There has been speculation that a U.S. war with China could occur as things heat up around the world from a political standpoint. Nothing is for sure, but relations could be better. Some experts believe this is a great time for China to strike, in this case, invade Taiwan, while the war in Europe demands American attention. What is for sure, however, is that a conflict between the United States and the People’s Republic of China spells out several scenarios, but none of them are good.
Suggested read: How Many Nukes Does China Have and How Did We Get Here?
Will U.S. Go to War With China?
There are different thoughts on whether or not the United States and China will engage. But a U.S. war with China is on the table for many reasons:
- This could be the opportunity China has been waiting for. The U.S. has lots to watch in Europe, and this could be a time to strike.
- The 100-year anniversary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China will occur in 2049, and invading Taiwan could take several years to a decade or more to complete.
Geopolitical factors that point to a sooner-rather-than-later approach by China are only outnumbered by the different ways the war would go. From a smaller fight using more traditional means to all-out nuclear war, China at war with U.S. is an unfavorable situation for all.
The Possibilities Are Endless
There’s a fine line between responsible speculation and fear-mongering. The outcome of any such conflict between the United States and China could have far-reaching, destructive consequences in any number of ways with a variety of outcomes.
Nevertheless, if we approach the subject with facts, realism, and good old-fashioned common sense, it’s a bit easier to paint a picture of what could happen in the aftermath of a U.S. war with China. Let’s explore the unfavorable scenarios together, shall we?
The Elephant in the Room: Nuclear Weapons
Both nations are capable of using nuclear weapons. The worst-case scenario of such warfare is ultimately the end of humanity or at least humanity as we know it, along with several other mass extinction events.
But nuclear weapons are similar to the scenarios of such a war; there are many different options and outcomes. ICBMs are on the table, but China also has low-yield tactical nuclear weapons which could unleash plenty of destructive power throughout Asia and the Pacific.
Overall, China’s nuclear arsenal is nowhere near what the U.S. is capable of, and there are still many incentives for everyone to keep this card within one’s hand rather than playing it during a conflict.
An Economic Disaster
As a global economy, a U.S. war with China would be a disaster for many different regions and industries. The economic chaos of a Taiwan War would go well past semiconductors, and the fact that the conflict would involve the two largest economies in the world is only the beginning.
Trade wars, blockades, and embargos are just the start. You’ll have other nations that will join in such activities, and there are also repercussions like delistings on stock exchanges and more. All of this could occur at a time when the world economy is reeling following a pandemic and an ongoing European conflict.
Using sanctions against China is a tactic that will become a necessity, but it’s impossible to negate the relationship we have with the country’s manufacturing sector. “Made In China” is borderline more of a brand than it is a designation.
Ongoing cyberwarfare, propaganda built to destroy each other’s economic fronts, and a political minefield in the energy sector are just a few of the prospects on the horizon.
Worldwide Repercussions and Proxy Wars
One of the better scenarios should China invade Taiwan will involve America getting involved in a proxy war. There’s no doubt that many other political ramifications will come from such events, but there are also opportunities for the U.S. to support Taiwan without doing so directly.
The region has been in a balancing act for decades, and the U.S. has been very open that it supports Democracy in the area yet doesn’t go too far with its rhetoric or support to maintain good relations with China. Known as the One China policy, America supports that there is only one China, despite its obvious preference for a democratic Taiwan.
You’ll also have to take into consideration other nations in Asia. Japan’s reaction to the war could further complicate things, even with support for the U.S. as our ally. Additionally, North Korea and America are not nearly on as good of terms as the reclusive state is with China.
War is always a breeding ground for increasing tensions, and this would be no different. Such tactics, even if not directly deadly outside of the combatants in harm’s way, present the opportunity for economic hardships, severed political ties, and much more.
A Severe Environmental Impact
The South China Sea and other areas in the general direction of Asia-Pacific are at risk of severe environmental impact, as any place would be during a war. Defenses should keep China at bay from the U.S. mainland, but nuclear weapons, radiation, and other, less substantial attacks have the potential to disrupt habitats both near and far.
European Conflicts Aren’t Helping
China-Taiwan relations and the role America plays in them continue to be a focal point in the U.S. military. Yet, it’s undeniable that NATO’s hands are full enough since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The Taiwan-Ukraine connection is clear even if it isn’t yet very detailed. What this means is that while the U.S. doesn’t know what China is learning from how America is handling the war in Europe, we do know that it is learning something.
Such information would be critical in not only deciding whether or not to go to war but also how to fight in it. If China preparing for war with U.S. wasn’t an obvious thing before, it should be by now. Demonstrations and rhetoric have ticked up as tensions have risen.
Nevertheless, it would be irresponsible to say that anything is definite. While we know that China wants to unify the two nations, when and if it does so for sure is still a guessing game. All indicators point to a realistic possibility of some sort of conflict. A conflict that may be bolstered due to the fact that we have other priorities at the moment.
Would the U.S. Win a War With China?
Considering the strength of both sides and the ramifications that would ensue, it’s unclear whether anyone would be a true winner in such a conflict. Specifically, if things go to the absolute extreme of things.
Preventing a U.S. war with China is still the best-case scenario for everyone. Both those directly participating in the conflict and bystanders. World War III could be on the horizon. But for now, it’s great to know that the greatest military in the world continues to keep such threats at bay and de-escalate such volatile situations.