June 01, 2006
Stratfor on China's potential military threat
George Friedman from Stratfor talks about the US perceptions of a Chinese threat. Whether you agree or not, it's cetainly thought provoking:
The U.S. Department of Defense released its annual report on China's military last week. The Pentagon reported that China is moving forward rapidly with an offensive capability in the Pacific. The capability would not, according to the report, rely on the construction of a massive fleet to counter U.S. naval power, but rather on development and deployment of anti-ship missiles and maritime strike aircraft, some obtained from Russia. According to the Pentagon report, the Chinese are rapidly developing the ability to strike far into the Pacific -- as far as the Marianas and Guam, which houses a major U.S. naval base.The rest is continued below the jump.
Following the Soviet Strategy?posted by Simon on 06.01.06 at 09:40 AM in the China military category.
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The key question here, of course, is whether the Pentagon is correct in assuming that China is a more serious threat to American interests than the kind of thing we all witnessed on 9/11, 7/7, etc. Given some of the thinking that has come out of the Pentagon in recent years, I think there is more than adequate reason to deconstruct their thought process in this regard.
For those who are not married to a particular viewpoint on this question, I'd suggest picking up "The Pentagon's New Map" by Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett. Immensely readable, Barnett (a former wonk in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and professor at the Naval War College) proposes a very different view of China and the threats the U.S. and the rest of the developed world face than what you hear espoused by the Pentagon brass.
He also lays out a strategic vision that would deal with the core causes of terrorism while shifting China from a potential threat to a strategic ally. Given that Barnett started at Harvard as a specialist on the USSR, he quotes chapter and verse as to why China is not The Soviet Threat, Mark II Mod 0.
People will take different sides, but I'm of the opinion that it's better to avoid Cold War II than worry so much about winning it that we make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. What a remarkable waste of lives and treasure that would be when we have a host of other, more pressing geopolitical hairballs staring us in the face.posted by: David on 06.01.06 at 06:41 PM [permalink]
I agree, Barnett is interesting. A little lacking when it comes to specifics though- funny how when you think of his USSR background his economic determinism makes sense, but I digress. Just curious David, what other pressing geopolitical hairballs that are staring us in the face did you have in mind?
The interesting thing about this article to me is not just the 'they're doing this and that', but the downplay of current actions in the Middle East and such. The evolution of China's modern return to front seats along with the maturation of America as the world's dominant power will be a contentious issue in the years to come, even if we are able to avoid a Hot war. As things are at the moment, the only opponent of a real War of the future would be China; but if we do avoid that (as I hope all rational people do), how will we manage it from both sides and other countries in the world? Assuredly not an easy task. Can we avoid both a Hot war and a Cold war?
Thanks for the post!posted by: Sunguh on 06.01.06 at 10:55 PM [permalink]
Reads like a Clancy novelposted by: GZ Expat on 06.02.06 at 02:03 PM [permalink]
Maybe it's me, but I think Barnett gets as specific as he needs to be. On the other hand, I'm a businessman, not an economist or a political scientist, so I'm holding him to a different standard than others might.
I'll try to be a bit more specific vis-a-vis the above mentioned geopolitical hairballs that should be attracting the interest of strategists and policymakers before they start worrying about fabricating the next "strategic competitor." None of this is original, but it makes an imposing list, working my way slowly around the world from the 180th meridian in a westward direction:
1. A Nuclear North Korea
The list could go on and could get even more speculative, but I think you get my point. If I were in one of those conference rooms on the E-Ring of the Pentagon rather than here in the Hutong in Beijing, I'd look at the globe and find a lot of places from which threats to the international system could emerge that are far more urgent than the distant potential of China as anything more than a military paper tiger.
The point is simply this - in this scary new world, China can either be a friend like the U.K. was during the Cold War, or it can be an enemy and a comfort to all of the bad actors in the world. We can either try to engage as allies in the process, seeking to support each other as our nations and the world undergo a huge transition, or we can piss each other off and 15-20 years from now be right back where we were in the late 1970s.
Great power realists will have you believe that China and the U.S. MUST become enemies simply because "the two biggest guys on the block eventually have to fight." I say that's simplistic nonsense, and dangerous to boot. 2006 is not 1945.posted by: David on 06.04.06 at 09:24 PM [permalink]
Nukes also change the picture dramatically. Although if you believe the article in the Mar/Apr 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, "The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy", bu Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, the USA effectively has a nuclear monopoly over the PRC. (China only has 20 missiles capable of hitting the US, so if the US can locate and destroy these by rapid first strike, the US wins by default. Chinese missiles are old and require 1 hour to refuel before being ready for launch, US ones can be fired from missiles, submarines, or dropped from strategic bombers).posted by: Patrick Tan on 06.05.06 at 01:08 AM [permalink]
Here's the 2005 article from The Bulletin that speaks of the China nuclear hype:
China's 18 ICBMs, sitting unfueled in their silos, their nuclear warheads in storage, are essentially the same as they were the day China began deploying them in 1981.