China’s Geography Problem

China’s Geography Problem

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to China is a country both blessed and cursed
by geography. On one hand its land has allowed the country
to grow to almost 1.4 billion people but on the other hand it really doesn’t have great
geographical protection. The beginning of what most people call Chinese
history often starts with the Yellow River Civilization and there’s a good reason why
this settlement grew into the most populous country in the world—the floodplain of the
Yellow River is some of the best agricultural land in the world. In fact, the entirety of eastern China is
perfectly suited for Agriculture. This was and still is crucial to the country’s
success. What’s more, this area is just warm and
wet enough that farmers can do what is know as double-cropping. Once the main crop of rice is cultivated in
June and July, another slightly less productive crop can be planted for October cultivation. This increases rice output by about 25% which
means China can make more food using the same amount of land. Europe mostly relies on wheat to feed its
population which only outputs 4 million calories of food per acre of farmland. Rice, on the other hand, grows 11 million
calories worth per acre. It’s easy to see why there are so many people
in China. But China does have its geographical challenges. To the south it borders three countries—Vietnam,
Laos, and Myanmar. The borders between these three countries
and China seem almost arbitrarily set because they sort of were. Vietnam’s was set after the Sino-French
War, Laos’ was set following its involvement in the Vietnam war, and Myanmar’s was set
following a small war with China in the 60s. None was naturally set by the environment;
all were chosen arbitrarily by humans at war. These countries are not insignificant—combined
they have nearly one million active military personnel while China, the much larger country,
has just over two million. Significant conflict with any of these countries
would not be a one-sided war. While China would have the technological advantage,
any of these three countries would have a significant home-field advantage. Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar are all jungle
countries—one of the most difficult environments for warfare. This was part of the reason why the Vietnam
war lasted so long. It’s just so hard to move troops in the
jungle so everything slows down. Without any geographical protection of its
borders it would be significantly easier for Vietnam, Laos, or Myanmar to invade China
than the reverse. But China does have an advantage elsewhere. China and India just aren’t good friends. They have border disputes, military conflicts,
political differences, so its just hard for them to get along and that is why Tibet is
so important. Tibet was historically its own empire; it
was only in the last 300 years that China took it over. Tibetan people are ethnically different from
the Han Chinese inhabiting China’s east. It just doesn’t make sense for Tibet to
be part of China… except militarily. Only 0.2% of China’s population lives in
Tibet which accounts nearly 13% of the country’s area. More people live in the inner four districts
of Beijing than the entirety of Tibet. It’s just incredibly desolate, but it serves
a purpose. If China didn’t rule Tibet, then India would. Maybe not formally, but there’s little chance
that an independent Tibet would not be economically and culturally dominated by either India or
China. It just doesn’t have enough power economically
or militarily to resist, but in China’s view, it could not and cannot allow for an
Indian Tibet. Indian rule of Tibet would mean that there
would be no geographical protection between the populated area of China and India because
Tibet is that geographical protection. Not only does Tibet extend China’s border
to the Himalayas, it’s also an unpopulated area without the transportation infrastructure
needed for an invading India to advance a large number of troops towards eastern China. But that also means that there’s not the
transportation infrastructure necessary for China to advance towards India, but China
is trying to change that. They recently opened the worlds highest railroad
to Tibet, they’re building highways constantly, and they also opened a large airport in Nyingchi
just miles away from the border. In the near term the goal of these projects
is to further integrate Tibet into China. The government has all but failed at winning
over the native Tibetan population, but they can change who lives in Tibet. Hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese have
moved into Tibet and many more visit each year. The government knows that Tibet’s usefulness
is diminished if when a foreign military shows up the population thinks that means liberation
rather than invasion. But there’s another reason why China needs
Tibet—water. That whole eastern zone of agricultural productivity
exists because of all the water from Tibet. The Yellow and Yangtze Rivers—China’s
two longest rivers—both get their water from Tibet and foreign control of the water
supply of the country would, in the governments mind, strike a catastrophic blow to the country’s
food security. If there were, hypothetically, a significant
mountain range separating Tibet from eastern China, there’s a good chance it would still
be independent. The water would still come from China and
