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The PLANAF J-11BH which conducted the interception on a navy P-* Poseidon. Note the two PL-8 and two PL-12 air to air missiles. Pictures: US DoD
Chinese foreign policy is to bully the US and other nations in the region, while our policy is to grin and take it. In Asia, China is using intimidation and force to establish itself as the dominant military and economic power in all of the Pacific and beyond the Indian Ocean to the East coast of Africa.
In May, Communist China’s Secretary of State, Yang Jiechi spoke by phone with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, “If the US side insists on playing the Taiwan card and goes further and further down the wrong road, it will certainly lead to a dangerous situation,”
Yang told Sullivan that the United States should “have a clear understanding of the situation,” in a statement posted online by China’s Foreign Ministry. “China will certainly take firm action to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests,” he added.
In response, Sullivan’s office issued a brief statement saying their discussion, “focused on regional security issues and nonproliferation.” All but ignoring the bellicose threats coming from China.
On June 11, China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe was giving a speech at IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, one of Asia’s largest defense conferences,
“If anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight,” restating Beijing’s belligerent position about Taiwan. “We will fight at all costs. And we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China.”
In July, Ely Ratner, the Defense Department’s assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs appeared at a Washington DC conference by the Center for Strategic and International Studies to say that recent encounters between US and Chinese military ships and aircraft in the region appear to be a campaign of “coercion and harassment” that has escalated dramatically over the past five years. Ratner accused the Chinese military of various forms of misconduct,including aircraft intercepts at dangerously close ranges and releasing objects into the air that could compromise a plane’s engine. In the most recent incident, a Chinese fighter dispensed chaff or aluminum strips in an attempt to damage the jet turbines of P-8 Poseidon aircraft flying in international air space.
This increased activity “looks like a pattern and a policy,” Ratner said, “and not just a decision by an individual pilot.”
Since 2017 China has become increasingly hostile and aggressive with more and more incidents of harassment, interceptions, and threatening statements directed at the US. In the first half of 2022, there have been reports of “dozens” of incidents. The US response has been decidedly George McFly-like in the face of China’s Biff Tannon-like bullying.
The encounter he refers to occurred last week when a Navy P-8 Posideon was intercepted by Chinese People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force force J-11BH fitted with short and medium-range air-to-air missiles. According to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, the interception range was “very close, very dangerous, pretty aggressive and very unprofessional.” The intercept took place 135 miles (200 km) east of Hainan Island. Kirby remarked that the Chinese fighter jet came within 20 to 30 feet (7 to 10 meters) to the P-8A Poseidon and did a barrel roll over the plane.
“The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly towards the P-8 Poseidon, we believe to make a point of showing its weapons load,” he said. Then it “flew directly under and alongside the P-8, bringing their wing tips to within 20 feet, and then conducted a roll … over the P-8, passing within 45 feet,” Kirby remarked.
On July 28, President Biden had a telephone call with the Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping that covered a series of topics, one of which was Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Xi warned President Biden that, “Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.” The White House response was given by Presse Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre who declined to acknowledge the threat to the United States saying, “I’m not going to speak to that statement, that comment that you just read out,” to a reporter who asked about the remark by Xi.
In that same call, President Biden claimed that he pressed the issue of genocide and enslavement of its Uyghur Muslims minority. In that same press conference, Jean-Pierre stated, “That is something that he raised about human rights, as he always does,” she claimed. “This is, as we’ve said, that anytime the president has an opportunity, he raises that when he meets with another leader and called on PRC to cease its ongoing human rights abuses across China.”
Within 24 hours,
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian appeared at his regular news conference and called President Biden a liar, telling members of the US press that “You said the White House press secretary claimed that ‘genocide’ and ‘forced labor’ came up in last night’s call. That is disinformation.” The White House could have released the actual transcript of the call with Xi and showed up the communists as the liars themselves but instead let the accusation pass without any official rebuttal at all.
If the United States truly wants a world at peace as the aim of its foreign policy it has to be ready and able to confront any bully who threatens the peace with unwavering firmness and equal aggression.
Most recently. Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan against the wishes of the White House. Quite a lot could be said about members of Congress conducting foreign policy on their own when diplomacy comes under the President and the executive branch but while there, The Speaker published an editorial in the Washington Post affirming America’s commitment to support and defend democracy in Taiwan saying, “It is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats.”
Those are nice words, except we have to remember that the White House immediately stated that the US remains committed to the “One China” policy that does not recognize Taiwan as an independent and sovereign country but as part of mainland China run by a brutal communist dictatorship. China, the autocrats have stipulated that the entirety of US-China relations depends on the US adopting and holding to the “One China Policy.’
That “One China” policy is being dedicated to us by the same communist “autocrats” that Speaker Pelosi says we should never give in to.
