Does China Really Want War?

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Mon, Mar 23 - 9:00 am EST | 4 years ago by
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Lines of Departure - China

It’s alleged far and wide, and sometimes even by the Chinese, that China is planning a war. I would suggest to you, very strongly, that this is not so. Whether it’s a case of the Western vapors because we expect China to start a war to enhance the regime’s prestige and legitimacy, or to bolster Chinese national pride,1 or because the one child policy has left them with a dangerous surplus of young men who will never find a woman,2 or simply to prevent their being encircled by us and our allies, or at least their enemies,3 it is just not in their interest. Neither are they likely to be deluded enough to think it is in their interest.

In the first place, war has rarely been kind to China. They’ve been invaded, plundered, pillaged, occupied, exploited, murdered, enslaved, and raped en masse (not usually in quite that order, of course). They’ve had opium force fed to them. They’ve had their governmental legitimacy undermined by gunboats. Large chunks of their territory have been sliced away. As much as half their population disappeared from the census – dead or enserfed, scholars debate the matter – during and largely due to the Mongol conquest. For a majority of the last seven hundred and fifty years or so they’ve been ruled in whole or in fragmented part by foreigners…conquering foreigners. For much of the rest of the time, since a couple of thousand years BC, when there were no aggressive foreigners handy to do the dirty work, they’ve managed well enough in the infliction of misery on themselves and on each other. Their forays in imperialism against their neighbors have, generally speaking, not worked out especially well for them, either.

Although some of that military failure might be attributable to a certain innate cultural conservatism, it’s by no means clear that this was a cause of much of it. Indeed, it’s harder than hell to see an overarching cause. They’ve lost when they had the numbers. They’ve lost when they had technological advantages. They’ve lost even with the best bureaucracy – to support their armies – even imaginable for the day and age. They’ve lost more often than not despite being a highly intelligent, hard-working, capable, and brave people. Defensive works didn’t save them. Military force failed regularly. The only times they’ve succeeded was when their goals were quite limited. I don’t know why they lose and I doubt they really know either or they’d long since have fixed it.

It’s a truism, even a cliché, but only China’s culture has saved China when its military failed.

These are people who are going to put their faith in a potentially existential war when they don’t have to? Color me skeptical.

In the second place, by their actions since the re-occupation (or conquest or Anschluess; take your pick) of Tibet in 1950, the Chinese attitude to the use of military force can be summed up as, “Strongly worded diplomatic message.” Think about the times and places they’ve employed direct military force against foreigners, and the manner in which they’ve done so:

Korea, 1950: They warn us through neutrals (India) that they’re getting very antsy about our apparent intent to extinguish the North Korean regime as well as about how close we’re getting to their border. We don’t listen. So they smack the shit out of us and send us reeling south in a panic. Do they pursue? Why, no, they don’t. Rather, they back off, regroup, and give us a chance to think about it. We don’t think about it. We advance; they kick the crap out of us, again, driving us south, and then we slowly drive them north to the point where nobody gains or loses much, but China manages to retain a buffer between us and our allies and China proper. Short version: China fought for and achieved a return to the status quo ante bellum.

India, 1962: With border negotiations having failed, concerning the border previously negotiated between the British Empire and Tibet, which China effectively owns again, with India stationing troops north of that border, and apparently patrolling north of that border, and with India providing sanctuary to the Dalai Lama, the Chinese strike. Notably, however, they give warning, they announce their goals, they achieve their goals, and then they announce a unilateral cease fire, backing off to something close to the status quo ante bellum. Moreover, in 1967, with the Chola Incident, a case of Indian forces intercepting Chinese infiltrators, which led to something close to four hundred killed, the Chinese lost. Even so, rather than seeking revenge, they returned to the status quo ante bellum.

USSR Border Conflict, to include Zhenboa Island, 1969: Theoretically a huge incident, with as many as a million and a half troops either involved or poised, casualties are much lower. The Chinese lose more, while the USSR retains its hold on the islands in the Amur River. Basically, China stakes its claim with blood and then relaxes to the status quo ante bellum.

