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Samizdata quote of the day

“The irony of Xi’s Ahab Quest is that Taiwan has never been a part of China. ‘China’ today is a recapitulation of the old Qing Empire (which, to add irony to irony, was not Chinese but Manchurian). Tibet, East Turkestan, Mongolia, and Manchuria are in no historical sense remotely ‘Chinese’. Ditto for Taiwan, in which Qing officialdom evinced only desultory interest until 1854, when American Commodore Matthew C. Perry, fresh from his gunboat-treaty journey to Japan, showed interest of his own.”

Jason Morgan, Spectator. Morgan says a Chinese attempted conquest of Taiwan, and war with neighbours, such as Japan, and the US, is inevitable.

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Correct – the island was historically inhabited by local people (contrary to the mythology now being spread, the Chinese Empire were not normally great sailors), till it was colonised by first the Portuguese and then the Dutch.

    Ironically it was the conquest of China by the Manchus that led to large numbers of Chinese settling in the island as refugees – so many that they turned on the Dutch and took over the island (always be wary of accepting large numbers of new people – they may be friends, but them may not be, or they may start off as friends – and then change when the realise the strength of their numbers).

    The “Ming Loyalist” regime on the island lasted about 50 years – before the Manchu Empire conquered it. Then in 1895 the Japanese Empire took the island from the Manchu Empire. After World War II the Japanese Empire collapsed – and the government of the Republic of China fled to the island (along with many refugees) when the Communist bandits (aided by many traitors in Washington) took over China.

    The islands that now make up Taiwan have never, never, been under Marxist rule.

    The Marxist bandits who control China have no claim on them – less (yes less) of a claim than the bandit Putin has on the Ukraine, which for most of his life was under Moscow.

  • Steven R

    If I were Xi, I’d invade the day after the mid-terms. There will be no incentive for Biden to go to war since he couldn’t make political hay out of it and the new Congress won’t sit for another two months and Americans have short memories.

  • JohnK

    Steven:

    If it was easy as that, the Reds would have done it by now.

    Invading Taiwan would be a massive amphibious operation on a par with D Day. There is no way to do that without immense amounts of preparation which are impossible to hide, even if you have the amphibious capability, which China doesn’t.

    An invasion of Taiwan would be an order of magnitude more difficult that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and look what a mess Russia has made of that. I think Xi is sitting pretty right now as the emperor for life of China. One thing he could do to ruin that would be to try and invade Taiwan. He could do it, of course, but I am hoping he is a tad more rational than Putin.

  • rhoda klapp

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Taiwan had 73 years to prepare, and doesn’t their defence ministry have just one problem, just one threat? Even though it has been somewhat starved of modern weaponry it won’t be a pushover. A seaborne invasion across 100 miles is a difficult operation for an untested army which has never done it before. China should look at what happens when an army which is second-rate tries an ambitious move against a motivated defender. Is the PLA army all bling and no logistics like the Russians?

    Hit enter and then saw JohnK’s comment. He’s right.

  • Paul Marks

    JohnK – the People’s Republic of China does, not does not, have the amphibious capability.

    Invading Taiwan would not be like invading the West coast of the United States – the People’s Liberation Army forces would not have to travel thousands of miles. Their short-range ships would do – and area is well within range of their shore-based missiles and aircraft.

    However, why bother?

    The People’s Republic of China Communist Party Dictatorship is growing in power – so why invade now?

    And Taiwan is in decline – it has a largely unarmed population (“Gun Control”) and its fertility rate is one of the lowest in the world. The population of Taiwan will collapse over the next couple of decades.

    Taiwan is also dependent on imports of raw materials.

    If the Communist Party Dictatorship invades Taiwan it will be to “make a point” (to show that the United States is already a dead-man-walking), rather than because they need to. They could just wait – they will have Taiwan anyway.

    With Taiwan under some sort of future “agreement” with the PRC – Japan (which is also dependent on importing raw materials) will also come under PRC domination.

