TCS Daily


A One-Sided Arms Race

By Rand Simberg - January 22, 2007 12:00 AM

Something disturbing happened five hundred miles above China on January 11th.

An old Chinese weather satellite was in orbit, and then, quite abruptly, it wasn't. Or, rather, if it was, it was no longer in one piece, and if it had been in any way operational before, it certainly wasn't afterward. United States Air Force tracking radars will now have a more challenging job, to track all of the debris that's large enough to track.

American intelligence agencies believe that it was destroyed by a weapon fired from Xichang, a major launch facility in Sichuan, China. While details remain classified, it seems to have been taken out with a "kinetic-kill" (a weapon that works simply by crashing into the target at high velocity) payload delivered on a medium-range ballistic missile. In this case, "crashing into the target" is a slight mischaracterization. In actuality, the target likely crashed into the interceptor, which was probably simply flung up into space into its path, at which point the satellite hit it at orbital velocity. This didn't require an orbital launch vehicle, because there was no need to match velocities (and in fact the greater the difference in velocities the better), so it didn't have to attain orbital speeds. But it doesn't matter which vehicle hit which, any more than your body-shop bill is any less when you hit a deer that jumps in front of your car on the road rather than it chasing you down from behind.

This type of weapon has been tested against satellites before. The US developed and tested a system back in the eighties that was air launched from an F-15, to provide maximum stealth and flexibility of trajectory and to avoid the need to wait for a satellite's ground track to cross the fixed launch site. But this was unprecedented, in that it was the first that we know of to be launched directly from the ground.

There are several issues of concern about this event.

The most immediate one is that the debris resulting from it now constitutes a hazard to all low-earth-orbit satellites below five hundred miles, including the International Space Station. It could in fact be a problem even higher, because some of the particles were flung into higher-apogee orbits in the collision. They will continue to be a problem until the orbits of the individual pieces decay and cause them to burn up in the upper atmosphere. At that altitude, this will take weeks, or months, depending on the size of the pieces (the smaller ones will come down faster, because they'll have more drag for their mass). Such tests performed in the past by the US occurred at much lower altitude, and much shorter debris dwell times (though some pieces still took years to reenter).

It's unclear (at least to me -- I am not a space lawyer) that this act violated any existing treaties per se, but it seems unlikely. It was their own satellite that they destroyed, after all. There is a Liability Convention under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, but this remains a gray area, due to an inability to date to reach consensus on a definition of "debris." But at the least, it's certainly extremely bad manners (not unusual for the Chinese in such matters), and if one of those pieces hits another nation's satellite, clearly the Chinese could be held liable, at least in theory, per the provisions of the treaty. Of course, it would have to proven that it was one of those pieces, which it could be if it turned out to be one of the thirty-odd new pieces now large enough to be tracked, and whose trajectories can be traced back to that of the original satellite.

Much more worrisome, of course, are the longer-term policy, diplomacy, and military and security considerations.

Simply put, if the Chinese have such a weapon, we currently have no defense against it. Moreover, we are highly dependent on our space assets, something that the Chinese have no doubt been observing in our recent military activities. Particularly in this millennium, in Afghanistan and Iraq, our eyes and ears in the sky, and our ability to tell terrestrial systems where they are via GPS, have leveraged our military capabilities tremendously, while minimizing collateral casualties and damage. Take them out, and we're back to the Vietnam era in terms of capability. In fact we'd be worse off, because at least then, we had systems that weren't dependent on space capabilities, whereas the loss of our satellites today would render much of our terrestrial, aerial and naval armament much less effective at best, and useless or even counterproductive junk at worst.

It also puts to rest the comforting but naive theories of some that such a capability is beyond the Chinese -- that killing satellites is an intrinsically difficult thing, and that we need not worry about their ability to do so. While it's certainly easier to kill a satellite (which moves on a predictable course) than a ballistic missile in acceleration, or the multiple warheads it blooms after it ends its engine burn, it was still mistakenly thought to be very difficult. We might now, in light of their feat, reconsider how hard the missile defense problem is as well, for us or for them.

