Evan Moore | Correspondent | Tuesday, February 12, 2008
According RAND, China's defenses, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), has identified the U.S. military's reliance on information systems as "a significant vulnerability that, if successfully exploited, could paralyze or degrade U.S. forces to such an extent that victory could be achieved" against Taiwan.
The writings RAND analyzed were not official war plans but the opinions, analysis, and recommendations of the Chinese military community.
The Chinese leadership believes that the key to victory over the U.S. is achieving tactical surprise, according to RAND.
The report quotes one Chinese military expert as saying that taking the U.S. by surprise would "cause confusion within and huge psychological pressure on the enemy and help [China] win relatively large victories at relatively small costs."
In such an attack, the Chinese would blockade critical sea lanes in the Taiwan region and strike American logistics facilities, command-and-control centers, ports, airfields, and aircraft carrier battle groups in the area.
China could also launch cyber-attacks against American computer networks, physically destroy orbiting spy satellites, and launch an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) strike to deaden U.S. electronics systems in the region.
Based on the U.S. experience in Somalia, the Chinese experts cited by RAND think the United States has "a limited capacity to withstand personnel casualties."
The U.S. military apparently is well aware and not surprised by the RAND findings. At the core of China's overall strategy, analysts say, rests the desire to maintain the continuous rule of the Chinese Communist Party.
"A deep-rooted fear of losing political power shapes the leadership's strategic outlook and drives many of its choices," the U.S. Defense Department reported to Congress in its 2007 assessment, "The Military Power of the People's Republic of China."
"The PLA is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity adversaries," the Defense report noted.
China's ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited, however, and analysis of China's military acquisitions and strategic thinking suggests Beijing is preparing for the possibility of regional conflicts, according to the Defense Department.
"Current trends in China's military capabilities are a major factor in changing East Asian military balances, and could provide China with a force capable of prosecuting a range of military operations in Asia - well beyond Taiwan," the Defense report concluded.
"If we were to park an aircraft carrier in the Taiwan Straits, that would be (interpreted as) an overt act of aggression against them," said a senior Air Force official, who spoke to Cybercast News Service on condition of anonymity. "I think that the greatest fear is that something happens in cyberspace that pushes this into a Hot War."
The unnamed American official predicted that the Chinese might eventually "hit" an economic pillar of American society, prompting a military backlash from the U.S.
Others are less fatalistic but still intent on warning Americans about the nature of the threat China poses for the United States.
John J. Tkacik, senior research fellow in Asian studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that he is not convinced China wants to do anything to provoke the U.S. into "an all-out rearmament campaign to deal with China."
"Their strategy is to influence U.S. public and congressional opinion to calculate that defending Taiwan would be too costly," Tkacik told Cybercast News Service, "and induce the U.S. to pressure Taiwan into capitulating to China without a fight, in much the same way that Britain and France pressured Austria and then Czechoslovakia in 1938 to give in to Germany without a fight."
China, he noted, will likely increase its pressure on Taiwan in direct proportion to the expansion of its military power, but Beijing seems to have learned the lesson of Germany, Japan and now Iraq, "not to push the pressure beyond what its military forces can support."
Moreover, China claims territory all around its periphery - exerting severe pressure on Japan to give up the Senkaku Islands, and on Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines to give up their claims to islands in the South China Sea. It also seeks part of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradeshis.
Tkacik strongly doubts that simply turning Taiwan over to China to avoid hostilities is likely to pacify the Asian tiger.
"Appeasement after threats to war only increases the likelihood that (China) will continue its threats to war as an instrument of diplomacy," he said.
Americans, he concluded, need to be warned of the threat that China poses.
"Unfortunately, China is acting like an enemy already, yet American policymakers refuse to tell the American people this," Tkacik added.
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