World View: Discussion of China's Directive to 'Get Ready for War'

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • China's strategy
  • How would the U.S. react to a Chinese invasion of a neighbor?
  • China's military strength
  • The Chinese threat

China's strategy

China's Army marching in Tiananmen Square (CNN)
China's Army marching in Tiananmen Square (CNN)

My recent article "China's directive to the People's Liberation Army: Get Ready for War" was posted in several places and drew hundreds of questions and comments. In this article, I'm going to provide some responses.

I quoted Dai Xu, a Chinese Air Force Colonel, as advocating a short decisive war against one of China's neighbors:

"Since we have decided that the U.S. is bluffing in the East China Sea, we should take this opportunity to respond to these empty provocations with something real.

This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, who are the three running dogs of the United States in Asia. We only need to kill one, and it will immediately bring the others to heel."

One web site reader wrote:

"China might alternatively pick Vietnam as the dog to be killed. Vietnam does not have a defense pact with the United States and the U.S. might seek to provide only indirect assistance to Vietnam. Vietnam might also refuse to surrender and be impossible to pacify in a "quick war".

China could find itself at war with a minor power and not with any major power for a number of years."

Another wrote:

"If China was going to war with anyone (and I do not wish war on anyone) I'd prefer they attack Vietnam. This wouldn't suck the Western Allies in and it could teach China a good lesson of being bled dry by a tenacious enemy. This would be best case IMO outside of peace of course."

This discussion highlighted something that hadn't occurred to me before: That an attack on Vietnam is the "logical" choice for China. From China's point of view, there would be several advantages:

  • It would raise far less nationalism in the United States than would attacks on Japan or the Philippines.
  • China has a score to settle with Vietnam, following the 1979 China-Vietnam war.
  • The motive would be "kill a chicken to scare the monkeys," as the old Chinese saying goes.
  • It would assert complete control over the South China Sea.
  • China claims that America has been a troublemaker in the South and East China Seas, because these countries have been confronting China in the confident belief that they would be defended by the U.S. If the U.S. does not defend Vietnam, then the other countries would no longer feel confident, and would no longer challenge China.
  • It would scare Japan, so that China could take control of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and Japan would retreat.
(The last reason, of course, is sheer fantasy, but it's possible that Chinese hawks believe it.)

China invaded Vietnam in 1979 in a war where China was repulsed quickly. China made some serious mistakes in that war. Those mistakes would not be repeated in this crisis era.

It's possible that a Chinese invasion of Vietnam would lead to President Obama's "Neville Chamberlain moment." But, as in that case, any later aggressive action by China would lead to full-scale war. Time Magazine

How would the U.S. react to a Chinese invasion of a neighbor?

Some Chinese military planners believe that Americans will "run like rabbits" and not honor its mutual defense treaties, if China invaded one of its neighbors. A lot of commenters believe the same thing:

"The only reason the Chinese might think "Americans will run like rabbits" is because of this administration's recent weak performance in the Middle East, and because of the tenuous U.S. (and Western) economy (both White House admins are to blame here).

Whatever one thinks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear to all foreign entities that America shows neither a principled and goal oriented interaction nor a policy engaged from a position of confidence (exerted quietly or visibly)."

I expressed the opinion that "President Obama would not have any choice if Congress declared war, which might happen within hours of any Chinese attack." One reader responded:

"First, yes he would. He could dither on the deployments the way France and the U.K. did after Hitler seized Bohemia and Moravia and declared Slovakia a Protectorate, then dithered some more when Hitler declared war on Poland, launching a mighty Sitzkrieg offensive in the Pacific while saving the Blitzkrieg for the media and stump circuit.

In the face of that, all Congress could do is impeach him, even while an attempt is made to repeal the 22nd Amendment so he can do nothing for even more [years].

Second, what if a declaration of war passes the House but not the Senate? Never mind the Chamberlain in the White House, Harry Reid could play his own version of Neville, and no war resolution would ever reach the floor of the Senate.

What exactly would happen if Congress "couldn't" decide?"

Dithering would be a high-risk political strategy for the President and a Democratic Senate. When Neville Chamberlain promised "Peace in our time" after meeting with Hitler, he was doing something that seemed perfectly reasonable on that day. And yet, Chamberlain has been damned by history as the man who appeased Adolf Hitler. President Obama would risk being damned as a modern day Neville Chamberlain who appeased the Chinese.

China's military strength

There were widely varied opinions about China's military strength:

"A nuclear holocaust might be a tad bit premature. We're not really sure what China's nuclear capability is, specifically their ability to hit the US. Couple of points:

Until the 1990s, their primary nuclear target was the Soviet Union. China is notorious for stockpiling archaic military equipment, even if it doesn't work.

Even if Obama's military and nuclear cuts hit before any war with China, our nuclear capability far exceeds theirs. The Chinese government knows this.

