Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Sparring over Senkaku

Posted by Charles II on September 27, 2012

For some time, I have been concerned about the strengthening of the Chinese navy. In 2009, there was a clash between the USS Impeccable and Chinese vessels. In 2010, there was an incident between the Chinese and Japan.

Now there is rising tension over the Senkaku (Chinese: Diaoyutai) Islands. Probably because of domestic factors, Japan has chosen to emphasize its claims to ownership of the islands and China, for its own domestic reasons, has chosen to respond with rhetoric so intense that some Japanese manufacturers in China have been forced to shut down. The islands are not inhabited, and are roughly 150 miles off of Taiwan and 230 miles off of China. However, thanks to the 200 mile exclusion zone granted by international law to territorial waters, whoever controls the islands, controls something like 25,000 square miles of seabed which might constitute a new Saudi Arabia. If there is a conflict, the US is bound by treaty to support Japan.

None of this would be an issue if China had not developed a blue water navy. But it has, and the purpose of that navy is probably, according to the Congressional Research Service, to fend off any attempt to rescue Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. Today, on CCTV, their first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was pointedly on display.

China has had a series of clashes with its neighbors, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. India regards it as its primary rival. China, of course, seized a US aircraft during the Dubya Administration.

This is a dangerous situation and, I fear, part of a China that has gone from confident to arrogant, and prone to misjudgment. Whether the present kerfuffle over the Senkaku Islands will end in bloodshed is unknowable. My guess is, probably not. But as American power comes under increasing strain (thanks to our criminally incompetent military leadership), the emergence of an aggressive China is likely. Economically, the effect of open conflict could be as serious as war against Iran. Perhaps worse.

And the American media continue pouring out infotainment, and the American public remains oblivious.

Added: This column by Han Yi-Shaw presenting the Chinese point of view is useful, as are many of the comments. Personally, I think that the resources below the Economic Zone should be donated to the Palestinians and other people living under stateless conditions. Then the Chinese and Japanese can probably find an amicable resolution as to who owns the islands.

4 Responses to “Sparring over Senkaku”

  1. Stormcrow said

    Oh, jeeze.

    Some of the backstory about the new Chinese carrier is in that reference you cite. Yeah, I D/L’ed it and took a look.

    The ship reportedly has not conducted aircraft operations during its sea trials, although in the more recent trials, the ship reportedly has carried mockups of China’s new J-15 carrier-based fighter.

    Was I reading that right? Mockups??? Yeah, I was.

    In other words, at the time of this writing, the Chinese Navy has ZERO experience in carrier deck operations. In fact, they aren’t even deploying any actual aircraft on their “aircraft carrier” yet. The Wikipedia page on the Varyag states the same thing about this that Ronald O’Rourke’s report does, but from more recent data:

    On 23 September 2012, the aircraft carrier was handed over to the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and entered active service on 25 September 2012.[32] Currently, there are no operational aircraft on the carrier[33], however some aircraft were identified inside the hangars according to a Chinese news report.[34]

    I’ve been tracking this particular story since very shortly after the PRC opened its first negotiations with Ukraine, to take that white elephant off their hands. That was about two decades ago, right after the breakup of the USSR. The dickering started, sputtered out, and resumed over a period of about half a dozen years prior to the actual sale.

    If they play their cards right, they’ll start to see significant results in another decade.

    That’s if they use the Liaoning to fill their most militarily significant present shortfalls, namely, lack of carrier operations experience on the part of their naval personnel, and lack of pilots trained to operate within the very very tight constraints which carrier operations impose.

    In other words, they’re where we were about 90 years ago: they’ve got themselves a decent schoolship. If they use it as one, they’ll be getting somewhere. By that time, we’ll both be old and gray, and, likely as not, the US won’t even be using manned combat aircraft anymore.

    A quote from a DOD press briefing in August of 2011 comes close to saying the same thing:

    “It will take a number of additional years for an air group to achieve the sort of minimal level of combat capability aboard the carrier that will be necessary for them to start to operate from the carrier itself.”

    See page 18 of the PDF.

    • Charles II said

      You miss my point, Stormcrow. For something that close to the mainland, it’s not even clear that an aircraft carrier is necessary.

      But CCTV chose to very pointedly highlight their carrier on a day when they’re spending most of their time Japan-bashing, saying “China’s will to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity is firm and its resolve to uphold the outcomes of the World Anti-Fascist War will not be shaken by any force.” Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the Japanese FM, “The Chinese side will by no means tolerate any unilateral actions by Japan on the Diaoyu Islands. China will continue to take firm measures to safeguard its territorial integrity and sovereignty,”

      This is unmistakable language. The aircraft carrier is just a part of a very, very unified message. China is threatening to go to war, betting that the US will not intervene. Japan on its own is not able to stand off Chinese power.

    • jo6pac said

      One of China biggest problems is the engine for their fighters. They are made in Russia and they are limited on what they can buy. Then the problem with their stealth the Russian engine isn’t powerful enough. I’m sure in the near future they’ll be able to buy/steal the secrets to RR/Westinghouse engines. Then again if Amerika would quit encircling countries with armament that we don’t agree with because of the battle over minerals in other nations there’s a slim chance this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. Yep, ensuring Amerikan Corp. interests in other parts of the world. I love that Navy ad of the Carrier on duty 24/7, paid for by the 99% to protect the 1% investments.

      • Stormcrow said

        I’m sure in the near future they’ll be able to buy/steal the secrets to RR/Westinghouse engines.

        I seriously doubt this is even possible.

        PRC spooks could intercept every single network packet in and out of Westinghouse, plus their entire internal communications to boot, and it wouldn’t be worth squat.

        The “secrets” of those engines, if I’m not seriously misinformed, are accumulated tribal knowledge. That sort of thing is never captured in documents, so it can’t be just “stolen”.

        If you don’t have actual HUMINT meatspace human spies working inside the Westinghouse plant, over a course of a decade or more, on that particular project, you may as well not even bother trying.

        The Soviets didn’t get any forwarder on US military jet engine technology. And they had the best human spies on the planet, back in the day.

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