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Hang on Swabbies! The Army Is Coming To Your Rescue!


Just How Dangerous Is China's Navy?

This article originally published on our March 2012 Home Page.

In our February Home Page we took to task the president for setting in place a program to downsize America’s military, now that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are officially over. Ostensibly for two purposes, the White House decided to cut back the size of the military to make the Army more svelte, while at the same time readjusting the Navy so that it would be better prepared to handle the next set of wars to come—which they predicted would be at sea and not on land.


Such a nice word. It sounds like what most of our girlfriends looked like when we were back in OCS.

While svelte is admittedly a tongue in cheek word that we selected to describe the situation, the whole idea of slimming down the military at the end of every war is an old rubric, periodically raised from the dust when an administration decides to make deep cuts in the Army’s budget. Donald Rumsfeld was the last to try to use it, and look what that got him.

Two wars later, the Army stands at the size it needs to be at, if it is going to fight and win two wars. While it may be true that you don't go to war with the Army you want, but the Army you have; the counter truth is that it is well within your ability to determine exactly what Army you have when you do go to war. If you want a better Army, then by God, spend your money to get it before you need it.

Svelte may work for old girlfriends, but it’s not a good option for fighting and winning wars.

Who's on first...As an aside, one wonders what will happen to this whole svelte thing when the U.S. Army is called on to hit the ground running in Iran, Syria, the Palestinian territories, or Egypt, in order to defend Israel after they strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Imagine how well svelte will work if a slimmed down post-Afghanistan U.S. Army has to protect Israel on these four fronts, all at the same time, as all hell breaks loose when a retaliatory middle east war gets underway.

Svelte. Bah, humbug.

As for the second reason the White House gave for cutting back on the Army’s budget, that’s a curious one too. The logic they offered is hard to understand. Help us here: The reason used as justification for the president’s order to slim down the Army was that analysts feel that the Army no longer needs to be as big as it is, because the next confrontation will not be a land based war, but one on the high seas. A Naval engagement. And to top this all off, the supposed enemy will be China.

Huh? How does making the Army smaller help us win a naval engagement against China? Are they planning to give the money they save by breaking down the Army to the Navy? And what about this whole ‘expect a naval engagement with China’ thing? How realistic is that?

Does the Navy need help...It’s true, President Hu Jintao of China has told his Navy to shape up, as they may be needed in a hot naval engagement in the not too distant future. However, the innuendo that the U.S. is the target of this buildup is simply not true. It’s not.

The target of the buildup is Russia and the smaller navies of the countries that share the seas around China. And the intention is not to build up for a hot naval engagement per se, but to allow China to have enough muscle to hold its own against all of the other Navies in its bathtub.

So why is the U.S. using this excuse to rationalize its Army cost cutting measures? More likely than not, the real truth behind these assertions is not fear of an upcoming high seas battle, but the fact that the administration needs a plausible cause célèbre in order to justify the cuts in the Army that they want to make. And as for the reason they need cost cutting measures, one presumes that it is so that they can generate the funds that both the president and Congress covet as a means to fill their velvet lined entitlement purses.

Government pursesEither way, the point of this article is not to complain about the irresponsible, incompetent financial frivolity our nation’s administrators pass off as fiscal management, but to discuss what really is happening on the high seas of the Pacific basin.

Is a naval engagement on the horizon… if so, what does it mean for the U.S.… and how can we begin now to work to negate a confrontation with the people who might oppose us on the high seas, rather than just get ready to blow them out of the water.

If one looks the world over for possible naval enemies, one sees few except Somali pirates, Iran, and China.

Surely, the vaunted U.S. Navy does not need to expand in order to deal with the Somali pirates, does it? And as for Iran, any amateur military strategist can see that with a couple of old 18th century destroyers Iran’s navy can be bottled up in that big lake the country sits on… the Persian Gulf. Modern naval assets aren’t even needed to do this. Simply put a stopper in the Strait of Hormuz, and Iran’s navy ceases to be a navy.

China, on the other hand, is a different matter. Yes, the country is aggressively expanding its navy, but is it doing so in order to confront the U.S.? And just where is all of this talk of the Eastern Pacific becoming the next battlefield coming from?