    Western policy towards the PCR over the last 50 years (since President Nixon and Prime Minister Heath) has been utterly insane – suicidal folly.

  • Paul Marks

    rhoda klapp – yes Taiwan has had 73 years to prepare.

    But they have not used that time wisely. Indeed, their defences are, in some ways, weaker than they were 50 years ago.

  • JohnK

    Paul:

    The difficulties of invading over even 100 miles of sea are immense.

    Aircraft and missiles fired from the PRC do not take land, the Reds would have to invade in the old fashioned way, and that carries huge risks, which I have to hope the emperor Xi will decide not to take.

    But you are right about gun control on Taiwan, the population are disarmed. A relative of a friend went to live there, and could not even take his collection of antique guns, which are legal in Britain, the gun control capital of Europe. So maybe with a falling population which is disarmed, one day Taiwan may fall, but not yet, I hope.

  • Tammly

    Unless of course, the Taiwanese have copied the example of a certain state in the middle east?

  • Mr Ed

    If Taiwan is not part of China, then Chiang Kai-Shek and his army (people) had no business fleeing there as the Chinese Civil War ended so horribly. But they saved Taiwan from a Red take-over in the style of Tibet (anyone remember them these days?, it’s not just Uighurs you know).

  • Steph Houghton

    It was Chinese after ww2 because the republic of China, unlike the prc was part of the anti fascist alliance.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    The Chinese population is starting to fall now, and it is aging now. Xi who must be obeyed (remember ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’?) doesn’t have decades to wait. Also, the Chinese economy is not doing as well as expected, so a foreign war may be what Xi needs, to distract the people, and get the economy going. Also, Xi may want to do it soon for emotional reasons (Capitalists, so close to the mainland! yuck!). So war against Taiwan could happen soon.

  • phwest

    I really wonder to what extent China could actually sustain serious casualties. People think of China as a boundless people, capable of sustaining massive casualties and still pushing on, but that was back before the one child policy. China has a culture based on ancestor-worship, based on the idea that, as a Chinese friend of mine put it, the heat death of the universe will come, and a descendant of mine will be there to see it. You now have a society where the death of any soldier means the death of two families, 4 grandparents losing their only grandchild. Order in Chinese society has long been enforced by attaching guilt to families, threatening siblings and cousins to control the rebellious. How does that work exactly when no one has any cousins, much less siblings? Add to this the long history of China cycling between centralization and fragmentation and I see a regime that is incredibly fragile, continuing on inertia after the fundamental foundations of its social order have been gutted by ideologically driven fools.

    You can see hints of this in what is happening in Russia. As Peter Zeihan is fond of pointing out, Russians have never conceded defeat in war without losing a half million dead first. But does a society in the throws of demographic collapse, with a military age population of only sons and only grandsons, really have the ability to sacrifice the legacy of a half million families as well as individuals? The degree of passive resistance to military service we are seeing signs of suggests the answer to that question is no.

    This is just speculation on my part, as it’s not like I have meaningful personal insights into modern China. But all my reading of history supports the idea that culture matters, and that cultural stress can drive profound changes that are obvious in retrospect but invisible to contemporaries. I’d just as soon not see this put to the test for obvious reasons, but I do wonder.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – Taiwan was part of the Republic of China (not the People’s Republic of China) from 1945 to 1949 (when the KMT government collapsed on the mainland – due to the treachery of various American government figures for some years), this gave Chang his legal justification.

    The legal claim of the Chinese came from two sources – firstly occupation from the very late 17th century to 1895 – but this occupation was by the Manchu Empire.

    Secondly that most of the population of the island (and the little islands near it) is ethnically Chinese – Chinese people associate race and nationality very closely. When Chinese refugees fled to the island on the conquest of the Ming Dynasty by the Manchus they did not consider themselves Dutch (although the Dutch were the government of the island) nor did they consider themselves members of one of the tribal peoples that historically lived on the island – they continued to consider themselves Chinee.

