Friday, 22 July, 2022 — Moon of Alabama
The U.S. weapon industry needs U.S. enemies. Without those it is hard to justify an ever growing war budget. The most lucrative enemy, besides Russia, is of course China.
But there is a problem. China has no interest in being a U.S. enemy and certainly not in being THE enemy. In its view that only takes away resources that are better used elsewhere.
That is the reason why China avoids talks with the U.S. about military and strategic issues.
CIA columnist David Ignatius thus laments:
ASPEN, Colo. — Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang assured a foreign policy gathering here this week that Beijing wants “to reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation” with the United States. If that’s true, why does China continue to resist a U.S. proposal to discuss “strategic stability” between the two increasingly competitive countries?
What have talks about ‘strategic stability’ to do with reducing misunderstanding and miscalculation? The later can be achieved in very simple low level talks between ambassadors or politicians. There is nothing ‘strategic’ needed about them.
President Biden said on Wednesday, before his covid-19 diagnosis was announced, that he expects to talk with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the next 10 days, and a senior administration official said the president’s agenda will include a renewed emphasis on the risks in the relationship, and the need to establish better communications. But, so far, the official said of the Chinese, “they haven’t taken us up” on a U.S. proposal for the stability talks.
The Chinese do not see and do not want instability so there is no need to talk about it. What they sees is a U.S. trick that would make it possible to designate China as an ‘enemy’.
Ignatius’ next paragraph demonstrates that:
This difficulty in developing a Sino-U.S. dialogue about strategic issues has frustrated the Biden administration. An important lesson of the Cold War was that nuclear-armed superpowers must communicate to avoid dangerous mistakes. But China has resisted arms-control talks even as it expands its nuclear arsenal, and as a result, it hasn’t learned a common language for crisis management in the way the Soviet Union did.
China is not in a Cold war with the U.S. It does not see itself as a U.S. enemy. There is no reason then to talk in Cold war language:
Biden first proposed the talks in a virtual summit with Xi last November, saying the two countries needed “common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” according to a White House statement at the time. Items on the agenda for such talks would include expansion of a 1998 agreement for avoiding maritime incidents, measures to avert dangerous military activities, and plans for a hotline and other crisis communication measures, the administration official said.
If there were more agreements over incidents and military activities would the U.S. be more or less aggressive in its action against China?
Why does the U.S. want a hotline and crisis communication? Would they not help the U.S. in provoking more incidents than it dares to do without them?
Rather than embracing what former Australian prime minister and China scholar Kevin Rudd calls “managed strategic competition” in a new Foreign Affairs article, Beijing insists the United States should return to its old policies of supportive engagement, which facilitated China’s rise. Like nearly every other Chinese diplomat I’ve encountered over the past decade, Qin often repeated the phrase “win-win cooperation,” which China sees as a cure-all for its increasingly testy relationship with Washington.
What is bad with a ‘win-win cooperation’? Why replace that with ‘strategic competition’?
China wants to have it both ways as a superpower: flexing its muscles without being seen as a bully. Xi has been explicit in his “Made in China 2025” plans for dominance of major technologies. But China “has difficulty in recognizing the relationship [with the United States] as competitive,” the senior administration official said. Instead, it responds to criticism from the U.S. and Asian regional powers with a wounded tone, as though to say, “Who, us?”
Lots of countries have lots of plans to have dominance in major technologies. The Netherlands (and German) have such a dominance in extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, needed to make modern computer chips, as well as in several other fields. Other countries, France, South Korea, Japan, Russia, the U.S., have other industry sectors in which they are globally dominant. That is just the normal way of global capitalism in which countries seek to do their best not in all fields but in those in which they are better.
Framing a strong and sustainable U.S.-China policy remains the Biden administration’s biggest long-term challenge, despite the current preoccupation with the war in Ukraine. Beijing is the only competitor that could genuinely challenge the United States militarily, officials believe. But Ukraine has complicated U.S.-China policy — for both sides.
Now we come to the point. How please could China genuinely challenge the United States militarily? By invading Mexico and Canada or with a big landing force that threatens Los Angeles and New York? Why would China want do that?
Xi was surprised that the Biden administration, which the Chinese expected would be weak and ineffective abroad, has been able to rally global support for Ukraine. But despite Xi’s wariness of incurring sanctions, he remains firmly aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the senior administration official said. Hopes that the war might encourage a break between Beijing and Moscow were misplaced.
