Interesting article but I have to wonder about the nature of the psychological factors and essentially pathological dependence of totalitarian ideologues upon the narratives and endless preparation for confrontation. More important than the actual conflict (for the ideologue) is the symbolic presence and preparation as possibility of one.
The short(er) account of this is that any psychological (as nationalistic narrative) self-identity that is cultivated around and inflated by the significance of and orientation towards an external threat will never be sated by one victory, even should they prevail over the US and allies. It will not, I expect, end with Taiwan; a concept of metastatic growth resonates here.
I am quite mystified by the ways in which entire nations can be variously coerced, misdirected or otherwise manipulated into believing that imperialist expansion is anything other than precisely the most expensive and least efficient way to sustain nations, economies and cultures.
Not that it will matter much if the balloon goes up but I suspect that this kernel core of psychological dependency upon conflict and argument that provides such leverage for the autocrats (agnostic of context or location) is in some sense also their Achilles’ heel.