Friday, May 04, 2012

Can China Ascend Without Triggering Cold War?

Cold wars, in case you're too young to remember, can be ridiculously ruinous ventures.   Just ask Vladimir Putin.  The Soviet Union came to an end due to Cold War spending when world oil prices collapsed and, with them, its vital source of foreign capital.  Sorry, no, it wasn't Ronald Reagan's doing but, since we're on the subject, it was Reagan's Cold War spending that transformed the United States in the brief span of his eight years in office from the world's largest creditor nation into the world's largest debtor nation.  See where this is going?

Now the world in 2012 seems perched on the edge of another Cold War.   This time the principals would likely be the returning champ and sole true warfare state, the United States, and the upstart, China - Peoples Republic whereof.

The Old Cold War focused on the Fulda Gap, the lowlands between Frankfurt and the former East German border where massive hordes of Soviet Bloc tanks were expected to flood into the West and drive on to the Channel.   The New Cold War  it seems is looking up, focused in space.

"As China continues to develop as a nation-state, it was inevitable that at some point its path forward would drive it to develop its own space strategy. It was similarly inevitable that as China began to do so, its plans would come to be interpreted as additional reason to question the country's intentions.

"For those predisposed to distrusting Beijing, China's plans for space would be additional fuel to the fire regarding their view of China as a strategic competitor. Beyond this point, China's financial ability to entertain manned space travel stands in sharp contrast to American and European fiscal situations where space exploration is likely to be one of many inevitable budget sacrifices.

"A recent report, "China's Evolving Space Capabilities: Implications for US Interests" was commissioned by the Congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC). Released last week, the report acknowledges the important role space plays in a nation's conception of itself as a "great power".

"As the report's authors Mark Stokes and Dean Chen with the Project 2049 Institute write, "... since the Cold War, space technology has been viewed as a metric of political legitimacy, national power, and status within the international community."

"...What ill intent is most troubling to American policymakers? Simply put, the ability of China's space strategy to deny access to American military resources in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.

 "...China now has the ability to peer into the Formosa Strait and surrounding East and South China Sea areas to see real-time movements of US naval equipment.

"...The second advantage China's space-based infrastructure could provide it with is related to Beijing's nascent Anti-Satellite (ASAT) capability. In the event of a conflict, China's ASAT technology could allow it to blind large segments of the American communication infrastructure, making a coordinated response of military assets difficult, if not impossible.

"Beijing's ASAT capability is not only an example of China's growing capabilities in space, but also the speed with which their capabilities have grown. While the Pentagon has many concerns over China's growing military abilities overall, Beijing's ASAT capability remains one of the most vexing.

"...ASAT capabilities are tricky to defend against and would likely present American military planners with additional pressure to launch a pre-emptive strike to disable China's ASAT launch infrastructure, a move that would require deep ingress within mainland China, a move that would make all but certain a broader war

"... Handled properly, reports like the most recent one covering China's building space capabilities point out the facts of what is changing on the ground, and make it impossible for members of the American government to claim that they were surprised should down the road a conflict occur.

"But handled improperly, reports like this can be deeply unhelpful as they feed into a growing narrative over China's military build-up and naive questions from those outside China's borders over why the country could ever need such capabilities.

"Taken too far, people fearful of China's intentions can easily become the equivalent of Germany in 1914. Then, a German government afraid that it would soon be outspent in an arms race with Russia, France and the United Kingdom, elected to attack Russia and France before Germany's military advantage had completely eroded."

"... Thus far, the American policy community has been able to walk this fine line; but as America's economic and political troubles mount, it will become increasingly difficult for Washington's politicians to avoid painting China in similar light as Germany did to Russia and France in the early 1900s."

This excerpted analysis was the work of Benjamin Schobert of the Rubicon Strategy Group, a strategic analysis consultancy firm.   This isn't some journalistic fantasy, not at all.

What does this mean for Canada?  Plenty.  We do ourselves no favours by ignoring the evolution of a true warfare state within the only country with which we share a border and which is our major trading partner.   We do ourselves no favour by ignoring the implications of a neighbour that powerful whose government has become utterly dysfunctional and erratic.   We place ourselves at risk if we ignore that our "lead partner" has become hyper-militarized and now views military violence rather than diplomacy as its principle instrument of foreign policy.

And, more specifically, we need to evaluate the F-35 bomber, in the context of what is underway in the U.S. and the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, not to mention Moscow and elsewhere.

The F-35 is nothing if not a Cold War light bomber.   It is a purely offensive weapon, designed to fly a straight line course to a bombing target and then fly a straight line course back out to safety.   To the extent its stealth technology works at all, it's pretty much limited to that one profile.

We need to reject the nonsense that the F-35 has anything to do with the defence of Canada, especially in our undefended and vast north.

There was good reason for Canadian support for our allies in the Old Cold War.   There are no good reasons for pre-enlisting in the New Cold War.


Anonymous said...

Note the Conservative Spin (LIE) Machine in action in their press releases.

If you dispute the F-35 you are against the troops...

But, how can we be against the troops on a purchase with no defined mission. That is the big issue. Define the mission, then equip the troops. Kind of tough to equip for a purely offensive mission since it goes against the spin. Hence, no mission statement, and free for all tar and feathering of the oppostion.


The Mound of Sound said...

Point well taken, BL. The current Pentagon purchasing czar denounced the F-35 programme as "acquisition malpractice." We're compounding that, quite deliberately I suspect, by avoiding any statement of mission requirements. The Air Force boys want this for a role they don't want to disclose to the Canadian public. They can't say "Cold War light bomber" because that would kill any chance of getting the damned things.