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In The Inequality of Man, the great evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane noted that fanaticism was one of the great inventions of the pre-modern world. Obsessive enthusiasm, especially for an unattainable thing like paradise, makes the fanatic a violent force of nature. We see that with the current Afghan debacle. The open borders fanatics have immediately seized on the crisis to justify importing millions of Afghans into your neighborhood. They never miss a beat.
Similarly, the same people responsible for losing yet another war for the empire are now using the Afghan mess to demand money for their China project. The logic here is that the willingness to abandon Afghanistan, as if it was the crown jewel of the empire, means China will think the US will abandon Taiwan. They may make a play for reclaiming the island nation as a result. The remedy is to give the brain trust of the military industrial complex more money for more new stuff.
The “heads we win, tails you lose” psychology of the military industrial complex is one of those signs of rot that does not get enough attention. The truth is, Afghanistan fell victim to the same disease that afflicts everything else. It quickly became a racket for rich people to skim money from Americans. Billions went to NGO’s and civilian contractors, who then used some portion of it to reward their favorite politicians back in Washington for their support of Afghanistan.
Putting that aside, how realistic is it that China will look at this as their chance to make a move on Taiwan? The answer depends upon your view of China, rather than what is happening with the empire. The old Sinophiles still see the healthy young dragon of their youth, so they assume she will make her play sooner rather than later, because she is not getting any younger. The new Sino-skeptics see an aging dragon that has a pot-belly and smokes too much to fight anyone.
In both cases, China’s demographics are important. China’s one child policy and her sudden fertility collapse is creating a demographic disaster. The Sinophiles think this means she has to move now before it is too late, and the Sino-skeptics think it is already too late. The typical Chinese person right now is a 39-year-old man. He most likely lives in a city which means he is enjoying city life. The collapse of Chinese fertility means China is the fastest aging population in history.
You can see why the Sinophiles think China has to move now if she ever plans to move on Taiwan, but you also see why that may be impossible. That bottomless pit of young males that make good fighters is quickly drying up. Compounding it is the fact that China now has a very restless middle-class. So much so that the party is now plotting to give the billionaires a haircut in order to redistribute wealth. This is a move to shore up popular support with the middle-aged, middle class.
The worst possible thing the party could do for this demographic is launch of pointless war of choice to seize Taiwan. This would mean diverting resources from that middle-class to the war effort. It would also lead to an economic collapse, as China needs access to the Pacific to trade with the world. They also depend on the dollar and access to US markets. There is popular support for retaking Taiwan, but middle-aged support tends to be a mile wide and inch deep.
This is why the West has gone along with the kooky schemes of the radicals in charge of the institutions. Protesting the government is a young man’s game and the West is short of young men. When you are 25 with nothing to lose, you will bet your life in a better future. When you are 45 with everything to lose, you will risk very little. The is the situation in China. It is increasingly a land full of middle-aged people who don’t want to lose what they struggled so hard to acquire.
Of course, there is the military reality. Even though the US military is run by lunatics and goofballs, the war-making disparity is massive. China, for example, has two aircraft carriers that require air support from land to operate. The US has nuclear powered carriers that can attack from beyond China’s reach. Then there is the massive submarine fleet that can reach out and touch every point in China. An attack on Taiwan would be a disaster for the Chinese military.
When you start looking at the reality of current China, rather than the romantic image of 1990’s China, there is a good case that she is in decline. She went from medieval to modern in a couple of generations, which was impressive. This is why so many still see her as a marvel of central planning. The thing is though, that speed of progress is now quickly taking her past her peak deep into the modern disease. China has a bad case of “Benjamin Button” syndrome and there is no known cure for it.
That does not rule out war in the Pacific. One lesson from Afghanistan is that the military industrial complex is a massive money laundering operation. It needs low-grade wars to keep it going. In fact, the political system needs it as well. Now that the crusades against Islam have run out of steam, the war machine needs a new racket to launder the trillions. That most likely means a cold war with China that requires trillions in new toys and new experts to “keep American safe.”
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