Sunday, June 26, 2005

Red Dragon Rising?

Bill Gertz in today's Washington Times paints a scary picture about a potential U.S.-China war a few years down the road. Here's the lead-in:

China is building its military forces faster than U.S. intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials.

U.S. defense and intelligence officials say all the signs point in one troubling direction: Beijing then will be forced to go to war with the United States, which has vowed to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

While the thought of a China-U.S. war is certainly a frightening one and could easily develop into World War III, I am skeptical that there is going to be a U.S.-China military showdown over Taiwan in the near future. China would be fools to provoke a war with the U.S. China's military may be becoming more sophisticated and powerful, but it only spent about $70 billion on defense expenditures in 2004 whereas the U.S. spent nearly $400 billion on the military in the Fiscal Year 2004. In addition, unlike the recent Iraq War, much of the world outside of Russia and rogue regimes like North Korea would rally against a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. The consequences of foreign nations rallying against China would be two-fold. One, China would have to deal with not only the U.S. military, but also Britain's, Japan's, South Korea's, Germany's and so forth. Two, China would likely go into a recession. Over fifty percent of its exports go to the following five countries: U.S. (22.8%), Hong Kong (16.2%), Japan (12.4%), South Korea (4.4%) and Germany (4%). None of these countries would continue do anywhere near that kind of trade with China if it invaded Taiwan. Not to mention, the possible countries that might support a Chinese invasion of Taiwan like Russia or North Korea have no where near the economic strength needed to make up for the loss of U.S., Japanese and Hong Kong trade. China will continue to take non-military measures to try to gain control over Taiwan, but unless the leaders of China have a death wish, they will not take the bold step of invading Taiwan.