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 andcomments. In this article, I’m going to provide some responses.
I quoted Dai Xu, a Chinese Air Force Colonel, as advocating a shortdecisive war against one of China’s neighbors:
“Since we have decided that the U.S. is bluffing inthe East China Sea, we should take this opportunity to respond tothese empty provocations with something real.
This includes Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, who are thethree running dogs of the United States in Asia. We only need tokill one, and it will immediately bring the others toheel.”
One web site reader wrote:
“China might alternatively pick Vietnam as the dog tobe killed. Vietnam does not have a defense pact with the UnitedStates and the U.S. might seek to provide only indirect assistanceto Vietnam. Vietnam might also refuse to surrender and beimpossible to pacify in a “quick war”.
China could find itself at war with a minor power and not with anymajor power for a number of years.”
“If China was going to war with anyone (and I do notwish war on anyone) I’d prefer they attack Vietnam. This wouldn’tsuck the Western Allies in and it could teach China a good lessonof being bled dry by a tenacious enemy. This would be best caseIMO outside of peace of course.”
This discussion highlighted something that hadn’t occurred to mebefore: 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 thatChinese hawks believe it.)
China invaded Vietnam in 1979 in a war where China was repulsedquickly. China made some serious mistakes in that war. Thosemistakes would not be repeated in this crisis era.
It’s possible that a Chinese invasion of Vietnam would lead toPresident 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 likerabbits” and not honor its mutual defense treaties, if China invadedone of its neighbors. A lot of commenters believe the same thing:
“The only reason the Chinese might think “Americanswill run like rabbits” is because of this administration’s recentweak performance in the Middle East, and because of the tenuousU.S. (and Western) economy (both White House admins are to blamehere).
Whatever one thinks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it isclear to all foreign entities that America shows neither aprincipled and goal oriented interaction nor a policy engaged froma position of confidence (exerted quietly orvisibly).”
I expressed the opinion that “President Obama would not have anychoice if Congress declared war, which might happen within hours ofany Chinese attack.” One reader responded:
“First, yes he would. He could dither on thedeployments the way France and the U.K. did after Hitler seizedBohemia and Moravia and declared Slovakia a Protectorate, thendithered some more when Hitler declared war on Poland, launching amighty Sitzkrieg offensive in the Pacific while saving theBlitzkrieg for the media and stump circuit.
In the face of that, all Congress could do is impeach him, evenwhile an attempt is made to repeal the 22nd Amendment so he can donothing for even more [years].
Second, what if a declaration of war passes the House but not theSenate? Never mind the Chamberlain in the White House, Harry Reidcould play his own version of Neville, and no war resolution wouldever 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 Presidentand a Democratic Senate. When Neville Chamberlain promised “Peace inour time” after meeting with Hitler, he was doing something thatseemed perfectly reasonable on that day. And yet, Chamberlain hasbeen damned by history as the man who appeased Adolf Hitler.President Obama would risk being damned as a modern day NevilleChamberlain 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 bitpremature. We’re not really sure what China’s nuclear capabilityis, specifically their ability to hit the US. Couple of points:
Until the 1990s, their primary nuclear target was the SovietUnion. China is notorious for stockpiling archaic militaryequipment, even if it doesn’t work.
Even if Obama’s military and nuclear cuts hit before any war withChina, our nuclear capability far exceeds theirs. The Chinesegovernment knows this.
China probably has around 500 – 600 nuclear weapons and enoughmaterials to build another 400 over a few years. But the US is notChina’s only target. Some of those weapons have to be kept aimedat India and Russia, both nuclear powers. Many of China’s warheadsare mounted on train-track based launchers that are pointed north,northwest. China would be risking a Russian retaliatory strike bylaunching those warheads.
Many, as high as 20%, of China’s warheads are gravity bombsdesigned to be dropped by late WWII style bombers.
China does not have force projection capabilities. They have onecarrier in partial service and with a small air wing. They have nolong range amphibious assault ships. They cannot establish aperimeter line, like the Japanese, that could keep US forces awayfrom mainland China. And China does not have the nuclear abilityto knock the US out of any fight. They can position dieselelectric subs at choke points in an attempt to ambush US carriergroups. That does nothing about the USAF and China would begambling their entire sub force.