Iran's naval world...Part of the answer to this latter point comes from the fact that for the past half dozen years several recognized analysts have been stating the obvious, in ever higher pitched tones: that while Europe is a “landscape,” Asia, which has a significantly greater financial impact on the world than bankrupt old Europe has, is a “seascape.” Couple this with the fact that events in this area of the world are in an ever increasing state of flux, and you have a prime opportunity for confrontations between nations.

Presumably then, Asia being a seascape, if any of the countries in this Asian region seek to throw their weight around, it will be at sea, rather than via the more traditional route of starting a land war. And of course, it doesn’t take much to read into this that the likely cause of this seascape based weight throwing will be China.

As Robert D. Kaplan, a senior fellow at the Center for A New American Security and a member of the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Policy Board said in 2011, “China, which, especially now that its land borders are more secure than at any time since the height of the Qing dynasty at the end of the 18th century, is engaged in an undeniable naval expansion. It is through sea power that China will psychologically erase two centuries of foreign transgressions on its territory—forcing every country around it to react.”[1]

Perhaps yes… perhaps no.

Regardless, those of you reading this article should understand a couple of basic things about the previous statement. First, the word psychological plays a prominent role in it. That is, there is a big difference between a country making itself feel better psychologically and one doing so by beating another to a pulp on the high seas. And second, redressing past foreign transgressions does not mean a sea war with the U.S. Especially since the U.S. was not a past foreign transgressor in the case of China. With these simple points in mind, one can easily see that it is highly unlikely that there will be an upcoming hot naval engagement between the U.S. and China.

17th & 18th Century Imperialism - ChinaIt ain’t going to happen folks. Period.

There are dozens of reasons that one could cite for this stance, one of which is that among all the nations that China holds a grudge against for past imperialist activities the U.S. is not one of them. In fact, the Chinese are quick to tell any visitor that while they will always feel wronged by France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., Spain, Russia and especially Japan, for having taken Chinese territory and set up their own special trading enclaves (e.g. Hong Kong, the Shanghai Bund, Canton [today’s Guangzhou], Qingdao, Tianjin, et al.) the U.S. is not on this list.

Instead, as regards the U.S. during the 17th & 18th century period of European imperialism, what the Chinese people will tell you is that what they are taught in school is that when the U.S. was prompted by France, England and Germany to take Chinese territory for its own use, America pointedly declined, and even chastised the European powers for doing so themselves. Because of this, plus the help given to China in its fight against Japan during WWII, most Chinese today place the U.S. on the list of countries that have consistently been friendly to China, not its enemy… save of course with respect to Taiwan.

The complexity of parsing how the Chinese decide who were the imperialist bad guys and who were the good guys aside, the most simple proof of the fact that a naval battle between China and the U.S. is a near impossibility is that without Chinese defenses against Russiathe ability for China to sell their junk into our markets today, their gross domestic product would decrease by greater than 10%. Considering that it stands at $7.3 trillion, one can quickly see that armed conflict between the U.S. and China would have a devastating impact on China’s economy, especially on the 780 million person labor force in China that depends on exports to America to earn the money they need to feed themselves. A broken economy, a 10% downturn in its GDP, the U.S. walking away from the $1.2 trillion it owes in debt to China, and global isolation for its actions all suggest that there is little to be gained by China in taking on the U.S. Navy.

From our perspective, it’s a near impossibility. Again, if we may stick with our slang, it ain’t going to happen. 

But what might happen is that China and Russia may start tossing elbows at each other. And if they do, more likely than not it will be in the waters of the oceans and seas that border their two countries. As for the reason they may find themselves tossing elbows, it's because they are already sparring along their boundary over who should control the oil fields that border their two countries, including the areas out to sea off of their mutual coast. Face it, China is a big and growing country, and it has an absolutely enormous appetite for oil.

As you read through the following however, bear in mind that as armchair Signal Corps strategists our interest in this subject revolves around our country’s stated objective of reducing the size of the Army, supposedly because the president is claiming that the next wars to come will be at sea and not on land.

