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  #1  
Old 01-28-2023, 12:07 PM
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Default OT: China v. Taiwan?

I accidentally deleted this thread, so here are the posts (moved from Putin's War in Ukraine) that started it:

Heffe wrote:

I honestly can't see China going for Taiwan anytime in the near future, fully recognizing that there's a lot of hubbub from pundits regarding that exact scenario.

One, China's internal body politic is incredibly complex, and while Xi has consolidated a LOT of control within it, it's still a cumbersome beast, and takes a long time to come to decisions. Attacking Taiwan, clearly, would risk a heavy impact on nearly every aspect of China's economy and populace, and XI's opponents in the Politburo and Central Committee would see it as an opportunity to wrest power from him.

Two, China is watching what's happening in Ukraine with great interest. It's making note of the entire western world effectively coming together to stymy Russia's efforts through donation of arms and sanctions, and it knows that it risks facing something similar if it makes a move for Taiwan.

Three, while the PLAN has grown significantly, the US has pledged to defend Taiwan, and the Pacific Fleet is nothing to scoff at. Even if China decided to attack, there's no guarantee they'd be victorious even against only the combined might of the ROCN and the USN.

Four, China is nearly as dependent on the US for trade as the US is dependent upon China. When you take into account US trade disappearing, and then combine it with likely sanctions from the entire western world and an already fragile Chinese economy, attacking Taiwan would likely result in economic suicide. That suicide wouldn't only effect China, either.

That's my take at least. I'd be curious to know what others think.

Castlebravo responded:

rational analysis, I think, would show that China can't realistically achieve it's political goals, vis-a-vis Taiwan, via military action in the near term future.

If you look at just a US vs. China square off, China has two main advantages: manpower and industrial output. These are very important, to be sure.

But, critically, they are hugely dependent on energy imports (something like 80% of their demand) for their transportation, industrial, and agricultural output. Most of that energy is coming from the Persian Gulf, and it wouldn't take much naval power at all to disrupt that, and there is nothing China could do because they have few friendly naval ports between the Persian Gulf and their ports. The US could park a couple of attack subs in the Indian Ocean and sink every super tanker bound for China.

Oil stops coming in, and the lights go off in 6 months, and people start starving 3-6 months later.

But that doesn't mean China won't try.

I was very firmly in the "Russia is bluffing camp" because:
1) Putin had a pretty unbroken string of political successes and didn't seem to be the type to make dumb mistakes
2) They had secured guarantees that Ukraine would not join NATO
3) Their force composition was WAY too small to take over and control a country the size of Ukraine. I thought they would conventionally defeat the Ukraine military and maybe take key cities, but it would be a guerilla war nightmare for them.

So a bluff seemed a crafty way to get what they, on paper, wanted. Turns out Putin grossly miscalculated and it was a pretty epic blunder.

So, I can't discount that Xi might think things favor him (Biden is a weak President, the US and the West are distracted with Ukraine) and make some sort of miscalculation there.

Raellus responded:

I would add internal lines of communication and supply to China's list of advantages. A PRC invasion force has a relatively short distance to cover to arrive at the battle space (even helicopters are in range of Taiwan from the mainland). Any US intervention force would have much further to travel to the conflict zone from potential PTO bases. China knows this and has been developing the ability to strike those bases, as well as area denial weapons, for the last decade.

Re energy shortfalls, how much could Russian natural gas offset those?

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  #2  
Old 01-29-2023, 05:09 PM
ToughOmbres ToughOmbres is offline
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Default ROC vs. PRC

A lot would depend on how much warning/lead time was available. Building up airborne forces and amphibious forces would be difficult to disguise from huminit and satellites.

If a bolt out of the blue invasion took place without a US CVN (or two) in the area Taiwan's going to face a much more difficult fight.

The PRC can't afford (literally) to lay waste to the island when one of the reasons for taking Taiwan are the industrial and economic assets. A massive damaging invasion would be self defeating.

Likewise in a true nightmare scenario where the PRC detonates an EMP device of some sort to shock both the ROC defenders and any USN assets in the area would destroy the very island and its infrastructure they are trying to seize.

