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Predictions 2024: In Need of Divine Intervention and Extra Resolve

With pivotal elections in Taiwan and the US and China's hegemonic promises, predictions are for turmoil that requires democracies to demonstrate firmer resolve.



Happy New Year to JAPAN Forward readers. We are pleased to bring you "Predictions 2024," a special New Year's series sharing the foresight and expectations of selected contributors for the coming year in their fields of specialty, continuing with author and regional security analyst Marine Colonel (Ret) Grant Newsham. 

Next in the Series

"Good Lord, get us through this…just this once…and I swear we'll be good. "

I like history and reading about wars, chaos, and tumultuous times. But it's better when it's happening to others, ideally centuries ago.

This will be a rough year.

Team Biden was "the adults" who were going to use "intensive diplomacy" to fix the mess Donald Trump supposedly made of America's foreign relations.

And now three years later the United States is dealing with two wars – in Ukraine and Gaza. Maybe 2.5 wars if you consider the Iranian proxies, the Houthis, shooting up the Red Sea while the US Navy tries to swat down their missiles. 


That's a lot of distraction.

Customers in Beijing dine near a giant screen broadcasting news footage of China's "Joint Sword" exercises around Taiwan. The exercises were conducted by the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA). April 10, 2023. (© REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)


Xi Jinping must be sorely tempted to make his move in East Asia. It's clearly on his mind, given he started the New Year by saying China and Taiwan will "surely be reunified" [aka China will take over Taiwan].

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been preparing for decades to take Taiwan. It is a capable military, knows the target, and has a fifth column on the island. 

Beijing will calibrate based on Taiwan's January 13, 2024, elections. If Taiwan's (widely considered more pro-Beijing) opposition wins or takes control of the legislature, Xi may hold off a bit to see what it will deliver. However, the Chinese Communists' objective remains overt and unchanged. 

Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden as much when they met in November 2023. Either help us get Taiwan "peacefully" or we'll get it another way. We're not waiting forever.

'China Hands' Biding Time

However, the  "China hands" are deflating the threat. It's the same old litany. "Xi wouldn't dare." "The PLA's not ready." Or, at worst, as claimed by a retired US Navy 4-star, whose Asia experience is rather thin, we have a 10-year "grace period" before China is ready or willing to move. 

Something is abnormal about this. As if they are buying time while setting up Taiwan for handover to the Chinese Communist Party. Sure, once it happens there'll be plenty of tutting, condemnation, and even "profound concern" (and a few "no one could have foreseen it"). But nothing much else.

Can't risk World War III, you know. And we just don't have the forces anyway.

Wall Street and the Quislings who gave Xi (of Uyghur concentration camps, human organ harvesting, and strangling Hong Kong) two standing ovations at dinner in San Francisco last November, will insist we restore the status quo. 


Or as Tony Blinken ( "Neville Chamberlain with an iPad") said after the Chinese spy balloon flew, unmolested by Team Biden, over the United States last year,  "That chapter should be closed."

And it's not just Taiwan.

A Chinese Coast Guard ship fires water cannons at a Philippine government ship near Ayungin Reef in the South China Sea on December 10, 2023. (Photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, via AP/Kyodo)


The Filipinos have stuck their necks out by publicly defending their maritime territory over the last year. The Chinese have warned them repeatedly and are about to hammer them. 

The Americans are talking a good game, but don't seem willing to do what would really help. That is, send the US Navy and Air Force to accompany Philippine boats trying to protect their country.

Manila saw something similar happen in 2012 when China took Scarborough Shoal. It's Philippine territory under international law – as the Permanent Court of Arbitration confirmed in 2016. 

In 2012, the Chinese bamboozled the head of the State Department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau. His name is still mud in the Philippines. 

He will soon be the Assistant Secretary of State (I'm not making this up). The Filipinos are worried that the Americans just might leave them hanging out to dry once again. 

They have reason to worry.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (in the center) intruded into territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa, and a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat was on guard following it. (©Nakama, Hitoshi City, Ishigaki, Okinawa)


Japan? There's still no sense of urgency and probably won't be in 2024. Japan is not ready to fight a war. The US squandered too many years expecting Tokyo to "figure things out" instead of speaking clearly about what Japan needed to do. 

Will Washington speak up in 2024? There's always a first time.


Regardless, the Chinese intend to teach the Japanese a lesson. And they have said they'll have ships near Japan's Senkaku Islands for 366 days in 2024. 

They are not backing down.

What Happens in Asia in 2024 Depends on What Happens in the US

Beijing will be watching Taiwan's elections. But even more, they'll be watching what happens in the United States of America.

If the US is chaotic and the Biden administration appears weak and unwilling or unable to respond to Chinese behavior, Xi will move. 

And he must like what he sees.

Who on Team Biden scares Beijing? Nobody. 

Who on Team Biden has made money from the PRC or Chinese interests? More than a few.

As for chaos in the US, America has an election coming. 

The US presidential candidates in 2024 are likely to be the same as in 2020. Joe Biden, left, and Donald Trump, right. (© Sankei)

This will be rough. American elections always are. 

But there's something different in the United States in recent times. One side reckons anyone who disagrees with them is evil and must be destroyed. Not out-argued. Destroyed. 

Many on this side reckon America is an evil country, and was from its founding. They aim to tear it down and start over building a utopia. The Khmer Rouge thought something similar.

The "dial-up" riots of the pre-election summer of 2020 will be coming back sometime in 2024. And you know the Feds won't stop them. 

Indeed, certain politicians, NGOs, and media will be egging them on or outright supporting them.

If the election outcome isn't what this side wants, well, expect the riots to continue along with "the resistance." 

Half the country will be furious, the other half still bent on domination, by any means necessary. 

This just might be 2024 in the United States.

Prepare for Turmoil

A country in this sort of turmoil will be unable to take on a powerful, nuclear-armed adversary that moves quickly and forcefully to grab territory far away from US borders. 


There'll be plenty of excuses for doing nothing – including "we provoked China" or the catch-call "It's Trump's fault."

Other lovely nations, including Russia, North Korea, Iran, and China's Latin American proxies, must be feeling good about things. They'll be looking to improve their positions in 2024 as well, either individually or collectively. 

The Free Nations that looked to the United States for protection, even if not always guidance, since 1945 are sweating. 

They got so used to looking to America that they can't defend themselves. 

I think you get the idea about 2024.

"Good Lord, if we promise to behave would you also get us through 2025 as well? "


Author: Grant Newsham
Grant Newsham is a retired US Marine officer and former US diplomat. He is the author of the book When China Attacks: A Warning To America. Find his articles on JAPAN Forward.


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