By the year 2012, or 2017, or 2022, what are the chances China’s military engages US forces?
Difficult question. But one which is better than asking the title question—because nobody goes to war anymore, we just have “conflicts.”
Your author does not pretend to have a definitive answer to the question. Instead, I have a small collection of evidence which appears probative. This is only a sampling. See the DOD report on China’s military for more information.
Any number of casus belli are possible, the main being Taiwan declaring itself what it is, i.e. de facto independent. Contretemps with India are more than a possibility. Already, there have been several clashes of Indian and Chinese naval forces. And then there is Japan which, though somewhat anemic militarily speaking, has, or probably has, the full backing of the U.S.A, but which also has a peculiar relationship with China. There is no love between these nations.
I think the chance that China engages anyone but the US is high, increasing as time progresses. The chance of direct US involvement is small, but the chance of indirect involvement quite high. This might be nothing more than parking a carrier in the Taiwan Straight, with that country’s permission, of course.
- Taiwan’s presidential election is just three months off. In the lead is incumbent Ma from the KMT, a party when leans on reconciliation with China. His opponent is Tsai Ing-wen (whose first name is literally “English language”) is of the DPP, a party which is pro-independence.
- China’s military builds apace. They have a new aircraft carrier, bought other vessels from Russia, new subs (albeit diesel), aircraft, are developing a stealth fighter (which they, surely coincidentally, first tested when old Joey Biden paid a visit to that country), have “begun operational deployment of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile system”, have “117,702 males of military service age available for conscription each year,” etc., etc. Of these increases, Admiral Mike Mullen stated, “I have moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned.”
- China has had several brushes with Japan, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines, some merely for the sake of antagonism, others over disputed boundaries on water and land. Most of the new missiles she is building are pointed at Taiwan. China claims it owns the water right up the shore of the Philippines. “[I]n late July, a Chinese ship attempted to intercept an Indian warship, the INS Airavat, off the Vietnamese coast…India has stepped up its defense ties with Vietnam, winning access to naval ports while helping Hanoi ready a new fleet of submarines.”
- The Chinese Communist Party-run (and written) Global Times “called” on Beijing “to declare war on Vietnam and the Philippines” when those countries defended their own waters. The paper did so in an op-ed entitled, “A good time to take military action in the South China Sea.” Quote: “Do not worry about small-scale wars; it is the best way to release the potential of war. Play a few small battles and big battles can be avoided.”
- In a public document Hu Jintao listed as first priority protecting and shoring up the ruling regime. Social harmony came in at number three. But in that line, an American Idol-type show called Super Girl was yanked from TV because State censors found the show “subversive because the audience voting too closely represented Western-style democracy.”
- China owns over $1.5 Trillion in Treasury Bills—which we would not, if attacked, feel compelled to pay back. The country will need this money when its real estate bubble pops, as they always do. That bubble swells: there are an entire empty cities of unoccupied spanking new buildings.
- Patriotism is on the rise in China, where the citizenship, with plenty of good reasons and some bad, still smart from the drubbing they took in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the “century of humiliation” as they call it. Every theater in the country was made to turn all screens dark except for showings of Beginning of the Great Revival, a hagiography of Mao as an idealistic young man in love, the time before his syphilitic whoring and dispassionate murdering began in earnest. Reports are that the movie was liked.
- China is building Azmat class fast attack craft for Pakistan. These craft are “equipped with advanced weaponry and sensors, including the C802A surface-to-surface missile, and [have] stealth features.” Pakistan will use these weapons to attain “peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”
- China continues its business with Iran where the “volume of China’s imports of Iranian crude rose about 50 percent in the first seven months of 2011.” Hillary is on it and has “stressed the need for continued Chinese restraint in investing in Iran’s energy sector.”
- The Obama administration was cowed by Chinese We-Won’t-Like-You-Anymore threats when it decided to not sell Taiwan new F-16s, which would have replaced that country’s aging wing of (crash prone) F-5s. In Obama’s favor, there is a widespread belief, or at least rumor, that Chinese spies are filthy in Taiwan’s military. A Taiwanese military-written white paper tacitly admits this. Some say that selling Taiwan arms is like awarding China blueprints. Taiwan is countering Chinese missiles with its own “Wan Chien” or “Ten Thousand Swords” missile system.
- The US military is shrinking. “[T]he U.S Navy needs 328 ships compared to the current 284…the U.S. Air Force will have a tactical aircraft shortfall of an astounding 800 planes in the next few years. The Navy and Marine Corps are projecting a 200-fighter shortfall in the same time period.”
Update I neglected to add China’s ever-growing and blatant use of hacking.