May 28, 2004

Reader Mail I

Mark LaRochelle writes:

As  I pointed out to you nearly two decades ago, China may find it more efficient to export surplus males rather than import females. Look for aggressive military expansion as a means of depleting the surplus male population.

Several problems with that scenario:

1. High status males who have all the women they want are growing increasingly connected to the world economic scene. Think of them as medieval scottish noblemen with english lands. Their financial position (and also societal status) is largely put at risk by military aggressiveness. Every year of economic reforms increases the numbers and influence of this group.

2. This is not a black and white situation. Importing females is the reality of today. Whether this will be paired with expansionist military activity is an open question but it's not realistic (IMO) to deny the day-to-day reality of female imports. I think that a militarily aggressive streak will emerge in the PRC but you can send an awful lot of conscripts into UN peacekeeping slots without risking your global connectivity, a connectivity that is supporting the survival of the current elite. The PRC has an obvious interest in mid-east resources as well as african resources. A militarily aggressive PRC could simultaneously earn good guy kudos all over the world by being Kofi Annan's blue helmet wet dream.

3. The timing is wrong. The PRC is vulnerable to resource interdiction in a way that was even more profound than Imperial Japan. Their resource supply lines are longer. The PLAN is relatively weaker than the Imperial Japanese Navy was the day after Pearl Harbor vis a vis the US Navy and relevant allies. For the PRC to get away with striking at a Phillipines, Thailand, Indonesia, etc. they need a PLAN that can maintain their energy and raw material supplies sufficient to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion. By the time that happens, we're well past the explosion date of their demographic time bomb. All the "near peer" analysis by DoD that I've been exposed to (all public stuff, no big deal) has the PRC becoming a real threat no earlier than two decades from now.

4. Russia is unlikely to be happy. Russia is likely to be the only natural resource source that the PRC could draw on without credible fear of the US Navy. But Russia is paranoid scared that the PRC's expansion will come north and that they will replicate the Mongols, rolling up Siberia in a drive westward. Russia is not going to underwrite the PRC's needs to the point where they can win and become strong enough to take Siberia. Russia would apply to join NATO first, and would be accepted in a heartbeat. That gives the PRC a very nasty nightmare with NATO on its northern border.

5. Nuclear proliferation would explode across Asia as the small nations on the PRC's border became nuclear powers in order not to become a new Tibet. These are engineer rich societies and many have enough money to build their own nukes or buy them from N. Korea. With private suborbital rockets being developed by teams from several nations (X Prize), it wouldn't be too hard for the designs to be licensed and weapons to be carried as cargo. Goodbye Beijing. Beijing knows this and will simply not become aggressive enough to trigger the nuclear proliferation explosion. It's a hard limit to their moves.

My prediction is that we're going to see a combination of effects. The PRC will build up its military but will also build up its ability to absorb foreign women. Neighboring nations will become rabidly anti-chinese because of this female poaching and any militarily aggressive moves will be to protect long-established chinese ethnic communities in these nations. PRC contributions to UN peacekeeping missions will undergo a secular increase. The big invasions that everybody fears will not happen but regional instability will increase with unpredictable results. A for instance, what are S. Koreans going to do in reaction to N. Korean wife/prostitute imports into the PRC?

Posted by TMLutas at May 28, 2004 12:19 PM