Chinese elbowsThe question then is, is this fear of an upcoming naval war a viable reason to reduce the size of the Army and cut its budget? Is a sea battle really on the horizon? Do our country's leaders know something we don’t, or are they actually and stone-facedly deceiving the American citizenry simply to further their own goals? I guess everyone expects a bit of prevarication from the civilian side of our government, but at this level? Using the threat of naval war as justification for budget cuts. Is that possible in the 21st century?

To understand the folly of this ‘let’s cut the Army to help the Navy' thinking, one must understand exactly where sea confrontations might take place in the Pacific, and see therein that in none of these locations is there a need to either increase the size of the U.S. Navy, nor decrease the size of the U.S. Army. In fact, even the U.S. Navy itself is asking the question "Why do we have such a big Navy when we hardly ever use it?"[2]

U.S. Navy's Littoral Class assault shipAs background for what follows, currently the U.S. Navy inventory includes some 280 combatant, logistics and support vessels, plus 3,700 aircraft. As important, there are over 340,000 active-duty Navy personnel, 68,000 reservists, 175,000 active-duty Marines, 39,600 Marine reservists, and over 185,000 Navy Department civilians. So, let’s get this right then, there are over 807,600 good natured swabbies in the Navy, the Navy itself is asking why it’s as big as it is, and the president is telling America that it needs to get bigger at the Army’s expense?[3]

And just in case some may think that we are picking on the Navy here, let’s stop for a moment and be clear: in this article at least, we see no problem with either the U.S. Navy, its size, nor how it goes about addressing its mission. From our perspective, they’re doing a stellar job, and obviously know their trade and craft well. One can see an example of this in how they are going about ballasting their power and authority in the waters of East Asia by building closer ties with the Vietnamese Navy… one presumes as a hedge against expanding Chinese naval power. The U.S. Navy knows what it is doing, and doesn’t need any advice from the Army. As regards how well the Navy is doing in pursuing its objectives, on a scale of 1 – 10, we would give them a 15. And yes, we will even concede that it is possible that the Navy needs a few better assets along the way, with which to do its job.

U.S. Navy LCS ship cutawayHowever, whether it does or not is no excuse for someone to think that they can be bought with money taken from the Army, after the size of the Army is reduced.  Especially if the reason being given is that the next century will see sea wars in Asia.

- - -

Assuming then that the U.S. Navy is doing just fine as it is, just how real is the need on China’s part to expand its navy? Why do they need to do this, and where exactly is all the concern coming from with respect to China’s expansion of its blue water fleet?

The answer is that, unfortunately, China a) has a real need to expand its navy, as the one it has isn't really a navy as such, but more a riparian and littoral coastal defense force and b) those who see its need to expand its navy as threatening simply do not understand either China or its history. China, its culture, its history of dealing with foreign countries, and its naval capabilities all meld together into a complex sense of reasoning that gives explanation to what it is doing with its navy. And this is good, because it allows us to understand what is happening and therein determine whether there is any threat or risk to the U.S. or not. However, what is bad is that those who are not China watchers will have a hard time separating these four factors so that they can be seen to stand on their own, with merit, as well as reinforce each other as they relate to justifying an expansion of China’s navy.

New London Nuclear Submarine BaseTrying to simplify China’s reasoning for expanding its navy is difficult. It’s easier instead to explain why people feel threatened by it. In this latter case, feeling threatened stems from a bit of old style thinking about Taiwan, as well as a failure to understand China’s goals with respect to navigation rights in the waters that border its territory.

Digging a little deeper, a China watcher would tell you that during the Cold War-era the People’s Liberation Army and Navy ("PLAN") was responsible for a) running factories to earn money to underwrite their own costs of operation, b) operating farms to generate food with which to feed themselves, c) carrying out in-country construction and development projects, and d) providing defense along China’s coast against possible amphibious landings by either the U.S. or the Soviet Union.

With its opening to the U.S. in 1972, the threat of item “d’ happening disappeared. Without a real military nemesis then, from 1972 onwards China’s PLAN was relegated to performing items “a” through “c,” all of which were clearly non-military tasks. In effect then, except for the need to maintain soldiers to keep domestic problems under check (think: the Tian An Men square massacre of 1989), China’s PLAN was left to fumble around claiming to be a military, when in reality it was more like America’s old Civilian Conservation Corp of 1934. While it may have been calling itself a military… or an Qingdao submarine base - 1919army… or a navy... it wasn’t one. If China wanted to have a real armed forces, it was going to have to set about getting its military out of the lines of commercial business that it was in, as well as the farming and public works projects, and move into those areas that military services rightly belong in.

