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The South China Sea's Gathering Storm

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The South China Sea's Gathering Storm

Old 30th Apr 2021, 10:21
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Cities with over 1 million people -

USA 11
China 102
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Old 2nd May 2021, 09:25
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
Cities with over 1 million people -

USA 11
China 102

US deployed Strategic nuclear warheads; 1,365. US Strategic nuclear warheads in reserve; 1,870...

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Old 2nd May 2021, 16:48
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Yes - I was answering what I thing was etudiants statement that the US would only have a few big cities to hit in China. Having flown over city after city there that hardly appears on any western map and certainly has no name recognition I thought he/she was wrong................... and your numbers nicely show they have the means - if they so decide
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Old 3rd May 2021, 02:42
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
Yes - I was answering what I thing was etudiants statement that the US would only have a few big cities to hit in China. Having flown over city after city there that hardly appears on any western map and certainly has no name recognition I thought he/she was wrong................... and your numbers nicely show they have the means - if they so decide
I was unclear, I meant that there are only a handful of big cities in the US, so a Chinese force of 200 warheads is ample to deal with those, which is the basis of deterrence.
The much larger number of such cities in China is of course addressed by the much larger US arsenal, although presumably part of that is reserved for other potential targets.
Either way, there is such excess nuclear capability that the established players know it is not a usable tool. Whether new entrants such as North Korea share that view is unclear
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Old 3rd May 2021, 03:38
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Originally Posted by etudiant View Post
I was unclear, I meant that there are only a handful of big cities in the US, so a Chinese force of 200 warheads is ample to deal with those, which is the basis of deterrence.
The much larger number of such cities in China is of course addressed by the much larger US arsenal, although presumably part of that is reserved for other potential targets.
Either way, there is such excess nuclear capability that the established players know it is not a usable tool. Whether new entrants such as North Korea share that view is unclear
Do you feel that you might not be informed enough to be commenting on the targeting priorities of the Chinese?
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Old 3rd May 2021, 17:42
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Originally Posted by West Coast View Post
Do you feel that you might not be informed enough to be commenting on the targeting priorities of the Chinese?
I would not presume to opine on Chinese targeting priorities.
I'm simply saying that if the US has maybe a dozen cities it cannot afford to lose, a 200 warhead strike force is probably a pretty adequate deterrent.from the Chinese perspective.

Nuclear warheads are qualitatively different, yet people seem to lose sight of that.They are the poor man's insurance policy.
The decision to overthrow Qaddafi even though he had abandoned his nuclear program, cemented the common wisdom that no state is safe from outside military intervention without nuclear weapons.
North Korea showed what that means in our world, they are dirt poor but free from the fear of foreign invasion. Logically, Taiwan should be next, but perhaps they still have confidence the US will save them from the 'motherland'.
Viet Nam, Indonesia and perhaps the Philippines should be next.
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Old 4th May 2021, 08:21
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Interesting article in the Economist - the publication of results of the latest PRC Census is delayed.

The suspicion is that it shows that the Chinese population is now static or declining. This was forecast for 2030 ish but CV19 has had big impact.

The issue is that (on previous calculation) 30% of the Chinese population will be over 60 (and retired) by 2050. The amounts that will have to be spent on health care and looking after them is eye watering. And older people normally aren't keen on defence spending or wars - they want pensions, bus passes and care homes
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Old 10th May 2021, 05:33
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https://www.foxnews.com/politics/us-...base-in-africa

US general warns China aiming to establish Atlantic naval base in Africa

The top U.S general for Africa is warning that a growing threat from China may come not just from the waters of the Pacific but from the Atlantic as well.

U.S. Gen. Stephen Townsend, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Beijing is looking to establish a large navy port capable of hosting submarines or aircraft carriers on Africa’s western coast.

Townsend said China has approached countries stretching from Mauritania to south of Namibia, intent on establishing a naval facility. If realized, that prospect would enable China to base warships in its expanding Navy in the Atlantic as well as Pacific oceans.

"They’re looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict," said Townsend, who heads U.S. Africa Command. "They’re a long way toward establishing that in Djibouti. Now they’re casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there."….



