What would war in the South China Seas with China be like? What to expect?



After the Hague decision that China had no rights to the South China Sea, the world waited with baited breath for China’s response. Or more realistically, they waited for the response they wanted to hear. ie That China was going to accept the ruling with some grumbling and everything would quickly go back to normal.

Unfortunately, what came back was live fire drills with Russia, more planes on the island, hardened bunkers (as seen through satellite recent imagery)

In a nutshell, China is going on the offensive and ramping up military deployments and they will happily tell you so. Recent declarations in China State Media make this abundantly clear

“Beijing calls tribunal ruling on South China Sea a farce”
“China vows to protect South China Sea sovereignty”
“Chinese state media calls Australia ‘an ideal target to strike” (for supporting this ruling)
“China to take ‘revenge’ on Australia over South China Sea dispute”

The Communist Party is saying what we don’t want to hear. We want to hear, rule of law, calming down, we will withdraw but we are getting the opposite. So what will a war in the South China sea be like? What should we be prepared for? What can we expect from Chinese military strategy?

Look back to the movie, Hero, by Zhang Yimou for clues. It’s set at the time of the Qin Dynasty. You can see the basic concept in the photo above but essentially it the strategy of taking a lot of arrows and sending them to reach one hard to crack target. I believe this will be the Chinese strategy when it comes to missiles. ie Send a ton in and overwhelm the highly fortified and well protected defenses.

Think about it for a second, how many incoming missiles can a US aircraft carrier defend against? One? no problem? Three at a time, sure. Ten advanced missiles closing in simultaneously? This is where it gets dodgy. How about 400 missiles all coming at the same time? Even if by some miracle the defenses could shoot down 400 missiles, what about the next 400 minutes later? Not a chance. So the Chinese have figured out a very simple but effective way to defeat a US aircraft carrier and send it to the bottom of the sea. Overwhelming force in the form of not very valuable or expensive missiles.

On top of this China has the as yet unknown The Dong-Feng 21 a two-stage, solid-fuel rocket, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile that many believe to be a “Carrier Killer”. However, I think many observers are overlooking the fact that ships simply will run out of defensive ability if endlessly targeted by missiles. So even if one DF-12 isn’t enough. A few hundred would certainly do the trick. And keep in mind that China has highly fortified missile silos all over China’s huge land mass area including granite mountains, Tibet and along thousands of miles under the Great Wall in the North. Add in capable submarines and the fact that most Chinese missiles can be launched from mobile heavy duty trucks that can run on standard Chinese freeways and you have a mess indeed. Recent Fortifications to South China Seas Military Base

Okinawa is within range of Chinese missiles. It’s a fixed location and somewhat of a sitting duck if targeted in such a manner. The sheer size of China, number of soldiers and amount of missiles makes Okinawa’s security in great doubt.

People Power: Chinese civilians
When China wanted to ramp up pressure on Japan in the Senkaku Islands / Diaoyu Islands, they did something very ingenious. Suddenly in Chinese State Owned media, reports popped up suggesting that the Diaoyu Islands are a fantastic place to fish. Plenty of fish and plenty of profits for fishermen who go there. Not only that but these were traditionally Chinese waters, so whoever goes there, is a real patriot! Next thing we knew Chinese fishing boats en-mass were heading to the islands.

Chinese State Owned Media picture of Chinese fishing boats going to Senkaku Islands after gov suggest going. Coincidence? lol
Chinese State Owned Media picture of Chinese fishing boats going to Senkaku Islands after gov suggest going. Coincidence?

This surprised the US and Japan who were expecting military ships to intervene and complicated matters significantly. Is this simply a criminal case or is this an invasion? Japan never could get it right to be honest. They sprayed ships with water but the ships kept coming. And they still keep coming. Only Indonesia stopped Chinese fishing boats completely. They shot and sunk them. Japan wasn’t willing to do this. So the waters get more and more murky as time goes by.

Speaking of Japan. Remember the internment camps in WWII. When the US treated innocent Japanese civilians like traitors. Well this was not a successful strategy and has dogged the US ever since. So this next issue get stickier and more complicated. Basically, after Tiananmen massacre, the Chinese government implemented a nationalist educational agenda. This has been very successful in bringing the Chinese together as a nation.

It also is a possible contributor to many overseas IP thefts by Chinese nationals who have been indoctrinated for years about how China was taken advantage of and it’s gems stolen by foreign powers. And that now is the time to rise up and take these things back basically. So when someone steals IP from abroad as a nationalist hacker, they are applauded as being a patriot.