Of course, as is generally the case with any perceived adverse development, on the planet or off, the first person to be blamed is George W. Bush. A few months ago, the administration quietly released a "new" national space policy, which, among other things, declared that it would be the policy of this nation to preserve our freedom of operation and ability to control the high ground of earth orbit. Which is to say, that we will treat space no differently than we traditionally have treated the high seas. In actuality, it was little different than policy has been for decades, under both Democrat and Republican administrations, but as Jeff Foust noted at his Space Politics blog, the usual suspects had their usual complaints about it:

...the [conservative think tank] Marshall Institute...released a critique of the policy this week...While pleased that the administration recognizes the importance of space in national policy, the author(s) (not identified by name in the document) are disappointed with both how the document was released and the strength (or lack thereof) of its language. (This is illustrated with subheadings like "An Inauspicious Launch" and "Weasel Words".) In several cases the document contrasts the language of the 2006 policy with the much stronger (and, in the institute's eyes, better) language in Ronald Reagan's 1982 policy...

...Those who are opposed to the policy because they think it's too strong, rather than too weak, haven't been silent, either. There's an essay in that noted space journal, the Newtown (Conn.) Bee. The commentary, written by Leonor Tomero of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, claims that "the United States is reversing its longstanding leadership role in working to keep offensive weapons out of space." It's pretty standard stuff: if the US develops space weapons, then other countries will do so, and the US has more to lose because it relies more on space assets than other countries. (That argument, of course, assumes that other countries are sincere about opposing space weapons.)

With the test of this new weapons system, some administration critics claim that we "provoked" the Chinese into doing this (an obvious confusion of cause and effect, since the system had to have been under development for much longer than since last fall). This is particularly ironic, because the administration line since its policy came out has been that "there is no arms race in space." Well, if there wasn't before, there certainly seems to be one now. Or perhaps, only one side is racing.

But the question remains: what is the purpose of this test, at this time?

The good friar Occam (of razor fame) would have suggested that (to mix authoritative quotes), the cigar is just a cigar, and maybe the Chinese just want to have a capability to kill our satellites, and know that it works. It would certainly be handy (albeit risky) if they decided to (say) take back Taiwan by force. But it may not be quite that simple.

In the most comprehensive article written to date on the incident, noted space analyst James Oberg suggests that this is part of a diplomatic move by the Chinese to leverage the international (i.e., anti-American) community to pressure the US in support of an anti-ASAT treaty. As he notes, classically, our major-power adversaries love such arms-control treaties because, unlike them, we have internal institutions, such as federal checks and balances and a free press, to make us accountable to abide by them, whereas they simply ignore them. This particularly treaty would probably be unverifiable, though pesky little issues like that rarely concern those who irrationally value paper and promises over hardware when it comes to keeping the peace.

And that's the bottom line. Where should we put our trust -- in treaties, or in actual hardware systems to defend our vital space assets?

Some of course will argue that the horse isn't completely out of the barn and that it's not too late to get it under control. They will say that this system only puts our LEO satellites at risk, because many of our most valuable systems are thousands of miles higher (GPS in a twelve-hour orbit, and many weather, surveillance and secure communications satellites even higher in GEO), so we aren't as vulnerable as it implies. They will also no doubt argue that the system doesn't allow them to take out a large number of satellites in a short period of time, which would be necessary to maintain the element of surprise, since it operates out of fixed launch sites that will have to wait hours or days for each targeted satellite to appear overhead within range of the rocket.

But of course, the principle has been proven, and all that's necessary to solve these problems is to put the system up on a rocket with more impulse needed to get to higher altitude, and to adapt it to an air-launched system, as we did in the eighties. There's no reason to think the Chinese (and others) incapable of solving this problem. Admittedly, the warning times would be much greater, and the relative velocities much lower, but they'd still be high enough to destroy the targets if they can't avoid the interceptor, and as far as we know, none of the critical systems currently deployed have much, if any ability to do so.

The most prudent assumption is that the Chinese (and Russians, and eventually, as they develop further their own space capabilities, Indians and Pakistanis and South Koreans and...) are going to have this capability, and that we must learn how to counter it. Even if they don't specifically develop anti-satellite systems, the laws of physics dictate that any system designed for the much more difficult job of taking out an exoatmospheric missile or entry vehicle will find a satellite kill, at least in LEO, a piece of cake.

Thus, we can't wish away a space arms race. We have to think about how to win it. Unfortunately, this is made more difficult by the approach we've taken to space systems since the dawn of the space age, five decades ago this coming October 4th.

