Tuesday, November 17, 2009

About That Million-Man Swim

I know it is traditional to mock China's ambitions to invade Taiwan by calling the PLA's plan the million-man swim, but I dare say that with this type of capacity, the Chinese might be able to scrape up the civilian craft to cobble together an invasion even if it doesn't meet our standards:

Sooner than anyone expected, China has surpassed South Korea as the world's largest shipbuilder. Currently, Chinese firms have orders for 54.96 million CGT of ships, compared to 53.63 million CGT. Thus China has 34.7 percent of the world market.

And the Chinese are developing the weapons to spearhead an invasion. Here's another:

China has produced a line of amphibious artillery systems that are mounted in the 20 ton ZBD amphibious tracked armored vehicle. The latest model mounts a 122mm howitzer in the chassis. An earlier one mounted a 122mm gun in a small turret.

And more generally, China's military power is advancing quite nicely:

According to at least one high-ranking official, the United States has systematically underestimated the pace and scope of Chinese military modernization for years. On Oct. 21 in an interview with the Voice of America, the incoming Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), Admiral Robert F. Willard, USN, told reporters that, "In the past decade or so, China has exceeded most of our intelligence estimates of their military capability and capacity, every year. ... They've grown at an unprecedented rate in those capabilities. And, they've developed some asymmetric capabilities that are concerning to the region, some anti-access capabilities and so on."


And we have to stop comforting ourselves that China has a long way to go before becoming a peer competitor. China doesn't need to be a peer competitor to be a threat to us any more than Germany or Japan had to be peers to threaten us in World War II. Heck, Japan had a GDP about a tenth of ours at the start of the war, and they reached out to hammer us in Hawaii. China only needs to reach as far a Guam to hit us enough to buy the time Peking needs to conquer Taiwan.

Whether or not China invades Taiwan is no longer a matter of debating capability to do so--it all comes down to a political decision to risk the casualties and political fallout of invading.