    For example, a white or black person born and raised in China would not be considered Chinese – but an ethnically Chinese person born and raised on the other side of the planet, would be considered Chinese.

    Most people around the world are “racists” in this broad sense – the difference is that, by-and-large, only white people from Western societies are taught to be ashamed of their “racism”

    I remember listening to a television interview with a Chinese farmer who had bought land in Canada (something he would not be allowed to do in the PRC where land is state owned – although it is leased out) – he considered the land he had bought to now e part of China.

    His reasoning was fairly logical – he was Chinese and so were his children (even though the children were born in Canada) and he had bought the land voluntarily from its previous owner (which was quite true – no force or fraud was involved) so this land was now part of China. However, not all Chinese think this way – some do, and some do not. Some people in Taiwan think of themselves as “Chinese” (or racial grounds) and some people in Taiwan REJECT this racial reasoning.

    In Ancient Greece, indeed in the Classical world generally, non-citizens were not allowed to buy land – as this was considered to be losing the land of the polity to other powers.

    Today non-citizens are allowed to buy land – and, far more seriously, Corporate entities such as Black Rock are allowed to buy land and homes.

    Anyone who thinks that BlackRock, a ten trillion (“trillion with a T”) enterprise backed by the American Federal Reserve, is something to do with the free market – is an idiot.

    Adam Smith and co were not thinking of the “Woke” Board of Directors of ten trillion Dollar BlackRock (and other such entities) when they wrote of the “invisible hand” of the markets.

    Indeed “The Markets” in the modern sense of a few vast corporate enterprises backed by the Central Banks are the main “peaceful” force for totalitarianism in the West.

    The dictatorship of the People’s Republic of China may cooperate with such “Woke” corporate forces – but only in so far as it is in the interests of the Communist Party Dictatorship to do so.

    The moment the “capitalist” directors of BlackRock, State Street, Vanguard (and the banks) ceased to be useful – the PRC dictatorship would have them vivisected.

  • Paul Marks

    JohnK, Nicholas, phwest, I think the Communist Party Dictatorship could crush Taiwan without serious difficulty – but let us hope that I am WRONG. Let us hope that I am mistaken – and you are correct.

    As for corporations – whether they should be allowed to exist at all is an interesting debate. But they certainly should not be taxed more lightly than individuals (Milton Friedman’s idea that this is “double taxation” as the corporations just served the individual shareholders, is wrong – wildly wrong), and they most certainly should not get money from the Federal Reserve (and other Central Banks) and the Credit Bubble commercial banks that depend on the Central Banks – indeed these entities (the Central Banks and the Credit Bubble commercial banks) should not exist – they are not honest money lenders lending out Real Savings, they create “money” from nothing – and then lend it out to the connected, concentrating income and wealth in a few hands at the expense of everyone else (Cantillon Effect).

    In the United States the corporations operate in an obscene way – supporting wild “Woke” (Frankfurt School of Marxism) persecution, and supporting higher taxes on individuals (for example the campaign to double the State income tax in Arizona – supported by Google and other evil, and they are evil, corporate entities “it is for education” – i.e. for the Collectivist indoctrination pushed by the schools) and not even caring about Property Tax (which one would think they would care about) – as they know they can deduct Property Tax from their taxable income before it is subject to Corporation Tax.

    Indeed, Corporation Tax is so full of loopholes that it might be more logical to replace it with a turnover tax – as is already the case in Texas and some other States. Alternatively, income tax could be applied to the corporations in the same way it is applied to individuals (the idea that this is “double taxation” being mistaken – see above). Some States, such as South Dakota, have neither an individual income tax or a Corporation Tax – and that is also fair.

    There is no need to have a special tax for Corporations if one is NOT taxing the income of individuals.

    I should point out that South Dakota dies NOT rely on oil taxes (as some States do) – it keeps government spending down, keeping down government spending is the key to everything else.

