Friday, May 10, 2013

War With China - Part 2

OK, here's where ComNavOps runs the risk of coming across as a nutcase.

Having established that there are more than adequate grounds for tension between China and the US (more so, from their point of view), we now look for actual examples of war.  Remember that they consider warfare to encompass all actions, not just the violent ones that we consider as war.  Given that this type of not-always-violent war is, by definition, hard to spot or prove, we must look for an ongoing, repeated pattern of acts that, in their totality, could be taken as evidence of war.  Is there such a pattern?  Yes, more than enough. The examples can be grouped into a few broad categories as described below.

Military.  There is a clear, repeated, and long established history of military incidents that go beyond the realm of simple posturing.  The 2001 forcedown and seizure of an EP-3 and the subsequent stripping of its classified gear constituted an actual act of war as defined by international law, though we chose not to respond (!?!).  Ships are routinely harassed such as in the March 2009 incident with the USNS Impeccable or the June 2009 incident with the USS McCain.  There have been routine and repeated military incidents and I won’t bother citing or discussing them further. 

China is engaged in a massive military buildup that goes beyond defensive.  They are building an amphibious force (read the Geopolitical section below to understand how the amphibious force will be used aside from the obvious Taiwan invasion scenario) and developing cruise and ballistic missiles designed to close the SCS and threaten Diego Garcia and other key US bases.  All of this is aimed at an eventual Taiwan invasion. 

Another aspect of the ongoing military actions is the hacking of computer networks in the US.  I’m not talking about the run of the mill viruses and worms that are all over the Internet but rather hacking attacks on military and economic institutions.  China has been directly implicated in several incidents that have been made public and I’m sure there are others that our government has not publicized.  Just recently, computer attacks have been traced to a specific Chinese military unit in a specific building!

Geopolitical.  Establishment of the “territorial” version of the EEZ has allowed China to claim virtually the entire SCS as theirs and they are disrupting the right of passage, at least as far as US military planes and vessels are concerned.  They have publicly stated that the presence of US carriers in the SCS is provocative, unacceptable, and should be eliminated (this alone is justification enough to continue building carriers – your enemy will tell what they fear most, if you listen!).

China is engaged in a policy of “creeping jurisdiction” (to use a phrase from a recent Proceedings article) whereby they are “acquiring” more and more land/ocean by claiming uninhabitable rocks as inhabitable islands (typically, they establish two-man observation posts to “prove” habitability).

More disturbing is China’s policy of state sponsored emigration whereby Chinese citizens are being sent to neighboring small countries such as the Philippines, Marshalls, Solomons, New Guinea, and other small island nations.  When racial/cultural clashes inevitably occur, China has stepped in to ensure the safety of their citizens along the lines of the US actions in Grenada and other places.  To date, China has rarely employed overt military force in these incidents but has recently served notice that it will begin providing military protection, if necessary.  Setting aside the potential military aspects, the effect of this massive emigration policy is that the nearby, small nations are seeing a shift in population from predominately native to predominately Chinese with a corresponding surge in Chinese domination of the local economies.  Thus, countries are being slowly but surely annexed “peacefully”.  Again, China takes the long view.

Economic.  You are undoubtedly aware that China is engaged in a policy of routinely buying up US debt.  It has gotten to the point that US political actions are now being run through the filter of “how will this affect our ability to continue borrowing from China”. 

China has engaged (successfully!) in a policy of economic domination of the US through a combination of state subsidized low cost labor and high import tariffs.  The net effect, as you well know, is that millions of US jobs have been sent to China and we have a huge trade imbalance.  The intent of the economic policy is to ensure that the US will be hesitant to confront China over its various policy issues and incidents for fear of jeopardizing our economic dependence.

There are thousands more examples of “acts of war” that I haven’t got the space to list.  Any of the above examples, taken in isolation, prove nothing.  Only when the overall pattern is seen in combination with China’s cultural fear (security) does one come to the realization that China has, for quite some time, been at war with the US.  OK, so maybe you don’t consider that as war.  Fair enough, but in the end is there any difference between a short physical war and a long drawn out series of non-violent actions that result in the US being dominated to the point where China controls our actions and policies?  After all, isn’t that the point of a “real” war? 

