The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

What Can Taiwan Do to Protect Itself from China?

Article by Mark Pontin


Lyle Goldstein, research professor and founding director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College, in a YouTube video, claims, in the words of commenter someofparts ‘One clear fact that emerges is that China will be taking Taiwan back. It’s a question of when not if … if they have to use force,’ Professor Goldstein says, ‘Taiwan will be able to hold out about two weeks.’

One big factor Professor Goldstein is leaving out regarding Taiwan — for reasons to do with long-standing U.S. policy — is that no country that ever had a serious program to build nuclear fission weapons — A-bombs — ever failed to do so. South Africa developed them, for instance, though in 1989 de Klerk ensured they were dismantled before the handover to Mandela.

In fact, A-bombs such as were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are far simpler and easier to construct than most people realize. It’s a technology developed by people who listened to Benny Goodman on vacuum tube radios, after all. (For all that the scientists at Los Alamos represented, sadly, probably the greatest number of the most intelligent people gathered together for one project in history.)

H-bombs — fusion bombs aka staged thermonuclear weapons — which emerged with Ivy Mike in 1952 are a very different, more complex deal. In 2021, they’re what a nation-state seeking deterrence wants because — while Ivy Mike was the size of a very large locomotive engine, 20 feet high and weighing 140,000-plus lbs., with an additional 24,000 lbs. for its refrigeration equipment — they can be physically miniaturized to be put atop missiles and designed so the resulting explosion can be almost any size, shape, or radiation yield. Ted Thomas, the U.S.’s most talented bomb designer, even built a thermonuclear device so small he lit a cigarette with it.

To return to Taiwan: Simple fission-style A-bombs do require bomber aircraft (which can be knocked down by missiles in 2021) to deliver them — although trucks or boats will do in a pinch. But Taiwan could still build such weapons as stationary “mini-doomsday” devices, so that if China invades, the whole island goes up and large radioactive clouds sweep over the mainland. That would definitely be a deterrent.

The hardest part of building simple fission devices is accumulating enough enriched uranium and/or plutonium. Taiwan has six reactors so it has the nuclear material to enrich, to start with.

Enrichment is usually dependent on massive chains of centrifuges — which is why Iran currently is vulnerable to sabotage — but there’s a new high-tech alternative called laser isotope separation, or LIS, which can be carried out in a plant the size of a small warehouse or your local high-end auto dealer’s garage. Taiwan is, in one sense, the most technologically sophisticated country in the world, in that it has more microprocessor chip fabs than any other. Indeed, that’s another reason why mainland China shouldn’t invade in the next decade, until it’s built up its own fab plants: Global technological civilization would stagger to a halt without the chips Taiwan supplies the rest of the world, including China.

In any case, if Taiwan wants to enrich radioactive material via LIS, it can probably manage “nuclear breakout” both covertly and quickly.

So the fact that Taiwan could relatively easily gain nuclear deterrence is one factor Professor Goldstein isn’t bringing up.

And that’s because Japan and a number of other nations could achieve nuclear breakout very quickly, too. During the Cold War, the US deliberately extended its “nuclear umbrella” to allies to discourage them from having their own nuclear deterrent program. That way, proliferation was discouraged and US hegemony was preserved, in that the US nuclear umbrella also provided cover for US conventional forces to go in and flatten whomever Washington deemed should be flattened. (As in Iraq.)

Professor Goldstein isn’t talking about all this because he’s invested in maintaining US hegemony. Also, he’s at the US Naval War College and a potential scenario where China invades Taiwan with conventional forces is good promotion for the idea of naval force projection, and the Navy always wants more ships. I bet he doesn’t bring up the uselessness of aircraft carrier groups in such a scenario, however. If so, he’s being disingenuous on two counts.

Ian – this is by Mark Pontin, not me. I lifted it from comments with his permission. We’ll be talking a bit more about Taiwan (and the Ukraine) in the future. Thanks to Mark for agreeing.


If Biden Actually Withdraws Troops from Afghanistan by 9/11, He’ll Have Done Something Good


Open Thread


  1. someofparts

    Well, if we are talking about extending American naval power to protect Taiwan, then we probably better have this conversation –
    Scroll down to the header for “How to Lose Wars through Profiteering”

    It seems that we no longer have a military/industrial complex. Instead, we have a military/private equity complex.

    For a current example of what that means, consider the case of SolarWinds. When private equity took over that company they did what they always do, gutted the enterprise for short-term cash-out gains. They outsourced their IT operations to eastern Europe.

    Now the Biden administration is going to sanction Russia for hacking major federal agencies, but it would not have been possible if greedy private equity guys had not weakened the company and parked critical IT operations right next door to Russia.

    As to the current readiness of the U.S. Navy, ProPublica has done a lot of good reporting on this. Here’s a link to that information –

    I certainly can’t speak for the people of Taiwan, but if the options were to obliterate myself with nukes or be taken over by China, I would roll out the welcome mat for my new Chinese overlords.

    I noticed this

  2. someofparts

    Pardon those dangling words at the end of my last post.

    Posting this to include key quotes from the Stoller article that I meant to include above.

    “Just a few months ago, the Pentagon sent Congress a groundbreaking report on how Wall Street is destroying the defense base. “A U.S. business climate,” it read, “that has favored short-term shareholder earnings, deindustrialization, and an abstract, radical vision of ‘free trade,’ without fair trade enforcement, have severely damaged America’s ability to arm itself today and in the future.” Keep in mind that this is not some advocacy group calling for fair trade or criticizing short-term shareholder profiteering, it’s the Pentagon.

    As former Marine and Congressman Paul Cook put it a few years ago, “the system we have right now, I swear to God, we would have lost World War II.”

    In the 1990s, national security thinkers recognized that military spending would drop because of the end of the Cold War. The question defense contractors sought to answer, especially Norm Augustine of Martin Marietta (soon to be Lockheed Martin), was how to maintain the profit margins of their firms even as revenue dropped. Augustine cut an informal deal with the incoming Clinton administration, in which the contractors would not oppose spending reductions as long as the Pentagon helped engineer a large merger boom and get rid of its anti-profiteering provisions.”

  3. Hugh

    Well, this is my comment lifted from the last thread.

    The Little Boy Hiroshima bomb was a uranium device using a simple gun design. There was not enough uranium ready for a second device. So for the Fat Man Nagasaki bomb plutonium was used. It was a much more difficult design. For the first device you’re basically shooting one uranium mass into another. For the second you have to have a precisely timed explosive compression around the plutonium core. An H bomb riffs off this by using an inner plutonium or uranium core with lithium as a source for its tritium.

