Is Xi Jinping Bright Enough to Avoid War?

Highly placed members of the Chinese military are urging communist party leadership to attack the US Pacific fleet in a surprise “Pearl Harbor” style attack.

“The United States is most afraid of death,” said Rear Admiral Luo Yuan on December 20, 2018, to an audience in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. “We now have Dong Feng-21D, Dong Feng-26 missiles. These are aircraft carrier killers. We attack and sink one of their aircraft carriers. Let them suffer 5,000 casualties. Attack and sink two carriers, casualties 10,000. Let’s see if the U.S. is afraid or not?” __ National Interest

This kind of talk is no longer unusual among high military officials of the Chinese PLA, which is a military force entirely beholden to the party, not to the actual people of China.

China Factory Activity Shrinks

Despite being boosted by record levels of debt financing, China’s factories have been cutting production significantly because of decreased demand.

Foreign-owned factory departures have also increased in the uneasiness over an ongoing trade dispute with the US — regarding China’s dangerously dishonest trade practises toward foreigners. Most factories that leave China are relocating to Southeast Asia, but some are moving to North America.

Chairman Xi has inexplicably chosen not to convene the Fourth Plenum of the 19th Congress, as was traditionally expected. Some observers suspect that internal discord has caused this most irregular departure from normal protocol.

… Xi’s position is increasingly precarious. As SinoInsider observed early this month, “If no Fourth Plenum is held, this means that the factional struggle is extremely intense and Xi is in grave danger.” __ National Interest

And there is this:

…. at least some Chinese citizens are cheering on Trump’s hard-line approach, as the pro-democracy activist Chen Guangcheng recently suggested in The Washington Post: “It might seem counterintuitive to many Americans that people in China would call for more tariffs, as though welcoming economic damage at home. But most ordinary Chinese people don’t see it that way. They commonly believe tariffs will hurt the Communist Party far more than regular people, since it’s the party that manipulates trade to line its pockets and prop up the economy.” __ Atlantic

The Chinese people do not report an increased sense of well-being, in general. China’s rich seem to be keeping an increasing share of China’s wealth — just as happened in Russia over the past 30 years.

In a chapter for the 2017 World Happiness Report, Richard A. Easterlin, Fei Wang, and Shun Wang make a convincing case that while China’s GDP has skyrocketed, its citizens’ reported subjective well-being has declined, especially among poorer and older cohorts. Even more surprising… Chinese subjective well-being remains below its 1990 level.. __ MW

War and Militarism are Dead-Ends for China

Xi seems to be painting the dragon into a corner, where only war offers him a chancy escape.

If the Chinese space agency can successfully land its moon probe — which has been trying to position itself to land on the far side of the moon for several days now — such an accomplishment might boost Xi’s credibility and status in these uncertain times for China.

But a failure would be seen as confirmation of all the doubts that have been building over these years that Xi has been positioning himself as “dictator for life.”

Parallels with Russia’s Putin

Russia’s Putin has committed a similar error as Xi, as he is painting Russia into a “Russia against the world” militant stance. But Russia has far less wealth and human capital to back up Putin’s risky militancy. Is it possible that each dictator is cheering the other on to “jump the shark” of war soonest?

Here, it is the bystander who holds the firmest ground should war break out (Russia vs. Ukraine, or China vs. Taiwan).

Time is Not on the Side of Either Dictator

Both despots have rigidly set up their countries for war, although neither nation is truly prepared for the aftermath. Nevertheless, if both men balk too long, the unexpected — but perhaps inevitable — war between Russia and China over resources may be the end result.

The end result of that conflict is anyone’s guess.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Learn to make yourselves Dangerous to those who want to take you down. Pay attention.

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8 Responses to Is Xi Jinping Bright Enough to Avoid War?

  1. bob sykes says:

    Like the old days when the Kremlinologist never had a clue, we don’t know what goes on in Chinese communist party. Xi might actually be the brake on Chinese expansionism. But if they do expand, the obvious, and profitable direction is south into Malaysia and Indonesia. The logic of Japanese imperialism still applies.

    • alfin2101 says:

      There is a strong parallel between the fanatical militarism of Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, and a growing militaristic aggressiveness in the Chinese military, at the upper levels.

      In WWII, Japan and Germany made the mistake of attacking the UK and US, their allies, and their overseas holdings from the outset. If Germany and Japan had made a pact to ignore the US and UK and instead defeat Russia together, from the very first, they could have obtained a rich source of energy, minerals, and natural resources long before the US and UK could ride to additional rescues of Russia. Eastern Siberia to Japan, Western Russia to Germany. No US or UK to fight, either, if done right.

