Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Chinese Escalation

The US Navy reported that a Chinese Type 052D destroyer, the Hohhot (pennant 161), lased a P-8A Poseidon 380 miles west of Guam.  This puts the location several hundred miles outside of the first island chain and several hundred miles west of the Philippines – in other words, well outside even the ridiculous Chinese claims of ownership of the South/East China seas.

No details were provided such as duration of exposure, type of laser used (dazzler, rangefinder, high power), or range from the ship to the aircraft.

The Navy notes that the use of a laser on an aircraft violates multiple international agreements.

Additionally, these acts violate the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), a multilateral agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to reduce the chance of an incident at sea. CUES specifically addresses the use of lasers that could cause harm to personnel or damage to equipment. The destroyer’s actions were also inconsistent with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of National Defense of the PRC regarding rules of behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters. (1)

On the face of it, this is an odd incident, being so far beyond even the China’s ridiculous territorial claims.  A few possible reasons spring to mind.

Force Down – Reminiscent of the Chinese force down of the US EP-3 aircraft, they may have been hoping to disrupt the aircraft enough to force a crash although a water crash would have provided no opportunity to seize the aircraft, as happened with the EP-3.

Message – The Chinese, while not explicitly claiming the entire Pacific Ocean, yet, have not hesitated to publicly denounce the US presence in the Pacific anywhere west of Hawaii.  This might have been intended as yet another message for the US Navy to leave the Pacific.

Limits – This may have been a simple continuation of their practice of testing how far they can push the limits of US patience and appeasement before provoking a response.

Of the three listed possibilities, the latter seems the most likely.  As we’ve often discussed, appeasement simply encourages and guarantees more incidents, more frequent incidents, and more serious incidents.  The US display of patience and appeasement is actually counterproductive to maintaining peace in the region.  At some point, we need to respond forcefully and decisively.   The Chinese destroyer, presumably on a solo mission, should be made the target of several strike exercises by assets out of Guam.


(1)Naval News website, “Chinese Destroyer Lased a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon MPA”, Xavier Vavasseur, 28-Feb-2020,


  1. I noted in another article about this that the aircraft's instruments [laser warner?] told them they were being lasered. They didn't know. It might have been a range finder.

    1. As I'm sure you know, most weaponized lasers do not produce a visible beam. Thus, a warning sensor would be the only way for the crew to know they were being impacted.

      The use of a laser for range finding, as opposed to the common and accepted radar, would seem to be pointlessly provocative and, if the US Navy did such a thing, many readers would be screaming about the risk of escalation and the horrors of the nuclear war that would surely result … thus far, there have been no comments about Chinese escalation. Apparently, these readers believe that it is okay for the Chinese to provoke and escalate but not the US.

    2. Random thought: What if they have a scanning Lidar setup? Operating the same as radar but using lasers in an attempt to catch stealth aircraft that radar misses. That would likely trigger laser warning sensors without being an actively directed beam.

  2. To me, it's a provocation no matter what. Chinese were trying to blind pilots or testing sensitivity of US warning devices, in either case, its wrong and just US military saying its inappropriate is plain wrong. We need to laze a Chinese aircraft or just keep losing face....

  3. I think we may have been foolish in our response on this incident. If we're not going to take action that is likely to change PRC behavior, then we should not have even announced the incident. By making no comment at all we could have made the sensitivity of our detection gear more of an open question. Even if they had the plans, spec's and copies of the gear, they could be wondering if there was a production problem. This has the possibility of leading them to use defective tactics when it actually matters.

    1. @Trondude. I think you make a good point, we always announce these "events" and then denounce them and then....nothing happens! I bet even the Chinese are mystified by US admin behaviors, past and present. What is US game plane here? Put China to sleep?!? Why announce this if we never do anything about it?!?

    2. It is not just about the futility of whining. It is also the opportunity to add a little ambiguity into our perceived capabilities.

  4. I am happy to vote in favor of strike exercises targeting this Chinese destroyer.

    One of the bedrock principles of Pax Americana is open and free passage throughout the globals commons. China is opposed to this, and we must respond forcefully and comprehensively to attempts at infrigment upon this freedom.

    1. Agreed!!! Numerous aircraft simulating strikes, targeting radars on, seekers active etc...
      Probably a good time for a sub to get in close and active ping a hello...

  5. Drop some steel cables with floats directly in front of the Chinese destroyer that lased the aircraft. Foul their drive shafts or rudders and force the destroyer to make a port call for repairs. Make them pay a price.

