How China Would Fight the US (And Win)
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How China Would Fight the US (And Win)


An interesting article in the Want China Times considers the rise of China’s military and its capabilities — now and in the future.

The piece notes: “While the People’s Liberation Army continues to acquire more advanced weapon systems, it will still take China at least 30 years to compete with the United States and build the world’s most powerful military force…”

My own opinion: We would need to break this down in terms of looking at the various branches of China’s military across different domains, but who cares! Beijing certainly doesn’t.

OK, some explanation is needed for such a bold assertion.

Modern militaries are designed with certain objectives in mind. While Beijing is clearly focused on a possible challenge by U.S. forces intervening in some sort of future conflict (yes, A2/AD comes into play), China’s armed forces are designed to win, according to most experts, “local wars under informationized conditions.”

Clearly, not every situation under this concept has Beijing’s security professionals worried about American intervention or some sort of plane to plane, ship to ship match-up between the two. And that is exactly how Beijing likes it — for the time being.

Simply put: China does not need to match America symmetrically, only to defend what it defines as its “core interests.” An asymmetric strategy suits Beijing’s aims just fine in this regard.

In looking at some of the domains Chinese forces operate in, not every single one assumes America as the main adversary.

For example, in discussing China’s land forces — in which the article actually references Dennis Blasko, one of the world’s best analysts on China’s land forces –  one needs to ask who Beijing would actually be fighting on land these days? Things in Central Asia look quite good for Beijing, with no pressing challenges to consider at the moment. Sino-Russian relations are quite chummy, and there is little to no danger of a fight between these two giants. In fact, China’s lack of concern regarding Russia has allowed it to pour resources into other areas of its armed forces. Beyond peacekeeping forces through the United Nations, China does not seem intent on deploying land forces overseas anytime soon, and clearly not against American forces. It would be a waste of resources to devote vast sums of money to land forces where there is no rival for China to be concerned about in the near-term. Clearly, Beijing is modernizing its land assets, but not at the speed of other areas where it faces much more robust challenges.

This brings us to China’s forces on the high seas — a domain where Beijing has devoted considerable time and energy. Looking at Beijing’s rivals in the South China Sea, if a conflict were to develop between China and pretty much every other major claimant (with the exception of Taiwan), Beijing would defeat its rivals quickly and with relative ease. One of China’s biggest irritants in the South China Sea, the Philippines, has very few maritime assets at its disposal. Its best vessels are ancient U.S. Coast Guard ships, hardly a match for Beijing’s latest destroyers or land-based missiles.

China’s dispute with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is obviously very different. The Japanese Navy is one of Asia’s best. At the moment, I would give the edge to Japan’s Navy in a one to one matchup with China based on its level of skill, training and sophistication. However, considering the large amounts and growing accuracy of Beijing’s missile forces, and its new class of anti-ship ballistic missiles, nothing could be assumed once the bombs start falling. In time, however, considering Beijing’s growing military budget, focus on 5th generation fighters and increasing naval register, Japan will be hard pressed to hold onto its advantages.

And that brings us naturally to the showdown everyone loves talking about, the much discussed U.S.-China military comparison. While it makes sense for even the most accomplished scholar to try and make direct comparisons of the two nations’ armed forces, the important point is this: Beijing certainly doesn’t.

Chinese military planners have stated time and time again they have no plans to try and match U.S. forces ship for ship, or carrier for carrier. China’s military — at least for the moment — is much more focused on the area around the first island chain, while America’s defense planners are focused on projecting power globally — two very different missions.

This is why understanding China’s much discussed “counter-intervention” strategy or A2/AD is so important. China intends to make things as difficult for America in the event of a conflict as possible. Why bother developing multiple carrier battle groups that would cost billions to build and billions more to maintain? If China can use large amounts of cruise and ballistic missiles, modern conventional submarines, sea-mines and other less costly assets to keep U.S. forces far from areas of contention or do real damage in a fight, that would suit Beijing just fine.

Unfortunately, a simple comparison between militaries is not as easy as the headline writers would have us believe. The true test for a nation’s military is quite simple: can it achieve the goals its leadership lays out and the internal goals it sets for itself? Sadly, that does not lend itself to a sexy headline (although we’ll do our best…); however, this is the question we must ask of China’s military today and going forward.

Michael Keith
April 18, 2014 at 12:21

If US go to war with china both countries will lose than what they gain out from the war

Michael Keith
April 18, 2014 at 12:19

Go to war between US and China , both countries at last will not gain any benefit out from the war.

charles munangi
February 9, 2014 at 16:26

usa has been concentrating on making and upgrading weapons since ww1 up to now so china must keep quiet

Revolucion Immortal
April 11, 2014 at 23:54

You underestimate China, and something that has been left out is that if the U.S were to attack China, China would crash the U.S economy…people tend to forget China has the advantage of economic warfare on their side

April 12, 2014 at 17:24

We could crash the Chinese economy by not paying our bills back.Mutual assured economic destruction.Plus it would crash China’s largest market for their goods.It would make no sense to open hostilities.Bad for business for both parties.

Fred Bosick
February 7, 2014 at 10:09

Asymmetric warfare is a good strategy for China, but while considering how to neutralize our carrier groups, there’s a whole ‘nother force to consider. Because the US won’t go in unless an ally is attacked, China has to contend with two, or likely, more navies.

As North Korea regularly reminds us, the US and other regional navies conduct yearly drills. How many has China conducted with friendly navies? If only Russia, it won’t help because Russia will have to invent an excuse to participate. We aren’t looking at Vladivostok. Except for Japan, our allies don’t have the economic power to float a navy equal to China’s, but should China and the US square off, those other navies have room to operate because a carrier group will grab all their attention.

February 19, 2014 at 00:23

Very true. Right now, the US Military has enough forces to make a good fight on the coast and with the missile range of all other carriers within in the Middle East.. Playing a part will come quickly.

In addition.. if the US goes to war with China, all dept is wiped clean. China may veto now but when push comes to shove, they won’t loose a good meal ticket.

January 21, 2014 at 02:59

china defece budget 110 billion
usa defence budget 800 billion

before chasing usa china have to confront india and deal with it as long as india is growing economically and military china wont be able to catch up with usa

never forget india is considerd 4 th biggest military power right after usa russia china so there is no point of saying china can defeat usa ….
while no one can even say that china can defeat india for sure

March 21, 2014 at 17:27

China and India have several military agreements, and to be honest if there was a war, India would most likely side with China and Russia.

India in the past 5-10 years have been inching more and more towards russia and china.

April 8, 2014 at 11:55

India will never ever slide with China; NEVER. India is still trying to get back the land that China took over during Indo-China war. It was Kennedy who helped India by stopping China at Kashmir border. Don’t forget China and Pakistan are friends. No way it will step in that direction. And if any case if it’s neighbor cousin country Tibet is free, India would be more happier than anyone. Tibetans would love to join in India and India has been accommodating the Lamas. If USA is willing to part ways away from Pakistan, India will join US or stay neutral and still support with supplies and information in US and China war. Before you fart, think in all directions.

January 18, 2014 at 15:00

Very funny we would overwhelm China with old tomahawk cruise missiles. Possible a few nuke tipped at their missile ICBM forces. While we bomb from air possibly using black technology. We can use space based kinetic weapons if we need to go super deep. China is easy if we need to win.

January 17, 2014 at 04:41

@Chivonsky i get what you’re trying to say, but when you exhibit their dependency on foreign oil, it only highlights demand. It doesn’t on any level prove that they can support themselves via domestic only production. They now have, what, almost 40% of the world’s population? Highly unlikely they’d sustain in a global war for very long if their imports were heavily sanctioned or cut off. Consider that the US’s military foothold in the middle east is far more prevalent than that of. China’s, and that is a massive advantage from the start. America needs only to step in the way and china’s oil intake is heavily reduced or nearly nonexistent.

January 8, 2014 at 11:58

First. You can’t really say who would win a war because it depends on the situation and who is the belligerent. If America attacks China it is possible that the Chinese military would be able to repel US attacks due to man power. But if China were to attack the US it would be impossible because the US has Naval superiority. China said that they would not use Nuclear Weapons unless Nuclear Weapons were launched on them and I believe the Chinese Government. But the US advantage would be it’s aircraft carriers as aircraft carriers provide Naval and Air superiority. China has been developing a carrier and right now has a prototype but they have crashed alot of planes in the water during take out an landing. Their pilots just don’t have the experience to compete with the Navy and the Marines in addition to that not having a catapult system on the carrier puts them at a big disadvantage during deployment.

