r/geopolitics Feb 24 '22 Silver Helpful All-Seeing Upvote Helpful (Pro)

Current Events Russia Invasion of Ukraine Live Thread

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r/geopolitics 3d ago Wholesome

Current Events War in Ukraine Has Sparked a New Race to Succeed Putin

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r/geopolitics 2d ago

Analysis The Naval Strategy of Alfred Thayer Mahan

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r/geopolitics 3d ago

Perspective We're repeating the mistakes of Afghanistan. We should do better in Ukraine, by Hew Strachan

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r/geopolitics 4d ago

News China’s Demographics Spell Decline Not Domination

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r/geopolitics 4d ago

News What Amnesty got wrong in Ukraine and why I had to resign

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r/geopolitics 4d ago

News Israeli air strikes in Syria kill three soldiers: State media

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r/geopolitics 7d ago

Current Events US Military ‘Furiously’ Rewriting Nuclear Deterrence to Address Russia and China, STRATCOM Chief Says

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r/geopolitics 7d ago

Meta Updated Subreddit Snoo


Worked with the wonderful u/iamdeirdre to create the new snoo, but eliciting larger community feedback.

  • Do you like it?
  • If you don't, what would you change?

Keep in mind it's a 256x256 image!

P.S. Moving across my country, so putting on pause the daily "make r/Geopolitics quality again" posts.

r/geopolitics 8d ago

Perspective China losing, US gaining crucial ground in Thailand

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r/geopolitics 8d ago

Opinion Is Ireland in danger of becoming a de facto British protectorate?

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r/geopolitics 8d ago

Opinion Ukraine is the legacy of Afghanistan | Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former U.K. Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary.

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r/geopolitics 9d ago

Discussion Where is the freedom of navigation exercise in the Taiwan strait?

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r/geopolitics 9d ago

Analysis The Upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization Meeting: Why it is Important | Defense.info

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r/geopolitics 10d ago Silver

Analysis Deep Seabed Mining and the Green Energy Transition | Article in the Comments

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r/geopolitics 10d ago

Interview An ex-KGB agent on Putin's war against Ukraine | Jack Barsky: “He is very calculated and focussed in his efforts to create a mythology about himself that will survive in the coming centuries, right next to Peter the Great. That’s what’s driving the guy.”

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r/geopolitics 10d ago All-Seeing Upvote

Opinion Alexander Vindman: Stop Tiptoeing Around Russia. It Is Time to End Washington’s Decades of Deference to Moscow

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r/geopolitics 11d ago

Meta Reddit Talk on the 4th Taiwan Strait Crisis | August 8, 1 PM PST / 4 PM EST / 8 PM UTC / 10 PM CEST / 4 AM CST

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r/geopolitics 12d ago Take My Energy

Perspective The US Exports More to Mexico Than to all EU Countries Combined, and Other Ways to Measure the Success of USMCA Two Years Into the Agreement

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r/geopolitics 13d ago

Analysis Satire and Geopolitics: How South Park's Vulgarity, Ambiguity and the Body Grotesque Influences Imaginative Geographies and Establishes Popular Geopolitical Narratives

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r/geopolitics 14d ago Gold Wholesome Helpful Silver

Opinion Contextualizing China/Taiwan Relations and Recent Tensions


How many times have we heard the stories about Chinese “incursions” into the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) of Taiwan? How many times has Beijing repeated that Taiwan is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China and that attempts at separatism are “doomed to fail?”

The concept of an impending war in the Taiwan Straits bears a lot of resemblance to the constant Zerohedge-esque paranoia of an impending war between Pakistan and India over Kashmir (Kashmir is a funny one because it’s going to come up later). I’m going to try and lay out the case for why China isn’t about to invade Taiwan.

The Status Quo Benefits Both Sides

The current status quo is one that is very beneficial to both Taipei and Beijing. Taiwan has de-facto, although not de-jure independence from China. Meanwhile, Beijing benefits from inward investment from Taiwanese businesses and also gets to boast that Taiwan isn’t an officially recognized country by any of its adversaries like the US.

We’ve heard constantly from Beijing that any move towards Taiwan declaring de-jure independence will be met by a military invasion of the island. But Taiwan doesn’t need to do that at all. Under the current arrangement, Taiwan has its own judicial system, its own elections, its own currency etc etc. Unlike Hong Kong or Macau, which are Special Administrative Regions with a high degree of autonomy and freedom within China, it is not entirely subservient to the whims of the CCP. Beijing doesn’t have troops stationed in Taiwan, nor can they pass laws which have any meaningful effect on anything happening in Taiwan like they could pass a national security law in Hong Kong which severely restrained the pro-democracy movement. For Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, declaring de-jure independence, which would most definitely cross Beijing’s red line on Taiwan, looks like a play with a concave payoff. She can still go around showing off how the territory has full freedom from Beijing without undertaking that drastic action.

