“Will China Rule the Waves? --
A Risk Manager’s Overview of Determining Factors”

by Joseph Buff, 2006
June 8 Special Feature Presentation, Naval Submarine League 2006 Open Symposium, All opinions are solely those of the speaker.

Photo Courtesy: Walter P. Noonan
[IMAGE] What to make of PRC actions/aspirations re huge sub fleet?

Risk Management Perspective:

  • 1. Analyze the possible downsides realistically
  • 2. Take account of worst-cases in your planning/budgeting
  • 3. Learn from past experiences: good, bad, ugly
  • 4. Expect the unexpected, & act – “Failures of imagination”
  • 5. Better safe than sorry – “Unprepared mindsets”
  • Fathoming China-as-possible-threat requires some grasp of its:

  • History -- both ancient and modern
  • Sociology, Anthropology, and National Psychology
  • Politics/Economics of Beijing’s hybrid communist system
  • Military Experiences, and Potential, including psy-ops & spies
  • Outline of the Whole Talk: 3 questions to be answered

  • Is China mentally/culturally enabled to wage aggressive war?
  • Does China have strong motives to ever wage aggressive war?
  • Are there flash points to goad China into actual aggressive war?
  • Opening “Teasers” for Submariners:

    SSNs are expeditionary, SSBNs are for power-projection

  • This goes for PLAN as much as for USN
  • PLAN now seeking to acquire aircraft carrier(s)
  • Russia as partner opens whole new horizons for PRC in

  • Hardware and training availability
  • “Leapfrogging” tactics, doctrine, C4ISR
  • Inland border security: turn covetous gaze out to sea
  • Submarine basing options, bypass “First Island Chain”
  • Non-maritime sourcing of oil and natural gas
  • PLAN surface squadrons already circumnavigated Earth

    Beware of the games countries play

  • We are being manipulated
  • Mao vs. Kissinger/Nixon

  • The old triangulation game: US/PRC/USSR
  • Mao’s unadulterated global superpower ambitions
  • Mao as destructive opportunist, not ideological communist
  • Those books in Mao’s library: Cultural Revolution trophies
  • Mr. Hu’s unstately visit

  • Seen by Beijing as a U.S. botch-up
  • Snit now over refueling stop
  • Defense spending voodoo economics

  • Many items left off of PRC’s official budget
  • Labor costs comparison a very distorting factor
  • Artificial versus real Renminbi/dollar exchange rates?
  • Taiwan’s Mr. Chen “wags the dog” over diesels

  • Internal Taipei politics; natives resent Nationalists
  • Beware a “reverse Red October” defection
  • Kuomintang was riddled by communist moles
  • “One Country, Two Systems”

  • Taiwan democratic legislature seems to want this, not war
  • New triangulation game: China/U.S./Taiwan
  • “Quadrangulation” coming with EU?
  • “China’s Peaceful Development Road”: Numbing bullcrap

  • Word wars – “dual use” phraseology as info warfare
  • “Democracy”: remember the GDR and DPRK
  • “Harmonious”: one of Mao’s favorite words – uh oh!
  • Coy jabs at U.S., portions notably anti Bush policies
  • Why PRC folks really aren’t like us, and don’t like us

    Twin societal pillars: Bureaucracy and conservatism

  • Confuscius helped this gel, and stay gelled, from 500 BC
  • Millennia of emperors, warlords: endless “regime changes”
  • Pictograms versus alphabet, & reading not watching movies
  • Main rivers run west/east, at constant latitude
  • Local Cadres under Mao & since – intrusive bottom-up control
  • Aloof, arrogant leaders in Beijing – rigid top-down control
  • Obsessed with statistics, not fundamentals – beware, changing
  • “New Capitalism” hypocrisy & “Shift to Democracy” nonsense

  • Socialism is path, Maoism the mantle – his face everywhere
  • Bankrupting new private schools, cadre-aided test cheating
  • Local “open elections” just a tool to clean corrupt house
  • Falon Gong banned, members beaten/killed
  • “One Religion, Two Popes” tensions with Vatican
  • Internet monitored; newspapers and movies censored
  • Foreign journalists detained on slim pretexts: underreported?
  • World view: West/Japanese invasion & exploitation

  • Opium Wars and Boxer Rebellion not forgotten
  • Burning desire for revenge, and to “show us up”
  • Point not lost imperialism enabled by Sea Power
  • Taiwan belonged to China, not Japan, pre-1895
  • They quote our own Civil War at us now
  • Chinese people(s) very patriotic/nationalistic/paranoid

  • PRC Belgrade embassy bombed, EP-3 near/on Hainan
  • Seen as connected U.S. plot against PRC, not over yet
  • “Man and woman in street” glad about our 9/11
  • They enjoy “New Modernism” just enough to threaten U.S.
  • 300,000,000 unregistered second and third children
  • The reckoning will come in mid/late 2020s

    Greed and fear are strong motivators to Beijing regime

  • New “Greater East-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”?
  • Need for “Lebensraum” as population explodes?
  • PRC citizens of all ages are well “blooded”

  • Japanese invasion/occupation in the 1930s
  • Communist/Nationalist Civil War in late ‘40s
  • Korean War against U.S., many border skirmishes since
  • Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution bloodbaths
  • Tianenmen Square massacre: 10,000 dead? National PTSD?
  • Ongoing violent repression in restive rural areas today
  • Chinese wear masks to survive; new disasters a constant worry
  • Result: Chinese proud, anti-American, and OBEDIENT

  • Today’s cadre person could be tomorrow’s labor-camp inmate
  • Ten million troops and militias could be quickly mobilized

    Who says we won’t fight more big wars?

  • Counterterror is “in addition to,” not “instead of”!
  • Put yourself in 1906. What would you have foreseen?
  • PRC much better than U.S. at “thinking the unthinkable” today

  • Nuclear scarcity morphs to plenty, changes doctrine, attitude
  • Lessons/questions from history:

  • Does a peaceful world have room for more than 1 superpower?
  • Do two or more vying superpowers prevent a peaceful world?
  • All economic systems are cyclical and discontinuous
  • Remember, U.S. had bad recessions and bank panics 1866-1927
  • People-expertise is a dual-use technology: e.g., Einstein, Bohr
  • “Intellectual capital” relocation is a dangerous transfer
  • Possible trigger points expanding to PRC/USA war

  • Economic, diplomatic, espionage tensions as ramp-up
  • Direct invasion of Taiwan?

  • “One Country, Two Systems” suggests war there a red herring
  • Taiwan superb defensive country, few good landing beaches
  • Recent joint Russian/Chinese amphibious exercise – why???
  • Beijing knows they couldn’t stop at Taiwan if invading anyway
  • Disputed security interests?

  • Malacca Strait -- SLOC major artery: terrorists, pirates
  • Spratlys and other islands in East and South China Seas
  • Coming to blows over energy needs? Advantage China

  • New Three Gorges hydroelectric plant biggest in world
  • Conservation & ecocide rendered easy by dictatorship
  • An “accident” during tensions?

  • Remember IranAir shootdown during Tanker War
  • A ship collision while monitoring other guy’s exercises
  • Another EP-3 type of incident
  • PRC’s own leadership miscalculations, poor civilian/PLA comms?

    Superpower wannabe competition over disaster aid?

  • Humanitarian navy deployments deteriorate to shooting match
  • U.S. drawn into third-party conflict that escalates?

  • China versus Japan – watch this one carefully
  • China helps Iran too much, or North Korea brew-up
  • Pretexts and provocations can always be manufactured by PRC

  • Our long cross-Pacific logistics tails would be very vulnerable
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    Joe Buff, President
    Dutchess County, New York

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