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Old 10th May 2021, 07:28
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I don't see the point of showing how indebted countries are to China - they can't send in the bailiffs if they default

Like a lot of Western Investors and Governments have found if they renege on a debt there isn't a lot you can do about it

I'd retitle it "where China is wasting it's money" TBH
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Old 10th May 2021, 09:47
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Originally Posted by Asturias56 View Post
I don't see the point of showing how indebted countries are to China - they can't send in the bailiffs if they default

Like a lot of Western Investors and Governments have found if they renege on a debt there isn't a lot you can do about it

I'd retitle it "where China is wasting it's money" TBH
Google "belt and road initiative" and you may well see the point.
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Old 10th May 2021, 14:33
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Intentions and plans are all very well but they're shelling out cash to people, who let's put charitably, have a record of not using it well.................. Much of it will finish up in London ad Switzerland as usual

It'll get the Chinese through the door but zero long term influence - look at how much they've poured into Tanzania over the years
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Old 10th May 2021, 21:07
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Originally Posted by etudiant View Post
Viet Nam, Indonesia and perhaps the Philippines should be next.
Unsure what you meant here. Those countries should be next for what?
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Old 10th May 2021, 23:00
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Originally Posted by grizzled View Post
Unsure what you meant here. Those countries should be next for what?
To get nuclear weapons. Else they will become Chinese satellites.
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Old 11th May 2021, 07:45
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Have you ever been to Indonesia? 270 million people at the last count - and they (to be polite) do not like the Chinese at all.............. Quite HOW the Chinese would take them over is a bit beyond me
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Old 11th May 2021, 07:59
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Have you ever been to Indonesia? 270 million people at the last count - and they (to be polite) do not like the Chinese at all
Sure about that ?

Right now, China and Indonesia and holding joint naval exercises. And Indonesia has accepted a Chinese offer to salvage the KRI Nanggala 402 submarine.

Talks are also underway regarding China building a second copper smelter in Indonesia ($2.8 billion)

Looks like they're quite close at the moment.



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Old 11th May 2021, 16:55
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"Sure about that ?"

Too damn true - when the good people of Indonesia riot for whatever reason it only takes a short while before they round on the ethnic Chinese - loot and burn their property and regretfully lynch a few

And the old CP of Indonesia was largely ethnic Chinese and we all know what happened to them - maybe half a million gone in '65-68.

As for the submarine they also accepted help from the USA, Thailand and Singapore IIRC, Politically they still are "non-aligned" but they buy most of their Navy from the west - the airforce is a mix of USA and Russian kit

And of course they are the largest Muslim country in the world
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Old 13th May 2021, 18:27
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An interesting, if somewhat lengthy article concerning the China/Taiwan situation from Defense One:

Security tensions are brewing in East Asia. China has on several recent occasions sent military aircraft to fly around Taiwan, including into its air defense identification zone, complete with taunts from the Chinese pilots. Officials and analysts worry that an attack on the self-governing island could be in the offing. But when? Sometime between tomorrow and mid-century. Or never. No one knows, and that’s because no one really knows what drives China’s decision-making.

Some commentators have advanced what might be called structural theories about when and why China could attempt to invade Taiwan. General Secretary Xi Jinping has proclaimed the goal of achieving the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by the centennial anniversary of the founding the People’s Republic of China in 2049 (often shorthanded as “mid-century”). Rejuvenation and unification are inextricable in the eyes of the CCP. Xi asserted in January 2019 that the “Taiwan question…will definitely end with China’s rejuvenation.” Others expect it sooner: by 2035, when state-run media say the People’s Liberation Army, will “basically” be modernized enough to fight and win a regional war against another advanced military. The implication being that China will invade once it concludes the PLA can win.

Alternative structural assessments see a more imminent peril. They argue the world, especially the United States, is entering a dangerous decade in relations with China generally and with regard to Taiwan specifically, where Beijing’s relative power is reaching an apex compared to would-be geopolitical competitors. Those theories posit that Chinese leaders might conclude they must attempt to forcibly annex Taiwan while they are at their strongest or risk it falling out of their grasp forever. Others acknowledge China faces future challenges but note that even slowing economic growth rates would arrive on top of a massive base, so Beijing’s power, at least relative to Taiwan, will likely continue to accrue.Another category of theories about when China might send mount a full-spectrum invasion might be described as events-driven.