Vietnam, 1979: With serious tensions between China and the USSR, and Vietnam on China’s southern border, with China’s only ally in the region the extremely unsavory and murderous Khmer Rouge, and with Vietnam firmly allied with their chief supplier during our war in Vietnam, the USSR, China went to war for the very limited goals of keeping their Khmer Rouge allies in the war and reminding the Vietnamese that Russia was powerful but China was closer. End result: somewhere between ten or fifteen thousand and one hundred and fifty thousand dead (commies lie; remember that), pretty much status quo ante bellum, with the Khmer Rouge hanging on another ten years.

The short version? China will use military force, but always with restraint and largely as a mere tool of diplomacy. They don’t start existential wars.4

In the third place, I remind the reader of the old saw, “If you owe the bank ten thousand dollars and can’t pay, you have a problem. If you owe the bank ten million and can’t pay, the bank has a problem.” Well, friends, we’re the debtor and China is the bank. They’re the largest single foreign holder of US government debt, being exposed to the tune of about 1.2 trillion.5 That is a non-trivial proportion of their not quite ten trillion dollar gross domestic product. In other words, they’ve got a problem.

Fourthly, Japan. I don’t think it’s going too far to say that if you gave the average citizen of the PRC a box with a button that would kill every Japanese in the world, he’d push the button twice. The first time he’d point an ear toward Japan and push the button slowly, for the emotional satisfaction of hearing all those Nipponese last screams. The second time he’d mash it, hard and fast, to make sure. An online chum of mine is married to a mainland Chinese girl. She can, if only just barely, manage to be polite to American Japanese she meets. But she still cannot for the life of her understand why we only dropped two nukes when there were so many Japanese cities. That they surrendered is not, to her, a sufficiently good reason to have stopped.6

So China wants to do something that runs the risk of turning nice, soft, pacifist, corrupt (oh, yes, they are) Japan back into the Japan of the 30s and 40s? Pull the other one; that’s China’s nightmare, not its goal.




3, which ought to remind you that a) nations have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests, and b) that however short he may be, the Vietnamese in the picture, on the left, still looks like a bigger man that that orange-faced, windsurfing buffoon on the right.

4 Note, here, that I haven’t discussed the three Taiwan Straits Crises, nor even the massively bloody artillery duels over Matsu and Quemoy. Why not? Well, some things the Nationalist and Communist Chinese of the day would surely have agreed on were that a) there was only one China and b) they were engaged in a civil war over it. Different class of problem, in other words.

5 and

6 Hi, Ned, best to the Missus.

Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through

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  • Ming the Merciless

    she still cannot for the life of her understand why we only dropped two nukes when there were so many Japanese cities

    We were going to drop more, but pity stayed our hand.

    “What a pity we’ve run out of a-bombs…”

    • Grumpy Guy

      We were not really out. A third was in the pipeline for delivery later in August and in the following months we had plans to drop 3 or 4 a month. The “No more A-bombs” thing is widely disseminated but incorrect.

    • Ming the Merciless

      Yeah yeah yeah, I knew I’d get an aspie response from someone.

      It was a reference to Bored of the Rings. Go read it, it will make you less grumpy.

    • Grumpy Guy

      Nothing makes me less grumpy. And I have read it… about 35 years ago, heh.

    • Athelstane

      Exactly. Had Japan kept fighting – had the army coup succeeded – more Japanese cities would have experienced atom splitting. With some possibly reserved for hitting invasion beaches.

      But that reality would have been a very ugly one indeed.

    • Drang

      I wish I’d posted that. Didn’t even get to post the reference. I haz a sad…

  • Grumpy Guy

    Agree that China does not want war. They would rather inherit global hegemony in two generations after America dies of self-inflicted nonsense than fight us. Short term, they have very limited goals in local waters. Occasional bursts of jingoism are for internal consumption. There is, however, always the nasty chance of miscalculation or outright stupidity on someone’s part.

    • KenWats

      In two generations they’ll have problems of their own, or so we think (working age population decline). Agree about the miscalculation for the present.

    • Pugmak

      It’s not just pop issues from their birth policy either.

