Why we want a South China Sea conflict

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Why we want a South China Sea conflict

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 510 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.

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.