Will China and the US go to war?
The Saturn-Pluto cycle suggests an answer
In my article on the recent Uranus-Mars-Rahu conjunction in Taurus (“The earth shakes”), I noted a similar configuration that appeared in the skies in 157 BCE. That omen coincided with the Roman statesman Cato the Elder’s visit to Carthage, in which he witnessed the growing prosperity of this great rival to Rome and became convinced that the city had to be destroyed. Years later, he got his wish.
The archetypal resonance with Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan—which took place on the 2nd of August, almost precisely coinciding with the triple conjunction—is notable. Pelosi is obviously a very different figure to Cato, but there are striking similarities, too: two senior, hawkish politicians crossing the ocean on imperial business involving a great rival. The result: rumblings of war.
China has, predictably, reacted furiously to Pelosi’s visit, deeming it a serious provocation. As the Guardian reported:
The PLA fired almost a dozen Dongfeng ballistic missiles on Thursday, and made dozens of incursions over the highly symbolic median line. Japan said at least five missiles landed within its exclusive economic zone, and some had flown over Taiwan’s main island, just south of Taipei.
China is also cancelling cooperation with the US on climate change and military relations. At a time when our world needs more coordination, not less, the world’s two most powerful states are turning away from each other.
These are frightening times. But is there worse to come? In this article, I’m going to try to answer the question looming over modern geopolitics, one that only became more acute over the past week: are the United States and China headed for war? And if so, when will it happen?
The Age of Air, the United States and China
The larger astrological context in which all this is taking place is the dawning of the Age of Air, the transition to which began in 1980 and was complete by the end of 2020. I’ve covered this subject in an earlier article and extensively in this World Astrology Report video. Suffice to say here that transitions to new elemental ages have historically correlated with rearrangements of geopolitical power. The first twenty-year Air period, from 1980 to 2000, saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, dramatically reshaping Europe and leaving the US as sole global superpower. Now that the Age of Earth is truly over, more dramatic changes will undoubtedly come. (I have reason to believe that many of China’s golden ages have come during Ages of Air, but thorough research on this still needs to be done.)
But there’s another reason the Age of Air is relevant here. Almost all human societies today are dependent upon information technology. And that technology is, in turn, dependent upon microchips built with semiconductors. Taiwan, through the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd (TSMC), manufactures more than 90% of the world’s most advanced semiconductors, which lie at the heart of almost all advanced civilian and military technology. As this Reuters report puts it:
Both superpowers now find themselves deeply dependent on the small island at the center of their increasingly tense rivalry. For Washington, allowing an increasingly powerful China to overrun TSMC’s foundries in a conflict would threaten U.S. military and technological leadership. However, if Beijing invades, there is no guarantee it could seize the prized foundries intact. They could easily become a casualty of the fighting, severing the supply of chips to China’s vast electronics industry. Even if the foundries survived a Chinese takeover, they would almost certainly be cut off from a global supply chain essential to their output.
A war over an island central to information technology is exactly the kind of thing we would expect to see in the Age of Air.
Age and Power: the Saturn-Pluto cycle
But if we want to get a clearer picture of relations between the US and China, we need to look to the Saturn-Pluto cycle. I’ve explored the two states’ differing experiences of the previous Saturn-Pluto cycle of 1982-2020 in a previous article (“Saturn-Pluto, 9/11 and the rise of China”).
But I’ve done more research since then. I’ve found that the same Saturn-Pluto cycle also describes the relations between the two countries. This is important, because if we can prove to ourselves that this is so, we can use the Saturn-Pluto cycle to forecast how relations are likely to go in the future. The short answer: not well.
It’s hardly surprising that the slow dance of these two planets describes the relationship between these two states. In the United States we see Plutonian themes of wealth and power. The US remains the richest country in the world, even if it may be mired in debt. And for all its internal dysfunction, it still possesses power in spades, in the form of its wealth, the world’s best-funded military, control of the oceans and a global network of military bases.