How do I know the things? I was a part of the United States Navy and Surface Warfare is our business.

But, and this is a big but. From what I gathered watching relationship building exercises between the Marines and the PLA is that the PLA are trained the deal with and fight in harsher conditions. I’ve seen the US Marines and the PLA run the obstacle course in friendly competition and watched as each PLA soldier smoke a Marine off the line. They also do freeze training where they bury each other in the snow shirtless. I think that is pretty hardcore. But back to my point. It depends on the situation. Size doesn’t matter. Japan conscripted all of their males young and old and the US defeated Japan. It just really depends.

January 1, 2014 at 03:24

US depend more on electronic and computers for every day life. China can easily intercept the satellite system. Americas expensive ships and fighter jet will be deep trouble. Us debt will force itself into its knee when there is real war. Us dollar will collapse and economy will shrink to 2 trillion dollar ppp. America will become like an evangelical church serving the whole nation for free. China and India where as capacity to with stand with technology and without technology will end up as a winner in these situation.

January 6, 2014 at 01:21

The US owns and controls the GPS satellite system and the Military has its own GPS system to use only when it is needed. Why America will never loose is because of it’s military defiant system, it’s nuclear subs are instructed to wipe out most of the world’s major systems in a last ditch effort, Americans will never surrender and would rather wipe out all life on earth before doing so.

December 18, 2013 at 13:57

Someone above pointed out the most important point… Regardless if China catches up militarily in 30 odd years, they have no viable allies. In the region, the US has unwavering close ties with powerhouses Japan, South Korea, Australia as well as lesser but still important countries like the Phillipines and, ironically, Vietnam. Sure Russia is aligned with China but only insofar as their mutual loathing of the West is concerned. those two have decades of mutual distrust and border disputes… Russia supporting a Chinese war… Lol… Not quite

Robert K.
December 8, 2013 at 06:42

Simon you can’t be serious right? Bhutan… a fedual monachy where over 90% of the population still doesn’t have internet access. Sri Lanka a divided country that recently settled a Civil war and still doesn’t have a unified government. The last 2 I wouldn’t even really count as Chinese “allies” but countries that are using other countries to get ahead and are playing both sides. Hardly things i would call allies. Also add to the fact China is perversely anti-Islamic and then get back to us. Not really much of friends if they have their own problems. Also Bangladesh provides 80% of the UN soldiers, so pretty sure their more neutral then “friends”. They don’t want to screw-up remittances that make up 30% of their GDP.

The US has no reason to even be concerned with the Indian Ocean. Why need allies there if you have a giant Naval and Airbase that you run in the region (DIEGO GARCIA). All the countries you have called China’s friends are unstable countries, but hey whatever you want to try to prove a point. You can see how many friends China has based on how well Asean seems to be treating them. There is a deference based more on fear then respect there. That fear tends to not lead to alot of trust and friends. I’m pretty sure alot of Asia can see a strong China in their backyard is not a good thing vs. one who is thousands of miles away and for the most part is always pre-occupied.

Robert K.
December 8, 2013 at 06:30

Chivonsky the RMB will never be a international foreign currency because of the amount of fraud in the currency. About 40% of it is fraudulent and there is a reason the actual Chinese government bought US treasury bonds. WHY??? because the US dollar is a much more stable and reliable currency then even their own RMB. Go to China and see how many cashier’s check even the lowest denomination of dollar if you don’t believe me. Also the “middle class” that you speak of is still a very small percentage in all of China. And even this new middle class is beginning to Chaff under the restrictive rules of the government. Authoritarian governments usually don’t fare well with a growing middle/burgher class of people. These are the sort of people that demand rights and start revolutions. This is how feudalism and monarchies ended. But go ahead ignore the potential class warfare now. China growth is based on foreign investment in it’s cities but even now these companies are moving factories to lower southeast asia. Look no further then what happened to Rongshang Shipbuilding Company in China.

