The unthinkable: China-US war
The USA shaped a time "window" from 2015 to 2025 as favorable to win a military confrontation and the analysis made some friendly postulates to show a warless "end of the world" choice
16 NOVEMBER 2016, 10:20Derin Ekonomi Magazine
The South China Sea crisis is just a piece of a big puzzle involving even Japan, South Korea, Taiwan. The main frame is the China-U.S. confrontation in Asia. It is not only a geostrategic/geopolitical game, it is a systemic clash. A military confrontation between the two world giants is so likely to happen that a think tank like the Rand Corporation's Arroyo center (sponsored by the U.S. Army) produced a paper of 112 pages focused on gains and losses, facts and figures about a war between the two countries. Beijing and Washington have a large concentration of military forces operating in close proximity. "If an incident occurred or a crises overheated, both have the incentive to strike enemy forces before being struck by them". This is a simple but terrible statement that shows how evil could be trivial and how doomsday could be behind the corner. But what is the "rationale" of such an unthinkable outcome? Unfortunately, we wrote several times about this issue, our planet isn't enough big to satisfy the resources consumption of this two giants. They have to decide to step down their development speed by themselves. Think again. It will never happen. So unless God makes a miracle it is just a question of time. That maybe explains the hurry of Elon Musk to move human kind to Mars.
The USA shaped a time "window" from 2015 to 2025 as favorable to win a military confrontation and the analysis made some friendly postulates to show a warless "end of the world" choice.
They postulate that a war "would be regional and conventional". It would be waged by ships on and beneath the sea, by aircrafts and missiles of many sorts and in space (against satellites) and cyberspace. Rand planners assume that fighting would start and remain in East Asia, China will not attack the U.S. homeland and that both sides will not use nuclear weapons. There are too many suppositions. But here, the most dangerous assessment: "Even in an intensely violent conventional conflict, neither side would regard its losses as so serious, its prospects so dire, or the stake so vital that it would run the risk of devastating nuclear retaliation by using atomic weapons first". Nobody can be sure about that.
The economic factor is more suitable and heinously "friendly". Although war will hurt both economies, "damages to China could be catastrophic and lasting: on the order of 25-35% reduction of GDP in a yearlong war, compared with a loss of U.S. GDP on the order of 5-10%. International response could also favor the U.S. in a long and severe war undermining the legitimacy of the Chinese regime" always according to Rand's analysis. A strong ally of the U.S. and natural competitor of China like Japan could make the difference by 2025 in the course of war. If these kinds of assessments are not scary enough, let me enter into military ones.
Both sides would suffer large military losses in a severe conflict. In 2015, the U.S.' losses could be a small fraction of forces committed; China's losses could be much heavier. This gap in losses will shrink as Chinese A2AD (Anti-access/Area-denial) capability improves. By 2025, the U.S.' losses could range from significant to heavy. The obvious and underlined suggestion is "better fight this war soon". Can you imagine a president like Donald Trump deals with such a matter? But let's talk about U.S. assets in the Asian scenario. Basically, Washington relies on the 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka (Japan) deploying from 60 to 70 war ships and 1 carrier group with the USS Ronald Reagan and its 5th Air Wing that means roughly 300 aircrafts. Even 40,000 Marines and U.S. personnel are settled in the area of the 7th Fleet. In May 2012, America made a deal with Singapore; so far 4 LCS (Littoral combat ship) Freedom class are based there to patrol the Malacca strait and Sonda Sea. It needs to mention how this specific frigate was built for this kind of purposes. Australia and New Zealand are historical key allies of the U.S. and are a background stronghold. Vietnam and Indonesia are two forward but yet fragile actors of Washington's anti-Chinese stance. In case of war, one of the main tasks of surface and underwater assets of South East area will be to shrink and cut the supply chain to mainland China. Stop the shipping lines carrying oil, gas, raw material and goods to suppress the Chinese economy. Strategic for the U.S. Navy's quick deployment in the area is the base of Guam.
A recommendation is that the U.S. has to "invest more" in survivable force platforms (submarines) and conduct contingency planning with key allies especially Japan. So there is good news for military industry contractors already very active selling around submarines in the Pacific area.
After the U.S. announced that they would deploy a THAAD (Terminal high altitude area defense anti-missile system) in South Korea even Chinese leadership started to talk about a "new cold war" (xin leng zhan, in Chinese language) more seriously. Officially it serves as a deterrent against the North Korea threat, but basically it will be a shield even for Japan and 7th Fleet bases. And after July, the 12th ruling by an Arbitral Tribunal at the Hague that invalidated China's territorial claims, Washington is feeling more comfortable about implementing a fait accompli policy in Asia. Who talks about the China-Russia axis like a counterbalance to U.S. policy doesn't know the history. Out of contingency needs, Beijing and Moscow are not natural allies. Russia is more a problem in Europe and the Middle East than in Asia. But there is another historical U.S. ally that is going to give some headache to Washington. The president of the Philippines has promised to dismantle the nation's 65-year-military alliance with the U.S., warning Washington not to treat the nation "like a doormat" and telling he can turn his head toward Beijing. Maybe Rodrigo Duterte is fostered by a past U.S. diplomatic blunder: in 1991, the U.S. lost the important Subic Bay naval base facilities because of bad dealing with the Philippines government. What he doesn't know is that rarely Washington makes the same mistake twice. Anyway pawns are moving on the Asian chessboard.