Ignatius has forgotten to take his meds. The ‘global support’ is the NATO, EU and the 5-eyes spying cooperation. Those are some 34 countries out of the 193 UN member states. Why did anyone expect that China would not take the neutral stand that the majority has taken? Those who did should be send back to school to learn a bit about rationality.
Enough with that blubber. Ignatius, like many other people in the Washington DC bubble, does not understand China and makes no effort to learn about it. These people just mirror what they think the U.S. would do and project that on a country that thinks in very different terms.
Another example of these ‘thinkers’ is Elbridge Colby:
Elbridge Colby’s The Strategy of Denial offers a blueprint for containing and combating China’s rise in order to preserve American freedom, prosperity, and security—emphasis on security. The argument turns on a very specific vision of China’s plans, which Colby does not attempt to link to actual Chinese policy or strategy for achieving hegemony in East Asia. The resulting prescriptions, although they’ve been lauded by some, are fatally flawed.
Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development from 2017 to 2018, believes that China could pursue a “focused and sequential strategy” of threatened or executed “wars against isolated coalition members,” starting with Taiwan. He fears Beijing would do this in such a way that does not trigger a regional war but culminates in Chinese hegemony in Asia.
To prevent this, Colby believes the United States must pursue a “strategy of denial” to preserve U.S. dominance in Asia.
The problem is that there is no evidence that there is an actual ‘Chinese policy or strategy for achieving hegemony in East Asia’.
Colby provides no sources that claim such. He made up the ‘threat’ because he things that is what the U.S. would do if it were China.
The most glaring flaw is that Colby works off what he thinks China’s strategy should be, not the evidence about what it actually is. This is a particularly bad approach to analysis, because it makes mirroring or speculation easier to smuggle into predictions of adversary behavior.
A good defense strategy requires an understanding of how the expected adversary plans to fight. Yet he does not engage with Chinese military doctrine, Chinese strategic thought, or the robust debate in the United States about Chinese strategy and ambitions. Instead, he argues that because of uncertainty about China’s strategy, the United States should simply focus on China’s “best strategy” for winning Asia. In Colby’s words, “a state’s best strategy does not ultimately depend on what the state’s leaders think it is” because it relates to “objective reality.”
In consequence of his ‘garbage in’ process Colby’s output is likewise garbage.
Building a response according to an adversary’s “best strategy” also makes you much more likely to miss what that adversary is actually doing. Colby defends his approach of strategizing based on China’s “best” strategy by claiming that “Defeating a bad strategy is easier and less costly than defeating a good one.” Therefore, if the United States prepares for China’s best strategy, any real Chinese strategy should be even easier to handle.
In reality, the defense posture and investments needed to defeat an adversary’s “best” strategy might be significantly different from those needed to defeat an adversary’s second-best strategy.
Colby’s book is not about strategy but about spending as much money on a U.S. position of aggression towards China as possible:
Colby proposes that an American-led coalition impose a strategy of denial on China, blocking China’s ability to traverse the 80 miles of the Taiwan Strait. How to put the bell on the cat?
“Defending forces operating from a distributed, resilient force posture and across all the war-fighting domains might use a variety of methods to blunt the Chinese invasion in the air and seas surrounding Taiwan.”
The US and its allies might “seek to disable or destroy Chinese transport ships and aircraft before they left Chinese ports or airstrips. The defenders might also try to obstruct key ports; neutralize key elements of Chinese command and control … And once Chinese forces entered the Strait, US and defending forces could use a variety of methods to disable or destroy Chinese transport ships and aircraft.”
Colby leaves what means we might employ here to the imagination.
Like the first reviewer of Colby’s book this one also criticizes his factless starting position:
It isn’t so much that Colby gives the wrong answers. He fails to ask pertinent questions about Chinese intent and technological capability. Instead, he gives us a pastiche of generalities that obscure rather than clarify the strategic issues at hand.
In brief, Colby depicts China as an expansionist power eager to absorb territory, citing alleged Chinese designs on the Philippines and Taiwan on a half-dozen occasions – as if China’s interest in the Philippines were equivalent to its interest in Taiwan.
Garbage input producing garbage output topped with militaristic fantasies do not create a good strategy.
The problem is that in the next republican administration Colby will likely have another high Pentagon position.
That makes such dumb thinking a danger for the world.