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Lessons of War, Pt. 1: Red Storm Rising

by | Oct 8, 2021 | The Agoge | 9 comments

Given the sabre-rattling going on in the South and especially East China Sea right now, it is worth asking whether the American military and its regional allies can do anything whatsoever to win a war against the world’s largest navy and second largest air force. The answer is likely more complicated than any of us realise.

A Very Brief History of the People’s “Liberation” Army

On the one hand, China’s will to retake Taiwan is, indeed, unbreakable – at least when compared with the will that the Western “powers” have to defend Taiwan itself. The Chinese have claimed for 70 years that Taiwan is their territory and belongs to them. This is not entirely accurate, though – China makes no such claim to most of the Korean peninsula or large parts of northern Vietnam, for instance, even though ancient Chinese kingdoms occupied both territories for significant stretches of time. The real reason why China, or more accurately, the Chinese Communist Party, wants Taiwan back, is because the Chinese Nationalists fled there after the ChiComs under Mao took over back in 1949.

And that leads us to the other hand – China, for all of its power and strength, actually has a VASTLY overrated military. The PLA’s record in actual combat is PISS-POOR. Despite the best attempts of Chinese propagandists to rewrite the history of China’s intervention in the Korean War, they lost 200,000 men in that war – that’s the LOWER END of the estimates of their actual casualties. Some estimates run as high as ONE MILLION DEAD on the Chinese side. Compared with some 40,000 (roughly) American and Western allied soldiers killed, and about a million South Korean soldiers and civilians killed, that loss ratio on China’s part is genuinely appalling – and even more so was the PLA leadership’s willingness to use attrition tactics without any thought for the lives of the men.

Some thirty years later, they couldn’t manage to defeat the Vietnamese – indeed, the Vietnamese were so unconcerned about China’s attempts to rebuke them for their invasion of Cambodia that they didn’t even bother diverting mainline army units to fight the Chinese.

Professionals Talk Logistics

The Korean War in Pictures - The New York Times

The fact that the Chinese military lost so many men in Korea due to possessing inferior weapons – and, for all too many soldiers, no weapons at all – does not change the outcome. Chinese military power right now is more theory than fact. Its armies have not been truly blooded in real war for decades. The “institutional memory” that enables real fighting powers to learn the brutal lessons of war, does not exist in the PLA and its naval and air arms.

In the present day, the Chinese Army and Navy still don’t “grok” systemology. To give you just one example, the last time I checked, the Chinese have dedicated damage control teams on their warships. The problem with this attitude is that the history of actual naval warfare shows that when your ship takes a hit, quite often the damage control chaps are nowhere near the site of the actual problem – or, worse yet, they’re often dead.

This is why the American Navy – an actual naval power with dedicated surface and submarine fleets and a lot of history of using them – has trained ALL of its swabbies in damage control techniques.

The Chinese do not have any particularly original combat capabilities, either. Their mainline aircraft were either bought or, increasingly, ripped off from the Russians. Their stealth jets are likely not actually particularly stealthy – as I’ve said many times before, their mainline F-22 competitor, the J-20 Chengdu, looks like a Chinese spy spotted the plans for an F-22 and then described them down the phone on a very bad connection, in English, and the chap on the other end translated the plans literally.

And all of that is before we get to the question of whether the Chinese have the logistical capabilities to support an actual amphibious invasion of Taiwan. The top Chinese military leadership did not have amphibious invasion capability up until fairly recently – they probably do now. But can they sustain an actual long war against the Taiwanese? That is still unknown, and won’t be known until the invasion actually happens.

China Still Wins

China History Maps - 1644-1912 Qing / Ch'ing (Manchu)

So we have a lot of evidence – historical, technological, logistical, operational – that point to the Chinese military being a giant “wounded dragon” of sorts. I have so stated in a podcast from some time back.

Does that mean that the Chinese will lose in a war against the Americans in the Asia Pacific?

No. Quite the opposite, actually.

The Chinese don’t have to be qualitatively better than the Americans. They just need to be qualitatively less STUPID.

