In Asia, America has gotta move away from a long-standing habit of engaging in simple, bilateral force measurements. Asia is a multi-polar place, and America’s penchant for strategic over-simplification is going to land the U.S. into serious trouble.

Put bluntly, U.S. Navy-folk need to remember there are a few other countries over on the other side of the Pacific. Some of them are rather formidable. And the U.S. is neglecting them.

So…Let’s take a moment to compare some naval forces in the Pacific Basin. Using the official DOD Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the PRC 2005 and 2009, it looks like China’s Navy is growing. But…when China’s rate of growth is compared with other neighbors, that burst of growth over the past five years looks a lot less daunting.

China: Diesel Attack Subs: (2005 vs. 2009): 51 vs. 54 (+3)
USA: Diesel Attack Subs: (2005 vs. 2009): 0 vs. 0 (+0)

Note: Japan commissioned 4 Oyashio-class, 2 Soryu-class SSKs; South Korea commissioned 3 Type 214s from 2005-2010.

China: Nuclear Subs (SSN only, 2005 vs. 2009): 6 vs. 6 (+0)
USA: Nuclear Subs (SSN/SSGN only 2005 vs. 2009): 58 vs. 56/57 (-2/-1)

China: Destroyers (2005 vs. 2009): 21 vs. 27 (+7)
USA: Destroyers (2005 vs. 2009/10): 46 vs. 54/57 (+8/+11)

Note: Japan brought into service 2 Atago-class destroyers, 2 Takanami-class destroyers, and a Hyuga-class “carrier” destroyer; Taiwan put 4 ex-Kidd-class vessels into service; South Korea put 4 KDX-2-class destroyers into service over the past 5 years.

China: Frigates (2005 vs. 2009): 43 vs. 48 (+5)
USA: Frigates (2005 vs. 2009/10): 30 vs. 30/31 (+0/+1)

Note: Regional Frigate-building programs are proceeding apace.

China: Coastal Missile ships: (2005 vs. 2009): 51 vs 70+ (+19 at least)
USA: Nada. Zip.

Interesting. China’s small missile ships are allowing China’s larger vessels to engage in “blue water” activities, so, while these vessels expand China’s “reach”, a dependence on small ships may prove a vulnerability. The region needs to know more about the small ship programs hosted by Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. What, by way of smaller vessels, can these navies offer? How good are the region’s Air Forces in hunting and destroying smaller craft?

In short, does China’s love of small craft contribute to regional stability or not?

Look. China’s Navy is still awfully small. And with China not exactly on friendly terms with it’s neighbors (who, on the part of Japan and South Korea, are building some very modern navies), the PLA(N) has a lot to do to secure China’s maritime borders. It is a little bit of a stretch to think all this new floating hardware is aimed exclusively at the U.S.A.


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  • Byron

    I’ll worry more about China’s navy when I see a surge in amphib capacity.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    The proper equation is not a ship-for-ship comparison of the PLAN vs the United States Navy.

    More appropriate is what the relative balance of forces would be if there was a challenge by China in WESTPAC. Perhaps not now, but in 2012 or 2017. The entire of the USN would not be involved, whereas the entire of the PLAN likely would be. The capability for maritime access denial is a combat multiplier for the PLAN, as well.

    Important to note also that the trends are all in the wrong direction. PLAN is growing, with expansion of shipbuilding facilities as the first step toward construction of the hulls themselves. The USN is shrinking, and American shipbuilding is just hanging on. What will the balance of forces look like in seven or eight years?

    Hey, let’s not panic. But let’s not reprise the part of MacDonald or Chamberlain and ignore a small but growing threat backed by clearly stated intentions, until it is a major threat used as a diplomatic trump card.

  • You gents are missing one very important point.

    Why do we assume that Japan, S. Korea or even Australia will automatically come to our aid if we engaged in limited warfare with China?

    If I’ve noticed anything in the past year or two its that Chinese diplomats appear to be superior to our own. The reliance on coalition warfare is a mistake. If the Chinese are able to properly tailor their message…in say a regional conflict with Taiwan…then you could well see allies sitting on the sidelines.

    A Navy to Navy comparison is prudent.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Agreed re: your point about counting on a coalition. PRC has leveraged itself so that the US may indeed have to go it alone.

    My point on the comparison is that, while the vast preponderance of the PLAN would be directly involved in a confrontation with the US in the Western Pacific, the USN still has world-wide obligations and would not bring its full naval power to bear against the PLAN. Which tips the balance further in the favor of the PRC.

    I would like to see a comparison of the PLAN to the US 7th Fleet, with its likely reinforcements. Bet the numbers are still in US favor, but a LOT closer.

  • Agreed. But to take your point one step further. Our obligations force a worldwide stance (I know I’m repeating your point…bear with me)…while China only needs to gain local superiority.