China’s response to Pelosi’s visit was to surround Taiwan with military live fire drills to express its fury, which the BBC helpfully mapped out below.
Taiwan then responded that it would hold its own military drills in the coming week practicing to repel an invasion by China.
China then imposed sanctions on Pelosi personally and announced that it would suspend cooperation with the US on the following,
China-US Theater Commanders Talks, Defense Policy Coordination, Maritime Consultive Agreements, repatriation of illegal aliens, assistance in criminal matters, cooperation against transnational crimes, counter-narcotic operations, and finally, and perhaps most galling the Biden administration, talks on climate change.
It is important to remember here that talks about transnational crime, drug smuggling, and human trafficking are not happening because we are doing these things to China, they are doing them to us.
China is not an “emerging” or “growing” threat to the US and its own neighboring countries in the Pacific. It is a present and fully realized one.
I personally don’t believe that Pelosi went to Taiwan without a nod from the White House, she had to have the military plan to fly her over there well in advance. In the same way, we send ships and bombers to test the capabilities and response time of our adversaries, I think Pelosi was sent to Taiwan to test the reaction of China to such a visit. I think China knows that too and responded accordingly.
“Asia For The Asians!”
This is not the first time a threat like this has emerged in Asia, and our mishandling of it last time resulted in a Word War.
The 1930s saw Japan emerge as the major industrial power in Asia. Its own heavy industrial base was making cars, trucks, trains, aircraft, ships, tanks, and guns. It adopted a foreign policy built around something they called, “The Greater-East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Japan saw itself as an empire along the lines of Great Brittain, in which raw materials from the colonies would flow back to England to be made into durable goods that would then be shipped back out to the colonies and the world. This model made England the most powerful empire in the world, with the world’s largest navy to protect it.
In SE Asia, Japan wanted oil and rubber, in China, it wanted iron ore to make steel.
Under this plan, Japan would naturally be at the head of a movement to eject European colonial influences from Asian countries and organize the energies, talents, and resources of Asia’s natural wealth. Japanese would be the official language of commerce in Asia and the Japanese government paid for Japanese studies courses to be introduced into foreign universities in Asia. These Asian countries would labor to produce the raw materials for Japan to build a modern and new Asia as a community of harmony replacing the old colonial order with cooperation, brotherhood, and mutual prosperity under the protection and supervision of a Japanese Empire with a huge navy, air force, and army.
Under the slogan of “Asia For The Asians,” Japan tried to stir rebellions in European colonies like Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Sumatra, Java, Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore.
It really didn’t work, the people of Asia did not like the idea of Japanese colonialism any better than they liked European colonialism. Then in Japan, the Militarist faction rose to power and decided that what they could not get with smiles and guile, they could just take by force.
They invaded Eastern China.
By 1932, they had added Korea and Manchuria to the empire.
By 1937, they had acquired Eastern Mongolia representing a third of China under Japanese occupation. They also seized Formosa, now known as Taiwan.
In 1937, Japan had quadrupled its land mass by conquest but was still importing oil, tin, and rubber from other parts of Asia. It was also buying oil and steel from the United States, which was supporting China in trying to fight off 1 million Japanese troops in a bloody war of atrocities. The militarist faction in charge of Japan knew that further territorial expansion in Asia would bring them into direct conflict with the European powers of England, France, the Netherlands, and the United States and did not think it could take all of them on at once. Especially the combined navies of the US and the UK.
Then WWII broke out in 1939 and Japan’s European rivals were locked in a death struggle with Nazi Germany, while the US was professing isolationism and no desire to get itself embroiled in another war in Europe. Besides, America was just starting to recover from the Great Depression and was economically weak and to a certain extent militarily feeble. The US was ranked 17th among the world’s militaries in 1939(behind Romania) while Japan herself was ranked 5th. There was an opportunity here for Japan’s militarists.
What if they struck a decisive blow to the American navy at Pearl Harbor? Japan could then gobble up the remaining countries the empire coveted without interference from the US, while France, the UK, and the Netherlands were busy fighting the Nazis. After they had SE Asia and its resources, they could make separate peace treaties with these countries and then be able to have the raw materials and secure lines of supply to produce the armaments and fuel needed for their war in China.
So Japan struck the US navy at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, in the midst of negotiations with the US over its war in China. It then invaded Burma, French Indo-China, British Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and even German-controlled New Guinea. In less than a year, Japan had a bigger Empire than Napolean did after nearly 20 years of campaigning. They then set about fortifying the Island chains eastward to within 1,000 miles of Hawaii. Even invading the Aleutian Island in Alaska to expand their buffer zone. At Midway Island in June 1942, Japan suffered a disastrous loss in a battle that destroyed two-thirds of its striking arm, losing four of its six fast carriers. The United States then fought for 9 months to wrest control of the Solomon islands from Japan to protect shipping routes to Australia and then began the long slog across the Pacific to invade Japan. We got as close as Okinawa before two atomic bombs finally compelled Japan’s surrender in 1945.