Difficult to say-always in motion is the future.
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Old 01-30-2023, 08:26 AM
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Default "Routine Military Excercises"

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A lot would depend on how much warning/lead time was available. Building up airborne forces and amphibious forces would be difficult to disguise from huminit and satellites.
That may be one reason for China's recent large-scale military excercises in the region, as well as its near daily air and sea incursions in Taiwanese air and sea space. The former provides can provide cover for an invasion force and the latter desensitize the Taiwanese and their allies to the possibility of the real thing.

Last August:

https://thediplomat.com/2022/08/chin...around-taiwan/

This month:

https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/09/asia/...-ml/index.html

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Old 01-31-2023, 06:03 PM
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Default CSIS wargame

https://www.csis.org/analysis/first-...nvasion-taiwan

On the question of conflict between China and Taiwan this was released last month and fairly widely commented on. I found the various scenarios provided quite interesting.
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Old 02-13-2023, 03:29 PM
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The scenarios and assumptions were very good in my view.

If Taiwan would acquire as few as two SS or SSK's along with our Harpoon system, it would help tip the balance ever so slightly in Taiwan's/ROC's favor.
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Old 02-26-2023, 12:22 PM
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The USAF Air Mobility Command boss predicts that China will invade Taiwan in 2025.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zon...taiwan-in-2025

In the meantime, it appears that the US and Taiwan are increasing their defense coordination. I wonder how China is going to view this.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zon...s-for-training

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Old 02-26-2023, 09:05 PM
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I wonder if Taiwan isn't more useful to China, or at least some factions within China, as a semi-external threat than it would be as a fully integrated territory with high levels of unrest.

While China has land border disputes that justify spending on the PLA, Taiwan's presence as (from the PRC's perspective) a breakaway province justifies spending on the PLAN in different areas than the potential threat from the United States. There's much less need for landing ships and amphibious warfare equipment if Taiwan's not a potential target, but making it an actual target would remove the utility of those forces.

An invasion also runs the same threat of weakening Chinese soft power that Russia's running into with reactions to its invasion of Ukraine. Once you start playing hardball and invading other nations, it's harder to convince countries where you have major projects that you won't do the same thing to them if they get cold feet in the future. I don't have a great grasp on how China figures its strategic calculus, but in my view they have more to lose on the global scale than they would gain from invading Taiwan, regardless of the outcome of the invasion.
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Old 02-27-2023, 02:40 PM
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Default Taiwan

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Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
The USAF Air Mobility Command boss predicts that China will invade Taiwan in 2025.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zon...taiwan-in-2025

In the meantime, it appears that the US and Taiwan are increasing their defense coordination. I wonder how China is going to view this.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zon...s-for-training

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The PRC will, in my view, not be pleased and respond as they typically have in the past. The Foreign Ministry/Politburo will issue vague rhetoric with language such as "unhelpful inflammatory steps must be avoided to prevent misunderstanding or escalate tension" that has to be carefully interpreted.

In the past I would have said to watch for PRC military leaders to say much more inflammatory remarks such as what we saw in the 90's (Los Angeles and the Sea of Fire remark) but I suspect today any statements are very carefully vetted and controlled.

We also can't verbally slap the PRC too publicly-for diplomacy we need what little leverage they have over the DPRK for whatever little good it actually accomplishes


Candidly training 500 or so ROC personnel will help a bit as will the US military mission on the ground. To change the military calculus the ROC will need more Western hardware promptly.

Just my 2 cents.

Last edited by ToughOmbres; 02-27-2023 at 02:42 PM. Reason: paragraph/spelling
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Old 02-28-2023, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Vespers War View Post
I wonder if Taiwan isn't more useful to China, or at least some factions within China, as a semi-external threat than it would be as a fully integrated territory with high levels of unrest.
That's an interesting point; there's something to that.