    “During the Cold War, the U.S. deliberately extended its ‘nuclear umbrella’ to allies to discourage them from having their own nuclear deterrent program.”

    Seems like someone forgot to tell the French and British.

  4. bruce wilder

    I am rolling my eyes.

    The whole drumbeats of war thingee is pretty old at this point. This is about the Pentagon budget, not an imminent threat Taiwan is likely to resist with threats of armageddon, or one China is likely to make without heavy-handed provocation. China drew Taiwan into its economic orbit long ago.

    Biden escalating tensions with Russia while claiming that the two countries need to de-escalate is typical double-speak while continuing the same insanely aggressive policies everywhere. The inability to even be embarrassed by the hypocrisy of claiming election interference is telling. But more substantive is blaming the Russians for Solar Winds, when the fault was private equity looting, about which Biden has pledged nothing fundamentally will change. Gah.

    The pathetic operational condition of the U.S. Navy — raised above — will scarcely be considered in the rush to the pig’s trough, the uselessness of eleven Carriers never mentioned.

  5. Z

    If China militarily attacked and defeated Taiwan they would then own a country that would likely have a seriously damaged infrastructure with a resentful, rebellious population that they would then have to work with in order to rebuild the country back into an asset.

    As long as Taiwan doesn’t play power games with semiconductors that heavily favor the U.S. over China I don’t think it makes much sense for China to invade Taiwan. It would be a folly of arrogance and one of the ways that they think themselves better than the U.S. leaders is that they are too wise to make them.


  6. Astrid

    Conversely, I really don’t think the Mainland Chinese want Taiwan back that badly, not nearly enough to go to war after. Taiwan is already well integrated into Chinese trade system and Mainland Chinese (at least those who can afford to travel) don’t envy the Taiwanese, who are comparatively poorer than denizens of Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen.

    Talking about reunification might rile up patriotism in the lower orders a bit, but the wealthier stratas get rich working for and with Taiwanese citizens. There are plenty of Taiwanese living in the Mainland and lots of intermarriages. I know a decent number of Taiwanese citizens living in the US (all upper middle class or better) and never heard anyone express support for Taiwan Independence.

    Actual way with Taiwan is a lose lose. It’s terrible for China’s relationship with its neighbors and will make China a pariah. It’s also bad domestic policy even with pliable press coverage. Taiwanese are considered full Han Chinese and a war that hurts Chinese people is bad PR. PRC’ll take the opportunity to play to the cheap seats and try various carrots and sticks to move Taiwan into the Chinese sphere of influence, but a wartorn Taiwan is not at all in China’s interest at present.

    USians and foreigners living in Hong Kong also appear to have little awareness of how Mainland Chinese perceive Hong Kong. I was in Shanghai right before COVID and right in the middle of the Hong Kong protests. They’re not interested in HK, just happily saying that now the central government will stop giving Hong Kong special privileges for finance deals and finally let Shanghai take over (I don’t think it’s nearly so simple, but this was the universal sentiment).

    They see a disordered decadent has been society in Hong Kong that’s making a fuss because they’re superceded by Mainlanders, much as they see the US is fussing because of the ascendent PRC. I know a young product manager at Tencent who was considering HKU’s MBA program immediately before the protests. She decided to enroll in Shanghai Jiaoda’s MBA program instead.

  7. Astrid

    Taiwan doesn’t even need nuclear weapons. Just conventional missiles aim at Fuzhou, Xiamen, Wenzhou, and Shantou across the straits would be devastating enough for mainland China. A little more range lets Taiwan hit basically 90% of PRC’s industrial heartland. No matter how good China thinks its missile defense system is, I don’t think they would want to take that kind of risk on a lark.

  8. Hugh

    Z, Xi is a dictator and dictators make control paramount. Insane choices usually result with each becoming insaner than the last. I would not underestimate Xi’s capacity for insane choices. Look at the Uighurs, then Hong Kong, now Taiwan. This is not a one-off. It is character as policy.

    We should not kid ourselves. We need a national industrial policy to minimize our exposure to China. We were going to need one anyway because of climate change. It is kind of interesting that we keep talking about the US’s China pivot and pretty much missed that Xi’s China has its own pivot going on.

    It makes the world a much more dangerous place but Xi’s belligerence could push Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to go nuclear. As I have said before, Xi is making the same mistakes that Chinese emperors have made for more than two thousand years. They keep pushing and becoming more oppressive until they fail. A nuclearized East Asia may be the only alternative.

  9. different clue

    I read the Ted Thomas link. The actual sentence is worded in such a way as to seem to be saying that Ted Thomas designed an H-bomb so small, so absolutely teensy-weensy, that he could directly light a cigarette from the tiny little nano-explosion of that tiny little bomb.

    Actually, he just designed a parabolic mirror to catch and reflect a bunch of light from the first flash of his big beautiful bomb, and concentrate it onto the tip of a cigarette. Which lit right up.

    I bet if he wanted to light a cigarette with sunlight, he could have designed a mirror for that, too.

  10. Z


    Invading Taiwan would be a much more complex and dangerous endeavor than anything that Xi has done in regards to the Uighurs and Hong Kong. I’d imagine that he’d be more careful about jumping into it.

    I agree that “(w)e need a national industrial policy to minimize our exposure to China. We were going to need one anyway because of climate change.”


  11. Astrid


    As you demonstrated again and again, you don’t know anything about China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, or Trump supporters beyond what MSNBC and the teeny “humanitarian intervention” in your head tells you. Your understanding about why Chinese dynasties fall (hint, it’s rarely because of imperial overreach) is as bad as your understanding of how CPC governs.

    As had been directly told to you numerous times by many people here, what you say about Uighurs is comes from repeating lies coming from discredited NED supported Xi’an fundamentalist China hater Adrian Zenz and a tiny clique of violent Uighur exiles that make the Florida Cubans look like old school European Social Democrats. What is reported about Hong Kong totally ignores what they protested (allowing extradition of a confessed murderer for brutally killing his girlfriend in Taiwan) and the substantial amount of violence and property destruction that they did against Hong Kongers or that its leaders pretty much all took money from US/Europeans. These people aren’t interested in the welfare or legitimate grievances of people they claim to speak for, they’re just US supported mouthpieces who would like for what the US did to Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and dozens of times in Latin America to be repeated on their countrymen.

    Xi is more Maoist than his direct predecessors, but all of them are working within a party apparatus with almost 10% of the population and need to balance the interested of numerous interest groups inside and outside the party. Calling him, or any number of other elected national leaders (many in processes that appear less compromised than what we have in the US) dictators is just straight out regurgitation of US warmongering propaganda.

