Monday, February 19, 2018

See WESTPAC from the Chinese Shore

In an article about great power conflict from an exceptional Special Report from The Economist, The Future of War, there is a superb challenges we face vs. China in that theater.

First there is optimism;
Jonathan Eyal of RUSI, a defence think-tank, (says) demographic factors and changing social attitudes in China suggest that there would be little popular appetite for conflict with America, despite the sometimes nationalistic posturing of state media. Like other developed countries, the country has very low birth rates, fast-decreasing levels of violence and large middle classes who define success by tapping the latest smartphone or putting down a deposit on a new car. In a culture of coddling children prompted by the one-child policy, Chinese parents would probably be extremely reluctant to send their precious “snowflakes” off to war.
It outlines well what we have described here over the years as the Most Likely COA for the Chinese - and the most smart; the Chinese Porcupine. 
The risk that the West will run into a major conflict with China is lower than with Russia, but it is not negligible and may be growing. China resents the American naval presence in the western Pacific, and particularly the “freedom of navigation” operations that the US Seventh Fleet conducts in the South China Sea to demonstrate that America will not accept any Chinese claims or actions in the region that threaten its core national interests or those of its allies.

For its part, China is planning to develop its A2/AD capabilities, especially long-range anti-ship missiles and a powerful navy equipped with state-of-the-art surface vessels and a large submarine force. The idea is first to push the US Navy beyond the “first island chain” and ultimately make it too dangerous for it to operate within the “second island chain” (see map). Neither move is imminent, but China has already made a lot of progress. If there were a new crisis over Taiwan, America would no longer send an aircraft-carrier battle group through the Taiwan Strait to show its resolve, as it did in 1996.

How such tensions will play out depends partly on America’s allies. If Japan’s recently re-elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, succeeds in his ambition to change the country’s pacifist constitution, the Japanese navy is likely to increase its capabilities and more explicitly train to fight alongside its American counterpart. At the same time other, weaker allies such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia may conclude that bowing to Chinese military and economic power is a safer bet than hoping for a declining America to fight their corner.

The greatest danger lies in miscalculation through a failure to understand an adversary’s intentions, leading to an unplanned escalation that runs out of control. Competition in the “grey zone” between peace and war requires constant calibration that could all too easily be lost in the heat of the moment.
It is this that we need to be preparing for with our friends around China's maritime borders. WESTPAC is their "Gulf of Mexico" and VACAPES, and we should keep that in mind as we travel in those areas. The Chinese are bold, and we are looking weak, that is also something to remember given the Chinese culture of how the weak should be treated by the strong.

No comments: