The guided-missile destroyer Hohhot (Hull 161) attached to a destroyer flotilla with the navy under the PLA Southern Theater Command steams in waters of the South China Sea during a maritime training exercise in Mid-July, 2019. Photo:China Military
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that China’s navy is no match for that of the US in terms of strength. He further explained that even if the US stopped building new ships, it would take China years “to match our capability on the high seas.”
We very much agree with this assessment. There is indeed a wide gap in the naval capability of the Chinese and US navies. Since both countries are building new ships, it is unrealistic to think the gap would be narrowed in a short period of time. The question is, why is Washington still so nervous and keeps clamoring about the so-called China threat when it is aware of the situation?
Washington’s ambitions are too big. It seeks to permanently maintain the current gap between the two navies and hopes to rely on it to deter and intimidate the Chinese people, exercising its hegemony toward China. The US is sensitive to any increase in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s strength.
But China has never had any intention to compete with the US militarily on a global scale. It is not in line with China’s interests. China is aware it cannot defeat the US navy in the event of a conflict in the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean. For what would China seek such competition?
However, in China’s adjacent waters, or the regions that concern China’s core interests, the US navy is destined to gradually lose its dominance. The PLA should have the confidence to defeat the US military in these areas when a conflict occurs. This is an unswerving goal of the Chinese society to support the country’s military buildup. In our opinion, this is not too much at all, and this is what China can do, and must do.
Esper and other US elites are disturbed by China’s goal to complete the modernization of its national defense and armed forces by 2035, and to build a world-class military by 2049. But we believe we should not wait until 2035 to realize a strong and effective deterrent against the US military in China’s offshore waters, and should suppress the US military’s arrogance in China’s offshore waters as soon as possible.
No matter how much money the US military gets and how many new ships it builds, Chinese society will support their government to boost China’s above-mentioned capacity building with greater efforts. We are not unfolding an arms race with the US. We will invest more in this regard between China’s sovereignty and US hegemony, so that China won’t be bullied by the US in our coastal waters, and to safeguard China’s national security. No matter how much money it needs, a vast majority of Chinese people will support it.
The US needs to change its calculation formula when it comes to security. The South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits cannot be treated by the US on par with the Caribbean Sea. If the US wants to subdue China in the latter’s offshore waters, Washington must know it will be costly. In the long run, it is an unbearable weight on the US.
The US military enjoys overall strength. However, the US is far from being almighty. When the country pursues goals way beyond its capabilities due to its greed, it will turn from being a real tiger to a paper tiger. If it wants to be hegemonic around Chinese waters, it will find it beyond its reach. It will be a domain where US strength does not match its ambitions.
China is still weaker than the US, but it is making down-to-earth efforts without engaging in military expansion. When China’s interests extend toward the outside world, they are all achieved by common interests and a win-win approach. China will not confront the US or any other country on the world stage. At the same time, China will concentrate its strength on safeguarding its core interests. In that case, China will be as strong as the US in terms of core issues.
Esper is accurate in the data he quoted and comparison between China and the US he made. But he is confused about the essence of being strong, and the conditions of transformation between strong and weak. Mighty powers in history always lost their way and declined because they failed to understand such relations. This generation of US policymakers seems to be committing the same error.
Source: Global Times