China’s Islands Building Wins in South China Sea and Then in PacificPosted: June 17, 2017
On May 12, Ely Ratner, the Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow in China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, published an article along with Samir Kumar titled “The United States Is Losing Asia to China” .
I posted my comment on the article on June 14 titled “Why the United States Is Losing Asia to China?” to make my analysis of the reasons why the US has been losing Asia. I point out that the US has lost due to its own problems and that China has done nothing to grab Asian leadership from the US.
Unhappy with US loss, Mr. Ratner published another article on Foreign Affairs on June 13 titled “Course Correction: How to Stop China’s Maritime Advance” to give US government his advices on the measures that the US shall adopt to stop China’s advance in exerting full control of the South China Sea, including revival of Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the adoption of some other measures with similar effects to TTP to put an end to ASEAN countries economic dependence on China and providing weapons and military support for them to stand up against China in the South China Sea.
Such measures will certainly be economic burdens too heavy for a hard-up US to bear. In the final analysis, however, Mr. Ratner does not want such US efforts to result in a war with China. He believes that such measures will force China to retreat as China fears a war with the US.
He simply does not understand the Chinese dream that Chinese President Xi Jinping has used to overcome the serious split between conservatives and reformists and make China a united nation.
Chinese people cherish the Chinese dream due to their memory of China’s misery of being bullied by foreign powers for nearly a century. They want the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation to make China strong to be able to resist foreign bully, which now comes from the US, the only hegemon in the world now.
In 1947, China published its map with an 11-dash line (9-dash now) encircling most of the South China Sea to show its historical claim. The map in fact means that the South China Sea is China’s lake. The US did not oppose as at that time China was very weak and depended on US support for its claim. At that time, China’s lake means America’s lake for US politicians and military.
Unfortunately, there has been regime change and China’s unexpected rise. Now China has grown so strong that it can claim the lake on its own strength. The US can no longer dominate Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. Ratner believes that such loss means US loss of Asia.
In fact, in spite of its ambition, the US has never had Asia. North and Central Asia was parts of the Soviet Union and now Russia and areas under Russian influence. South Asia especially India is under Russian influence. US influence in Pakistan has long been replaced by China. Pakistan now regards itself as China’s closes brother.
To further west, the US lost Iran long ago and now has Iran as its dead enemy. The US is losing the Middle East possibly to Islamic extremists but not to China.
Therefore, Mr. Ratner’s statement that the US is losing Asia to China merely reflects US impudence and fear of a rising China. China cannot have Asia even if the US does not exist in the world. How can China take Russia, India or Japan? China simply shall not have the ambition to take them. China shall take care of its own people and have no ambition for world hegemony.
However, due to Chinese people’s dream for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, they will fight to resist foreign bully no matter how strong the bully is.
China’s posture to fight was shown very clear in Chinese navy chief Adm. Wu Shengli’s meeting with his US counterpart. We have a photo of Wu pointing his finger at his US counterpart when he was told to respect Hague arbitration award that entirely denies China’s historical rights and interests. China conducted large-scale military drill around the time when the award was declared and began combat patrol of the South China Sea immediately after that.
What was US response at that time? It simply dare not respond militarily but only declared that it would maintain its naval presence in the South China Sea.
I said repeatedly in my posts that with geographical advantages, especially the seven large artificial islands with three airports, China has full control of the South China Sea and made it China’s lake as it has claimed long ago.
China can deploy at least 600 fighter jets on the three airports of the artificial islands. There are in addition land-based fighter jets on Chinese coast that may join the fight through refueling as China’s J-20s will have air supremacy. The US only has 10 aircraft carriers but cannot send all of them to fight as they are so sophisticated as to need long-term overhaul periodically so that only two third of them can be in service. As a result, the US can only send a maximum of 7 carriers with at most 560 fighter jets to deal with more than 1,000 land- and island-based Chinese fighter jets.
Chinese fighter jets are now as good as US ones.
They say Chinese pilots lack the experience in fighting modern war. So are US pilots. They have never had any air battles with advanced air force. They have defeated Iraqi air force much inferior to them and can have gained no experience they need in fighting China’s air force.
In an emergency, land based fighter jets can land on Chinese expressways when Chinese airports are damaged but carrier-based fighter jets in the South China Sea can only fall into the sea or land on Chinese airports to be captured by China.
Moreover, artificial islands are large and can deploy the best air defense and anti-ship missiles and rocket artillery to destroy entire US attacking navy. China has built islands to not only defeat US aircraft carrier battle groups but also prevent US submarines from attacking China with submarine-launched missiles.
China’s strategy of island building is much better than US strategy of carrier building.
Artificial islands can be used as fishing and mining bases and can even generate income as tourist resorts. US navy has conducted a research and proved that one floating island and two aircraft carriers have the capabilities of five carriers.
I can safely predict that China can dominate the Pacific if it has built three floating islands and six aircraft carriers and deploy them in the Pacific. China’s Silk Road economic belt initiatives have enabled it to have land routes to Europe and the Middle East through Russia, Central Asia and Pakistan so that it has no need to deploy its navy in the Indian Ocean. Its three floating islands and six carriers with capabilities of 15 carriers are more than enough to protect its trade lifelines in the Pacific against US navy that can deploy at most only 7 carriers.
Moreover, China is able to build nuclear submarines better than US ones and have built a plant able to build four nuclear submarines simultaneously. The US only has the capacity to build two. Even so, it has funding problem to maintain such scale of construction.
The US is not capable to stop China’s control of the South China Sea. Mr. Ratner had better worry about the Pacific than the South China Sea.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Affairs’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2017-06-13/course-correction.