Chinese navy buildup no threat to US, but a possible threat to Japan

China Navy CartoonSCMP’s report entitled “As China’s navy grows, end of Deng’s dictum of keeping a low profile?” says, “Obama’s re-election means he can continue the strategic shift towards the Asia-Pacific region that started during his first term, which will see 60 per cent of US warships move to the region by the end of the decade.

That’s a plan Beijing believes is intended to contain a rising China. It’s a plan that will lead to two maritime giants congesting a shrinking ocean.”

In my post “Arms Race between China and America” on March 5, 2012, I said, “Obama’s unprecedented participation in the ASEAN summit meeting on November 11, 2011 and announcement of America’s return to Asia, encouraged China’s neighbours to confront China in their border disputes with China.”

On Chinese TV screens, we saw how upset Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao looked after the summit when he told the press that the South China Sea disputes were not a topic of the summit, but since the disputes were talked about at the summit, he had to say something.

That caused China to begin its arms race with the United States. It has since replaced its late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s practice of taoguang yanghui, literally the practice of “keeping a low profile and hiding brightness”, with intensive publicising of its weapons development.

I said in my post, “China has further stepped up its military buildup since then. It conducted two further tests of its aircraft carrier, launched its third 071 landing platform dock (LPD) in September 2011 and a fourth during the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival in early 2012.

The Festival is the most important holiday for Chinese people and normally, nobody worked on the holiday (071 LPD is a 20,000-ton amphibious transport dock similar to the US-built San Antonio-class LPD).

“In addition, China put its own satellite GPS system into trial operation and declared its plan to launch six more satellites in 2012 to improve the system. Guided by this system, China’s missiles and bombs will be much more accurate.”

The six satellites have indeed been launched, and the system is now in operation to cover the Asia-Pacific region.

Cary Huang, who wrote the SCMP report, thinks that like Theodore Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm, Chinese leaders seem to be influenced by the key message in American historian Alfred Thayer Mahan’s weighty work “The Influence of Sea Power on History, 1660-1783” that “sea power is the means to ensuring commercial, political and military access to vital regions.”

For Cary Huang, that was why “Delivering his keynote policy speech at the 18th party congress held in Beijing in November, Hu (Jintao) for the first time declared China’s ambition to ‘build itself into a maritime power’.”

In fact, Hu’s moderate description “a maritime power” was only for the outside world in order not to make outsiders feel threatened.

For insiders, according to an annual report of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), China’s State Council made a decision in 2003 that China shall become a maritime superpower.

If the US wants to remain the only superpower in the world, Huang is perhaps correct to say that China’s plan “will lead to two maritime giants congesting a shrinking ocean.”

However, Huang also mentions in his article, “becoming a ‘maritime power’ is the ‘Chinese dream’ – the way to end what has been called a ‘century of humiliation’ at the hands of foreign powers.”

If that is the Chinese dream, China’s development of its navy is defensive. I do not see any of America’s intention to bully China, and believe that Obama’s strategic shift towards the Asia-Pacific region is also defensive, because the US fears that China’s rise will perhaps constitute a threat to it.

Therefore, I believe there will not be conflict between the two giants, even if China has become a maritime superpower, unless the US is so stupid as to join Japan in fighting against China for some small uninhabited isles.

Even China or Japan should not be so foolish as to start a war for those isles in the first place.

Taking a hard-line position is one thing, but fighting a real war is another. Chinese and Japanese economies are closely related. A war between them will do much harm to their interests.

However, as the US says that the Isles are covered by the security treaty between it and Japan, China is making preparations to counter that.

Judging by China’s recent achievements in its weapon development, its focus has been on its air capability, while it’s navy ranks second. We saw China’s successful development of the J-15 carrier-based fighter, test flights of the J-31 stealth fighter and the J-18 VTOL stealth fighter and taxi test of the Y-20 transport aircraft within quite a short period of time.

Moreover, Chinese media published repeated reports and commentaries and organised a lecture tour on Luo Yang, the engineer in charge of the J-15 fighter project, who died on job on China’s aircraft carrier after the successful landing of the J-15 on the carrier. They call on people to learn from Luo’s dedication to the country by developing aircraft.

That clearly shows the tremendously great importance China attaches to its air force.

In Chinese media reports, it is often mentioned that the US relies on its air force in war, and that if China has made its air force stronger and more advanced than the US, the US will have nothing to rely upon.

Compared with the air force, navy development is a little slower. China’s first two 052D Aegis destroyer were launched respectively in August and December 2012, and there have to be two more for its first aircraft carrier to form an aircraft carrier battle group.

Chinese strategists hold that China has to develop a strong navy to protect its trade lifeline, but there is no urgent need for that as the US is now maintaining proper order in the sea satisfactorily.

I believe China will build its nuclear aircraft carriers gradually one by one, and it will take two decades for China to become a maritime superpower comparable with the United States.

However, China’s navy may become much stronger than Japan’s soon. As China and Japan have the same trade lifeline. Japan may be in great trouble if the navy China has developed to protect China’s lifeline cut Japan’s lifeline.

Due to historical enmity caused by Japanese invasion of China and the maritime territorial dispute over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, the growth of the Chinese navy may become a threat to Japan if Sino-Japanese relations sour.

SCMP’s report:

Categories: Defence & Aerospace

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. China will become the new Japan just like Japan became the new China after World War Two.
    China is becoming more important to the United States than Japan. The only difference then is that in the postwar period both nations changed directions politically and presently that is not the case.



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