    In that light the numbers quoted above are glaring. A concentrated effort in any region of the Pacific will put us in a numerical disadvantage. Add to it the tyranny of distance and I contend that the US Navy is already behind when it comes to a confrontation with China.

    Add to it the fact that certain nations might decide to side with China in ‘non-distinct’ ways– We will suddenly see refueling rights denied– Shore visits canceled etc. The distance disadvantage becomes magnified. I think we’re already in a hurt locker when it comes to the Dragon of the East.

  • Chuck Hill

    Defense Springboard is correct in pointing out that the Chinese have lots of reasons for building a Navy beside confronting the US, but the US’s support of Taiwan independence is certainly on their mind.

    The other thing that is happening is the qualitative shift in the ships the Chinese are making. 30 years ago the PLAN ships were 30 years behind, they are catching up fast.

    Compared to the challenge from the Soviets, the Chinese have a healthy industrial base including consumer electronics, something the Soviets never had. This gives them the basis for building a strong military. The Chinese always seemed to have proportionately more underway replenishment vessels than the Soviets and you will note they Chinese don’t seem to need to send tugs with their warships.

    And as noted this is really about local security–perhaps only temporary local security.

  • Mark Cartier

    I agree with Solomon – “A Navy to Navy comparison is prudent.”

  • Love the debate!

    Couple of things…I would suggest that as long as we’re getting key resources/critical support out of Japanese and Korean bases, the risk of those countries getting involved is pretty high. But maybe we should put more energy in making sure these countries stay friendly in some sort of Asian NATO-ish structure.

    Second, all the big Asian Navies made a quick leap into the modern era…Heck, about thirty years ago Japan had just finished up retiring her fleet of Fletchers, Gleaves, Cannons and Tacoma-class boats–some stuff that we’d booted out of the inventory in ’45.

    And now they’re shooting down missiles (But hey, can China make their own turbines yet?). A big technical leap is to be expected with any large-scale modern naval investment.

    Finally, regarding the industrial base, the last time I checked Korea and Japan had some pretty competent–and thriving–shipyards. All the more reason to stay friendly, maybe?


    Couple of Points,
    As URR points out, it is not just a fleet on fleet comparison.

    First, you have to look at the theater in question. Outside the Western Pacific, China is a non-factor for a long time to come. Inside WESTPAC obviously the most likely is related to Taiwan but there could be others (after all, it should be noted that the Chinese have as good a claim to Okinawa as they do to Taiwan (both were ceded in following the Sino-Japanese War)). The Spratley Islands are certainly a potential issue and while I seriously doubt the Chinese will be ready for a do over of the Korean War, you never know.

    Second, you need to look at all forms of military power that would potentially be used in any conflict. This would include things like ballistic missiles and aircraft, bases, etc. Examples would include Norway in 1940 where the Germans won dispite the Royal Navy having the preponderence of force. The Luftwaffe (and the fall of France) tipped the balance of power to the Germans. Quality also has an important role is assessing the relative forces. While China has been enhancing the quality of its forces, it still has a long way to go in that regard.

    Finally, you need to evaluate the force structure based on what the likely strategies would be used. For instance, would we expect the US 7th Fleet to sail between Taiwan and China in the event of a conflict? Is Guam off-limits? How about the Chinese mainland? How about merchant fleets? WWI is instructive. Simple comparisons between the German and British fleets were faulty because the geography allowed the British to follow a strategy that the Germans were not prepared for. They wanted battle in the southern North Sea near Germany where they would have the edge and the British employed a distant blockade and chose not to contest those waters giving Britian a dominant advantage. Conversely, the fact that the British had to protect a far flung empire also impacted their ability to concentrate their forces much as US international commitments do today.
    For example, if Taiwan and the US chose to concentrate on anti-access weapons (SAMs, SSMs, mines, and especially submarines) to halt or make prohibitively expensive any Chinese invasion fleet, then much of the Chinese anti-access weapons are worthless to them. Conversely, if the Chinese developed a functional anti-ship ballistic missile, that could also significantly change the dynamic of any conflict.

    So my question is, what is the likely Chinese military strategy, and how do you think the US will respond? Then we can talk force on force in context.

    Final thought. On paper, the Argentinian Navy looked pretty good vis-a-vis the British. How did that whole Falklands thing turn out for them?

  • RADM (Ret) Ben Wachendorf

    Many interesting points here. My thoughts include:

    1. We tend to expect a potential adversary to fight like we do. This is not unique to the US nor naval warfare (e.g. Maginot Line).

    2. Without going into classified details, I have participated in several current and future force war games. Suffice it to say, from a purely gaming perspective, I would prefer to be on the Chinese side in those games.

