There are a lot of publications, a lot of various authors, and not a little anxiety exists in Asia over the coming war with China. Everyone has a different take on things. With the US selling Taiwan naval mines, anti-shipping missiles and other defensive hardware systems, Red China seethes. They thought that they could bully Taiwan into submission, but it might be another fifty year wait.

Refocus

The US Marine Corps is actively re-crafting itself for littoral warfare in the Pacific, specifically to fight China, should the need arise. It’s no longer going to fight as an “Army Division” in a land warfare role. As much as a lot of current Marine Corps generals like to think otherwise, the Marine Corps is a Naval force.

The U.S. Marines during an amphibious exercise on Dundee Beach, part of exercise Talisman Sabre 15 at Fog Bay, Northern Territory, Australia

Hand Wringing

(South China Morning Post) The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations don’t want to be caught between two superpowers – three if you include America’s ally, Japan. But need they worry?

What is the Purpose of the War?

China is a trading nation.  The vice minister of transport stated that China ranked fourth among the world’s shipping industries, with a total carrying capacity of 142 million in deadweight tons, amounting to 8 percent of the world total. China’s merchant fleet was said to be distributed among 240 shipping companies. Imagine how it would look if that number was at or near 0? No more capacity to ship oil (they’d still have the Russian pipeline that might not survive the war), no more capacity to ship goods to a Walmart near you.

(CSIS) A good article, worth a view.

Can the Communist Chinese Navy defend its merchant fleet? Unlikely.

India would undoubtably join any regional conflict against China and can handle sinking Chinese merchant shipping in transit through the Indian Ocean.  The US can handle the Pacific Ocean and the British and whatever other European allies joined the war can deal with the Atlantic. Chinese ships in port would simply be interred and ultimately seized.

The Middle East has shifted strongly in the direction of the US with the exception of Iran, but the foundations of that nation are cracking at present. Siding with the Chinese in any conflict would be disastrous for the mullahs. Russia will stay out of it.

Causation

The Chinese will certainly start the war. I don’t think that it will need a pretext. They’ll shoot at something for some reason and – pop goes the weasel.

It won’t be a land war. The US will fight defensively on land but offensively at sea. While the objective is always to deprive the enemy of his battle fleet, in this case, the juicy target is the merchant fleet.

23 COMMENTS

  1. I believe it’s been said here and at several other sources that. China regards trade as another aspect of war. Both the battle fleet and merchant fleet are equally important targets, for different reasons. The warships present the worst immediate danger, while the merchant fleet does a different type of damage, long term.

    • That’s true, trade is war by other means. The loss of their navy is a short term problem. The loss of international trade through shipping would be catastrophic.

  2. I fully defer to your insight and expertise over my general ignorance on the subject. Yet I figure we are already at war with China with the Wuhan Plague being a first strike in retaliation of Trump working to re-balancing trade. Good for us eliminating theft of American intellectual property while stopping dangerous goods coming ashore. Making stuff here is better all-around.

    Maybe in 2021 – shortly after his 2nd term begins – Trump tells our navy boys to make a few new environmental reefs out of some Chinese junk, sending a clear message he’s not to be messed with…without engaging too far. Our warmonger types won’t be satisfied, but who cares what those tunnel-vision cretins think.

    • I think that China will strike first. You can’t have President Trump accepting his Nobel Peace Prize and at the same time striking China.

  3. No military expert here but I’ve always thought the naval infantry shouldn’t be Army light.

    One example was my son’s unit, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry replacing a Marine unit in Kandahar in 2011. Within weeks they had control of countryside the Marines never subdued. That is not a slap at the Marines; the 4th Infantry has been doing that kind of mission for 100 years or so.

  4. As an old infantryman (briefly in my yoot) I don’t pretend to know nuthin’ about blue water stuff but seems to me the book has already been written:

    Silent Victory
    The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan
    Clay Blair, Jr.
    Volumes 1 and 2

    Probably twenty bucks or so, more or less, on Amazon or abe…….