the mountains would act as the geographical protection that China desires. But to the North is another one of China’s
assets—Mongolia. It’s an enormous, sparsely populated, friendly
country. With the gobi desert and other desolate terrain,
there’s just little chance that any modern land-based army could make it across with
any efficiency. The supply lines would be enormously long
and by the time they got to the Chinese border there would have been ample warning. But then again, who would want to invade? Mongolia’s only other neighbor is Russia
which is a friendly ally of China both militarily and economically. China need not worry about its northern border
until relations with Russia sour. But that leaves the eastern border. Now, you would think that this would be China’s
safest border—the ocean—but you have to consider that powerful states lay just off
China’s shores, the most powerful one being the US. The United States has a significant Pacific
military presence with bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. It’s also a close ally with Taiwan, Indonesia,
Singapore, and Malaysia meaning that, if a serious dispute with China occurred, the US
would have no problem blockading China and cutting off its maritime access, and of course,
China knows this. That’s why China has spent so much time,
energy, and political capital to establish sovereignty in the South China Sea by building
military bases and artificial islands. It knows that it needs these islands so it
has sovereignty over the area so that it can reach the Pacific in case of war, but ironically,
its actions in the area are souring its relations with the very nations that China needs on
its side. The Philippines, for example, doesn’t have
a bulletproof relationship with the US. While the two countries are allies, Philippine
leadership has attempted to distance themselves from the US. If China hadn’t ruined its relationship
with the Philippines over the South China Sea dispute it could’ve won them to their
side which would allow China crucial access to the Pacific if the US attempted a naval
blockade. China’s entire economy relies on exports
so restrictions to access to the oceans would lead to economic ruin. With its enormous population, China also relies
on the importation of food, most of which comes on ships. Without jobs or food, there’s a good chance
that the population would rise up against the government and end the current regime. China didn’t want to be a global power spreading
its influence to every continent until recently. It wanted to be the the dominant power in
its region, Asia, but historically it kept its affairs within the region. It never colonized outside of Asia and for
much of history it didn’t have a significant navy to project its power around the world. But that has changed just because China got
so big. China is now of a size where it cannot support
its population with its size alone. Self-sufficiency in food production has been
a major aspect of China’s domestic policy for decades, but the country has found a way
to move past that as its economy has grown. Africa has emerged almost as China’s China. It supplies the country that supplies the
world. China has pumped enormous amounts of money
into the continent in what some describe as a form of neocolonialism. Chinese state-backed corporations have bought
huge amounts of land in Africa to mine minerals, drill for oil, and grow food. China now imports more food and oil than it
exports. While that is a sign of the development of
its economy, it also means that it is now reliant on foreign powers which is a vulnerable
position for a country that is often at odds with some of those foreign powers. China doesn’t have bad geography, it has
some of the best in the world which has allowed for it to grow into the largest country in
the world, but as it grows into a more and more powerful and developed country, it needs
to be cognizant of its vulnerabilities if the current regime wishes to continue. It’s clear that because of its geography,
the country is in a more precarious position than some may think. If there were every a reason to go to war
with China, the country is surrounded to the south and east by countries that would likely
side with NATO powers. To the west and north, China is surrounded
by countries and regions without the infrastructure to support China is a war. China is a nuclear power which means formal
war with other superpowers is unlikely, but, if it ever were to happen, its hard to deny
that its major disadvantage is geography. I just went through the process of building
the new website for my other channel, Half as Interesting, which reminded me why I love
Squarespace so much. All in, it took me about an hour to make this
simple website and the hosting fees are very reasonable. For whatever you do, whether its a YouTube
channel, a business, or anything else, having a professional web presence is incredibly
important because that’s how people find you. Squarespace makes this so easy with their
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for 10% off with Squarespace by going to Squarespace makes this show possible so please
at least go check them out over at Thanks for watching and I’ll see you in
two weeks for another Wendover Productions video.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Why the fuck would 3 poor countries invade China? Harder to invade than to defend. Dear me I haven't heard so much bullshit other than this documentary.

