China in the Spotlight

Some have said those of us sounding the alarm on an increasingly despotic and imperialistic communist Chinese regime are “fear mongers”.   That our supporting data is stale and our perspective poorly informed.  That any relation of the modern day communist Chinese party to the socialist, nationalistic brutality of the Nazi party in Germany in the 1930’s is misguided alarmism.  That reducing the pressure on the military spending gas pedal will not signal appeasement or weakness, encouraging increasingly bolder imperialistic behavior by the Chinese; and the Russians.

Well, let’s add another well informed, articulate voice to the conversation.  George Will’s recent column (February 21, 2021) “Biden’s sturdy resistance to China” is full of recently dug-up nuggets and analogies to previous global security threats by a nation unafraid to commit genocide.  Missed opportunities of the past, to prevent considerable bloodshed during World War II, were enabled through appeasement.  Indifference, worse appeasement, will undoubtedly lead to a repeat of these undesirable outcomes.  The Biden Administration must not only remain firm but must increase the pressure on the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to reverse its Uighurs policy and know that severe consequences await them if they continue to pursue their less than subtle escalating aggression toward their citizens in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as toward the Republic of China in Taiwan and other neighboring nations.

In addition to the column from Mr. Will, two recent articles have been included on the accelerating Chinese military build-up.  The second article included in this post touches on PRC naval power.  No other nation has attempted to challenge the global preeminence of U.S. naval power since the Japanese Empire of the 1930s.  The Chinese navy has already achieved numerical superiority.  It is rapidly approaching technical and firepower parity.

The key to a successful invasion of Taiwan is naval strength combined with air power superiority.  China already has the world’s largest land force.   The third article speaks to China’s military pilot training program intended to create an air force capable of competing with U.S. military airpower.

Clearly China’s intent is to deter any potential interference with its imperialistic ambitions.  Not much different from Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea.  It was over before most knew it was happening and no western nation would go to war with Russia over the Crimea. 

Despite significant sabre rattling from the U.S., and the absence of a NATO-like mutual defense pact, Taiwan could be annexed by the PRC in a three day military invasion according to some sources. Similar to Iraq’s lightning quick two day invasion of Kuwait.

How would this differ from the invasion of Kuwait in 1990?  As it did then, would the United Nations gather an international force to return the island to the control of the government of the Republic of China? 

With the invasion of Kuwait, the Iraqi government justified its invasion by claiming that Kuwait was a natural part of Iraq carved off as a result of British imperialism.  The PRC claims Taiwan has been part of China since ancient times.  During World War II, amid the Japanese invasion of China, the Republic of China (ROC) was an ally of the western forces that opposed the imperialism of the axis nations (the Empire of Japan, Nazi Germany, and fascist Italy).  The ROC, with the west’s help, expelled the Japanese invaders from the Chinese mainland during WWII.  Later the ROC, losing the fight for the mainland to Chinese communist forces led by Mao Zedong, fled to Taiwan.  One could argue that it is the PRC that should be expelled and the ROC returned to a rightful control of mainland China.

War with Iraq, a second rate military power in the 1980’s and 90’s, is one thing, war with a modern, massive and technically advanced Chinese communist military, with a substantial and modern nuclear capability, would be something completely different.  Would the world go to war over an invasion of Taiwan?  It appears nothing is being done about the PRC’s brutal crushing of political rights in Hong Kong.  It amounts to an obliteration of its promise for a “one country – two systems” political framework.  It had made precisely the same promise to the world for a peaceful prospective annexation of Taiwan.  Why would the world trust anything the PRC “promises”? 

Presenting Mr. Will’s latest missive on the topic as well as his impression of the early signals from the Biden Administration.

Beijing wasted no time in greeting the new U.S. administration with an escalation of China’s high-risk obnoxiousness.  On the fourth day of Joe Biden’s presidency Chinese fighter and bomber aircraft Beijing Beijing wasted no time greeting the new U.S. administration with an escalation of high-risk obnoxiousness.  On the fourth day of Joe Biden’s presidency, Chinese fighter and bomber aircraft simulated an attack on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier group as it sailed into the South China Sea.  The pugnacious 26th president for whom the carrier is named would have applauded several of the 46th president’s initial decisions regarding China.  Biden got Beijing’s attention by inviting Taiwan’s representative in Washington to attend the inauguration, the first such invitation since U.S.-China relations were normalized in 1979.

And Roosevelt, a naval power enthusiast, would have loved Biden’s sending of the carrier group.  Later this year a British will participate in exercises in the region with the U.S. Navy.  Allies matter.

Biden, who has promised “extreme competition” with China, has an appropriate secretary of state.  Antony Blinken’s first conversation, by telephone, with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, was so sandpapery that Yang, according to the Chinese foreign ministry, blustered to Blinken, “No one can stop the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Nations prickly about their need for rejuvenation (“Deutschland erwache!” – “Germany awake!” was a Nazi mantra) betray a truculent sense of inferiority.  China today has much to feel inferior about.