    3. Roger Byron’s amphib force comment, but remember Israel does a lot of military sales to China. One of the items they sold several years ago was a nasty little UUV with a small warhead that homes in on ground and sea based radars. This UUV is slow, but very small radar target. It can loiter in a geographic area for a long time. If Chine wanted to launch an amphibious assault against Taiwan, one of their options would be to crater all military runways with intense missile attack and follow with many sorties of these UUVs over the area of amphibious assault. If you have a high tolerance for casualties in your assault force, in this scenario you could send them over in fishing boats.

    4. My read on Chinese military force development is that they are leaping generations of military hardware development in diesel submarines, military tactical aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. The majority of these military hardware acquisitions are designed to defeat the US Navy. They are not needed for any other purpose in my view.

    Again, just my personal opinions here.

  • Byron

    With respect, ADM, they can get their in fishing boats…it takes ships to get them the beans bullets and gas they’ll need, and something that can deal with a non-useable port.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “But hey, can China make their own turbines yet?”

    Not yet, but they are swarming around US aerospace bearing and metallurgy concerns to figure out how, and we are letting them. I will not name names, but some are in my immediate proximity. They are buying surplus machines that are near state of the art for manufacturing the components in China.

    Byron’s amphibious capabilities point is a good one, but I would not necessarily come to the conclusion that the PLAN is not a major concern and growing threat to US pacific rim interests lacking those power projection capabilities. The PLAN can land a small division-sized element with another airborne division-sized element.

    But what is our amphibious capability? Somewhere around 1.8 MEBs. We can no longer put a full division ashore, either.

    Last point: While the PLAN may potentially be built for many reasons, the US Navy is the primary opponent in mind, no question. Hence the McDonald-Chamberlain remark earlier.

    Each PM at various times tried to explain away the development of the Panzerwaffe and the Luftwaffe as something other than a direct challenge to the French/British coalition, even as late as 1937. A massive amount of self-deluded foolishness, which a back-bencher MP from Epping tried desperately to point out, but was dismissed as alarmist.

  • Byron

    Amphib capability is noted only in that it is an indicator of an opponents ability to haul and land the heavy equipment of an occupying force. An invading nation must assume that any port facilities will either be damaged in the initial attacks or delibaretly destroyed to deny their use to an enemy.

  • Derrick

    Obviously I am not informed on this subject, so I would like to ask some probably very basic if not silly questions:

    What are the most likely scenarios where the US and Chinese militaries would come into conflict? I assumed they would be Taiwan and the Spratly Islands. Is that a correct assumption?

    I also assume Taiwan would be the biggest military endeavour that China would consider. Is that also a correct assumption?

    Also, how would China proceed to capture Taiwan? Would it not be a major amphibious assault? Would it not require first denying Taiwan information access, blinding satellites, and blockading the very large island with several carrier strike forces to deny air, sea and undersea reinforcements? Would it not require the mass transport of hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the Chinese coastline?

    I ask because I assume that just the build up of military forces for probably the largest amphibious assault since World War 2 would take months, if not a year. I still remember the Persian Gulf War of 1991 where it took from August 1990 to Jan 1991 to get all the US military in place in the Middle East, so I cannot imagine China being that much quicker. To me timing is important, because although currently only the US 7th fleet is in the Pacific, if a Chinese military build up was detected early enough, the US could ship in more forces as required.

    So how long does it take to get US reinforcements to Japan?

  • Great conversation guys…

    I think we’ll see some jostling over EEZs before we see a Taiwan scenario.

  • Diplomatic riffs over EEZs could well be the prelude we should be looking for when the Chinese retake Taiwan.

  • RADM (Ret) Ben Wachendorf

    Byron is quite right about more than fishing boats needed. I was only trying to make a point. Note that Commandant of Marine Corps recently made strong case for urgent need to significantly improve tooth to tail ratio in USMC logistics. Note also that in the China-Taiwan scenario (roger EEZ jostling first), most if not all fire support and land based air can be provided from mainland and more than likely that thousands of covert Chinese agents likely to be in place before hostilities commence. Note also that there are pros and cons of an occupation force strategy (Iraq?). That said it will certainly take more than 50 footers that sometimes appear to allow walking across the Yellow Sea to conduct an invasion.

  • Interesting how much of this conversation turns upon the idea that a conflict over Taiwan is inevitable. Is it? In comparison to Israel…and maybe even, oh, Cold-War Switzerland, Taiwan seems a tad unserious in its commitment to self-defense.

  • Derrick

    Besides which, based on China’s recent attempts to achieve free trade with Taiwan, I don’t think their strategy to retake Taiwan involves military force. I think they are trying to woo Taiwan in slowly with money. If Taiwan willingly accepts reunification with the mainland (through referendum), then China would have saved a lot of money. Plus it would make it a lot harder for the US to intervene.

