Proxy Wars

China.

There’s many in the American Military-Industrial complex that think we need to prepare for a war against them as the greatest “near peer competitor.”

I tend to agree with many who believe that an outright war with China is highly unlikely due to the fact that, generally, it’s a bad idea to fight with your banker.

But war, like taxes, is relatively inevitable on some level. It usually erupts due to local conflicts. Why would we fight with China? They’re over there and we’re over here. The probability of their doing something sufficient to enrage us to the point of open conflict is relatively nil, I’d say. However, China has many documented issues with neighbor India, not the least of which is the dispute over Tibet. But India, much to their credit, is working on getting up to speed

New Delhi is sensitive to lagging behind Beijing’s naval might in the region. China has three times the number of combat vessels as India and five times the personnel. Officials are wary of port developments in neighbouring Pakistan and Sri Lanka that offer Chinese warships anchorages and potentially greater control of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

Speaking at a seminar on naval self-reliance in New Delhi, Capt Bhatnagar said it was a “strategic necessity” for India to develop its own naval shipyard capabilities to avoid “being held hostage to foreign countries in a crisis situation”.
“China is developing its navy at a great rate. Its ambitions in the Indian Ocean are quite clear.”

If I was a betting man, I’d say the next great conflict will begin like all others. A regional conflict begins, and other powers choose sides based on allegiances forged and promises made.

Then stand by for the fireworks.

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15 Responses to Proxy Wars

  1. Niall says:

    India may envy China’s progress, but I don’t think Indians actually *fear* China. India is far too obsessed with the threat posed by Pakistan.

    China and the US will continue to shadowbox over Taiwan, and the only conceivable deployment of CHinese forces would be to take Taiwan swifly and decisively, and thus deter any American counterattack. Whether they could actually pull this off is anyone’s guess.

    The other factor, often overlooked, is that China really has no allies. They are feared by all of their neighbors, and treated with great suspicion. Their human rights policies win them no friends in Europe. They are re-enacting the 19th century by trying to win “friends” in Africa that will let them extract all the natural resources they need, but this will only end badly, as it has for everyone else who has tried this.

    The real potential conflict is not between the US and CHina, or between India and China. Rather, it’s between Russia and China. In economic terms, Siberia is gradually becoming a Chinese sphere of influence, with Chinese traders and settlers swifly filling the population void left by the Russians themselves. In the long term, this creates a powderkeg.

    Which is why it’s always hilarious to read the Russians designating the US as their main enemy. How long can they continue to ignore the creeping threat to their back door? And there’s no question the PLA could wipe the floor with the current pitiful state of the Russian military.

  2. virgil xenophon says:

    While it’s true that there were constant border clashes along the Amur river during the 60s-70s with the SU, I would think that there is nothing really IMMEDIATELY VITAL to their relationship in the same way Taiwan is to the PRC. And while it is factually correct that much of China’s investment money comes from Taiwan and that the US is China’s biggest trading partner, never under-estimate the extent to which ideology can overcome logic and economic self-interest.

    Germany’s biggest trading partners were England and France pre-WWII, but that didn’t stop Hitler. And LBJ kept thinking he could bribe a fellow “politician” with the prospect of a US paid TVA-like project for the Mekong Delta
    but Uncle Ho had other ideological fish to fry, so the logic of economics and finance fell on deaf ears. Might as well throw in the self-delusional Japanese under Tojo who believed that a Pearl Harbor would cause the FDR Admin to sue for peace.

    History is strewn with the dead bodies of people unfortunate enough to be sacrificed upon the alter of wishful-thinking and/or ideological induced blindness.

  3. Niall says:

    fyi:

    http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Moscow_Facing_A_Complex_Chinese_Challenge.html

    And prior to Hitler’s rise, Germany was in total economic collapse due to the Depression and the Treaty of Versailles. It was hardly trading anything with anyone.

  4. virgil xenophon says:

    Naill/

    Germany under Hitler was a rising economic power
    (though in many ways an artificial one via admittedly ultimately unsustainable government monetary/fiscal policies) who DID have major trade with England and France, however, so I would hold that my point still stands.

    As for sparcely pop. Siberia, yes, in many ways what is happening their in terms of Chineese settlement patterns is in ways somewhat like is happening in America’s SW with the Mexican influx of feet people. But as the article you link to itself suggests, the more immediate Chinese concerns are Taiwan and the US. Eventually? Perhaps, as you are right, the potential is there, but unlike Taiwan, it is a far more amorphus, long-term situation.

    My parting comment is that the Chinese-Taiwan affair is a familial one involving much the same race with shared, much disputed, bitter histories. You know what they say about how truly nasty family disputes become when Dad dies and everyone is squabbling about dividing up the household keepsakes, and with the losers in the reading of the will busily hiring lawyers to contest it.

  5. Niall says:

    Under Hitler the Germany economy was militarized, and most of the new economic activity generated during this period was related to Germany’s military build up. Recall that under the treaty of Versailles most of German industry was under French control. This accounts for France as Germany’s main “trading partner”. So it’s kind of true by definition. In fact, during this period Germany’s largest trading partner was the Soviet Union, under the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. This trade was mostly off the books, since it was illegal according to the Treaty of Versailles.

