Category Archive 'Chinese Navy'

06 Aug 2020

China’s Maritime Silk Road

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Francis Pike, in the Spectator, warns that China is well on the way to adding strategic domination of the Bay of Bengal and the sea lanes to the Middle East to its ruthless appropriation of the South China Sea. Only the superior power of the US Navy stands in China’s way, but China is planning a massive naval expansion, and the US is not.

The forthcoming geopolitical struggle for supremacy between China and India will not be on land. It will be on water and a much larger body of water than Pangong Lake. The Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea will become the defining-battleground.

Xi Jinping’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ policy is less talked about in the western press than ‘One Belt One Road’. The economic and military strategy is to dominate the sea lanes between China and the Middle East. As in the ancient Chinese board game of territorial control, Go, which inspired the great military theorist, Sun Tzu, Xi’s China is in the process of placing ‘stones’ (Go’s playing pieces) on Asia’s maritime seaboard that will enable it to achieve this dominance.

China’s first offshore naval port in Djibouti, adjacent to the Suez Canal, is already built. Pakistan’s Chinese-financed port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, guarding the approaches to the Strait of Hormuz, is another one of the stones. Closer to home, China, by its placement of airfields and naval facilities on reclaimed reefs in the Spratly Islands, has now gained probably irreversible control of the South China Sea.

From China’s viewpoint this is not enough. A third of global shipping and most of China’s oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca between Singapore and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. As a Portuguese envoy noted in the 16th century, ‘whoever is lord of Malacca has his hands on the throat’. With the US navy embedded in Singapore’s Changi naval base, China sees the Malacca Strait as the weakest link in its maritime strategy. Thus, the digging of a $30 billion, 80-mile canal across the Kra Isthmus in southern Thailand is being mooted. The canal would bypass the US-controlled Malacca Strait and give China unimpeded access to the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Reputedly, Chinese companies are already buying up land around the projected route of the canal. Importantly, over the past 20 years, Thailand, once a staunch US ally, has become a quasi-satellite of China.

Further inroads into the Bay of Bengal are being established by Chinese financing of the new port at Chittagong in Bangladesh, a country whose relationship to India, if not hostile, is nevertheless equivocal. It is somewhat overlooked that Bangladesh, a country of 165 million people, is now one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.

Myanmar is even more in thrall to China. As the old Burmese saying goes: ‘When China spits, Burma swims.’ Here too China is financing a major port development on the coast of Rakhine state, home of the Rohingyas. In January, during Xi’s state visit to Myanmar, there was a joint announcement that they would push ahead with the construction of a new port in the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone. It is planned to link both this and the port in Chittagong by rail and road to Kunming, the capital of western China’s Yunnan Province. An oil pipeline is also planned. Meanwhile in the southern reaches of the Bay of Bengal, the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka have been close allies since the 1950s.

Although India is fully alive to China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy, the West appears to be asleep. …

With 11 aircraft carriers to China’s two, America still commands maritime Asia. However, the balance is changing rapidly. As the US congressional report on Chinese naval modernisation concluded in May, by year end the US will have 297 naval vessels, the same number as 15 years ago; China will have 360, up more than 50 per cent over the same period. A third Chinese aircraft carrier is under construction and the hull of a fourth is expected to be laid down next year.

The direction of travel is clear. The US navy could find itself in China’s wake if current trends continue. ‘There is no doubt that they’ve been investing hugely in this,’ says Nick Childs of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. ‘They’ve been outbuilding everybody.’ Unless the West wakes up to the challenge, it is likely to be outgunned within 15 to 20 years by the People’s Liberation Army navy. The European Union, of course, unwilling even to pay for its own strategic defence, is an embarrassing irrelevance. The risk for India and the West is not armed conflict with China. It is that the struggle for supremacy in Asia will be lost with hardly a shot being fired. Sun Tzu would be proud.

RTWT

28 Aug 2018

The Chinese Military is Studying Military History

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Lyle J. Goldstein, in the National Interest, reports that The Chinese military appears to be making a careful study of the military history of its likely main opponents: the US and Japan.

China’s military has not had much combat experience in recent decades, and this is recognized among Chinese military leaders as a potentially serious problem. The reasons for this scarcity of battlefield know—how are obvious and might even be praise-worthy. It has been nearly four decades since Beijing undertook a significant military campaign, so how would its armed forces have attained this knowledge? As I have argued many times before in this forum, nearly four decades without resorting to a major use of force represents very impressive restraint for any great power.
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“China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has sought to remedy its lack of actual combat experience by the careful study of military history, including the bloody Pacific War as I have noted in other Dragon Eye columns. August is steamy in the South Pacific and so the Guadalcanal campaign that began in August 1942 was hell. It was through that campaign that the fate of the Pacific was decided. While the dazzling miracle of Midway gets infinitely more attention, the grinding attrition battle just a few months later of Guadalcanal, which could be termed the ‘Verdun’ of the Pacific War, ultimately proved to be the turning point. Losing 38 ships and perhaps over 700 aircraft proved devastating for Japan, although these losses were quite similar to those suffered on the American side. The difference, of course, was that America could replace these losses quite easily.

“Late last year (Dec 2017), the Chinese Navy’s official magazine Navy Today [当代海军] carried a reasonably detailed analysis of the crucial Guadalcanal campaign. The article concludes that Japan’s ‘command decisions and weapons development errors greatly increased the losses [指挥决策和装备研发上的失误更是大大加速了失败],’ together with fundamental problems in Japan’s strategic culture. The Chinese analysis of Japanese mistakes in the campaign is neatly divided between errors in strategic judgment, operational and tactical errors, as well as mistakes in developing appropriate weaponry.

“At the grand strategic level, this Chinese Navy analysis assesses that Japan’s mistakes in the Guadalcanal campaign were partly a failure to reckon with the true significance of the Midway battle a couple of months prior in June 1942. Tokyo seemingly maintained its offensive posture in the South Pacific without recognizing the fundamental fact of ‘the mobilization of America’s enormous industrial capacity [美国强大工业机器启动].’ The analysis asserts that much of the Japanese military was not even informed of the truly devastating results (for Japan) of Midway and that Tokyo’s decision-making was plagued by an incessant and pervasive cult of the offensive. It is noted that the South Pacific could have been invaluable to Japan’s effort to sever U.S. supply lines, but that a critical shortage of airborne intelligence inhibited effective decision-making. The great importance of the U.S. capture of Henderson Field early in the Guadalcanal campaign is noted, and this Chinese analysis concluded, meant that the Japanese pilots flying from distant Rabaul could not offer effective support to Japanese ground troops on the contested island, while Japanese carriers ‘would not dare to overreach by approaching Guadalcanal’ [未敢过分接近瓜岛]. Japanese strategic decisions are assessed to have been plagued by poor coordination between ground and naval forces in the completely ‘unclear situation [情况不明].’”

RTWT


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