      There’s a bubbling cauldron of resentment from the rural dwellers toward the urbanites. And, in the rural areas, the party functionaries have devolved, as is always the case with such governments, into nothing more than thugs and bandits in many areas.

    • David BB

      Were they ever anything else? I remember hearing, about twenty years back, from people who purported to have traveled in China recently–that is, in the period between Tienanmen Square and Clinton giving them Most Favored Nation trading status. They described a total and complete garrison state not greatly different from North Korea, and spoke of a land where there were shining, modern-looking cities on the coastline for foreigners to see and be awed by, but when you moved twenty miles inland everyone still lived in tiny villages, most without electrical power or a telephone line, lived their entire lives and died never more than a day’s walk from the village in which they were born, and in which the sole contact with the outside world was a loudspeaker on a pole playing patriotic music and government propaganda “news” from sunup to sundown–sometimes in a dialect of Chinese that the locals could not understand. And the countryside, they said, was basically one enormous Orwellian totalitarian state, where making a joke about the provincial governor’s wife or talking seriously about something called “democracy” would result in immediate swift retaliation, usually with entire families being “disappeared” and buried in shallow roadside graves by the secret police.

      I wonder how much has really changed in twenty years.

    • Ori Pomerantz

      OUR problems are discussed and highly visible. Chinese culture, OTOH, is more about saving face and hiding problems. Their problems may well be worse than ours.

    • Tom Kratman

      Their problems are worse than ours. They’re going to get old before they get rich and powerful.

    • James

      Add to that the Massive debt they themselves have already worked up and the several large bad bubbles and its even worse.

  • Connie Elliott

    PLA doctrine has had them going to war with us over control of the Western Pacific by 2020 – 2030 since at least the late 1970s and they have made territorial claims on every single one of their neighbors, except for Mongolia … because who wants the oil-poor Gobi Desert? I’m including the claims of the South China Sea up to the shorelines of, well, everybody.

    If they don’t want a fight, they sure act strangely.

    • Ori Pomerantz

      Maybe they’re afraid the west would invade them again, as it did in the 1800s?

    • Tom Kratman

      Acting strangely to our eyes and being Chinese? The contradiction in this is? ;)

    • Connie Elliott

      That doesn’t mean that they are not knowable. It also is a matter of time-scale. Sure, if you’re a Realist and you think in terms of the next few hours, the PRC doesn’t want a war. The Chinese, however, think in terms of the long game. A generation’s time is short term for them, culturally speaking, and in that kind of timeframe, they do want a conflict of some sort that will enable them to cement a hegemony that will evict us from the Western Pacific. Their doctrine plainly says this.

    • biltzjohn

      The idea they look at the long term and generations away is a popular thing to say but really is not provable by history. It seems more like to me every thirty years ago they throw everything away and start over. You have the revolution in the 40s, the Cultural Revolution in the 60s-70s, followed immediately with its rejection and now economic feudalism. They may plan but they are sucking at the execution.

    • Tom Kratman

      I think what happens, John, is that they don’t get emotionally distraught over a few hundred or few thousand dead, so they don’t act like we would at the same level of loss. That can look like long term thinking, but it’s more on the order of _lack_ of letting your emotions rule in the short term.

    • Tom Kratman

      There’s a difference, Connie, between what people say they want and what they really want. Commies – and their spoiled brat progeny – lie instincively. Doctrine can be real, but it can equally be fantasy and disinformation.

    • CruisingTroll

      The doctrine may say it, but there’s one factor you are overlooking. Change. Technological and social change is moving at an incredible rate, making “long game” planning a fine sinecure for fantasists, but silly to pay much attention to in the short and medium term.

      China’s demographics are horrible, especially compared to their southern neighbors. The most resilient features of their culture have been those most subconsciously conservative and risk averse. Risk aversion was an important factor in surviving the madness of the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese want to succeed, but as Col K points out, they really, really are not fans of chaos. And war, above all things, is chaos. With the chaos of change (when looked at from a generational perspective, it really is chaotic), they won’t be looking to throw more chaos in the box with the cat.

    • Connie Elliott
  • Allston

    True, they just want all the other local nations to just hand over stuff, because they’re intimidated.