Because of the legacy that arose, in our rush to conquer space, by building our first launch vehicles from expendable ballistic missiles, launch costs remain high. This in turn, results in expensive satellites, because they have to be simultaneously very lightweight and extremely reliable. Many of the most critical satellites are multi-billion-dollar "battlestar galacticas" that take years to build and launch (and unfortunately, many of these are low-earth-orbit satellites.) They are the carrier battle groups of the space-related military services. If they're taken out, it would take years and billions of dollars to replace their capability, and even if the money were an affordable luxury in wartime, the replacement time is not.

Short of hoping that an anti-ASAT treaty would actually be effective (and, as the old military dictum says, hope is neither a strategy nor a tactic), there are really only two actual countermeasures, neither of which would necessarily violate an anti-ASAT treaty even if we signed on to it. One is defending the satellites against attack (though one imagines that the usual suspects would claim that such defenses were "provocative"). The other is being able to reconstitute the lost capability affordably and quickly.

In the future, we should expect to see some combination of the two. New satellites will have to have more maneuvering capability to avoid such attacks, if not actual active defenses against them (e.g., chaff or decoys), and we'll have to use some of the same systems being developed to protect us from missile attacks on ground and sea targets to defend our space assets as well. But such defenses won't be perfect, and we'll have to come up with ways of rapidly launching new satellites in the event of their loss, which will mean radical changes to both our launch and satellite design philosophies.

Over the years, there have been many attempts to change from the current model of large, expensive satellites on large expensive and unresponsive expendable launch systems, but it's deeply entrenched within the National Reconnaissance Office and much of the traditional Air Force. And there is always a lot of resistance to potential institutional change whenever it rears its head.

The most recent incarnation of this is a program proposed a few years ago, called Operationally Responsive Spacelift (ORS). The idea was to develop newer, smaller launch systems that were affordable to operate and, unlike current Air Force launchers (including the Enhanced Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELVs) into which the service and its contractors sunk billions in the nineties) could launch almost on demand and command, within a day or two, rather than sitting on fixed and expensive launch pads in preparation for a launch, often for months. One of the potential ideas was that a stockpile of replacement satellites would be warehoused and ready to be rapidly integrated into one of the responsive vehicles in the event of a capability loss during wartime or crisis. Ironically, just having such a capability could help act as a stronger deterrent to anti-satellite operations than treaties, since the potential costs could be high in terms of retaliation, and the benefits greatly lowered by reducing the value of the replaceable targets.

Unfortunately, anything as radically new as this philosophy has a chicken-and-egg problem. Such launch systems need new, responsive, low-cost payloads to justify their development, and no one will approve the construction of payloads in the absence of an assured capability to deliver them. The other problem is that, even if the launch systems were available, there are some missions for which, due to basic physics, it's difficult to build small and cheap satellites (a notable one is reconnaissance missions that currently require large optics to get adequate resolution on the ground, though there may be ways of getting around this with arrays of smaller satellites). For these reasons, and others, resistance to any change to business-as-usual remains intense. For instance, a key part of ORS, the FALCON program, has encountered substantial entrenched resistance within the defense establishment, with attempts by opponents to terminate funding.

Very recently, however, there have been signs that the pro-ORS forces have been regaining ground. Was this change of heart in any way a result of the event of January 11th? It's not clear, but it's not inconceivable that it was at least a factor. If so, and it results in ORS program success and new ways of doing military space business, the Chinese may have blown up a lot more than an antique weather satellite. They may have also have unwittingly helped destroy an old military space age, half a century old and long in the tooth, and usher in a new one.

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26 Comments

the chinese action is a useful wake up call
Intellectually we knew that they were beyond building 1920's type alarm clocks and toys; but as always it's hard to see formerly backward folks as real competitors in technical things.

So it's useful to us that they rang our alarm bells, and it's useful that the article enumerates the possibilities.

But to pick one overreaction in the article - If the mainland Chinese really want to conquer Taiwan they will do it fairly quickly by intimidate regardless of what we are likely to be willing to do unless the Taiwanese are willing to hunker down, shut down their civilian economy, draft and train their entire young male population, resolve on total war and accept being bombed back into a preindustrial state. One thing the Chinese won't be able to do is invade Taiwan, assuming Taiwanese have any resolution to resist, without building an enormous number of landing craft which will make their preparations child's play to spot.

