The psychology behind Chinese nuclear threats

Sky News Australia:

CCP sanctioned video threatens China will nuke Japan in a ‘full-scale war’

60 Minutes Australia:

Prepare for Armageddon: China’s warning to the world | 60 Minutes Australia

Even if China is just bluffing it takes a very special mindset to bluff about being willing to start a nuclear war. It’s more likely however that China is only warning about a realistic worst-case scenario if or when a Taiwan War spins out of control. China is nevertheless showing that they are willing to take this nuclear risk, and that in itself sure takes a MAD mindset, a bit similar to how Kennedy had a MAD attitude when risking WW3 over an island not that far away from Florida in 1962. But there are no nukes in Taiwan, so why is China deciding to invade Taiwan, if necessary, despite knowing it can potentially escalate to a nuclear war?

The following should not be interpreted as me trying to psychologically diagnose CCP leaders from a distance. It’s just a speculation about how upper echelon leaders in general may react when being subjected to chronic stress for almost a decade.

Anyone living in an AI panopticon will feel insecure. That is true in the Brave New World of the West today, and it also applies to common people and leaders living in China’s 1984. Being under surveillance increases your level of cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones/neurotransmitters are factors which cloud the mind, especially in a country where you can be ostracized, lose your job or even go to jail if competitors or enemies decide to snitch on you or fabricate evidence against you, a risk which is now real in the West too, as seen here and here.

Politburo members in China have created an AI bot surveillance system and selected a leader that basically has the power to execute any subordinate accused of serious corruption. Politburo members today have reason to be as chronically worried as senators in the Roman Empire during the reign of fearsome emperors. Xi is no Caligula, but if he gets a minor stroke twisting his mind or a new terrible leader of the CCP in the future decides to create a Cultural Revolution 3.0 it can quickly lead to a situation where the AI revolution devours its own children.

Politburo members have basically imprisoned themselves in a luxury jail of AI surveillance, and they know it. They also know that Big Tech in America is building a very effective panopticon – the Starlink Metaverse – that may conquer China in the 2030s or 2040s.

Human beings who feel imprisoned want to break out. Not saying that some Politburo members have necessarily a conscious intention to destroy the 1984 panopticon in China. Simply arguing that it will be very human in their stressful position to have a somewhat clouded mind, to have succumbed to “group think” and not really care that much if a global war destroys the panopticon that has imprisoned them, in particular if an intercontinental war also destroys the Brave New World panopticon designed by US Big Tech. It’s kind of a win-win situation: in a war they will either get Taiwan or have a good chance to be liberated from the new AI surveillance regime.

So, if an invasion of Taiwan begins will a Politburo member or a PLA general be motivated to give Xi advice that prevents the use of hypersonic missiles against Hawaii or LA for example?

NATO and AUKUS should take the mindset of Chinese leaders into account when assessing whether nuclear threats are serious or not. Don’t simply assume that your enemy will act rationally in accordance with his/her self-interest. The Guns of August:

“Up to the moment of invasion [in 1914] many still believed that self-interest would divert the German armies around Belgium’s borders. Why should they deliberately bring two more enemies into the field against them? As no one supposed the Germans to be stupid, the answer that suggested itself to the French mind was that the German ultimatum to Belgium was a trick.”

Politicians are not the rational men you find in outdated economic theories, cf Daniel Kahneman and Keith Stanovich. The Independent:

Trump’s final defence chief says he acted like ‘f****** madman’ to persuade president not to strike Iran

China has 1.4 billion people. Some Politburo members will therefore perhaps reason like Mao allegedly did. UPI:

Mao’s theory on atomic bomb: They can’t kill us all

Nukes can destroy Starlink. People rebuilt Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear winter is maybe to some degree a myth. Nature in 2011:

Nuclear winter was and is debatable

To see arguments in favor of why nuclear winter is not a myth check out scientific papers written by meteorologist Alan Robock at Rutgers:

Publications by Alan Robock on Nuclear Winter

Robock presents evidence supporting the nuclear winter hypothesis, but he also says that WW3 is probably not the end of humanity. Future of Life Institute:

Transcript: Nuclear Winter Podcast with Alan Robock and Brian Toon

“Carl [Sagan] used to talk about extinction of the human species, but I think that was an exaggeration. It’s hard to think of a scenario that would produce that. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s a nuclear free zone, so there wouldn’t be any bombs dropped there presumably. If you lived in New Zealand and there wasn’t that much temperature change because you’re surrounded by an ocean, there’s lots of fish and dead sheep around, then you probably would survive. But you wouldn’t have any modern medicine… you’d be back to caveman days. You wouldn’t have any civilization, so it’s a horrible thing to contemplate, but we probably couldn’t make ourselves extinct that way.”

NZ safe from nuclear fallout? coughAUKUScough

Anyway, how about a digression: when Toby Ord in The Precipice warns about extinction events he includes a situation where some human beings survive but living conditions are so bad that no civilization is ever possible again. He says it’s a 16.66 % chance that such an extinction event will happen the next hundred years. That is like playing Russian roulette, giving human civilization a 83.34 % chance to avoid global disaster or recover from it. Some Politburo members in China are perhaps willing to play Russian roulette when things escalate during a Taiwan War.

Politburo members are not the only ones in the 2020s who experience stress and information overload that naturally cloud their minds. Washington is freaking out, as seen after the Capitol riot when they deployed 25,000 soldiers to guard Washington. In these unprecedented times it’s possible that a conservative microbiologist observes 1) the Starlink Metaverse, and 2) a woke libertine mainstream culture with no room for conservatism in the near future. He may then decide to release a synthetic virus at least as dangerous as Sars-CoV-2.

Old men in Western intelligence agencies who are disgusted by the global power of woke Big Tech will perhaps not do enough to stop a cataclysmic event that will (partly) destroy the fourth industrial revolution. The future is uncertain when even Niall Ferguson, the historian loved by the Davos elite, now says that the Metaverse is dystopian. GEOPOP:

Distopia [sic] has Arrived | Niall Ferguson on Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse

But I’m just an armchair strategist engaging in red teaming and risk assessments. So don’t interpret any of my writings as me trying to predict a chaotic future. If we are lucky it all will be fine.

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