A heavy new challenge from China out in the South China Sea

While much of the world's attention is on the fairy-tale story of the latest British royal wedding, out on the other side of the Earth, the Chinese have been up to creating problems, throwing out a new challenge to the status quo, sending in the bombers to the disputed Paracel Islands out on the South China Sea.

According to the BBC:

China has for the first time landed bombers on disputed territory in the South China Sea, its air force said, prompting fresh US warnings that it is destabilising the region.

The long-range H-6K bomber was among those which took part in drills on islands and reefs to improve China's ability to "reach all territory".

The sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by six countries.

China has been accused of militarising the sea to support its vast claims.

The latest move could provoke new tension in the region.

What this shows is that China's claims about being interested only in "peaceful" purposes for its South China Sea grab are increasingly hollow, and the stepped up pace of the activity signals an accelerating pace toward warfare.  It's good reason to be concerned.

What is this about?  Global power.  A few decades ago, China didn't even want these islands, but it changed its mind as it studied up on American power, according to the reporting of Robert D. Kaplan, who is the master at recognizing the outlines of this geopolitics.  In doing this, they learned that the entire linchpin of U.S. global influence has always been in its Great White Fleet, and that U.S. naval influence, centered on keeping sea lanes open on the Pacific Rim, is what has enabled East Asia to rise in just one generation from the begging bowl nations it was to the sleek economic superpower it has collectively become.


Image credit: Holger Behr via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

What a miserable spectacle it is to see China trying to take all of that away with these bomber runs and island grabs, in the interest of forcing them all back into their begging bowl status – this time with China as the colonial master.  Take a gander at how China treats its vassal states, in hock to its loans, in the piece I wrote here.

The recent news suggests that the Trump administration has put the Chinese on the run.  Maybe so, but it doesn't look like it with this new move to grab real estate and power.  Business Insider even claims that China has chased the U.S. out, which seems to be a gleeful exaggeration.

But there isn't much good news I can glean from this.

Hasn't the U.S. upped its naval capacity in budget increases, the ones President Trump signed under protest?

Answer: Not much.  The budget boosts for the Navy, at 7%, are for new ships that are mostly backloaded, scheduled for years to come, not right now, when we need them.

Does China maybe have a crummy military budget compared to the U.S., the way most countries, even adversaries, do?

Nope.  China's defense budget is $173.4 billion (which would include all its armed forces), with $139 billion going to its naval buildup.  The U.S.'s is $597 billion, with its naval component at $194.1 billion.  Too close for comfort, because the U.S. naval component has to cover the entire Earth, not just the sea lanes on the Pacific.  China's, by contrast, covers just the Pacific.  Next year, the U.S. budget will rise to $716 billion.  But China is also rapidly developing bases in far-flung corners to increase its global footprint.

Maybe China has bad technology that is dwarfed by ours?

Couldn't find anything very good on that, either.  Jane's reports that China's tech has a lot of indigenous development, given that the country was shut out of Western tech in the 1990s.  The Chinese steal a lot through their spies, too, and are masters at reverse-engineering, so there is trouble there as well.

How about China's military quality?  Don't the Chinese just hire peasants by the bushel to keep them from running around without jobs and revolting?

No, they have done quite a bit to lay off their cannon fodder and professionalize their military.  It's been in the news.

The only thing left, then, is leadership.  President Trump has appointed an impressive new four-star admiral, Phil Davidson, who has a specialty in anti-submarine warfare, to lead the Pacific Command, the U.S. Navy's most important one, and we can be sure he's aware of the challenges ahead.

As an auxiliary element of support, it would help a lot if President Trump rejoined the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with our wonderful Asian allies that excludes China and is meant to strengthen regional resolve as China flexes its muscles.  President Trump has made many moves in this direction, and it's important that he keep doing this.

Most populist Americans, unfortunately, do not understand the underlying source of American power.  It's important for Trump himself to educate them, because right now, the odds are starting to look as though China is an even match for us.

