Tag Archives: china

PLAN in Action

The Chinese Navy, long known as the People’s Liberation Army Navy, is undergoing a massive shipbuilding campaign to modernize. Long seen as a technologically backwards coastal force, it is attempting to build a modern blue water regional force. It has made great strides, but still has large numbers of legacy platforms in service.

Here’s a pretty interesting look at Chinese operations.

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The People’s Republic of China Goes all Sun Tsu on Us

tsu

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

The classic affirmation of the ancient Chinese strategist and philosopher is to be ignored at one’s own great peril.

The rest of the world, and China in particular, sees Mr Obama in the opposite light – as a weak leader in the autumn of his presidency…   Mr Xi has shown Mr Obama little respect since their first summit in California last year. Mr Obama warned his Chinese counterpart to stop the cyber attacks on the Pentagon and other targets. China’s cyber-incursions increased. Earlier this year, the White House indicted five Chinese nationals for cyber-espionage, including a senior military officer. None are likely to be brought to trial. It was the kind of empty gesture Beijing has come to expect of Mr Obama.

Vladimir Putin could not have said it better.  Nor Bashir Assad.  Or Rouhani.  Or our (erstwhile) allies, either.   Embolden our adversaries, worry our partners.  That is the sum total of the foreign policy accomplishments of the Obama Administration and its tiresome and amateur ideological shills.

There will be a price to pay, in power, influence, and prestige.  Or in the lives of Lance Corporals.  Or both.

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Beijing Air & Space Museum

Global Aviation Review has a fascinating photo essay on the Beijing Air and Space Museum. Located at Beijing University and sometimes called the China Aviaiton Museum, there’s a rare and unique collection of aircraft that those outside of China rarely get to see and it offers an interesting glimpse of Chinese aviation history.

Something you won't see anywhere else, a P-47 and across the way, a MiG-9.

Something you won’t see anywhere else, a P-47 and across the way a MiG-9.

The Beijing Air and Space Museum has one of the very few Northrop P-61 Black Widow:

IMG_6814

Another unique exhibit featuring the Chinese built MiG-15 and MiG-17 with the Northrop P-61 Black Widow.

Head on over to Global Aviation Resource to take a gander at more of the Museum.

Fascinating stuff behind the Bamboo Curtain

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Hong Kong- A Tipping Point?

If you hadn’t heard, there are massive protests in Hong Kong ongoing regarding the mainland Chinese government rejection of democratic voting for Governor of Hong Kong. When the British reached the agreement to return Hong Kong to China, that was one of the stipulations. China has simply disregarded it. And Britain is, of course, powerless to do anything about it.  The communist Chinese government is more than willing to have an election. They just want to pick the slate of available candidates.

The Chinese government may not be as stable as it appears. It is notoriously opaque. And we’ve heard speculation that the military is not nearly as much under civil (that is, Party) control as the government would have us think. Some have speculated that the ongoing incursions into Indian territory have been ordered by the military, and not by the Party.

Further, the danger to a government’s internal stability is rarely from the poor. Nor from the rich. Revolutions are spawned by the middle class. And the rising middle class in China, in spite being a small percentage of the nation, is still a huge number of actual people. And they chafe under the yoke of the government that enjoys the fruits of their productivity, and yet withholds any real political power from them. Some parts, though by no means all, of the middle class see the government as corrupt and the bureaucracies as an overburden on the potential for even greater economic growth.

In 1989, we saw that the Chinese government and military were more than willing to use massive force to tamp down even the most modest demands for reform. Will they do so in Hong Kong now? And if they don’t use force in Hong Kong, will that cause further unrest to spread to the mainland?

The protests in Hong Kong may yet fizzle out.

Or they may be the first rubles in a seismic shift in the politic scene in Asia.

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China is not playing well with others.