  • Byron

    Nations rarely go to war over lost land (save something like Palestine/Israel). It’s usually over strategic resources, whether that be land, food production capability, oil, strategic minerals, etc. Taiwan has nothing but more mouths to feed. It’s most attractive targets are the industries there and a war would most probably destroy these assets. Certainly the PRC could not guarantee capturing an electronics memory factory intact. Other nations like Indonesia or the southern Philippines? Spratly Islands?

  • Derrick

    I thought the US had military installations in the Philippines? Have those installations been shut down?

  • Mike M.

    Derrick, just about everything we had in the Phillippines was closed about 15 years ago.

    There are several issues that I don’t think have been raised yet.

    The entire situation with respect to China is disturbingly reminiscent of Imperial Germany in the years before the First World War. You have a nation growing in economic and military power, but with a nagging sense of inferiority manifesting itself in bellicose rhetoric and hamfisted diplomacy. Add to this the facts that China thinks like a regional power, with no regard for global consequences; and their desire to reassert their historical role as top dog in East Asia, and you have a recipe for trouble. Taiwan may be a trigger point, but it’s not the whole story.

    And there is another parallel with World War I. China, like Germany, is liable to having its supply lines cut at a distance. Their supply of oil comes through the Indian Ocean, and is terribly vulnerable to the USN and Indian Navy in a shooting war. I suspect this is a major reason for the PLAN’s interest in developing blue-water capabilities.

    But there is a third parallel, one that URR has mentioned. The PLAN, like the High Seas Fleet, gets to pick the moment of attack…and will therefore be pitting their full strength against whatever the United States and its allies have in theater at that moment.

    Short form: There is a threat. Maybe not as serious as some people think, but serious enough. Best to strengthen the Fleet. Deterrence is far cheaper than a shooting war.

  • Defense SpringBoard,

    Taiwan falling to the Chinese is inevitable.

    First its only 120-140 miles from the mainland. Second the Chinese Air Force can attain and maintain superiority over the entire area before we even make it to the area. Third the same applies to the Navy. And last, like someone said, Taiwan just isn’t that united in the desire to remain independent. A large segment of their population even favors reunification!

    I can think of few countries as thoroughly penetrated by the ‘enemy’ as Taiwan is. Taiwan is gone. They just don’t know it yet.

  • It’s funny how so much of the military hand-wringing is focusing on China’s potential (albeit likely) capabilities. I find it odd to go into a defensive crouch, when, right now, there’s a whole lot of power in the region to counter, balance, and possibly shift that future.

    China’s future is not fore-ordained or writ in stone.

    The region is, right now, in as good a position to take action to try and influence Chinese behavior (and it’s future) as it ever will be. Constantly saying “EEEK, at some time in the future, China is gonna be a monster superpower, ruuuunnnn!” risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy…and an argument to do nothing but enjoy being afraid.

    Are we just fretting ourselves to impotence?

  • RADM (Ret) Ben Wachendorf

    Sorry, just noted earlier post from me in this net said UUV vice UAV. Freudian slip, my bad. The UAV I was referring to is sometimes called a Harpy.

    Causes of war is an interesting subject. Over 30 fought between what we now call Turkey and Russia is only a few hundred years. Many books written over contested area between what we now call Germany and France in this regard. Some of that area has strategic value like Byron says, but not all of that contested area meets that criteria.

  • Derrick

    If China’s economy is so heavily dependent on oil shipped from Africa through the Indian Ocean, cannot US jets based at Don Diego(?) nearby India sufficiently disrupt the oil supply in the event of a military confrontation? Would an US variant of the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile be feasible for this?

    Because if this is the case, then military deterrence should be simple. Just put some submarines and jets in the Indian Ocean. Even if China had a blue water navy to escort oil tankers from Africa, the subs and jets should sink enough to disrupt their oil supply and slow down their military operations. Is that a correct assumption? I guess it depends on the size of China’s future blue water navy and the number of US jets and submarines they would have to content with in the Indian Ocean…

    Off topic, but would someone please remind me why the Phillipines installations were shut down? If I were an US taxpayer I would be a little disappointed because deterrent wise, I would imagine it’s easier to maintain overseas military bases than to constantly have carrier strike forces patrolling those waters. Plus it would probably be a lot cheaper too. I mean, with US military bases in the Phillipines, I would assume China would think twice before attempting any military operations in the South Pacific…

  • As far as I can recall, the Philippine installations were shut down because:
    * the US taxpayer wanted more savings
    * Mt. Pinatubo exploded, depositing ash on the installations
    * winding down of the cold war
    * China was not a threat

  • Derrick

    Personally, as a Canadian who depends on the US military for defense, I would personally prefer domestic US installations be shut down for cost savings over foreign ones. Once a foreign military base is closed down, it will be very difficult to get it back.