The US military is no longer a serious fighting force. It couldn’t beat a bunch of jumped-up sheep-shaggers and goathumpers in the mountains of Afghanistan even after 20 years of trying. Even after throwing at least two orders of magnitude worth of resources into the “Afghanistan Problem” than the Soviets did back in the 1980s, their actual performance in combat is worse than that of the Russkies.

The Chinese don’t need to beat the Americans at sea. They simply need to stop American (and British) aircraft carriers from entering the fray. And that instantly negates any advantages that America’s “deep strike” doctrine might have – because, if you can’t send planes out to strike things in the first place, you can’t STRIKE ANYTHING, by definition.

Expensive Fragile Humpty-Dumpty Weapons

SNAFU!: The USMC gets a second useless F-35 squadron this ...

In reality, there isn’t much that the USA can do to prevent the invasion of Taiwan. The USA is an $800 BILLION paper tiger that has been dunked in battery acid for years. Do you honestly believe that the USA will risk one, let alone two, of its 11 aircraft carriers, with 5,000 men on board each one, and each costing between $6B for a Nimitz-class and $14B for a Ford-class (that’s just construction costs, by the way), over Taiwan?

How about one of its precious $2B B-2 Spirit bombers? Do you think that they’ll risk sending those anywhere near China, which likely has the ability to at least detect them and possibly to shoot them down?

This is not a military designed to win wars. It is a military designed to spend money on tools that will never be used in actual war, because they are too complex, too expensive, too hard to maintain and field, and too precious to risk in combat.

All China has to do is to force the Americans to turn tail and run – and that isn’t actually very difficult at all, at this point. The Chinese have ship-sinking hypersonic missiles which may or may not work – the Russians, by contrast, have missiles that actually work. And all that China ever needs to do in order to stop the USA dead in its tracks, and shatter its hegemony, is to sink or turn around one, maybe two, aircraft carriers.

That’s it.

Blinded, Broken, Beaten

Moreover, the US relies extensively – indeed, completely – on its technological edge to give it absolute superiority in terms of intelligence, navigation, and data-gathering via satellites. The Chinese already have hunter-killer satellites in orbit capable of blinding US command-and-control mechanisms, and their cyberwarfare capabilities are already good enough to give the American military serious problems in the event of an actual war.

On top of that, China has roughly twice as many forces to devote to fighting a war in the Pacific as the entire US Pacific Fleet. And the Chinese, unlike the Americans, are fighting for something that they believe in – rightly or wrongly.

In other words, even if the USA can win the operational/physical level of war, it is unlikely to win the mental level, and is already beaten at the moral level.

Can the US Win?

Aircraft Carriers Large and Small | Defense Media Network

So let’s say that an actual shooting war does break out between the USA and China over Taiwan. Is an American victory even possible?

Well, actually… yes. It is. The problem is that it is very, very unlikely, because US military doctrines and leadership cannot conceive of a world in which America loses to a qualitatively inferior regional power.

Witness, for instance, what happened during Millennium Challenge 2002, when Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, USMC, led a vastly inferior Red Team simulating Iran’s forces against overwhelmingly powerful Blue Team forces – and beat them like unwanted stepchildren. He hammered the US Navy so badly that the Blue Team commanding general basically changed the rules of the game on the fly to re-float the ships that LtGen Riper sank.

Suffice to say, that attitude is not going to help the US Navy win wars against an enemy that outnumbers and outguns it, in a theatre where America has few truly vital strategic interests, and where the enemy’s will to fight and die is VASTLY greater than America’s own.

How would the USA win? By bleeding the Chinese dry while preserving its own forces, and by ensuring that the Chinese lose the moral level of war with their own people and among the Taiwanese. (The latter does not appear to be difficult – some 80% of Taiwanese have stated plainly that they are willing to fight to defend their country. Of course, such sentiments are easy to say before the shooting starts. Afterwards – that’s a very different story.)