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Originally Posted by Vespers War View Post
While China has land border disputes that justify spending on the PLA, Taiwan's presence as (from the PRC's perspective) a breakaway province justifies spending on the PLAN in different areas than the potential threat from the United States. There's much less need for landing ships and amphibious warfare equipment if Taiwan's not a potential target, but making it an actual target would remove the utility of those forces.
One thing that the First World War taught us is that with the construction of a massive conventional military with all kinds of cool toys- especially, in this case, ones optimized for conducting a large scale amphibious/airborne invasion- comes the temptation to use that force. Taiwan presents a far more tempting/realistic target than say, the Philippines, or one of China's continental neighbors. As the military continues to grow in size and complexity, there's a danger of the tail wagging the dog.

By the same token, Taiwan will never pose a serious military threat* to the PRC, therefore the latter's military spending can't be justified by the former alone. As long as the USA maintains a strong military presence in Asia and the Pacific, China has a convenient bogey man to justify its own continued military expansion.

Another way that the PRC might use Taiwan is as a convenient distractor/rallying point if and when the PRC's citizens grow restive for other reasons. It's a classic play used by authoritarian states. An example would be the Argentinian junta's invasion of the Malvinas... er, Falkland Islands, in 1982.

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Originally Posted by Vespers War View Post
An invasion also runs the same threat of weakening Chinese soft power that Russia's running into with reactions to its invasion of Ukraine. Once you start playing hardball and invading other nations, it's harder to convince countries where you have major projects that you won't do the same thing to them if they get cold feet in the future. I don't have a great grasp on how China figures its strategic calculus, but in my view they have more to lose on the global scale than they would gain from invading Taiwan, regardless of the outcome of the invasion.
That's true, but China has a lot more soft power than 21st century Russia ever had. Given how economic sanctions haven't had the desired effect on Russia, it's hard to see why a much more economically powerful China should fear them.


*Barring the acquisition of nuclear weapons, which is highly unlikely.

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Old 02-28-2023, 01:57 PM
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That's true, but China has a lot more soft power than 21st century Russia ever had. Given how economic sanctions haven't had the desired effect on Russia, it's hard to see why a much more economically powerful China should fear them.

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China cannot feed nor fuel itself. Russia can. China is dependent on a great deal of naval traffic that runs past India, SE Asia and Indonesia (none of which are really friendly with them), where it projects little power compared to the US and its allies.

Personally I think the AMC boss, is looking to expand his domain into C-17/C-130 launched cruise missiles (Rapid Dragon) and mass drones, which are so much more flashy than the drudge work AMC normally does. I am not saying I disagree with him. 45 Cruise missiles launched from a single C-17 sounds amazing and I hope we build tons which could be devastating against China if needed, but in a world where you have to fight for your budget, it has to be justified with more than a little bit of fear (mongering?).
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Old 02-28-2023, 03:45 PM
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China cannot feed nor fuel itself. Russia can. China is dependent on a great deal of naval traffic that runs past India, SE Asia and Indonesia (none of which are really friendly with them), where it projects little power compared to the US and its allies.
That's true, and probably the biggest consideration holding the PRC back ATM. However, the PRC can count on Russia for at least some of that fuel (and maybe food too). That's why China won't condemn Russia's war in Ukraine. It's essentially an "if you've got my back, I'll have yours" transaction. They're partners in crime.

Given how well Russia's been able to dodge or circumvent sanctions, I reckon China will have similar, if not greater, success, if it comes to that. More importantly, the USA is far more dependent on Chinese goods and investment than it ever was on Russian goods. Economic sanctions v. China would hurt the US economy much worse than sanctions on Russia ever could. Would the US and its allies have the stomach for a full-scale trade war with the PRC? Given the drag that international supply chain issues were on the US economy during and shortly after the height of the Covid epidemic, I'm not so sure.

Currently, the PLN can't compete with the US and its allies in the Indian Ocean. However, the Chinese navy continues to grow in both size and capability. I'm somewhat concerned that the USA is not doing enough to maintain numerical and technological superiority.

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Old 03-01-2023, 02:13 PM
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That's true, and probably the biggest consideration holding the PRC back ATM. However, the PRC can count on Russia for at least some of that fuel (and maybe food too). That's why China won't condemn Russia's war in Ukraine. It's essentially an "if you've got my back, I'll have yours" transaction. They're partners in crime.

