A larger version of the picture above sits on the wall inside the intelligence portion of US Pacific Fleet’s headquarters in Hawaii. One of my side tasks when I worked there was to find historical pictures to decorate our walls. This picture drew a lot of heads, as most service members weren’t fond of Clinton’s time as President.
The picture reminds us of an important time in history. China had already caused plenty of problems with Taiwan, and in 1995 they started the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis. In response, President Clinton put two Carrier Battle Groups near the straits. This caused a lot of shame to the Chinese, because their Navy was unable to do anything about it.
There was a marked shift after that moment. Chinese military focus was almost solely on the Army, with the Navy as a mere sideshow. This changed. China began focusing on building a blue water Navy after 1996. It’s taken them 20 years, and they certainly aren’t done, but now the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) has modern destroyers and submarines, and their navy now exceeds the size of all of our allies.
This week, China moved its only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the Taiwan Straits. The carrier itself represents little threat to Taiwan, much less than the thousands of land-based missiles sitting on the other side of the straits. But that’s not the point. China is doing to us EXACTLY what we did to her in 1996. The Liaoning transit was likely timed to minimize the chance of a United States response and maximize messaging to their people and President-elect Trump:
Whether it acknowledges it or not, the US is declining－otherwise Trump would not need to declare he wants to “make America great again”. And, like it or not, China is still rising, although its economy has slowed. The first Chinese aircraft carrier has become operational and a second one is in the works.
Trump’s Presidency is going to be interesting indeed.
This post represents the views of the author and does not represent views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.