I got bad news and good news. Actually, its bad news, worse news, and really worse news. The good news? The bad news is all about bad guys, which is good news for us. Let’s start.
BAD NEWS: RUSSIA.
They started a war, are losing, and the costs are high, exacerbating already-existing negative trends. For its predatory pounce to grab what it thought was a weaker neighbor, Russia’s Ukraine War ignited crippling sanctions. Millions of young, productive Russians run abroad. Having lost an army, Putin is now trying to draft even more men to build yet another army.
Russia isn’t the Soviet Union. Putin doesn’t have the manufacturing capability to replace the tanks, equipment and smart munitions lost so far. He can’t equip the men he’s calling up. The prisoners “volunteered” out of the jails have been eaten up at Bakhmut buying time.
The Motherland isn’t being invaded, but doing the invading, so there’s no patriotic fury. Putin can force his nation to war, for now. But the outlook for Russia is bleak: economically crippled, demographically fading, it’s once-legendary military diminished, it’s neighbors now hostile, and its reputation blackened, Russia seems to have thrown away its future trying to recreate it’s past.
WORSE NEWS: IRAN.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is fighting for its life. Not the life of Iran, but the life of the Mullahs’ regime. These oppressive and corrupt tyrants have ruled Iran for 40 years, their soldiers and police have kept them in power. But 60% of Iran is under 30. All they know is an austere life under world sanctions and a militarized society under crooked clerics. They want it gone.
Current protests began in September, following the death of 22 year old Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by the omnipresent religious police for not wearing her head scarf. Beaten savagely, she died the next day. The nation erupted, and hasn’t been calm since. Protests rage, on again and off again, all over the nation.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has doubled down on force, but the demonstrations continue. There are signs of cracks in the regime on how to deal with this revolt. So far, the men with guns are loyal, but if the unrest spreads, you could see the Mullahs fall. Nobody would miss them.
REALLY WORSE NEWS: THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA.
Ah, yes. The PRC, the Big Kahuna, under President-for-Life Xi Jinping. Supposedly the Rising Star, suddenly the PRC is looking less like the striding new colossus than a stumbling, flailing, very dangerous giant.
Xi thought he’d be re-re-installed this year for an unprecedented 3rd term as leader, now for life. Then he’d seize and cement his historic status as greater than Mao by taking Taiwan and restoring China’s imperial primacy. He’s been poking his neighbors in the eye, grabbing loose real estate where he can, and throwing around China’s considerable weight. The problem? It’s a limited-time opportunity.
China is in a bit of a demographic crunch. Under the vile bloodthirsty tyrant Mao, China bought into the 1960s Population Bomb scare. So the Chinese Communist Party, the biggest mass murderers in history, decreed the “One Child Policy.” Every Chinese family could have one child. That’s it. One.
Chinese society and tradition favored sons. So: faced with one kid only, forever? Have a boy. Ultrasound show a girl? Abort. Deliver a girl baby? See she doesn’t live, and try again. For decades, China killed its girl babies. Now it’s got a surplus of guys and no women. Oops.
This meant China would have an expanding population for a while, but then the lack of women meant a lack of new babies. If you’re going to go to war, a good time is when you have a lot of young guys, and the expanding economy of an increasing population. That situation would last until…well, they thought some time in the 2030s. The window of opportunity is NOW.
Problem: shit happens. Especially shit you bring on yourself. The PRC has been poking its neighbors and buzzing Taiwan. Result? Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India (the other Big Kahuna) Taiwan, and the Philippines are loosely banding together. They don’t fear each other and they all fear China. So China’s bullyboy policies just aroused an alliance against it.
And Covid. Everyone knows the virus came from Wuhan, and the PRC lied to facilitate it’s spread around the globe. Theory: Xi figured the pandemic would cripple everyone but his locked-down China, and he’d emerge stronger with everyone else weaker. But oft evil will shall evil mar.
Everyone went through the Covid disruptions and emerged. Red China kept everyone locked down, failed to develop an effective vaccine, and its policy of indefinite isolation blew up into the beginning of a real revolt. China hurriedly dropped the quarantine and Covid is ravaging China.
Its economy was already stalling. Xi is “ReCommunizing” China, reasserting state controls on the economy. As a result, China’s once-vaunted economic miracle is slowing or even reversing. Central state control leads to waste and corruption. Foreign businesses are moving out, decoupling. Every day China doesn’t jump Taiwan is a victory, until the window of opportunity definitely closes.
Oops! More bad news for the PRC: China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced the country’s population fell in 2022 to 1.411 billion, down some 850,000 people from the previous year. First time since 1961. And that’s official figures—you can bet the real ones are worse. The Chinese demographic decline has begun. Will more disruptions like Covid buy more time, will Xi decide it’s now or never and unleash his dragons? Maybe that window of opportunity closed in 2019?
Russia, Iran, and the PRC facing bad news? Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch. Okay, North Korea, but that’s another story.