    China: Aggrieved by a past of Colonialism, the worst Colonialist is 60 years.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Good perspective, sir, thank you.

    I think the Chinese government needs exterior foes to focus the popular will….and to distract them from their own, amazing corruption. I do expect there will be serious trigger pulling over Taiwan at some point, especially with our navy being stretched and flayed.

    I’ve been noodling, doing some wargaming over a Chinese invasion of the Japanese islands circle 2025. I’m not sure they’d do it but the hate is there, that’s for sure. Hate like that eventually finds an outlet, will it or no.

    • Pugmak

      I’m not so sure on the PDRChina vs Taiwan thing going hot.

      The old guard on both ends is dying out. There’s been enough contact from the PDRChina young dragons with the west that the governance model is going to change. It won’t be “like America” when it settles. It’ll be something rather uniquely Chinese in form and concept, but it won’t be the old school commiescum either.

      As that’s happening, I tend toward seeing an arranged rejoining between PDRChina and Taiwan.

    • Mark Andrew Edwards

      I’m an ocean away, so my info is all internet and second hand. Most of the PRC people over here avoid the topic like the plague. But from what I hear back in the Motherland, the war drum about Taiwan was still being beat for the new generation.

      I sincerely hope you’re right. I’ve liked every Taiwanese person I’ve worked with and I’d hate for that light to go out of the East.

  • Lawrence F. Greenwood

    Oh, yeah. I remember the fights when a Chinese woman, a Phillipino woman, and Japanese woman all met back when I was a SP in the Air Force.
    China I think likes the status quo, but also desires to look strong. The dispute over islands between Japan and the Philippines is verbal until they can move in force and most likely will be done fast and by the time anyone can react a finished deed. Possibly the same plan they have with Taiwan. In many ways they are playing a waiting game.
    The Alliance with North Korea is a crumbling one. Having them as a ally for so long was useful. But when the nutcase can hurt you too, you rethink priority’s. Finally the trade/debt between the US and China is one of dependency. They need the US as much as we need them. A war with us would hurt them badly while hurting ourselves just as much. And its a danger to the Chinese leadership as a loss of that trade would devastate there economy.
    At the moment they desire peace with a gun on the table, if they did go to war it would be with the intention of a quick, victorious war with the victory assured and there opponents having no chance and little to no outside help. One of the many reasons I think they try there best to remind everyone else of events of 60 years back. To keep everyone divided.

    • David BB


      There is a problem with using an enormous foreign debt as a weapon. Very nearly anything you do with it to hurt the creditor hurts you at least as much and may well hurt you more. What would it do to China’s economy if America’s economy collapsed? I submit that if all the American debt they hold went “poof” tomorrow, and Americans were no longer avidly buying consumer goods manufactured in China, China would be following us down the tubes pretty quickly.

    • Rick Randall

      Years ago, when people (goldbugs all) were whining about the coming “Chinese Repo” of America, I simply said:
      “Let them get froggy. If they try to cash in their debt, we’ll renege and tell then to KEEP the frigging teddy bears and cheap sneakers. Consumer soft goods production is *not* quickly, easily, or cheaply turned into militarily useful hard goods production. We’ll have economic upheavals that will suck over a period of a few years. Their economy will crater into a smoking hole almost overnight.”

  • Duffy

    I do not think China
    values the idea of Global Domination all that much, I think the thing that preoccupies China is nothing but Regional domination and first and foremost the security of the Middle Kingdom. I believe that everything else they do is in support the security of China proper. They will not risk spending major resources when
    China proper is not threatened. This does not mean they won’t become
    financially involved in say, Panama. That supports the economic security of China
    proper. This does not mean they will not expend some Naval and air assets over
    regional resource supplies like the islands in dispute with Japan, Viet Nam. S.
    Korea and the Philippines. But when your biggest asset is a million man army,
    and that is also your best guaranty of the security of China Proper, you do not
    risk it except on the security of China proper.

    This may be a comforting thing for the United States and Europe, it is still a major concern for China’s Neighbors. Especially Viet Nam, Japan and most particularly the Koreas. It also plays with the relationships with the Republic of China (Taiwan).

