Greg Autry

Fighting for space, not over it.

Please Don’t Feed the Dragon

The Pentagon has released its annual report to Congress on the “People’s Republic” of China’s rapidly growing military menace and once again, we are presented with a frightening armory designed to rain death on America and her allies. This time around the PLA’s toy list includes a new stealth fighter and aircraft carrier as well as improved ICBMs and nuclear warheads. Of particular interest is the DF-21D missile specifically designed to destroy U.S. Navy carriers at sea.

Let’s just be honest, China is working overtime to assemble the force required to eject America from her role as peacekeeper of the Pacific so that it can have its way with its Asian neighbors. The Vietnamese know it, that’s why they are buying submarines from Russia as fast as they can get them. Taiwan knows it, which is why they are nearly in a panic for higher tech U.S. weapons. Even ancient enemies Korea and Japan are coming together over their mutal fear of Chinese hegemony.

Meanwhile, President Obama says, “I absolutely believe that China’s peaceful rise is good for the world and it’s good for America.” Well, Mr. President, this DOD report details the most expensive “peaceful rise” since Hitler’s, as everyone’s favorite communist dictatorship has once again increased military spending by double digits to a whopping $160 billion. In fact, China has been growing its military budgets even faster than its phenomenal GDP for the last decade.

While China invests, builds and trains, the U.S. military is wearing out its people and its equipment in fruitless desert conflicts and faces a future of painful budget cuts. You don’t need Excel to understand where those two trajectories lead. The question is what can we do about it? Rather than dwell on the obvious fact that we cannot afford another Cold War build up, let’s ask ourselves just how is China funding theirs? Any ideas Wal-Mart shoppers?

It turns out that America’s trade deficit with China – on track to easily break last year’s record $273 Billion– covers the whole thing with room to spare. Imagine if American businesses and consumers had been funding the Soviet Union’s military machine; Doctor Strangelove would have a seizure. Yet, here we are and so we must ask this question:

Why does America do business with a nation that is preparing to attack our allies and threatens our own families with nuclear death?

Further, if the fact they are preparing to kill your kids isn’t enough to send you screaming from the shelves at Target then consider that China also:

1. Delivers a hugely disproportionate percentage of defective and dangerous products, while effectively avoiding liability and burdening U.S. taxpayers with the regulatory costs.

2. Regularly hacks the computers of our businesses, government offices, military, and humanitarian groups.

3. Cheats on nearly every World Trade Organization rule.

4. Maintains a record on human rights, censorship, women’s rights, and religious tolerance that is on par with Syria and Iran – two countries China regularly provides weapons to.

5. Represses the rights of its own workers in order to gain economic advantage.

6. Terribly pollutes its own and the world’s environment for financial gain.

8. Steals our intellectual property and counterfeits our products.

9. Is taking nearly a million jobs per year out of our economy via the reduction in U.S. GDP caused by the trade deficit.

We could write an entire book detailing the personal tragedies and national costs behind each of these criminal acts (and we did). Suffice it to say most Americans accept that these charges are accurate, but have failed to grasp that together they detail a threat much larger than the sum of the parts. China’s dictators love America’s inability to think strategically about the costs of our fruitless China policy. While they are running a carefully integrated game of economic-military-geopolitical dominance America’s diplomats stick with a flailing, tactical plan of “divide and be conquered” from the last century.

Mr. Kissinger’s policy of “engagement” with China was necessary right up to the day the Soviet Union was driven bankrupt fighting a double-ended cold war. Since then it has been little more than a giant subsidy for the expansion of another communist threat and it is America that will soon face default or obliteration.

While U.S. shoppers may think they are saving money and large multinationals reap short-term profits on this trade, it is clearly not in the long-term interest of America to continue business as usual with the Boys from Beijing. If we must, there are a plethora of countries where we can find cheap labor for Wal-Mart without funding a repugnant regime that views us as its enemy.

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Greg Autry is the co-author of Death by China. He teaches Macro Economics at the Merage School of Business, UC Irvine. He writes and speaks on China, space, economics, investing, and business strategy. Please follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DeathByChina

 

What in the world is Informationization? – Part Deux, Good Morning Vietnam!

(This continues Richard Scotford’s insightful Guest Posting on the Chinese military.)

 

With the pressure to achieve full Informationization of the PLA increasing yearly, China certainly is looking for its ‘shock and awe’ moment and an opportunity to test out all its hard work and brand new kit on a pliable enemy.  The good news for the US is that bar any unforeseen incidents that irrevocably escalate tensions in the near-term, the initial recipient will not be the US Navy.  More than likely it will be Vietnam.  Make no mistake though, the ultimate target of China’s Informationization push is the United States.  The driving motors that are moving this ideology forward is the need to counter the US military’s strengths and exploit its perceived weaknesses.

