Tuesday, September 27, 2016

China War Strategy - Blockade

Various strategies have been put forth for conducting a war with China.  Why is having a strategy important?  Because the strategy determines what equipment, assets, training, and tactics we should be focusing on.  Is the LCS (or F-35 or Zumwalt or whatever) useful?  Well, that depends on the strategy that we envision using. 

One of the common China war strategies put forth is the distant blockade.  In simple terms, this strategy envisions a long range, stand off, world wide blockade imposed to deny raw materials.  Over time, China will lose the ability to continue waging war and will be forced to accept some sort of negotiated peace settlement.

Before I go any further, let me clearly state that this is simply an objective evaluation of one possible strategy.  It is not the strategy that ComNavOps would endorse! 

This strategy has the following attributes.

  • It ensures a very long term process.  China has immense natural resources available within its own borders and has many overland supply routes through other countries.  It is highly unlikely that the US would be willing to interdict many of the overland supply routes since they pass through other countries.

  • It minimizes large scale, direct combat in favor of small, lower end blockade actions and counteractions.

  • It requires world wide military actions and necessitates using a large number of ships and aircraft, possibly more than we have available.

  • It would be almost exclusively an Air Force and Navy action.

  • It would cause immense disruption of the world’s economy for an extended period of time (to be fair, any war between superpowers will disrupt the world’s economy – the time frame being the key issue).

  • It would result in a war of attrition.

Let’s examine the basic premise: that China could be “starved” into peace.  As stated, China has large amounts of natural resources within its borders.  Consider how long N.Korea and Iran have held out in the face of severe sanctions (an uncontested blockade, in essence) and neither of those countries has the resources that China does.  In WWII, Japan was able to continue feeding the homeland and securing sufficient raw materials to continue waging war for four years despite being a very small country and an easily isolated island nation.  Likewise, Germany was able to continue producing war materials right up until the end of the war.  Yes, each experienced shortages of various materials (as did the US) but the overall war production effort carried on and the populations were at least minimally fed.  China is many times larger and can’t be physically isolated.  How much longer could China hold out?  Does anyone think the welfare of its citizens is the Chinese government’s main concern?  We’re probably looking at decades before any serious degradation of war effort would occur.  Could the US and world economies withstand this?  Could we absorb decades worth of attrition?

In order to be successful in any useful time frame, the blockade would have to extend to China’s overland supply routes.  This would require very long range forays by aircraft to attack the routes, pipelines, etc. and would necessitate flying through other country’s airspace.  Many of those countries would be unlikely to allow such intrusions – Russia, notably, comes to mind.

The final and most important aspect of such a strategy is the end result.  What would the end result be?  Answering that starts with understanding the beginning of the war.  The US will not initiate a war with China.  Thus, the assumed start of the war would, undoubtedly, entail the seizure by China of islands, land, or, specifically, Taiwan in an initial “blitzkrieg”.  Then, after many years of blockade the end result would be a negotiated peace settlement demanded by a war-weary Western world that can’t match the long term willingness of China to continue the conflict.  The reality, in such a peace negotiation, is that China would offer to return a few pieces of land or allow a semi-autonomous governing of Taiwan under Chinese control (to be later, slowly, scrapped).  There would certainly be no return to the original boundaries and conditions.  Thus, a negotiated settlement would be a win for ChinaChina would have secured the vast majority of its war objectives.

In fact, if China were smart, they would grab a few extra pieces of land at the start of the war, that they don’t really want, to use as bargaining chips during eventual peace talks at which point they would “magnanimously” offer to return them, thereby demonstrating their commitment to, and extreme desire for, peace.

After the negotiated settlement giving China most of what it wanted, China would pause, rebuild its military and prepare for the next round of annexation and conflict.

We see then, that the net result of the blockade strategy is to allow China to achieve the majority of its wartime goals at a relatively small cost while leaving China with a fully functioning military and supporting defense industry and completely intact civilian infrastructure, thus ensuring that the entire cycle will be repeated down the road.


The blockade strategy is a flawed strategy that accomplishes nothing for the US.

56 comments:

  1. I don't know if you've read the recent RAND report into the likely consequences of a conflict between the US and China:
    http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1140.html#relatedProducts

    It is not a cheerful analysis. I think CNOps would entirely agree with the RAND recommendations that the USN develop more-survivable platforms, and improve its supply chain to allow for maintainable logistics; and that a land campaign against China would be insane. They argue that even an intense conflict would be expected to remain non-nuclear.

    With particular regard to this interesting post, they believe that the Chinese are planning for a short, intense war, even if the US is not. They think that a blockade would probably be unnecessary, since in the event of war in the Soth China Sea non-Chinese merchant shipping would not risk going there anyway, and there aren't enough Chinese merchant ships available to do very much. They guess that about 10% of Chinese seaborne trade (which makes up about 95% to the total) might continue. That decrease, they think, would not affect overall food supplies since China is essentially self-sufficient in the basic items: but oil and gas imports would be seriously diminished.