On the other hand, if we're serious about protecting our space capabilities as a matter of national survival we still have several thousand independently targettable nuclear warheads which can presuably cut down on Chinese capabilities.

And, we should certainly fire the generals responsible if we don't have dormant satellites and covert satellites capable of taking up the really crucial functions in the event of a surprise attack.

Do you suppose it was built by Lockheed Martin?
This event is a giant plum, dropped into the hands of the contractors making billions in space-based weaponry research. The shoot-down couldn't have been more dramatically unfurled, or strategically useful, had it been orchestrated by Lockheed Martin, working in concert with Great Wall Industries.

Someone stands to make serious money, now that the race has been engaged, in another generation's worth of growth-sapping expenditures on space toys. We almost had the opportunity to provide quality education and health care to America's 300 million people. Instead, thanks to a program to relentlessly keep the weaponization of space an active threat to the rest of the world, we'll spend all our money on nukes in the sky.

Anyone could have seen this coming during Bush's first term in office, when he scuttled any hope of the world's nations signing a treaty banning space based weapons. Many of us wondered what he was up to, but there's simply no money in peace. It would all dribble away in benefits to the taxpayers if there was no grave threat to point toward.

Thanks a lot, China, for buying into their game.

Space Race a long time coming
The US space community has been arguing for decades that they can replace the U-2, SR-71, AWACS, and Joint STARS aircraft.

The Chinese have shown that when the shooting starts you can't depend on satellites.

Always our fault
Geesh man, get a grip. So China launches a space weapon and we are to blame. If you hate the US so bad then leave? As to quality education and health care I had a quality education and we have the best health care in the world so what are you complaining about? Oh, I suppose that you expect this for free? Well if we nationalize all this then we get what, Canada? Right, no thanks. As to the missile, it was Litton that sold guidance technology to the Chinese with Clinton's blessing, not Bush. China is working towards being a first rate military power. I don't think this is our fault either. it is called power and politics. Don't fret. The Democraps are already looking to raise taxes and redistribute wealth to punish the successful and buy the votes of the masses. No money in peace. Yeah, well they said Reagan was wrong to deploy missiles in Europe and it worked didn't it?

Could be a Red herring
Depending on the state of and prospects for China's laser research, a more flexible and efficient threat may in the works.

Watch closely and see how it's done
You make the error of thinking Reagan's saber rattling was solely responsible for the fall of Communism. Communism fell from its own internal contradictions. We only precipitated that fall because they went bankrupt from trying to keep up in the arms race.

Now, if it has escaped your notice, we have precipitated another arms race. There is no good reason and every bad reason to put nukes up in space. And the amount of our expenditures in the military arena is almost exactly equal to the amount of federal money we spend that we don't have. So we ourselves are going the same route the Soviet Union went, from our uncontrollable arms spending.

It takes two to make a race. We announced ourselves in a contest with Bush's decision to flout the calls for a comprehensive ban on weapons in space. But the program was bound to falter once he left office unless some brave adversary signed up to join us in the race. And now we have China in that role.

None of this promotes anyone's security in the least. And your quality education has apparently not prepared you to puzzle that out.

We could have bought peace and prosperity for everyone had we not spent all those trillions on weapons of destruction. And look at all the friends it has bought us in Iraq.

Re Litton, of course we give missile technology to China. How could we have an arms race if we didn't give them a leg up? Do you not yet understand what's going on?

You could read this little tidbit about Magnequench, about outsourcing missile technology:

http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair04072006.html

What we need more than anything is a credible adversary. Otherwise selling the need for a super space weapons program to the American people becomes an impossible sell.

China and its military
In truth, America is financing its most tremendous military threat of all times with its floating dollar, with the likes of Wal Mart and all the monsters like it the errand boys so to speak, to accomplish such including Christmas time especially, when most of the gadgets Americans give to each other are made in Communist China! Yes, all previous Empires have built their own gallows and America, more and more seems to be no exception, or so it seems to me.