Beijing has clearly stated that any declaration of independence or clear moves in that direction by the government in Taipei would provoke an attack. China has rejected direct political engagement with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen because she has refused to reaffirm a political formulation known as the “1992 Consensus,” an unwillingness Beijing interprets as sympathizing with the pro-independence views held by some in Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

Other, less definitive political outcomes could beget a conflict as well. As John Culver, a former U.S. National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, has argued, Beijing could decide that a lesser standard would be enough, such as Taiwan refusing to engage in a negotiating process whose end goal is some form of political unification. The ignominious end of the “one country, two systems” governance framework for Hong Kong, which Beijing still views as a model for Taiwan, has made the prospect of political integration with the mainland increasingly unpopular with the people of Taiwan.

Further, Chinese military maneuvers designed for political signaling could result in accidents or unintentional escalation. Operations that start off as diplomatic pressure tactics have the potential to spin out of control. Events beyond Taiwan itself could also give rise to a crisis. Political developments in the United States, especially a decisive policy change that either endorses Taiwan independence or rules out U.S. assistance to Taiwan during a contingency, could shift Beijing’s calculus (although both are highly unlikely right now).

Next, Chinese leaders could at some point face a major crisis of legitimacy—perhaps an economic crash or a botched leadership succession or lack thereof—and decide to use an invasion of Taiwan to gin up nationalistic support for the Communist regime. Beijing could also perceive opportunity in another crisis that occupies U.S. forces and attention. Likely candidates would include a conflict on the Korean Peninsula or somewhere outside East Asia such as Ukraine.

Finally, a cross-Strait conflict might never happen at all. Beijing no doubt understands that, despite the temptations, any decision to use military force against Taiwan would entail world-historical levels of risk. The PLA enjoys hefty budgets and increasingly cutting-edge capabilities. But it has not fought a war since 1979 and could still flunk its first test in decades for any numbers of reasons. Non-material factors like the capacity for effective combat leadership are notoriously difficult to develop and measure.

A failed invasion or even one with a messy mixed outcome could pose a major threat to the CCP regime. Politically, many Chinese citizens would question the leadership’s judgment and competence. Economically, even a successful campaign would require starting a major war right at the epicenter of lucrative-but-fragile global supply chains. Xi might believe he is on the cusp of fulfilling one of the Party’s most sacred goals by moving to take Taiwan—only to blow up the economic growth and stability pillars that are foundational to CCP rule in China. And that is not even mentioning the risk of uncontrolled military escalation.

Predicting with any accuracy which of these factors will prevail is impossible. For all the barrels of ink spilled writing about China, the inner workings of how the leadership makes decisions are almost completely opaque; Zhongnanhai, China’s Kremlin, is a mostly black box. That fact creates a problem because policy responses can differ based on what theory of the case they derive from and are trying to shape. Beijing could decide according to one of the aforementioned factors. Or it could be a mixture of them. Xi’s decision to choose aggressive military signaling as a central instrument in China’s pressure campaign gives weight those who think an attack could come sooner rather than later, but aggressive maneuvers are not themselves dispositive proof that a conflict is coming.

In response to the situation’s uncertainty, U.S. policy will have to be both firm and delicate. Washington should continue to emphasize to Beijing the costs of aggression and the value of the status quo for China, the region, and the world—saving the most vehement messages for private channels. Those costs go well beyond shipping disruptions in the heart of globalization’s engine room in Northeast Asia. They should include biting sanctions, structural economic decoupling, widespread diplomatic isolation of Beijing that would lock in a pessimistic view about the implications of China’s rise, and unspecified intelligence and military support to Taiwan from the United States and select allies and partners. Also, Beijing should expect to see regional states arming themselves against Chinese aggression with renewed fervor and commitment. In short, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently put it, that using force would be a “serious mistake.”

At the same time, however, U.S. policymakers should avoid official, public policy changes—including ending the policy of “strategic ambiguity”—that would be construed as Washington revising the status quo and therefore be likely spark a crisis. Washington should also forswear linking Taiwan directly to other issues in U.S.-China relations. Chinese officials will always accuse the United States of playing a “Taiwan card,” but Washington should steer clear of broader linkage for its own benefit and Taipei’s.