Also their techincal expertise is compareable but their innovation is just a slight improvement on the tech they have borrowed from other countries. For innovation, that is not encouraged in primary school so you have a people not trained to be inventive. What facts do you have that China has actually innovated a new product? China admittedly has passed the US in green technology but you seem to forget the reason why. Why??? they are DESPERATE for energy and need to be very economical on how they use what they have. The great 3 gorges dam was a huge building project that now give China .00001% of its energy. It’s virtually negligible what it help ease. It’s these same reason a resourced starved, surrounded by neutral, hostile, competitve countries that China starts in a way tougher situation then the US ever will be. That’s if the pollution and it’s lax laws all in the name of progress doesn’t kill their people first.

Joe Zhifu
January 31, 2014 at 11:51

Robert K. Sorry to correct you but 0.00001% is actually 27 units of 700 mw turbines or 8% of China’s capacity. 3 Gorges % of the total is getting less each year as China are increasing capacity by 8 to 12 % a year. Each year they increase capacity by more that the total UK’s capacity.

Kelvin W.
December 8, 2013 at 06:13

I love that many our commenting on China, yet have never visited there. Also comparing military strength’s is one thing but focusing on one narrow area at a time is wrong. None of the straight China vs. USA comparisons matter as there are too many outside forces that will effect the outcome. The USA has allies both militarily and in the vicinity of China. The US economy is also more tied globally then China’s is. The US is now less relient on foreighn oil and has it’s own natural resources. China does not and the reason for it’s most recent land grabs are soley to address this. Also China doesn’t have the capacity to even feed it’s own people. China also, if you ever visited you would know this, has a huge gap between rich and poor. The US isn’t perfect but there is actual social mobility. In China the rich stay rich and being born poor means being poor forever. China will have a huge social class fight exactly like the industrial revolution and unions in the 1800′s in the west.

In an actual war, China is surrounded by countries it has had border disputes with. Countries that this writer has neglected to mention such as India, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Tibet. Country that will fully take advantage of an occupied fighting China.

China internally isn’t as a united country as people think it is either. With Tibet and the Uighers in the west wanting to break away already. Then you have the Hunan and Southern Cantonese which aren’t happy with the Mandarin dominated orders from the north. The only “way” your arguing the China can beat the US is essentially, “”"uhhh USA will run out of money”. That is a horrible premise as China will run out of oil and energy first within 6 months. More then 4/5th of their energy is from overseas, and last i checked China has NO BLUE Water navy. Neither does it have the supply, logistics, or allied ports to even support this capacity. In a war their oil will be cutoff so quick that they will need to invade a Asian neighbor and thus inflame the region against them.

December 2, 2013 at 11:36

I am not from USA but i am from Europe, i study militarial and economic concepts and it is clearly written in history and the books, China would be unable to defeat USA in a war, both sides may have suffered alot but if USA puts an embargo on China, USA starts to gain back its wealth and China goes into a depression, plus we are forgetting here USA has many more allies than china, and whom of which believe china are their enemy, now who sounds belive that China could ever win………

December 2, 2013 at 11:35

I am not from USA but i am from Europe, i study militarial and economic concepts and it is clearly written in history and the books, China would be unable to defeat USA in a war, both sides may have suffered alot but if USA puts an embargo on China, USA starts to gain back its wealth and China goes into a depression, plus we are forgetting here USA has many more allies than china, and whom of which believe china are their enemy, now who sounds belive that China could ever win

December 2, 2013 at 00:59

The American economy and monetary system is on the verge of collapse. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. The country actually holding the lever of the trapdoor is China. However, China has issues of it’s own. They have built entire ghost cities in an attempt to keep growth at a level to sustain it’s population. Neither country can sustain this path. If one looks at history the best way out of a global monetary mess is a massive global war. It’s coming. Not a matter of “if” but “when”. If China shuts off the money tap America’s economy collapses within a month. In the end, knowing this, the Americans may bluster and wave a broken stick in China’s direction but they won’t dare have direct conflict on a large scale with China. China owns America both in debt but also in property. They have been buying up large chunks of the USA.

January 27, 2014 at 11:59

Micheal China doesn’t hold the lever of the trap door and it’s no a matter of when it’s if and china only has 8% of Americas debt.

