The debate about the Thucydides trap for a potential Sinoamerican war and the rise and decline of China or the USA goes on. While one faction sees the CCP as stable, rational actor, thinks that China will have a peaceful, but not conflict- free rise, get Taiwan by economic and military pressure without a war in themed- and longterm, as all historic trend allegedly were in favor of China, means: time is on the side of China and it can wait, other experts describe it as a peak power-means: Due to demography its political and economic system and alleged global economic trends it would soon reach its power peak and afterwards decline or grow at a much lower rate, as even the CCP aired worries that the Chinese population due the low birth rate would shrink from now 1.3 billion to 2050 to 750 million.From this some analysts draw the conclusion, that China might panic and use its “window of opportunity” soon, before it reaches its power peak and stagnates or even declines and therefore become aggressive and might even attack Taiwan soon. Some see China attacking Taiwan because of its new strength, others because of its allegedly coming power peak and fear of decline. The US military-industrial complex and security establishment is divided over this question. While US General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Staff of Chiefs thinks that a war is unlikely, US General Hodges sees a “kinetic conflict within the next 5 years”. While some think it could already happen 2025, others predict it could be 2027. The later prophecy is made in Michael Klare´s article in Tom Dispatch “Countdown for World War III” quoting the annual Pentagon report on China´s military strength. The US military would think that the PLA would get upperhand and dominance in”“intelligentized” warfare by 2027, enabling the Chinese to effectively resist any U.S. military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan.”
“Countdown to World War III?
It May Arrive Sooner Than You Think
When the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military strength in early November, one claim generated headlines around the world. By 2030, it suggested, China would probably have 1,000 nuclear warheads — three times more than at present and enough to pose a substantial threat to the United States. As a Washington Post headline put it, typically enough: “China accelerates nuclear weapons expansion, seeks 1,000 warheads or more, Pentagon says.”
The media, however, largely ignored a far more significant claim in that same report: that China would be ready to conduct “intelligentized” warfare by 2027, enabling the Chinese to effectively resist any U.S. military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan, which they view as a renegade province. To the newsmakers of this moment, that might have seemed like far less of a headline-grabber than those future warheads, but the implications couldn’t be more consequential. Let me, then, offer you a basic translation of that finding: as the Pentagon sees things, be prepared for World War III to break out any time after January 1, 2027.
To appreciate just how terrifying that calculation is, four key questions have to be answered. What does the Pentagon mean by “intelligentized” warfare? Why would it be so significant if China achieved it? Why do U.S. military officials assume that a war over Taiwan could erupt the moment China masters such warfare? And why would such a war over Taiwan almost certainly turn into World War III, with every likelihood of going nuclear?
Why “Intelligentization” Matters
First, let’s consider “intelligentized” warfare. Pentagon officials routinely assert that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), already outmatches the U.S. in sheer numbers — more troops, more tanks, more planes, and especially more ships. Certainly, numbers do matter, but in the sort of high-paced “multi-domain” warfare American strategists envision for the future, “information dominance” — in the form of superior intelligence, communications, and battlefield coordination — is expected to matter more. Only when the PLA is “intelligentized” in this fashion, so the thinking goes, will it be able to engage U.S. forces with any confidence of success.
The naval aspect of the military balance between the two global powers is considered especially critical since any conflict between them is expected to erupt either in the South China Sea or in the waters around Taiwan. Washington analysts regularly emphasize the PLA’s superiority in sheer numbers of combat naval “platforms.” A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released in October, for instance, noted that “China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and within the past few years it has surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships, making China’s navy the numerically largest in the world.” Statements like these are routinely cited by Congressional hawks to secure more naval funding to close the “gap” in strength between the two countries.
As it happens, though, a careful review of comparative naval analyses suggests that the U.S. still enjoys a commanding lead in critical areas like intelligence collection, target acquisition, anti-submarine warfare, and data-sharing among myriad combat platforms — sometimes called C4ISR (for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), or to use the Chinese terms, “informationized” and “intelligentized” warfare.
“Although China’s naval modernization effort has substantially improved China’s naval capabilities in recent years,” the CRS report noted, “China’s navy currently is assessed as having limitations or weaknesses in certain areas, including joint operations with other parts of China’s military, antisubmarine warfare, [and] long-range targeting.”
This means that, at the moment, the Chinese would be at a severe disadvantage in any significant encounter with American forces over Taiwan, where mastery of surveillance and targeting data would be essential for victory. Overcoming its C4ISR limitations has, therefore, become a major priority for the Chinese military, superseding the quest for superiority in numbers alone. According to the 2021 Pentagon report, this task was made a top-level priority in 2020 when the 5th Plenum of the 19th Central Committee established “a new milestone for modernization in 2027, to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces.” The achievement of such advances, the Pentagon added, “would provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.”
