China: March 25, 2000


China Surprise; Amidst the war of threats and bombast over Taiwan, it is taken for granted that, if China were to attempt taking Taiwan by force, America would intervene. Surely China would back off. Who in their right mind would take on the world's remaining military superpower?

China would. 

And they have not been reluctant to talk about how they would deal with U.S. military power. Through the late 1990s, Chinese officers wrote books, gave speeches and released much information to the Chinese media on exactly how they would operate in the coming war with America. What war with America? Well, if you read all this stuff published openly in China it was hard to miss the fact that many Chinese see a war with the United States as inevitable. The Chinese have thought long and hard about how to go about it. The American military is aware of this, but are not saying much. For good reason, as the Chinese have several options that we would have a hard time dealing with.
Let's start with naval mines. This is a weapon that the U.S. Navy has never been very comfortable with. Although America had great success with naval mines in World War II and Vietnam, we have also been caught short when on the receiving end. During the Gulf War we had two ships (a cruiser and an amphibious ship) put out of action by Iraqi mines. During the Korean war, we had to rapidly marshal our scant mine clearing resources to keep North Korean naval mines under control. And for the last half century we have skimped on mine warfare, especially on how to effectively deal with naval mines. The Taiwanese have been more energetic in this area, but it may not be enough to defend Taiwan and U.S. warships offshore. There is a lot of new mine technology, especially from Russia, that the Chinese have had access to. We could see some nasty surprises in this are.
The Chinese have noted all this. They have studied our operating methods since Vietnam, especially how we went about our business in the Gulf War and in the Balkans. The Chinese have also had access to Russian equipment and knowledge of American methods. 
China has an ancient and rich military history. The Chinese have long reused ancient techniques successfully. The concept of exploiting the weaknesses of a stronger enemy is an old one for the Chinese. 

What are our weaknesses from the Chinese point of view? 


We are afraid of taking casualties. So the Chinese will put a lot of effort into damaging at least one ship, especially a carrier. They don't have to sink an American warship, just hitting one hard and killing a lot of American sailors will do the job, and influence American public opinion to turn against a war with China over Taiwan. The Chinese have also noted that many of our warships have a lot of women in them, sometimes over ten percent of the crew is female. This is a two fold bonus for the Chinese, for they know that a lot of women in a crew means there are fewer sailors available for damage control duty when a ship is hit. Women cannot scramble about a damaged ship carrying, and using, heavy damage control equipment as well as men. This turns into more casualties, as fires burn longer and more things explode. Some of the sailors getting killed will be female and this will further sour American public opinion. 

Another weakness is one we consider a strength, a vast array of electronic gear. The Chinese have noted that, while we talk a lot about defending our ships against electronic warfare, primarily jamming, we talk more than we act. The Chinese have long been working on secret electronic warfare equipment that, when first used, will cripple some American electronics before we figure out how to deal with it. But that first use can be devastating, giving the Chinese that chance to hit some American ships.
But the biggest American weakness is time. We have no patience for long wars that also get Americans killed. The Chinese won't look for a quick victory. If they choose to go after Taiwan militarily, they will do it slowly and methodically. The Chinese know that Taiwan produces many key components for the American computer and electronics industry. By declaring a blockade of Taiwan, and open season on any ships and aircraft entering Taiwan they will affect the movement of goods. Even if the Chinese do little or no damage initially, declaring a blockade will send maritime and airfreight insurance rates through the roof, increasing the cost of anything shipped out of Taiwan. But once the hundreds of Chinese missile boats, fast patrol boats and aircraft start laying mines, losses will begin to mount. The Chinese also have cruise and ballistic missiles that can hit airfields and minesweepers in Taiwan. 

The Chinese will take losses. Heavy losses. They know that. In Korea they took five casualties for every one of ours because they did not have as much ammunition as we did. They took the losses, half a million casualties, and kept fighting. And let us not forget that fifty years ago China told us not to enter North Korea. American commanders thought the Chinese were bluffing. They weren't. Three years late, 50,000 Americans had died as a result. And this time the dispute is over what the Chinese consider a part of China, not a civil war in a neighboring country (Korea.) 

Now that you've looked at the war from the Chinese perspective, who do you think will win?


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