January 20, 2005
Non-clash of the titans
China is building up military forces and setting up bases along sea lanes from the Middle East to project its power overseas and protect its oil shipments, according to a previously undisclosed internal report prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.The "coming conflict with Beijing" will not be a fight over scarce oil resources. The only possible scenario where conflict could emerge would be over Taiwan. Even then China's entire strategy is based on taking over the island before the Americans could intervene. In other words, it is based on avoiding conflict with the superior American forces. Likewise China is deliberately avoiding getting involved in the Mid-East, despite its keen interest in the region. It doesn't want to antgonise its Mid-East oil suppliers, nor does it want to antgonise the Americans. The recent tsunami saw the PLA do almost nothing when America and Australia's military was offering assistance because they couldn't. America's military has an enormous technological advantage over China's and the Chinese know it. That's not a gap that will be closed, even in 50 years.
Brain Shavings also notes a couple of more angles stemming from all this, including the growing influence of Christianity and market economics in China. Both also mean China is more likely to emulate rather than fight America in the future.posted by Simon on 01.20.05 at 01:29 PM in the
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Good points and good articles. A couple of comments, though; I don't think "emulate" is the proper word, but I can't think of another right now. China is already adopting some western capitalist principles, but they're transmogrified by the "Chinese way". They'll compete with the US without BEING LIKE the US, which brings me to the next point...
The "conflict" the US is likely to have with China won't be military, per se (on a hunch, I'm pretty sure they would prefer to maintain the status quo with Taiwan). I anticipate a lot of future friction over "legitimate" trade, i.e., commercial competition with low-priced goods, and possibly even more friction over WHO they sell certain things to. They are eager to sell anything; armaments for example, to anyone who will buy them.posted by: Sam_S (ShenzhenRen) on 01.20.05 at 05:43 PM [permalink]
"...won't catch up with the US even in 50 years"? That's a bold prediction for a country that just took over IBM's laptop business. [And which 50 years ago fought the US to a standstill in Korea using bugles and burp guns. ]
China doesn't need to surpass the US technologically. It will regain Taiwan by biding its time and enforcing a trade blockade when the US is preoccupied elsewhere - possibly when the US attacks Iran, Syria or Cuba.
As for the Christian influence on China, I think that's wishful thinking on behalf of American evangelists. Just look at the Taiping rebellion and the Cultural Revoultion to see what the Chinese do with western beliefs like Christianity and Marxism.posted by: Mike on 01.20.05 at 08:07 PM [permalink]
Preoccupied? The US has over a dozen carrier fleets. Based on current estimates it would need 2 to repel a Chinese invasion of Taiwan given China's current military capabilities and the US's technological overreach.
The US Armed Forces are keeping peace in Bosnia, holding together Iraq, patrolling Afghanistan, bottling up North Korea dishing out massive post-Tsunami aid packages and about a dozen other tasks as we speak and they has several carrier fleets still in Asian waters capable of intercepting an attack by the PRC.
I don't even think a full scale invasion of Iran will over-stretch the US sufficiently to allow China a free grab at Taiwan. Perhaps if China _and_ North Korea were to take a grab at their respective targets the US might be hard pressed to cope with the preliminary battles but even so the resulting wars would be won swiftly (neither South Korea nor Taiwan are 'soft targets' at the moment either).
Personally I think China will only make a military grab for Taiwan if the CCP is under severe domestic pressure or needs to kill off a potential military coup. Even those who lurk in the politburo behind Hu aren't stupid enough.posted by: Johnlouis Swaine on 01.23.05 at 08:24 AM [permalink]