The US Navy has always maintained that international waters, and airspace, are just that, international. And that those waters and airspaces are free to the passage and use of any nation. And the US has long recognized the international standard of the 12 nautical mile limit on territorial waters.* And the Navy has long known that a right not exercised isn’t really a right. So the Navy has also long conducted Freedom of Navigation exercises, sending ships and planes into areas that we recognize as international waters or airspace, simply to make the point that they are available for use. Additionally, to maintain awareness of the maritime domain, the Navy has long used P-3, and now P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) to conduct surviellance of shipping in international waters. If they can also happen to track foreign warships such as submarines while going about their business, so much the better. That’s the whole point to MPA, to patrol.

China has long felt its proper place was to be at least a regional hegemon, if not a great world power. And as such, it has long resented the US presence in the Western Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea area. And so, they have a long history of intercepting US patrol planes in international airspace. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with that. The US does the same thing, and has done so around the world.

But the Chinese also have a history of either outright attacking US reconnaissance aircraft, or of recklessly endangering our aircraft. While it has been a relatively long time since the Chinese have actually shot down one of our planes, it hasn’t been that long since the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter and a US EP-3E spy plane resulted in an international incident, with the EP-3 making an emergency landing in China.

And as we noted just the other day, a US Navy P-8 Poseidon on patrol in the South China Sea was aggressively intercepted by a Chinese fighter.

Pentagon officials said a Chinese fighter buzzed a P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine and reconnaissance plane on Aug. 19, at one point flying 9 meters (30 feet) from its wing tip before doing a barrel role(sic) over the top of it.

A Chinese J-11 fighter jet is seen flying near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon about 215 km (135 miles) east of China's Hainan Island in this U.S. Department of Defense handout photo taken August 19, 2014. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout

Nor is this simply a case of an exuberant pilot feeling his oats.  Because the article also shares this bit:

“We didn’t give them enough pressure (before),” Zhang said in the Global Times, a popular tabloid under the official People’s Daily newspaper that is known for its nationalist sentiments. “A knife at the throat is the only deterrence. From now on, we must fly even closer to U.S. surveillance aircraft.”

Emphasis mine.

The US seems to be showing weakness everywhere on the international front, so why wouldn’t China feel emboldened to pressure the US to scale back its patrols? A strongly worded note isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

Were I in charge, I’d certainly think about providing some fighter escort for MPA flights. If they want to push, I’m fine with giving a shove back.

 

*The US also recognizes, as a general rule, the concept of a 200nm EEZ, or Exclusive Economic Zone, where fishing, drilling and other economic activity rights are retained exclusively by the bordering nation. Vessels and aircraft from other nations may pass through those waters, but not fish or drill.  That’s a pretty simple concept for nations like us, bordered only by Canada, Mexico, and Russia. But in the waters of nations like China, or in the Mediterranean Sea, it gets a bit more complex.

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China thinks it can defeat the US. David Axe thinks they can’t. Worse, the Chinese know they don’t have to.

David Axe takes a look at the relative naval strengths in the Western Pacific. For years armchair analysts have looked at a potential Sino-American conflict through the paradigm of an attack across the Taiwan Strait. For many years, the thought of an actual assault across the strait was rather unthinkable, as the Chinese had little or no genuine amphibious assault capability. That’s rapidly changing with the Chinese shipbuilding program producing significant amphibious shipping for both the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and for the People’s Liberation Army Ground Forces.

He sees the rapidly growing Chinese fleet as strong, but with one potentially fatal flaw- undersea warfare.

The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfully prevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing.

Now the good news. China is wrong — and for one major reason. It apparently disregards the decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines.

Moreover, for economic and demographic reasons Beijing has a narrow historical window in which to use its military to alter the world’s power structure. If China doesn’t make a major military move in the next couple decades, it probably never will.

The U.S. Navy’s submarines — the unsung main defenders of the current world order — must hold the line against China for another 20 years. After that, America can declare a sort of quiet victory in the increasingly chilly Cold War with China.

Yes, we do have excellent nuclear submarines. And any student of naval war in the Pacific will quickly realize that long range submarines unleashed offensively will have devastating consequences upon an enemy. Our Silent Service in World War II had an impact far larger than the numbers of sailors, or the numbers of boats assigned would suggest.

