Know Your Enemy: China
If you want to understand why China will attack us, the place to start is the old U.S. Department of War film, Know Your Enemy: Japan, made the last time we were attacked by a major Asian power that was transitioning from its feudal past.
The Japanese in WWII were driven by their creation myth which says that they were founded by an emperor called Jimmu in 660 B.C. Jimmu had a philosophy called Hakko Ichiu which means that “let us extend the capitol and cover the eight corners of the world under one roof.” As per this still from the film:
Image credit: Screen shot, U.S. National Archives, via YouTube, public domain
“From the viewpont of Hakko Ichiu the Emperor of Japan is the emperor of all the races of the world.” And in 1930, a Japanese general wrote a plan to achieve that. First they would conquer Asia, then sink the U.S. fleet which would allow a landing on the west coast of America. The Japanese built up their industrial base making cheap goods for export as a means to that end, rather than the commonly held view that it was for a better life.
The Chinese version of Hakko Ichiu is called Tianxia under which China gets to rule the rest of the world. It has nothing to do with communism. In fact the trigger for the coming war -- China’s bases in the South China Sea -- were claimed by the Nationalist Chinese in 1947. The decades of poverty and backwardness under Mao caused a delay of a few decades for just that aim. But when it comes, China’s war, like Japan’s before it, will be a race war. And race wars are the nastiest of them all.
If you think that statement is a bit over the top, consider the implications of this poster for a popular Chinese movie, Wolf Warrior 2, a jingoist Chinese-produced movie of 2017:
Here is a link showing the offensive movie poster.
The Chinese characters at the top of the poster translate as “Anyone who offends China, no matter how remote, must be exterminated.” This is what passes for popular entertainment in China these days. The significance of that sentence is that China considers the extermination of others as something very casual.
Discussion of a Thucydides Trap as the reason why China wants to attack the rest of the world is an agitprop diversion from the far uglier truth, an attempt to normalize psychopathic behavior. The Thucydides Trap theory of why China is going to murder millions of people suggests that China does not have free agency; they are victims of circumstances outside their control.
There is another parallel with pre-WWII Japan. In the 1930s, a number of Japanese ministers and military officers were assassinated by ultranationalists for being too moderate. From a former Chinese citizen:
About a year ago I began to notice in Chinese websites the upsurge of a tide of ultranationalism and xenophobia, so fierce and rabid, only found in the Cultural Revolution. That was in late 1960s and its target was the then Soviet Union, which just ten years before had been China’s “elder brother”, as the CCP called it. And, to give the devil its due, the Russians did do a great work to help build hundreds of large factories in China. The about-face was so swift and thorough that it should make anyone in the world to think twice before befriending and helping the CCP. Now it’s the Americans’ turn.
Anyone in China currently suggesting that peaceful coexistence would be a good idea is denounced as a traitor. Some in the country are frothing at the mouth at Taiwan, the separate existence of which is an intolerable affront. The CCP is trying to tone that talk down. It is not a good idea to start a race war by attacking fellow Chinese. In fact it looks like China has not made any specific preparations for invading Taiwan.
Examination of satellite imagery suggests that not a single cubic yard of concrete has been poured on the mainland side of the Taiwan Strait to aid an attack on Taiwan, no helipads and no radar stations or anything else. To the north, China has built helipads and radar stations in the Nanji Islands for the attack on Japan’s Senkaku Islands. And to the south China has buildings and highways made for the attack on Vietnam.
An attack on Taiwan would be too much of a meat-grinder for China and they are likely to envelop it first before demanding surrender. So when President Xi, when ascending the throne in 2014 directed China’s military to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2020, the date was more important than the nominated target. Articles like this discussion in Forbes Magazine of what an invasion of Taiwan would look like are an attempt to normalise China’s killing of millions of people who aren’t citizens of the PRC.
The last time China attacked Vietnam, in 1989, the Chinese army was hampered by poor logistics. So what do you now see snaking up to the border crossing at Po Thiung in Cao Bang province? There is 84 km of completed four-lane highway. The imagery date on Google Earth is December 4, 2019. So the logistics have been sorted to keep to Xi’s timetable. The new highway ends abruptly at the border. Some of the invading troops will be quartered in an extensive barracks complex at 22° 24.6 N, 106° 42.4’ E. It is amusing that some of the steel roofs in this complex have already faded from their original dark red color after a few years, symptomatic of the corruption in Chinese military procurement.
Vietnam has 49 bases in the South China Sea claimed by China, and of course, they were there a long time before the Chinese arrived. The continued existence of the Vietnamese bases makes a mockery of China’s claim to the South China Sea, and so they must be eliminated. To that end China is likely to perform a rerun of its 1989 invasion of Vietnam and force Vietnam to give up its South China Sea bases in return for peace. If successful, China would then go on to make demands of other countries and this would be the major turning point in modern history.
An informal group of four countries known as the Quad -- India, Japan, the United States, and Australia -- are the front line against China. Plus Vietnam which has precluded itself from having foreign military bases on its soil, though American contractors have been seen near Da Nang. The Quad is much bigger and more powerful than China. Only a little needs to be done to prevail against China, but it is necessary for that little to be done.
China has already done plenty of nasty things so far this year, not least of which was the escape of one of their bioweapons, killing more than 400,000 non-Chinese. But they are also intentionally torching their diplomatic relationships with the wider world. Even Sweden has had enough and closed all the Confucius Institutes in that country. So why do that? When regimes run out of legitimacy, their last resort is to start a war. Increased belligerence is necessary to sell war as the solution.
There is a rumor that China has moved two to four divisions to the border with Vietnam, of which one or more is armored. China has announced that it will be conducting amphibious landing drills in the South China Sea this summer, which may be the cover for a surprise attack on Vietnam’s 49 bases.
It is time for the Department of Defense to update Know Your Enemy: Japan for this century’s main villain. Most of the scripting from the original can be retained for the new production, and one line can be used unaltered: “Defeating this nation is as necessary as shooting a mad dog in your neighborhood.”
It is also not too early to start imagining what the peace settlement with China will look like. With respect to the South China Sea, Vietnam would have the Paracel Islands returned to it. In the Spratly Islands, China has three big bases – Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs, each with a 8,500 foot runway and a large anchorage, and four smaller bases. The best way to divvy them up for a permanent anti-China grouping would be:
Vietnam Fiery Cross Reef
Japan Subi Reef
United States Mischief Reef
Johnson South Reef
David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare