This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency.
China is not an Asian version of the United States. It is an imperialistic power that through its 3,000+ year history has sought, in times of power, to turn its neighbors into tributary states, and in times of weakness, to retreat from the world and preserve their gains. After a humiliating 20th century, where European powers and the Japanese empire exploited China and her people, she is now poised to become a peer competitor to the United States.
Which is exactly why we should fight in the South China Sea.
China is playing an extremely smart long game. By slowly degrading our alliances and building its Navy, China is set to simply own the South China Sea by default in 5-10 years. China is best served by the US doing nothing. Given the last 8 years of US inaction, they have gotten exactly that. Pressing for war in the South China Sea short circuits this plan.
But let’s not duke it out like China wants. In a bizarre twist, China is now quite similar to pre-World War 2 Japan. They own a lot of small islands that are difficult to defend and supply, spread out over a large area and contain little to no resources. Japan expected the US to attack island by island. Instead, the US hopped around islands and choked out the strongholds, causing them to die on the vine or be destroyed by local forces. China’s “wall of sand” appears eerily similar.
They are also very vulnerable to economic disruption. The western provinces of China are not tamed, and although China has tried to develop the region (and outbreed the locals), the western provinces are still quite susceptible to disruption. This means China relies heavily on the sea for trade and economic prosperity. Unleashing the US Navy with unrestricted economic warfare, similar to the unrestricted submarine warfare unleashed on Japan, would threaten China’s basic way of life.
A fight with China would be hard. But China stands to lose much more than the US.
View more of NG36B’s writing here.