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“Will China Rule the Waves?”
An Overview of Possible Future Risks/Opportunities

by Joseph Buff, [IMAGE]2006
U.S. Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum, Groton 20 May 2006, All opinions are solely those of the speaker.

Photo Courtesy: Walter P. Noonan
[IMAGE] “Will China Rule the Waves?”

1. Why do we need to be asking this question?

2. What factors might influence the answer?

3. What should we do soon to positively affect the outcome?

Risk Management perspective:

1. Analyze the possible downsides

2. Take account of worst-cases in your planning/budgeting

3. Learn from past experiences: good, bad, ugly

4. Expect the unexpected

5. “Better safe than sorry”

Overview of China – some issues that interconnect

Very bad human rights record

  • Restiveness is violently repressed

  • Tianenmen Square massacre same year Berlin Wall fell

  • Falon Gong members beaten, die “in police custody”

  • Foreign journalists detained on pretexts: problem underreported?
  • Powerful, growing economy

  • Manipulative yuan/dollar exchange rate

  • Bad ecocide, huge energy needs
  • Real population 1.5 billion – 300,000,000 unregistered births

    Ambitious, driven, proud, patriotic/nationalistic people

  • Rural/urban schism nothing new
  • Superb university system emerging, amazing PhD output numbers

    Post-Mao Communist Party deeply bureaucratic and conservative

  • Move to “capitalism” and “democracy” manipulative veneers?
  • A large middle class & big trade ties don’t stop war: Germany x2

    China as potential military threat: Decoupled from BRAC debate

    They gave the world Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” in 500 BC

    Recent track record of cross-border aggression

  • Korea was first big U.S.-China war: brutal casualties

  • Tibet – blatant imperialism

  • Invading Vietnam – wakeup call for PRC to modernize

  • Russian border fighting in past, lovey-dovey now

  • Recent joint military exercise a giant trade show

  • High tensions with Japan – WWII hatreds linger

  • Spratly Islands 5-way territorial dispute – naval maneuvers

  • Forcing down, stripping U.S. state-of-the-art EP-3 spy plane

  • Chinese public ties this to bombing of Belgrade embassy

  • Chinese man & women in street glad about U.S. 9/11

  • PLAN admiral re Taiwan: “U.S. carriers keep out, or else”
  • Declared intent to have world-class blue water navy in 2020s

  • The 24-character strategy: “Never claim leadership” – uh oh!

  • Intentions versus capabilities???
  • How China is & isn’t like old USSR as a threat to America

    Communist government, centralized control

    ICBMs with H-bombs capable of hitting entire U.S.

    Superb HumInt ops within U.S.

    Superpower aspirations, a non-theist society

    Crucial nautical choke points likely centers of naval conflict

    Widening network of vassal states

    Bottom-up intrusive control by local cadres: “block captains”

    Strong economy, not weak and imploding one

    Buying good arms and tech abroad

    Much larger population to ramp up armed forces

    Excellent year-round ice free harbors all along huge coastline

    Always had a quasi-capitalist market under-culture

    Careful studies done recently of Soviet cold war strategic mistakes

  • It’s all about submarine muscle: 21st century capital ships

  • Seize the initiative in cold (and hot) undersea warfare
  • Some lessons of history

    Sea Power key to global hegemony

  • Foreign sea power enabled 19th, 20th century “imperialism”
  • Military and economic potency interrelate

  • Portugal, Spain, Holland each in their day
  • Britannia ruled the waves – note past tense

    Japan as a (scary) cautionary lesson?

  • Commodore Perry “opens” a feudal Japan -- gunboat diplomacy

  • 40 years later, Japan has modern combat fleet via UK help

  • Tsushima Strait: slaughters Russian Navy, shocks the world

  • 30 years later, Imperial Japan invades Manchuria

  • Tokyo’s “Supercarrier” navy: Pearl Harbor
  • Modern-era Time Compression: “do the math” on China

  • Building global web of “coaling stations” (navy bases)
  • Is Taiwan a red herring?

    Shift in Taiwan domestic politics is very significant

  • Hawkish president’s party losing, in the minority now
  • Legislature majority keeps stalling on defense

  • “One country, two systems” favored by many Taiwanese

  • Economic dependence on mainland to lift out of local recession

  • Ever stronger web of Island/Mainland business/social ties

    PRC: Seduce, don’t conquer, a key stronghold and asset

  • Friendly Taiwan would give PLAN easy access to Pacific

  • Invasion impractical: no good landing beaches

  • Rocket bombardment pointless: destroys valuable infrastructure
  • Use American fixation on Taiwan for a sleight of hand elsewhere?

    Announced PRC goal: triple the U.S. submarine fleet in 20 years

    US goal is 48 subs in 2020s, PRC “New Fleet” 150+

    Is “subs, not carriers” defensive or offensive now?

    Are Ming-class accidents not the real point?

    Good mix of foreign-bought & home-grown SSKs, SSNs, SSBNs

    Buying Russian Improved Kilos with Air Independent Propulsion

    Shkval torpedoes, & excellent sub-launched anti-ship missiles

    U.S. intell missed the entire new PRC’s “093” SSN class – oops!

    First PRC Aegis cruiser recently operational – oops again!

    Will China buy Russian Akula-IIs and Severodvinsk/Borey next?

    Walker spy ring data Moscow-to-Bejing jump-starts sub arms race

    The alleged Chi Mak espionage foursome: Virginia’s secrets, etc.

    One crappy PRC SSBN ties down one superb U.S. SSN

    Our SSBNs critical for deterrence: ICBM route goes over Russia

    An aggressive PRC can surge/breakout their sub fleet by surprise

  • Overwhelm ASW surveillance by sheer numbers, & shell games
  • So what should we do? Is a new Cold War on, or coming?

    “Hope and pray” strategy won’t cut it. Isolationism is doomed

    “Learn to speak Chinese” not attractive. Surrender not an option.

    “Steel fist in velvet glove” defense & diplomacy is essential.

    Gamesmanship & deception: Out-Sun-Tzu them if provoked!

    Learn world-class HumInt. Don’t be shy on psy-ops either

    Relearn ASW & counter-mine warfare: practice, practice, practice

  • “Reliable allies” is alas an oxymoron these days
  • Accelerate Virginia build rate to 2 per year NOW!!!

    Convert any more retired Trident subs into SSGNs, not scrap.

    Preemptive undersea Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance

    Think like Beijing: what are THEIR goals and aspirations?

  • “Winning through intimidation” is classic sea power stratagem

  • Guam, Midway land grabs? A west-east thrust, not north-south?
  • How casualty-averse will we be by 2020+??? PRC won’t be!

    Teddy Roosevelt: “Battleships are cheaper than battles”

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