This is out of our normal range of activity, but I thought it important. You might not initially find it so, but what follows is yet more evidence that the End of History is not quite yet.
The Obama administration has bowed to Chinese pressure and has broken a promise to our bound-by-Congressional-act ally Taiwan. The USA has decided, after hearing discouraging noises from Bejing—that land of opportunity and the promise of easy money—not to sell Taiwan the 66 F-16 C/D fighter aircraft it promised to sell them.
Our government will instead allow Taiwan to be sold a “retrofit package” to upgrade, slightly, its aging wing of F-16 A/B aircraft. The Taipei Times reports, “‘The switch is meant to soften the blow of denying new planes to Taipei,’ a source at Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-16, told Defense News.”
China has its greedy eye on Taiwan, and will have it. China needs living space, among other things, and likes the idea of pushing its territorial waters further into the Pacific. Its bluster and bullying have convinced our Nobel Peace Prize Commander in Chief to let Taiwan wither, while China, not practicing what it preaches, bulks itself up.
China has just completed its first sea trial of its spanking new-old aircraft carrier. It is new in the sense that many of its parts are right out of the box. But it is old, too, because the shiny new bits have been added to a used carcass, what was once the Soviet carrier Varyag.
According to Xinhua, the official government Voice of the People (whose voice is determined by the committed communist party Politburo of twenty-four fine folks), says the warship is necessary and “reasonable for China’s peaceful development.” It comes in peace!
The BBC says, “The PLA has invested heavily in submarines. It is believed to be close to deploying the world’s first ‘carrier-killer’ ballistic missile, designed to sink aircraft carriers while they are manoeuvring at sea up to 1,500km (930 miles) offshore, and it is building its own stealth fighter aircraft along with advanced carrier-based aircraft built from Russian designs. ”
Close on the Christening—or is it communising?—of the ex-Varyag, is the unveiling of the T-50 fighter aircraft, which will be put through its paces for a Moscow airshow audience, beginning tomorrow. China will, word has it, buy some of these new weapons.
The T-50 fighters, if bought, will augment China’s wing of not-yet-perfected J-20 stealth aircraft (the J-20 is supposedly a reversed engineered job from a crashed American jet).
Taiwan, in celebration of the Varyag’s launching, decided to parade its latest anti-ship missile to defense reporters. According to the Taipei Times:
In a blunt departure from tradition, the military yesterday displayed a model Hsiung Feng (“Brave Wind”) III (HF-3) anti-ship missile with, as a backdrop, a large picture of a burning aircraft carrier that bore a striking resemblance to China’s retrofitted Varyag, which embarked on its maiden voyage earlier in the day…
Next to the burning carrier were the Chinese characters for “carrier killer,” also the first time the HF-3 had been described as such.
Word from down Pentagon way is that “China’s aircraft carrier ambitions should not threaten regional security and stability.” In a further non-statement, as reported by the China Times (a Taiwanese newspaper), the Pentagon said, “China’s development of an aircraft carrier is not a surprise, and these operations are in line with our expectations.”
It was so “in line” with expectations that the same week the Varyag became wetted, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sailed easily into Honk Kong harbor. There, among its various duties, it provided a tour to the 2011 Miss Hong Kong Rebecca Zhu and her court.
The Ronald Reagan fights in the heavyweight division, while the slimmer Varyag is only a welterweight. Bookies therefore have set the odds decisively in the American’s favor. Which may be why China began recently, what many consider to be, a rumor campaign announcing their own super-secret “carrier killer” missile.
Meanwhile, the appeasement strategy worked: China ceased giving the stink eye to Mr Obama. And to people anxious that other countries “like” us, this is terrific news. But it does give a teenage, Facebook-like feel to diplomacy.
The Defense News puts it in perspective:
There are fears that losing Taiwan could spell the end of U.S. power projection in the region. Losing Taiwan would “change everything from the operational arch perspective to the posture of Japan and the U.S.” in the region, said Raytheon’s Asia president, Walter Doran, a retired admiral who once commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Admiral Doran understates the case. A militarily strong, and increasingly nationalistic China, a country sure to feel the sting of its bursting real estate and other financial bubbles shortly, is clearly something to worry about.
Update Comfortably employed, and far removed from the Pacific and its inhabitants, professor Charles Glaser discovered that if he moved his theoretical game pieces a certain way, China could be made happy and the risk of nuclear war between them and the USA would be lowered. Glaser wants, to use the vulgar phrase, to throw Taiwan under the bus. Writing in Foreign Affairs, he argues that the independent Island nation should be given to China as a gift. Which is awfully generous of him, especially since he doesn’t own it.
Glaser admits that critics of his pillage-for-free plan counter that “Beijing would not be satisfied by such appeasement; instead, it would find its appetite whetted and make even greater demands afterward—spurred by Washington’s lost credibility as a defender of its allies.” He then goes on to “prove” that critics are wrong by arguing, “The critics are wrong.”
And such is academia.