Given how well Russia's been able to dodge or circumvent sanctions, I reckon China will have similar, if not greater, success, if it comes to that. More importantly, the USA is far more dependent on Chinese goods and investment than it ever was on Russian goods. Economic sanctions v. China would hurt the US economy much worse than sanctions on Russia ever could. Would the US and its allies have the stomach for a full-scale trade war with the PRC? Given the drag that international supply chain issues were on the US economy during and shortly after the height of the Covid epidemic, I'm not so sure.

Currently, the PLN can't compete with the US and its allies in the Indian Ocean. However, the Chinese navy continues to grow in both size and capability. I'm somewhat concerned that the USA is not doing enough to maintain numerical and technological superiority.

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Looking at the calculus with Russia, I'd also note that China has to be thinking about what the world looks like without Russia acting as a foil to their ambitions.

Regardless of the outcome in Ukraine, Russia's conventional military is going to be decimated for a generation, perhaps multiple generations depending upon the length and severity of ongoing sanctions. Sure they'll have nukes which will always be a deterrent to nations invading Russia, but no one serious is thinking there will be a horde of Russian tanks moving into Poland anytime soon.

I don't think anyone is really talking about it yet, but once this active war winds down in Ukraine, I imagine there's going to be a lot of folks looking to ramp down NATO defense spending (yes there's a spending blitz right now, but it won't last). Without the specter of a massive Russian conventional military force looming over Europe, does NATO spending even still make sense? I could see the US downsizing it's Atlantic fleet as well, depending upon political appointments, or potentially shifting some resources to the Pacific.

In any case, without Russia being the western world's boogeyman, all eyes are going to shift to China. There will be a LOT of incentive amongst the American military machine to find a new existential threat once Russia is no longer on the table in order to justify spending levels, and China's going to get most all of that attention. The west will need to be careful not to ramp up its own rhetoric and inadvertently force China into a war it may not even want. I imagine this may be one of the other reasons that China is hedging its bets on Russia at the moment. Better to have a weakened neighbor to the north, despite its shortcomings, that will keep the west's focus away from your own human rights abuses and military build up.
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Old 03-01-2023, 03:43 PM
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Those are all good points, Heffe. To play devil's advocate here, I would argue that what you've identified actually gives China reasons to attempt reunification by force right now, while the West overextends itself in Ukraine.

The US and its allies are funneling much of their defense production into arming Ukraine, and rebuilding their own rather moribund conventional militaries after decades of "peace dividend" draw-downs. Quite simply, the US and its allies can't supply both Ukraine and Taiwan simultaneously. As I mentioned up-thread (including links to the 60 Minutes and Atlantic stories referenced earlier), Taiwan has still not received shipments of American weapons (IIRC, these included Javelin ATGMs and Stinger MANPADS) they ordered and paid for before the Russian invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago. Why? Because those weapons were sent to Ukraine instead. Taiwan's not getting stronger, ATM. Now would be the time to strike.

That said, perhaps the above is a strong argument for why China won't invade Taiwan anytime soon (or in 2025). If they were going to do it, around about April of 2022, or since, would have been the time to do it- when the West's eyes and pocketbooks were focused squarely on a hard-pressed Ukraine. To play devil's advocate, perhaps the PRC is waiting until the West sends even more military hardware to Ukraine to make its move. I imagine Beijing far prefers Javelins, HIMARS, and possibly even F-16s going to Ukraine rather than to Taiwan.

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Old 03-01-2023, 05:29 PM
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Those are all good points, Heffe. To play devil's advocate here, I would argue that what you've identified actually gives China reasons to attempt reunification by force right now, while the West overextends itself in Ukraine.

The US and its allies are funneling much of their defense production into arming Ukraine, and rebuilding their own rather moribund conventional militaries after decades of "peace dividend" draw-downs. Quite simply, the US and its allies can't supply both Ukraine and Taiwan simultaneously. As I mentioned up-thread (including links to the 60 Minutes and Atlantic stories referenced earlier), Taiwan has still not received shipments of American weapons (IIRC, these included Javelin ATGMs and Stinger MANPADS) they ordered and paid for before the Russian invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago. Why? Because those weapons were sent to Ukraine instead. Taiwan's not getting stronger, ATM. Now would be the time to strike.