  6. The Russians have the habit 'to dip a toe in the water' to sense the reaction of the other party. If they sense weakness in that other party, they will abuse that weakness to the maximum. If you show them "constraint", the Russians and also the Arabs and Chinese will regard this as a sign of weakness. For the Russians, their precious Motherland needs to be protected by a surrounding sphere of satellite states. The Russians saw the Eastward extension of NATO area as a threat. In their view, NATO and the EU never clearly stated about where their permanent new Eastern border was to be located. In the beginning of the nineties, there was in Russia already a group of politicians and military who wanted an "Otkat", Russian for "counter-punch" or "push-back". At a NATO meeting in 2007, Putin made a very clear statement.
    Keep in mind, that Putin and his secretary of State Dept., Lavrov are realistic thinking people. However, their political system is not as stable as the former Soviet Communist Party.
    Putin: NATO, we like to stay strategical partners with you. However, Russia likes to draw crystal clear lines in Europe, where does your area of influence stop and will ours start ? NATO and the EU didn't provide them with a convincing answer. And Russia turned into a strategic opponent.
    By conquering (land) area's and (trying) to deny access to land and sea area's.

    China is economically, demographically, culturally and geo-politically another kind of opponent. A 5.000 years old culture, a history with of a lot of internal and external bloody conflicts, because the Middle Empire consists of many ethnic groups. And a history with many periods of high prosperity, thanks to their labour ethics, innovation and trading skills.

    They still remember the Opium Wars. Before those wars, China had very strict trading rules regarding the European access to Chinese markets.
    After those wars, the British and to a lesser extent the French were able to force their "free trade" rules to the Chinese. In 1911, the last Emperor lost his throne. China became a republic and until the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. China got into a period of civil wars, Tibet and Outer-Mongolia declared themselves independent. Russia and Japan occupied parts of China. Mao's regime cause famine, which cost many millions of lives.

    Deng Xiaoping introduced in 1976 the 'Open Door' politics. The main target of those politics, is the survival and sustainment of their huge population.
    Those politics brought tremendous economic growth, but also enormous differences between poor and rich people.
    Western economic growth is achieved via consuming. Chinese economic growth is achieved (mainly) via maximum production.
    Beijing thinks just like armed forces, 50 years ahead.
    To keep their food, raw materials and trade goods production and logistics going, they want to control those Lines of Communication.
    Plus, there is an emotional factor, they still remember the bad period roughly between the Opium Wars and 1976.

    Just like the Russians, the Chinese want to test the Westerners and other Asian countries how far they can go.
    China uses loans to gain influence and / or control over railways, roads, sea and airports along their trading / supply routes in Asia, Europe, South-America and Africa. China has a huge manpower, it's the 'factory of the world'; and they have a big 'swimming pool' of export dollars.

    North-America, Europe and countries like Australia, Singapore, South-Korea, Japan, India, etcetera, needs to maintain "freedom of navigation".

    However, fighting the Chinese directly with military means is too risky.

    Moving the production to China is a choice. Purchasing Chinese goods is a choice.
    Ten years ago, the Chinese army had already their hands full, not only because of controlling ethnic violence. But also violence because of tension caused by the increasingly huge gap between the rich and poor.


    1. That's a nice historical summary but I have to ask, what point are you trying to make? Do you have a suggestion as to how to deal with China and/or Russia?

      I suspect that part of your point is the bit about choice. The US unwisely chose to attempt to align with China as a trading partner and we are now seeking to correct that to some extent.

  7. Going up or downhill at the monkey's rock. Part I.

    CNO, roughly 350 years ago, The Netherlands were a global superpower.
    And as other empires or superpowers, you have a phase of rise, a phase of sustaining that position, followed by the decline. The geopolitical region and world orders are like the Jungle. Other parties see your sustainment or decline and want to take over the leading position. The declining power doesn't want to lose her position at 'the top of the monkey rock'.
    The Dutch fought several wars to fend off the emerging British empire.
    Sooner or later, the emerging party gets stronger than the 'downhill' going former superpower. At that point, the Dutch, after losing some battles. They decided it was prudent, not to fight anymore the new and stronger empire. The Dutch went for 'a soft landing' to their new more limited role in the new geo-political picking order. And became political en trading partners with the British. The British empire went through the same cycles. The USA emerged, the Brits fought a war with you. But, became partners / allies too, with the new much stronger US empire.

    At the moment, we are geo-politically in a transitional phase. The Center of Gravity is shifting from the North-Atlantic area to the West-Pacific and Indian Ocean. In the Cold War we had a quite clear bi-polar geo-political world order. In the nineties till 2007, the global order became mono-polar. Since 2008, we are in a multi-polar world. Compared to the Cold War, we face threats, that are more diverse, more crowded, more complex and ... unpredictable.

    Countering the 4 Big Storms / strategical threats of: emerging empires Russia & China, the global terrorism / extremism threat; globally increasing nationalism and the disruption caused by climate change / destabilization, pollution and global population growth (shortage of water, food & raw materials). Will be a unique set of challenges faced by mankind.

    Many EU countries, until recently, treated China as a very welcome trading partner. History shows, that China, with it's huge manpower, huge domestic markets; innovation and rich natural resources, doesn't want or need trading partners, but clients.