 

You do not need to be military strategists to realize this.

 

The big gorilla in the room

The US specializes in distant force-projection that protects freedom of navigation, especially through the use of aircraft carriers. Therefore Informationization aims to counter this by creating a sophisticated network of information flows that can pinpoint and target a carrier thousands of miles off the coast of China.  Much is lauded about China’s new satellite and missile strike capabilities.  Even Reuters is now reporting that China could soon pass the US in satellite targeting.  Yet, this is only half the story. To truly understand Informationization, one should understand that its goal is to network low-tech devices, such as innocuous fishing boats with high-tech devices, like military satellites. The idea is to create eyes and ears everywhere, all controlled by a central, untouchable core.  In a wartime situation, an all-seeing net will be cast out from China across the seas, leaving the US Navy with nowhere to hide.  Sun Tzu would be proud.

So, when China’s Military White Paper announces that it is working diligently to create Informationization, it means it is sewing together an indestructible web of information-interconnectivity that links up lowly, civilian fishermen, with military UAVs and intercontinental missiles. Whose ultimate aim is to blood the US military before it can get within striking range of Mainland China.

 

Should you be worried?

 

Well, yes …… and no.

 

Firstly, any country, including China, has the freedom and independence to develop its military in any way it wishes.  But, if a country sets up its military in such a way that is obviously designed to counter another’s, then one should be worried.  After all, the US is not and has hardly ever been an enemy of China.  In fact, the US’s history of supporting China is second to none.  In colonial days, it was the US that championed the Open Door Policy. In World War Two it was the US that propped up China in its fight against the Japanese.  In the Chinese Civil War it was the US that urged reconciliation between Chiang Kai Shek and Mao’s Communists.  After China’s self imposed isolation, it was the US that brought China back into the fold and finally it is obvious to all, that China’s spectacular rise could never have happened without full engagement from the US economy.  So, the very fact that the Chinese military’s primary stance is designed to counter the US military is both perplexing and worrying.  As mentioned previously, China is investing enormous resources into creating its Anti Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) and at the heart of this is the concept of Informationization.  The very notion of such a weapon is so obviously anti-American that it is now a bad joke when Chinese generals openly deny it.

 

An equivalent example would be if the US military announced that it would be investing significant money and resources into an intercontinental, dam-busting MOAB.  (MOAB meaning Massive Ordnance Air Blast or colloquially, Mother Of All Bombs. Yes, they do actually exist.)  If the US military actively lauded such a weapon system, showcasing its destructive ability at destroying mega-dams at international air-shows. Just like the PLA does with its ASBM, then it would be clear to all who the potential recipient was, China, despite every country in the world possessing dams.  If this were the case, no doubt you would hear cries of indignation from the CCP about the US’s hostile designs and its duplicitous intentions.

 

So, there is great need to worry that a so-called ‘friendly nation’ is investing so much time and energy into offensive systems that are obviously designed to attack you.  One can only wonder, if this is what the Chinese military thinks is acceptable when relations are congenial, what would happen if relations soured?  With friends like this, who needs enemies?

 

So, what possible reason could there be NOT to worry?

 

Well, back in the real world, the lofty ambitions of Informationization aren’t so easy to achieve. Creating networks that link together fishing boats, UAVs, maritime defense forces, navy, space satellites, the 2nd Artillery and a twitchy, paranoid government is no easy task, especially in corrupt China. One party states certainly are great at launching huge projects, take the Three Gorges Dam and the new high-speed rail links as examples. But this doesn’t mean that the finished result works to the required standard that everyone was expecting.  So, there really is no proof that the Chinese military can put this all together into a coherent fighting system and not trip over its own feet in the process. The Third Front comes to mind as a military strategy that was completely loopy, unachievable and a total waste of time and money.

 

On top of this Informationization has other inescapable problems that are hard to ignore.  Firstly, a battered, old truck connected to a multi-billion dollar, Chinese made GPS system is still a battered, old truck.  A bean-can tank with an indigenous, battle-awareness system is still just a bean-can tank, and a fishermen acting as the intelligence point man in the South China Sea is still only fisherman in a wooden boat.  Even the A-10 analogy is erroneous, because the PLA doesn’t even possess an indigenous fighting platform that comes anywhere close to the A-10.  So, the Informationization concept may well be a good enough reason for the US Air Force to keep the old Warthog spitting fire, but can it really help to integrate China’s creaking Ming class subs with its modern Shangs?  Its ageing Jianwei class frigates with its Type52 Destroyers?  Or its T80s with its T99s? None of which have any combat pedigree.