Saturn, for its part, signifies ancient things. China, as the world’s oldest extant civilisation, is Saturnine. Saturn’s signature is strong in the current Chinese state’s natal chart. At the edge of the solar system—as it was known to traditional astrologers—Saturn broods over the Sun’s dominance. He is patron of those outside the gates, and was known to Hellenistic astrologers as “the lord of feigned appearances”. This has always brought to my mind the idea that those looking to challenge the dominance of the centre must conceal their intentions so as not to arouse attention—until they’re ready to make their move. China finds itself in this position, perfectly expressed by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping with the slogan: “Hide our strength, bide our time.”
The 1982-2020 cycle
In what follows, we’ll examine US-China relations through the prism of the previous Saturn-Pluto cycle of 1982-2020. In putting this work together I’ve drawn heavily on timelines from Al Jazeera and the Council on Foreign Relations. Here’s a list of the major aspects in the cycle from 1982-2020, courtesy of Astro-Seek:
If history isn’t your bag, you can skip ahead to the next section (Predicting the current cycle: 2020-2053), where we’ll make our predictions. But the purpose of this historical breakdown is to establish that the Saturn-Pluto cycle really does describe US-China relations. Only when we’re convinced of that can we be confident of the predictions we’ll be making later.
Conjunction, 1982: The US and China reach an accord
The conjunction of any cycle shows its promise, serving as a microcosm to the cyclic macrocosm. And 1982 was a historic year for US-China relations. This was the year in which the US signed the third of Three Joint Communiqués with China, in which the US affirmed its One China Policy—which acknowledged the Chinese position that there was only one China, not the two independent states of China and Taiwan. It was also the year that President Reagan issued his Six Assurances, pledging not to mediate between Taiwan and China and to eventually end arms sales to Taiwan, albeit without specifying a deadline.
Ultimately, 1982 was characterised by cooperation between the US and China. They acknowledged their differences but agreed to put them aside for the sake of peace and development. And that, more or less, is what happened through the 1982-2020 cycle.
Waxing sextile, 1989: US gives “soft” response to Tiananmen Square Massacre
The sextile is a weakly harmonious aspect, similar to the trine but less powerful. In June 1989, as many as one million Chinese citizens, led by students, protested in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square for democratic and human rights reforms. The Chinese government sent its army in to quell the protest. It did so by shooting hundreds of unarmed students dead, inviting revulsion and condemnation around the world.
Given that the killings flew in the face of everything the US claimed to stand for, many demanded the Americans respond with strong condemnation and heavy punitive measures. Instead, despite imposing some sanctions on weapons and technology sales to the Chinese regime, the administration of George H W Bush opted to prioritise maintaining constructive relations with China.
Waxing Square, 1993: Clinton pressures China on human rights, gives up
The square is an aspect of friction and conflict. During this period we see President Bill Clinton—who had vehemently criticised Bush Sr’s “soft” approach to China during the 1992 election campaign—trying and failing to pressure China into improving its human rights record. From the CFR:
President Clinton in office sought to use China's access to 'Most Favoured Nation' status in trade as a way of gaining specific progress on human rights issues. China rejected this pressure and the US was forced to abandon this attempt in 1994.
Waxing Trine, 1997: President Jiang Zemin visits the US
The trine is a harmonious aspect, and here we once again see an attempt to heal relations between the two countries. In October 1997, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin visited the United States at the invitation of President Bill Clinton. It was the first such visit by a Chinese head of state to the US since 1979. The US reiterated its One China Policy and the principles outlined in the Three Joint Communiqués, and the two leaders issued a joint statement in which they pledged to build a “strategic partnership”.
Opposition, 2001: China joins the World Trade Organisation, head-on air collision
Oppositions are moments of reckoning, when the promise of a cycle comes to fruition. They are inflection points, when the relationship between two planets changes, the faster-moving planet moving into a dominant position vis-a-vis the slower one.
In 2001, with American support, including from the once-critical Bill Clinton, China was admitted to the World Trade Organisation, a move that gave the country unprecedented access to foreign markets and led to a huge concentration of global manufacturing capacity moving to Chinese soil. This was a turning point, since it greatly accelerated Chinese growth and financial power, with consequences that would soon become clear.