Five years is not a lot of time in which to acquire mastery over such diverse and technically challenging military capabilities, but American analysts nonetheless believe that the PLA is well on its way to achieving that 2027 milestone. To overcome its “capability gap” in C4ISR, the Pentagon report noted, “the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.”
If, as predicted, China succeeds by 2027, it will then be able to engage the U.S. Navy in the seas around Taiwan and potentially defeat it. This, in turn, would allow Beijing to bully the Taiwanese without fear of intervention from Washington. As suggested by the Defense Department in its 2021 report, China’s leadership has “connected the PLA’s 2027 goals to developing the capabilities to counter the U.S. military in the Indo-Pacific region and compel Taiwan’s leadership to the negotiation table on Beijing’s terms.””
Confronted with these disruptive trends, Michael Klare proposes that China and the USA which were themselves aware of the risk of a war, the Thudycides trap and the danger of a World War III should start armamnets control talks soon.
While the Taiwanese minister of National Defense believes that there was no immediate danger of a Chinese attack, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe warns of Chinese adventurism, while former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott is also a representative of the power peak theory and warns of Chinese miscalcualtions.as the Taipeh Times reports:
“EDITORIAL: Chinese miscalculation a real threat
Fri, Dec 03, 2021 page 8
When analyzing Taiwan-China tensions, most people assume that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) consists of rational actors. Embedded within this belief are three further suppositions: First, Beijing would only launch an attack on Taiwan if it were in China’s national interest; second, it would only attack if the odds were overwhelmingly in its favor; and third, Chinese decisionmakers interpret information objectively and through the same lens as other actors.
These assumptions have underpinned recent analyses — including by Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) — concluding that there is no immediate danger of a Chinese attack against Taiwan. The consensus is that the earliest an attack could occur is 2025, and there is a substantial body of opinion that an invasion even then is unlikely.
However, what if CCP panjandrums and PLA top brass do not share the same assumptions? Several recent signs indicate that this might be the case.
Speaking on Wednesday at a forum organized by Taiwanese think tank the Institute for National Policy Research, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said that “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance. People in Beijing, [Chinese] President Xi Jinping (習近平) in particular, should never have a misunderstanding in recognizing this.” Abe also urged the CCP “not to choose the wrong path.”
Abe is not the only former leader to issue a warning to Beijing against military adventurism. During a keynote address at the annual Yushan Forum on Oct. 8, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said: “Sensing that its relative power might have peaked, with its population aging, its economy slowing and its finances creaking, it’s quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously very soon.”
In the past few months, US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said that the US would defend Taiwan were China to attack, in a marked departure from Washington’s typically scrupulous adherence to its decades-long policy of “strategic ambiguity” over Taiwan.
These warnings, made at a high level by serving and retired politicians from Japan and members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, suggest that the intelligence and foreign policy community is concerned about the potential for a catastrophic misreading of the situation by Beijing.
British Secret Intelligence Service Chief Richard Moore added another note of caution during a rare speech on Tuesday. Moore focused heavily on China, which he said is the organization’s top priority, and delivered a blunt warning concerning Taiwan.
“The Chinese Communist Party leadership increasingly favor bold and decisive action justified on national security grounds. The days of [former Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping’s [鄧小平] ‘hide your strength, bide your time’ are long over,” he said. “Beijing believes its own propaganda about Western frailties and underestimates Washington’s resolve. The risk of Chinese miscalculation through overconfidence is real.”
This should give the government pause. Moore appears genuinely concerned that Beijing could miscalculate over Taiwan. That this is the case should not be altogether surprising.
The US “culture wars” have reached fever pitch, polarizing US politics to an unprecedented degree, leading to a tinderbox of race protests and riots that give the appearance to Chinese leaders who obsess over “order” and “harmony” that the US is on the brink of societal collapse. “America First” isolationist policies, the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden’s plummeting approval ratings and his perceived frailty could lead Xi and his closed-off coterie of hawkish advisers to conclude that the time to act is now. Taiwan cannot afford to let its guard down.
Independent from these war predictions, a total different prognosis is made by Alfred Mc Coy in his book “To govern the world” . While he assumes that the USA will decline and China will rise, the Chinese century which might begin in 2030 will only last 2 decades because of the desastrous climate catastrophe which will hit China´s Northern plain and its 400 million inhabitants unprepared and not a sinocentric world order would emerge, but the only solution was some sort of “world govenrnance”:
“China’s Short Reign as Global Hegemon
So, when might shifting geopolitics and climate cataclysm converge to fully cripple Washington’s current world order? Beijing plans to complete the technological transformation of its own economy and much of its massive trans-Eurasian infrastructure, the Belt and Road Project, by 2027. That projected date complements a prediction by the U.S. National Intelligence Council that “China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030.”