We need to recognize the situation and begin responding.  The most important response should be to increase our tariffs to the point where it’s cheaper for US companies to manufacture in the US than in China.  That will bring the jobs home (there’s your job creation policy!) and begin to eliminate the debt issue.  Of course, the response to China is a subject that could fill a book so I’ll leave it at that.

Finally, let’s specifically address the argument that China would never risk war with the US because we’re their major trading partner.  That argument is based on simple self-interest and cost/benefit assessment.  If the benefits to peace and trading outweigh the benefits to war, then peace will likely prevail.  However, China sees the benefits to war as being greater than the benefits of the current peace.  War, as we’ve defined above, will eventually gain China complete economic domination over the US, physical control of a great deal of additional islands and land around the East and South China Seas, control over Taiwan, greater security, domination over surrounding countries with the US influence eliminated, and status as the undisputed most powerful country in the world.  China will gladly forfeit its trade with the US to gain all that.  Besides, once they’ve gained all that they can simply resume trading with the US – it’s what we did with Japan and Germany after WWII.

So, am I a nutcase or do I have at least the possibility of a valid concern?  Does all of this at least make you stop and reconsider?

Setting aside whether you agree or not, now you know why I’m always harping on the China scenario in our discussions.  I absolutely believe that armed conflict with China is inevitable.

Have at the comments!


  1. "China is engaged in a massive military buildup that goes beyond defensive."

    military budgets--
    China: $114 billion
    US: $640 billion

    China is the principal user of the South China Sea.
    Why should the US taxpayer protect China oil shipments, in the SCS or the Persian Gulf, or anywhere?

    "Chinese citizens are being sent to neighboring small countries such as the Philippines, Marshalls, Solomons, New Guinea, and other small island nations."
    -- Chinese. sometimes to their detriment, have historically been primary commercial movers in many Asian countries.

    There are thousands more examples of “acts of war."
    Not really, since THOSE are not "acts of war."
    China has not enacted "crippling sanctions" against any countries, or militarily invaded and occupied them. Those are "acts of war."

    Speaking of illegal acts, the US currently has a carrier "strike force" not far from China. It is in violation of the 1953 Armistice Agreement--
    agreement excerpt:
    ** with the objective of establishing an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved,**
    --another US provocation -- and you castigate China? What if China sent a carrier "strike force" to the Caribbean?

    1. Don, I hesitate to even begin a discussion with you because you clearly have either a pro-Chinese or anti-American bias so extreme that you're not thinking and writing logically. Nonetheless, I'll take a shot at it.

      The Chinese are engaged in a massive military buildup as documented in numerous sources. That they aren't spending as much as the US don't change the fact they are increasing the military buildup.

      You ask why the US taxpayer should protect Chinese oil shipments? I don't know. I never said they should. Am I missing your point?

      Chinese have been primary commercial movers - I have no idea what you're saying or what point you're trying to make. Want to try again?

      As far as acts of war, I defined what I meant by acts of war, all my examples met my definition, and, yes, there are thousands more examples by my definition. You can disagree with my definition. I have no problem with that but my statement stands within the parameters I laid out. Your implication that the US has committed acts of war makes for an interesting notion and, within a certain context, may even be valid. However, the contention is irrelevant as regards the post.

      Your example of a carrier group being illegal under the Korean armistice is both irrelevant to the post and completely unsubstantiated in the excerpt you cite. The excerpt calls for a cessation of hostilities and acts of armed force IN KOREA. A carrier group does not constitute an act of hostility or an act of armed force and it certainly does not do so IN KOREA or Korean territorial waters. Your bias is leading you to make unsubstantiated claims.

      Finally, would I want a Chinese carrier group in the Caribbean? Again, that's irrelevant to the post, however, as long as they're obeying the various laws of the sea I have no problem with that. They're fully entitled to sail anywhere in international waters.

      If you choose to reply and continue the discussion, please do so with logic and objectivity.

    2. You cannot compare budgets, or military expenditures between a capitalist economy and a socialist, or communist economy.

      Dollar to yuan comparisons are meaningless. The principal costs for the U.S. military is manpower; the Chinese do not spend anything like what the U.S. does to recruit, train, provide health care for, and sadly for death benefits for its forces because the structure of their economy is different.