Continuing to make this case that until recently China didn't have a navy to speak of; the fact that the only respect that was given to China’s military in the middle parts of this century had to do with their ability to fight on land shows that prior to 1972 China was regarded as primarily a land power, with very limited naval capabilities. This then helps explain the thinking today on the part of Chinas' leaders that it's about time the country acquire a navy worthy of the name. As this all relates to the talk in the press of China "ramping up its navy," remember: China is going from essentially no navy, to a navy… not from a 20th century navy to one equivalent to the U.S.’ 21st century Navy.

Since the late 1980s China has been working diligently to do this… to inculcate more capabilities into its Army and Air Force, and more importantly, to build an ocean going force capable of operating in the regions beyond its littoral waters.

Qingdao Nuclear Submarine Base TodayLet us now look at the specific goals China has for building up this navy, and what it will be used for.

- - -

Modernization of the PLAN over the past two decades has been driven by two factors, a) the possibility of a military conflict with Taiwan over any declaration of independence that the island might make, and more recently b) growing needs to protect China’s sea lines of communications (SLOC) in order to secure the country’s global network of energy resources and trading activities.

If one looks carefully at what is going on in Taiwan, one can see that just as the need to protect against an amphibious landing by the U.S. disappeared in 1972 when Nixon went to China, the need to invade Taiwan as a means to reunite the country has, for all practical purposes, disappeared too. This latter item resulted from  two factors. The first was the excellent job U.S. diplomats have done over the past 30+ years in encouraging Taiwan's leaders to seek peaceful reconciliation with mainland China, rather than declaring independence. The second was the economic and societal coming together that Taiwan and the PRC have experienced over the past 7 years.

On this latter item, most Taiwan corporations today operate their factories in China, not in Taiwan. Additionally, both Taiwan and China now allow, and in fact encourage, travel between the people of these two countries. This coming together has helped China move past the feeling that it might need to invade Taiwan in order to bring it back into the fold. More specifically, if China wanted to force Taiwan back into its realm, rather than invading Taiwan and risking war with the U.S., today all it would have to do to take over the island would be to shut down the thousands of Taiwan owned factories operating in China. Doing so, in one fell swoop, would cripple Taiwan’s economy beyond repair and probably cause Taiwan’s industrialists to scream for its government to agree to anything and everything China wanted, as long as their precious factories were reopened. Being honest about the make up of the mainland Chinese as well as the island Taiwanese, in the end, both of them are nothing if not pragmatic capitalists clothed in a semi-socialist skin.

That leaves only reason “b” above, growing needs to protect China’s sea lines of communication, as a cause for China to expand its Navy. Is this a valid excuse for China to develop an effective blue water navy?

To understand the answer, we should first look at what kind of Navy China has today.

- - -

The 225,000-man PLAN is organized into three fleets: North Sea, East Sea, and South Sea Fleets. Each fleet is composed of surface forces, submarine forces, naval aviation, and coastal defense forces. The South Sea Fleet also has two marine brigades, totaling some 10,000 men. In time of crisis, the PLAN can be supported by China’s merchant and fishing ship fleets. Main naval bases are based in 10 locations; Lushun, Huludao, Qingdao, Shanghai, Zhoushan, Wenzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Zhanjiang, and Yulin.

Among Asian countries, China clearly operates the largest submarine force of all. Consisting of 8–10 nuclear-powered submarines and 50–60 diesel-electric submarines. They are a formidable fleet, even if they are not up to the capabilities of those the U.S. Navy has. However, the problem is not the numbers of subs China has, but the capabilities of its second-generation Type 093 (Shang Class) nuclear-powered attack submarine and the Type 094 (Jin Class) nuclear-powered missile submarine. In both cases, these ships have already entered service, and they are worthy competitors for the U.S. Navy.