    The most depressing thing is that RAND estimate that there is a high probability that a war could be long, intense, and inconclusive.

    Thoughts?

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    1. I've offered a post full of thoughts. What are your thoughts?

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    2. I've offered a post summarising the conclusions of people who have thought far more than I have, and even conceivably as much as you have, about the problems. I would like to know what you, as an expert on the subject, think about their thoughts. I understand that may not be a question you want to answer.

      But if you want to know my own and tentative thoughts:

      1) RAND reckon that China are planning for a war, if one ever becomes necessary, that would be short and intense. The US, they fear, are not: hence their insistence (on which I think we would both agree) that the US should put much more effort into developing damage-resistant ships, etc. Agreed?


      2) RAND reckon that, in a war starting in 2015, the US even in their unresistant state would probably end up after a year or so in a better state than China. By 2025 that would be much more less so. I find that troubling. Do you?

      3) Distant blockade is something that might as you argue not work, or if it does so might (as in the past) only do so slowly: except that if RAND are to be believed, China is critically dependent on seaborne import of oil and natural gas. I would like to know (a) if you believe from your knowledge that is true (b) if you think that overland pipelines from Russia could substitute (c) how long you think the Chinese military effort could be sustained in a case of acute fuel shortage..

      My own very tentative replies would be (a) very possibly (b) probably not, at least not immediately and not without considerable vulnerability (c) not all that long.

      Yours?

      4) I think we are both, RAND likewise, agreed that an intense orsustained war between the US and China would do enormous damage to both parties, and to many third parties also. Do you agree? If not, what is your preferred alternative to a distant blockade?


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    3. While I appreciate readers pointing out links to various reports and references, I even more appreciate readers who critically analyze reports (my posts included !) and draw their own conclusions and offer those conclusions for discussion. Don't be hesitant to do so. Analysis requires only logic and common sense.

      That said, I'll address a few points that you/RAND raise.

      The RAND report was simplistic and generic and actually offered relatively little useful specifics.

      Damage resistant ships should be developed because that's what a good warship design is. Whether China is a friend or enemy is irrelevant as regards good warship design. Good warship design is not linked to a specific enemy.

      Regarding the US having the upper hand in a near term conflict, doesn't that suggest that the US should initiate a war now, while it has a much better chance of winning? There's some food for thought!

      Almost all countries are dependent on oil/gas imports to a greater or lesser extent - China is no exception. That said, I think China could manage for longer than we could sustain the will to fight. I also think China is acutely aware of this vulnerability and is working hard at developing overland supply routes - the Russian pipeline being an example. At least at the moment, Russia would happily help China in a war with the US.

      As far as each side being damaged, so what? That's kind of what war does. If the long term benefit is worth it, the short term economic disruption is acceptable. Historically, most countries, even the losers, eventually emerge from war stronger than they started.

      I'm going to refrain from discussing my preferred strategy as it requires a deeper level of geopolitical consideration than this blog is intended to address.

      I'll say this about my, or any, strategy:

      -There is no point going to war if you don't eliminate the enemy's ability to make war for many, many decades to come. Anything less and you'll simply wind up fighting the war again. For example, Desert Storm did not eliminate Saddam's military capability and we wound up fighting the war again. For example, the Korean War did not eliminate NKorea's military capability and we're going to fight the war again. Contrast that with the outcome of WWII. We completely eliminated Germany and Japan's military capability and we haven't had to fight them again. In fact, they have become reliable allies. They are also an example of losers who eventually emerged economically stronger than pre-war!

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    4. China has a strategic petroleum reserve. The good news is that there reserve facilities appear to be right next to major ports.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_petroleum_reserve_(China)

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    5. We're not far from agreement, but I would ask:

      Damage resistance is of course a fine concept, but might it not (except from the point of view of the crew of the damaged ship) be sometimes overdone? Consider the damage resistance of Allied tanks in WW II: the US Sherman had 3.7 - 4.8 inches effective frontal armour, the UK Churchill had 6 inches. The US reckoned the Sherman was superior on account of its greater speed and mobility. (Churchill crews may nor have agreed.)

      As for going to war now while the US has a better chance than in ten years' time: yes, but if you accept the RAND diagnosis that even now a war would probably be long, bitter, ruinous and inconclusive ...

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    6. "a war would probably be long, bitter, ruinous and inconclusive ."

      That's what war is!!! As far as being inconclusive, that's up to us. If we have definite war goals then the result will be totally conclusive.

      Further regarding "inconclusive", what end state would you suggest a war with China should include to make it all worthwhile?

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  2. Here are some relevant operational concepts. Maybe I will post some strategic thoughts later if I have any.

    We have a good shot at closing China's harbors within the first days of the war. USAF recently experimented with putting JDAM guidance kits on naval mines. This combination of existing weapons in inventory allows for a precise placement of mines at range. The plan would be for stealth bombers to drop these mines equipped with JDAM to mine China's harbors (1).