    As with COVID, Xi has made plenty of mistakes and there are many within China who don’t like his methods. But he is far from irrational or unaware of what he would risk going to war with Taiwan. He is far more capably advised and in the welfare of the average Chinese citizen, than any US president since Jimmy Carter. But then Russiagaters are exactly the Neoliberal version of climate change denier or flat earther, utterly immune to evidence and yet so vehement.

  12. Plague Species

    Taiwan and China are a huge distracting Nothing Burger as is North Korea. Nothing major is going to happen. War is waged by other means, not direct physical violent confrontation directly between the major players. It’s Goldstein’s bread and butter, his gravy train, to play up the over-hyped tensions between China and Taiwan. It’s his career. It’s in his best interests to play it up. To over-hype the seriousness of it.

    For those who revel in America’s demise because they have some axe to grind, your revelry is absurd and unwarranted. Russia is not resurgent. It’s a perverted shadow of its former self. The resurgence you assert is largely Potemkin. Putin Puffery. As for China, Hugh has articulated China’s standing and fate exquisitely in other posts. This is ALL coming to an end. It’s not just the end of America, it’s the end of Civilization, or certainly of Civilization as history knew it.

  13. Plague Species

    Biden further sanctioning Russia is not ratcheting up tensions. Every intelligent person knows sanctions are a feckless gesture. It’s diplomatic finger wagging. In fact, with larger countries like Russia and China with more complex economies, sanctions often strengthen the ruling regime rather than cripple it.

    Remember, the one true God of Civilization is Growth. Nuclear War is the end of Growth. It is tantamount to murdering God. You can’t make revenue and profit off of Nuclear War like you can regional conflicts where you manage chaos.

    What’s important is that Growth continue unabated. The airlines are up and running again at nearly full capacity. Despite COVFEFE-45, hypermobility, the lubricant of Growth, is on the rise again. Nuclear War eviscerates hypermobility and thus Growth, therefore it is anathema. It’s just another way of saying “I have a big dick.” The larger and more powerful the arsenal, the bigger the dick and let’s face it, Russia and America are big dicks.

  14. Astrid

    It would seem that having a Big Dick is quite effective deterrent against invasion by hostile foreign powers (rape?), just ask North Korea.

    Anyways, everyone knows that with resource depletion and climate change, Canada and Russia are the last significant troves of under exploited resources. Europeans, through their slavish obligence to the US, blew it with Russia. We’ll see how long the US can keep its hooks on Canada and Australia.

  15. Jan Wiklund

    There is a lot of scare-mongering going on now. Matt Taibbi has recorded some of it at, and historian prof. Paul Robinson has done it at for those who are interested. Most of it is bunkum; no proofs whatever and what can be proved is small change.

    My guess is that the US establishment feel belittled by China’s economic successes and need some outlet for that. At worst it may even be that since the US has its comparative advantage in guns they will like to use them.

  16. If memory serves (it often doesn’t) Joe Biden said in a fund-raiser that I helped cater around 2002 that Japan could have a nuclear bomb in 6 months, if it wanted to.

  17. Plague Species

    North Korea’s terrain has more to do with it not being invaded and occupied than any feigned nuclear deterrent. The Korean War proved this. The Vietnam War proved it. The Afghan War proved it, both the Soviet Union’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and America’s invasion and occupation. Terrain means EVERYTHING, at least from a conventional war perspective.

    Israel’s an interesting case. It has a slightly enlarged Bigus Dickus, a hundred and something nukes, but it denies it rather than boasting about it. Still, it can’t hide its nuclear erection beneath its tight leather pants.

  18. Astrid

    Terrain prevents the invaders from winning. As Afghanistan shows, it doesn’t prevent the invasions. Nor is the role of the terrain as universal as you’re making it out to be. Terrain needs to be combined with an effective and resilient organization and a durable means of subsistence. Hezbollah is able to fight on even though it doesn’t have the normal advantages of terrain. Tibet and Xinjiang fell despite their highly mountains terrains. The Kims of 1940s and 1950s could probably resist invaders effectively, I severely doubt the Swiss boarding school preppies of today have the gumption.

    The Chinese Communists know this quite well. They spent the first 20 years of their existence as guerillas fighting the Nationalists. Incidentally, they were failing in the mountains of Jiangxi and found greater success in the somewhat more open terrains of the loess plateau, though the Japanese invasion was probably what saved them from annihilation.

  19. bruce wilder

    Is there anything Americans can do to save the remnant of their country from the U.S.?

  20. Z


    If memory serves (it often doesn’t) Joe Biden said in a fund-raiser that I helped cater around 2002 that Japan could have a nuclear bomb in 6 months, if it wanted to.

    FedEx from the U.S. runs a lot faster now than in 2002 though. We could probably get one to them overnight; next day at the latest.


  21. Mary Bennett

    I wonder if sanctions aren’t mostly intended to impress a domestic audience. Out here in flyover nowheresville, we don’t like rich foreigners. We find them all too often spoiled, disdainful and demanding. Let the dictator’s trophy wife shop in London. We don’t want her or her money.

    I think Afghanistan is graveyard of empires because of isolation, combined with terrain. An invader can’t keep its’ army supplied. Notice that Alexander may have conquered, that is, won some battles there, but he quickly moved on. He, and the Seleucids who followed may have kept a satrap in what is now Afghanistan, with a contingent of troops, but I believe that the satrap had to maintain himself as best he could while sending the required tribute to the capital. Nor, before the days of poppy growing, was there ever very much wealth there to be extracted.

  22. Astrid

    Use Amazon and get it delivered by a drone.

  23. Z


    Kind of risky, I’d pack it with a lot of styrofoam curly-ques, but if it was urgent and they needed it in four hours or less, yeah I suppose that would be the best option.


  24. Z

    If they need it delivered that quick I’d imagine it’d probably be best to do a postage due on delivery and address it directly to wherever they want it ultimately dropped.


  25. Astrid

    Unlike Taiwan, Japan, ROK, or the EU, Israel can fully rely on the US’s absolutely ginormous mountain of flesh wang to come to its…aid. So why risk getting called a pervert for showing its stuff when everyone already knows it had the remote control for its best buddy’s massive member?

  26. Hugh

    We live in a curious and dangerous age where it is simpler and more popular to deny reality than take responsibility for it and do something about it. So when Trump loses an election, his followers immediately proclaim that he actually won it. And this justifies their starting an insurrection over it. And when that fails blaming antifa and the media for it –and Trump still won the election.

