The Debate

A Rebuttal To “China’s Real Blue Water Navy”

“…our position isn’t that China’s military is on the verge of global supremacy.”

(Editors Note: The following is a response by Greg Autry, co-author of the book, Death by China, to a recent piece by Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins article: China's Real Blue Water Navy)
Your piece of August 30, "China's Real Blue Water Navy" seriously misstated the argument in my book, with Peter Navarro, Death by China. The article framed its opening with this out of context quote: “The People’s Republic is moving forward at Manhattan Project speed to develop a blue water navy capable of challenging the U.S. Navy.”
Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins used this snippet and an insulting tone to establish a strawman argument. The implication was that I believe the PLAN was on the verge of bombing Pearl Harbor or invading San Diego. Having established a spurious opponent, the authors then spend several pointless pages proving the obvious – that China is not about to invade America like some scene out of Red Dawn (before that film was edited to appease Beijing's sensibilities).

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Erickson and Collins ignored the balance of our narrative and left the reader with the implication that just because China is rapidly building up a more assertive navy – they obviously are – and wish to displace the U.S. from the Western Pacific – nobody seriously believes they do not – that we believed they were something near unstoppable and that there was no balance in this situation. Nothing could be further from the truth and acknowledging that our book is not subtle (it is written for the general public, not diplomats or analysts), we were very clear about that.
Examples of text from that chapter that Erickson and Collins conveniently omitted include: "any frontal assault by the existing Chinese Navy would not get within 50 miles of such a fleet [U.S. task force] in open waters" and "in a dog fight, the American F-22 fighter would likely down its Chinese counterpart in a New York minute. So too, would the USS Ronald Reagan and its armada almost send any of China's new aircraft carriers to Davey Jone's locker in short order."
The point being that our position isn't that China's military is on the verge of global supremacy. Our argument is that the Chinese regime is increasingly aggressive and irresponsible and that their military is getting to be good enough to be dangerous. Further, it is growing so quickly that despite the quality or nature of any one component, it will be big enough to to move from just dangerous to very dangerous. A very dangerous military in the hands of paranoid, totalitarian ideologues should be a serious concern for every nation in East Asia as well as for the United States, regardless of its relative effectiveness or any analysis of its actual purpose. Their article did us all a disservice by dismissing that position out of hand.