    A similar approach using penetrating stealth bombers and PGM's could prove effective at sinking Chinese ships in port. Satellites would monitor Chinese ports in real time and identify targets. When valuable targets are spotted, USAF could send a stealth bomber armed with stealthy ASM's (as envisioned in the LRASM program) to launch a port strike.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0ahUKEwj606mr6q_PAhWH64MKHRA2D_sQFgg0MAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.au.af.mil%2Fau%2Fafri%2Faspj%2Fdigital%2Fpdf%2Farticles%2F2015-Mar-Apr%2FV-Pietrucha.pdf&usg=AFQjCNE_AIBIsHAeRwIWM6rDDxiUiUGfpg&sig2=5Cbd48POE5xm1CRoGr_KdQ

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    1. I think the chance of a "good shot" at mining China's harbors is far less than you're suggesting. Even using the JDAM mining technique, the mine release range is, at best, 40 miles. On the A2/AD scale, that's very close range. A bomber would have to penetrate a thousand miles of contested airspace with many air and land based radars, infrared sensors, air patrols, naval patrols, and thousands of old fashioned Mk1 eyeballs. The likelihood of accomplishing that is slim especially at the outset of war when no significant attrition will have yet occurred and no significant reduction in the A2/AD defenses will have occurred.

      Turn the scenario around. Do you think it likely, with all the resources of the US military gathered on one coast and actively looking for Chinese aircraft, that a Chinese aircraft, even a stealth one, could penetrate to within 40 miles of one of our major mainland harbors? I don't see any way that could happen and yet you suggest we have a "good shot" of doing the same in the reverse scenario?

      If we do, indeed, have a "good shot" at accomplishing this then stealth is far more powerful than I or the general military and public believe. Recently retired CNO Greenert publicly stated that stealth is not all that important. The Air Force has dialed back their stealth requirements on future aircraft in recognition of its diminishing effectiveness.

      The same thoughts apply to sinking Chinese ships in port.

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    2. Agreed, but why does the US have to think in terms of close blockade?

      A concept abandoned by the RN pre-1914. Distant blockade, as practiced in the earlier years of WWII and for most of WWI, was enough to stop American supplies from reaching Germany. See RAND report on probable falloff of Chinese imports even without close blockade.

      Given Chinese long-term dependence on fuel supplies from the Middle East and Africa, and the impossibility of the Chinese navy blockading the US, what's the outcome?

      Best figure I can find is 11% of oil imports from Russia, and I don't know how much of that is by tanker.

      Query: ratio between Chinese oil reserves, oil consumption? Vulnerability of crude oil refineries?

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    3. You undoubtedly noted that the post said, specifically, "distant blockade". You also, undoubtedly, noted that the distant blockade was described in more detail in one of the comments and is exactly what you've suggested.

      Also, blockades are not just about oil, as important as that is. For example, crucial rare earths and minerals are required for all manner of electronic devices that find their way into weapons.

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  3. I think a blockade would be very tough to sustain given the distances we'd have to blockade from with the A2/AD. That said, I wonder what the chinese merchant marine fleet is like? Are oil and goods carried on Chinese vessels?

    If so, then commerce raiding might be a useful tool if you could find the right platform to do it. (It would have to be cheap and long ranged, with enough teeth to sink chinese merchant ships). It wouldn't decide things, but cutting off oil shipments for a time might be a useful tool.

    But its just one tool. Its not a war winner. Its just something you can use if you plan on fighting for a long time.

    Ultimately, we either build the Navy to be able to contest the A2/AD and the Chinese fleet or we don't. China is the biggest, most capable, and most likely great power competitor. If we build our forces to contend with them our forces can then handle smaller issues as well. If we don't build our forces to contend with them, then honestly I'm tired of building 15 billion dollar carriers and 2.5 billion dollar air defence destroyers.

    We're in this hellish middle ground where the Navy is super expensive and overmatched for small opponents, but still can't take on China in the area its most likely to fight.

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    1. I get the impression that you're envisioning an actual physical blockade around China with ships spaced every so many miles apart. That's not how a modern blockade would work or, at least, not the main method.

      A modern blockade would interdict Chinese shipping in ports all around the world BEFORE THEY COULD EVEN SET SAIL. It would interdict shipping in known navigational chokepoints around the world. It would attempt to enlist the aid of other countries to NOT EVEN SELL THE CHINESE GOODS. And so on. The physical blockade around the A2/AD zone would be last and least preferred aspect of a blockade.

      For example, rather than try to spot and stop oil tankers on the open ocean nearing China (which would require dozens/hundreds of ships and many, many aircraft), it would be far easier and more efficient for just a few ships to interdict all Chinese bound oil tankers coming out of the Middle East.

      Does that concept of a blockade make more sense?

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    2. Let's say we interdict all Chinese bound tankers coming out of the Middle East. First, I think it's going to take more than a few ships. More likely a couple of carrier groups and a handful of submarines to boot.