Finally, the United States should continue to counsel caution from Taiwan, with any countermoves to China’s actions calculated toward upholding or restoring the status quo, however embattled. Washington and like-minded partners should also devote special time and attention to finding innovative ways to aid implementation of Taiwan’s Overall Defense Concept plan for thwarting an invasion through asymmetric means.

Success will come if China decides that the best time to attack Taiwan is never—but there is a lot of time between now and then.

Jacob Stokes (@jacobstokes) is a Fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He previously served as an advisor in the White House and the U.S. Congress.

- Ed
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Old 13th May 2021, 21:23
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Originally Posted by cavuman1 View Post
An interesting, if somewhat lengthy article concerning the China/Taiwan situation from Defense One:

Security tensions are brewing in East Asia. China has on several recent occasions sent military aircraft to fly around Taiwan, including into its air defense identification zone, complete with taunts from the Chinese pilots. Officials and analysts worry that an attack on the self-governing island could be in the offing. But when? Sometime between tomorrow and mid-century. Or never. No one knows, and that’s because no one really knows what drives China’s decision-making.

Some commentators have advanced what might be called structural theories about when and why China could attempt to invade Taiwan. General Secretary Xi Jinping has proclaimed the goal of achieving the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by the centennial anniversary of the founding the People’s Republic of China in 2049 (often shorthanded as “mid-century”). Rejuvenation and unification are inextricable in the eyes of the CCP. Xi asserted in January 2019 that the “Taiwan question…will definitely end with China’s rejuvenation.” Others expect it sooner: by 2035, when state-run media say the People’s Liberation Army, will “basically” be modernized enough to fight and win a regional war against another advanced military. The implication being that China will invade once it concludes the PLA can win.

Alternative structural assessments see a more imminent peril. They argue the world, especially the United States, is entering a dangerous decade in relations with China generally and with regard to Taiwan specifically, where Beijing’s relative power is reaching an apex compared to would-be geopolitical competitors. Those theories posit that Chinese leaders might conclude they must attempt to forcibly annex Taiwan while they are at their strongest or risk it falling out of their grasp forever. Others acknowledge China faces future challenges but note that even slowing economic growth rates would arrive on top of a massive base, so Beijing’s power, at least relative to Taiwan, will likely continue to accrue.Another category of theories about when China might send mount a full-spectrum invasion might be described as events-driven.

Beijing has clearly stated that any declaration of independence or clear moves in that direction by the government in Taipei would provoke an attack. China has rejected direct political engagement with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen because she has refused to reaffirm a political formulation known as the “1992 Consensus,” an unwillingness Beijing interprets as sympathizing with the pro-independence views held by some in Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party.

Other, less definitive political outcomes could beget a conflict as well. As John Culver, a former U.S. National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, has argued, Beijing could decide that a lesser standard would be enough, such as Taiwan refusing to engage in a negotiating process whose end goal is some form of political unification. The ignominious end of the “one country, two systems” governance framework for Hong Kong, which Beijing still views as a model for Taiwan, has made the prospect of political integration with the mainland increasingly unpopular with the people of Taiwan.

Further, Chinese military maneuvers designed for political signaling could result in accidents or unintentional escalation. Operations that start off as diplomatic pressure tactics have the potential to spin out of control. Events beyond Taiwan itself could also give rise to a crisis. Political developments in the United States, especially a decisive policy change that either endorses Taiwan independence or rules out U.S. assistance to Taiwan during a contingency, could shift Beijing’s calculus (although both are highly unlikely right now).

Next, Chinese leaders could at some point face a major crisis of legitimacy—perhaps an economic crash or a botched leadership succession or lack thereof—and decide to use an invasion of Taiwan to gin up nationalistic support for the Communist regime. Beijing could also perceive opportunity in another crisis that occupies U.S. forces and attention. Likely candidates would include a conflict on the Korean Peninsula or somewhere outside East Asia such as Ukraine.

Finally, a cross-Strait conflict might never happen at all. Beijing no doubt understands that, despite the temptations, any decision to use military force against Taiwan would entail world-historical levels of risk. The PLA enjoys hefty budgets and increasingly cutting-edge capabilities. But it has not fought a war since 1979 and could still flunk its first test in decades for any numbers of reasons. Non-material factors like the capacity for effective combat leadership are notoriously difficult to develop and measure.

