Friday, March 11, 2022

What is China Learning from the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

 As you all know, by this point, that Putin's war in the Ukraine has mobilized a massive response against his country by foreign powers.  From the very beginning, however, China has been paying attention. If you aren't aware, China has its sights set on Taiwan, "Taiwan is 'not Ukraine' and has always been an inalienable part of China". And tension has increased significantly between China and Taiwan and, really, Japan, the USA and much of the rest of the Democratic world.

So what has China learned so far from Russia's incursion into Ukraine? 

Russia has greatly underestimated the resistance they are receiving during mobilization. There are many reasons for this, one major reason is that Russia's leadership lied to their subordinates about the nature and directives of the mission. They were told that this was a "training mission," a "special operation," or some other action other than a war or invasion. They believed they were coming in to Ukraine to save its people from a fascist "nazi" government - the people would celebrate their coming the same way the Allies were received by the people invaded by Hitler's Germany. The Russian military was not fully prepared for anything but complete success and an operation that would take, at most, a week. They certainly did not expect as many deaths and losses as they've experienced in the past 3 weeks.

China has learned that if they want to "march" onto Taiwan, that they need not underestimate the People living on the island. Perhaps they will make the same mistake as Russia, perhaps not. The Chinese government certainly sees Taiwan as a territory of its country, but I don't think the Taiwanese see it the same way. However, China, if it learns from Russia's mistakes, will prepare its soldiers for an occupation and not a liberation. The problem the Democratic countries will have in opposing China is that the Chinese military will be all in. This is unlike the Russian rank and file that has Ukrainian friends and family. 

Russia has also greatly underestimated international response. From crippling economic sanctions to the vocal outrage by national leaders and public opinion to international companies that support its citizens (think retail, restaurants, and movies) closing up shop, Russia's people are starting to feel the effects from Putin's violent move. The Russian Ruble tanked 95% overnight at the beginning of the invasion based on sanctions that reduced the import / export of goods for Russia. Unfortunately for Russia, this greatly hurts its economy and does not effect the rest of the world as badly - but the rest of the economic world is still getting injured.

China may know that the rest of the world would not effectively sanction their country the same way Russia has been sanctioned. They have made themselves the breadbasket of manufacturing for the world. Putting sanctions on China would equally hurt the rest of the world as much as it would hurt China. The USA lost its steel manufacturing during the 1980s, China picked that up. Electronics manufacturing is performed almost exclusively in the Far East. While electronics are also produced in South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia, not just China. The USA falls fifth on the list, and China has over a 2 - 1 lead on South Korea, its nearest competitor. US based electronics creators have seen the error of its ways, but making the USA a major production center is still years away. A quick browse for anything purchased on Amazon, a walk in Walmart, or perusing the items in any other online or brick-and-mortar retailer, and you'll find that most of all of its cheapest products are made in China or sold by a Chinese company. The Democratic nations of the world cannot put the same economic hurt on China as they have on Russia.

And, finally, there is the social response. As alluded to above, international outrage has come from both national leaders and from public opinion. However, the Russian people have arisen to protest the invasion of Ukraine at great personal risk of jail or death. While all former President Trump could do was lash out at "fake news," Putin can put teeth to it, by threatening the people and journalist with jail time for not following the Russian official statements. And, still, thousands of Russian people are voicing their complaints and opinions. And those that are still believing the Russian government media despite talking with family in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other places will eventually come around as their soldiers come home in body bags and Ukrainian friends and family are killed.

China will have this same problem. There is not as close a relationship between Taiwanese people and the Chinese people as are had between Russians and Ukrainians. The Chinese people are generally quite united behind what their government does. Rarely is there any opposition. And when there is, it is violently stamped down and "disappeared." Even the most innocuous of perceived threats receive the heavy hand of the Chinese Communist Party. As such, whatever moves the CCP will make against Taiwan will not receive much negative public opinion.

Though the People's Republic of China has not yet exercised a hostile takeover of the Republic of China (Taiwan), it has certainly made its intentions and thoughts on the matter known. And the rest of the world has very little power to stop it.

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