On the other hand, these beauties are supplemented by a group of rather useless old style submarines. They serve little purpose other than to provide the U.S. Navy with excellent training opportunities and sonar practice for its operators. They are the older Type 033 (Romeo Class) and Type 035 (Ming Class) diesel-electric submarines. Based on old 1950s-era Soviet technology, these subs are gradually being replaced by the newer indigenous Type 039 (Song Class) and Russian-built Kilo Class. And to confuse this a little bit more, there is an even newer Yuan Class underway, that has entered “batch” production.

Chinese Type 022 missle boatAbove water, since 1990 the Chinese Navy has received a total of 13 destroyers in six classes. The Chinese Army, during the same period, has enjoyed an increase of 20 brigades, in four classes.

Most of the Chinese-built wet surface combatants are equipped with the Chinese indigenous YJ-83 anti-ship cruise-missile (ASCM). Early vessels were armed with the HHQ-7 short-range air-defense missile system, while later variants are fitted with more capable medium- to long-range air-defense missile systems and vertical-launch system (VLS) modules. To complement these vessels, the PLAN is introducing the modernized Type 022 (Houbei Class) low-visibility missile boat to replace the ageing Houku Class. Additionally, China is building at least one, and probably two or more aircraft carriers to increase its long-range power projection capability.

On a more prosaic level, the amphibious warfare fleet of the PLAN has been expanding slowly too since the early 1990s. This area has seen the introduction of 19 Type 072-II and Type 072-III (Yuting-I and Yuting-II Class) tank landing ships, as well as a Type 071 landing platform dock (LPD). The dock is designed to provide a large helicopter flight deck and a Chinese Type 071 LPDfloodable docking area for up to four aircraft cushion landing crafts. It is thought that the amphibious fleet being launched is capable of transporting an army division, including its personnel and heavy equipment, to cross a littoral sea area such as that of the Taiwan Strait. However, additional transport capacities can be achieved by employing container ships and roll-on/roll-off ships of the merchant fleet.[4]

A formidable force, perhaps. But, the reader should recognize that a) these are small vessels, and b) prior to China’s effort to put this fleet in place it had nothing. Which means that China is doing nothing more than playing catch up, albeit with new, modern equipment instead of 80s–90s vintage stuff. One should also recognize that most of these ships were originally launched to support a possible future amphibious assault and landing on Taiwan. Now that the need for such a landing has dissipated, one wonders what value these smaller vessels might have for China on the high seas of the Pacific? Surely if, say, China were to decide to use them to support an amphibious landing on the Spratly Islands, say, to take over an island claimed by the Philippines or Viet Nam, U.S. satellites would see this fleet putting to sea far before it arrived, and have ample time to react.[5]

Type 074A LPDConsidering what China started out with as a Navy, it has done well in modernizing and expanding it, albeit the vessels in its stable are not exactly world ranging ocean going ships. Still, following a well funded program, the PLAN has been following a three-step strategy to bring it up to speed and parity with the countries that sail through its home waters… countries like Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan.

The first step was planned around giving China the capabilities it needed to operate a 1980s–1990s level naval force in what it termed the first island chain. The first island chain is composed of a series of islands that stretch from Japan to the north, to Taiwan, and Philippines to the south.

The second step of the program involves increasing the breadth and scope of its naval force so that it can project its capabilities beyond the first island chain to what is called, quite naturally, the second island chain. The second island chain includes Guam, Indonesia, and Australia. At the same time as these efforts are underway, China intends to slowly develop a third-stage of the program. This third stage will again extend its forces, globally. The third stage of expansion is intended to be achieved by the middle of the twenty-first century.

China's island chain strategy

- - - 

So what’s the point? Why go through this effort? Does China have something up its sleeve, or is it simply taking some of the profits from the trash it manufactures and sells to us, and spending it on the navy it always wanted but never had?

Our guess: a little bit of both, but no big deal in either case.

Clearly, China can afford to buy whatever navy it wants these days. If so, then why shouldn’t we worry. The answer: apart from the economic integration case made earlier, the real threat in what China is doing is not in the 1990s navy it is building, but in a) the 21st century technology it is working on that will be on board that navy, and b) its feeling that it has a right, and perhaps even an obligation, to toss its weight around when it comes to what happens in the waters of its own back yard.