  2. Russia: Geography Problem
    China: Geography Problem
    India: Geography Problem
    USA: No geography problem

    I'm sensing an American bias here. Who's your real sponsor? The cia?

  3. This is so hypothetical, it's just as ridiculous as calling USA a regime and contemplating Canada and Mexico invading America.

  4. The claim is ridiculous. Saying Tibet is its own country and that China only integrated them in the last 300 years, is just as same as saying Arizona, Utah, Colorado, … are all Native Americans and you just did the same. Does it make these States their own country? Are you saying you should separate them and make them independent countries and kick all the white people from the regions and ban all efforts to build bridges and infrastructures there?

  5. hey asshole , its called the american war in vietnam. hence it is not viertnam war as you so nonchalantly put it. hence, you shoulddddddd…….eat a dick.

  6. China’s problem is not geography, it’s the government. Communism NEVER works. Capitalism is the system that works the best

  7. Tibet is diffetent ethnically so doesnt make sense to be part of china?? What about the other 54 ethnic groups?? So you r saying china should be 56 different countries?? Seriously

  8. No need to war when money buys your politicians. As far as plans china's laid it out to the public/world with it's 100 yr plan. Even if pushed to war , Russia is more than happy to aligned together to topple any superpower nation. Welcome to the age of 3 superpowers (Learn about 3 kingdoms and you'll know this balance of powers maintains peace&stability in a way).

  9. The view from 0.46sec to 1 min is taken from Nepal. Its inside Kathmandu valley. And the place is called indrayani.

  10. Haha now they Didn't Allign Philippines to US
    US Govt: Duterte pls.vist Us
    Russia: Duterte Drink My Beer ?
    ? Haha

  11. 2:58 Thanks for bringing Tibet's into the topic but one thing I have to clarify is that Tibet had never been a part of China until the Chinese military invasion in 1959. Better stop making such comments and misleading the people.

  12. What u think India would take Tibet and attack China. China is the one who occupied Indian land. And China doesn't need any geographical protection from India. Actually China occupies many countries land. And China have the problems not India. We know what it takes to be independent and how it feels. We don't want unnecessary wars for more land or anything. We just want peaceful live in our country. We don't reall like to take other people's things bcz we have enough even if we don't we can adjust with our own stuffs.

  13. I think you overestimated the alliance between China and Russia. On paper they should be enemies, they are only friends because they both oppose the USA. If American power is ever diminished I don’t think they would remain allies. China doesn’t think that Siberia is rightfully Russian and wants those mineral resources

  14. China's North is secured until the relationship with Russia sours.

    Exactly what happened less than half a century ago. And also Russia has not always been friendly, and when they do so, sometimes Mongolia sides with them too (Choibalsan, cough). Interesting how quickly ppl forgot.
    Other than that nice video. Despite being the 2nd largest economy, largest population, tied 3rd (some says China is larger some says US, via different sources, but both close, so I declare a tie) largest in land area, and multiple prospective of being a world superpower, China's direct neighbors are still far from that of the USA and the rest of Americas, especially the 2 that shares a boarder…

  15. Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba will invode the United States before Vietnam, Thailand and etc will think about invading China.

  16. I find it sickening that the video portray all the development in Tibetan as a military agenda. So the Tibetan people can't have a nice highway or railway and economical development through tourism?

  17. How India China have friendly relation?
    They fought in 1962 war
    A small war in 1967 (battle of rajangla)
    73 days stand off of two armies in doklam

  18. Only 90 million of China's 1.3 billion people are responsible for China's problems. That is the number of people in the Chinese Communist party.

  19. So many people here in the chat are just so… triggered, it feels. Lol!~ This video, from what I can tell, doesn't have an agenda. It takes a no-nonsense approach. Ok, we have this country, China. China, like any country, wants to protect it's own interests. (True, and nothing wrong with this). With that in mind, what are HYPOTHETICAL threats to the country (as in, who might hypothetically invade, and if so, where would they invade from?). Do allies invade?! No! Allies would presumably help you against the hypothetical 'enemies' if there were ever a conflict. Because, for China to be invaded, there must be some form of a conflict that triggers the conflict. So politics helps you determine, when securing your country, WHERE the threat MIGHT COME FROM.

    This video is a simple RISK assessment. Looking at the current political situation, saying, ok, China doesn't have the best of relations with these countries and these areas, and if there was ever a war (not saying that its likely or that there will be, just if there was), how would it protect these various areas of it's country? And, then the video takes a further step to say, ok, China has certain areas of it's country that are quite different from the rest of the country, is there an important reason for China to have these areas as a part of it's country? (Why, yes, indeed there are excellent reasons, such as Tibet securing the water sources + providing a mountainous border, and Mongolia being a low-population, quite desolate area which could make potential invasion of China a difficult task).

    And all of you people saying 'oh my gosh no Laos or Vietnam would never invade, they are weak, blah blah blah', you are missing the POINT. The video didn't SAY that they would ever invade. It isn't suggesting that it is a good idea, a smart idea, or a likely idea. It is simply saying that 'these countries don't really have the best relations with China. If there was ever a conflict involving war, these could potentially be areas where invasions could occur. It then states, quite logically, that given the geography of China (where it borders Laos/Vietnam) compared to Laos/Vietnam themselves, it is easier to move troops into China then into these 2 countries. RISK. ASSESSMENT.