    The problem for Russia in re China is very real now, not in the future. Because Russia is obsessed wtih reestablishing its former Soviet sphere of influence over the Baltics and the Caucasus and central Asia. Yet it is already losing its sphere of influence in the East, and slowly ceding it to China.

    In any event, Russia is a has-been power, and all of Putin’s foot stomping has not reversed Russia’s irreversible military and social collapse. It will not be a major player in our life times. Already it has no leverage over the US, and soon it will have none over China. It will become the Venezuela of northern Eurasia.

  6. fastnav says:

    I don’t think I ever said India *feared* China, only that they were concerned with building up an armed force to counter their growing influence in the area.

    And all of this discussion about Russia/China relations is great, but my point is that the dispute between China and India is active *right now* There’s no need to generate one vis a vis border immigration into Siberia, or over economic influence. There’s a very real, physical immediacy to the conflict.

    Another point to consider is this: China’s economy is also feeling the effects of the worldwide economic woes. When the economy goes bad, people start bitching. The easiest way to unite your people is to get into a fight with an outside entity.

    China won’t fight Russia because, has-been or not, they have too much stuff. It would be picking a fight with an equal opponent. india, however, is someone they might think they can take on and win.

    Then again, this is all conjecture anyway.

  7. Niall says:

    I’m not sure in what sense we can say that enmity between India and China is now “active”. Could you clarify that? I think in fact they’ve been on their best behavior with one another.

    Enmity between Pakistan and India is, however, absolutely “active”, as I pointed out.

    In re Russia and China: I think the whole point is that Russia doesn’t have much “stuff” at all. It’s navy is in irreversible decline. It’s air force is crumbling. And it’s army was barely able to defeat the Georgians. China, on the other hand, has a military that dwarfs Russia’s both in terms of equipment and effectiveness. Since they both have nuclear weapons, any advantage in that department is automatically neutralized.

    Not that the two will ever go formally to war. It’s just that Russia lacks the military or economic clout necessary to deter China in any given instance.

  8. Niall says:

    Did it occur to you that a Pakistani newspaper would not be an unbiased source in this matter? Nothing would please Pakistan more than for Indo-Chinese relations to be in the toilet.

    Here is a more balanced view of the state of Indo-Chinese relations:

    http://www.livemint.com/2008/01/13230735/IndiaChina-relations-now-have.html

  9. fastnav says:

    It did occur to me. And it also occured to me that an article that is over a year and a half old may not be the best source either.

    But the real point here is that China has problems. internal problems. We don’t hear much about them because, well, it’s China.

    I’m willing to bet they’ll poke at someone else in order to distract from internal pressures. It may not make sense to do so, meaning there may be no real gain for China or strategic importance of the move. Just serving as a distraction would be the purpose.

    Here’s some more current info.. and hopefully less filtered/biased than a Pakistani website (good ZING!)

    http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/03/10/could_china_and_india_go_to_war_over_tibet

    http://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1808926

    Of course, there’s the Chinese stating that all things are awesome. The question is, how much salt goes with this interview?
    http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/09/stories/2009040955800900.htm

  10. Niall says:

    I don’t know that China’s internal problems are greater than India’s. Both suffer from certain amounts of violent separatism, and the legitimacy of both governments is based on their ability to deliver prosperity. China has unquestionably been more efficient and successful at modernizing its military, and there’s no comparison between the diplomatic clout China exercises on the world stage, and India’s. China is perceived to be a player on the world stage, whereas India is only seen as a regional power.

    The last time China decided to “poke” someone was when they invaded Vietnam in 1978, and they got their asses kicked. Of course, that was 30 years ago and the PLA has improved a lot since then. However, the fact remains that the political dangers of losing a conflict are so great, that it’s unlikely that China will engage in military adventurism. They know fighiting and losing a significant conflict will lead to the overthrow of the Communist Party. This is why China is so knotted up over Taiwan. They would love to invade, but they know if they lost that would be the end for the current ruling class.

    I think it hurts the Indians to realize how little India matters to China, and to see how far China has pulled ahead of India during the same time period. This is perhaps what fuels talk of some kind of active hatred or rivalry between the two. It makes India feel important. In the same way Canadians are always fantasizing that the US is about to take something from them. Same psychology.

  11. Niall says:

    BTW: Did you win the HP Netbook? I have one and it’s a sweet machine.

  12. PG says:

    The only superpower these days that actually go to war is the U.S. If you look back in modern history China is not really a country that invades or preemptive strikes another country; at least nothing of significance. So what makes anyone think they’ll do so in the near future?

    I’m sure it’ll be a dream come true for many Americans that the almighty Communist Death Start Regime is finally toppled. Yes, China is the U.S.’ banker and both have strong ties in trade, but I don’t think many Americans would lose sleep over a potential demise of PRC. But with all the anti-China sentiments and xenophobic attitudes that exist everyday, Americans and everyone need to understand that the U.S. probably needs China (to be around) just as much, if not more, as any of their allies. So let’s all get our head out our asses and leave the war mongering to the talking heads on TV.

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