"Toss its weight around," we said. Not "engage in a naval war." There is a difference.

Looking at the issue of concern over the size of China's navy, versus the capabilities of its newer technologies, on the former point there is little doubt that the U.S. Navy can hold its own against China’s new upcoming 21st century version of a 1990s-era Navy, even without funds being taken from the other branches of service and passed on to the U.S. Navy for use.

Regarding the issue of 21st century technology however, this is a much more serious matter. The problem is not the vessels that China puts its men on, but the missiles those men operate on those vessels. China’s lead over the U.S. is not in naval technology, but in software and application development, in support of supersonic anti-ship missiles. Fully capable of developing the best in the way of every sort of rocket motor from solid and liquid fueled to turbojets, turbofans, and ramjets, China’s overall naval strength in this area will likely cause heartburn for many U.S. Navy commanders.

Chinese Dong Feng 21-D ASBM MissileAn example of this is the FL-7 (Fei Long, meaning Flying Dragon) supersonic anti-ship missile. This little beauty can be carried on aircraft or warships. It has an effective range of 32 kilometers and a speed of Mach 1.4. But that’s not the best of it… it has powerful anti-jamming capability and its supersonic flight makes terminal interception extremely difficult. The warhead of the FL-7 can pierce solid armor and destroy large and medium-sized surface warships in a flash.

Compared to the newly announced Dong Feng 21D missile however, the FL-7 is just a toy. Known as the carrier killer, the Dong Feng began as a conventionally-armed high hypersonic land-based anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), but was modified so that it would provide the ability to target a moving aircraft carrier strike group. Launched either from a long-range, land-based mobile launcher, submarine, or any other type of naval vessel, the missile is an example of not just advanced missile technology, but also good strategic thinking in terms of arms development, and more importantly, world class software development.

The Chinese say it’s a carrier killer. The U.S. Navy says don’t worry about it. We’ll let you decide. For us, what’s more important than the idea that this and other kinds of new Chinese weapon systems might pose a challenge to the U.S. Navy is the fact that China feels it needs them to begin with. It’s the fact that China is trying to project strength that’s important, not the fact that the strength is, to borrow a phrase from Mao Tse Tung back in the 1950s when he spoke about America, a paper tiger.

Let us explain.

- - - 

To understand just how much of a threat China's new Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles are to the U.S., one has to look closely at what China might do with them, and what the U.S. Navy thinks about them.

To begin with, let’s take the U.S. Navy at its word when it comes to what they say about the kind of threat China represents to the U.S. Let’s accept the statements of U.S. Naval commanders that these kinds of missiles and the increase in China’s naval projection they represent are no threat at all to the U.S. Navy.[6] If that’s the case, then what China is in actuality doing by spending its money on these weapon systems is bluffing in the game of Pacific Ocean poker. That is, they’re trying to project a perceived power and capability on their part by creating hype around the money they are spending, and the things they are spending that money on, rather than the actual capabilities they are claiming they have. In effect then, China is not winding up to throw a punch, it’s merely positioning itself to be able to toss its elbows around a bit, if need be.

East Los Angeles Low RiderAnd therein lies the truth: China wants to be able to sail around the South China Sea, throughout the Spratly Islands (claimed by six countries, including the Philippines, Viet Nam and China, these islands sit on massive oil deposits), down along the coast of Australia, into the Indian Ocean, as well as across the Pacific towards the U.S., and be respected in the process. It’s looking for what East Los Angeles low riders would say is a little street cred.

Compared to the Navy it once had, what it is building today will bring China that street cred. For now, at least.

As for why China feels the need to project street cred in the Pacific, the answer comes back again to being able to muscle its way through any confrontation with its neighbors, without going to war. That is, it’s not the U.S. Navy that China feels it will need to go up against when it tosses its elbows around, it’s the Navies of the Philippines, Viet Nam, India, Russia, Japan, and a few others. Since these countries are the claimants to the ocean areas that China wants to have a right to drill for oil in, it needs to be able to muscle these guys off to the side, without taking them on directly.