The opposition also manifested in incredibly literal fashion that year in the form of the Hainan Island incident. On the 1st of April 2001, a US spy plane crashed head-on into a Chinese fighter jet, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the US plane to make an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island. The Chinese took the 24-man crew into custody and only released them after tense negotiations. (As an interesting aside, the name of the model of US aircraft was ARIES II; the incident took place with the Sun in, you guessed it, the second decan of Aries.)
From this moment onwards, Saturn took superior position in its relationship with Pluto. Momentum shifted in China’s favour.
Waning trine, 2007: China launches lunar orbiter, destroys satellite
This year was marked by dramatic developments in China’s space programme. In January China successfully destroyed one of its own satellites in a test of a missile system. The same year it launched its first lunar orbiter, Chang’e 1, with a plan to put a man on the Moon by 2022, and announced an increase in defence spending of 18%. The signature of the trine aspect is a little difficult to discern here, but perhaps we see it by observing that China flexed its growing muscles this year, while the US, consumed by conflict in the Middle East at the time, did little in response.
Waning square, 2010: China becomes world’s second-largest economy
By this point the ramifications of China’s accession to the WTO and its supercharged growth became clear when the country overtook Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy. The US and China were now the two largest economies in the world, and direct rivals for economic dominance. Investment bank Goldman Sachs used the moment to predict that China would overtake the US by 2027.
Waning sextile, 2013: Obama attempts to build rapport with President Xi at Sunnylands Summit
Acutely aware of the dangers of competition between the two states, US President Barack Obama attempted to build personal rapport with President Xi Jinping in June 2013. The two leaders held eight hours of meetings at the Sunnylands Estate in California, eventually agreeing to establish a “new model” of cooperative relations. Despite agreement over the dangers of North Korea and climate change, the two sides couldn’t reach an accord on US arms sales to Taiwan, an issue central to the Third Communiqué issued at the conjunction.
Predicting the current cycle: 2020-2053
The previous cycle fulfilled the promise of its conjunction. That cycle ended, and the current one began, with a Saturn-Pluto conjunction at 22°46 Capricorn on the 12th of January 2020. By now, almost everyone with at least a passing familiarity with mundane astrology knows what that conjunction signified. The first death in Wuhan, China from what was then a “mystery virus” was reported in news outlets worldwide on the 11th of January 2020, just one day before the conjunction went exact.
The current cycle, which will take us to 2053, will likely concern issues raised by the Covid-19 pandemic: disease, measures to combat it, communication technology and control of (mis-)information. But what does it have to say about US-China relations?
To understand this, we need to consider relations between the two countries during the period when the conjunction was operative. It was within 15 degrees of orb from roughly the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2021, a period during which the United States was administered by President Donald J Trump.
I’m going to make three observations about that period, especially the first two years of the pandemic:
China thrived: Although the pandemic had begun in China and was a challenge for it to manage, in relative terms China thrived while most of the world was ravaged. Using draconian measures unthinkable to most countries, China was able to maintain almost zero Covid during this period and, despite being sealed off from the rest of the world, to operate almost as normal. In 2020, China’s GDP still grew by 2.2% in a year when most countries’ economies shrank. In 2021 it grew a brisk 8.1%. The country is now running into trouble attempting to maintain a “zero Covid” policy at a time when the virus is many times more contagious than it used to be. But the conjunction is out of orb. The current situation doesn’t speak to the outcome of this cycle.
The US floundered: The United States was hit hard by the pandemic, its growth stalled and it sank deeper into division. In 2020, US GDP actually shrank by 3.4%. Growth returned in 2021, registering 5.7%, but more than 1 million Americans have lost their lives to Covid-19. China, by contrast has registered just over 5,000 deaths from the virus at the time of writing.
Relations deteriorated: US-China relations sunk to a new low. Even before 2020, President Donald Trump was notably hostile to China, starting a trade war with the country by imposing tariffs and quotas on Chinese imports in 2018. He then blamed China for the pandemic, labelling Covid-19 the “China virus”, claiming it was the result of a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology and accusing the country of hiding vital information that could have saved lives. China, for its part, used the pandemic for its own propagandistic purposes, trumpeting its success at managing the virus and even claiming the outbreak was the result of a US biological weapons attack.