    Astrid is a wonderful example of this conclusions first, story to follow, facts not needed approach. Xi can throw a million Uighurs into concentration camps fo the crime of not being Chinese but still be a good, rational kind of guy. Why? Because either this didn’t happen at all, or if it did, it’s the Uighurs’ fault. And what is fascinating is that both of these contradictory things can be true at the same time for the dedicated kool-aid drinker. Only the kool-aid drinker can know the Truth. And if you do not agree, you are a heretic. The problem and danger to us heretics is that the Dear Leaders start believing this nonsense they have created. And as I said above, this invites them to make choices that get more and more divorced from reality and crazier. So with Xi, he didn’t stop with the Uighurs or Tibet, but moved on to the South China Sea and Hong Kong, and from there to Taiwan, and who knows what after that. The question for us is if any agreement is possible with Xi. I mean I am not a big fan of a lot of intellectual property laws, but when China comes up against them, it simply ignores them or steals the technology outright. So until China shows it can abide by its agreements what is the point of us believing they will keep any of them or making new ones with it?

  27. Astrid

    I’m sure KBR can come up with a cost reimbursement logistics solution at a price of $5,000,000/pound (rounding up to Kg when crossing national boundaries).

  28. Astrid


    The million Uighur in concentration camp story had been debunked so many times, to you, that it’s impossible to believe you are repeating it in good faith. One bad faith paper
    Work by a China hating right wing Xian with no actual expertise in China or Uighurs or Central Asia, does not actually become more factual because the MSM and “humanitarian interventionists” like you keep repeating it.

    As always, what you say of others you are yourself.

  29. Hugh

    As for why the US does not win wars, it got me searching fo a quote I remembered from the the film Gandhi:

    Brigadier: You don’t think we’re just going to walk out of India!

    Gandhi: Yes. In the end, you will walk out. Because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians, if those Indians refuse to cooperate.

    The US can go into a country and shoot it up, but whether it is five years or twenty, there will come a day when we will leave, and the people who live there will still be there because that’s where they live. They don’t have to win. They only have to survive.

    With China, it is a bit different. It can fill non-Chinese areas like Tibet and Xinjiang with Chinese. In the case of Taiwan and Hong Kong, fill it up with the right kind of Chinese

  30. Hugh

    Astrid, your bigotry speaks for itself.

  31. Plague Species

    The Chinese Communists know this quite well.

    What the Chinese Communists also know quite well is that the Americans beat Japan’s Bully Boy ass in WWII and America was fighting two wars concomitantly, one against Germany in Europe and elsewhere, and another against Japan. China was largely defenseless against Japan and if not for America, Japan would have annexed a substantial portion of China if not all of it and Japan would have raped and murdered hundreds of millions of Chinese to accomplish that. Japan was that ruthless and insane. A rabid dog that had to be put down, just like Nazi Germany.

  32. Z

    In the case of Taiwan and Hong Kong, fill it up with the right kind of Chinese.

    They better mark them well.


  33. Plague Species

    War is for war’s sake any longer. It appears winning isn’t even a consideration in contemporary modern warfare. The longer the war, the better. It rationalizes ever-increasing defense budgets and the war profiteers realize generous perpetual returns on their capital.

    To your comment about terrain, in a conventional traditional war, like WWII, it is about winning. So once again I will reiterate, TERRAIN means everything from a conventional war perspective for the very reason you state — because terrain can mitigate winning.

    Mary raises a great point. Isolation is also key. If you can’t resupply, you’re not going to win.

  34. Astrid

    Hugh: Yes, I do happen to be bigoted against people who want to start wars on spurious and false pretexts, whether they be the US MIC, China hating religious fanatics, Israel, or anonymous “humanitarian interventionists” who appear, really to be born yesterday as far as their memory goes. And your point is?

    PS: Way to ignore that the Soviets and Chinese were doing a substantial come of the actual fighting in WWII, along with reminants of the British empires and various other peoples. Seriously you can’t be this dumb, right? The Americans did basically nothing for the Chinese from 1933 to 1941, while millions were killed and raped in China and throughout Asia. The appearance of the Americans in the Asian theater in 1944 and 1945 might have speeded up the end, but it was a forgone conclusion by that point and the Soviets could have destroyed the Japanese empire quite handily.

  35. Plague Species

    So why risk getting called a pervert for showing its stuff when everyone already knows it had the remote control for its best buddy’s massive member?

    Why develop a nuclear arsenal at all then if what you say is true? And yet Israel did develop an arsenal. Perhaps Israel feels gentiles cannot be entirely trusted. Gentiles are like the apes in Planet of the Apes and the Israelis are like the mutant people who live beneath the planet who have evolved to communicate telepathically without speaking. The mutant humans knew their extra-sensory influence on the thick-skulled apes was limited by that thick skull and the apes’ limited brain capacity. Perhaps that’s as it is with Israel and gentile America. Hence the nuclear arsenal is a failsafe. The Samson Option.

  36. Plague Species

    Of course the Americans didn’t whip Japan’s ass for and on behalf of the Chinese but nonetheless America whipping Japan saved China’s ass as a necessary yet unintended implication and consequence.

  37. someofparts

    Astrid – The scroll button is your friend. You have better things to do than waste time on people who clearly don’t even read the links provided in the thread itself. For myself, I’ve really enjoyed everything you’ve added to this thread. I come here to learn and your comments are full of interesting information I haven’t heard anywhere else. Thanks.

    Since the conversation here has wandered into the topic of how America protected China in WWII, I want to provide another link.

    This is a book where Tuchman gets into the weeds talking about how things played out for the Allies in Asia during WWII. Naturally, it’s a lot more interesting and twisted than the cartoon version of it that I have heard here just now.

    I’ve started collecting a few books to educate myself about global history from the Asian perspective. Any recommendations from anyone for good things to read on the topic would be welcome.

  38. Ché Pasa

    I have no special knowledge of China, but their system of rule is almost unfathomable to most Westerners — assuming it’s still similar to what it was under Mao and Deng. From appearances, it hasn’t changed a great deal under Xi.

    The ruling system is not that of historical imperial China, though it has an affinity of course, as the cultural grounding is the same as it was thousands of years ago. Xi is not equivalent to the Emperor, however. He does not have absolute power. In many respects, he is the chief servant of the people, not their ruler. But of course it depends on your point of view.

    In theory, China is ruled from the bottom up, not from the top down. Of course, in practice orders come from the top — The Heavenly Throne that isn’t, not really — and they are implemented at ground level. The question is, how do you get a constant flow from bottom up and top down. And what is the framework for it?

