Thursday, March 17, 2016

Perspective on the China Threat

There are many reasons not to hype the Chinese military. They have problems despite their advances in weapons technology. But consider what China must do with their military to win before declaring China to be a paper tiger.

Strategypage addresses weaknesses that make China's military less than it appears on the surface.

Do read it all.

But that doesn't mean that China can't win a war.

Consider that China is close to the potential theaters of war in the Korean peninsula, the East China Sea, Taiwan, and the South China Sea.

We are far away, with little of our military power forward deployed. Which is good, as far as I'm concerned.

But that means it takes time for us to mass power in the relevant theaters, from forces scattered around the globe or in the United States. Yes, once we have that power massed, we have the clear edge in war-winning potential despite China's advances in these areas.

As an aside, China's abandonment of the long war of attrition strategy against invaders by cutting the size of their army while modernizing it means that China's army is now vulnerable to defeat by our ground forces.

But China does not need to defeat our military to win a war. All China has to do is target an objective in one of those close theaters and then delay our entry into the war long enough for China to defeat the military forces of the actual target.

From China's perspective, the war should be over before we even have time to make a political decision to intervene.

I've been noting this simple fact of geography for a long time.

Even as the weaker military power, China can choose the time and place of striking to make sure they have a decisive--if fleeting--advantage in the theater of war.

If China does that, we have to contemplate extending a war to recapture what was lost in the face of Chinese nuclear weapons threats.

Sure, we have them too. A lot more. But once nuclear powers start shooting, the emphasis will be on stopping the shooting whatever the situation is.

This is back to Cold War logic when any proxy battles between America and the USSR generally had to be over quickly before one side or the other threatened to escalate to save their client.

So don't panic over China's military power. It has weaknesses we can exploit.

But don't dismiss China' military power because of those weaknesses. China can exploit the tyranny of distance that places our military power far away.

Case in point:

China also [in addition to building up amphibious warfare assets] keeps track of hundreds of commercial ferries and barges that can be mobilized by the military and used for amphibious operations against Taiwan. It is believed that there is sufficient lift for over 300 infantry and mechanized (tank and mechanized infantry) battalions. That’s about 24 divisions. There is additional shipping (mostly civilian) for moving support units.

Well, that's the assault elements of 24 divisions, anyway. I think China has about 9 army divisions trained for amphibious warfare apart from their small marine force. But follow-on forces after a bridgehead is formed would be needed, too.

Those who dismiss China's ability to invade Taiwan like to point out China's small marine force and relatively small formal amphibious warfare fleet. When you just have to sail about 100 miles, such a specialized fleet that defines our amphibious warfare capabilities isn't necessary.

And add in several divisions of paratroopers and an airmobile division that can be devoted to an invasion, and China might be able to end the war before we can even decide to spin up a response sufficiently large to penetrate China's area denial/anti-access shield and rescue Taiwan without suffering heavy casualties.

Of course, I have made this point before, as I discovered while searching for that old post about geography.

But perspective is why you visit here, right?