      Second, what do we do when China starts escorting the tankers with their own ships or ships from Russia or Iran? Or, when China retaliates and starts harrassing our ships or ships from Japan, South Korea, and other countries friendly to the USA?

      I don't see a blockade as envisioned is feasible as it could easily result in a shooting war.

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    3. "First, I think it's going to take more than a few ships. More likely a couple of carrier groups and a handful of submarines to boot."

      Have you looked at a map? There's some pretty narrow passages. It wouldn't require more than a few ships.

      "I don't see a blockade as envisioned is feasible as it could easily result in a shooting war."

      Did you even read the post? The post is about a war with China. It's even in the title: China War Strategy !!!!! Of course it's a shooting war! Is there any other kind?

      Do your homework! This is not up to standard.

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    4. Could there be a problem with the Chinese reflagging their vessels?

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    5. "Does that concept of a blockade make more sense?"

      Well yes, and I apologize. When I actually look closely at the map the idea of a cuban missile crisis type blockade is silly.

      I will admit I've not heard of the idea of a blockade attacking the ships in port, but that does make more sense.

      Attacking them at strategic choke points to me has always been more of like a commerce raiding/submersible type activity, but when I come to think of it yes, its more of a blockade.

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    6. If your talking about preventing middle eastern countries from selling oil, wouldn't that prompt Iran to do something militarily to save their last major source of income?

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    7. "Standard used to be to have the ability to fight two wars..."
      You just answered your own question. We no longer have the luxury of be able to take on multiple countries at once. In addition, do you seriously believe all these minor, hostile countries are not going to take advantage of a Sino-American conflict once that show begans?

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    8. Set aside your timidity for a moment and think it through. If Iran were to attempt to take advantage of a US-China war, what would Israel, Saudia Arabia, Egypt, UK, Germany, France, and others do? Don't fall into the trap of thinking of these situations in isolation. Also, don't fall into the trap of being so paralyzed be fear that you can't even contemplate taking actions.

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    9. You misunderstood my chain of thought. A war with china would not be an isolated event, but as was said, a distraction. A distraction that would be siezed upon by Iran, North Korea, Russia, or any other hostile entities to further their own agendas. Any plan in regards to a war with china should also address these likely scenarios, and if possible these possible threats should be neutralized or neutered to take them out of any "what-if" situations. We will not need any "distractions" ourselves, if or when the China problem comes to a head.

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    10. Ummm ...... OK. Did you have some specific "neutralization" plan in mind short of preemptive nuclear strikes? I don't know of any other way of neutralizing an entire country. You seem to have something in mind but I don't have any idea where you're going with it. Please elaborate.

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    11. To prevent Russia from taking advantage of the situation, that would depend on our European partners taking a more active role in their on defense. Do I think Russia would act militarily against us, no. Would they annex or destabilize additional countries, yes because at the end it would be wise for them to be in a dominant position after the US and China spend themselves in conflict. We just need to contain them.

      Iran and North Korea could easily be rendered combat ineffective. They would need the majority of their assets located and destroy so that our regional partners, Saudi Arabia and South Korea would be in dominant positions. That would free up or own forces for use against China. Iran and North Korea could still affect our allies afterwards, but not to the extant that their INTACT military could have.

      So to sum up my thoughts, we need to start reducing wildcards of the table, thats my views at least.

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    12. If I understand you correctly, you're suggesting that we begin the process of getting our allies to begin improving their military preparedness in anticipation of future problems. I agree completely. It's silly for the US to still be Europe. UK, Germany, France, etc. are more than capable of taking care of themselves and we should make it clear that they're on their own.

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    13. You have, thats only sure way to keep Russia from securing itself an advantageous position in the aftermath of a sino-american conflict.

      On the Iran problem, we could avoid having to eliminate their possible entry into the conflict by offering to buy the oil they normally sell to the chinese. That's the only alternative I see in regards to that.

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  4. While both the US and China are going through genuine worrying/planning/preparation for the A2A2 and its anti; the events (accidental or incidental, such as Senkakus, Taiwan, SCS) leading to such scenario are pretty much under careful scrutiny of multilateral dialogue, and conflict dissipation on each level, in sum to prevent the big blow up. I'm not saying it (i.e. the war everybody thinks about) won't happen, but it will take herculean sequential and progressive screw-ups on both sides to let it happen (i.e. after all, all sides are sane and interest vested with too much to lose)

    The event I'm worry about, and I'm not sure both sides are preparing for, is the sudden dissolution (or blow up) on the Korean Peninsula- because NK is the true blacksheep event. If that NK's 30-something kid-despot miscalculated, I'm not even sure A2AD(and its anti) will be applicable; and both sides will be herded into a potential eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation (or mess clean up) without a playbook.

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    1. I'm not sure exactly what dialogue you're referring to but the notion that both sides are doing the utmost to prevent war is nonsense. One side, the US, is engaged in total appeasement. The other side, China, is engaged in robust expansionism, inciting nationalistic fervor, and attempting to establish illegal claims (military rights applying to EEZ, ignoring the findings of UNCLOS to which they are a signatory, and so on), among many other war-ish actions.

