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War requires deception, and nation states often project misleading signals in order to keep their adversaries off-balance. That said, the growing number of indicators suggesting that China is preparing for imminent conflict should not be ignored. China is working rapidly both to decrease its dependence on the rest of the world and to increase the rest of the world’s dependence on it. Simultaneously, China has expanded its influence in and around the United States in what appears to be a calculated campaign to disrupt any future American response to Chinese aggression across the Taiwan Strait.
Taken together, these actions should be understood as part of a sword-and-shield strategy designed to deter foreign nations from interfering with its intended conquest and capture of Taiwan.
Professor Edward Luttwak, a military historian and international relations strategist, says there is a dead giveaway that China is preparing for war: it is rapidly clearing forests to maximize arable land suitable for growing grains. He says the rate of clearing far exceeds the pace of the Amazon’s deforestation, even though Western environmentalists are saying nothing.
The likely reason for China’s quiet reclamation of woodland space is its current dependence upon a massive supply of imported soybeans, corn, and wheat from the United States, Canada, and elsewhere to feed its animal livestock. In order to reduce dependence on foreign adversaries during any potential conflict, local Communist Party officials have ordered peasants to use every available square yard of soil to plant cereals.
The word has even gone out to cull backyard ducks and pigs in order to minimize their consumption of grains while maximizing the available soil for crops. In an eerie reversal of Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” pivot toward rapid industrialization, Xi Jinping has issued an “all hands on deck” ultimatum to citizens demanding that they ensure China’s agrarian self-sufficiency.
2. Military Expansion
China is rapidly expanding the size and capabilities of its military. It already has the largest navy in the world and is expected to increase the total number of its naval vessels by roughly 40% over the next two decades. China is quickly growing its aircraft carrier and logistics forces and is projecting its “naval influence further from shore.”
The People’s Liberation Army has the world’s largest standing ground force with around one million active-duty personnel. China’s military spending has grown faster than its economy for over a decade and is considerably higher than every other country, aside from the United States. The U.S. Department of Defense predicts that China will quadruple its nuclear stockpile by 2030, and military observers believe China is making significant progress toward the development of hypersonic missiles — achievements that would help level the playing field in any confrontation with the United States.
According to the Pentagon’s China Military Power Report, “China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas” of military development. Playing out in the background of China’s steady advances, both the U.S. and China are engaged in an intense “arms race” to produce the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence system — the realization of which Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned will determine which nation controls global power for the next century.
3. “Green” Energy
While President Joe Biden insists that China will not invade Taiwan and his “climate czar” John Kerry praises China’s “commitments” to combatting “climate change,” some analysts warn that the Chinese Communist Party is using the West’s ideological obsession with “global warming” to discreetly prepare for war.
How so? Because China relies on foreign imports for nearly three-quarters of its oil usage, it is rapidly weaning itself from oil and natural gas. While it publicly talks about wind turbines and solar panels, though, its main alternative is coal-generated electricity. Chuck DeVore, a public policy analyst and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, notes that China “now generates more than 5.3 times the amount of coal power as does the U.S. And China isn’t stopping — it’s now building or has plans to build the equivalent of the entire American coal power-plant fleet, even as we decommission our plants.”
While it is true that almost half of the world’s electric vehicles operate in China, it is also true that all those supposedly “green” EV’s are really coal-powered. Even more alarming, Chinese industry is rapidly shifting to technologies that convert coal into gasoline and lubricants, giving China an enormous advantage in withstanding any future oil blockades during a time of war. While Biden and Kerry praise China’s environmentalism, the Chinese Communist Party is increasing its energy independence and economic resilience through coal-to-liquids innovation.
4. Transport Exercises
Bradley Thayer, the Director of China Policy for the Center for Security Policy, argues that the People’s Liberation Army has already “completed two of three major military dress rehearsals required for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.” In August 2022, Chinese armed forces simulated a joint air-missile-maritime strike campaign against Taiwan; in April 2023, China rehearsed large-scale anti-air raid drills designed to establish air supremacy over the island. Thayer expects a final dress rehearsal that includes broad amphibious landing exercises to occur over the next few months. Once completed, the PLA will have demonstrated its capacity to take Taiwan by force.
5. Russia Partnership
Ties between Russia and China have become much closer in recent years. As China seeks workarounds to importing oil from Western nations and Russia seeks workarounds to U.S.-led sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine, the two nations have partnered to increase the flow of oil and natural gas piped from Russia into China.
Their economic partnership has geopolitical strategic value. Ming Jinwei, a senior editor for China’s state press agency Xinhua, posted on his WeChat blog just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Simply put, China has to back Russia up with emotional and moral support” because “China will also need Russia’s understanding and support when wrestling with America to solve the Taiwan issue once and for all.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has said a military alliance between China and Russia is “quite possible to imagine.”
Jonathan D.T. Ward, a consultant on U.S.-China relations, concludes that “China is preparing for war with the United States and Asia, and if and when that happens, they want Russia as their partner on that date.” From Ward’s point of view, Russia and China are now united in “a joint idea of taking down the U.S.-led order.”
6. Gold Stockpiling
Over the last decade — and particularly over the last year — the People’s Bank of China has been steadily stockpiling gold, while decreasing its foreign currency reserves. While central banks around the world have been buying up gold during this period of global inflation and instability, China’s surge in holdings still stands out. The financial news site Zero Hedge has put together a revealing graph that combines Russia and China’s gold reserves and holdings of U.S. Treasuries over the last two decades.
