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 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
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."
"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:
(The last reason, of course, is sheer fantasy, but it's possible that
Chinese hawks believe it.)
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
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
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"
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
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
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
China is known to be planning "asymmetric warfare," attacking
America's weak points by unconventional means. According to
"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
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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