I don’t believe countries “stumble” or “sleepwalk” into war, a common WWI trope. For example, Gavrilo Princip did not “cause” WWI. Also, I don’t believe in the Thucydides Trap, which is another common WWI trope. Emerging powers most actively go to war against the incumbent hegemon: there’s no “trap” aspect about it, and they’ll use any excuse they can to start the fight.
Now, I also believe in the Great Man Theory of history, and feel that individuals mold the administrations and bureaucracies around their personalities. Xi Jinping being in charge matters for the way in which he has molded the CCP. [Xi’s father helped found various CCP guerrilla bases in northwestern China in the 1930s, and helped to initiate economic liberalization in southern China in the 1980s]. The CCP under Xi today is no longer just the urban militants starving the peasants for personal wealth. No, no. It has evolved. This is now a clique of elite Mainlanders [there’s a waiting list to join the CCP; they vet fiercely] determined to strut its stuff and to flex its muscles. “RESPECT MY AUTHORITY!” the CCP cries to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan, stomping its little foot up and down.
Alas, all this will lead to war.
War is quite deliberate. Just as the Teuton was pressing out of its traditional lands into adjacent Saar and Sudeten lands, seeking natural resources, etc., so, too, is the ethnic Han CCP Mainlander stretching beyond the boundaries of the 18 core provinces of China Proper and into the hinterlands [clockwise, from left: Tibet, Turkestan, Mongolia, Manchuria, and Taiwan]. The ethnic Han Mainlander is in search of natural resources and a subservient labor force to fuel urban elite CCP wealth.
On top of all this, the Han CCP Mainlander is fed a media diet of nationalist tribalism and of bellicose flexing. This is to wash away the reek of death that lurks over all that the CCP has done in the 20th century. Wave the flag strongly enough, and they’ll come around to it, burning books & marching in goose-step, cheering the boys as they sail off to land amphibiously on the Taiwanese shores.
So, my four main points are…
1. The next war will be started by Xi Jinping and his CCP against the Quad (U.S., Japan, India, Australia), with one or two other players (Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, maybe even Singapore, etc.) coming to help the Quad.
2. The war will start in Xi’s waning dementia years, after 2030. [Xi turns 69-years-old in 2022, 77-years-old in 2030, and 87-years-old in 2040.] That’s when he’ll slump back on his imperial throne, finally cry, “Havoc!” and let slip the wolf warriors of war.
3. The war will probably start using Taiwan as a fig leaf, but it might also start due to an aerial incursion of some sort, and then focus on the west coast of Taiwan. The CCP certainly does not want to conquer and rule Taiwan: that would be too difficult. Also, it doesn’t want to burn Taiwan to the ground, either: it needs Taipei and the KMT as a foil. So, the pitiful CCP is trapped in its own rhetoric. The wolf warrior masses demand that it attack, but the urban CCP elite knows that it will lose. It can only self-immolate itself on a Taiwanese pyre. Quite tragic, when you think of it, but, then again, the CCP is death incarnate (see Great Chinese Famine, Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, etc.), and death is what it has always brought to those it ruled over.
4. It will be started by the CCP. CCP leaders are trapped in their own domestic bellicose rhetoric [much as was Imperial Japan in the 1930s: any liberal will be defenestrated]. No rational Mainland politician will be able to escape this sticky rhetorical web that leads to only one source of CCP legitimacy: war & Götterdämmerung.
In the end, though, just as the Ukraine war is finally ending the Russian Empire, so, too, will the CCP’s war for Taiwan finally be the final death throes of one-party totalitarian states.
Only after democracy and freedom return to China will the world be able to move on to a truly global U.N.-like/ United Federation of Planets-like single Earth government in the late 2040s.
Fix Beijing, and we’ll fix Korea, sure, but fix Beijing and we’ll also fix the world.
EDIT: Some have asked what the map will look like after the CCP’s final death throes war against Taiwan. Here are some thoughts on that.
India will get Tibet. Xinjiang and Qinghai will then be a joint protectorate between Delhi and Nanjing, the new Chinese capital. Or maybe Tibet, Xinjiang and Qinghai will start a Tibetan nationstate, with Delhi politely standing aside, adhering to its non-imperial ethos. Not sure yet.
The Taipei bureaucratic machine will move back to offices in Nanjing, the new Chinese capital (once again). The CCP itself will be banned as a party, but since it employs so many smart ethnic Han Mainlanders, they will be allowed to continue in their bureaucratic positions going forward. [Note: Do not eliminate the CCP as the U.S. eliminated the Ba’ath Party in Iraq. That all ended in tears. Give them a modicum of pride, and a place in the new bureaucracy, à la Japan post-1945.]
All police files will be opened. You’ll only be able to pull your own personal file (or that of your dependent), but you will be able to see who tattled on you. There will be a legal framework through which you’ll be able to bring a court case against the person(s) who spied on you for the secret police, but that framework will be tilted toward reconciliation, not toward revenge or incarceration. Everyone had to do what they had to do to survive in a one-party totalitarian state. Don’t judge the stool pigeon so harshly.
Seoul will get Pyeongyang right up to the Yalu River (압록강). Seoul will also get the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture (연변주), though the rest of Jilin Province will remain under Nanjing. There will now be three Koreas under Seoul’s administrative gaze.
Japan would probably nab back Karafuto Prefecture, too, though it’s not technically (or even actually!) part of China. I picture Tokyo just sort of ~taking the opportunity~ when it presents itself.
Ulaanbaatar will get Inner Mongolia with its 25 million people, which will be interesting to watch unfold in terms of Ulaanbaatar domestic politics. [There’s something like ~20 million ethnic Han in Inner Mongolia, who will now be under Ulaanbaatar’s governance. Maybe an exchange of peoples, like the population exchange between Greece and Turkey (1923) or like Partition (1947)? Don’t know.]
The fate of the remaining parts of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning will be debated at a U.N. meeting. Perhaps there will be an independent North China, even though there aren’t any Manchurians left in 2040, or perhaps it will just be a long pan handle northward of Nanjing’s rule, reaching up to the Amur.
Basically, just as the Teuton had to be put back into its box in 1918 and again in 1945, allowing freedom and democracy and human progress to proceed, so, too, must the ethnic Han CCP Mainlander be put back into the 18 provinces of Han China Proper, freeing Outer China from ethnic Han shackles.
The CCP did evil. Does evil. Killed more Chinese than anyone else, ever. Worse than the Mongolians. The CCP has no respect for life or for the beauty of humanity; nor for the beauty of Chinese history and tradition, either, ironically enough. Sure, the Nationalists had their own problems, but Taipei has since fixed those. The CCP hasn’t.
Once the CCP finally launches its war of aggression against the Quad, it will lose, and then, finally, we will be able to leave August 1945 and move forward in time. East Asia has been trapped in August 1945 since, well, since 1945, and it’s due time for humanity to progress onward.
All this by 2040, or I’ll eat my hat.