It’s new navy, by projecting power, will help it do that.

How will it help China do that? Because while the U.S. Navy may be able to take on the new Chinese navy, none of these smaller countries will be able to do so in and of themselves. And since it is unlikely that Uncle Sam will go to war with China to protect, say, Manila’s rights to drill for oil in the Spratly Islands, China’s gamble on the hand it will be holding once it launches its new navy will likely pay off. At the Pacific Ocean poker game table, China will have placed a good bet by throwing enough money around to make the other players think it is holding a flush. Fortunately for all of us, it isn't.

Returning to comments made by Robert Kaplan, “The struggle for primacy in the Western Pacific will not necessarily involve combat; much of what takes place will happen quietly and over the horizon in blank sea space, at a glacial tempo befitting the slow, steady accommodation to superior economic and military power that states have made throughout history. War is far from inevitable even if competition is a given.” We agree with him. In the case of a naval battle between the China and the U.S., war is a non-starter, and so is a hot naval engagement between China and the U.S.[7]

So where does this leave us? We would posit that it is plain and obvious from all of this that China is seeking to expand its sea muscles. From a fair-minded perspective, one could certainly say that since it lives in the neighborhood that it is seeking to project its power into, it certainly has a right to do so. With this in mind, one would think that if the U.S. wants to temper this show of strength on China’s part, it should gear up its State Department diplomats to engage China and, reasonably speaking, help it achieve its goals without sacrificing the needs, rights, and goals of the other countries that the U.S. should be standing beside. In basic English, the U.S. should seek to find a way to work hand in hand with both China and the other players in the region that have a vested interest in how sea matters are handled there, rather than flash its elbows when it begins to see China’s ships coming over the horizon.

Which brings us back to all this talk about our government needing to cut back on the Army’s budget in order to toss a bit of money in the direction of the Navy. By our reasoning, it’s just another excuse to cut back on military spending at the end of yet a couple of more wars. There’s probably nothing that we can be done about it, except let the government know that it’s not fooling anyone, and in the process hope and pray that while the U.S. and the Chinese navy are running around out in the Pacific circling each other, no one needs the Army to sort out another mess on the ground in some God forsaken country… like Iran.





[1] Robert D. Kaplan, Foreign Policy;, Sept/Oct 2011, The South China Sea Is the Future of Conflict; The 21st century's defining battleground is going to be on water – To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to Text

[2] U.S. Naval Institute, Fear and Loathing in the Post-Naval Era; Proceedings Magazine - June 2009 Vol. 135/6/1,276; By Barrett Tillman – To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to Text

[3] Statistics from Fiscal Year 2008/2009 Department of the Navy Budget Materials; To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to text

[4] Most data stated above sourced from To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to text

[5] The author can attest to China’s lack of naval power in the 80s, as back in 1984 while on a “scenic hiking exercise” in the mountains outside of Qingdao (Tsingtao… as in the beer), China, he inadvertently climbed to the top of a range of mountains to the north of the city, on the other side of which stood one of the Chinese Navy’s then top secret submarine bases. Clearly visible from the top of the mountain, it was nothing more than a small fishing village when compared to that at New London, Connecticut… a nuclear sub base the author also saw many times back in the 80s.  The picture series above shows the Qingdao submarine base as it stands today. Today it is no longer a sleepy little fishing village. To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to text

[6] The Daily Mail, U.K., China's new 'carrier killer' missile won't stop us doing our job, says U.S. navy commander, 15 February 2011; “Vice Admiral Scott van Buskirk, commander of the vast U.S. 7th Fleet, said that the Navy does not see the weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the American carriers.” To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to text

[7] Ibidem footnote [1] above. To return to your place in the text, click here: Return to text

Additional Sources:

        Sources used in the writing of this article include:

The United States and Sino-Vietnamese Relations; Brantly Womack;

Air Power Australia; People's Liberation Army Air Force and Naval Air Arm , Air Base Infrastructure; Technical Report APA-TR-2007-0103; by Dr Carlo Kopp, SMAIAA, MIEEE, PEng,  30th January 2007, Updated 15th January, 2011, © 2007, 2011 Carlo Kopp

This page originally posted 1 March 2012 

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