Conspiracies
Nobody, and I mean nobody is advocating Nukes in space. The EMP alone would destroy not only our systems but everyones as well as many ground based systems. The typical anti-sattelite weapon is a kinetic energy device meaning it simply collides with the satellite. It is weak to suggest that we simply sit around and take no measure of defensive and offensive technology. The Chinese doctrine has openly advocated attacking our assets. The Chinese are on the rise militarily and nothing we do shall stop it including total disarmament. They have aggresively persued this since the first Gulf War due to our total reliance on GPS and imagery from space. If I were them I would do the same. Do you really think that if we did nothing they would to? As to the expenditures on arms, well that is a human fault, not a US fault since time began. Perhaps the rest of the world needs to try also? In fact, we spend about 4.5% of GDP which is pretty low when compared to places like Iran, which the left sees as no threat. Odd how Iran can threaten Israel with nuclear annialation, a overt act of war, and the world does nothing. Can you imagine the howls if we threatened Iran with the same. In fact, if I was in charge I would quietly tell Iran that if they deploy and use a nuclear weapon we will nuke them. This is not some sort of encounter group. It is survival in a world goverened by the use of force, right or wrong.

Leave poor USSR alone?
"Communism fell from its own internal contradictions. We only precipitated that fall because they went bankrupt from trying to keep up in the arms race."


So you you believe if the USA ingnored the USSR in the '40s,'50s,'60s,'70 and '80s , and not built nuclear weapons or balistic missiles or B-52 bombers or Trident submarines, the USSR would have collapses all by itself and not conquered any other countries?

conspiracies
you wrote of roy: "Do you really think that if we did nothing they would to?"

roy openly made that claim on many occassions. Be it the Russians, the Chinese, the Islamists? Roy is one of those people who truely believes that the only reason anyone on the planet misbehaves, is because the US forced them to.

Ghengis Khan
I'm willing to bet that roy would say that the reason Ghengis Khan had such an attitude was that he knew the US would be created in a few hundred years, so he had to kill all the Europeans to prevent that from happening.

No Mention in Mainland Media
The Chinese don't want their own people to know of their accomplishment.

Although I favor free trade, it is about time the United States decides whether or not it sees China as a threat, because a conflict over Taiwan or some other issue will result in trade sanctions, and Americans will lose everything they have invested in China should there be direct conflict.

Along those lines, I wonder if we won't see more businesses investing outside of China, to hedge their risk.

Recognize hype when you see it
"Nobody, and I mean nobody is advocating Nukes in space."

To be very, very precise, we are not advocating them. We are actively developing them. After scuttling all talks aimed toward developing a comprehensive ban against weaponising space. The entire program is so devoid of any strategic sense that it is apparent it has just been pushed through by defense lobbyists. There are huge sums of money involved.

And yes, the Pentagon is also actively hardening everything they have against EMP-- which they consider to be one of their greatest real-- as opposed to imaginary-- threats.

As for your theory... if we did not weaponise space, what exactly would China do up there? They would have no American weapons to shoot down. They would just have to content themselves with taking occasional pot shots at old satellites, for target practise.

Would they shoot down one of our GPS satellites, just to be mean? Hardly. That sort of thing would be bad for business-- and they do a LOT of business with us.

This arms race thing is all in fun, as it benefits the weapons industries of both nations. You don't think they have a military industrial complex too?

You really have to kind of think things through. Now that we have two players, we have an arms race. Before that, we just had arms-- and no place to use them. This is a fake rivalry, like you see in boxing. Or Rosie vs the Donald. It sells tickets.

Genghis Khan's motivation
Not at all. Genghis had historians at his court. So we know exactly what he was thinking.

He was offended at the agrarian civilizations, for building cities and plowing fields. He accused them of taking knives to the breast of their Great Mother, the earth. So he set himself to right those wrongs, and put all the world back into pasture. He liked it natural.

His capital city was made of tents.

Not even close
The issue took place at Yalta, where it was decided that postwar Europe would be divided up between and Anglophone zone of influence and a Russian zone of influence.

As a courtesy to Joe Stalin, well over a million Soviet prisoners were returned, to face certain death at the firing squad or in the frozen hell of the Siberian camps. Let's not get too high and mighty about the good guys and bad guys in this ugly chapter.

I'm actually pretty right wing on this point. We left Europe with only half the job done. But no one had the stomach for more war. In May of 1945 we were all tired, and the world was a mess. Besides, Americans could not have thought of themselves as being treacherous-- which would have been the case had we gone on to topple our good buddy Joe Stalin.

So instead we militarized a line running across Germany. For the kinds of people we had running the show it was easier than resorting to diplomacy to settle the facts on the ground.