    You can bet your ass that China has, in GREAT detail, thought about all of these things mentioned in the video, in so much more detail than you've probably ever considered. And geography 100% plays into deciding where the highest risk of potential invasion might be. But, so does politics. Because, again, allies don't want or need to invade you, whereas potential enemies just might. So you can, obviously, never completely separate geography and politics from a discussion about how to secure your country.

  20. 1. 东南亚sucks,美国在越南本土战事不乐观≠越南容易invade中国≠越南有本事
    1.5 中南半岛的话事权,问过泰国了吗?
    2. 300年治藏,越来越进步,鬼佬就是鬼佬,恶心至极
    3. 蒙古sucks
    4. 美帝围堵确实威胁巨大,不单止全球扩张,还舆论攻势

  21. Farmers around the world are more important than politics! and the reason why oil is important for any country – it is gold for military power! China defeated India in past wars they buy Israel weapons cause they are more smart in technology.

  22. Oh, my! The information needs to be update! China changes so fast and the response to China's change are fast too. LOL

  23. On October 17, 2019, it was announced that China will lease the island of Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. This is a two-mile long island a short distance from the island of Guadalcanal which was the site of the first real land battle against Japan's invasion of the entire Pacific region in World War II. Between Tulagi and Guadalcanal lies Iron Bottom Sound, the scene of many pitched naval battles between the US Navy and the Japanese Navy when Japan had the most powerful navy in the Pacific. Japan would regularly send naval forces, called "the Tokyo Express", "down the slot" – a straight ocean passage between parallel islands making up the Solomon Islands – to attack Guadalcanal.
    Guadalcanal was Japan's attempt to isolate Australia in preparation for their planned invasion of Australia. China apparently has read history and wants to revitalize the Japanese plan and strategy. The Japanese had the "Greater Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" and China has its "Belt and Road" Plan. China may think that the rest of the world is asleep, but the parallels are all too obvious. If China takes Australia, defended by a relatively small population, they will have a productive food supply to sustain them through a longer war scenario. This fits into their wider plan to extend their holdings into the Pacific islands as a protective defense buffer. Alarms should be going off in the defense headquarters of every free nation in the world.

  24. China fucked up by building large cities over top of their cropland, then moved all the young people off the farms and into the cities, now you see why we the U.S. has China over a barrel far as trade, they need to feed the people. We have the food. China is learning the hard way why no other nation is dealing with africa, its a useless nation.

  25. 当我看到越南老挝缅甸可以轻松入侵中国的时候,我手中的筷子在发抖。是因为恐惧吗?不是,是因为我在笑。哈哈哈哈!

  26. Conclusion of video is "China is shit". China have problems with every neighbour country. How can this happen?? If you are living anywhere atleast you must have good relationship with neighbours. And here is China 'the largest country'?????

  27. “China is a nuclear power which makes war with OTHER superpowers unlikely.” There’s only one superpower. Don’t imply China is one – cause they’re not.

  28. so that means tibet supplies more 3.5 billion people fresh water including most of South East Asia, Indian subcontinent, and china which makes up 50% of worlds population..
    and 2 of the biggest complex civilisation in the human history was possible due the the rivers from tibet…
    well that makes sense

  29. do not underestimate the Philippines, it has the biggest influence in the ASEAN which the US failed to do. i disagree with this video its outdated.

  30. Compare the investment between China and US or Europe in Africa. If you say Africa is China'd Afica, I think it is more proper to say it is West's Africa because Western countries have invested there for much longer time. But the truth is African people can choose their own business friends.

  31. The ignorant video that anyone knows that this is a big bullshit. Do you think you really know the history of Asia? Are you sure you are not talking nonsense? And makes contradictions will not solve any problems. China needs the integrity and unity of the country's territory. Do you understand? In addition: I tell you, we will not agree to a pirate culture robber once again invade our home! you have so much sweet dreams that u needs to wake up and your jealousy and injustice will make u crazy. Ok ﹉There are many problems with your own, you should care about your own life, others do not need your hypocritical care.

  32. Work beggast lol..China not want to invade Vietnam…Vietnam is invaded by us..then after that kicked out by warriors jungles

  33. stupid expert. china can take all the small countries in the region if china wanted. war nowaday is about technology not about how many men in the army. china can in 24 hours destroy all major militaries bases of all small nations in the region. after that it is just a small mop up.

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  35. What m f word. Because the Tibet nation is different ,so there no reason Tibet become a part of China?So pleas UK give the north Ireland to Ireland,and American give the whole land to Indian people.

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