    Mao realized that nothing good could happen in China as long as rule was always and only from the top down — as it was under Chiang Kai-shek for example, or for that matter under most of the Emperors. Chiang would defend himself by claiming he was only the President of the Republic of China, not an absolute ruler like Mao, who wasn’t himself an absolute ruler — in part because his role was to listen carefully to the People and ultimately to express their needs and desires as policy for the nation. Of course, it didn’t always work out so well. But when it did, it could be spectacular.
    The system is not like Western democracies, but in some ways, it is more democratic, in part because listening to the People and figuring out how to do what’s best for the People (at least for the majority) is the primary job of the government. You see it in action in China all the time if you’re paying attention. The government only exists to serve the People. You may find that naive, but that’s how the system is set up, and that’s how it’s been operating in the whole country since 1949.

    One of the things that grates on Americans and most Westerners is that the Chinese system does not operate to primarily to serve the rich or to subvert the interests of the People as a whole to the interests of any particular minority. That explains some of the Chinese power plays in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and potentially elsewhere. Such as Taiwan.

    But there is very little likelihood that Beijing will precipitate war to reclaim Taiwan simply because there is no sign that doing so would benefit the People of China as a whole — or the People of Taiwan for that matter. Instead, we’re liable to see plenty of posturing, and if things continue as we expect them to, China will come out looking like the Adult and Western saber rattlers will look like childish barbarians.

    Does China have the ability and power to thwart US expansionist interests in the region? So far, yes, but that can change. Their interests are not to provoke but maybe to tease. And US interests in the region actually favor a strong, if cooperative, China. Given that, the US may posture, threaten and taunt, but in the end, not much will change.

  39. Mr Jones

    He is far more capably advised and in the welfare of the average Chinese citizen, than any US president since Jimmy Carter.

    “Capably advised” by who? Carter was capably advised by nutcases Brzezinski and Volcker.

  40. Astrid

    I wasn’t thinking so much of the advising part, but I think Carter has his heart mostly in the right place and actually wanted to do right by the American people. He was certainly the last one who did. Since then, it’s just various snakeoil salesmen for banks, MIC, Silicon Valley, Pharma/insurance, and Israel.

    Xi wasn’t well advised at the start of COVID, or he could have snuffed it by January 2020. His purges of party opponents left sycophants in charge of Wuhan who were desperate to avoid giving him bad news, even as highly competent professional public health officials were becoming very alarmed at the situation. But then he did listen, he did what was necessary to actually eliminate it. As a result, a billion Chinese are considerably safer and actually free, than basically anyone’s outside of ANZ.

  41. Hugh

    Astrid: “Yes, I do happen to be bigoted against people who want to start wars on spurious and false pretexts”

    You get this blather a lot nowadays. I mean it sounds great until the rubber hits the road and we find out that China and the great and wonderful Xi are automatically exempted. Whatever Xi and China do is good, by definition.

    We often treat racism as if it were peculiarly a white phenomenon, but as Astrid shows, racism is universal. It is only the victim and victimizer who vary. So for Astrid, China can do no wrong. So throwing a million Uighurs into concentration camps both never happened and was a good thing for the Uighurs.

    This is a problem we have to take into account with the Chinese. Xi and China look increasingly like they are believing their BS. They are certainly acting that way. What we are currently witnessing is a shift where China under Xi is becoming a destabilizer of East Asia. In the shadow of climate change, East Asia had at best an even chance of surviving for the next 30 years. But with now not just North Korea but China as major destabilizers, the likelihood of East Asia’s survival is zilch.

  42. Astrid


    I know. I’m not upset by what they say (all the regulars know exactly what they are) but I wanted to respond because what they say makes superficial sense to people without deep knowledge about the situation. As your comment states, they can also be jumping off points to interesting views (by no means are my views the right views, I am always open to better and more accurate information and outlook) on particular topics.

    Before I dove into Grayzone’s coverage of the Uighur thing, I was willing to believe that the Chinese government were being very oppressive against the Uighurs (though never actual genocide, that’s not on brand for the Chinese and people who insist on it don’t understand how modern China or even premodern China works at all). Honestly, even if it was as bad as reported, it’s still an internal security matter that the US, with its terrible track record, has no business moralizing about. But the fact that they’re mostly a pack of lies concocted by right wing warmongers funded by deep state regime changers, just takes the cake.

    The fact that Hugh just repeats it over and over again without acknowledging the number of times his claims have been debunked, is very much proof of his poor character or something much worse.

  43. Hugh

    Astrid = Chinese hasbara.

  44. Plague Species

    Tuchman’s book explains precisely why China would be Japan had America not kicked Japan’s ass in WWII. Despite America’s aid to the Nationalists in their defense against the Japanese incursion, the Nationalists were being wiped out by the Japanese at their highest military levels. A substantial number of generals had been KIA. Many were excellent officers. China didn’t have organization or an industrial base. It had resources. Resources Japan wanted and needed and would have commandeered had America not crushed Japan. Japan got a big head and got greedy when it poked America at Pearl Harbor. It hubristically underestimated America’s ability and capacity and determination. Of course, the America of then is not the America of today anymore than the Japan and China of then are the Japan and China of today, but. the Japan and China and America of today are precisely what they are because America whipped Japan’s ass.

  45. Hugh, get back to us when those Iraqi WMDs show up. Any day now.

  46. Hugh

    Dermot, I got into blogging because of my skepticism around the Iraq war. I am still skeptic but unlike you and your emptyheaded ad hominem or Astrid and her racism I live in an evidence-based world. The QAnon of the right is as repugnant to me as you QAnon types of the left.

  47. Strange Love

    How to make bombs and stuff. Bombs and the brilliant people behind them. Which nation-state is better? Which was better in the past? How did we get here? Where on earth are we going? To Mars? Seriously?

    “On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

  48. Astrid

    I didn’t realize that warmongers are a race. What happens if you’re born to pacifist parents and then decide to become a warmonger as a young adult? Are you a trans-warmonger then?

  49. Astrid

    Douglas Adams continues to have the best encapsulation of our current bank based economy.

  50. Astrid

    PS: Those incompetent Nationalist (and communist) armies tied up millions of Japanese soldiers not fighting Americans in the Pacific. And they held for 5 years between 1937 and 1941 waiting for the American to leisurely join the war.

    While the supply of American materials probably made the difference in WWII, it was Russians, Chinese, and many well pigmented individuals in British army who did the bulk of the fighting and dying against the Axis. Midway was a pretty little battle, but the Americans (aside from merchant Marines) didn’t do much fighting until 1944. By the time the Americans joined the fighting for real in 1944, the outcome was already clear and the Soviets could have won the Pacific just as well as the American nuclear bombs.