But no single weapon system or approach is the single key to victory. The great American talent in warfare is the integration of all forms of combat power to overwhelm an enemy, both physically and mentally.  One role for nuclear submarines that Axe doesn’t mention is using our subs as Anti-submarine Warfare platforms to sanitize an area so our carriers and other surface ships can operate with relative safety.  That’s going to take a few boats off the table, keeping them from pursuing Axe’s goal of sinking any notional Chinese amphibious assault.

Second, a look at both US and Japanese submarine operations in World War II suggests that submarines are not likely to be terribly successful in stopping any amphibious invasion. US submarines failed to stop Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and the Japanese never succeeded in stopping any of the many, many US amphibious assaults in the war. Similarly, the German U-boat force was never able to defeat any amphibious assault, though they did try.

But the real issue is, the Chinese currently have no intention of engaging in a shooting war with the US.

As Matthew Hipple argues, while the US is constrained by a “shoot/don’t shoot” deterrence posture of credible combat power in the disputed territories of the Western Pacific, China is leveraging every tactic and means short of shooting to achieve its aims. And absent US willingness to shoot first (and there’s none of that) China is both achieving near term goals, and showing regional forces that the US is not, in fact, a credible deterrent.

Defense strategists usually discuss asymmetry in terms of operations or tactics: specialized anti-ship missiles, cyber-attacks on command-and-control functions, or insurgency against conventional forces. Strategic-level asymmetry is less discussed—in this case, a force designed to stop an opponent’s war versus an opponent using those forces for everything but a war.

The United States is leaving a gap in its strategy. At CSF14, Andrea Dew describes this gap in the context of groups in active conflict: “Although we artificially draw lines between different domains, other adversaries use them seamlessly.”Dew’s specific concernsare about armed groups fighting a state through the exploitable seams of its stove-piped perspectives. This general concept applies to non-combat operations, where China is utilizing a gap in how the West views the scope and appropriate use of military action as a political instrument. Between the committee chambers of diplomats and the joint operations center of admirals, there is a blind spot in our strategy being manipulated, the same as if it were a small boat attack against a conventional blue-water combatant.

The US could counter this current Chinese operational plan, but the current administration, and the vast majority of the defense establishment simply do not have the mindset to engage in the strategic ambiguity needed.

Most US leaders see the path forward in terms of the past, when US and Soviet forces, seeing an escalating pattern of incidents at sea, forged an agreement to minimize the chances of a tense encounter escalating into a shooting match. They worked together to minimize the tensions.

The Chinese, however, are currently working instead to determine just how far they can push, and with every push, are seeking to expand that envelope, bit by bit. The more they can antagonize both regional powers, and the US, without firing a shot, the more they demonstrate a dominance that may lead regional powers to decide that an unhappy relationship with China is better than a feckless one with the US.  And no submarine fleet, no matter how capable, can change that.

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China’s Economic Paper Tiger

There’s been quite a bit of buzz in the late about China’s slowing economic growth. Gordon Chang’s blog brings us an interesting paper by the China Center for Economic and Business which estimates that China’s economy is 1/3 smaller than orginally thought:

In a report released on June 20th, the business research organization Conference Board recalculates Chinese gross domestic product going back to 1952. Economist Harry Wu estimates that China from 1978 to 2012 grew an average of 7.2 percent a year. Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics reports 9.8 percent average annual growth during that period.

Generally the article argues that economic data since 1977 is considered unreliable. Those of us here with a healthly skeptism of Government find this unsurprising (how many revisions has that number undergone!?) but not trusting data post 1977 takes that skeptism to another level.

More from the paper:

For several years now, China Center researchers worked to illuminate China’s productivity performance — a critical input for gauging the overall sustainability of any economy. This is not an easy task, as data issues involved are very difficult. In this special briefing paper”, Senior Advisor to the China Center Harry X Wu presents the findings of his 30-year long work program on re-estimating Chinese GDP. Wu’s results indicate that Chinese TFP growth went negative during the period from 2007 to 2012. Overbuilding, overcapacity, underutilization, and the “advance” of the state into private sector markets are now substantially dragging on China’s growth.