    As long as Taiwan looks like an economic success, it poses a problem for the ruling elite of China.

    Viet Nam is an enemy and a threat to Chinese regional supremacy of old, and
    Japan of new, neither can be perceived as becoming too powerful or they can
    become a destabilizing threat to the ruling Class.

    Then there is Korea, and China has been dealing with Korea for 2,000 years in much the same manner. Keep them divided and play one side off against each other. It can be traced back 2,000 years. Gojosean and Jin, Buyeo and Goguryu, Goguryu and Silla, Silla and Balekje, Balhae and Silla, and North
    Korea and South Korea. Because when and if Korea is united, there is always the
    fact that historically, a good portion of Manchuria, populated by ethnic Koreans,
    has been a part of a United Korean peninsula, and an existential threat to China
    proper. Korea has been divided like it is now frequently in the last 2,000
    years, as a matter of policy by the Chinese. I think this is one of the goals
    for Chinese policy regarding Korea, and I don’t doubt that if they could, the
    Chinese would just as soon play patron to South Korea as they would to North
    Korea, as long as they are divided.

    I think most Korean leaders, North and South, are fully aware of this.

  • Jack Withrow

    Col, I agree that at this time China doesn’t want a war. But not wanting one and bungling into one are two entirely different things. With the quality of the feckless politicians on all sides, I think another Pacific War is probable in the next 20 years. And it will be because of political miscalculation, not because of desire. There are just too many flashpoints currently in the Far East and all it takes is one major screw-up.

    • Tom Kratman

      Yes, they can bungle into war. So can we. two weeks from now I’ll discuss that.

  • Iron Spartan

    I do wonder about plans to deal with the estimated 100-300 Million military aged males who have no chance of finding a wife in China. It would seem to me what they have the potential to be very destabilizing to a country unless given a target elsewhere. That doesn’t have to mean war, China’s recent activities in Africa come to mind, but it seem the most likely case to me.

    • Tom Kratman

      Closer to forty million, I think. Still not small.

    • Hanfeizi

      South Korea has a proportionately similar imbalance, though about ten years ahead of China’s curve. So far the answer to what happens seems to be “record profits for Samsung and Blizzard” as lonely men devote their hours to work and video games.

    • Tom Kratman

      It’s everywhere, really, to include the most patriarchal Islamic states, but probably worst in those places where they’re prone to sex selective abortion.

    • Hanfeizi

      SK seems a better parallel, civilizationally and arc-of-development-wise. However, there are some places where the parallels fall down- hard working urban men in China tend to have little trouble finding wives, as all the rural women head to the cities to look for those sorts. It’s the poor farmers back home who are left behind. Though every village now has a webcafe, and drowning your sorrows in cheap grain liquor and video game binges is well within the price range of even most “poor peasants” these days.

    • Tom Kratman

      Which address something Pug says below, and which I call the “lackanookie theory of racial disharmony,” though it can work culturally and geographically, too. It holds that any groups of young men, in real or _perceived_ competition for the same women, will automatically hate each others guts.

    • Hanfeizi

      Right- and keeping the frustrated young men isolated in villages where they can do no more harm than get drunk and rage on the Internet is probably more what Beijing has in mind than starting territorial wars.

  • Cathe Smith

    Yes, China has large numbers of single men looking for a wife, but they also have heavy metal contamination in their rice ( ). This type of contamination can lead to decreased physical capabilities, decreased fertility, and increased infant mortality.

    Given their lenient approach to quality control of their foodstuffs, I wonder how long their healthy population surplus will continue.

  • Neil

    Col. Kratman,

    China is currently a rising power, relative to Europe, the U.S., Japan, Russia, and anyone else sizeable enough to give them a headache. Traditionally, that means you are correct–they have no reason to want a war because they will be stronger in the future and better able to get what they want. For the time being, the U.S. or Russia is more likely to be the instigator.

    But it’s also pretty easy to come up with scenarios whereby that dynamic reverses at some point in the next 20 or 30 years. A China whose relative power is peaking might be much more willing to pull the trigger, in a gamble to knock a rival (or rivals) down sufficiently to maintain Chinese ascendancy. Wilhelmine Germany is an obvious historical parallel…

    • Tom Kratman

      Maybe stronger, some ways. Almost certainly weaker in many others.