Blinken’s predecessor as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, formally designated as “genocide” Beijing’s treatment of more than 1 million Uighurs in concentration camps.  Pompeo there by made national policy of a judgment that candidate Biden voiced in August, and that Blinken affirmed during his confirmation hearing.

Blinken’s warning to Yang that Washington would hold Beijing “accountable for its abuses” occurred three days after a harrowing BBC report on gang rapes and torture (including electric prods inserted in vaginas and rectums) of Uighurs in rooms without surveillance cameras, as well as forced sterilizations, forceable implantation of IUDs, and denials of food to those who inaccurately memorized passages from books praising President Xi Jinping. 

China’s Goebbelsesque embassy says the minds of Uighur women are being “emancipated,” that Beijing’s measures are promoting “gender equality and reproductive health,” and are making Uighur women “more confident and independent,” and are “no longer baby making machines”.

The Convention on the Protection and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide says the crime includes inflicting on a group “conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” and “imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group”.  Signatory nations are committed to “imposing effective penalties”.

Those should begin with an immediate announcement of a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, whose current viciousness is comparable to that of Germany at the time of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

And there at least should be public shaming of U.S. corporations which, while ostentatiously woke at home, seem not to think Uighur matter.  Let us identify corporations that import goods made with forced Uighur labor or export to China goods (e.g. surveillance technologies) that could facilitate Beijing’s genocide.

Twenty percent of the world’s cotton comes from Xinjiang the region of the genocide: How many U.S. clothing brands are suing products of forced labor.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which this past year had 87 co-sponsors in the U.S. House and 33 in the U.S. Senate would create a statutory presumption that products from Xinjiang are produced by forced labor.  Which U.S. corporations will lobby against the bill?

While China screws down the lid of tyranny on Hong Kong – making schools instruments of political indoctrination; removing library books that “endanger national security” – Beijing continues to add to the (at least) 380 Uighur “reeducation camps”.

If U.S. transactions – diplomatic and commercial – with China are unaffected by the findings of genocide, this will, in the words of Eugene Kontorovich of Gorge Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School “make a joke out of genocide”.

Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, said: “If it happened, therefore it can happen again”.  U.S. policy now insists that genocide is happening in a nation tightly woven into the fabric of world commerce.

China is crucial to globalization’s supply chain, but these chains are also crucial to China.  They can be instruments of political leverage for the United States and other signatories to the aforementioned convention who are committed to take measures to “prevent and punish” genocide.

Americas’ usual preference regarding foreign policy is to have as little of it as possible.  Presidents, however, do not have that luxury.  Biden is keeping his promise of sturdy resistance to China.  But, his difficult choices have just begun.

September 1,2020

China Has the World’s Largest Navy. And It’s Getting Better, Pentagon Warns

Michael Peck


Aerospace & Defense

I cover defense issues and military technology.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants,” states the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2020 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power. “In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.”

In itself, that statistic is somewhat misleading: While the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has more warships than the U.S. Navy, the American fleet is ahead in tonnage due to having larger warships, including 11 aircraft carriers that weigh in at 100,000 tons apiece.

But what happens when Chinese naval quantity is paired with technological quality? That prospect alarms Pentagon planners.

The PLAN is a far cry from its Cold War days, when it was a poor cousin to a massive ground army. China’s fixation to forcibly reunify Taiwan with the mainland, and its determination to replace the U.S. as the hegemon of the Western Pacific, had led Beijing to spend vast amounts of time and money to improve the quality of its navy.

China’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers has garnered the most attention. The PLAN has one decrepit ex-Soviet carrier, a newly commissioned carrier that is the first built in China, a third carrier under construction, and plans to build an additional four or more vessels. Fitted with advanced features like an electromagnetic launch system, a Chinese carrier fleet could provide air cover for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan, or even confront the U.S. Navy in the first carrier versus carriers battles since World War II.

But there’s a lot more to a navy than just carriers: watch U.S. carrier strike groups, and you’ll notice that the flattops are always surrounded by cruisers and destroyers for anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense. China has been busily building a new generation of sophisticated, heavily armed cruiser, destroyers, and corvettes. For example, in December 2019, China launched the sixth Type 055 Renhai-class cruiser. The Renhai fields a large array of anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-aircraft missiles, “along with likely LACMs [land attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) when those become operational,” the Pentagon noted.

This raises the prospect of a U.S. fleet being overwhelmed by massed salvoes of anti-ship missiles, including deadly new hypersonic weapons that travel faster than Mach 5.

As with Russia’s navy, submarines are a key element of Chinese naval strength. The PLAN is expected to build more diesel-powered and nuclear-powered attack subs. China is also one of the few nations that possesses ICBM-armed nuclear ballistic missile submarines. In addition to its current four Type 094 subs armed with 12 JL-12 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) each, a new “boomer” submarine is on the way. “China’s next-generation Type 096 SSBN, which will likely begin construction in the early-2020s, will reportedly carry a new type of SLBM,” the report predicts. “The PLAN is expected to operate the Type 094 and Type 096 SSBNs concurrently and could have up to eight SSBNs by 2030.”