A failed invasion or even one with a messy mixed outcome could pose a major threat to the CCP regime. Politically, many Chinese citizens would question the leadership’s judgment and competence. Economically, even a successful campaign would require starting a major war right at the epicenter of lucrative-but-fragile global supply chains. Xi might believe he is on the cusp of fulfilling one of the Party’s most sacred goals by moving to take Taiwan—only to blow up the economic growth and stability pillars that are foundational to CCP rule in China. And that is not even mentioning the risk of uncontrolled military escalation.

Predicting with any accuracy which of these factors will prevail is impossible. For all the barrels of ink spilled writing about China, the inner workings of how the leadership makes decisions are almost completely opaque; Zhongnanhai, China’s Kremlin, is a mostly black box. That fact creates a problem because policy responses can differ based on what theory of the case they derive from and are trying to shape. Beijing could decide according to one of the aforementioned factors. Or it could be a mixture of them. Xi’s decision to choose aggressive military signaling as a central instrument in China’s pressure campaign gives weight those who think an attack could come sooner rather than later, but aggressive maneuvers are not themselves dispositive proof that a conflict is coming.

In response to the situation’s uncertainty, U.S. policy will have to be both firm and delicate. Washington should continue to emphasize to Beijing the costs of aggression and the value of the status quo for China, the region, and the world—saving the most vehement messages for private channels. Those costs go well beyond shipping disruptions in the heart of globalization’s engine room in Northeast Asia. They should include biting sanctions, structural economic decoupling, widespread diplomatic isolation of Beijing that would lock in a pessimistic view about the implications of China’s rise, and unspecified intelligence and military support to Taiwan from the United States and select allies and partners. Also, Beijing should expect to see regional states arming themselves against Chinese aggression with renewed fervor and commitment. In short, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently put it, that using force would be a “serious mistake.”

At the same time, however, U.S. policymakers should avoid official, public policy changes—including ending the policy of “strategic ambiguity”—that would be construed as Washington revising the status quo and therefore be likely spark a crisis. Washington should also forswear linking Taiwan directly to other issues in U.S.-China relations. Chinese officials will always accuse the United States of playing a “Taiwan card,” but Washington should steer clear of broader linkage for its own benefit and Taipei’s.

Finally, the United States should continue to counsel caution from Taiwan, with any countermoves to China’s actions calculated toward upholding or restoring the status quo, however embattled. Washington and like-minded partners should also devote special time and attention to finding innovative ways to aid implementation of Taiwan’s Overall Defense Concept plan for thwarting an invasion through asymmetric means.

Success will come if China decides that the best time to attack Taiwan is never—but there is a lot of time between now and then.

Jacob Stokes (@jacobstokes) is a Fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He previously served as an advisor in the White House and the U.S. Congress.

- Ed
The unspoken assumption in all the 'expert' analyses is that things stay the same, which they never do.
Reality is a moving target and here the trend is for vastly better Chinese military capability within a few years, both absolutely as well as relative to the US.
Changing that trend would require the US and Europe to quit subsidizing China with a half trillion trade surplus every year, which would require sacrificing the cheap Chinese stuff we've gotten accustomed to.
That is deeply unlikely, so a better evaluation would be to assess the best course of action once Taiwan is 'reunited' with the Chinese motherland.
Given that Taiwan produces about 90% of the world's most advanced semiconductors, the obvious decision is to aggressively subsidize non Taiwanese alternatives.
Fortunately that seems to be happening.

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Old 14th May 2021, 03:16
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There's another unspoken assumption too in all this analysis.
And that's that the United States won't continue to technologically innovate at a rate that outpaces China, which will exponentially increase its force multiplication.
I'm more hopeful than most commentators.
Note again the $12bn per annum expenditure of the USAF in Special Access programs alone.
There is clearly a huge amount going on that we don't know about.
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Old 14th May 2021, 07:31
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China has just announced the Census figures - a very very small increase in population (and a lot of people think that's massaged). The percentage of the population that is retired is going up very fast - by 2040 it'll be like the West and by 2050 every working Chinese will be supporting 2 non-working I think

That really cuts into the funds available for defence spending. The Govt is far too scared to increase the retirement age from 60, and the Chinese Health and Social care system is far behind most other E Asian countries. Looks like peak years for new spending could be between now and 2030 - after that they're in the same boat as the rest of us
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