    • Neil

      The general trend has been that China gets stronger relative to other nations. Not too surprising, given their position in the 1940′s. Therefore, they prefer limited warfare that will not harm the trend. But what does their decision matrix look like if other nations turn themselves around and get stronger at a faster rate than China, or if China stops growing quite so rapidly?

    • Tom Kratman

      Depends, I think, on where they stand in relation to the entirely of the non-Diaspora Han. If they have all the Han, and the stagnate while the rest of the world moves forward, they probably sigh and endure it. (This, of course, presupposing that China doesn’t fragment into a number of groups, which it might.) The core of the thing is, though, does China, long term or short, really give a rat’s ass about the non-Han world, except insofar as it fairly directly threatens the Han? I don’t they do, now or tomorrow.

    • Neil


      I have had a few conversations with Chinese colleagues who quite pointedly said that America is doomed and China will rule the world in our place. Or in one colleague’s more-succinct formulation “you’ll be our b**ch”.

      Now, that’s only a few and most Chinese engineers I’ve known are entirely polite and nice to be with. But…

      I also note the behavior of Chinese companies in Africa. They, to a greater extent than Americans, bring their own workers with them and have a terrible reputation with the local Africans. Or, for that matter, the reputation China is getting anywhere that they have the upper hand. They’re not generally shy about stating their belief that they are the superior “partner” and that they intend to keep things that way.

      I think that China, as a geopolitical entity, has problems that tend to prevent them from projecting power. But I also think that today’s Chinese have a great desire to project power.

    • Tom Kratman

      Well, if they’re blind enough not to see China’s problems, which are worse than ours, I’m not all that worried about their opinions. I’m reminded too of the financial bath the Japanese took by buying up real estate here, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth that accompanied it, here. How’d that one work out for Nippon, anyway?

    • Neil

      Oh, I agree wholeheartedly. And while I’m constantly told by the pencil-pusher and trader types that within my lifetime China will be the financial capital of the world, I note to myself that actual Chinese seem to be willing to purchase anything so long as it is not actually in China. Just like Japan, circa 1988. Worse actually–the affluent Chinese seem to make sure there’s an anchor baby in America or the Commonwealth. Nothing says “confidence” like making sure you have progeny in “enemy” territory.

      But we were discussing war and peace, not capital flight. And WW1 was hardly rational, was it? Any fool could have pointed out (and did) that the Schlieffen plan was a 50-50 bet, at best….

    • akulkis

      I never understood the worry here in the U.S. about the Japs buying up our real estate… it’s not like they were going to load the Prudential Tower on a ship and haul it back to Tokyo as a prize of [economic] war…

      Buying foreign real estate is simply the most generalized (and safe) form of investing in another country’s economy. If their economy does better than yours, the value in nominal currency goes up relative to the value in your own currency.

    • Tom Kratman

      Besides that, the Japs took a bath on our real estate….or were taken for a ride, if you prefer that metaphor.

    • James

      The Chinese seem to have a problem. Rather its a cultural thing at the top of Chinese society. There are the Chinese and then there is everyone else. It seems to pop up whenever they get powerful. Like a inborn emperor mong on their civilizations back.

      It’s weird and irrational and is probably why they went from being a country everyone was becoming better and better friends with in 2009 to a country everyone was leary of and disliked after 2013.

      They basically came out and told the region and the world to mind your betters and keep silent. It was weird to watch. Turned around all their relations with their neighbors in a night.

    • Neil

      I was not surprised by that. My observations of their bad attitude go back 12 years or so.

    • Pugmak

      There was a mindset in China, back in the day. No clue if it’s moderated or changed over time.

      It was “If you’re from another village, you’re a foreigner. If you’re not Chinese, you’re not human.”

  • Toranth

    I think part of the disagreement lies in your topic phrasing itself:

    China does not WANT war – what they want is to get their desires without needing to go to war. But they are perfectly willing to go to war, if that is what it takes.

