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DC China Hawks Will Virtue Signal This Country into Poverty
US leaders are picking a fight with the country's largest financier and supplier of goods.
Bipartisanship is foolishly celebrated. It often comes in the form of banal red tape, expansion of the sacred welfare state, but worst of all is good old-fashioned war. Warfare makes the job of a politician easy: pious speeches, self-affirming pats on the back, and vague saber-rattling without repercussions. DC lawmakers get to masquerade as freedom-fighting patriots while enticing our country’s largest lender1 and supplier of goods into a Cold War. Bipartisanship is dangerous.
Xi Jinping considers Taiwan part of China. One day, he may decide to invade. Would he be morally justified in doing so? No. Slave labor camps, social credit scores, an AI-powered surveillance state that crushes any seeds of dissonance before they grow — these are objectively evil systems, and we shouldn’t wish them imposed on any people. So the bipartisan moral outrage against the Chinese Communist Party is justified, but at the end of the day… we (the US) can’t save Taiwan:
War is off the table, given we are both nuclear powers (not sure why the CSIS keeps running Taiwan invasion simulations that conclude the US needs to purchase more conventional weapons, could have something to do with their donors).
Sanctions are off the table because… well… just walk into any store and inspect the inventory.
Our only real option is diplomacy.
Still, our leaders are going down the path of instigation.
We fly diplomats, Pentagon officials, and House speakers to Taiwan to “send a message” — aka senselessly provoke the CCP while accomplishing nothing for the people of Taiwan. Feeble and witless congressmen posture and puff their chests at China, hoping to receive some pickup on social media. The US military continues to expand its 750+ network of foreign bases, having just struck another deal with the Philippines to allow US personnel at four additional Filipino sites. The agreement establishes a “complete arc around China,” as BBC put it. Additionally, the US will station 200 American troops in Taiwan (up from 30).
China, on the other hand, has one extraneous military base and it's in Africa.
Still, this does not stop media outlets (on both sides) from warning of China’s increasing aggression with articles based solely on statements by Pentagon, DoD, and State Department officials. Seriously, read these articles. The formula is as follows: Headline with military guy warning of Chinese “aggression,” talk about how US forces are increasing their Asian presence and running drills (for deterrence though, not aggression), and say evidence of Chinese is classified (if mention it at all).
CNN at least provided one example of aggression in which the “Australian government said in February that a Chinese warship allegedly used a laser to ‘illuminate’ an Australian Air Force jet in what Canberra called a ‘serious safety incident.’” The audacity! Everyone remembers laser-pointer protocol from elementary school — not in the eyes!
What’s concerning is that leaders are coalescing into the same sort of thinking that started the Ukraine war.
On Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on China during which Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.) said “if there is anything that we should learn from the Russian invasion,” it’s that the US should have been more aggressive in “deterrence” and retaliated more swiftly:
This is what happens when everyone in your social circle prefaces discussions around the Ukraine war with the obligatory adjectives of “unprovoked,” “illegal,” and “immoral.” The real lesson from the Ukraine war:
Numerous promises from Biden admin for a Ukrainian NATO bid, joint U.S.-Ukraine military drills, and over half a billion in lethal aid to increase shelling in the Donbas — all of these occurring in 2021. Then, Zelensky (still not in NATO and frustrated) declared his intent to pursue nuclear arms. Putin invaded not a week later and cited this as his primary justification, ahead of Donbas shelling and NATO expansion (also valid concerns).
During the hearing, the committee met to review (meaning unanimously pass) seven bills to ostensibly deter China from invading Taiwan and show that the US backs the island nation’s sovereignty.
To do this, the committee approved the Taiwan Non-Discrimination Act, which will instruct Janet Yellen to advocate for Taiwan’s membership in the IMF (International Monetary Fund). For those who don’t know, the IMF’s primary function is to issue massive loans to financially distressed countries and — in theory — incentivize them to clean up corruption and wasteful spending practices before they can receive more loans. Leaving aside the fact that this bill is pointless virtue signaling (ambiguously asking Yellen to use her “voice and vote” to attain Taiwanese membership) and the fact that most IMF debtors simply fall into deeper poverty… let’s say Taiwan did become an IMF member through the efforts of Congress.