      It is a fantasy of the historically ignorant that the USSR stood on its own in defeating Germany in WWII. If it had, there would be no independent Russia today.

      The lend lease programs were but a fraction of the aide provided to Russia by the allies: but the food, weapons, and other material assistance kept Russia in the war.

      American aircraft, flown by Russian ferry pilots across the vast expanse of Siberia, were put to good use by the Soviet air forces even with planes that were less than popular with Western pilots. A case in point was the Bell P-39 Airacobra, used both as a low-altitude fighter and as ground support. Its odd shape gave Soviet censors fits because it was difficult to conceal that it was the favorite mount of their second-highest-ranking ace, the future marshal of aviation, Aleksandar I. Pokryshkin.

      A little known fact is that the US merchant marine fleet was active in providing military, industrial, and civilian assistance to the USSR well before the US entered the war. Thousands of Americans died saving Russia, even before the US declaration of war, claimed by the Uboats in the N. Atlantic. US weapons were provided after the declaration.

      Winston Churchill had already laid out plans for the arctic relief effort before Hitler invaded the USSR in Operation Barbarossa. FD Roosevelt was not hard to convince once Germany had crossed that line.

  2. Baron Julius Evola says:

    Love your blog Alfin. You are very knowledgeable and articulate. But seriously Russia and China lacking the human or economic capital to battle the US is absurd. Th

    • alfin2101 says:

      Anyone can go to war and battle anyone. It is the aftermath which presents the problem for the unfortunate nation that fights above its class.

      Japan and Germany took decades to recover from their miscalculations in the 1930s and 1940s. Many would argue that they still suffer in subtle ways, so that their demographic futures are very uncertain.

      Russia has the problem with rapidly diminishing human capital. China’s problems reside almost exclusively within the party infrastructure and the way it has tortured the freedoms of its people and mismanaged the real economy of China — as opposed to the phantom economy that is revealed to the public.

  3. ddswaterloo says:

    Do you think the Chinese would really attack US ships??

    This would result in massive retaliation including trade sanctions and economic attacks on China which would pale today as it would be a concerted G8 effort.

    I’m fascinated that this is even seriously contemplated in China.

    • alfin2101 says:

      It was a bad idea when Japan did it in 1941, and it is just as bad an idea for China to consider in 2019. But militarists tend to be rabid animals, and unless they are quickly put down they slobber their poison all over everything.

      Xi nominally controls the military, so he may feel that he keeps them on a tight enough leash, just letting them out often enough to growl before locking them back up.

      But Xi is the only one at the top in China, so if he loses his mind there is no one else who can rein him in.

  4. Gavin Longmuir says:

    It is worth taking a few minutes to look at China’s 2018 Army day video. Good film-making, and — noticeably — not the slightest hint of Politically Correct gender inclusiveness. The Chinese know that war is a man’s business. We know that too, but we are afraid to say it out loud. Probably, our best could beat their best — but quantity has a quality all of its own, as Stalin is reputed to have said. And China has quantity.

    China strikes me as a bit like the US ahead of WWII — strong cohesive national pride, and a lot of surplus manufacturing capability which could quickly be turned to military production. The US, on the other hand, needs products from China to equip our military. But instead of triggering war, it is probably more effective for China to continue buying the US Political Class — remember the hushed-up story of Nancy Pelosi’s personal Chinese spy, or Bill Clinton’s sale of missile guidance technology to China?

    • alfin2101 says:

      Basic economics is rarely taught, and few understand the difference between open economies such as in Canada, Australia, or the US, and highly fractionated economies such as China. And it is not just their economies (of despotic regimes) that are sliced and diced and incommunicado with the other bits and pieces. Fear of insurrection is so high that free speech and free association are feared above almost everything in the despotic nations, so that churches (eg Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia or any religion in China) are actively persecuted. Falun Gong practitioners are murdered alive without anesthesia for their organs, keeping China’s vaunted transplant industry alive and booming. The inability to freely inter-pollinate ideas and techniques — but instead relying on what can be stolen or coerced from Western investment partners — makes for a stutter step model of development with poor follow-through.

      Your impressions are fine, Gavin, but try to look deeper than the surface propaganda layers. Professors and journalists will hate you for it, but you may learn many things that the gatekeepers do not want you to learn.

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