  2. First of all, I'll let it go this time, but don't ever even hint that I am "anti-American" again. I was in service before you knew the difference between a sheet and a halyard, assuming you do now. Just don't. If you can't stick with issues without getting personal you don't belong here.

    Of course there are "military incidents" when the US sends it warplanes and warships into China's sphere of influence. Remember, the US has militarily occupied China on several occasions, and they remmeber those.

    China will "close the SCS"
    Why would china close the SCS? Most of its sea traffic comes through there.

    China is building an amphibious force. So what? The US has a mighty amphibious force.

    "You ask why the US taxpayer should protect Chinese oil shipments? I don't know." -- Well, if you don't know, then why do you support the US Navy patrolling in the South China Sea? The US has no sea traffic there.

    You're concerned with Chinedse emigration as a threat, for some strange reason. Singapore, the home base of Freedom and three LCS's to come, is 3/4 Chinese. Are you concerned about that? The Freedom crew isn't.
    Freedom on facebook:
    A hidden treasure and a fun adventure! Chinatown in Singapore


  3. Many of your points are very valid. It is a long standing strategic tradition in Chinese history and military theory to wage conflict by any means at hand.

    The Chinese do want their place back in the sun and that means the predominate place, restoration of the 'Middle Kingdom' concept.

  4. Ran your article past a college friend of mine that is now a political scientist living in Hong Kong. Interesting response.
    I thought you might find it insightful at least as regarding the average Chinese citizen.

    ..I think this guys view is somewhat alarmist. While I appreciate and understand much of his recent military analysis, I think he is way off on historical context, and very one sided.

    When we had gone to war in Vietnam, we had gone to war with a traditional rival of China, and as such there was sufficient indifference to this war from the Chinese that Nixon was able to negotiate with Mao for normalization of relations while the war was still going on. China tried to invade Vietnam in '79 and the Vietnamese handed their ass to the Chinese.

    The Korean war, again, is completely misunderstood by this blogger. While China was involved in the conflict, the purpose of using Chinese "volunteers" in the conflict was an excuse for Mao to get rid of the standing KMT armies that had defected to the Communist side before '49 (or in many cases were simply left behind for lack of transportation). Mao did not trust the ex-KMT rank and file so he "volunteered" their services to the conflict for them to demonstrate their "loyalty" but in fact it was meant to be a way to get rid of forces that he felt did not meet the communist trust standard. This is why they used "human wave" tactics - Mao wanted his own forces dead. This is also in large part why the war went on as long as it did... for the Chinese POWs did not want to go back to China because most of them were ex-KMT, but Mao's government insisted they be repatriated... and so they negotiated this for a good 18-24 months after the rough lines of the DMZ were solidified by '52.

    The US, historically, is viewed very favorably in China. Not only did we support Mao and the KMT in fighting the Japanese, but we set up China's first international university (the Harvard of China - Beijing University) was a gift to the Chinese paid for reparations paid to the US from the Boxer rebellion - we were the only foreign power to return the reparations to China. Then during the treaty-port period, the US was the only major power never to have a treaty port because of the US's long standing anti-colonial policy. Again the US is viewed favorably about this.

    Finally, my relative, Sun Yat Sen, is commonly viewed amongst the communists now as the true father of modern China, that Mao is recognized as the founder of the party, but viewed with many qualifications... whilst Sun Yat Sen today is viewed openly as their George Washington. They all know he was an American, grew up in Hawaii, and financed his revolution primarily from funds raised in Hawaii and California from overseas Chinese. They know their greatest political hero has deep roots in the US, and much of his political philosophy was driven by American political ideology. His core philosophy, the three people's principles, follows closely the "of the people" concepts defined by Lincoln. Every person with basic education in China knows this.

    The real problem is people like this in the US. They talk about what they know, but in fact they only know one thing. If any of our politicians had any modicum of understanding of the US historical relationship with China, we would never go to war. The problem is the idiots in Washington don't know shit, and that is reflected in this guys historical analysis.