While much of the world's attention is on the fairy-tale story of the latest British royal wedding, out on the other side of the Earth, the Chinese have been up to creating problems, throwing out a new challenge to the status quo, sending in the bombers to the disputed Paracel Islands out on the South China Sea.

According to the BBC:

China has for the first time landed bombers on disputed territory in the South China Sea, its air force said, prompting fresh US warnings that it is destabilising the region.

The long-range H-6K bomber was among those which took part in drills on islands and reefs to improve China's ability to "reach all territory".

The sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by six countries.

China has been accused of militarising the sea to support its vast claims.

The latest move could provoke new tension in the region.

What this shows is that China's claims about being interested only in "peaceful" purposes for its South China Sea grab are increasingly hollow, and the stepped up pace of the activity signals an accelerating pace toward warfare.  It's good reason to be concerned.

What is this about?  Global power.  A few decades ago, China didn't even want these islands, but it changed its mind as it studied up on American power, according to the reporting of Robert D. Kaplan, who is the master at recognizing the outlines of this geopolitics.  In doing this, they learned that the entire linchpin of U.S. global influence has always been in its Great White Fleet, and that U.S. naval influence, centered on keeping sea lanes open on the Pacific Rim, is what has enabled East Asia to rise in just one generation from the begging bowl nations it was to the sleek economic superpower it has collectively become.


Image credit: Holger Behr via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

What a miserable spectacle it is to see China trying to take all of that away with these bomber runs and island grabs, in the interest of forcing them all back into their begging bowl status – this time with China as the colonial master.  Take a gander at how China treats its vassal states, in hock to its loans, in the piece I wrote here.

The recent news suggests that the Trump administration has put the Chinese on the run.  Maybe so, but it doesn't look like it with this new move to grab real estate and power.  Business Insider even claims that China has chased the U.S. out, which seems to be a gleeful exaggeration.

But there isn't much good news I can glean from this.

Hasn't the U.S. upped its naval capacity in budget increases, the ones President Trump signed under protest?

Answer: Not much.  The budget boosts for the Navy, at 7%, are for new ships that are mostly backloaded, scheduled for years to come, not right now, when we need them.

Does China maybe have a crummy military budget compared to the U.S., the way most countries, even adversaries, do?

Nope.  China's defense budget is $173.4 billion (which would include all its armed forces), with $139 billion going to its naval buildup.  The U.S.'s is $597 billion, with its naval component at $194.1 billion.  Too close for comfort, because the U.S. naval component has to cover the entire Earth, not just the sea lanes on the Pacific.  China's, by contrast, covers just the Pacific.  Next year, the U.S. budget will rise to $716 billion.  But China is also rapidly developing bases in far-flung corners to increase its global footprint.

Maybe China has bad technology that is dwarfed by ours?

Couldn't find anything very good on that, either.  Jane's reports that China's tech has a lot of indigenous development, given that the country was shut out of Western tech in the 1990s.  The Chinese steal a lot through their spies, too, and are masters at reverse-engineering, so there is trouble there as well.

How about China's military quality?  Don't the Chinese just hire peasants by the bushel to keep them from running around without jobs and revolting?

No, they have done quite a bit to lay off their cannon fodder and professionalize their military.  It's been in the news.

The only thing left, then, is leadership.  President Trump has appointed an impressive new four-star admiral, Phil Davidson, who has a specialty in anti-submarine warfare, to lead the Pacific Command, the U.S. Navy's most important one, and we can be sure he's aware of the challenges ahead.

As an auxiliary element of support, it would help a lot if President Trump rejoined the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with our wonderful Asian allies that excludes China and is meant to strengthen regional resolve as China flexes its muscles.  President Trump has made many moves in this direction, and it's important that he keep doing this.

Most populist Americans, unfortunately, do not understand the underlying source of American power.  It's important for Trump himself to educate them, because right now, the odds are starting to look as though China is an even match for us.