Rounding Up The Chicoms
by David Archibald, author of Australia’s Defence (Connor Court) and Twilight of Abundance (Regnery)
2 August 2016
We study history so as to not repeat it. If your adversary doesn’t make the same effort dispassionately, then at least your own work has predictive ability for the war that it is coming.
Thus the Rand Corporation came out with a report on how a war with China is likely to play out. People in the US security establishment must be wondering if China has put the requisite amount of thought into the consequences of the path it is set upon, and the Rand report might be an effort to help them understand those consequences.
The Hague tribunal delivered its finding that China’s activities in the South China Sea have no legal basis. A Chinese regime newspaper, the Global Times, responded to the Rand report with an article that contained the sentence, “If Australia steps into the South China Sea waters, it will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.”
That sentence contains a couple of elements. Firstly, that China wants to attack someone. For them it is a question of the best country to attack. As Malcolm Turnbull celebrated, the Chinese people have risen and there is no better way to make your mark on the world than a short, sharp military victory. The suitable attackees close to hand are Vietnam and the Philippines. The problem with Vietnam as a target is that the Vietnamese are tough and prideful. The problem with the Philippines is that country’s defense arrangements with the United States.
The country that China really wants to attack more than anyone else is Japan. But on China’s ideal plan, that happens after its grip on the South China Sea is consolidated. Japan realizes that, which is why it changed its constitution and now has a defense arrangement with the Philippines. Japan realizes that it has to get involved in any South China Sea war from day one, because otherwise it will be facing China alone, later.
That is China’s dilemma. It feels the need to strike out at the impudent and impish that defy its wishes, but doing it to a country in the neighborhood would bring on consequences earlier than it would like. If China shot down a RAAF P-3 over the South China Sea, it would show that it was serious — and what would Australia do? Suspend the issuing of visas to Chinese tourists and investors for a day? Getting one of our aircraft shot down would simply reinforce China’s position. And so yes, the Global Times is right – Australia would be the ideal target for China to attack.
China is hosting a G20 meeting in Hangzhou on 4th and 5th September. Wise heads are of the opinion that China won’t attack anybody until that meeting is over.
The most insightful China watcher is Edward Luttwak, author of The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy. His view is that China suffers from great-state autism. They only see the world through reference to their own needs and desires and thus it is a surprise to them when others don’t follow their preferred script.
Now many others around the planet have realized the consequences of China’s actions if it is allowed to prevail. In June, French defense minister Jean-Yves le Drian said that France should urge European Union countries to conduct ‘regular and visible’ patrols in the South China Sea. The consequence for France is that other countries around the Mediterranean might start claiming chunks of it for their exclusive use, bottling up the French Navy in a little corner.
Yes, it would be best if a French frigate was sunk because that would bring forward the day that the EU blocked imports from China. The Rand report notes that the Chinese economy is heavily reliant on export trade. Impinging that trade won’t make China any less belligerent, but it would make them less capable militarily and thus fewer people will get killed.
Others amongst the good and the great have also taken sides against China. Google Earth used to block the image of the site of China’s next building project, Scarborough Shoal due west of Manilla Bay, but has now removed the fake cloud that used to obscure it. Google must have realized that they won’t be allowed to make any money in China.
The Rand report on how war with China might play out was naïve in a few areas. The report makes the statement that China imports all its oil and has a small strategic oil reserve. In fact China’s imported fraction of its oil demand is very similar to that of the United States. In the last few years China has been importing up to 1 million barrels per day for its strategic reserve which is likely to be as large as that of the United States at about 700 million barrels.
Australia, being a country run by idiots, does not have any strategic oil reserves. Apparently we are relying upon tankers heading south towards Antarctica before heading back up to Australian ports. It will be easy enough for Chinese submarines to wait off Sydney and Melbourne to pick them off — if the tankers can get insurance in the first place and they won’t sail without insurance.
The other main naivete in the Rand report is that they think the war could be conducted at any rate other than flat out. As Admiral John Fisher said almost a hundred years ago: “The essence of war is violence. Moderation in war is imbecility.” Australia recently put an order in for 450 AIM-120D air-to-air missiles for US$1.22 billion. Modelling of air-to-air combat suggests that 300 of them will be consumed in the first day of combat. Australia also ordered nearly 3,000 small diameter bombs at the same time. Hopefully enough of our aircraft will survive to deliver them. China’s bases in the South China Sea will soak up a lot of ordnance.
Counter-intuitively, those bases have made it easier to defeat China. The South China Sea is a natural kill box. Chinese ships and aircraft will have to run the gauntlet down from Hainan Island. Nobody wants to set foot in China, so defeating them will involve enforcing a blockade and waiting them out. Seizing those islands will provide a battlefield defeat for China and China will wear itself out trying to get them back. The Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping knows that they won’t personally survive a defeat, so it is going to get bitter. Thankfully Secretary of State John Kerry told the Chinese that Japan could get nuclear weapons “overnight”.
What will the peace look like?
The Rand report did ask one important question – what will the peace look like?
“Would a war between China and the United States resemble the great-power wars of modern history—expansive, systemic, desperate? Would hostilities erase all residue of mutual interest in an international order that has served both countries well? Would the escalating costs of conflict seem tolerable compared with those of losing? Would the enemy be demonized? Would populations become targets?”
Well, the answer is “yes” to all those questions. When the dead start piling up from China’s self-indulgent war, the revulsion for China and Chinese will become visceral.
In Australia, for example, it would be prudent to round up and detain anyone with a Chinese passport or whoever held one. This includes Malcolm Turnbull’s daughter-in-law. The property held by Chinese nationals and companies, especially the state-owned ones, will be confiscated and later sold off to help defray the cost of China’s war. After the war, the Chinese so detained might be repatriated back to China. Presidential nominee Donald Trump raised the prospect that Muslims might be barred from entering the United States. The same principle might be applied to Chinese trying to enter civilised lands. It will depend upon the number of dead they cause and the manner of their dying.
And in that unlovely peace that follows China’s war, the nations of our region will become armed camps. Instead of the current valiant effort to get to 2% of GDP on defense spending but not quite making it, we might see 6%, and the possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, as the minimum to secure our sovereignty. Not to worry, our Defence Minister, Senator Marise Payne, said in her maiden speech to parliament that Australia is a rich country. So yes we can afford it. Like good household budgeting, the necessities go to the top of the list and the indulgences fall off the bottom.