      You are badly misreading the US-China relationship. You might want to review the actions demonstrated on both sides and rethink your suggestion.

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    2. China sold the dry dock (or wet dock) the USN launched its Zumwalt and few Burkes from, and is looking to sell a few more to IR (to build more warships.)

      You tell me.

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    3. While China may wish to be 'mil.expansionist', their hardware do not look so beyond first island chain (or if you count their missile fleet, 1000 miles from its shore.) They have about ~50 naval aviators (took them 3 yrs just to graduate 15 from a pool of its air force flanker pilots), one jr.carrier sailing and one jr.carrier under construction. If one use 10 airwings of 50 hornet pilots per as benchmark, it will take PLAN 20-30 years (500/15= 33)to produce that many naval aviators; and chiefs to run the guts of the ship(s). Therefore, as defensive A2AD threat, PLA is plausible; as expansionist, it won't happen for another quarter century- even if it sets its mind now (which, btw, I don't get that vib from reading their stuff.)

      As economic expansionist, they are trying. So, which fight are you fighting?

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  5. Commander, didn't you get this memo from the White House?

    https://www.navytimes.com/articles/white-house-tells-the-pentagon-to-quit-talking-about-competition-with-china

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    1. I'm sure Neville Chamberlain sent out the same memo about Hitler!

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  6. Here goes,
    I think a naval blockade would be the ideal scenario for the US, while China would strive for the short sharp war, at least i think thats what both sides have stated they would aim for. Gives you an indication of the strategic thinking.
    China likely would suffer far too much under a long siege, and US isn't ready to sustain the losses a short sharp conflict is likely to generate, so far from their Strategic supply lines.

    As a brief look at history, the blockade of Japan lasted 3 years before having significant affect because Japan had conquered strategic assets capable of supplying the home islands with oil before the war really took off.
    You'll note that shortly after the vast majority of Japanese conquests were removed from her possession, Japan soon sued for peace, once the oil pipelines were blocked off, i think they had months of fighting left in them not years.
    As to the effectiveness of blockade on China, vs land routes that wouldn't be interdicted, i think they are negligible, even heavy industrial rail can't move a fraction of the cargo capacity of even a small maritime fleet, so, if its an effective blockade China would suffer greatly. Im sure they've a large strategic reserve of essential's, but their economy is voraciously hungry, i doubt they could weather the privations of a blockade for many years, let alone even a few.
    Naval blockade is playing into US's strengths, obviously, enormously powerful fleet with a long range strike AF to back it up, would likely bottle up China very well.
    Privations on the western world would be horrendous, we've come to rely, nasty as it is, on cheap Chinese slave labour for our cheap manufactured goods. Our consumerism demands that influx. Robotic manufacturing is coming along, and 3D printing is nearly there, this would give such technologies a huge boost, and within a few years, we would likely be able to make up the shortfall and more. Tesla are now once again expanding car manufacturing within the continental United States, something that was in decline. Apple now have robotic factories building iMacs, computer construction for the past 2 decades have been nearly exclusively out of S.E. Asia. So, like all war, it would be terrible, but again like all war, there would be a rejuvenation to come from it.
    In my opinion, should the respective powers manage to keep it conventional, China would likely surrender, or reach an accord (giving up without giving up) within less than a year of blockade being initiated. I think we'd see a few limited naval confrontations, and some aerial battles, which would go largely the wests way. Maybe even a few mining and submarine operations off US western sea board to give something to the yokels to cheer about during increasing hardships, but that would likely be it. I just dont think that the PLAN is capable of power projection outside mainland air cover, not for at least another decade, maybe longer. Other than Taiwan, I'm not sure who's really under threat from Chinese aggression, so while they may want a short sharp war, i dont know who they'll expect to give it to them.
    My 2 cents.

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  7. You are mistaken. If I cut off half your food, do you say I failed? Just look at the map, and read about China's ship lane dependence. A naval blockade would be easy due to the straits to the south. China would suffer immediately and feel great pain. They would become a N. Korea, unless they embarked on a far more difficult and complex strategy of invading the Philippines and Indonesia, where a half billion irate locals would object.

    But none of this will happen because it benefits no one. There is zero chance of war, and we should pull our forces out of Korea and Japan and deploy our money to Baltimore and Charlotte and our borders where the real threats exist. This is all BS peddled by warmongers seeking to profit off a mythical threat.

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    1. Zero chance of war is an astounding assertion.
      If 7000 years of recorded history is any indicator, it is that war is the natural state of things, not peace, every nation in existence today, has spent more time at war than at peace. That includes all the recently created nations post WWII. So i dont know where you get that zero chance from.
      Its idealistic and would be lovely, just not overly realistic.

      Unless you're counting on MAD, and MAD only keeps the major powers from going after one another, it does nothing to stop colonial wars.

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    2. Nate, well said.