This strategy hinges on the Taiwanese military forces denying China an amphibious beachhead upon their landing. The Chinese have been building up their amphibious assault capabilities for years – they have never invaded Taiwan up to this point, simply because they did not have the capacity to do so. The range of viable landing zones that they can use to attack Taiwan directly is limited. The Chinese face a similar problem to what the US faced when it considered invading mainland Japan in the closing stages of WWII – the Japanese knew, perfectly well, exactly where the Americans were likely to invade, and had heavily fortified those zones.

The issue here is whether the Taiwanese forces can actually resist a full-scale Chinese amphibious invasion. The latest evidence strongly indicates that they cannot. But the Chinese will, unquestionably, pay a price for invading. All the Taiwanese can do is bleed them, hard, before the final collapse comes – and it WILL come.

Conclusion – No Easy Way Out

What can the USA and its Pacific allies do to prevent this outcome? Well, other than using its submarines to sink Chinese ships and amphibious assault ships, not a whole lot.

Much of what is going on right now off the coast of China appears to be little more than posturing on the part of America and its allies. This is a very high-stakes game of chicken – and it is almost certain that the West will LOSE.

There is nothing critical to the West at stake in Taiwan. No vital American, British, Australian, or even Japanese interests exist in Taiwan. If – when – the island falls, it won’t really change a whole lot for the rest of the world immediately.

But the credibility of the West will be shattered, for good. The Pax Americana will be OVER, definitively and completely. And the other regional powers – Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and others – will rapidly recalibrate their calculations about the balance of power in the region.

America will not recover from that loss of prestige – because it has failed utterly to learn the hard lessons of previous wars, and cannot really fight this kind of war against a qualitatively inferior but more committed enemy.

The question then becomes: what next for China and the region?

Here I strongly disagree with Our Beloved and Dreaded Supreme Dark Lord (PBUH) Vox Day the Most Merciless and Terrible, when he argues that China is not really interested in creating a Pacific empire, and that it is more the aggrieved than the aggressor when it comes to imperial power politics. The South Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mongols, Manchus, Russians, and Central Asians all feel quite differently and have done so for centuries – with very good reason. I do think that the Chinese leadership are trying to establish colonial and imperial hegemony over both their nearby and broader spheres of influence.

My view is that they are doing so not because China is strong, but because it is WEAK.

If you actually look at China’s domestic situation, in reality, China is in very bad shape. It is simply not AS BAD as the bloated, debt-ridden economies of the Western world – that is all. China’s population growth cannot sustain its ambitions, its zombie companies are a serious drag on their economy, its housing bubble is enormous, and its “population dividend” has already been basically used up.

That is not to say that China is going to lose in the long-term power struggle. Nor does it mean that the Chinese will be particularly bad or evil partners to work with. The Chinese government is evil, to be sure – but, compared to the deluded and psychopathic Deep State control of the Western world, at least you know where you stand with the CCP.

What will happen when America’s hegemony collapses? In a word: war. All over the world, the retreat of the American military will result in massive instability and rapid shifts in power. This has to happen. The imperial peace imposed by America on the rest of the world has led to stagnation, complacency, hypocrisy, and weakness among all of the world’s great powers – except for Russia and China.

In the future, therefore, I expect to see a resurgent Russia becoming the world’s great Christian superpower (yes, really), and I expect to see the Chinese looking to invade the Russian hinterlands in Siberia to take over their resources. I expect to see America break apart, and I reckon that at least one of the nations (plural) that will result from the shattered remnants of the American empire will be strongly Christian, highly militant, and utterly uninterested in repeating the mistakes of the past.

The nations are rising. What you are seeing in and around China is a manifestation of the power of those nations testing themselves against a dead empire that doesn’t have the good sense to know when to stay dead.

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  1. Xavier Basora

    My own view is the chicoms will pressure the Pakistanis to invade Kashmir as a strategic diversion.
    And unlike the past, the Pakistanis will be successful, thanks to the tons of advanced military equipment left behind, the Azeris have shared their war experiences with drones and stand off weapons and the chicoms will provide the technical intelligence.

