Beijing does not wait to be attacked

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

When confronted by a mounting threat to its geopolitical interests, Beijing does not wait to be attacked — it shoots first to gain the advantage of surprise:

In 1950, for instance, the fledgling PRC was less than a year old and destitute, after decades of civil war and Japanese brutality. Yet it nonetheless mauled advancing U.S. forces in Korea out of concern that the Americans would conquer North Korea and eventually use it as a base to attack China. In the expanded Korean War that resulted, China suffered almost 1 million casualties, risked nuclear retaliation, and was slammed with punishing economic sanctions that stayed in place for a generation. But to this day, Beijing celebrates the intervention as a glorious victory that warded off an existential threat to its homeland.

In 1962, the PLA attacked Indian forces, ostensibly because they had built outposts in Chinese-claimed territory in the Himalayas. The deeper cause was that the CCP feared that it was being surrounded by the Indians, Americans, Soviets, and Chinese Nationalists, all of whom had increased their military presence near China in prior years. Later that decade, fearing that China was next on Moscow’s hit list as part of efforts to defeat “counterrevolution,” the Chinese military ambushed Soviet forces along the Ussuri River and set off a seven-month undeclared conflict that once again risked nuclear war.

In the late ’70s, Beijing picked a fight with Vietnam. The purpose, remarked Deng Xiaoping, then the leader of the CCP, was to “teach Vietnam a lesson” after it started hosting Soviet forces on its territory and invaded Cambodia, one of China’s only allies. Deng feared that China was being surrounded and that its position would just get worse with time. And from the ’50s to the ’90s, China nearly started wars on three separate occasions by firing artillery or missiles at or near Taiwanese territory, in 1954–55, 1958, and 1995–96. In each case, the goal was — among other things — to deter Taiwan from forging a closer relationship with the U.S. or declaring its independence from China.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Unhistorical and out of context. Xi’s China is not Mao’s China. It’s not even Deng’s China.

    However, Xi and the CPC, like their predecessors have repeatedly given ample warning (like right now) that they will go to war to prevent Taiwan’s independence. By provoking Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP to declare independence, the US has raised the probability of such a war to a high level.

    If war comes to Taiwan, the US started it.

  2. Michael Towns says:

    “Unhistorical”? He literally cited historical events of the past sixty years. And the idea that the US is the aggressor if China attacks Taiwan is beyond absurd.

  3. Gavin Longmuir says:

    The dog barks and the caravan moves on. There are other ways in which modern China could choose to “shoot first”.

    Today’s Chinese people have experienced decades of rising living standards and comfort. They may be less willing to participate in the kind of desperate suicide attacks Chinese leaders used in Korea. Note that, even by 1979, the Chinese military struggled to match Vietnam.

    More likely today would be for China to “shoot first” commercially rather than militarily. China has already bought off much of the West’s political and business leadership, and the West is critically dependent on imports from China. That gives China’s leaders great leverage without having to resort to military attacks.

  4. VXXC says:

    I would follow Edward Luttwak on China.

    I would not follow The Atlantic, anywhere. And following Hive_Mind™ orders, The Atlantic is stirring Chinese War Fever.

    We can add “China did not overthrow the Constitution in January,” and “those weren’t Chinese troops.”

  5. vxxc says:

    The Truth is America, like England before it, is a master at provoking commercial rivals — like Germany, like Japan — into wars they are unlikely to win.

    This is simply competing by alliances and wars when you cannot beat them commercially.

    In China’s case this is foolish; they rose and still are dependent on our tech, our debt fueled buying, our chips — and Taiwan’s chips.

    They can’t build jet engines; they can’t build smaller chips. They have been trying for years and failed.

    If Xi does take Taiwan, it is for chips, and it is folly.

  6. Harry Jones says:

    Success provokes malignant narcissists. It’s a mistake to have a better looking business card than China.

    When the powerful feel threatened, the Mandate of Heaven is in play.

  7. Gavin Longmuir says:

    VXXD: “they [China] can’t build smaller chips.”

    Just like the US, then? Hey! Common ground. Maybe China and the US could work on this jointly?

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