      Further, China seems to be deliberately putting itself on a collision course with the US by its policy of annexation and expansion and its illegal claims to the entire South China Sea and blatant disregard for the findings of the UNCLOS tribunal (of which China is a signatory) and there is more than enough reason to evaluate the chance of war at well above zero.

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  8. I don't think China would do anything that they think would result in a shooting match with America without other distractions for us. For example, North Korea attacking the south, and/or "unrestricted warfare" here in CONUS. I imagine if China risks war with America in the Western Pacific, that such conflict will be the least of America's worries and hence be contested meekly.

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    1. This is an excellent point. The US military's standard used to be the ability to fight and win two large scale regional wars simultaneously. Now the standard is to fight and win one and hold in a second.

      China is slowly reducing its possible "distractions" by its own aggressive actions. For example, Vietnam and India could have been distractions but are now solidly anti-Chinese. Russia is a possibility but the Chinese-Russian relationship is tenuous, at best. Iran would make a good distraction.

      I suspect that China would have a hard time orchestrating a distraction but would certainly not hesitate to take advantage of an unplanned one.

      Very nice comment!

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    2. Maybe,
      Read Barbra Tuchamns 'The march of folly"
      She lists hundred of wars that have broken out over history, that were inherently detrimental to the belligerent.
      Mix of things, but, human error will go to top of the class for reasons for stupid wars that should not have been started.
      I can promise you that more than a few wars have been started by a very small number of self interested imbeciles that have hurt their host nations as a whole.
      While starting an actual shooting war with US would be insanely stupid for China right now, well, thats not stopped a bunch of such bad choices. Its very hard to know what will trigger these things.

      I can easily see a stupid Chinese admiral or politician kicking one of these things off just because theyre worried about losing more by not doing it than they stand to gain. Wars have been started over stupider reasons.

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    3. You could make a case that Japan's Pearl Harbor attacks during WW2 were an example of folly - far worse to the belligerent than to the US itself, which at that point, although sympathetic to the Allies, had stayed out of the fighting.

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  9. CNO:

    It's so surprising to read that some of the people here cannot see the obvious re China's belligerence towards its neighbours and the West, and unprecedented armament/equipment production and blue water navy creation. Also, these people overlook the importance of Chinese militarization of claimed bogus territories to its depth of defence and deployment.

    As such, in my humble opinion, the best course of action for US is either to retake these "islets" by amphibious means or just destroy its infrastructures and manpower to negate China of forward aerial and situational defense and awareness, or altogether conduct precision strikes on China's C2, bases, production and shipbuilding facilities, ADS, CDS, other military facilities, etc.

    Blockade actions belong to war of attrition and may backfire militarily and politically.

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    1. "... surprising to read that some of the people here cannot see the obvious ..."

      And that's why I do this blog - to educate and inform!

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    2. Have you given any thought as to what constitutes victory in a war with China? In other words, what is the desired end state of such a war?

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  10. You are correct, “The blockade strategy is a flawed strategy that accomplishes nothing for the US.” As you indicate it is one created (so to speak) in a vacuum, ignoring political and military realities that exist in today’s world. Our problems are both operational and strategic – and those problems insure we would not prevail in a war with the Chinese.

    First, absent the reindustrialization of the U.S., in whatever form, this country will continue to weaken on multiple levels including first, economically due to lack of higher paying and more meaningful employment; second, militarily due to ever decreasing tax receipts and a need to purchase more and more of our hardware from outside the country; educationally due to a lack of need for skilled workers; etc. Accordingly, from a Navy perspective we are paralleling the path on which England and the RN travelled beginning at the end of the 19th Century – when their country deindustrialized, when their shipyards began closing, when their economy became one based on financial and services type businesses – and accordingly their tax revenues and technical capabilities declined. The response of the not unaware RN Admiralty was not the LCS, instead it was the Battle Cruiser. (See Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution by Nicholas Lambert). From strictly an operational perspective, the U.S. Navy does not have the number of ships needed to carry out a war with China and secure American interests in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and other areas – which factor would become important.

    Second, some months back I gave a presentation to a group of Aerospace Mangers and Military Officers on China’s strategy for taking over the South China Sea. I used the “Three Warfares Study” prepared for the DOD Office of Net Assessment. Perhaps not the best structured study – it’s available online, but its content is very well thought out. If one wants to consider going to war with another Nation, in another part of the world – it is best to know and understand one’s chosen enemy and to know one’s self -- else defeat most certainly awaits one. If someone wants to understand the Chinese way of war, at a minimum they should read the “The Three Warfares,” “Unrestricted War” by the Two Chinese Colonels, Sun Tzu’s Art of War plus all its follow on Chinese writings. Those proposing a standard conventional method of war – such as blockade to militarily conduct operations against China fails to know their enemy or themselves.

    A Naval Blockade strategy, in any form presumes we possesses the military and moral strength to force our will upon the nations and peoples of far distant foreign lands – as we had done in past eras. Proposing a military response as punishment for whatever Chinese action in Asia and short of their attacking U.S. territory, if implemented, would ignore the lessons of history and lead this country to another military defeat and strategic debacle. As comparatively current history demonstrates Wars of Intervention by a Western Nation into the affairs of nations located on the Asian Continent are doomed to failure.

