 4,5 percent during the first three months of 2023. This was higher than expected and was much higher than the first three months of 2022 when it was 4.8 percent. During the last few years GDP growth has been declining not just because of covid19 shutdowns but because of bank failures and other economic failures that can be traced back to CCP mismanagement of the economy. For a while the government stopped revealing annual GDP growth rates while scrambling to find ways to get economic growth going. Initially those efforts are concentrated on preventing a collapse of the financial system. Unofficially, the government expected 5.5 percent growth in 2022. Foreign economists estimate a more realistic 3.5 percent growth but the actual growth was three percent. These GDP problems were caused by damage done by all the covid shutdowns. A growing number of Chinese and foreign economists are now questioning the reported size of the Chinese economy because of Chinese attempts at deception to hide the true impact of covi19 on China and the government's role in trying to silence Chinese scientists criticizing the Chinese role in trying to suppress the fact that covid19 originated in China and that initially China silenced Chinese medical researchers demanding action against the new disease. China has admitted that provincial governments had, in the past, reported exaggerated economic data to the central government that led to claims of higher economic growth than was actually taking place. These deceptions did to become news until the mismanagement of bank loans by provincial officials became obvious and halted a lot of local economic activity.

China’s economy was already slowing down when the current government-ordered covid19 shutdowns began in Shanghai and spread to over a hundred towns and cities. There seemed to be no end to this. There is also an unresolved real-estate bubble and more Chinese banks are suffering liquidity (cannot meet demands for withdrawals) problems. The economic damage done by all this led to a $5 trillion dollar stimulus program to alleviate suffering among workers and provide businesses with cash needed to keep operating. The actual decline in GDP growth is a state secret but is believed to be bad enough to create persistent GDP shrinkage and an official end to the decades of high GDP growth. China’s economy is, at $18 trillion (or less) a year, the second largest in the world. The Americans have economic problems but not to the extent China suffers from.




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