Connect with us


BOOK REVIEW | 'When China Attacks: A Warning to America' by Grant Newsham

Newsham's provocative thesis spells out the dangers of America's unwillingness to confront China and offers reasons and opportunity to change course. Will it?




Retired US Marine officer Grant Newsham's new book, When China Attacks: A Warning to America (Regnery Publishing, March 2023) opens with a grim picture of what a war over Taiwan would look like — and how it would remake international politics. 

A few years from now, in his scenario, the United States, due to her gross underestimation of the Chinese capability to execute the invasion, is taken aback by a Chinese surprise attack on Taiwan. Then, China's friends start making noises, augmenting the Taiwan contingency into a global conflict. 

North Korea launches conventional weapons into Seoul and attempts to launch some additional ones on Tokyo. Russia, grateful for China's support during the Ukraine war, and Iran, causing their own problems — and maybe Cuba and Venezuela too — pile crisis upon crisis onto the US's plate, scattering its focus away from Taiwan.

In order to remedy the situation, the US turns to its allies for help. Nevertheless, spooked by the destructive success of China's attack, America's once-thought-reliable allies, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines, all kiss the ring, acknowledging the fait accompli of the Chinese occupation of Taiwan. 

For China, it's "mission accomplished."

Xi Jinping china
China's President Xi Jinping, who just received a third term in office, speaks during the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 13, 2023. (©NOEL CELIS/Pool via REUTERS)

The Scenario Doesn't Stop at Taiwan

However, in Newsham's disturbing scenario, China's ambitions do not end in Taiwan. 

After invading Taiwan, they then claim sovereignty and install military bases on a cluster of islands located in the middle of the first and second island chains claimed by China, of which the Ryukyu Islands of Japan are part. 

The demands continue beyond half of the Pacific Ocean, which Xi Jinping once alluded to in 2014. The entirety of it cripples US influence in the Asia-Pacific, and dismantles America on the international stage.


As indicated by Newsham, the utter incompetence of the United States' ability to deter Chinese aggression and its fallout could be attributed to a lack of determination. It also acknowledges how deeply Chinese influence has infiltrated societies across the world. 

Chinese influence has especially targeted elite institutions within the US where a revolving door has been created between high-ranking government posts and experts backed by lucrative Chinese business interests. Also, educational institutions continue to be heavily reliant on Chinese students and money. 

During the past several years — especially during the COVID-19 pandemic — Western media had demonstrated an affinity towards China. Many applauded Beijing's draconian lockdown policies and took China's story that the virus didn't spill over from the Wuhan Lab at face value. (Notably, the latter theory has been gaining renewed scientific attention in recent days.) 

Consequently, Newsham points out, the American elite's dependence on China creates an environment where policymakers can't outwardly criticize China, hindering preparation to mobilize adequate resources to prepare for war against China. This explains why Newsham's reenactment of a war over Taiwan may well become a reality.

A soldier looks through binoculars during a Chinese People's Liberation Army exercise in the waters surrounding Taiwan on August 5, 2022 (© Xinhua via Kyodo).

The Hollowing of America

The author points out that the American failure to confront China has come at a cost, even of American lives. According to Newsham, although acknowledged in private by the Department of State, the failure to publicly warn China of the safety standards of the Wuhan Lab may have led to the global pandemic. Public websites tell us that same pandemic has killed over one million Americans, and nearly six million more abroad

Moreover, in spite of fentanyl taking the lives of Americans each day in numbers on par with the worst days of the Vietnam War, media organizations don't dare mention the source of it. It is produced in China and smuggled through the southern borders of the United States. 

Another vulnerability, Newsham points out, lies in US companies' greed for profit and pursuit of efficiency. These have led companies to outsource millions of jobs to China, hollowing out local communities. More importantly, it has deprived the US of its capability to manufacture critical materials such as pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, outsourcing them instead to China, too.

China's Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe arrives with his entourage at the 19th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's annual defense and security forum, in Singapore, Sunday, June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

Paving the Way for China's Global Influence

The US's failure to not only prevent China's malign influence from her domestic society but also to act as a bulwark against it abroad has also had consequences in Newsham's scenario. It has paved the way for strengthening China's global influence. 

In recent years China's presence in international organizations has been enhanced. And the fact that along with China, most of the UN member states declined to outright criticize Russia initially when it embarked on its invasion of Ukraine is worrisome. The same dynamics may repeat themselves if China makes up her mind and invades Taiwan. 

At face value the book is about sending a dire warning to the United States that it is utterly unprepared to ever fight a war with China to defend Taiwan. However, just as much it is meant to be a criticism of democracy, which is vulnerable to authoritarian regimes that use every possible means to exploit others' weaknesses. 


Unfortunately, people in democracies have never been adept at dealing with the encroachment of authoritarian regimes. 

China National Security Strategy
China televises the firing of ballistic missiles into "training" areas around Taiwan and in Japan's EEZ. August 4, 2022. Photo from Weibo.

John Kennedy's Thesis

The same was true about a century ago. In 1940, John F Kennedy, the future president of the United States, wrote a thesis in his senior year at Harvard University. Later published as a book, Why England Slept (Dolphin Books, 1962), was intended to explain why Great Britain failed to deter the menace of Nazi Germany. Instead, it embraced the notorious appeasement policy wholeheartedly. 

His book also criticized democracy's embedded weaknesses, which Kennedy argued for straightforwardly in the closing chapters in order to explain why Britain "slept." Kennedy wrote: "For the long run, then, democracy is superior. But for the short run, democracy has great weaknesses. When it competes with a system of government which cares nothing for permanency, a system built primarily for war, democracy, which is built primarily for peace, is at a disadvantage."

Taiwan China
In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, center, and Taiwanese officials pose for photos with a U.S. delegation led by California Rep. Ro Khanna. (February 21, 2023, Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Democracy's Need for Resolve

It is easy to put all the blame on the Chinese influence campaign domestically and internationally. That is one way to explain why the US is destined to fail in defending Taiwan ー unless it shows resolve to avoid such an outcome. 

Newsham's work underscores that democracy's apparent strengths and virtues have inverse effects. The openness of the market allows Chinese money to influence and hold hostage some of the most critical technology and materials for our security. This makes it difficult to even simply criticize China. 

There has been a relative prevalence of peace, and a lack of pending threats demanding that democracies stand up — as was the case against the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany in the last century. Such an environment makes democracies reluctant to prepare for war, "until she knew war was imminent," as young Kennedy described.

Whether you agree with Newsham's thesis or not, this is a book that should be read to understand today's geopolitical environment. If a US attempt to save democratic Taiwan ends miserably, Newsham's book will be the source that historians and people who want to learn the cause of the debacle will refer to. 

Furthermore, if such a failure comes to pass, people who read this book will know that the US was warned but lacked the willpower to confront China. Once more, they will understand how the inherent weakness of democracy contributed to America's own demise.

Book cover (Regnery Publishing)

About the Book

Title: When China Attacks: A Warning to America

Author: Grant Newsham

Publisher: Regnery Publishing (March 2023)


ISBN-13: 978-1684513659

Editions: Available in print ($26.99) or ebook (14.99)

For additional information: Information about the book and access to booksellers are readily available through the publisher's website


Author: Jio Kamata

Our Partners