China continues to push for world dominance and to replace the United States as the go-to world power. China’s tactic of slowly pushing boundaries (see South China Sea) and hiding internal problems (see Uighur Muslim internment camps) is working, mainly because no nation has significantly challenged China’s strategy. Worse, China is prepping the battlespace in the United States by infecting our minds on social media. Already you have Hollywood clamoring for access to Chinese audiences, and the “intelligentsia” of Silicon Valley making concessions for Chinese markets. Academics are next, and if you doubt that, see how many breakthrough research opportunities sit in China that will attract the people that educate our youth.
It’s a bleak picture. If you love a rules-based world order like the one we setup post-World War 2, then you should be concerned.
China keeps winning because we haven’t hit them where it hurts. President Trump was able to this last year when he hit China with trade tariffs. Yes, we suffered a bit as well, but China came to the negotiating table because they knew that access to our markets were a key piece in keeping their economy going. Already their slowing economy due to the trade war is causing issues at home.
If we want to stem China’s desire to change the global order, I humbly propose we inspire some fear. China’s largest concern is the survival of the Chinese Communist Party and it’s continued governance of Chinese people (predominantly Han Chinese, plus others nearby). Threaten this, and you’ll get changes.
- Practice embargo. The US Navy continues preparing for high-end fights. That’s a good thing, but China continues to feel confident it can defeat the US Navy, and repeated deployments and manning shortages caused by continuing prioritization of fighting extremist organizations does us no favors. However, it is really easy to practice embargos. If US Navy ships began openly practicing boarding operations around claimed Chinese waters, it would send the stark message to China that we have the ability to starve out your large population. Not being able to sustain the middle class will weigh heavily on Chinese decision makers. Plus, it costs us very little, since the Naval forces are already there.
- Inspire regime change with the Uighurs. Luckily journalists have exposed Chinese efforts to forcibly change these people on a scale not seen since the Soviet Union. Our past efforts of kicking out governments, while not the greatest legacy we have, does serve our purposes. Simply saying that we are considering options to release the Uighurs from their Chinese masters will strike fear in any local Chinese administrator. We can talk about setting up another democracy like Iraq. Our own population won’t like it (understandably), but the Chinese will become increasingly worried.
- Tactical nuclear weapons. Since we pulled out of the INF treaty, and the world is focused on nukes, push that button some more. Say that we’re OK using small nuclear weapons in conflict. Make declarations that we can overcome the 4-to-1 population difference with China by using nuclear weapons, and that we might push those decisions down below the President.
These three concepts, pushed properly, would change Chinese decision making and put us in a better negotiating position.
This view represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.
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