China’s Navy – Is Washington Paying Attention?

While we’ve been preoccupied with weighty matters from Afghanistan to Wall Street to the Gulf of Mexico, some historic events have been happening at sea.

China is moving aggressively to build a navy with capabilities far beyond national defense. Late last week five U.S. senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates demanding to know when the Pentagon is going to release a planned analysis of China’s military buildup. The report is five months late. The senators’ letter said “China’s extensive military buildup is alarming, as are its potential implications for U.S. national security.” It seems reasonable to wonder what inconvenient findings by military analysts are being scrubbed clean before the report is released, in hopes of not offending Beijing.

That cynical view is not helped by knowing Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently called China’s naval buildup “aggressive.” He says he’s gone from being “curious” to “concerned.” The rest of us should be concerned, too. Very concerned.

The leaders of Communist China have heard all the breathless hype about their nation’s rise as a global power and how it may become the world’s emerging superpower. That suits them just fine because China is nursing a passel of grudges about perceived slights from other nations. After all, they reason, the Chinese culture and the intellectual abilities of their people are superior to the West.

The Chinese conveniently overlook the fact they wouldn’t be an industrial power if greedy multinational corporations hadn’t stormed in and established an industrial base for them in hopes of making bazillions of dollars in profits by selling an endless supply of consumer goods to China’s hordes of people. It hasn’t worked that way in the dealings between the capitalists and the communists. Beijing got the better end of the deal. Oops.

The Chinese conveniently overlook the fact that technological innovation is virtually non-existent in an authoritarian society where The Party tells people what to think and how to think it. The China “miracle” was no miracle at all. In many cases naïve and gluttonous corporate masters of the universe gave away their hard-earned production secrets as the price of building factories in China.

The Chinese conveniently overlook the fact they sent thousands of students to America’s best research universities where many of them worked like slaves as grad assistants for professors doing federal grant-supported  advanced research. In turn, many of these Chinese grad students stole U.S. government-funded R&D findings by the boatload and sent the info back home to enable China to swiftly catch up to U.S. innovation through plain old fashioned thievery. The pilfering hordes remain on our campuses to this day, encouraged by university administrators who salivate over the tuition potential from the East.

Thanks to American greed and naïveté China is now the 800 pound gorilla of global trade. They see a need to have their submarines prowl the world’s sea lanes to protect Chinese shipping interests. Foremost among China’s shipping interests is the unimpeded flow of oil and gas from the world’s oil fields to the factories and cities of the People’s Republic. Oil dependency is about the only thing we have in common.

China - Diving in to sea power.

Many military and global security analysts and experts are fixated on when China will launch an aircraft carrier. Only a few have noted that China is moving aggressively to build a fleet of submarines, instead of a costly floating landing strip. China is believed to have 62 submarines. The U.S. has 72. The diplomatic striped pants crowd can spin this any way they wish but the fact remains submarines are weapons platforms of aggression.

While we’re busy chasing a few hundred Taliban/Al-Qaeda zealots through the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan/Pakistan, China is busy building port facilities at key points from the Arabian Sea to key strategic points along the Indian Ocean, which happens to be a major oil tanker route. One of the Chinese port operations is in Pakistan, our supposed ally in the war on terror. These ports can double as submarine bases if China needs that capacity to ensure a steady flow of oil for its Western-built industrial base.

Some jingoist American flag-wavers like to boast that China has a long way to go – years – to match the U.S. Navy. These rah-rah boys ought to get sober.

They need to remember China’s “inferior” navy embarrassed ours big-time in 2006 when a Chinese submarine, undetected by all the sophisticated technology in an American carrier battle group, surfaced within torpedo range of the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier near Okinawa.

It is a mistake to think China’s navy must match ours sailor for sailor and torpedo for torpedo in order for them to be a serious threat to our navy. China knows our strengths and weaknesses. That’s more than we can say for most of the people in Washington who decide the strength and capabilities of our navy in a time when our new Cold War foe – China – is working feverishly to build a sea warfare fighting capability of its own.

Some of our smug national security thinkers would do well to remember this saying from Sun Tzu, a fabled Chinese warrior: “Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.”

2 Responses to “China’s Navy – Is Washington Paying Attention?”


  1. nelson hoffman

    It is great to have an experienced investigative reporter write with no ax to grind, not a paid mouthpiece of private interests.
    50 years have passed since I studied Sea Power as an NROTC student. But that learning has served me well.
    But those same fifty years have brought business contact with China. This article is so much a part of the story of how much superior China’s big picture strategy has been proving to be.
    I pray our nation’s leaders are thinking in terms of global stategy for a nation which has sacrificed its Industrial Might to unsuccessful foreign policy.
    Nelson hoffman -nhoffman1@dc.rr.com

  2. David

    A lot of people say China military is overrated. US complain with China aircraft carries, but the world forget, even India has aircraft carries too.

    US complain with China plan to build military port in the Gulf, but Japan recently new military port ignored.

    The conclusion is simple. US extremely paranoid with China.