The representation of the underlying data is stunning. Right around the time when President Barack Obama began using the international financial system as a means to sanction Russia for its military occupation of Crimea, an unmistakable split occurred. Before those imposed sanctions, China and Russia maintained relatively steady supplies of gold and U.S. Treasuries; afterwards, China and Russia began stockpiling gold and offloading U.S. securities. It seems clear that both countries have used the last decade to limit the extent that U.S.-led financial institutions can be used to constrain their future actions.
7. BRICS and SCO
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization — the largest political, economic, and security organization in the world — links China not only to Russia but also to roughly 60% of Eurasia and nearly half of the global population. BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) — a collection of fast-growing economies that rivals the West’s G7 bloc — covers nearly 30% of global territory and half of the world’s population.
Together with Russia, China is linking both its economy and geopolitical security with the vast majority of nations comprising the Global South. One of the key concerns connecting nation states involved with both organizations is their interest in avoiding the West’s “rules-based international order.” Right now BRICS is working on a common payment system that would allow members to trade without having to rely on the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency.
China is constructing a BRICS-SCO trade bloc that will increase the pace of de-dollarization and reduce the pain of any future Western financial sanctions. Such economic integration will naturally encourage further military and intelligence cooperation, as well. Ultimately, China and Russia have set their sights on expanding BRICS+ membership across Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. China’s own Belt and Road Initiative now encircles Latin America and the Caribbean — ensuring the Chinese Community Party’s influence right up to America’s front door. This formidable alliance poses significant challenges to the West’s post-WWII global order.
8. Youth Unemployment and Public Jingoism
China’s youth unemployment rates continue to reach new record highs. The numbers are so bad, in fact, that the Chinese Communist Party has announced that it will simply stop releasing youth unemployment figures altogether. Some analysts see this deception as evidence that China’s economy is on the “verge of collapse.” If history is any guide, when a nation is faced with increasing numbers of young males with nothing to do, unstable political regimes tend to redirect their energies away from domestic concerns and toward saber-rattling military campaigns abroad.
As Jeffrey Landsberg at Commodore Research has soberly noted: “War creates a lot of employment for a country’s youth.” It seems no coincidence, then, that “concerns of a coming war in Taiwan are intensifying at the very same time that China’s youth unemployment is surging.” When President Xi Jinping opened the Chinese Communist Party congress last year, he asserted that “complete reunification” with Taiwan “must be realized” and that China would “never promise to renounce the use of force.” His battle cries were met with boisterous applause. Through a steady diet of State propaganda, the Chinese people believe that they must fight in order to “liberate Taiwan.”
9. Hybrid Warfare against the United States
While the United States and China are not technically at war, they are engaged in a perpetual state of quiet provocations and not-so-quiet hostilities. Ever since President William Jefferson Clinton and a bipartisan U.S. Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China in 2000 and paved the way for its entrance into the World Trade Organization a year later, China has been engaged in a relentless campaign to plunder U.S. intellectual property, trade secrets, and innovative tech.
Through either overt control over American companies operating in China or covert espionage of American companies at home, China has systematically infiltrated America’s corporate structure in ways that the Cold War Soviet Union could have only dreamed. Combined with its placement of spies in U.S. business and government positions, China simultaneously operates an exceedingly effective cyber-hacking force dedicated to penetrating private U.S. records systems both inside and outside of government. The end result is that China has amalgamated a treasure-trove of personal information on nearly every U.S. citizen.
At the same time, China is steadily infiltrating the American homeland through both quasi-legal and illegal methods. Using shell companies as fronts, the Chinese Communist Party is in the business of “legally” acquiring precious U.S. farmland, private property near U.S. military bases and other sites with strategic value, and businesses that can be utilized to hide malicious Chinese operations on American soil. In addition to its efforts to use America’s loose property rules for its own advantage, China is also using America’s relatively open border to sneak in both Chinese men of military age and a nearly endless supply of lethal fentanyl. Whereas the latter has had the direct effect of killing tens of thousands of Americans each year from drug overdoses, the former seemingly pose a dormant threat of sabotage to America’s vulnerable infrastructure, power grid, and other utilities that can be attacked at any time.
10. Expansion into the Western Hemisphere and Appeals to Overseas Expats
In recent years, China has greatly expanded its intelligence footprint and economic influence into the Caribbean, Central America, and throughout South America. Concurrently, it has pursued a carrot-or-stick strategy against expats living inside the United States and Canada whereby secret Chinese police forces induce the cooperation of Western residents of Chinese descent by either offering financial incentives or threatening violence.
Recently, two U.S. Navy sailors were arrested for having spied on China’s behalf. One was even encouraged to assist Chinese intelligence officers because his mother believed her son’s espionage would help him secure a good job with the Chinese government in the future. These “sugar-coated bullets,” as Mao described them, have become one of China’s most effective methods for inviting subversion. Using a mixture of patriotic nostalgia for the Chinese homeland, information warfare, and outright intimidation, the Chinese Communist Party is aggressively courting and coercing Westerners to act as Chinese spies.
It is not difficult to see where all this is heading. If and when China decides to take Taiwan by force, it intends to use agents both inside the United States and within the U.S.’s larger sphere of influence to cause as much mayhem and distraction as possible. Should Xi Jinping execute a strike across the Taiwan Strait, Americans should expect concomitant civil disruptions.
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