    Of course, I don’t pay taxes to the US, nor do I share in the $1 trillion USD deficit, or the ($10?) trillion US debt, so my concerns may not be in sync with the US public.

    Interestingly enough, according to this link:

    China owns $894.8 billion USD worth of US Treasury securities, which means 24.3% of the US debt is owed to China. Is that not a bigger threat than the Chinese military/navy?

  • Chuck Hill

    Given China’s thirst for oil and the possibility of reserves in the South China Sea, looks most likely that the Chinese will wait patiently and progressively consolidate control over that area. A quick grab here, a quick grab there. This will likely offend a lot of people, so there is the possibility of consolidating a coalition in opposition a la NATO, but only if the US is willing got take the lead.

    Regarding the Falklands. I was in the Naval War College when the war developed and the consensus was that it would be a walk over based largely on the reputation of the Royal Navy. At the time I thought Argentina had already received 15 Super Etandards and their 15 Exocets, so felt it might not be so easy. When it came down to it, the details made all the difference. The Argentines had only 5 MM-39s. Their bombs were not properly fused for low altitude. Their type 209 submarines fire control system was not properly calibrated. The UK had the latest version of the sidewinder which allowed shooting head to head, the Argentines did not. The RNs greater professionalism did count for something, they made fewer mistakes, but it was very close and a few almost invisible variables made all the difference. It was no walk over.

  • Derrick

    I would imagine the Chinese military, but especially their navy, would be grossly inexperienced and unprepared as compared to the US navy. When was the last time China fought a major conflict?

    After re-reading this article, I do think that a lot of the Chinese naval buildup has little to do with the US. I would guess they believe they are being challenged by a growing Indian, Russian naval presence and wish to protect their oil supply. Plus given the history between China and Japan, I cannot imagine the Chinese leadership would be thrilled to see Japan’s growing military power.

    How much would it cost to add another US carrier, say one of those upcoming CVN-78(?)s, to the 7th fleet, plus required support ships and jets, etc.?

  • Derrick

    Another uninformed question:

    I thought that one of the biggest advantages the US military had was its network centricity and information processing and info warfare capabilities? I thought that in terms of numbers, the allies and Iraq were evenly matched during 1991, but information processing gave the allies the big edge. Is this correct?

    Based on that assumption, are China’s naval and military forces network centric? What about China’s information processing and info warfare capabilities? Are those easily countered/disabled?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “After re-reading this article, I do think that a lot of the Chinese naval buildup has little to do with the US.”

    I would venture to say that the Chinese naval buildup has little to do with anything else but the US Navy.

  • Chuck Hill


    They also have their eyes on islands and bits of continental shelf claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, and others.

    Their aircraft carrier program makes more sense in this context.

  • Ahh, yes, and don’t forget China’s claims off Japan and Korea, too…

  • UltimaRatioReg


    IMHO, their territorial designs anywhere are contingent first upon neutralizing or defeating regionally the United States Navy. Japan in the 1920s and 30s had similar territorial claims/desires. But the IJN was built to allow them freedom of action against the USN, and for very good reason.

    Those considerations have not changed, and China is following suit, albeit more skilfully economically and even diplomatically.

  • Paul

    Personally, I think this build up is more of a threat to China’s immediate neighbors rather than to us in the near and mid future. They’re not stupid– there’s a lot of yuan going into those grey hulls and they’re looking to the future.

    So, why not get some sea experience off of Africa? Then try something new again– and then for a quick and dirty war, intimidate over the Spratly’s. Would we go to war over those rocks? Probably not, right.

    We’re their biggest trading partner, but we also trade with other countries in the region. What if that naval threat was used against those countries to keep them from trading to us, and China then dominates our markets more than what they already do– isn’t that kind of winning the economic war? Why shoot when there are other ways to subjugate a country?

    Just a thought…

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Your thought is a good one, but it seems the Chinese are playing it in reverse. They want to make the idea of war with them so painful to the US that we would demur even at the risk of losing American interests in the region.

    China does not need such aggressive naval expansion plans to threaten their neighbors. They can already do that with existing capabilities. And their neighbors know that. The PLAN is expanding so that China can call the shots in the region, including threatening their neighbors, without interference from the United States.

  • Derrick

    Well, looking at the previous post on this blog ( about China’s overseas military facilities, all along the shipping path from North Africa to China, it would seem the primary purpose of China’s naval modernization to be to field a blue water navy to protect its oil supply.

    Obviously China would not want to be pushed over so easily by the US in any foreign relations incident, so they would try to incorporate capabilities in their navy to counter the US threat. However, I’m not sure China’s threat to the US navy can be accurately judged by number of warships. Isn’t technology a huge determining factor? I’d like to know whether the Chinese navy is as network centric as the US navy is…I cannot imagine them having an easy a time coordinating a major naval operation as the US navy…Also, are Chinese fighter jets any match for the F-18?