    Russia, is in a very different position. They are certainly not a 'factory of the world'. They need trading partners in selling of their oil, gas and diamonds. Russia needs access to the Baltic and Black Sea, because they have a quite limited number of ice-free deep sea harbors.
    We should become strategic partners again, via 'hard power': deterrence, "we are equal, or stronger than you Russia". Coherently, via 'soft power', by determine permanent & clear spheres of influence in Europe.


    1. Again, you've offered a nice summary of the obvious history and current circumstances but somewhat lack a point. I note, however, that you suggest that we become strategic partners with Russia (I think that's what you meant?). I agree completely. At the end of the Cold War we had an opportunity to become friends with Russia or, at least, not enemies and we, the West led by the US, blew it and made no significant effort.

      One salient point about your historical rise/fall of global powers is that early in history some powers were able to rise, due to various circumstances, beyond their ultimate capabilities and capacities. The Dutch, for example, simply did not possess the resources to remain a global power. They were destined to decline regardless of whether any other power arose, or not.

      Attempting to apply that analogy to the US and China is to miss the fact that the US has all the resources it needs to remain a global power, IF IT MANAGES ITS AFFAIRS WISELY. China, conversely, while possessing many resources, is, inexplicably, limiting its growth potential through its unpopular actions. Its trading partners are slowly reducing their interactions. For example, Australia has severely reduced its trade with China. The US is pulling jobs back home and actively working to reduce dependence on China. And so on. China is on a path to have good trade relations only with third world pariahs.

      Do you have some point to make beyond this? Do you have any suggestions for dealing with China?

    2. My dear CNO, I disagree with you, that the USA has all the resources it needs to remain a global power. Most people don't realize that
      they have almost the complete Chemistry Periodic Table in their pockets and at their desks: cell phone(s), laptops, PC's. Rare earth metals, certain magnetic materials are mostly found in China. And ... China has put their hands at the majority of the external sources too.

      The USA, fortunately is still that dynamic, thriving and thus strong country. And Europe ? ..., well that is like an 'old lady', but still has the opportunity to turn into a vital (wo)man.
      It is a fact that the US has to manage it's affairs wisely, otherwise you will face the same fate as Europe.

      China is certainly not on a path to have only good trade relations with 3rd world pariah's. Their "loan weapon" prove to be effective by buying up airports, harbors and building many railways, roads, large agricultural area's and (strategical) important industry (The new Silk route), to be very effective in gaining long term complete influence in Asia, the Middel-East, Africa and Europe.

  8. Godzilla the dragon heading for the top of the Monkey's Rock. Part II.

    The Chinese are fighting us indirectly, by closing their domestic markets for imports. You want to produce in China ? Welcome, but we want access to your know-how. Their government supports companies with cheap loans and labour, etcetera, etcetera.

    Fighting this emerging empire directly in a military way, as history shows isn't an effective solution. However, statistically the US has a 75 % chance of war vs China. Prepare for this scenario and make sure, that if this going to happen, we will have the widest / biggest as possible anti-China alliance. The USA cannot fight a Two Front war against Russia and China. The EU defense investments needs a 'big pepper in the behind or kick under the ass'. Or else: become a 'trailer - fifth weel at the wagon' of Empire China and Russia (or the USA).

    Most EU leaders disagree in a lot of topic with Trump, but they agree with his plea for more European NATO defense contribution. And Brussels, the EU, (silently) agrees with his trade and IP policies towards China.

    For example, in Vietnam, Indonesia (especially Java), Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand, Birma, India, Colombia, Chili and Brazil. Their labour is also cheap and they work hard too. Transport from China to the EU or North-America takes a couple of weeks time and will add 6 - 8 % to your cost price. What, if we invest more heavily in robotics and Artifical Intelligence ? No more long delivery times, no more very large cultural & lingual barriers, which causes a lot of problems in business traffic.
    No transport pollution and no know-how drain to an opponent.
    Location of production is a choice and so is the choice that you Joe Sixpack the Consumer can make !

    Terrorism is a strategical weapon, because it can disrupt a complete society. Well, terrorism is for decades a big problem in Russia, the Muslem world and certainly ... China. The Soviets used it too in the Cold War, so what stops us from not using this effective weapon ?

    The Middle Empire aka China consists of al least 50 large but differing ethnical groups. Their 5.000 year long history is soaked in blood, because of fighting between those groups. The British controlled their global empire via "Divide and Rule". The problems in Hong Kong are not unique in China. The only difference is, that we can see them, the other widespread violence is kept hidden. Tibet is crucial in the water supply for large parts of China. Why not stir problems up there ?

    In the Chinese healing art of Acupuncture and acu-pressure, the body is regarded as a system. If this "system" has problems, those are cured certain via activating'/ stimulating key points in that system, via pushing in needles or applying pressure with the hands or fingers.
    There is also a destroying or paralyzing version of acupuncture / acu-pressure. By de-activating certain key areas in your system. This is the martial arts of "Dim Mak", which means "Lethal Touch".

    We should treat / fight China as system, by trying to paralyze or disrupt them in multiple ways.



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