March 23, 2014 at 17:56

Micheal ia right Dan , china has invested un us govt binds3.8-4 trln dllr in usa 15.6 trln dollar economy and not inly that whatever trade surplus they get they invest them in us too plus if china throws all the treasury bills at obama’s face all together . Do you even know what will happen ?? No recession will be there rather us will go bankrupt. Thats the reason why us never fidels with chinese . Bush once came to china huriedly just to apologize over some issue.

November 6, 2013 at 22:46

Dan, your views are more than limited.

First, USA depends highly on China and other foreign nations for finacing their fiscal budget every year. Though US has the world's most traded currency and is able to print them at very low cost, the situation is not going to last for long as China is seriously stepping up its gold reserves instead of continously buying USD. China is marketing RMB aggresively as a regional trading currency before it steps up the game and compete with USD internationally head on. A superpower that is build on debt is of no real superpower.

Second, though China is increasingly dependent on exports revenue for its economic growth, it has some serious domestic demand and this demand is increasing rapidly thanks to the prospering, consumption-driven middle class and the accumualted wealth of the previous generations. Hence, China's strong domestic demand will bring about inflation in the economy and deflation is highly unlikely, thus the so called 'lost decades' experienced in Japan will not happen. This strong demand is most obvious when China overtook USA as the world's largest oil importer.

Last, if you assume China's high-tech products are not comparable to that of the western world, then you are seriously misinformed. Do some self-research and you will see why. From transportation to telecomm to energy production, their tech is pioneering the world. They make some of the world's cheapest and most efficient solar panels and they are also building one of the worlds's first fusion power plants. Their potential is umlimited and soon their innovation will catch up like Japan did in the 80s and 90s.


November 5, 2013 at 09:25

Haha what a load of rubbish. CHina would be in poverty without the west buying what it produces. Where was China before the US set up shop. China has to lend to the US< absoulty has to, and it does  so by buying US treasuries, (hardly a leverage point seeing as this is paid in US currency). If the US and West falls and stops buying China falls with it.

November 26, 2013 at 00:14

As a communist country, with a relatively poor populace accustomed to poverty and hardship, they can survive an economic meltdown.

On the other hand, the US is dead broke. The government cannot function day to day without borrowing money. The military is an extension of the government, and you don’t expect soldiers to work or risk their life for free. The people are also less resilient. How many Americans are accustomed to real poverty, compared to the Chinese?

If the people do not have the guts to sustain a protracted war in small countries like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, I think they would be squirmish about the potential bodycount from the invasion of a continental sized country. In WWII, Japan had to deploy one to two million men just to hold on to its occupied Chinese territory, which was only 1/3 of China.

The Truth
February 15, 2014 at 11:07

False. Capitalism survived more than Communism ever endured. Communism is just basically draining the current resources that you already have by making everyone poor. Then giving to all equally, it doesn’t encourage creativity or motivation for the people to work since the government pays it all. When people don’t work hard, the harvests would be failed because everyone stays at their houses. Capitalism on the otherhand, it encourages people to work hard with the philosophy that mostly all the times works. You work hard, you earn more! That is the beauty of Capitalism.
Beside to clarify you, US public owned 80% of US national debt while China and other nations owned 2% of that bunble. Chinese elites are escaping China to the foreign nations like US. Chinese kids are also being white washed by US mass media which it is a good thing, rather than Chinese culture. Otherhand, China is destroying itself by extending its survivality by using lies and food or resource imports.

Revolucion Immortal
April 11, 2014 at 23:58

“China is Communist”(laughs)
When will people realize China isn’t a real Communist nation, they are far from it..actually no country in history has ever fulfilled true Communism, that’s why we have never seen it work because of the fact that it has never been truly implemented

October 30, 2013 at 14:29

@Steve what's stopping the US in the Indian Ocean? Pretty much the fact that the place is squashed with China's friends-Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh,

January 10, 2014 at 03:42

@Simon – China’s friends-Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh,????
Are you out of your mind. Except for Pakistan rest all are under India influence and dependent on India for survival and even created by India (Bangla) Including Nepal. Plus these countries don’t even have any navy to speak of.

Zhang Meng
February 22, 2014 at 16:31

Most of East Asia and South Asia alike view Pakistan as a terrorist nation, and India as where Buddhism came from.

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