    How does the Chinese navy compare to the Indian, Russian and Japanese navies? I thought India and Russia had operating aircraft carriers, while China still does not.

  • Paul

    India has a carrier but it’s old and destined for the scrap heap soon. Russia has the Kuznetsov, but she’s in the northern fleet and a long ways away. It doesn’t seem if they have a useful air group for her anyways.

    China’s intent may be to protect her oil sea lanes from India and the US and also to intimidate the US with the perceived threat that they’re too big and we’d take too much damage in an ultimate showdown. Losing a carrier or two (or ten actually) in WWII was tragic but not comparable to losing a CVN today. I hope they don’t underestimate our national will when we’re threatened. That could get ugly.

  • Robert Moyer

    It would seem the political arena is being ignored here. Let’s not forget that China is a communist regime and the end goal of communism is still world dominination. That can’t be accomplished without a blue water navy. It would appear that China’s build up is in line with their political goal. From an economic view, China has taken some lessons from the Hong Kong economic engine and discovered that capitalism does generate cash and now has the resources to build its Navy into blue water capability. Although this may not equate (right now) into a direct threat to the US, it does change the balance of force in the region.

  • Derrick

    After the Cuban Missile Crisis, I doubt China’s leadership would be so stupid. Besides which, their rhetoric has been very mild compared to the former USSR when it comes to foreign policy, if China even has one. About the only foreign policy I see China having is to build trading partners and protect access to resources its economy requires.

    Plus China needs US investment to keep its economy growing. China is very dependent on the US for its economic growth and I doubt they would want to jeopardize that.

  • croatiansensation

    Obviuosly the ret Admiral did his home work

    One word comes to mind….Silkworm. The Silkworm family of missles and other land based system have a definite part in any littoral conflict we would have with China aka Taiwan conflict. Chinese strategy is probably to create a column of limited Air Superiority / Sea dominance to Taiwan as well as swarm US protective systems (SM-3 ERs and aegis) with wave after wave of cheap missiles fired by land based, air and to a certain extent surface systems. this would also give their quiet diesels a chance against the Seawolfs and LAs. I would say our Ohios would be critical in an offensive fight but frankly them Chinese boys would definitely have a serious chance to overwhelm our system and sink a few capital ships.

    Now we all know our response, specifically sub launched TLAMs, would cripple the Chinese ability to reinforce and smack down the actual invasion/occupation force once it lands. By that time, they dig in but are cut off from support and resupply of the mainland. The Chinese soldier is a professional. We would probably almost have to repeat tarrawa or okinawa.

    That said, I don’t think this is all going to happen. We’ll probably just allow China to annex Taiwan peacefully like the brits gave Hong Kong back. Meanwhile the Chinese get to fight an Mountain insurgency. Look at Taiwan in google earth, it would be an insane insurgency in those mtns, which is why China is so interestred in our OEF ops.

    If I was the Sec of state or in the cabinet I would proposed a development of Taiwan Special forces and an irregular reserve. If they went Israeli and basically had an assault rifle in every Military age male’s hands they would have allot better deterant than our hollow promises…oh and save all those artillery shells for IEDs on those mtn rounds, cause your gonna need’em!;col1

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I would point out that China’s leadership and our leadership have both changed significantly from 1962. And so have our navies. We could not quarantine Cuba today with the same rules as we did then. We haven’t the platforms.

    I will mention again that the largest trading partners both the French and the Germans (Prussia and German states) had 1870 and 1914 were each other.

  • Derrick

    Good points.

    Based on what I read in the comments here:

    The US 7th fleet should be able to launch at least 120 sorties per day from their carrier. How many targets per day does that translate to?

    Also they should be able to control 200-300nm radius around the center of the fleet.

    Is that enough to counter the Chinese navy?

    Or is more required?

  • Paul


    That should do the trick but I think that’s why the PLAN is going for the ballistic missiles and OTH cruise missile capability. If they’re able to put them out there as a credible threat then will the US risk a CVBG in that kind of battlespace?

    You’re right about the trading partners observation, but if the long run is considered, what if their inroads into various economies actually causes a dependency on China rather than the US? Something frightening I read today concerned Iceland. China is starting to make some moves there with a big embassy and investment since their banks crashed their economy. If a viable transpolar shipping route opens up– what then?

  • Derrick

    What does the US 7th fleet need to counter the PLAN’s potential ballistic anti-ship missiles and OTH cruise missile capability?

    The Newsweek article indicated that the US military quit Iceland in 2006, but this wikipedia article claims there is still an US military presence in Iceland as of 2007:

    Is the wikipedia article accurate?

    What I read is that although China may be technologically behind the US, it has more money to spare. So if the US wishes to remain the dominant superpower, it has to start paying down its debt now.