Japan attacked the US for three primary reasons.
First, they believed they had more to gain by war than by peace. They saw the economic gains they could attain through invasion and colonization as more important and valuable than trade with the US or good relations.
Second, the United States was not a military power they feared or respected. We had allowed the army to shrink to just 187,000 troops and our navy was made up of mostly antiquated battleships, the newest of which was built in 1923. Our most modern ships were the 5 aircraft carriers of the Lexington(2) and Yorktown(3) classes. Japan had 10 aircraft carriers.
Finally, Japan believed that the US was morally weak, economically crippled, and had no stomach for a fight to hold onto the Philipinnes and their other island possessions in the Pacific. The Americans considered the Pacific as their ocean for trade and power projection but had neglected to fortify its islands or maintain a navy big enough to control its vast expanse. Japan’s navy was big enough to control the Pacific and it was time to assert its control over it.
In China, something very similar to the aims of Japan’s Co-Prosperity Sphere is happening pursuing aims very much like Japan’s in 1941.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative Disguises Their Territorial Expansionist Aims
China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” has a lot of similarities to Japan’s Co-Prosperity Sphere in terms of its goals and implementation. China is reaching out to 3rd world countries that have resources it wants to exploit and is offering to build roads and rail lines to ports they will also build to ship raw materials back to China with the promise of returning finished goods at low prices to consumers in these countries. These infrastructure projects are funded with loans made by the Chinese government as well. Making them debtor nations to China.
China has vastly expanded its navy far beyond anything it might need to protect its own coast and these foreign ports would serve as logistics and refueling points for a Chinese navy that exists not just to challenge the supremacy of the US navy around the world but also to project military power anywhere in the world Communist China wants to go.
In the south China Sea, Beijing is attempting to assert territorial control over its entirety as if they own it. This has brought them into conflict with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia who are expected to accept defacto Chinese communist control over this whole area of the Pacific, both militarily and economically. Even when international bodies of arbitration have ruled against China’s claims of territorial control, they still belligerently persist in asserting them.
This is why Taiwan matter so much. Control of Taiwan would add $1 trillion in annual GDP to communist China and give it control over some of the most sophisticated chip manufacturing factories in the world. These companies make chips for most of the world’s cell phones and a significant amount of the chips found in US ships, subs, planes, drones, missiles, tanks, space satellites, and sensor systems. These factories are worth billions of dollars and cannot be replicated in the West easily or cheaply. Taiwan is a critical supply chain for the US.
Having Taiwan would also allow China to control the Taiwan Straits which is the main trade route to Europe and the Mideast. Almost 90% of the world’s largest cargo and energy tankers pass through these straits every year. The cost of goods includes the cost of shipping them around the world. shipping routes tend to be the shortest and most direct routes possible to save time but more importantly, to save fuel and therefore money.
If communist China were to control the straits, they would be in the position to pick and choose which nations’ trading vessels would be allowed to pass through them. This would add hundreds of miles to their routes and raise the cost of goods they carry everywhere in the world. China might even charge a toll for ships to pass through the straits. Of course, Chinese flagged vessels would be free to pass through the straits unmolested. This would give China. a totalitarian communist state, a great deal of control over the commerce of the entire planet.
China views the vast Pacific as an unguarded expanse that allows them to be attacked by enemies. As such they want to create a fortified buffer zone in the Western and Central Pacific that shields them from US military power. The First Island Chain as they see it extends from the southern island of Kyushu in Japan in the East China Sea, down to the South West part of the South China Sea to Malaysia. The Second Island Chain of defense runs from Honshu in Japan all the way South to Western Papua. It extends Eastward to include the US Territory of Guam and Palau which is a Pacific Islands Trust Territory administered by the United States, which China presumably wants to control as well. The Third Island Chain runs all the way to the Hawaiian Islands in the middle, to New Zealand in the South, and to the north, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska also under Chinese control. Does that sound familiar at all?
To the West, China has a Fourth and Fifth island chain that extends all the way to the East coast of Africa. This imagines a Chinese empire that controls 80% of the Pacific Ocean and all of the Indian Ocean to Africa. That is China controlling more than two-thirds of the world’s oceans.
This isn’t fearmongering, China has made it very clear that these are their aims and that they intend to pursue them. Their belligerence towards Taiwan is about gaining the First Island Chain.
Obviously, China would have to fight a war with the United States in securing the Second Island Chain because it includes Guam, winning that war would allow them to move into the Third Chain occupying part of Alaska(perhaps all) and the Hawaiian Islands.
