Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Assets Need Protection

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, a.k.a. OBOR or New Silk Road) anticipates China spending huge sums of money in order to provide economic benefits and political stability on their land flank, extending Chinese influence westward. But it will pull China into military problems, too:

This study finds that Chinese security perspectives on the BRI are fundamentally ambivalent. On one hand, the thinking goes, economic development and connectivity will help stabilize China’s border regions, secure its energy supplies, and allow China to extend its strategic influence. On the other hand, China will face various challenges, ranging from terrorism to strategic competition from the United States, Japan, and India. Meeting these challenges requires careful diplomatic coordination and messaging, a stronger ability to anticipate and assess risk, and new capabilities to protect trade routes and Chinese citizens abroad.

I've long wanted China to focus inland rather than out to sea:

[Defeating] China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

And the BRI is a massive Chinese refocus inland to extend alternative trade routes to Europe. Regardless of the intent of BRI, the inland focus, I have believed, will naturally divert Chinese military focus away from America at sea and our allies in the west Pacific littorals:

Well, the flag follows trade. So one will lead to the other regardless of the primary intent.

And that worries those on the silk road.

But basically I think the charge [that the BRI is motivated by security issues] misses the point that Chinese rulers see all problems as part of a continuum of threats to Chinese Communist Party rule.

So improving trade routes that redirect economic growth to interior Chinese provinces helps preserve stability and secures China from internal threats; while the political and military inroads abroad help secure the economic benefits and provide direct security benefits for China from external threats.

Of course, the project probably isn't sufficient to gain the economic benefits the Chinese hope to get.

Which may mean that the Chinese dig in even harder along those trade routes to secure the limited security benefits the trade routes provide; and probably shift Chinese justification for a political and military presence in more external security terms.

China has emphasized naval power and the air power to support it. Which naturally threatens America and our allies at sea.

But massive investments inland to the west become assets that need protection. And that will require land forces and the air power to support them. And it will require deploying those assets inland to the west.

Can China build both a navy and air force to defeat America and our allies at sea to the east and an army and air force to overcome competition from countries that must cope with the increased Chinese penetration of the interior of Asia?

I doubt it.