    The war they expect will be a short victorious one-sided beat-down. Nothing to bring the US in, or that would seriously threaten a nearby nation. Instead, we’ll see an accident during one of the constant provocations being performed by Chinese “civilian” fishermen in foreign territory. Perhaps a fishing boat rammed by an overly aggressive or clumsy Vietnamese or Philippine naval vessel.
    This’ll be drummed up with some careful staged riots at home, and then the Chinese will send out an occupying force to capture a nearby island or two and some ships to drive out the barbarian invaders. If the owners resist, there’ll be a little shooting, then a bunch of prisoners that China will offer back as part of a peace deal.
    With everything over in a few days, no one else in the world will be willing to push the issue, and without major foreign powers as allies, no one else in the SCS area *can* fight back.
    It’s no less a war because it’s short and one-sided.

    • Tom Kratman

      I don’t actually phrase the topics, though if I really object to one I can get it changed.

      The disagreement isn’t about wanting or not wanting war, it’s about what war even _is_. A skirmish that kills a hundred Indians and three hundred Chinese probably looks like a war to both the Indians and the Chinese on the ground. To the overarching states? No, it’s just an annoyance and inconvenience, but not war. That the Chinese don’t want war shouldn’t be taken to mean that they won’t fight, but that they’ll fight in limited ways, for limited goals, and largely to demonstrate that they must be taken seriously at the negotiating table.

  • Drang

    In the last decade of my career there was a rather Murphy-ish list of “NCO Wisdom” floating around — my contribution was “If they make it twice as large, you’ll need twice as many batteries” — which included the item “The Chinese can’t assemble enough canoes to invade Taiwan.”

    The rebuttal, of course, is that they can certainly collect enough cargo ships to invade, including infiltrating via shipping container. The question would be, would ,Taiwan detect and destroy such an invasion in time?

    China’s population has always excited passions: The religious person wants to convert them, the businessman wants to sell to them, and those responsible for National Security reflect on the bromide that quantity has a quality all it’s own.

    In the meantime, Wu just wants to be left alone to raise his family and honor his ancestors.

    (This was an interesting novel in it’s original edition, haven’t read the updated version:

    • Tom Kratman

      You may note that there was some hack sci fi writer, delving into regular military fiction, who alluded to just that technique for China invading Taiwan.

  • Athelstane

    Chinese grudges against Japan are quite understandable, when you appreciate what they went through at Japan’s hands from 1895 to 1945 (especially those final eight years) – think of the Rape of Nanking, and even more horrible things.

    But the U.S. had its own grudge, and you can’t say we didn’t get payback. Forget the nukes; through its incendiary bombings, the U.S. basically incinerated about 40% of Japan’s entire urban area, killed off about 400,000 civilians in pretty grisly ways and made most of the rest homeless.

    • Jack Withrow

      Remember though that Japan has reason to have a grudge against China also, that predates 1895. There were more than a few attempted Chinese Invasions of Japan. There has been hostility between the two countries for at least 1500 years if not longer. And just about all of China’s neighboring countries have good reason to hold grudges against China. In some ways the countries of the Far East are just as bad as the tribes of Afghanistan about holding grudges. You add ancient and not so ancient grudges to feckless politicians and you have a powder keg in the making. All it takes is one miscalculation.

    • CruisingTroll

      Actually, it takes far more than one miscalculation, especially in the Orient. Because pretty much all of those countries are conservative and consensus driven, they tend not to bumble nearly as much as Western countries. They tend in REAL matters to go much more towards long games with small stakes, whereas in recreational gambling they, well, they’re just crazy gamblers. It’s an interesting contrast actually.

  • Harry_the_Horrible

    Good. ‘Cause i sure as heck do not want to see the USA go to war with China.
    In the end, China always wins….

    • Tom Kratman

      Only inside China unless we define win as “pretty much status quo ante bellum.”.

    • Harry_the_Horrible

      If we spend billions (or trillions) of dollars and thousands of lives to get “status quo ante bellum” I would call that a loss. whether or not China got to call a win.
      And the PRC would be be back, eventually.

  • Foolish Pride

    People’s General was a fun game but fortunately was just a game.

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