    Guess it’s time to raise taxes.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Guess it’s time to raise taxes.”

    Or cut entitlement spending.

  • Navigator

    China looks much more like Imperial Japan in the 1920’s and 30’s than Imperial Germany (URR pointed this out earlier). The potential strategy of limiting gains to the region, and against generally much weaker local powers (SE Asia), is much more similar to Japan. However, we should probably also keep away from such comparisons and rather take the geopolitical situation of China on its own. Historically, Zheng He and the Ming Dynasty ‘Treasure Fleets’ come more to mind. Show force, gain influence and trade ties. It may also point directly to China’s biggest vulnerability, its own heterogeneous population and internal potential conflicts. China ‘shut down’ vis-à-vis the world because of internal problems shortly after the Treasure Fleets tours, burning its shipbuilding, banning any navy to speak of, even banning ocean-going vessels.

    The Taiwan question: who wants to die for Taiwan? Do we seriously think it would be worth risking World War III over Taiwan? The best we can do is to sell them what they need for their own defense. But if such a large part of their populace is so warm to the People’s Republic, why are we selling them anything that could transfer critical defense technology?

    Your response may be, if I take the 1930’s appeasement analogy, ‘If we don’t stop them then, where do we draw the final line?’ Well, the 1930’s is probably a poor example in any case for the strategic situation is completely different. In 1936 the German Army reoccupied the demilitarized Rhineland. This in the midst of a Great Depression. The French, the country with the largest army to counter the Germans, did not have the finances for such an endeavor. Generally, France and Great Britain did not have an economic or internal political situation that would have allowed them to counter Germany before 1938 at best. My point is this, the US (government AND citizens) has to assess what is the limit and draw a clear line and put the resources behind the defense of those lines (military, diplomatic, trade, etc.). We don’t have much of national strategy in place (fighting local guerrillas in remote mountainous countries is a complete waste of our military men’s and women’s lives in my opinion, yes). The US Navy is being wasted away by complete lack of geopolitical ‘realpolitik’ for the past 19 years (and so are the rest of the branches). Gulf War I was the last conflict that fell under the ‘realpolitik’ label (defense of Western oil resources).

    The Chinese are and will play the chess game very well and very patiently. They probably have a larger national mental capacity to accept military losses than we do in attaining an objective that we probably don’t perceive as ‘vital’ to our nation (Taiwan). A recent article about the possible events surrounding such an event, positing the destruction of a CVN by an ASBM, comes to mind. Even if we can prove that the casualties were caused by the PRC, is that loss enough to start even a limited war (say, blockading commercial shipping traffic to and from China outside the ‘control zone’ of the PRC)? (in response to Paul) How many allies would follow us? Other than vengeance, what vital US interest would be defended or vital objective attained?

    As to their ownership of a huge amount of our national debt, I paraphrase a saying, “When you owe the bank $10’000, you are at their mercy. When you owe the bank $1 billion, they are at your mercy.” Use this weapon wisely… On the other hand, China does not depend on us for financing their economic development (in response to Derrick).

  • Bruno

    So how many soldiers does Taiwan have helping us in Iraq or Afghanistan? How much money have they contributed towards our operations in those two theaters? The answer to both is nada, zip.

    So what we have here is a debate about expending US blood, trasure & prestige towards defending another mercantilist Asian country that has done nothing but rack up huge trade surpluses with us for the past 30 years and that has manipulated our trade relations to our detriment.

    Add to this the tyranny of geography (China is right across the straits and we’re across an ocean), strategic focus (we’re spread out across the world and China isn’t) and a lack of international solidarity (our earstwhile allies in the region, especially those on the Asian landmass itself) will NOT come to our aid, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Finally, we’ve spent the past 25 years hollowing out our industrial infrastructure. This means that we’d have to fight a war with what we bring to the table on day 1, not with what we can make and bring to the table tomorrow, next year and the year after that. China has the industry, the currency reserves and the budget surpluses, which means that they can beat us just by dragging out the conflict for more than a year.

    This country needs to spend the next 25 years rebuilding its economy, its industries and its finances without wealth draining foreign adventures & entanglements.

  • Paul`

    good points about the Falklands War regarding making fewer mistakes allowing the British to recover the islands. A point to think abour regarding regional power relationships is that should the PRC absorb Taiwan (by whatever means) this puts the southern most island of Japan just over 100 kilometers from what would then be the PRC. This would surely change the attitude of Japan regarding offshore rights for exploration etc. and greatly increase the possibility of frictions between the two countries. It would also certainly involve challanges to the US-Japan relationship as well as the PRC-US relationship. Also, though characterized as a regional power, The PLA(Navy) is actively engaged in anti piracy actions off the Horn of Africa. This activity galvanized Japan to send its own ships to participate quite quickly although it had been debating this deployment endlessly. So if it is thinking as a regional player, the PRC is also taking actions outside the region.