    Ok, see he tends to be , ah, not subtle in his opinions. But I just wanted to throw it in to the mix. I have to respect his opinion both because of who he is ( he is an American with family ties to China ) and the fact he lives in China with his finger on the pulse of the people. I don't agree with everything he says, or more accurately, as I heard a senior military leader once say, "I don't have the luxury of gauging their intentions, only their abilities."

    1. WJ, I'm slightly confused about which are your friends thoughts and which are yours - maybe, essentially the same? No matter.

      If you ask ten different people why we went into Iraq, you'll likely get ten different answers about our true motivation - weapons of mass destruction, imperialism, oil interests, political maneuvering, anti-terrorism, spread democracy, liberate oppressed people, etc. The point is that no one person has the "correct" answer, if there is such a thing. With respect to your friend, his version of history is his opinion and interpretation and suffers from the same biases and agendas as anyone else. His views, as relayed by you, do not match Chinese history books or, as best I can determine, Chinese indoctrination or even historical reality.

      That said, my main premise is that China is currently at war with us. Even if you believe that I've slightly misinterpreted Chinese history, do you have an alternate explanation for the ongoing pattern of behavior that I've documented and that, on the face of it, constitutes a long-view war?

      Also, bear in mind that I'm hardly alone in this view. I've read the writings of US politicians, military leaders, and analysts. While few come right out and say we're at war, many state and document that China is engaged in a pattern of aggression, territorialism, cyberwarfare, militarism, etc. As I pointed out in the post, whether you choose to call it war or not, the end result is the same. How does your friend explain these actions if, as he seems to suggest, China wants nothing more than to be our friends? These are not the actions of a friendly country!

    2. I think the broader point is that China isn't targeting the US per se. But, even if China doesn't have any overt or historical problems with the US, China has the mind set that it is going to act in it's own interest regardless. Being a one-party system (albeit with many factions) gives it the ability to keep a focus in its actions that isn't possible with a western-style government. If the US (and more specifically the 7th fleet) is an obstacle to those aims, than the first order of business is to figure out a way to neutralize that threat.
      As far as electronic espionage and business theft is concerned, I think the US is just one of many so targeted. Now, having said all that, does the fact that we are just one of many so targeted make a difference? No. It is important that the Chinese are held accountable for their actions. Whether they like it or not, they are acting in a multi-national arena. The fact that they are a growing power doesn't mitigate the fact that they are not acting in a power vacuum. I think they will find that their actions are just going to end up alienating and frightening a lot of their neighbors (it already is of course) and combined, they will be a formidible adversary, especially with the US providing a power center. Where you and I agree, I think, is in the notion that this is an issue that we as a nation need to start addressing now. Yes, there are distractions but I think we can agree that this issue isn't going to go away and we will eventually have to deal with China one way or another.

  5. The economic angle is a lot more complex than you state.
    China buys US bonds out of necessity, not choice, or goodwill.

    Trade is a fairly complex process.
    Normally (and very very very simply), Walmart would swap dollars for iPods with FoxConn. FoxConn would swap dollars for Yuan with the Chinese Central Bank. The Chinese Central Bank would swap dollars for Yuan with the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve would swap dollars for Yuan with Hummer Inc. Hummer Inc would swap Hummers for Yuan with Chinese Yuppies.

    Now, China sells more iPods than it buys Hummers, so the CCB has more dollars than it can exchange for Yuan
    Ideally, this would be handled by a change in the exchange rate, which would shift to balance the trade flows so that they were equal. But this is against Chinese policy, because it would cut exports and increase imports.

    So, the CCB simply holds on to the excess dollars.
    And rather than hold lots of paper (cotton?) in bank vaults, it invests the excess dollars in "safe" bonds, like government debt.

    There are a few problems with this strategy.

    The CCB can hold an infinite supply of dollars. The problem is, any dollars it keeps instead of swapping with the Fed for Yuan, it must print Yuan to give to (in this example, foxconn). Printing money, causes inflation, and thats generally bad.

    Exit Strategy, and the utter lack thereof.
    China is buying dollars, at an artificially high price, to maintain the high price.
    If it stops buying dollars, the artificially high price returns to the right price.
    If that "right price" is 10% lower, China suffers an exchange rate loss of $300bn (20 super carriers?) 20% lower, a loss of $600bn.
    If China stops buy dollars AND starts selling them, they fall to an artificially low price. 60c on the dollar and Chinas exchange losses are greater than UK GDP.
    Whoops, I lost 1.2trillion dollars....