 

To conclude, Informationization certainly is a lofty goal and a big ask, but it needs to be.  It is designed to overcome a formidable opponent, the US.  Interestingly China is no stranger to trying to overcome monumental obstacles with big ideas.   However, there is a very real possibility that just like The Great Wall, The Great Leap Forward, The Third Front, The Three Gorges Dam, high-speed rail and Hu Jintao’s Harmonious Society Informationization will not be equal to the sum of its parts and will probably be found wanting at crunch time.

Richard Scotford is a freelance writer living in HK.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Chinese Studies from CUHK and writes the China Rising blog at:  http://chinarisingblog.blogspot.com/

 

What in the world is Informationization? – Part One

 

It’s not just Chinese factory owners who are looking to move up the value chain these days. The Chinese military has also been working hard at pouching new technologies and this is now represented it in its new concept for war. – Richard Scotford

 

 

 

(the following is a guest posting by Richard Scotford)

Just what Informationization entails is not instantly obvious by its mishmash of terms and little has been written upon it outside of China.  The most definitive explanation of the concept in English comes from respected China watcher, James Mulvenon, who in a seminar hosted by China Brief, likened Informationiztion to the US Airforces battle hardened A-10 Wharthog ground-attack jet.  Or to paraphrase Mulvenon, the A-10 is a proven piece of kit but is now nearly 40 years old.  Rather than designing something new, which will be costly and time consuming. Why not bolt on some new, sophisticated parts that will enable it to be integrated with other 21st century systems on the modern battlefield?  Therefore ensuring that the proven weapon is not lost and can go on fighting for another 40 years.

In some respects this seems obvious.  Militaries across the world recycle all kinds of weapons for years and years and add-on modern parts. Take the US Armies’ M24 sniper rifle for example, still going strong after nearly a quarter of a century, albeit having lots of new, advanced rivals. Weapons, like any other technology, go through generational changes. This is nothing new or interesting.

 

What makes Chinese Informationization interesting is what the PLA is trying to achieve as it rapidly modernizes it forces.  Effectively, the PLA’s rapid expansion and spending spree is in danger of creating a two or even three tiered fighting force. With the cream of the military receiving all the best kit and glory while the rest gets lumped with old tanks, trucks and ships that date back to the 60s, 70s or 80s.   When CCTV proudly shows J-10 fighters and T-99 Tanks attacking targets in the Gobi Desert these represent the very pinnacle of the Chinese fighting force.   The PLA is the largest army in the world, but unfortunately most of the equipment is outdated and it would be too expensive to replace everything with top of the range gear.  Hence Informationization.

 

In China’s so-called classless state, Informationization aims to bridge the gap between the military haves and the have-nots.  So, like the A-10, the Chinese military is not in the business of replacing the whole system, but instead adds-on some fancy gadget that brings it into the 21st century.  If it is a truck, make sure they’re all connected up to an indigenous GPS system.  If it is an old tank, make sure it gets connected to a battle-presence system that enables it to fight along side the T-99s. Never mind that its armour is about as effective as a rusty tin of beans, what is important is that each fighting system has an unbreakable flow of information that will culminate in a superior battlefield awareness and bring ultimate victory.  This is the principle of Informationization. Utilizing the old and maximizing the new into a coherent fighting force that enjoys unbreakable information flow.  Spending money where it is needed, upgrading and modernizing the old, reliable equipment so it doesn’t need to be scrapped on mass, but instead slowly phased out as better systems come online.

 

Another facet of Informationization also represents being able to disrupt the enemies’ flow of information while maximizing one’s own under adverse electromagnetic conditions.  In order to do this part of the informationization modernization installation.  (Say that after a few beers) The Chinese military has been busy burying thousands of kilometers of communication wires that link up all the various command and control structures across the country. So, effectively making them immune to jamming devices and kinetic attacks. Something an anticipated, advanced enemy, like the US, is extremely good at.

 

So, this is the theory, which all sounds great… and this is why every military in the world is waiting to see how the PLA puts it all together in a modern context.  However, just like many other things in China, things don’t always do what they say on the box, The Three Gorges Dam and the new high-speed rail link to Beijing being two great examples.  Only time will tell if the Informationization concept is the elixir the CCP is looking for to modernize its huge military and asymmetrically counter US global preponderance.

 

Richard Scotford is a freelance writer living in HK.

He holds a Master’s Degree in Chinese Studies from CUHK and writes the China Rising blog at:  http://chinarisingblog.blogspot.com/