The US Cannot Flinch Without Someday Risking a Devastating War With China
The often-asked question about whether we will go to war with China is just a matter of time if we continue our current policy of appeasing Beijing while making a half-hearted effort to support our allies in the region with arms and murky promises of direct intervention if invaded or attacked. One of the lessons of the Ukraine war that we should have learned is that the threat of economic sanctions against Russia did not deter Putin while arming Ukraine to the teeth to defend itself probably would have. We had years to assist Ukraine militarily and failed to take the threat of another invasion by Russia seriously enough to arm them properly for fear of provoking Russia. We had months during the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border to pour weapons into Ukraine and we didn’t, for fear of provoking Russia. Now, we are playing catch up and thousands of Ukrainians are paying with their lives for our(and NATO’s) dithering and navel-gazing all aimed at not provoking Russia.
In the end, China will attack Taiwan and by extension also the US, for the same reasons Japan did as I related above. They will think it is in their economic interests to do so, they will think they have the sufficient military strength to win, and they will think we are too weakened to put up much of a fight. Like Japan, they may be wrong about all of that, but it could cost hundreds of thousands of American lives to prove them wrong.
That isn’t acceptable.
Here is what the US must do to prevent another war in the Pacific, instead of winning one at a great cost in American lives later on.
First, we must remove all strategic ambiguity displayed to both China and Taiwan. Saying that we will not be intimidated by communist dictatorships while also agreeing to the demands of a dictatorship in affirming their “One China” policy is stupid and contradictory. United States policy towards Taiwan and China should be stated in this manner;
First, the US is opposed to revolutionary communist regimes wherever they exist.
Second, The United States supports the rights of free people living under democratic forms of government all over the world.
Third, the people of Taiwan have a Natural Human Right to live in a democratic state.
Fourth, the United States will support the People of Taiwan in their aspirations to remain free and will militarily assist Taiwan if attacked or invaded. We will also provide Taiwan the means of defending itself against aggression from Communist China.
The United States economy should not be building the Chinese economy with close trade and import/export agreements. US corporations should begin to divest from China and its economy and move their operations back to the US or to nonbelligerent states in like Mexico, or Central and South America. Doing business with China is dangerous to US national security.
We should insist our allies in the region help bare the cost of helping Taiwan defend itself even as we insist they themselves spend the money on the ships, planes, submarines, and missiles they will need to defend themselves from China. Japan could build and sustain a much larger military than it currently has. Especially it’s navy. With the F-35B model capable of operating off of short deck carriers, Japan could build a powerful strike force around six of its Izumo class helicopter carriers which have hanger decks and elevators and are 27,000 tons in displacement. It currently has just two.
Chinese threats to us or Taiwan should trigger certain sanctions and even additional arms sales to Taiwan for their self-defense. Every time China threatens to use force, we should provide Taiwan with additional means to resist force being used against them. At some point, China will realize that their threats result in Taiwan becoming stronger, not weaker. Taiwan’s military really has a singular focus, to repel an invasion by China. That really makes arming and training them much easier than here in the US with a military trained to meet all manner of threats. We actually spend next to nothing on defending our country against an invasion because there isn’t a country on the planet powerful enough to pull it off. At least not yet.
We should put China on notice that our relations with Taiwan are none of their business, and that if they complain about our Speaker of the House visiting Taiwan, the next time it will be a Vice President, and then the President himself if they make a scene over that. We need to regain the strategic initiative over China so they are inclined to de-escalate from confrontation, instead of always seeking it and then expecting us to back down.
We need to expand the size of our military dramatically. The War on Terror reset the doctrinal focus of the US military to fighting low-intensity conflicts in third-world countries against terrorist groups and militias. During the Cold War, we faced a much more dangerous adversary in the Soviet Union which was a nuclear-armed state will millions of men under arms. We won the Cold War by winning a long arms race against the Soviet Union, which simply could not outspend the United States in weaponry. Russia never believed that it had the military force needed to defeat the United States and NATO, which kept them from moving into Western Europe and putting it all behind the iron curtain.
Arms Races are not cheap, but they are certainly cheaper than wars are. China cannot outspend the US in terms of the quality of our weapons and the training of our troops. They simply do not have the economic strength to build and sustain 11 Carrier Strike Groups with all the ships, planes, and personnel to man them. Communist regimes tend to go cheap on quality in favor of quantity. We recently saw an example of this in China’s newest aircraft carrier, which is smaller, not nuclear powered, and will probably have about two-thirds of the aircraft that a US carrier puts to sea with.
We kept ourselves out of WWIII in Europe by economically and diplomatically isolating the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries, establishing a credible deterrent with conventional forces, and by being very clear about what lines they could not cross with us without triggering a war.
We aren’t doing any of that with China, and it’s very dangerous, not just for us, but for the entire world.
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