China probably has around 500 - 600 nuclear weapons and enough materials to build another 400 over a few years. But the US is not China's only target. Some of those weapons have to be kept aimed at India and Russia, both nuclear powers. Many of China's warheads are mounted on train-track based launchers that are pointed north, northwest. China would be risking a Russian retaliatory strike by launching those warheads.

Many, as high as 20%, of China's warheads are gravity bombs designed to be dropped by late WWII style bombers.

China does not have force projection capabilities. They have one carrier in partial service and with a small air wing. They have no long range amphibious assault ships. They cannot establish a perimeter line, like the Japanese, that could keep US forces away from mainland China. And China does not have the nuclear ability to knock the US out of any fight. They can position diesel electric subs at choke points in an attempt to ambush US carrier groups. That does nothing about the USAF and China would be gambling their entire sub force.

A far more realistic scenario would be a Chinese invasion of easier targets in the region. Picture The Philippines, Okinawa, and/or Taiwan. If the US intervened, China would use a limited number of nuclear weapons on nations that could provide the US with military bases, specifically Japan. Hitting Japan would have the bonus of hitting the US economy. China will be betting on the US not retaliating with nuclear weapons if the US is not the target. China would then fortify their gains and simply wait for the US to go bankrupt. Once that happens, China would be free to begin expanding its control throughout the remainder of South East Asia and the Pacific unopposed."

Another reader pointed out:

"Based on what we know, the DF21 "carrier killer" missile shown in the photo has never been tested on seaborne targets."

However, one more reader said that China's military capabilities are far more advanced than we realize:

"What most people don't realize is that most of China's infrastructure is dual-use civilian/military. That is, every train, plane, truck, railway, road, you name it, is designed for military use, as well as civilian use. For example, in a matter of weeks, all of China's shipping -ALL of it- can literally be plugged into the military command and control system and converted for military use. This incluse 'plug and play' cargo, missile and weapons systems for their cargo ships and civilian aircraft.

In short, they held an arms race...and no one else showed up.

What set them off was America's victory in the first gulf war. They paid attention and began to redesign their entire military and civilian infrastructure. They also reworked their military philosophy. For over twenty years, they've been preparing to fight America in a war.

A probable naval scenario: Imagine a cargo ship loaded with disposable anti-ship missile platforms. Precision guided missiles. Thousands of them. Imagine a US navy task force on the receiving end of five thousand precision guided missiles."

China is known to be planning "asymmetric warfare," attacking America's weak points by unconventional means. According to one reader:

"Our key vulnerability is cyberattack. We're still not doing as much as we should to protect ourselves, but we're finally taking action and it looks like some of our leaders are realizing how dangerous it is. That'll be the primary method to take down our capabilities. I would say it would set us back at least a couple months, probably longer than that. Their optimum time to strike in that theater would be in the near future.

Our satellites will be the next mode of crippling us. I read in the 2007 about their anti-satellite and I'd bet that by now they've got hundreds of anti-satellite missiles ready for use. It won't take more than a day or two."

See also "14-Oct-12 World View -- Huawei scandal exposes potential 'Cyberwar Pearl Harbor' from China" from last year.

The Chinese threat

There were some skeptical remarks, like:

"With the coming soft or hard landing in China's economy, using war with a small neighbor, is a sure fire way to divert the attention of the common person. Look at Argentina did during the Falkland Island war and ready to do it again. Only a mistake or believing their own public relations spin will start a war between the US and PRC."

However, the most skeptical remark of all was simply:

"This is a completely uninformed and ridiculous article."

I knew I would get this kind of criticism, and that's why I put in links to several Chinese and American sources, so that readers could verify the information for themselves. However, I would add that comments like this usually come from someone who couldn't even find China on a map, let alone have a clue what's going on in the world.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, my school teachers mocked and ridiculed two sets of people in the 1930s: The ones who, like Herbert Hoover, believed that "prosperity was just around the corner," even though the Depression kept worsening, and the ones who ignored the dangers in Europe and simply took "Peace in our time" for granted. When I was in school, I never understood how so many people could be so obviously wrong. Now that the same thing is happening today, I realize that there are many people who simply can't deal with the anxiety, and are willing to believe almost anything.

I've been writing about the coming war with China for almost ten years now. What has been apparent all along is that China isn't even bothering to hide their intentions. It's not like Russia, for example, where Vladimir Putin may bash and scorn the West, but the days of "We will bury you" are long gone.

But the Chinese vocally threaten war somewhere almost on a daily basis. They have a very different world view that we have. In 2007, I quoted Sha Zukang, the Chinese U.N. ambassador, who said, "one INCH of the territory is more valuable than the LIVES of our people." With 1.5 billion people, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) almost has no choice but to view people as interchangeable and expendable cogs in a massive wheel of agriculture and industry. China has made this clear repeatedly. I believe that it was Lao Tzu in "The Art of War" who said that in a war the side with the advantage is the side that isn't afraid to die, and the Chinese aren't afraid to allow millions of their people die if that's the way to achieve victory.


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