    The idea that The US Government picks up the phone and asks China if it can borrow X to do Y is *very* wide of the mark.

    Japan was in a similar situation in the 80's. Convinced it was "winning", Japanese politicians were debating a law preventing the JCB lending the US any more money, and shortly after, it entered a deflationary crash its not recovered from 22 years on.
    Abe has a decent shot at breaking out in my view.

    The rest is right of course, but the money angle is well beyond Chinas control now.

    1. TrT, you're right, of course, that the monetary issue is vastly more complex than I described. Hey, cut me some slack! I'm writing within the confines of a several paragraph post of which a couple sentences are devoted to the economic system. In point of fact, there are many more aspects to the economics that go well beyond what you've described. China holds our "debt" in many forms aside from simple monetary exchange. China holds US stocks and bonds which cover both industrial and government debt. In addition, China is engaged in a policy of buying ownership in US companies, another form of debt ownership, which makes it difficult for those companies to act in either their own best interest or the best interests of the country. China also maintains artificially low labor rates which encourages US companies to build in China or farm out production to China. This is yet another form of debt ownership which again makes it difficult for companies and the US government to act in their own best interest.

      As I stated, we should apply the same tariffs and import/export policies that China does and watch the jobs come flooding back to the US.

      Remember, China will gladly subject themselves to great pain if the end result is greater gain. The mere fact that they are an economic parter and would be hurt by jepordizing that relationship wouldn't stop them for a moment if they could come out ahead in the end.

      Finally, you're a blogger, too, so you know that we're limited by writing space on a post. People want sound bites, not doctoral dissertations. It's a constant battle to balance detailed information against overly long writings that no one will read. It's often (almost always) necessary to simplify to fit within space limits. As authors we make constant judgements about what to simplify and how much. Oh well, such is blogging life!

    2. "As I stated, we should apply the same tariffs and import/export policies that China does and watch the jobs come flooding back to the US."
      It doesnt work though.
      Bush "saved" 20,000 jobs in US steel, at the cost of 200,000 jobs in the wider economy.

      Look at it like this.
      Is a Brazillian Soy Farmer going to buy a European Tractor built with cheap chinese steel, or more expensive American Tractor built with expensive American Steel.

      Chinas economic system causes it far more damage than it causes the US, and the cure is worse than the disease.

      "Finally, you're a blogger, too, so you know that we're limited by writing space on a post. People want sound bites, not doctoral dissertations."
      Yeah, I have a 15,000 word epic floating around somewhere :'(

  6. At the outset let me say that I agree with you. However, the US has, for some reason, a great deal of difficulty in expanding the definition of war beyond armed hostilities, even though such concepts as economic warfare and cyber warfare are acknowledged. Further, military tactics such as infiltration are acknowledged but strategic infiltration seems to be ignored.

    Reviewing the replies to your thesis, I note that individual points of your argument are attacked but not the overall thesis. There also seems to be a tendency to impute Aristotillian based logic to the Chinese rather than considering that nation's philosophical roots in the analysis.

    Some observations:
    Comparing US and Chinese in terms of dolars is apples and oranges. In order for there to be a valid comparison, it would be necessary to change US military and DOD civilian pay scales to the pay of the Chinese miliary establishment, just for a starter.
    The entire world has agreed to definitions of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Even nations less than 200 miles apart, except China. For China to claim the Spratly Islands, which are 672 miles from the clearly Chinese island of Hainan, defies Western logic. Now Chinese "scholars" are talking of a Chinese ownership of Okinawa.
    The Chinese military speaks of absolute control of waters out to the "first island chain", meaning Japan Southward through the Philippines and domination out to the "second island chain" which would be Palau, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. I would not be surprised if the Chinese soon claimed ownership of waters out to the high water marks of the first island chain.
    The Chinese are developing amphibious ships while the US is debating the need for amphibious ships.
    Chinese " thousand grains of sand" espionage utilizing any Chinese person in a foreign nation, with family still in China, as an espionage resource.

