Marlowe's Shade

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

China Crisis

Thanks to scaramouche for spotting this Mark Helprin piece in WSJ.

China is methodically following the example of Meiji Japan in moving from a position of inferiority to one of military equality with far superior rivals, by deliberate application of a striking phenomenon of economics that is to the military relation between states what the golden section is to architecture. Consider a hypothetical country of 10 million people, and a $1 billion GNP, that devotes 10% of its $100 per capita GNP to defense. The people are left with $90/year, suffering one day in 10 to support a $100 million military outlay. But after 18 years of 8% economic growth and 2% population increase per annum, it becomes a hypothetical country of 14 million souls, a GNP of $4 billion, and a per capita GNP of $285. If the people retain only three-quarters of this, they are still almost two and a half times richer than they were before, and the military budget can safely rise to $1 billion. Thus, the GNP increases by a factor of four, per capita GNP more than doubles, and defense outlays swell by a factor of 10.

...With its new economic resources China has embarked upon a military traverse from reliance upon mass to devotion to quality, with stress upon war in space, the oceans, and the ether--three areas of unquestioned American superiority. China is establishing its own space- based assets and developing the means to counter others. It would neutralize American strategic superiority as the aging U.S. arsenal is reduced and it augments its own. Its submarine program is directed to the deployment of its strategic force and denial of successively greater bands of the Pacific--eventually reaching far out into blue water--to the safe transit of American fleets. It sees America's advantage in informational warfare both as something to be copied and as a weak link that, by countermeasure, can be shattered. In short, it harbors major ambitions.

Helprin doesn't traffic in speculation and points out a recent example of the cunning way China is positioning itself in the world.

An example of China's growing power to interfere with crucial U.S. interests is the new Sino-Persian $100 billion trade agreement, the perfect complementarity of which--manufactures and military goods in exchange for oil and Islamic endorsement--is echoed by the fact that, at present, the chief American counter to Iranian nuclear weapons development is the threat of a trade embargo, which China need not observe, through the Security Council, over which China has a veto. A clue to how the world may yet divide is China's willingness, like America's in the Cold War, to take less-than-perfect states under its wing without a care for their moral improvement. In fact, China must be delighted (what rival would not be?) that America's war aims in the Middle East are conditioned upon reordering the Islamic world, the most inconvertible of all divisions of mankind. Although U.S. intervention is obviously required, the nature and scope of the enterprise as stated is a gift to China worth many years of effort.

Anyone who has played the ancient Chinese game of Go will recognize this gambit.
papijoe 8:29 AM