  51. Mary Bennett

    About whatever is or is not happening in the Chinese governed part of central Asia, and at this point I don’t know what to believe, except that my country, the USA, can no longer afford military interventions in remote parts of the globe:

    If the world wide community of Moslems, called Umma, I believe, I hope I have that right, wanted to put a stop to whatever are the Chinese activities, they could. It would be difficult and require planning and coordination, but I believe it could be done. Boycott Chinese manufactures and businesses. Disallow Chinese travel, including business travel, to Moslem countries. Turkey could say, in effect, take away your Belt and Road, with its Chinese work crews that you expect us to house, and let our people go. If the worldwide Moslem community cares more about newspaper cartoons than about actual, live fellow Moslems being mistreated in China, if indeed they are being mistreated, I don’t see why I should care. It isn’t as though we don’t have plenty of work and rebuilding to do in our own neighborhoods.

  52. @ Astrid “Israel can fully rely on the US’s absolutely ginormous mountain of flesh wang to come to its…aid”

    Getting back to Ian’s question, perhaps the Taiwanese should consider massive conversion to Judaism. Their meager facial hair won’t do justice to the image of more traditional Jews. But desperate times demand desparate measures…

    Ah, this reminds me of a day off during a China gig, sitting in a sauna with our mostly Chinese staff. They kiddingly told me I reminded them of a monkey (due to body hair). I obliged them with spirited, chimpy hoo-pants.

    Speaking of the Jews, the netflix series “Shtisel” is excellent. I get a kick out of the Orthodox Jews bad-mouthing the “Zionists”, to the extent some don’t want their students viewing Israeli Air Force shows.

  53. Astrid

    Okay, now I see Hugh is accusing me of being racist because I choose to believe the Grayzone’s clear evidence that the million Uighur claim came from Adrian Zenz’s debunked report and are complete fabrication. Such claims are also supplemented by Uighur “Independence advocates such as these nice folks. Note that I never said anything against Uighurs as a people, though I will say that they are likely to be far better off under the Chinese than the NED sponsored “freedom fighter”creeps who claim to speak for them.

    I guess this sort of logic is par for the course in a world where standing up for Palestinians is antisemitism and being opposed to trans women competing in women’s athletics is transphobia.

    Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat

  54. different clue

    Mary Bennett makes a good point. If Turkey and/or the Muslim World care so very much about the ChinaGov sending the Uighurs on a long Concentration Labor Camping Trip, then let Turkey and the Muslim World address it.

    We have our own problems.

    ( By the way, the Ted Thomas link description made it sound like Ted Thomas built an H-bomb the size of a cigarrette lighter and lit a cigarette with it. Really, he just build a big beautiful bomb and used a little mirror to catch the bomb-light-flash, and reflect it onto a cigarette and that lit the cigarette.)

  55. different clue

    Hey! I just had an idea about how to solve the ciswoman/transwoman controversy in womens’ sports.

    Have a category of ciswomens athletics for the ciswoman athletes.
    And have a category of transwomens athletics for the transwoman athletes.

    There. Everybody accomodated. Everybody happy.

    I await my Nobel Peace Prize with all humble pride and well deserved gratitude.

  56. Mark Pontin

    @ Everybody –

    Thanks for the comments and criticisms. The piece above wasn’t originally written as a full-blown post, but an off-the-cuff comment in response to someone else’s comment on Ian’s site on Wednesday. What triggered me was, besides Goldstein’s assumptions about Taiwan vs. China, some initial glimmerings of thoughts on what a post-Pax Americana world would look like.

    Like you all, I simply banged out my comment and hit the send button. Later that day, Ian emailed me and said he wanted to run it as a full-blown post. I said okay, I guess, but I couldn’t do any re-writes then although I could turn it around by 10:00 PM that night.

    Ian emailed me back and said, No, it was already up. Oh. If I’d been writing for ‘serious publication’ I would have tightened all this up and not scanted things some of you have called out. Let me try and respond here .

    @ Hugh —

    In response to my comment: “During the Cold War, the U.S. deliberately extended its ‘nuclear umbrella’ to allies to discourage them from having their own nuclear deterrent program,” you wrote: “Seems like someone forgot to tell the French and British.”

    So U.S. policy was different things at different times. In the 1950s, under Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ program, the U.S. actually exported fissile material and nuke-related know-how to other countries. Iran’s nuclear program, for instance, got its start then (and nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and the Shah’s Iran continued as late as 1979 and the Khameini revolution).

    In general, AFAIK, it wasn’t till the Carter administration in the latter 1970s and afterwards that U.S. policy took a hard-core turn of trying to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation by also trying to obstruct nuclear reactor construction for civil electrical power generation in other countries. Which brings us to France ….

    De Gaulle never had any problem giving the one-finger salute to the Anglo world post-WWII, and the French went ahead and developed their Force de frappe/Force de dissuasion. After the 1973 oil crisis, De Gaulle’s successors maintained this tradition of independence, determined that France would be energy-independent, and started throwing up civil nuclear reactors. France still gets 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear and in the past it’s been as high as 79-80 percent, I believe.

    The U.S. didn’t like it. Scuttlebutt has long had it that from the late 1970s on the U.S. fought other countries’ nuclear programs via the CIA funding and collaborating with anti-nuke activists! (Likely true, IMO.) This reached a climax in 1985 when Greenpeace’s ship, Rainbow Warrior was to lead a flotilla of protest vessels into the waters surrounding Moruroa atoll, the French nuclear testing site in the Pacific. The French government bombed and sank the ship in Auckland harbor on orders from François Mitterrand himself.

    As for the U.K., the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos depended to a considerable extent on scientists transferred from the U.K. nuclear weapons program that preceded the U.S. one. (See the book CHURCHILL’S BOMB by Graham Farmelo). Hard to shut the U.K. out thereafter. That said, it’s a point of contention whether today’s U.K. nuclear deterrent is actually usable without U.S. permission, because what’s on the U.K.’s Trident subs is currently U.S.-made kit to a large extent.

    @ Bruce W. —

    You wrote: “This is about the Pentagon budget,” re. Goldstein.


    @ Astrid –

    “Taiwan is already well integrated into Chinese trade system and Mainland Chinese (at least those who can afford to travel) don’t envy the Taiwanese.”

    Good point.

    “Taiwan doesn’t even need nuclear weapons. Just conventional missiles aim at Fuzhou, Xiamen, Wenzhou, and Shantou across the straits would be devastating enough for mainland China.”