At the moment, China’s economy is vulnerable to shocks, but the biggest one might not be external. In order to create GDP, Chinese leaders have incurred indebtedness at an extraordinarily rapid pace. Beginning especially at the end of 2008, Beijing has essentially ordered the building of “ghost cities,” high-speed rail lines to nowhere, and factories with little demand for their products.

Here are the key findings from the article:

Since 1978, there is evidence of a strong upward bias in official GDP estimates that emanates from several sources. Removal of the bias yields a significantly lower aggregate growth rate.

On average, our new estimate of China’s GDP growth for the reform period 1978-2012 is 7.2 percent per annum (p.a.), which is 2.6 percentage points lower than the official estimate of 9.8 percent p.a. As for the “central planning period” of 1952-1977, our result is almost the same as the official estimate of 4.3 percent p.a., although there are differences between our estimate and the official estimate over sub-periods.

Examining changes over time, our new results show greater volatility and slower growth than the official estimates, which appear, in particular, to understate slowdowns.

External shocks to the economy are much more pronounced in our new results than in the official estimates, suggesting that the Chinese economy is more vulnerable to external shocks than the picture painted by the official GDP estimates.

For the period of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, 2008 to 2012, we show that, on average, the real GDP growth might have been as slow as 6.5 percent p.a. on average instead of the officially reported 9.3 percent p.a. More specifically, we find that growth in 2008 was only 4.7 percent compared with the official estimate of 9.1 percent, and 4.1 percent in 2012 compared with the official estimate of 7.4 percent.1

For the period of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, 2008 to 2012, we show that, on average, the real GDP growth might have been as slow as 6.5 percent p.a. on average instead of the officially reported 9.3 percent p.a. More specifically, we find that growth in 2008 was only 4.7 percent compared with the official estimate of 9.1 percent, and 4.1 percent in 2012 compared with the official estimate of 7.4 percent.1

Thomas “I have a hardon for authoritian China” Friedman and the religiously zealot Keynesian school members really ought to take note. You can go read the rest of the article (I went to the trouble of downloading the article myself, thank me very much…lol). You can only inflate your economy so much and right now, that’s exactly what China’s been doing. China’s real estate market is in collapse due to construction of so-called “ghost cities.” 

 

China’s plan is to “coerce” State owned enterprises to move to these cities!? Well, this isn’t really new. The Czarist Russia and the Soviet Communists did the same thing then called Potemkin Villages:

Gregory Potemkin was a favorite and lover of the Russian Empress Catherine II. After Russian conquest of modern Southern Ukraine and Crimea from the Ottoman Empire and liquidation of the Zaporizhian Sich (see New Russia), Potemkin became governor of the region. The area had been totally devastated during the wars by the Russian army, and Potemkin’s major task consisted of rebuilding it and bringing in Russian settlers. As a new war was about to erupt between Russia and Ottoman empire, in 1787 Catherine II made an unprecedented six month trip to New Russia, with her court, several ambassadors, and (according to some sources) the Austrian emperor Joseph II, travelling incognito. The purpose of this trip was to impress Russia’s allies ahead of the new war. In fact, Potemkin assembled a few “mobile villages”, located on banks of Dnieper River. As soon as the barge carrying the queen arrived, Potemkin’s men dressed up as peasants would show up in the village. Once the barge left, the village had to be disassembled and rebuilt downstream overnight. Potemkin later led the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War in 1787-1792.

The deserted 5-star Country Garden Phoenix Hotel stands in Conch Bay in Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

The deserted 5-star Country Garden Phoenix Hotel stands in Conch Bay in Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

Buildings stand in the Conch Bay district of Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

Buildings stand in the Conch Bay district of Tianjin, China. Photographer: Steve Engle/Bloomberg

There are plently of economic lessons learned here. Geopolitically, it could explain China’s recent behavior in the South China Sea towards Vietnam and the ongoing ADIZ problems with Japan. China’s plan would be to keep the domestic population looking out and forment outrage against “outsiders” and distract them from their own domestic problems.

What does this mean for us? Well, we’ve got more to worry about from a China that’s not opposed to lashing out internationally than we do a China that REALLY economically prosperous.

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