  5. Was wandering the corridors of the internet and ran across a comment at an outfit called the ‘Security studies group’ that the Chinese are set to institute a draft starting Oct 1…which led to the Jamestown Foundation which had an interesting article about ‘Semi-Submersible Heavy Lift Vessels: A New “Maritime Relay Platform” for PLA Cross-Strait Operations?’
    Would you care to take a stab at a time frame for this little dust up, Larry? An exciting end of the year surprise to finish out 2020?

    • I’ll post something up on it, Bob. Surface ships with ballast tanks that allow them to submerge and then transport an amphibious structure or other ship are not new. But it’s true that the CHICOMs may be planning something new with them. These merchant ships are very vulnerable to surface-to-surface anti-shipping missiles.

      • Yeah, they have been around for a long time…I think the thing that caught peoples’ attention was the possibility of using them as a relay point to extend the range of rotary aircraft and as another example of coordination between the merchant and military fleet.

  6. It will be a bloody sea war, and full of ships lost when no ‘enemy’ is around.

    If we win the water war, it will go to an air-superiority war over Communist China, with the intent on smashing their air force and naval bases. The ChiComs will also try to wage space war and take out our satellites, which may just screw up the orbital environment for years. At which time they will discover we have some serious anti-satellite tech ourselves.

    A pause will happen at this point and offers of ‘All y’all wanna stop playing games now?’ will occur.

    At which point the ChiComs will back down, do the whole ‘cease fire’ thing, crawl back into their hole and set about rearming and buying more congresscritters and State Department employees, along with further digging into Hollyweird and the leftist media (which are things we need to take back or destroy or both.)

    And, as weird and delusional as they are, they may even try launching some land-attack missiles at some of our cities. Maybe not nukes, but, hell, this IS the Middle Kingdom we’re talking about. Delusionalism is almost a state religion over there.

    • They live in a world of self-delusion and revel in it.

      In addition to what you laid out, China can’t feed itself. They may have enough stored to get through a skirmish, but ultimately it would mean famine on a massive scale (see Cultural Revolution) where 50 million or more starve.

  7. I certainly wouldn’t want a Los Angeles or Virginia class boat after me. Wikipedia mentions that we have something like 55 (including the three Seawolf boats) fast attack subs on active duty. And we have plenty of DDG’s carrying Harpoons.

    I defer to other’s expertise as to what the PLAN has, but the Wikipedia entry regarding their nuclear sub fleet doesn’t sound very complimentary. Their latest Diesel boats could be a nuisance, though.

    And I would trust the planners have been keeping tabs on as many of the Chinese Merchant Marine as it can.

    Not to go off topic, but has anybody heard anything lately about the fat kid with the bad haircut?

  8. China can’t survive a blockade, and we can make one distant enough that they can’t meaningfully threaten our blockading forces. All it really takes is a government here with balls and resolve enough to do what it takes, which is a crapshoot.

    Our real dangers would be in trying to help our allies in the RoC, RoK and Japan.

    Does the PRC want to think about playing the intercontinental missile game if they attack us and fail? Maybe, and that won’t end well for anyone, but we can erase them in retaliation, so they should think carefully about it.

    -Kle.

    • I don’t think that anyone is considering a land war in Asia.

      It’s not so much of a blockade as it is containing China’s trade. They can’t protect their merchant ships beyond X distance from port, and we don’t have to blockade the ports. Just sink the ships when they leave. It’s not all that different from what happened to the Japanese in World War 2.

      The CHICOMs have all sorts of schemes to capture Taiwan, but a lot of that is vaporware. And we’re selling defensive systems to Taiwan again.

  9. The ship they were looking at in their article was capable of running semi submerged and would probably have a radar return looking like a couple three smaller vessels. Could surprise someone who wasn’t paying attention.

  10. Ah, the old strike first doctrine. It’s been tried before and maybe the Mandarins think they’ll get it right this time. You can imagine Rods from God descending upon the Celestial Fleet.

    Still, good thing we’ve got the LCS for when things get serious on the Potomac.

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