While the outcome of the war in Ukraine is still shrouded in the fog of war, it is highly likely that China is already learning important lessons that might serve to make it think twice about invading Taiwan.
Beijing must be surprised at the effectiveness, severity, and scope of Western economic sanctions against Russia. China is, of course, more vulnerable to sanctions than Russia. Apart from energy exports, which we have not yet sanctioned, China is vastly more dependent on foreign trade than either Russia or the United States.
Only about 7% of the U.S. GDP comes some exports while well over 20% of China’s economy is based on sales abroad. So, an economic blockade of China will inflict far more injury on the regime than any damage we can do to Russia apart from an energy embargo.
Beijing must also be shocked at the unity of the Western countries that are imposing sanctions and providing military aid. When Germany is agreeing to sanctions despite its economic dependence on Russia and neutral Switzerland is providing weapons, there is true unity. Of course, the sanctions have not gone as far as one would hope but they have gone far enough to inflict real damage on Moscow. Beijing, which relies on foreign purchases for almost a quarter of the total market for its goods and services cannot treat such severe sanctions with equanimity.
The world has been understandably surprised at the poor performance of the Red Army and Air Force. Its billing was that of a virtually invincible military force but the bad communication between air attacks and ground action, the failure of the logistics to keep pace with advances, and the almost total inactivity of fixed wing aircraft is blowing away the illusion of omnipotent Russian power.
How will China’s military perform when the chips are down? Are Red Army generals deceiving their political overseers to tell them what they want to hear– a normal bureaucratic defense in an authoritarian regime? That question has got to haunt Beijing’s leaders as much as it now does Russia
While the war in Afghanistan and the incessant fighting in the Middle East has kept US readiness sharp, the Red Army — that has not been seriously engaged for more than thirty years — is showing its rust. Is China’s military, just as unused to recent action, similarly out of tune?
The poor Russian performance has got to demonstrate how flawed U.S. journalists have been in reporting on the true state of the Red Army. Most reporters are liberal, and most liberals are pessimists when it comes to COVID and to climate change.
Has their predilection for bad news influenced them to exaggerate Russian military capacity while underplaying our own? Are they making the same mistake in China?
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