I've had my nose buried in an interesting, if not a bit alarmist, piece on a potential naval spat with China. The paper, titled "How the United States Lost the Naval War of 2015" (how's that for an eye-catcher?), raises the red flag on the PLA Navy's intent to raise the black flag. That scenario, whether it's 5 or 10 years off, could be dire. China's strategy on high-end asymmetrical warfare is everything their ancestral tactician Sun Tzu said it should it should be: simple, focused, and aimed at all of the U.S. Navy's weak points. The United States, with its ever expanding list of warfighting missions, doesn't enjoy such simplicity.
I don't think a naval war with China is particularly likely. But we do need to ask some hard-nosed questions about Chinese intent, and what their strategists are thinking. The Chinese are modernizing their military at an incredible pace, and already may be able to offset our technological advantage with sheer numbers. They openly exchange ideas about the best ways to crumble American might in the Chinese sphere of influence (an area which, in their heads, seems to expand annually). And they are procuring weapons and technology which is specifically designed to target our weak spots, with heavy emphasis on cyber attacks and asymmetrical conflict. Most concerning, at least in my mind, is the ability of China to swiftly adjust their massive economy onto a war footing, transitioning their peacetime factories into a war-supporting infrastructure. China can manufacture more gear in higher quantities and at a cheaper cost than the United States. That's worrisome. Students of history might remember that industrial might was decisive during World War II.
All this comes at a time when we're openly discussing plans to cut carrier force and have already cut many of the systems designed to replace Reagan-era military equipment. My concern isn't necessarily that we'll lose a war with China, but rather that such a conflict would happen in the first place. Allowing the Chinese to achieve military parity with the United States is precisely the way to fully destabilize the far east. It's a threat that we should be taking seriously.