2022-08-03 Elbridge Colby on China and American econ interest and sovereignty

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): I'm very sympathetic to those who don't want to fight to defend Taiwan. I'm against the forever wars and generally am skeptical about the use of our military.

But defending Taiwan makes sense for Americans' concrete economic interests, freedoms, and sovereignty.

Why? 👇 1/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): First and foremost, China's ambitions are almost certainly not limited to Taiwan. Rather, they appear to seek first hegemony over Asia and global preeminence from there. How do we know? Well, they say it pretty openly now. Plus they're building a power projection military. 2/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): If China achieves this goal, you can be very confident that Americans' prosperity and liberties will suffer. Why? China will have a controlling influence over more than 50% of global GDP. It will be the gatekeeper and the center of the global economy. 3/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): To simplify a bit: Everybody, every company will have to dance to their tune. If you don't, they'll block you from trading there. The yuan will be the dominant currency. Chinese regulations will be the baseline. Chinese companies and universities will be the world's best. 4/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): In that context, you can bet Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa will orient toward Beijing. They need growth! They'll need to play ball. So America will have a choice: Play ball or go it alone. 5/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): But China will have a strong incentive to push us down. We are the only country that can challenge their ascendancy. So China will have strong reason to demote us down the value chain, if only to weaken the only plausible counter to Beijing's preeminence. 6/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): Certain US elites and favored interest groups would prosper under this model, but not the society as a whole. Our economic security would be subject to Beijing's diktat, and our freedoms would clearly suffer as a result. Economic power is political power. 7/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): To take just one example: Many Americans have big concerns about the social media companies (I do!). But our debate assumes that we can change things in Washington or state capitals. Not if PRC is hegemon. Then the social media companies will be Chinese or subsidiaries. 8/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): Or we could try to go it alone. But then we'll be what, at most 20% of global GDP. But with China as the determinant of the rest, it'll try to isolate us and bring us down as the challenger. Autarky will be a much, much more pinched life for Americans. We'll be a lot poorer. 9/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): Why does Taiwan matter for this? Well, it's critical to the defense of Japan, the Philippines, South Korea. And it's a reasonable bellwether for them of how much they can rely on the US. If Taiwan falls, it will be much harder to prevent China from dominating Asia. 10/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): And preventing China from dominating Asia is manifestly in Americans' very concrete interests.

People might want to help Taiwan for other reasons: democracy, shared values, sympathy. But those are not the bottom line for Americans. It's in our own interests. 11/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): The issue is that Taiwan is a very important but not genuinely existential interest. It's something we should do, but it's not worth fighting to the last man. So we should act to avoid that choice. We can do so by having a military that can defend Taiwan at a tolerable cost. 12/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): But we're not doing that right now. Instead we're frittering away our focus and resources on other things instead of laser-focusing. This is profoundly ill-advised and irresponsible. 13/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): Success would be laser-focusing on being able to defend Taiwan, China seeing that, and never trying to attack the island because they realize they'd fail. This is possible. Mao wanted to conquer Taiwan but never tried because he knew he'd fail. 14/

Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby): If we could convince Beijing they'd fail now, they'd be unlikely to try. Then our anti-hegemonic coalition in Asia would stand up and survive. Then we'd have a good power balance. Then we'd have a strong basis for our economy to prosper: market share, a strong dollar, etc. 15/


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