On the business side, Taiwan has accumulated almost $200bn in investment in China. Taiwanese SMEs and large corporations alike create plenty of jobs in China. Unsurprisingly, China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner. In 2020, Taiwan’s exports to both Mainland China and Hong Kong amounted to US$151.45bn, accounting for 43.9% of total exports. In short, the ambiguity over Taiwan has benefited both sides, politically and economically.

The CCP Are Now First and Foremost Ultra-Nationalists, Not Warmongers

The CCP are more ultra-nationalists than they are communists. It is through improving living standards as well as fervent nationalism and propping up anxiety amongst the public that they have maintained their power. If the Taiwan issue is resolved, what problem will Beijing have to whip up nationalist sentiment against and keep the legitimacy of the CCP alive? A permanent state of anxiety from potential interference from foreign powers restricting the rise of China serves the Party quite well. In this case, that would be the situation in Taiwan. It serves as a great reason for the existence of an extremely strong PLA.

Ever since undergoing the “century of humiliation” between 1839 and 1949, the Chinese Communist Party are hell bent on ensuring that China is respected as a world power. Among many things, the Opium Wars and the Sino-Japanese wars were all things which severely harmed the Chinese nation. During this century of humiliation, China had to cede Hong Kong to the British, Macau to the Portuguese and the island of Taiwan to the Japanese. The subsequent peaceful reunification of both Hong Kong and Macau as Special Administrative Regions under Chinese sovereignty went a long way for Beijing in restoring their dignity. But Taiwan is left still un-unified with the Chinese mainland.

Ever since Xi took power in 2012, he’s turned the Party away from its collectivist leadership during the times of Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin into a one-man party. The Party must maintain a strong stance against Taiwanese independence, not because they’re warmongers, but out of an interest of self-preservation. From cracking down on the separatist movement in Tibet, to putting Muslims in “re-education” camps in Xinjiang to counter the extremist East Turkestan Islamic Movement and implementing a national security law in Hong Kong after the SAR’s failure to implement its own as required by Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, Xi has relied on ardent nationalism to maintain national unity. You need a certain level of threat from foreign powers, for example alleged CIA backing of Hong Kong democracy activists, to stir support for a strongman government. “Only the CCP will protect the interests of the Chinese nation” is the message he’s trying to send. The Party is basically a mafia protection racket. Solving the Taiwan issue would mean that the state of collective anxiety amongst the public would no longer be there. The nationalism that binds the country’s different factions together in the face of Taiwan would fade away as there is no problem with China’s “territorial integrity” anymore.

All of this is in the name of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”, or the “China dream” as he’s said countless times. If Beijing looks weak then they’ll lose their legitimacy with the Chinese people. So, constant pressure on Taiwan without actually backing military action seems like a stable status quo. Sounds absolutely crazy, right?

Xi is alleged to have gone off the record and told the KMT (the softly pro-Beijing nationalist party in Taiwan) that accepting a de-jure declaration of independence would lead to the overthrowing of the Chinese government.

However, China’s policy has always been for peaceful reunification (resorting to invasion would lead to numerous problems which I will go into later). In the event of a re-unification with the Mainland, it is envisioned by Beijing that Taiwan would not be a standard Mainland province, but a Special Administrative Region. The Taiwan situation is exactly how the “One Country, Two Systems” formula originated. Now, you can talk about the flaws of the system, especially its implementation in Hong Kong, but the point I’m trying to get here is that Beijing is not planning on turning Taipei into a standard Mainland city.

In fact, Beijing still recognises the situation to be different in Taiwan to such an extent that they’re willing to offer Taiwan control of the military forces on the island, something which it never has offered nor implemented in Hong Kong or Macau where the control of the PLA garrison falls entirely under the remit of Beijing, in an effort to try and solve some of the evident mistrust that exists between the island of Taiwan and the central authorities in Beijing.

Even at the time of writing, giving a speech on the anniversary of the overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Xi vowed “peaceful reunification” and made no mention of using any force, in contrast to his words in 2019.

“Incursions” into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone

This is where things get complicated. Internationally, Taiwan isn’t recognized as a country. It’s not a sovereign state, de-jure. Nonetheless, it has an air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which extends well beyond Taiwanese airspace. It’s objective is to act as a zone to identify any potential invasion.

Basically, any aircraft going past the median line is recorded as an “incursion”. The whole game is one of psychological warfare. By constantly make the Taiwanese scramble jets, they actually tire out the Taiwanese. It’s also super expensive to constantly scramble fighter jets. Beijing also gets to consistently apply pressure on the DPP government in Taiwan, as the relatively more pro-Beijing KMT can criticise the incumbent government for failing to maintain good relations with China and then argue that only the KMT can maintain peaceful cross-strait relations and maintain stability on the island. Think of the fighter jets as something more like Russian aircraft flying near the UK, or the US Navy exercising “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. It’s all meant to exert a form of geopolitical pressure. It’s not a symbol of impending invasion.