    During the Vietnam Conflict, “we” failed to recognize the North Vietnamese were fighting for THEIR part of the world and we were intervening outsiders with no existential stake in the outcome. Their leaders such as Giap and others had studied the Western Way of War and recognized their weaknesses and our strengths. Very rationally, they devised a strategic / tactical approach to defeat us – one totally contrary to how Western Nations view the conduct of military operations. The Chinese would do the same. We fail to realize that for the U.S. a war with China, as previously in Vietnam, would be one of intervention. Contrarily, for the Chinese it would be an existential struggle of East versus West. They would engage us in ways we cannot perceive -- for which we would have no comparable response.

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    1. Part Two"

      Chinese forces would be land bound – on their own soil, a factor we believe constitutes a negative. So what happens should the Chinese locate U.S. Ships on the seas or locate our Bases in a non-nuclear armed foreign land -- and hit them with tactical nuclear weapons. “American” casualties would be extensive? Would the U.S. dare respond by attacking the Chinese mainland, a nuclear power with atomic weapons knowing they would they would respond in kind -- not likely? Americans, of course, in their planning would never presume the Chinese would act in such a manner – I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

      China and Russia are defacto allies. They have a common interest in weakening the U.S. and driving us from other parts of the world. Their ships are conducting joint maneuvers. From those I know who spend considerable time in China and Russia, they are building oil pipelines from Russia into China – and they advise from their first hand observation that construction is more advanced than the West believes. How would those proposing a blockade strategy deal with the Russians? Does anyone actually believe a U.S. President (the military’s “Commander-in-Chief”) will order the sinking of Russian Ships that “will” sail into Chinese ports? I’ve watched Russian Ships confidently sail by us in the Gulf of Tonkin, during our war in Vietnam, and go right into Haiphong Harbor -- and wave as they steamed past us.

      In response to any attack on or interference with Russian shipping or against their pipe lines feeding into China they would respond by shutting off gas and oil flowing into Western Europe and use their submarines to shut down Western Shipping in the Atlantic which would in short order bring the Economies of Western Europe to a grinding halt. They might even invade the Ukraine, the Baltic States, etc. Would we enter into a two front war – using what forces? They would put so much pressure on the U.S. we would be forced to end any hostile actions against China.

      One underestimates the “strategic” perceptiveness of the Chinese and Russians at their own peril. On the other hand, this Nation’s ongoing 15 years of war in the Greater Middle East without strategic success demonstrates the lack of strategic perceptiveness on the part of our leaders.

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    2. "Contrarily, for the Chinese it would be an existential struggle of East versus West."

      This is not a geopolitical blog so I hesitate to venture too far into this but this is just too good and too relevant not to address to some degree. You've made, simultaneously, both a brilliant observation and a potentially fatal "non-observation".

      The brilliance is the recognition that China is engaged, RIGHT NOW, in an existential war with the West, at least in their minds. As you well know, they take the long view of history and consider war to be fought on all levels. They are currently fighting us on economic, industrial infrastructure, legal, political, emmigration, and other levels. Basically, every way short of the use of explosives.

      The non-observation is that, at some point, China's actions reach a point where they constitute an existential threat. Consider they hypothetical situation where China comes to dominate the global economy, controls our economy through investments, seizes all our manufacturing through transplanted jobs, seizes the entire South China Sea (already done), controls and regulates the passage of international shipping in the area, seizes Taiwan (just a matter of time), seizes or co-opts Philippines (in progress), annexes Vietnam (in progress), isolates Japan, and begins eyeing Hawaii and beyond. We will have lost our ability to self-govern in our own best interests - every decision will run through the filter of what China thinks. That IS an existential threat and it is in progress with many aspects already accomplished or underway. Recognized for what it is, we, too, are engaged in an existential war with China even if we don't recognize and admit it.

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    3. "Would we enter into a two front war – using what forces?"

      From the opposite point of view, would Russia enter into a war with Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. just to support China? Assuming those countries would recognize the threat and join in fighting it, they have more than enough power, both economic and military, to defeat Russia, currently. Twenty years from now, who can say? This suggests that we need not be terrified into inaction by the mere theoretical threat of Russia as we deal with China. This also suggests that we ought to be working on solidifying our political and military relationships with those countries and pressuring them into increasing their military preparedness (possibly by completely pulling out of Europe and leaving them to their own fate and making it clear that we won't come to their aid? Hmmm ... But, I digress).

      The point is that we tend to view things in isolation and with great timidity as a result. We need to take a wider look and, based on what we see from that look, begin building for the geopolitical and military future we see coming.

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    4. @Cliff, a bigger problem is that as the US loses manufacturing jobs and technological leadership, that the standard of living of most Americans is falling.

      There is a reason why distrust of political institutions and corporations is at record levels - they have pursued their short term interests at the expense of the American people.

