Red tide rising
A few years ago, politicians, economists and military analysts calculated that Communist China might be able to deny access to the western Pacific by 2025. Their calculations were wrong. China threw down the gauntlet this summer and claimed sovereignty over the seas from Vietnam to the Philippines, and from the Leizhou Peninsula to oil rich Borneo. While the Pentagon makes plans to further weaken our navy, Pacific trade routes are slipping under Chinese control, our Asian allies are drifting toward Beijing, and freedom of the seas is fading.
As usual, the White House and the State Department have got it exactly wrong. Instead of building powerful peacekeeping forces, President Obama tried to buy off China by declaring the communists to be our “partners” and by offering military exchanges, visits by Chinese officers to sensitive facilities, and other gifts of military expertise and cooperation. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the diversity-obsessed Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, cheerfully helped Beijing take full advantage of the White House policy of appeasement.
The ultimate intentions of our “partner” were revealed on July 29th, when Beijing ordered naval exercises with a command to “…soundly prepare for combat,” and then announced China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was undoubtedly shocked that Beijing was neither interested in her idea of a code of conduct, nor impressed by President Obama’s incomprehensible policy of “soft power.” Playing his role in those bizarre initiatives, Admiral Mullen said he was only “curious” about China’s growing armory of powerful ships, submarines, satellites, missiles and aircraft. These days, with analysts calculating the Chinese navy will surpass the U.S. Navy by 2015, he admits he may be “concerned.”
Economists who viewed China as a Third World economy, dependent on exports and locked into buying ever more of the mountain of American debt, are now as befuddled as our politicians and admirals. China’s economy has surpassed Japan’s to become the world’s second largest, after ours, and could be first by 2025. That should not be too difficult. With an annual growth rate topping 9% every year since 1978, China should blow past us long before then. Communists have less than transparent accounting systems, so the figures may be suspect, but what is not suspect is that China now uses more energy than any other nation in the world. They passed us four times faster than predicted. That means Chinese heavy industry and infrastructure are growing at breakneck speed, and will need to devour even more energy and raw materials. China is muscling up its military to be sure it gets what it wants, when it wants — no matter who objects.
Besides growing an economy resembling a metastasizing tumor, China is taking an aggressive stance in the areas of finance, foreign affairs, and offensive military capability.
- Dagong Global, China’s leading credit rating agency, downgraded US debt from AAA to AA and elevated China to an AA+ rating. After selling $35 billion of US bonds, China now holds less American debt than Japan. Beijing is bailing out of risky dollars and buying into sounder currencies.
- Over 10,000 Chinese “workers” are in Pakistan “helping with flood relief.” In fact, they are digging mountain tunnels to build a safe route for China’s future energy supplies. On our side of the planet, Beijing is spending $5 billion widening the Panama Canal to ship raw materials from its projects in Africa and South America directly to China.
- Already budgeting for space warfare, cyberwar, and an army of 1.25 million, China will soon add aircraft carriers to its navy of 275 ships. Besides nuclear submarines, ships, and aircraft all equipped with anti-ship missiles, China will also test a ballistic missile that kills aircraft carriers 1,000 miles away. U.S. Navy access to Taiwan and the western Pacific is ending.
In addition, China has choked off access to vital rare earth metals. The United States once had a domestic supply chain of these metals, from mine to refinery. No longer. China drastically undercut the world market price, our mines and smelters closed, and Beijing now produces 97% of the world supply. One month ago, China’s government cut rare earth export quotas by 72%. That was no small thing.
Rare earth metals mined in China, like samarium and thulium, are essential for the Abrams tank, the Hellfire missile, the Electric Drive Ship, the Aegis radar, and a myriad of other hi-tech defense and commercial items. Because Washington refused to understand that China has no intention of being our “partner,” we have been ambushed. It will take fifteen years to reopen domestic rare earth mines and refineries.
Are we doomed to drown in a rising red tide? Not yet. But there is much to do and very little time to do it. President Obama’s “soft power” policy is a dangerous folly, and a new Congress must use all means to end it. If they fail, a future president may be forced to bow to Chinese despots as well as Arab kings.
Chet Nagle is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the author of Iran Covenant.