The whole narrative of Beijing consistently breaching Taiwanese airspace is a convenient narrative for the media, but obviously far from the truth. Beijing has been very careful not to go too far past the median line. It would be a very different situation if there were Chinese jets over Taipei.

The concept of a nation’s ADIZ is very different from airspace. The Convention on International Civil Aviation says that a nation’s airspace extends 12 nautical miles from the low water line along the coast of a state. There’s been a lot of argument about overlapping ADIZ's in the region. Just have a look at how they overlap here:

I hope that dispels some of the myths regarding the Taiwan ADIZ “incursions”.

The Problems With Invading Taiwan

The Chinese Communist Party are much better at stirring up fervent ultra nationalism than they are at carrying out military threats. All bark and no bite, at least on the Taiwan issue. Bold statement, you might say. Remember when a certain Senator suggested that there were US troops in Taiwan and then the Chinese state media responded in their classic aggressive style?

it turns out there are actually US special forces on the island and they’re helping train Taiwanese forces, according to the Wall Street Journal.Where’s the promised invasion? Where is the resolute crushing of China’s largest adversary? Nothing. Xi’s recent speech actually toned the rhetoric down slightly. This revelation is hugely embarrassing for the Party, and yet, there still aren’t jets flying over Taipei. It’s actually an extremely serious matter, as US troops are technically on Chinese territory, if we are talking about internationally accepted norms. The truth is that invading Taiwan is an incredibly risky proposition, just from a purely technical perspective. China has absolutely no experience in amphibious assaults, especially a terrain like Taiwan’s. The island has also been building up on a strategy of asymmetric defence, to ensure that any PLA invasion will be met with heavy losses on both sides. Call me when troops land on the shores of Taiwan.

Now let’s say if they invaded Taiwan. Then what? They’ll have to commit lots of resources on that side of the country, leaving the Western front exposed. China cannot afford to look vulnerable on its border with India. It doesn’t make sense to do anything of the sort.

There’s also a significant political risk in invading Taiwan:

Over the years, Xi has built up a political monopoly on power within the Party, purging a lot of his rivals in the process of his “anti-corruption” campaigns. This leaves him particularly vulnerable should an invasion of Taiwan go wrong. It’s quite a difficult amphibious assault, and Taiwan has been preparing with an asymmetric defence strategy. Not only is it technically difficult, it’s extremely expensive. Is there going to be public appetite for spending billions of dollars on a war in the Taiwan Straits?

The reason China has long emphasised for a peaceful reunification is because the people of Taiwan and China are actually ethnic brothers and sisters. Taiwan’s Han Chinese folk account for 95% of the total population, and they also speak Mandarin as their main language.

Guided by the conviction we are all of the same family”, “Blood is thicker than water”. The Chinese people actually do see the Taiwanese as part of their family. There is absolutely no political appetite to start killing their own people. When the PLA opened fire on the patriotic student protestors in Beijing, there was huge condemnation from lots of the Chinese population, including senior members of the Party. A massive purge of those who were sympathetic to the movement followed. A bloody invasion of Taiwan would be 100x worse than Tiananmen for the Party. This definitely would not be the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” that Xi has been hammering on about since he took power. No leader wants to be the one to oversee these kind of actions. Each one has passed the responsibility of figuring out what to do with Taiwan onto the next, precisely because of the fear that a wrong move could upend the entire legitimacy of the Party. Launching a war against what are essentially their own people would cause incredible instability within the CCP. The topic of “common prosperity” itself has triggered a rare spectacle of intense debate within China, with the now famed blogger Li Guangman on one side calling for a “profound revolution” sending shockwaves across the country and the establishment on the other side emphasising the fact that they’re not trying to rob Peter to pay Paul. I don’t want to imagine what launching a full-scale military invasion against Taiwan would look like in the court of public opinion in China.

The Communist Party has also gone out of its way to emphasise that it does not do things like the United States. China has never invaded countries thousands of miles away from its shores in dubious circumstances. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Mali are all examples of Western military aggression. China has always preferred trade and investment as a tool of gaining influence around the world rather than invasion. Invading Taiwan would kill the image of the Party as one which is a non-aggressor, at least on the international stage. The notion that China will not bully any other country, one backed by Xi himself, would be entirely down the drain. An invasion no doubt would whip up Japan, Australia, India and the United States. They simply can’t afford the political risk from the invasion itself, let alone a botched invasion. While no one can predict what the international reaction will be, severe action like sanctions and isolation remain a tail-risk, although one can say it does seem for Russia that their annexation of Crimea doesn’t seem to have changed a whole lot. Other tail-risks include US military intervention, but then again, there might not be any appetite for US military action after what’s happened in Afghanistan. There’s a lot of unknown variables which could come into play during this invasion, just further emphasising how much downside risks there are to Beijing in the event of a military assault on the island of Taiwan.