    As you say, individual pixels of tension may be looked at as innocuous but taken together they make for an entirely different picture.

    1. Well said, especially your point concerning the comparison of military spending. At some point, China's aspirations will have to be dealt with. We're currently seeing the first, tentative steps in that direction with the "pivot" towards Asia (of course, we mean China but our government won't say that publicly) and the release of information about Chinese military hacking of US computer networks. It's been going on for some time but, previously, the US government refrained from publicly accusing China for fear of upsetting them. Something has changed, however slightly, in our government's attitude towards China and, therefore, we're seeing the first steps, as I mentioned.

      You also make a good observation about blog comments. People often jump on details while passing over the main theme. This happens in all the blogs I've read, not just this one. That's OK, too. It forces posters to verify their facts and think through their conclusions which makes for better posts.

      A good comment! Thanks.

  7. Thank you for very interesting analysis. I was always sure, that China (being a continental power) would start expansion for natural resources in the Siberia and Central Asia. War against US Navy would be started only to secure continental expansion by defeating US Navy in Pearl Harbour type scenario. Just buying a time to finish with weakest enemy. Who would then try to invade China?.
    Your text epened my mind to other possible expansion directions. I hope my English is good enought to understand my point.

    1. Your comment is excellent and your English is fine. I should thank you for pointing out that China undoubtedly has desires to the landward side (Siberia, India, and the rest of Asia) as well as out in the South and East China Seas. The scope of my blog is naval matters so I tend to neglect some of the non-naval issues and I shouldn't since they affect the naval situation and vice versa.

      Thank you for stopping by and contributing a very good comment!

  8. Just want to toss into the discussion that, had there not been the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/2001, the US probably would have been highly focused on China via the diplomatic/military system for the past 11 years rather than on Middle East terrorists. Meaning that China has had a nice 11 years in which to expand its regional influence via the mechanisms you describe without a peep from the US. Now that this period is over, I think we'll start to see the US challenging, or at least questioning and examining, China much more than in the recent past.

    1. Other way, is it not true, that wars in Iraq, Lybia etc made Chinese natural resources aquisition much more harder. Is it not a kind of accidental or premeditated pressure on industrial grow of China?

    2. JI, that's an interesting thought. I'm not sure I agree that the US would have had the focus or courage to confront China, even with the additional time. However, your point is an excellent one, that the war on terrorism has been a distraction as regards dealing with China.

      A very good comment!

    3. Wojtek, I'm not sure I understand your point but I think you may have something interesting to say. Would you try again but expand on what you're saying? Explain what you mean in more detail. Thanks!

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. China is a country that grown up enourmously fast. They need a lot of raw materials and oil to sustain their economy grow.
    China tried to set a good relationship with countries with natural resources in Africa and South America. There are countries like Sudan and Lybia, but there is a civil war. China can not intervene with a “peace operation” as US can do. They have no Carriers and no global military transport abilities.
    It looks that they are step by step pushed out of that countries and their resources. War against terror and its follow-up, like revolts in Arab countries in Africa restricted Chinese access to natural resources, but not restricted US comparably. US has got an even better access to that countries and their resources. So you can see, that accidentally or not US has some way to influence China grow and perspectives.
    It is a reason I think China will be pushed to see for resources on Siberia and to possible attack on Russia. Yes Russia is a relatively strong militarized country, but Sun Tzu said that "strenght of weak is a booty of strong".

    1. Interesting. I hadn't thought of that.

      Do you see evidence of China encroaching on Siberia already? Perhaps via illegal immigration into that sparsely populated region?

    2. Siberia is colonized by Chinese since early 1990s. I do remember a National Geografic issue 20 years ago covering it with details. It fills a pattern described in articles on this blog.
      "Russia will defend its Far East against the expansion of the neighboring countries - said on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The Kremlin is concerned that because of the continual influx of Chinese into the area Russia will lose them under control" - writes Polish Press Agency according to Reuters on 10th Aug 2012.

  10. Now that it is 2020...lets look at this subject again. Biden, Trump and so on. Mr. Bacon?

    1. The talk about tariffs and etc. The article seems like it was written yesterday.


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