Particularly interesting is China’s growing ability to launch land-attack cruise missiles, a capability that the U.S. Navy has demonstrated with its Tomahawk missiles on more than one occasion. This would allow Chinese surface ships and submarines to strike key bases, such as Guam, in the Pacific and beyond.

“In the coming years, the PLAN will probably field LACMs on its newer cruisers and destroyers and developmental Type 093B nuclear attack submarines,” the Pentagon report noted. “The PLAN could also retrofit its older surface combatants and submarines with land-attack capabilities as well. The addition of land-attack capabilities to the PLAN’s surface combatants and submarines would provide the PLA with flexible long-range strike options. This would allow the PRC to hold land targets at risk beyond the Indo-Pacific region.”

In 2019, China launched its first Yushen-class large amphibious assault ship, which is not good news for Taiwan. The PLAN is also building a variety of support vessels, including oilers, intelligence collection ships and even China’s first polar icebreaker.

Of course, there is a lot more to a navy’s power than the number of ships or missiles. The U.S. Navy has more than a century of reliably operating in distant waters, including carrier flight operations, convoying merchant shipping, and conducting amphibious operations. For all its growing technological sophistication, China’s navy simply lacks experience in these matters.

But eventually it will gain that experience. Coupled with a huge battlefleet and advanced weapons, China’s navy may prove to be formidable foe.

EDITORS’ PICK |Feb 22, 2021

No More Nannies—The Chinese Air Force Is Finally Training Its Fighter Pilots to Match the Americans

David Axe

Forbes Staff

Aerospace & Defense

I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is taking steps to erase a key advantage that the U.S. Air Force holds over the Chinese air arm—the quality of the American service’s fighter pilots.

The PLAAF’s training command has put in place a realistic new curriculum that, for the first time, encourages pilots to think and act independently in the most stressful situations. The changes could signal the end of the Chinese air force’s self-described “nanny-style” training system—and a new threat to America’s control of the air.

China’s “initial fighter pilot training program is poised to produce pilots who are better trained, and to do so at a higher rate, than before,” Derek Solen wrote in a new study for the U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.

The training reforms actually include three separate main efforts, according to Solen. The PLAAF is cutting the time it takes to produce a combat-ready fighter pilot from 10 years to just seven by streamlining its officer academies and flight schools.

More rigorous training with a strong emphasis on realism and pilot-independence is the third, and arguably most important, effort.

“Despite the years that the PLAAF has taken—and in some training brigades, still takes—to train pilot candidates for combat, for most of the 2010s, the training program still failed to do so because it was unrealistic and rote,” Solen wrote.

Training flights seem to have only been conducted in excellent weather conditions, and perhaps because this practice limited the number of days on which flights could be conducted, pilot candidates were rushed through multiple training sorties on the same day whether they had grasped the lessons of those flights or not.

When training flights were conducted, they were “played safe,” four or five G being the maximum G-force that fighter pilot candidates ever experienced throughout their training. Nighttime flight training was conducted, but [the Air Force Aviation University] training base and the flight academies would illuminate their runways with searchlights to make it easy for cadets and pilot candidates to find their airfields and land.

Flight instructors would immediately take the stick when pilot candidates faced a problem such as stalling, depriving their pupils of the opportunity to resolve the problem themselves. Even a lesson that would ultimately enhance the pilot candidates’ safety was avoided because of its immediate risk: pilot candidates were not even taught how to recover from a tailspin.

Around 2017, that began to change, Solen explained. Now the flight academies send student pilots into the air even during bad weather resulting in poor visibility. The practice of illuminating runways with spotlights during night training ended.

“Training flights were no longer being ‘played safe,’” Solen wrote. “Now pilot candidates began regularly experiencing six to seven G during training flights. Flight instructors began interfering in their pupils’ flights as little as possible—and they also began teaching them to recover from a tailspin. (The flight instructors first had to learn how to do so themselves.)”

In order to cultivate their independence, AFAU and the flight academies began requiring pilot candidates to prepare for each flight on their own and to devise their own flight plans after the flight instructors have informed them of the next training subject and by what principles the training will be conducted.

In order to cultivate their intuition, the flight academies stopped evaluating pilot candidates on how well they fly as measured by their flight instruments; flight instructors began encouraging pilot candidates to look outside their cockpits when they fly under visual flight rules.

The reforms could make a huge difference in wartime. Even the most junior pilots in a front-line squadron should be capable of winning—or at least surviving—an encounter with the U.S. Air Force’s own pilots.

“The PLAAF is poised to produce pilots who are much better prepared to conduct real-world missions as soon as they undertake their first assignments, and it is poised to do so at a higher rate than ever before,” Solen concluded.

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