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Thursday, March 10, 2011


Beijing now

    National influence tends to correlate with national wealth. Not always and not completely. Up till WW1 the USA was the world's leading economy but considered by those in charge (ie the European powers) as rather minor. The USSR always "punched above its weight" in opposing the USA in the cold war. However in both cases when reality made its presence felt it turned out that economic powers asserted its proper position.

      So with China's economy growing 10% a year it is inevitable that it will rise to global dominance unless the older powers also go for growth rather than going for recession.

      Some pointers to China's current rise:

      Chinese submarines can easily stalk and destroy America's carrier forces. This "Sputnik moment" has gone largely unreported but that only means nothing is being done.

       They have hypersonic missiles which can sink any US ship in the eastern Pacific.

       The Chinese submarine fleet now outnumbers the US one:
The analysis states that China has “the largest conventional submarine force in the world, totaling more than 60 boats” plus “a number of nuclear-powered fast-attack and ballistic missile subs.” Does that mean China has approximately 70 or more submarines? The total is unspecified, most likely because western analysts aren’t really sure how many submarines China has built. The report adds that many of China’s surface ships and submarines are armed with “supersonic sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missiles” (emphasis added.) This is a critically-important fact...

....the U.S. submarine fleet is highly-trained and experienced in blue-water operations and that Chinese submarines will take years to develop those same skills. I’d tend to agree with that analysis, but there is the very disconcerting reminder [fourth link] that in 2007, a Chinese attack submarine successfully penetrated the defensive screen of the USS Kitty Hawk in the Pacific Ocean and surfaced within easy “kill” range of the U.S. carrier. That indicates that (A) the Chinese submarine crews are far more skilled that previously thought, (B) that the U.S. Navy is way too overconfident, or (C) both options could be true

   A pure comparison of numbers may not mean much but the Chinese ones average newer and we know at least some of them are quiet enough that the US cannot detect them, so it is at least even money that the real disparity is even more to the Chinese side than the numbers show.

    Another point is that while surface ships are big and impressive and popular with those who want a navy to show off, they are also vulnerable, not just to submarines but also aircraft, missiles and space observation. If you want a navy for use rather than show go for submarines.

     Two other points arise in relation to the current Libyan imbroglio. Firstly, despite all the media coverage of our embarrassing attempts to get our citizens out of Libya , all 800 of them, the Chinese have, quietly and without fuss, got their 30,000 home. Secondly, more disconcerting because it points towards intent rather than just capability, is their decision to support UN sanctions, though not yet military action, against Libya. Previously China has stuck to the position, correct in international law, that unprovoked aggression against other countries is illegal and that internal matters, short of genocide, are internal. That they have changed suggests 1 of 3 things - that they believe Gaddafi is so much worse than some of their friend (Burma, N. Korea) and ours (Thaci in Kosovo, Georgia, Congo) as to be a special case; or that they are more anxious to placate the Americans than ever before; or that they are starting to think of themselves as the potential aggresors rather than victims.. Of these 3 only the 3rd is credible.
       Another point is that China is still building a space capacity, still expecting a Moon landing by 2017. The US, on the other hand has, with the return of the last Shuttle, lost its capacity to put people into space at all, except by buying a ticket on the Russian one.
Discovery Final Shuttle Landing
    Note that I do not object to China getting wealthier, they have earned it and so far at least, have not done it by invading anybody*. I object only to the fact that western governments have deliberately prevented our economies achieving the similar growth we so easily could have.
* I believe, looking at the historic record, that since the industrial revolution produced real economic growth within the normal person's lifetime, no state has been strengthened by taking over a neighbour with a resentful population. Previously this was how "empire building" was done. Nowadays the effort required to increase growth by 1%  for 10 years is far less than that needed to occupy an adjoining province which theoretically would add 10% to national wealth. The only exceptions, which prove the rule, is when the native populations were tiny or exterminated. This goes against most received wisdom but look at the record. The USA expanded into largely uninhabited areas and grew strong - Britain in India and Africa wasted our strength. Germany did well economically despite having no real empire, up until it was taken over by a loony who thought they needed Russian land (minus the population) .  Japan tried to take China as its colony in the 1930s and got mired in an unwinnable war. In the post war period it stayed home and made money. The USSR expended its strength holding down eastern Europe but is now doing well and grew fast in the 1930s too. Croatia, while no super power, has not lost from occupying Krajina, with US aid, because they were ruthless enough to get rid of the population - Kosovo & Afgahnaistan are and Iraq was enormous costs.
  Incidentally the fact that the Moon and Earth orbit are uninhabited is a very strong argument for going there.

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