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  11. "China and Russia are defacto allies..."

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Disagree, some interests overlap, but don't think that the Russians are not looking (anxiously) over their shoulders too.

    Long-term, you could argue that the U.S. and Russia are potentially greater partners (we share the Artic Ocean region, an area with tremendous economic potential), with them.

    This is where our failure to re-evaluate our participation in NATO at the end of the Cold War has turned into a disaster. We simultaneously failed to pull the Russians into the Western sphere as an equal partner, and committed ourselves to Europe at a time when many EU nations proved (and continue to prove) unwilling to shoulder anything like a true cooperative defense. Many Europeans are content to "fight to the last American," and that makes it tough to justify our participation

    Still worse, NATO absorbed former Russian republics and WP nations at a furious pace, creating extreme anxiety amongst the Russians. The Russians have a history of getting invaded and badly mauled by Europeans (and others) going back to the middle ages (Teutonic Knights and the "Eastern Crusades," Napoleon, WW2 Germany, et al.).

    In effect, the USA is "shackled to a corpse" wrt NATO. We will defend them, but raise your hand if you think NATO countries, apart from the UK, would ever respond militarily to defend Canada or the USA from a Chinese or NK attack.

    GAB

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  12. Again, I agree with your observation about my not carrying the issue beyond the Blockade strategy. I do not have the perception that our current leadership (political or military) is looking that far ahead. I also believe, as you note, that China is in an existential conflict with the U.S. on all fronts -- economic (manufacturing and jobs), military capabilities, and geographically. I must admit I find them rather clever -- and shake my head at how this nation is both reacting and given our failure to recognize the scope of the threat to our existence.

    I have in the few presentations I have the privilege to give to discussion groups propose that the U.S. needs to deploy its Navy, Air Force, plus (probably) Army manned A2AD assets onto a line of locations meant to block China from expansion into the greater Pacific, into (domination of) the Sea of Japan, and into the Indian Ocean. Whether we wish to admit it or not the South China Sea will become a Chinese Lake, but using assets located in the Philippines, Singapore, etc we could block Chinese expansion further without the need for actual war.

    The above would require a Navy and Air Force larger than at current -- and (from a Navy perspective) certainly with different types of ships, i.e. more / better ASW capable ships, more VP (ASW oriented) Squadrons, more AEGIS capable Ships, more SSN's, etc. A red line is only in existence if it is appropriately manned and structured.

    There are numerous questions to answer such as whether to include Taiwan in that line, etc. -- but it is feasible, albeit not with the 270 or so ships we possess today.

    I also agree with your perceptions on the economic front -- if we don't restore our home based manufacturing, this nation will be in dire straits -- and out Navy will suffer along the way. When I speak to active duty officers, they note the ships on which they serve have substantial systems, etc manufactured outside the country. They cannot understand the logic behind a decision to use foreign made items -- such as Apple Tablets, etc.

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    1. "I do not have the perception that our current leadership (political or military) is looking that far ahead."

      Ahead??? They're not even looking back or else they would recognize the huge mistake we made in dealing with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reader GAB sums it up nicely. Check out his comment above.

      If we would even apply some hindsight, we could begin, perhaps, to apply what we see to our future geopolitical dealings. Instead, the current govt and military leadership is just wandering aimlessly, as far as I can tell.

      Regarding CONUS based manufacturing, look into tariffs with China and the balance of "fairness" in the application thereof. If we want to bring jobs back to the US, we can start with tariffs. For the politicians seeking election out there, there's your jobs program!

      Again, this is not a geopolitical blog so I won't take it any further than that.

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  13. CNO:

    "..what is the desired end state of such a war?"

    Freedom and respect to everyone involved. Until China got rid of its communistic paranoia and civilization/cultural superiority, and selfishness/greed through change of ideals and form of government there will be no respite from border problems and from rumours of war.

    IMO, the best course to attain that end is to involve Taiwan in Phase 2/3 of strategic ops after:
    Phase 1: Precision Strikes against military, communication and production facilities.
    Phase 2: Destruction of OpFor's forward bases and equipment.

    Let the Nationalists reclaim the mainland and declare consolidation and unification under democratic values of Sun Yat Sen.

    Of course, this is easily said than done. As this will include all levels and spectrum of warfare especially psychological warfare to infiltrate the psyche of mainlanders that Taiwanese ideals and values which centered on freedom and respect to human rights and the rule of law is superior than the current form of PRC government.

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    1. I guess I should have asked what a realistic end state is. While freedom and respect and world peace and love are wonderful ideals, they are in no way realistic. Neither Taiwan nor the US have the manpower to subjugate mainland China. We would be idiots to try.

      Short of obliterating the Chinese government, they will remain in power. We have to decide what end state we want within that context.

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  14. There is one other RAND report that is interesting - China is attempting to improve the quality of its pilots in a war.

    http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1415.html

    That would suggest that the US in the future might not want to assume a massive qualitative advantage.

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