    Yes. The biggest fact in military affairs in the last forty years is the democratization of missile technology on every level. Israel is still obsessing about Iran getting nuclear weapons, for instance, when over the last decade Iran has quietly ringed Israel with conventional rockets that could destroy much of the latter country any time Tehran wanted.

    “It would seem that having a Big Dick is quite effective deterrent against invasion by hostile foreign powers (rape?), just ask North Korea.”

    Indeed. PyongYang’s policy makes all the sense in the world from their POV; look what happened to Gaddafi.

    @ different clue –

    You complained that I cheated on the Ted Thomas link. Okay: I admit, I did scant on technical details; I was just banging out a comment like you are here, so I gave the short version with the first link I grabbed, which had the virtue of being memorable. (And I’ve heard the story other ways, too.) The point is, Ted Thomas _did_ design a very, very small thermonuclear device.

    @ Strange Love –

    How’s it hanging?

  57. Astrid


    Getting to a question you kindly raised. I honestly am not sure what are good introductions to the Chinese. I haven’t made a concerted effort to read about China since college, and somehow missed Martin Jacques’s purportedly seminal book When China Rules the World. Having just listened his lecture on YouTube, I’d say it’s interesting but very rose tinted glasses view of China. Still, I think it’s worth a listen and maybe a read, since it’s very much about the Chinese at their best and what they aspire to be. It is helpful to always understand, the Chinese call their country the middle kingdom and historically, they would call China “all under heaven”. This is a millenniums old understanding of the world that (cultural if not actual) descendants of a little island on the edge of a little peninsula off of the vast Eurasians continent, would need someone to wrap their mind around.

    I guess Jonathan Spence’s The Search For Modern China is a good introduction. I liked Peter Hessler’s books on modern China, though honestly modern China totally changes every time I go there, and I’ve made a dozen trip there in the last 25 years, so who knows what post COVID China is like, less than 18 months since my last visit. I remember being very impressed with Patricia Buckley’s book on the Taiping Rebellion – it’s hard for USians to understand how much trauma China (and most of the non-white world) went through in the last 200 years. For all I know there may have been a ton of superior academic books published on China that I didn’t pay attention to. I read a lot of crappy books on China in college, by far the worst was Iris Chang’s Rape of Nanking. It was incoherent and used such bad evidence, that now I think of her as a proto Adrian Zenz.

    Most of my knowledge about the Chinese comes from those occasional visits to China. As you might imagine, I can speak and read Mandarin, quite well. So I listen, I try not to judge, I try to understand their views. I’m lucky that I happen to know a lot of interesting people and they are kind enough to regard me as amusing. I often do not agree with them, but I do like them. I see them having a lot of agency over their lives but also confirm to certain other assumptions unquestioningly. I might be lucky in my associates but if say they are less indoctrinated and heterodox than the Americans I encounter in my working life. Though many of the young are very very very silly, I wish them well and hope they have a nice life, unmarred by wars and sanctions threatened by Americans, or the sorts of pain and chaos of China 1800-1976.

    I will say, though Xi is not the second coming of Mao and definitely not Chinese Hitler, his rise has cast a pall over my friends. The atmosphere in my last visit felt different, off. But that’s no different from anywhere else.

  58. Astrid

    Different Clue:. Bravo! But what if I was a trans pacifist asexual bear-otter hybrid couch potato? Do I not also deserve to compete for a medal in Netflix marathoning?

  59. someofparts

    plague species –

    I feel like you and I read different books. In Tuchman’s book, the Chinese Nationalists in WWII declined to fight the Japanese at all. That’s why the Allies gradually stopped providing funds and weapons to them because they could not be persuaded to actually use the resources when they were provided. I don’t remember anything in the book at all about heroic Chinese military resistance to the Japanese. The book stresses that they were obsessed with fighting Mao and the communists to the exclusion of any concern over the Japanese.

  60. Eric Anderson

    Jan Wicklund:

    “There is a lot of scare-mongering going on now.”

    The MSM’s trump endorphin deficit seems to be bleeding the reading even here :-/

    What is it good for?
    Sociopath promotion.

  61. In other words, this could get really nasty really quickly.

    Who says Taiwan doesn’t already have nukes, and a suitable, if specialized, delivery system? In fact, it’s likely the Us GAVE them to them, as it did to Israel. Deniably, of course.

    If i were in the Chinese gov’t., I’d be really wondering how good my intelligence on Taiwan really is.

    I did also see a lengthy discussion of the likely difficulties of invading the island. Of course, it’s been done before, but not against high-tech defenders. Apparently much of the western edge is a literal quagmire, and of course the eastern side is mountainous.

    Then there are those chip plants. Maybe the time to get worried is once China has plenty of its own.

  62. different clue


    Yes! Yes, you do! If you can find another trans pacifist asexual bear-otter hybrid couch potato
    to compete with, then you both can go to the proper authorities and demand to get a competition organized.

    And may the best . . uhh . . . everything you said there . . . win!

  63. Ché Pasa

    Strange, isn’t it, that Chinese can tell their own story, quite well too, and they don’t need or benefit from Western academic interpreters.

  64. someofparts

    Well, pardon the quibble, but in the scenario you describe, wouldn’t Astrid be a couch tomato?

  65. eddie

    lol Ian, you have the worst commentariat on the internet. Not a single insightful person here.

  66. Astrid

    A correction, I apparently garbled Patricia Buckley Ebrey with Jonathan Spence’s book on the Taiping Rebellion. Probably better to read Ebrey rather than more than one Spence book.

    Anyways, definitely don’t want to say that I know a lot about the Chinese and know a broad subsection. Just that of what I know, their certainly not monolithic or stupid, certainly not compared to my encounters with the American “blob” of the so called best and brightest.

  67. Z


    You wouldn’t happen to be an Hasbarist, would you?


  68. Synoptocon

    This turns on what one considers “serious” I guess.

    Pre ’91 Iraq, pre ’73 Iran, hell, Taiwan itself in the 70s and 80s – all of them had what they (and those tasked with the counter-proliferation files) considered to be “serious” programs. Taiwan was assessed as four years from a viable device back in the mid-70s, Iraq had done considerable work on implosion designs and was assessed to have been technically capable of constructing a crude device had they seized safeguarded material in-country in post-91 assessment. Iran I’m less familiar with, but the purchasing spree and capabilities they were trying for until the Shah’s fall are certainly consistent with a very serious program (they sought to purchase the entire fuel cycle from the US, such that there was significant diplomatic attention devoted to shutting them out while still keeping them on the weapons teat).

    I wouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about enrichment in Taiwan’s case. Their path to a device is clearly via reprocessing of commercial fuel – they’ve bench topped the process extensively and are said to have been working on hot cells as recently as the late 80s. The rest of the technical expertise I have no doubt they have.