But if this were it, I don’t think the strategy would have been so successful. Much like my fisherman example, they were motivated by success first and secondly by nationalism. In the fisherman’s case, they could stop fishing in overfished waters and move into untapped area full of sea life. They could take and sell the bounty for themselves. And they were a patriot! Great combo.

China knows human nature better than other countries. Simple as that. They set up circumstances such that they are not just begging their citizens to take things but they give them a clear path to economic success that is superior to them not stealing.

For example, when the Chinese government wants a certain technology, let’s say genetically modified corn. They first announce it from State Media. So people all over subtly are made aware of the governments new policy. Then, if they say, steal advanced genetically modified seeds and take them back to China, the government will allow them to set up a laboratory in China.

But the benefits don’t stop there. The person who stole the seeds will get access to funding beyond imagination. To make the most advanced lab he desires and to hire top notch researchers from universities and opportunities to create similar seeds in China. After this process is complete, he has help local or central government to sell and market his seeds across the massive China market. Afterwards, Africa, Asia and finally the world.

It’s a very tempting offer. A young researcher grinding away in a some lab in Chicago could suddenly be a minor hero in China with his own company, well financed, more modern equiptment and a much higher social status as the president of a cutting edge biotech firm. AND he is a patriot. So the nationalism only comes in after the satisfaction of human needs as Maslow so aptly stated.

How can other countries fight this one? Certainly they can’t or shouldn’t jail innocent people. But the effectiveness of this system is undeniable and will certainly cause enormous financial damage so some response is necessary but what? Till now, there is no answer. And I don’t have one either. But I realize something is needed because this tactic is undeniably attractive to highly educated Chinese abroad.

State Owned Enterprises

State Control of Money and Information
State Control of Money and Information

According to recent US government reports, the Chinese Communist Party owns and controls over 50% of Chinese GDP. Let that sink in. The Chinese government owns companies that form the backbone of the worlds second largest economy. Rail, banks, telecommunication infrastructure, steel, airlines, computer chip makers and many more. And these SOE’s main directive is to forward the parties objectives. Profit is a distant second to reaching China’s goals as seen in the 5 year plans and many others.

State Owned Monopoly
State Owned Monopoly

Huawei, very likely owned by the People’s Liberation Army, for example is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, having overtaken Ericsson in 2012. So when you hear budgets for military and how the US is so much larger than any other country you have to realize that these are bean counters who know little about the real world. How much does China spend on defense? It’s impossible to say other than it’s very likely many multiples of the figures bantered about.

Huawei is famous for hacking Nortel Networks and having access to the Nortel Networks President’s desk level for 10 years! Ten years! And Nortel owned much of the famous Bell Labs basic research data. It got so bad a few years back that Huawei manuals actually had Nortel logo’s printed on them! Canada and the US lost some of the most valuable information man has ever known. I believe that Huawei was built on the back of this research data. And that’s what makes them so powerful. It’s no copycat company. They are able to innovate with this basic scientific knowledge.

So in the case of war with China, any adversary will have to treat State Owned Enterprises as essentially part of China’s military aparatus. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Without a doubt, these companies #1 objective is to fulfill their role in helping the Communist Party to achieve it’s goals. So will the US bomb civilians working at State Owned companies? It’s a tricky thing. What would you do if you were fighting the US and Microsoft, Cisco, EMC, Google and Facebook were owned by the US military? If US generals had offices and desks inside these corporations? Not hacking mind you but government mandated backdoors and access to all levels of the facilities, personal data?

As with the civilian fishing boats, China’s State Owned Enterprise strategy makes it very difficult to fight in a real wartime situation. And gives military planners unprecedented access to data both inside China and internationally. How do you handle this? Bomb Huawei in the UK and Canada? This gives China advantages the US can only dream of. And buys them valuable time in the event of war. New rules must be established, Things must be proved. Courts will certainly be involved. Think of how much clearer a US military ship is. It’s US, bomb it! Simple. Not so simple with the Chinese SOE’s.

China has said that they are preparing for a short, extremely destructive war in the South China Sea so I can only assume that they somehow see a weakness in current military defenses or targets. The million dollar question is what do Chinese military planners see? Is it the ability to sink US carriers? A hack that could take South East Asian electric grids? The ability to easily take out US military forces in Okinawa?

If you can come up with the glaring hole you can stop the upcoming war. If there is one thing I know about the CCP is that they are very practical. If the weakness they see is covered, they will change their plans. I’m guessing they see a weakness that will allow them to have a short, destructive war that they can control and end early with them gaining some major advantage. These are very smart guys. Love to get your input.


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