It would have gone much better had George Kennan been in charge of our foreign affairs.

Once
You once called me insane. So if I understand you this is all one giant conspiracy to sell arms?

So you believe resisting USSR helped their collapse?
You implied otherwise earlier.

He sounds just like roy
amazing

resistance is futile
roy's arguments are almost as flexible as eric's.

At least roy has never contradicted himself in the same thread.

How things work
So it's just some conspiracy theory? I think it's a sign of excessive gullibility if someone assumes only the highest of motives in an environment where billions of dollars change hands in the context of manipulating people's fears.

Look at Katrina. Could there be a finer example of vast sums being expended, with no demonstrable benefit? Wake up and smell the coffee. High government appointments always have a tendency to become subject to the entrenchment of crooks. Read Catch-22, which gives an excellent example of how this kind of thing really took off in WWII.

To you it apparently does not constitute evidence that these high Defense Dept officials all go through the revolving door, from government service to lobbying or corporate positions in the defense industries. I think you swallow the hype, that they are only too glad to be of some small service to their countries-- and that emoluments in the billions of dollars are just a fair recompense for their efforts in selling us wars and the tools of destruction.

It's not a conspiracy, it's just the way the business of defense gets done. They need the occasional war to keep the troops in fighting trim. And troops need equipment.

That "insane" thing still rankles, does it? I had forgotten. Please go forth absolved-- you are hereby adjudged to be in your right mind, but still (I think) a little too credulous to be able to clearly see the obvious.

They admitted as much
Sure. High officials within the Politburo and Soviet defense apparatus admitted that they couldn't keep up in the spending contest. So they folded. But they also admitted that the Soviet Union had not constituted any kind of offensive threat to America, or to Western Europe, for many years. The nature of their buildup was defensive in nature.

So I'm sure it will pose no problem of inconsistency to you if you choose to believe them on the one point, while choosing to disbelieve them on the other point.

also admitted that the Soviet Union had not constituted any kind of offensive threat
USSR was pretty active in Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba and Afghanistan.

Sure, no threat. All defensive.

Peace in our time?
All we have to do for peace is lay down our weapons and the other side will too?

If Israel disarmed, the Arabs would leave them alone?

If the Arabs disarmed, (they practically are anyway), Israel would leave them alone? Has Israel tried to invade Jordan lately?

A Smart Move by the Chinese
I suspect that Rand is right and that this means that the Chinese have decided to stress the US at a time when our international stature is somewhat diminished and our military budgets are stretched. Please note that this strategy worked great for the US when it applied it to the USSR in the 80's. (Not that I expect the US to collapse over this, but the Chinese can certainly wring out some concessions that would otherwise be impossible.)

I'm much more concerned that the ASAT genie seems to be muscling its way out of the bottle finally, the same way that non-proliferation is breaking down. We can take steps to counter a primitive ASAT capability. But this is ultimately an area where the intrinsic advantage goes to the attackers. ASATs are cheaper and lighter than the things they attack. Ultimately, all you need is enough delta-v and a really good control system and you can overwhelm any orbital constellation and its backup launchers.

Even worse, beam weapons are going to come online pretty soon. The Chinese flashed an American reconaissance sat with a laser a few months ago. The US airborne laser system seems to be coming along pretty well. And there was a blurb in AW&ST (I can't find the link now--sorry) about the US putting together 10 GW pulsed microwave systems that can be used either for non-kinetic kill or for stealth-defeating radar out to a couple of hundred miles.

While a lot of these are US technologies for now, they won't be forever. Imagine what would happen to the US ability to project power if we were suddenly to lose recon, GPS, and stealth capability all at the same time. No air superiority, no precision bombing, no recon-supported C-cubed. The playing field would be a lot more level than the US is used to.

A Link for the ABL system mentioned above.
Oops--didn't realize that TCS is eating HTML anchors (especially since it doesn't do so in preview mode).

Info on the US airborne laser system can be found at:
http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/abl.htm

China Needs Our Investments, Too
Remember that China becomes as captive to US investments and markets as the US is to theirs. Yes, we are horribly vulnerable to China using our cash flow to fund the means of our own destruction. But the loss of our business would completely destroy their economy. This means that Taiwan may get intimidated into submission, but the prospects for a shooting war are quite low--at least until huge chunks of Chinese GDP aren't bound up with US trade.

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