That said, perhaps the above is a strong argument for why China won't invade Taiwan anytime soon (or in 2025). If they were going to do it, around about April of 2022, or since, would have been the time to do it- when the West's eyes and pocketbooks were focused squarely on a hard-pressed Ukraine. To play devil's advocate, perhaps the PRC is waiting until the West sends even more military hardware to Ukraine to make its move. I imagine Beijing far prefers Javelins, HIMARS, and possibly even F-16s going to Ukraine rather than to Taiwan.

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The delays on Taiwanese deliveries started before the Russian invasion and include items that haven't been provided to Ukraine, such as F-16 and Reaper. For items like Javelin and Stinger, the delays are still unrelated because Ukraine has received old missiles through draw-downs of inventory while Taiwan's delayed deliveries are for new production - they don't want old missiles with limited shelf life. Meanwhile, defense production hasn't been a significant source of supply for Ukraine. Since 2014, less than 5% of US deliveries to Ukraine have been new production. That will likely increase in the future as reserve stocks dry up, but it's not a significant factor now and isn't a factor in delivery delays to Taiwan.

Even where there is overlap in items ordered and keeping in mind they're coming from different sources of supply, only 1/3 of what Taiwan has ordered since 2015 (by dollar value) has had similar items delivered to Ukraine. That's $7 billion out of $21 billion, and nowhere near the $19 billion in late deliveries. The shortfall was already $14 billion before Russia invaded Ukraine. Ukraine is not a significant factor in Taiwan's delays. Even if every single dollar of the increase since Russia's invasion were directly attributable to aid to Ukraine (it's not), it would be only 25% of the amount in arrears. Given that they're mostly drawing from different sources of supply and ordering different equipment, it would be amazing if more than a couple percent of Taiwan's delays could be attributed to material being transferred to Ukraine.

Taiwan's delays are unfortunately normal for arms deliveries from the United States. Between 2012 and 2021, for all Foreign Military Sales customers the average time between order and delivery was 2.5 years for missiles, 3.5 years for aircraft, and 4 years for air defense systems. These are similar to the timeframes that Russian or Chinese customers face for high-end systems - they can deliver rifles quickly, but not S-400 SAMs.
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Old 03-05-2023, 04:54 PM
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From a New Yorker piece on the war in Ukraine. Source is a Stanford (former Princeton) professor with real-world contacts in Ukraine, Kiev, and the US DoD.

Q: "Is Russia running out [of weapons]?"

A: "Well get to that in a second. But were on the hook for Taiwan, and were four years behind now in supplying Taiwan for contractual orders of American and allied military equipment. General [Mark] Milley, [chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], God bless him, hes there in the Pentagon, in that big E-ring where all the important people sit, and he turns his head because all his stuff is going out the door. Everything in our stocks is going right out the door, right past his desk. And its not going to Taiwan, which is a place that we want to send it. And so we would have to radically ramp up production, us and our allies, to fight a war of attrition."

If you're interested in reading the whole piece,

https://www.newyorker.com/news/the-n...M0BhoDZFyvnOHI

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Old 03-19-2023, 11:22 PM
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This evening, 60 Minutes ran a piece (taking up 2/3 of the entire program) about the state of the USN vis-a-vis the PLAN. From a Western (and, I reckon, Taiwanese) POV, it was rather worrying.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/us-nav...eo-2023-03-19/

Some highlights (or lowlights, depending on how one chooses to look at it):

The USA's shipbuilding industry- both military and commercial- is moribund, compared to China's. China has 3-4 times as many active shipyards as the USA. China's shipbuilding industry benefits from cheap materials, cheap labor, and sizeable government subsidies.

The PLAN has grown from 38 operational warships in 2000 to over 350 today. It's growing faster than the USN, which is retiring more ships than it is launching. By 2027, the PLAN fleet will have over 400 warships and the USN just over half that number.