  • Paul Marks

    The nation of Paraguay is one of the few nations that still recognise the Republic of China rather than the People’s Republic of China (President Nixon’s decision to recognise the PRC may have been the worst of all his deeds – remember this was when Mao, the largest scale mass murderer in the history of the world, was still in power in the PRC – such men as Nixon and Prime Minister Edward Heath appear to have had no conscience, or they crushed their conscience).

    There is no such thing as a “good tax” (David Ricardo and Henry George were mistaken – as Frank Fetter showed), but the individual income tax is a particularly pernicious tax – which destroys all privacy and makes every aspect of someone’s life the business of the state. Nor is it “inevitable” – after all the United States (the largest economy in the world) did not have one till fiscal year 1914 – and nor did France (social security was also voluntary in France – one had to agree to join it).

    Paraguay did not have an income tax till the 1990s – although it did have social security taxes (they came in the 1930s) and taxes on property and on imports (sales of). Then, sadly, an income tax of some 10% came in (still low compared to 45% top rate in the United Kingdom) – and a corporation tax of 10%.

    If there was no income tax, then the corporation tax could also be avoided – but to have income tax without a corporation tax gives the corporations an unfair competitive advantage (especially as it is clear that the international corporations follow a political agenda – they do NOT serve the interests of individual shareholders – most shares are owned by other corporate entities, hired managers in charge of other hired managers).

    The great flaw of nations such as Paraguay has historically been their lack of clear and secure private property rights – especially in land. Only a few nations in Latin America, for example Uruguay, have clear and secure private property in land.

    That is true of the People’s Republic of China today – in relation to Taiwan.

    In Taiwan private property, including in land, is fairly clear and secure – in the People’s Republic of China even the richest person may be robbed and murdered if they fall out with the rulers.

    This is an important difference.

  • Snorri Godhi

    There was an article that i found on Instapundit about the logistics of invading Taiwan. The article came to the conclusion that it’s no-go.

    I cannot find the article, but from what i remember, the problems for Xi would be:

    * There are only a couple of likely landing sites, and it’s not easy to get from these sites to Taipei;

    * The terrain in Taiwan is mostly steep hills covered in woodland: ideal for guerrilla warfare. (Unlike the Ukraine.)

    * It would be easy to re-supply Taiwan with weapons and ammo from Japan, as it’s only a short hop from Japanese territorial waters to Taiwan.

    Of course, China has a numerical advantage. The problem is to get the Chinese soldiers to Taiwan.

  • Kirk

    The thing about China’s mass being of any real import is that it doesn’t really matter, either way. What is important is what the leadership like Xi thinks about it all…

    If he believes that he’s got this in the bag because of a multi-million man army that can sustain massive casualties, then he’ll do what he’ll do. Reality may ensue, however… Which could get ‘effing-ay downright ugly. For China.

    Couple of things need to be considered, here. One factor is that China effectively has zip and ola for a pension system. The kids are the pension system, and they’re expected to support mommy and daddy into their dotage, once they’re out of the work force. This explains why all those “one-child” kids had all the attention lavished on them that they did, with all that implies. They’re investments. That one son or daughter represents mom and dad’s 401k plan.

    So… When Mao was frittering away all those Chinese soldiers in Korea and Vietnam, he wasn’t doing all that much damage to the social fabric. Xi? Oh, lord… Every Chinese soldier he gets killed by going off adventuring represents some family losing their future. Period. Mom and dad are likely too old to go through it again, and they’re not going to be too happy with losing that kid.

    The question is, does Xi know these things? Does he understand them, at a gut level, where he makes his decisions? Does he grasp how fundamentally changed China is, from the days before the one-child policy?

    If he does, I suspect that military action is off the table. If he does not, well… We’ll see.

    I don’t think China can sustain much in the way of a major conflict with the losses that implies. They either win fast and with low casualties, or they risk social instability the likes of which they haven’t seen since the days of the warlords.

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