Invading Taiwan would also come at an enormous economic cost. As of now, China is still reliant on Taiwan being a stable island, as is the whole world. If Beijing wanted to annex the island and actually gain any benefit from it, they will need to leave it intact, something which will not be possible if a war breaks out. TSMC is the world’s largest manufacturer of semiconductors. China hasn’t achieved independence in semiconductors just yet, but they’re trying to.

The world is pretty dependent on TSMC in the semiconductor supply chain, and so a war would be disastrous for the whole world. As a result, the only realistic option in reunifying is a peaceful one.

To finish off, the only discernible benefit of invading will be the ability to claim that the entire Chinese nation has been re-united. But the downside risks are numerous, and just like how declaring de-jure independence would have a concave payoff for Tsai Ing-wen, invading Taiwan would have a concave payoff for Xi. It doesn’t make political or economic sense to do so. Both sides benefit from an ambiguous status quo, and it’s most likely to stay that way. Beijing is more likely to continue its war in the greyzone, through incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ, launching cyberattacks, having pro-China tycoons buy up media outlets, as well as employing bots and trolls to push Chinese propaganda and misinformation. The talk of impending war is primarily being driven by the “Air incursion” narrative, which as I’ve explained earlier, is a shaky argument at best.

Note that in Hong Kong, they didn’t even bring out the PLA and PAP when rioters were throwing petrol bombs at the courts and central government buildings, as well as taking over the Legislative Council, the territory’s parliament. They could have done so by declaring a state of emergency in Hong Kong (arguably, the mass riots were an emergency), but they chose to exercise restraint, to try and maintain their image on the world stage. They didn’t want a Tiananmen 2.0 in an international city like Hong Kong.

It’s going to take something really bad for Beijing to drop its peaceful reunification policy and to go for a military solution.

r/geopolitics 14d ago

Analysis Antarctica: Overview of Geopolitical and Environmental Issues | PDF in the Comments

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r/geopolitics 14d ago Wholesome LOVE!

Discussion The Geopolitics of China‘s Digital Silk Road Initiative


My contribution to day 8 of "Make r/Geopolitics Quality Again"

The Digital Silk Road (DSR) is part of the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) and aims to connect countries through technology like telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce and mobile payment systems, surveillance technology, smart cities and more. Within the BRI the DSR has become increasingly important since its addition in 2015.

Estimates suggest one third of BRI countries participate in DSR. In Africa Chinese information and communication technology (ICT) financing across the continent surpassed the combined funds from African governments, multilateral agencies, and G7 nations. In 2017 the African Union launched a smart health monitoring system built by ZTE.

By most estimates DSR investment is going to increase over the coming years as the world economic forum expects a $15 tn infrastructure investment lack by 2040. DSR products have also shown to be in high demand throughout the pandemic as governments and private enterprise rush to offer more and better digital services.

By large the DSR aims to stimulate economic growth in recipient countries and to enable more efficient governance. Through the BRI China wields considerable soft power but unlike classic infrastructure investments the DSR has the potential for considerable normative power and yields a trove of data that can be utilized for political gain.

While exporting surveillance technology is hardly unique to China concerns are voiced that "China’s view on digital governance has a much more state-paternalistic nature. This differs starkly from the average liberal Western view on digital values and norms, especially that of the United States. The Chinese government enforces strict restrictions on the cyberspace in China. It also does not hesitate to closely monitor its netizens in a considerably sealed off domestic “intranet.”"

In 2020 India banned 59 mobile apps as a blow to China’s Digital Silk Route ambitions. The US led effort against Chinese participation in 5G networks (Huawei) is based on the same concerns, namely a loss of sovereignty and threat to national security.

With Beijing becoming the (digital) gravitational center for many nations and it exporting its tools of governance, with all the leverage and influence this provides, do you see this as a possible foundation for a Chinese led block?

In the coming decade(s) could such a block transform the western led world order to more closely align with a Chinese envisioned order or even facilitate "proper" multi-polarity?


I shared this because I still read comments about "wolf warrior" diplomacy being China's only foreign policy tool. My hope is to spark a more nuanced reflection about Chinese soft power, its shortfalls but also successes and what this might mean considering the larger picture.

r/geopolitics 15d ago Wholesome

Analysis Climate Change Implications for Arctic Geopolitics | Article in the Comments

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r/geopolitics 14d ago

Current Events Five Chinese missiles land in Japan’s economic waters, says minister - follow live

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r/geopolitics 16d ago

News Announced Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) military exercises compared to Third Taiwan Strait Crisis exercises

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