By then, according to projections from the accounting firm PwC, China’s gross domestic product will have grown to $38 trillion — more than 50% larger than a projected $24 trillion for the American one. Similarly, China’s military, already the world’s second largest, should by then be dominant in Asia. Already, as the New York Times reported in 2019, “in 18 of the last 18 Pentagon war games involving China in the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. lost.” As China pushes its maritime frontier farther into the Pacific, Washington may well be faced with a difficult choice — either abandon its old ally Taiwan or fight a war it could well lose.
Weighing Beijing’s global future, it seems safe to assume that, minimally, China will gain enough strength to weaken Washington’s global grip and is likely to become the preeminent world power around 2030. Count on one thing, though: the accelerating pace of climate change will almost certainly curtail China’s hegemony within two or three decades.
As early as 2017, scientists at the nonprofit Climate Central reported that, by 2060 or 2070, rising seas and storm surges could flood areas inhabited by 275 million people worldwide and, suggests corroborating research, Shanghai is “the most vulnerable major city in the world to serious flooding.” According to that group’s scientists, 17.5 million people are likely to be displaced there as most of the city “could eventually be submerged in water, including much of the downtown area.”
Advancing the date of this disaster by at least a decade, a report in the journal Nature Communications found that 150 million people worldwide are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by 2050 and that rising waters will “threaten to consume the heart” of Shanghai by then, crippling one of China’s main economic engines. Dredged from sea and swamp in the fifteenth century, much of that city is likely to return to the waters from whence it came, possibly as early as three decades from now.
Meanwhile, increasing temperatures are expected to devastate the North China Plain, a prime agricultural region between Beijing and Shanghai currently inhabited by 400 million people. “This spot is going to be the hottest spot for deadly heat waves in the future,” according to Professor Elfatih Eltahir, a specialist on hydrology and climate at MIT. Between 2070 and 2100, he estimates, the region could face hundreds of periods of “extreme danger” when a combination of heat and humidity will reach a “wet bulb temperature” (WBT) of 31° Celsius, and perhaps five lethal periods of 35° WBT — where a combination of heat and high humidity prevents the evaporation of the very sweat that cools the human body. After just six hours living in such a wet bulb temperature of 35° Celsius, a healthy person at rest will die.
If the “Chinese century” does indeed start around 2030, barring remarkable advances in the reduction of the use of fossil fuels on this planet, it’s likely to end sometime around 2050 when its main financial center is flooded out and its agricultural heartland begins to swelter in insufferable heat.
A New World Order?
Given that Washington’s world system and Beijing’s emerging alternative show every sign of failing to limit carbon emissions in significant enough ways, by mid-century the international community will likely need a new form of global governance to contain the damage.
After 2050, the world community will quite possibly face a growing contradiction, even a head-on collision, between the foundational principles of the current global order: national sovereignty and human rights. As long as nations have the sovereign right to seal their borders, the world will have no way of protecting the human rights of the hundreds of millions of future climate-change refugees.
By then, facing a spectacle of mass global suffering now almost unimaginable, the community of nations might well agree on the need for a new form of global governance. Such a supranational body or bodies would need sovereign authority over three critical areas — emissions controls, refugee resettlement, and environmental reconstruction. If the transition to renewable energy sources is still not complete by 2050, then this international body might well compel nations to curb emissions and adopt renewable energy. Whether under the auspices of the U.N. or a successor organization, a high commissioner for global refugees would need the authority to supersede state sovereignty in order to require nations to help resettle such tidal flows of humanity. The future equivalents of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank could transfer resources from wealthy temperate countries to feed tropical communities decimated by climate change.
Massive programs like these would change the very idea of what constitutes a world order from the diffuse, almost amorphous ethos of the past six centuries into a concrete form of global governance. At present, no one can predict whether such reforms will come soon enough to slow climate change or arrive too late to do anything but manage the escalating damage of uncontrollable feedback loops.
One thing is becoming quite clear, however. The environmental destruction in our future will be so profound that anything less than the emergence of a new form of global governance — one capable of protecting the planet and the human rights of all its inhabitants — will mean that wars over water, land, and people are likely to erupt across the planet amid climate chaos. Absent some truly fundamental change in our global governance and in energy use, by mid-century humanity will begin to face disasters of an almost unimaginable kind that will make imperial orders of any sort something for the history books.