Did the lawmakers — who spent all day (literally all day) touting what great allies they are to Taiwan — stop to think whether an IMF membership would benefit Taiwan?
Taiwan’s GDP per capita is one of the best in the world, on par with that of the US ($74,070 vs. $78,420, respectively) and exceeding that of the European Union. The island has had a trade surplus for over a decade and has the fourth-highest life expectancy in the world. It’s not a country in need of an emergency loan, but plenty of willing lenders would come forward if it did. Moody’s gives Taiwan a AA+ rating (higher than Japan and the UK).
So why would Taiwanese taxpayers want to pay IMF member dues to fund Sri Lanka’s 17th bailout? And again… why are we provoking China to accomplish absolutely nothing (in this case advocating for something counterproductive for the Taiwanese people)?
Every time we publicly back Taiwan’s sovereignty, we make it more likely that Xi will feel pressured to assert his claim over the island. The Taiwanese currently enjoy independence under an unenforced veneer of colonialism. This is preferable to Chinese rule or a bloody conflict.
A Dangerous Gamble
Having recently moved to DC for my job, I attended an event on Thursday at the Hudson Institute (one of several hawkish think tanks). After the event, I overheard the guest speaker — US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Dr. Ely Ratner — say something rather revealing about the underlying attitude of the US security state:
“It’s the same as it’s always been. They’ll push it up to the line and back off as soon the heat turns on.”
It’s all posturing. A game of chicken.
So what happens if China does bite the bullet and invade? Well… in the name of “deterrence,” we’ve made all sorts of commitments that range from starting WWIII to self-impoverishment via sanctions.
Biden has promised that US troops will defend Taiwan against an invasion. “U.S. men and women — would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?” asked CBS host Scott Pelley in a “60 Minutes” interview last September. “Yes,” Biden replied.
So we are committed to a hot war with China if they invade Taiwan? Once that starts, where does it end? We both have nuclear bombs. Is the assumption that both sides will stick to conventional World War II-style combat? And, after some number of casualties, one side will throw up its hands and say “oh well, that’s enough”?
But even if two nuclear powers somehow refrained from pushing the button. China has more bodies to throw at this conflict, views Taiwan as Chinese soil, and would decisively win a conventional conflict according to US Air Force’s own simulations. More optimistic were the simulations by the Lockheed Martin-funded CSIS, which found that “Taiwan remained an autonomous democracy, albeit as a ravaged island without basic services like electricity.” In other words, they’ll be blown back to the Stone Age but at least they’ll retain the right to vote!
Let’s assume the Biden admin is not suicidal enough to start a hot war over Taiwan. Even still, Congress is working to hinge our standard of living to the fate of the island.
Another bill the House Financial Services Committee put forward on Tuesday would enact sanctions against top CCP officials and their family members, “including Xi Jinping himself,” according to the bill’s sponsor Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.). As a reminder:
China controls 97% of manganese steel processing (essential for cement, railroads, tractors, and mining).
They produce a “substantial portion” of our antibiotics.
China and Taiwan combined account for 70% of global semiconductor production (this would likely halt during an invasion or if China blockaded).
US imports nearly four times the number of goods from the Chinese that it exports to them.
Are we going to start a sanction war from this position? It would be worse than inflationary. This would be empty shelves and riots.
What Happens Next?
Will we honor these commitments and face the destruction of our own country in order to protect the sovereignty of another (or more likely turn it into a ruinous crater like Ukraine)? Or does the deep state understand these risks? Will they find some way to save face while breaking our foolish promises?
I pray it’s the latter, but I doubt it. I think they believe their BS. But even if they do, our options are not great. We either: fold and admit we were bluffing the whole time or we double down and face ruin.
Just like in Ukraine, we NEED to be brokering for peace.
If — in the future — we want any sort of leverage over China, we need to be self-sufficient. This will not be attained by giving tens of billions to subpar American semiconductor manufacturers. Bailouts do not make firms more competitive. The opposite is true.
Shrink government. Deregulate. Lower taxes. Abolish all these that we’ve created to police every industry under the Sun — FDA, FCC, FAA, USDA... Then, once we’ve grown more prosperous, and we are exporting more than dollars to China, maybe we will have the leverage to stand up for other countries.
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets-economy/090616/5-countries-own-most-us-debt.asp - Technically Japan just surpassed them in November but still.