The last 20 years have not been kind to the USN. Some have taken to calling them the "Lost Decades". The last two surface warfare vessel classes, the Zumwalt "stealth" destroyers, and the Littoral Combat Ship ("Little Crappy Ship") were both expensive boondoggles (mostly due to hull and engine defects- further evidence of the decline of US shipbuilding). The Ford Class CVNs are over budget and behind schedule.

Perhaps more concerning, the backlog for repairs to existing vessels is measured in years. That means a sizeable percentage of the US fleet is unable to go to sea at any given point. This means crews on operational ships are overworked, with longer deployments and less time at home.

Finally, according the piece, the CIA believes that the Chinese government is preparing the PLA to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027.

The good news is that the Congressional defense committee is well aware of all of these issues and the USN's requested budget this year asked for $12b above last year's.

It was a pretty sobering assessment and I urge anyone with an interest in these things to invest 27 minutes into watching the piece.

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Old Yesterday, 10:11 AM
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There's been a general decline in civilizational capability in the West. It took the US 4 years to build the Golden Gate bridge in 1933 (finishing in 1937). With all of the advances in technology and population, does anyone think the US could accomplish something similar in a similar amount of time?

In some ways, China is sitting where the US was at the cusp of WW2 in that they account for a large percentage of world heavy industrial capability, and realistically, it's probably double what the US has at this point.
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Old Yesterday, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by castlebravo92 View Post
There's been a general decline in civilizational capability in the West. It took the US 4 years to build the Golden Gate bridge in 1933 (finishing in 1937). With all of the advances in technology and population, does anyone think the US could accomplish something similar in a similar amount of time?

In some ways, China is sitting where the US was at the cusp of WW2 in that they account for a large percentage of world heavy industrial capability, and realistically, it's probably double what the US has at this point.
Unfortunately. This piece from the April 2023 edition of the Atlantic does a great job of breaking down the breakdown in US naval/nautical capabilities since the end of the Cold War. It also proposes specific, practical fixes to get us back on track.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...-china/673090/

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  #19  
Old Yesterday, 07:26 PM
castlebravo92 castlebravo92 is online now
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Originally Posted by Raellus View Post
Unfortunately. This piece from the April 2023 edition of the Atlantic does a great job of breaking down the breakdown in US naval/nautical capabilities since the end of the Cold War. It also proposes specific, practical fixes to get us back on track.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine...-china/673090/

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It's funny / ironic because one of the "conventional wisdom" items is that the US spends more on the military than "the rest of the world combined", which aside from not being true, only about $150 billion of the $700-800 billion budget is procurement. China's procurement budget isn't nearly as far behind at ~$95 billion as people think. Because of PPP, their training budget goes a lot farther than the US dollar does, they have fewer bases to maintain (which sucks up a lot of US dollars), they don't have to pay their soldiers nearly as well as the US does with an all volunteer army and relative wage differences, and they don't roll the same things into their military that the US does (like health care for service members and pensions/retirement costs).

All that being said, China has some serious structural strategic problems that the US doesn't. It's literally surrounded by hostile countries (with the exception of North Korea and Russia). It's the world's largest food and energy importer, and their lines of trade are easily interdictable.

The US is effectively energy independent, and the world's largest food exporter. We are surrounded by two oceans and two friendly powers to the North and South who happen to be our two largest trading partners as well. We're sort of like Rome in the sense that disunity at home is a much bigger threat than the barbarians at the gates, because our oceans make really strong gates.
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  #20  
Old Today, 11:41 AM
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This is just some theorizing, but I imagine that the US's interest in Taiwan will also start to decline quite heavily once the new Micron chip factory gets up and running in Ohio between 2024 and 2030.

There's still the geopolitical angle of China gaining Taiwan's GDP (presuming the island nation is brought to heel in an amicable fashion), exerting more influence over the south China Sea, and resultant impact of greater Chinese economic control in Asia. There's also the reduction of US influence in the area, which will surely have an impact on our relations with South Korea, Japan, Australia, etc. But I'm not sure I see the US as being as willing to go to war with our largest trading partner over our 10th largest trading partner if it comes to that, especially not once we're making our own semiconductors. It's going to take some careful statecraft and diplomacy to work through any potential future handover of the island.
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