    My worry is the Taiwan invasion will metathesize into a WW I type conflict where overlapping treaties and congruent interests will compel regional and international actors to get involved

    • Didact

      My worry is the Taiwan invasion will metathesize into a WW I type conflict where overlapping treaties and congruent interests will compel regional and international actors to get involved

      Distinct possibility. America’s entire international prestige and power base is at stake. The Deep State that actually runs the gubmint there knows full well how important the Taiwan issue is for preserving American power, now that they have systematically squandered it for 20 years. They have backed themselves into a corner, and they are now desperate.

      I think we are actually observing two actors working from a position of weakness. The USA’s weaknesses are well known. China’s are less so. The Chinese are relatively stronger than the USA in terms of military and economic power right now, but that does not mean that China itself is actually particularly strong internally.

  2. JohnC911

    I will say it is weird how Vox talks about China not being interested in empire or expanding.

    The history of the 20th century with the Sino-Indian War or Johnson South Reef Skirmish provides some examples. If China takes Taiwan, it will not stop. They will be wanting more.
    Many Islands in that region control by Vietnam, Japan and Philippines and the Land borders such as the Russian, Indian, Mongolia and other smaller nations could face some conflicts. Especially once the US backs away from policing the world.

    • Didact

      It is possible that he confuses past imperial Chinese policy with Communist policy. The two are not the same. Imperial Chinese culture understood that there are hard limits on power, and revolved around the known need to share power between the Emperor, the nobles, the local governors, and the city rulers. Communism, however, denies any such gradations of power – by definition.

      It is true that modern-day China is not really “Communist” in any real sense. It is also true that the modern Chinese state apparatus denies any concept of private property or ownership. When you remove that single fundamental right, you remove the most important check on state power, and therefore the most powerful brake on the desire of the government’s leadership to expand its power and control.

      All of that said, the Chinese know that their ability to expand is significantly limited. They don’t actually have the manpower or ability to expand out beyond their current borders outside of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. That is plenty, though, for now. They can expand into Africa as colonisers, but they are already facing severe backlash for doing it, and the Africans don’t appear too willing to tolerate new colonial masters. (Then again, it’s Africa, where stupid ideas persist for a much longer period than they do elsewhere, so who knows.)

  3. Kapios

    Just read an article about U.S staff who might lose their jobs because they did not put the vaccine. If those guys leave, is the scenario you described about to change or is this going to be a minor set back for the U.S?

    • Didact

      It will be a HUGE setback for the US. It’s been a week since you wrote that comment, and even now, as far as I am aware, there are hundreds of thousands of service personnel in the US armed forces that have still not gotten the poison death shots. They’re not going to, either. There is no good reason for them to do so. If there are enough of them (and I don’t know what “enough” might be in this context), then the Fake Administration will have to cashier them – thereby destroying its fighting base – or keep them on – thereby destroying its own credibility.

      The compromise solution will be to give them more time to get the jab, or to sweeten the deal by offering incentives and pay increases to do so. I expect that the US government will do the latter. But we’ll find out soon enough.

  4. Robert W

    ——[“I expect to see America break apart, and I reckon that at least one of the nations (plural) that will result from the shattered remnants of the American empire will be strongly Christian, highly militant, and utterly uninterested in repeating the mistakes of the past.”

    ——[“You can go to hell — I’m going to Texas.” – Davy Crockett.

    Bring that real American nation action to Texas. Between Texas on the west and Florida on the right, you have the makings of real borders for a real nation.

    • Dark

      I doubt there will be a country made of the southern states if it comes to that. The northern states wouldn’t let the southern ones control all the shipping that goes through New Orleans.

      • Didact

        In my view, it won’t be the Confederacy 2.0. There will be multiple nations emerging out of the wreckage of the USA – one in the northeast, one in the midwest, one along the coast, and one in the south. I imagine that parts of Canada and Mexico will either absorb, or be absorbed into, pieces of those new nations as well.


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