  69. Plague Species

    I feel like you and I read different books. In Tuchman’s book, the Chinese Nationalists in WWII declined to fight the Japanese at all.

    Read the reviews to Tuchman’s book at Amazon. Some of them provide links to other sources that refute her thesis.

    From what I gathered, the Nationalists did fight the Japanese valiantly and earnestly at first for several years, four to five, and then their resistance tapered. I surmise their resistance to the Japanese incursion was in part due to the substantial losses of their high level military leadership who were KIA. Also, Tuchman has a soft spot for Communists. The Communists like her book because it supports and applauds Stilwell’s poor, insulting opinion of Chiang Kai-shek. Stilwell had nothing but contempt for him and called him the Peanut. The Communists obviously prefer anything that paints the Nationalists and Chiang Kai-shek in a negative light.

    In otherwords, Tuchman’s book is highly biases. Well-written and researched, but highly biased.

  70. Ian Welsh

    Of course, having not given Mark a chance to edit means that I am responsible for any lapses in the piece, and he is responsible for its virtues! (Which are considerable, or I wouldn’t have asked him to let me raise it to the front.)

    Thanks Mark.

  71. Astrid

    I didn’t want to comment on Tuchman’s Stilwell book since I never read it, having read “A Distant Mirror” and finding interesting but also incoherent.

    I don’t understand how the Tuchman or anti-Tuchman viewpoints supported PS’s argument that it’s America to the rescue in WWII though. No matter how proactive or inactive Chiang’s Chinese forces were, they kept fighting the Japanese by themselves, with apparently minimal outside help, from 1937 to 1945. In the process they inflicted a substantial chunk of Japanese casualty and tied up a million men in the Kwangdong Army.

    A similar story in Europe and North Africa in terms of men if not materials. The Americans only joined in a very limited way in North Africa and Italian campaign in 1943, and didn’t really make a material difference until 1944, when the tides of war have already clearly turned. The allied victory was purchased mostly with Chinese, Soviet, and British Empire lives.

  72. Astrid

    Chiang did correctly diagnose the Communists to be his biggest threat. He procrastinated on preparation of the obviously coming war with the Japanese in the 1930s to focus on exterminating the Communist forces. I imagined by 1942 or 1943, he wanted to preserved his forces for the coming civil war with the Communists.

    Whatever the China lobby said about the “loss” of China (as though China was an appendage of USA or not understanding that Chiang is also a nationalist patriot who wouldn’t shy from going against the US if he had strength to do so), the presence of communist China and North Korea were beneficial to the populace of Japan, ROK, and ROC, who were treated with kid gloves during the period. Though homogeneity of their respective populations almost certainly played a part in their success.

  73. someofparts

    Thanks for all that feedback and correction. Sounds like I need to take Tuchman’s work with a grain of salt if I read any more of her work.

  74. different clue


    Thank you for your interest in our comments. We are always happy to hear from you. Please let us know if you have any other concerns.

  75. Astrid

    I’ll add one more oddity of PRC and maybe the entire Chinese speaking world. The excessively high property value relative to income means that a substantial plurality of the population has essentially become trust fund kids who don’t have to work for a living.

    Take that Tencent product manager. She probably makes 6-800K RMB a year. That’s amazing money. She lives with her parent in their 150 square meter flat, in a nice part of Shanghai, which is probably worth 20 million yuan. The NPV of her entire career (I assume burnout and mommy track will happen at some point) is likely less than her parents’ opportune purchase of a nice flat in the early oughts. While this is an outlier, it is very common for people to live in or own a second flat that’s worth more money than they will make in their entire lifetime. Then consider that the demographic anomaly of the only child policy means that lots of the 20 to 40 year olds will inherit multiple flats when their parents shuffle off.

    Who knows how long the party will last, I thought it would stall or pop 15 years ago but it keeping going and going and going. When you see Chinese tourists buying out the Chanel store or popping up en mass in every European tourist spot, this is the money funding their activities. In a very real sense, they are for the moment, much more free than most Westerners their age can ever dream of being.

  76. Astrid

    Of course, just like high CA real estate prices (except like an order of magnitude crazier) these people’s relative affluence is bought with a huge amount of societal risk, wealth inequality, and utter despair for anyone without the foresight to be born to well to do urban parents and failed to snag one on the marriage market.

    This plus social media silliness, foodie fads, evening soap operas, terrible air quality, stock market, the arrival of seasonal delicacies, their children/grandchildren, etc. are what Chinese people talk about. Maybe they will also murmur about Xi’s social engineering or how hard it is for new grads to find good jobs or how the weather gets weirder every year. Oh, also American racial tensions and American gun violence, the Chinese propaganda organs keep them very well informed about that. But they will talk about Uighurs and Taiwan about as frequently as normal Americans talk about Syria and Yemen, which is just about never.

  77. different clue


    When the weather gets more wierderer, they’ll talk more about it more.

  78. Astrid

    It’s plenty weird already. Plus with basically Houston’s summers, Shanghai is pretty close to 35C wet bulb scenario already. The idea of paying NYCish prices to live there just seems absurd. The inland cities are even worse, many of them are in river valleys or basins, hellaciously hot, humid, and airless in the summer, foggy and smoggy in the winter. Crazy droughts and floods every year. And one of these days, they’ll get a category 4 or 5 typhoon hitting a major metropolis. China had plenty of problems that occupy the minds of it’s people more than Taiwan, Uighurs, or even Americans.

    After this thought exercise, I really don’t think the Chinese government would bother with war with Taiwan. Way too risky when they can get everything they want by just being patient and waiting for the US to implode. Same with India. A little posturing now and then is fine, but they can better stick it to India by helping out Pakistan or covertly supporting opposition to the bloody awful BJP government.

    PS – if only California actually wanted to safeguard its future, it would be doing this with PNW water.–North_Water_Transfer_Project

  79. different clue

    If I were a Pacific Northwesterner, I would do whatever I could to obstruct and prevent California from getting any Pacific Northwest water. I imagine the Pacific Northwesterners of today will do that very thing.

    Since California has shown that all it will do with water is to grow beyond its water budget, why permit California to get other regions’s water so it can grow beyond that water budget too?

    No reason that I can see.

  80. Astrid

    CA government is completely incompetent, but it could be one of those atrocious public private partnerships. Bill Gates already bought a lot of farm land, let’s say he buys some fairly senior water rights and then decide to turn his farm land into”nature reserves” for a tax write-off plus gets to sell the water to CA. A little legalized incentivizing to the right palms will get it done.

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