With these three observations in mind, we can expect that, unlike the previous Saturn-Pluto cycle, this cycle will not be characterised by uneasy cooperation between the US and China. Instead, it will be characterised by competition and confrontation. I suspect we will also see the two states attempting to decouple their economies. As things stand, they are too mutually dependent in trade to truly confront one another, and, bearing in mind Trump’s trade war during the conjunction, this will likely change.
Another conclusion we can draw is that over the course of this cycle the US will fare much worse than China in dealing with the issues the cycle will centre around: disease and its management and the distribution and control of information. I want to stress that this remark is based purely on my observations of what happened around the 2020 conjunction. I am not a supporter of authoritarianism.
Timing the trouble
Here are the dates for the major aspects of the coming cycle, which will take us to 2053, courtesy of Astro-Seek:
The first thing to note is that if my analysis is right, we won’t see a confrontation between the two states for a few years. The current volatile situation on the Taiwan Strait will die down. The next major aspect in the cycle will be the sextile of March 2026. We are likely to see attempts to improve relations between the two states around this time, or at least efforts to manage challenging developments without conflict. Perhaps a new US president, taking power following the 2024 elections, will make efforts to turn the tide of deteriorating relations. But given our understanding of the nature of this cycle, these efforts aren’t likely to work.
That sextile will be followed by the square in mid-2028. Squares are of the nature of Mars, and here we find the first truly perilous moment of this cycle. What’s especially worrying is the additional testimony of other astrological factors. At this time, Uranus will be in the sign of Gemini. Whenever Uranus has moved through Gemini—the 7th house of open enemies in the US Sibly chart—the United States has engaged in transformative armed conflicts that have reshaped its institutions: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Second World War. Neptune will also be in Aries at this time, indicating an orientation of our collective imaginations towards themes associated with that brave, adventurous sign. Of course, it could also signify a preoccupation with war.
With these factors in mind, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we face a serious possibility of armed conflict between the United States and China around 2028. This could take the form of a proxy war, in which the two states don’t confront each other directly, as was the case during the Cold War between the US and USSR. We should bear in mind, though, that in the case of Taiwan, the US is committed to defending the island in the case of a Chinese invasion. At the same time, President Xi Jinping has staked his legacy on reintegrating Taiwan into the Chinese state.
Having lived through the last years of the 20th century, we understandably tend to imagine that a conflict between superpowers would inevitably descend into nuclear war. That, of course, is not out of the question, given that both powers are heavily armed with nuclear weapons. But we may well see something more of the nature of the airy times we’re living through. I discuss forms of warfare in the Age of Air from 18:22 in my video on the subject. They include cyber war, biological warfare, space war and extensive use of autonomous weapons.
What’s also likely is that the United States is heading for an internal crisis in the late 2020s, a related issue I’ll address in a future article. Its present dysfunction is beginning to make the country look less and less viable in its current form. The gulf between the values of liberal and conservative Americans looks increasingly unbridgeable. If the United States continues to descend into infighting, might China take advantage of the distraction to invade Taiwan? Or could a US president turn to overseas military provocation in a bid to unify a deeply divided country?
The most dangerous time of all will come in 2035 at the Saturn-Pluto opposition. This will follow a Mars-Saturn conjunction in Cancer in 2034. Those conjunctions were held by traditional astrologers to be one of the “Great Conjunctions” punctuating history. This was the great malefic conjunction, since it takes place in a sign in which both planets are considered debilitated. Given the promise of this cycle, I believe 2035 will constitute the turning point in relations between the two states. It is likely that China will clearly emerge as global leader by this time, if not after the events of 2028.
I love history. And what I *love* doing in consultations is using powerful traditional techniques to dig into *your* history: unearthing hidden threads of meaning running through your life; helping you into moments of revelation; and giving you clarity about where things are going. My books are open for August and September, and I’d love to go on this journey with you.