China: The Lesson

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November 7, 2010: China keeps hammering away at the U.S. over recent sales of $6 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan. While Chinese diplomacy and threats delayed the sales a few years, the deal eventually went through. China is still trying to stop it, and calls the sale a major obstacle to good relations between the U.S. and China. The eventual absorption of Taiwan is a bigger deal in China than it is in the United States, which annoys the Chinese, who see themselves simply being brushed aside by an imperious United States. At least that's how it's played in the Chinese government controlled press.

Meanwhile, the free press in Japan is playing the nationalist card as well, and the Chinese don't like that. But China has caused the problem by prompting and allowing popular (nationalist) demonstrations against Japan. Now the Japanese are angry, and the media in Japan has picked up on that. The Chinese leadership is upset with this development. That's because the Japanese military is smaller, but much more professional and effective, than their Chinese counterparts. Plus, if this hate race keeps going, it could lead to Japan building nuclear weapons. This prospect frequently comes up in the Japanese media, and Japanese politicians freely admit to how possible this would be.

The Chinese hate/hate relationship goes back a long way. For centuries, China basically ignored Japan, and considered them some violent malcontents living uneasily together on some islands way out in the Eastern Ocean. The only serious attempt to conquer Japan was carried out by Mongols, who were slowly swallowing most of China. The Mongols failed to take Japan (and couldn't hang onto China). The Chinese considered anything involving Japan to be a sideshow of little consequence. But then, in the mid-19th century, the Japanese decided to join the west, at least economically and militarily. China was having a hard time adjusting to the military, technical and economic superiority of the West. Not so the Japanese.

For most of the last few thousand years, China had been more powerful than the West, but too far away for that to make much difference. But now the Westerners had developed new ship designs that allowed them to move large forces to East Asia. China was humbled in several small wars. The westerners, unlike the Mongols, had no interest in conquering China, they just wanted some trade deals, and no interference from China. But a suddenly modernized Japan, 130 years ago, began to threaten, and then defeat, China with its new, Western style military. Until 1945, China could only slow down, but not stop the Japanese. It took Western armies (mainly from the U.S., Russia and Britain) to finally crush the Japanese menace. China resents that as well, and the mediocre performance of Chinese forces in Korea (1950-53), on the Russian border (the 1970s) and against Vietnam (1979) has not helped. The only victory was against India in 1962, but that was a high altitude skirmish in the mountains on the Tibetan border. Nice, but not indicative of a trend. Chinese military capabilities appear to have gone downhill since then

The U.S. and Japan are being more public about their joint military planning against potential Chinese military moves in the region. China has made claims on disputed islands in the region, bringing it into direct conflict with powerful neighbors like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. Three of these nations are treaty allies of the United States, which has 70,000 troops stationed in the region. Then there's India, being threatened by China, which still claims the Tibetan border lands (now part of India) that caused the 1962 skirmish. The only major neighbor China makes nice to is Russia, which is also the only neighbor with enough nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to cripple China. The lesson is not lost on the rest of China's nervous neighbors.

October 29, 2010: A Japanese destroyer successfully used its Aegis anti-missile system to intercept a ballistic missile. This is the third successful attempt out of four for the Japanese fleet. Aegis has been 83 percent successful in shooting down ballistic missiles. The U.S. fleet has 18 Aegis ships equipped with anti-missile missiles, while Japan has six. There are 92 cruisers and destroyers worldwide equipped with the Aegis radar/missile system. Most just carry the anti-aircraft version. While Japan has bought Aegis for defense against North Korean missiles, Chinese missiles can be shot down as well.

 

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