  • Warhog

    We are not at war with China and hopefully never will be. China is an Ally of the U.S. Forces and we should be more focused on the matter at hand. War in the M/E, the Health care plan and how it eliminates a trillion dollars of the deficit, and wounded Veterans policy. But All in all, Interesting Article

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I may be in the minority, but I get the feeling that Taiwan is not the Chinese focus of effort. They will absorb, likely along the Hong Kong model, in the not too distant future.

    But the US has other allies and other interests in the region. If PRC is forcing the hands of those allies to abandon Washington for Beijing, not the least because China’s forces have grown to where they can regionally neutralize or eliminate US influence, then we have a problem a lot bigger than Taiwan.

    Also, there be OIL in Indonesia, the Philippines, and the archipelagos. A Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere for a new Century?

  • “China is an ally”

    Wishful thinking always amazes.

  • Derrick

    Upon examining China’s longstanding history of constantly being overrun and destroyed, it will be hard to convince China to fully trust the US. They will always want to build up a blue water navy to protect their overseas assets and deter foreign (ie US) interference in their economy. Hence I personally would never consider China an ally. However, I wouldn’t consider China a rival either.

    I also don’t think China is focused on Taiwan. I believe that they assume that eventually Taiwan will just want to rejoin the mainland on their own initiative. Hence the free trade talks going on between the two. That’s why I am starting to lean against the transfer of US military assets to Taiwan, either by sale or by donation. It may be just delivering sensitive US military technology into eager Chinese hands.

    Therefore, I personally prefer dealing with China in a cautious way: continuing economic ties, but also ensuring the US military presence in the Pacific is strong enough to deter Chinese military aggression. Currently, it sounds like the US 7th fleet should be enough, but it wouldn’t hurt to spend a little more in that area.

  • Paul

    Hmm, we now have two Pauls here, so I’ll figure something out…

    I agree about the 7th fleet, but in terms of numbers how does LANTFLT and PCFLT break out? Are they evenly divided or does one side of the country have a larger fleet presence? Perhaps it’s time (I know the parallels exist between now and 1939 when I say this…) to bolster the Pacific fleet in some way through a shift of resources. It’s not as if there’s a credible threat (yet) on the eastern seaboard, right?

  • Solon

    Much more interested in future EEZ confrontations, and in PRC outreach to Africa and SA, than about Taiwan. Latter is a friend, but – in no conceivable ‘American-treasure-time-and-talent’ squandering kind of way – is it a vital interest. If I were Chinese, I’d have re-assimilated Taiwan long ago, and the act would be largely invisible to the world in terms of access, economics, and security.

  • Derrick

    I find China’s foreign policy to be guided by Sun Tzu, re the best general wins their wars without fighting a single battle. That’s the strategy I see in place regarding Taiwan.

    It seems to be a good strategy. The US should adopt it too.

    I didn’t know China was reaching over to South America. What are they doing there?

    I was also concerned over China’s courting of Iceland. Gives them a potential deterrent as Chinese military forces in Iceland could conceivably disrupt the movement of US reinforcements from the mainland to Europe, in case of a conflict in Europe. Is the US Navy practicing convoy operations in the Atlantic in case of said scenario?

  • Chuck Hill

    Brazil is doing some interesting things. They have an agreement with the Chinese to train Chinese pilots on their carrier and they have been making nice with Iran.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    This from Galrahn over at ID.

    It appears that ex-Varyag has left drydock. Interesting
    comments regarding internal rebuild. Not something you
    associate with a short-term training vessel.

  • Derrick

    How many sorties per day can be launched from the ex-Varyag?

    I guess it is a good assumption that the Chinese never invited us to go onboard and inspect their changes, correct?

  • John

    To counter China’s threat and maintain peace for the world, USA must doubles its defence budget within next few years and increases the defence budget double digit yearly for the next 50 years.

  • laowai

    Lived in Taiwan 20 years ago and now living in China. There is a strong convergence of culture – standard of living, traffic, shopping, karaoke, fashion, internet & money making obsessions, as well as direct flights & tourism – which makes me think there is high chance of the PRC absorbing Taiwan. A recent article about Taiwan said the young men have little interest in the military or fighting with China. Like the West, most of their factories (and jobs) are already over in China anyway.

    Another point, China must somehow maintain strong economic growth or face domestic unrest, and energy, raw materials, and secure shipping (for exports) are needed for that growth. I suggest that Chinese do plan for an epic, mutually destructive set piece sea battle with the USN, but the more practical Chinese navy role to further Chinese influence, prestige, and enhance diplomatic power. So the vital trade can keep flowing and growing, somehow indefinitely.