A far more realistic scenario would be a Chinese invasion ofeasier targets in the region. Picture The Philippines, Okinawa,and/or Taiwan. If the US intervened, China would use a limitednumber of nuclear weapons on nations that could provide the USwith military bases, specifically Japan. Hitting Japan would havethe bonus of hitting the US economy. China will be betting on theUS not retaliating with nuclear weapons if the US is not thetarget. China would then fortify their gains and simply wait forthe US to go bankrupt. Once that happens, China would be free tobegin expanding its control throughout the remainder of South EastAsia 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 seabornetargets.”
However, one more reader said that China’s military capabilities arefar more advanced than we realize:
“What most people don’t realize is that most ofChina’s infrastructure is dual-use civilian/military. That is,every train, plane, truck, railway, road, you name it, is designedfor military use, as well as civilian use. For example, in amatter of weeks, all of China’s shipping -ALL of it- can literallybe plugged into the military command and control system andconverted for military use. This incluse ‘plug and play’ cargo,missile and weapons systems for their cargo ships and civilianaircraft.
In short, they held an arms race…and no one else showed up.
What set them off was America’s victory in the first gulfwar. They paid attention and began to redesign their entiremilitary and civilian infrastructure. They also reworked theirmilitary philosophy. For over twenty years, they’ve been preparingto fight America in a war.
A probable naval scenario: Imagine a cargo ship loaded withdisposable anti-ship missile platforms. Precision guidedmissiles. Thousands of them. Imagine a US navy task force on thereceiving end of five thousand precision guidedmissiles.”
China is known to be planning “asymmetric warfare,” attackingAmerica’s weak points by unconventional means. According toone reader:
“Our key vulnerability is cyberattack. We’re still notdoing as much as we should to protect ourselves, but we’re finallytaking action and it looks like some of our leaders are realizinghow dangerous it is. That’ll be the primary method to take downour capabilities. I would say it would set us back at least acouple months, probably longer than that. Their optimum time tostrike in that theater would be in the near future.
Our satellites will be the next mode of crippling us. I read inthe 2007 about their anti-satellite and I’d bet that by nowthey’ve got hundreds of anti-satellite missiles ready for use. Itwon’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’seconomy, using war with a small neighbor, is a sure fire way todivert the attention of the common person. Look at Argentina didduring the Falkland Island war and ready to do it again. Only amistake or believing their own public relations spin will start awar between the US and PRC.”
However, the most skeptical remark of all was simply:
“This is a completely uninformed and ridiculousarticle.”
I knew I would get this kind of criticism, and that’s why I put inlinks to several Chinese and American sources, so that readers couldverify the information for themselves. However, I would add thatcomments like this usually come from someone who couldn’t even findChina 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 andridiculed two sets of people in the 1930s: The ones who, like HerbertHoover, believed that “prosperity was just around the corner,” eventhough the Depression kept worsening, and the ones who ignored thedangers in Europe and simply took “Peace in our time” for granted.When I was in school, I never understood how so many people could beso obviously wrong. Now that the same thing is happening today, Irealize that there are many people who simply can’t deal with theanxiety, and are willing to believe almost anything.
I’ve been writing about the coming war with China for almost tenyears now. What has been apparent all along is that China isn’teven 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 dailybasis. They have a very different world view that we have. In 2007, I quoted Sha Zukang, the ChineseU.N. ambassador, who said, “one INCH of the territory is more valuablethan the LIVES of our people.” With 1.5 billion people, the ChineseCommunist Party (CCP) almost has no choice but to view people asinterchangeable and expendable cogs in a massive wheel of agricultureand industry. China has made this clear repeatedly. I believe thatit was Lao Tzu in “The Art of War” who said that in a war the sidewith the advantage is the side that isn’t afraid to die, and theChinese aren’t afraid to allow millions of their people die if that’sthe way to achieve victory.