China & India: The Emerging Powers

James Hoge, editor of Foreign Affairs, in his article A Global Power Shift in the Making, claims a global power realignment is currently underway; from the West to the East. China, with 1/4 of the worlds population within its borders and a fast growing, increasingly decentralized market economy, has the potential to become the worlds largest economic and military power in the coming century. India, with a population exceeding a billion people and an economy growing at sustained rates of 6-8% per year, could outstrip both the US and China, should it maintain that growth for a number of decades. (In related and rather unsettling news, the US and India recently completed another series of ‘Cope India’ war games, wherein the pilots of the Indian Air Force cleaned the proverbial clocks of their USAF counterparts. That raised eyebrows in astonishment all over the world. The Russians loved it.)

This transistion of power centers will not be without difficulties, Hoge says. History, he points out, is replete with examples of large scale wars that result from the inability of nation states to fully grasp, much less manage and cope with these power transistions. War, from Taiwan to North Korea to Kashmir to the Indian-Chinese border, could more than simply derail the process, it might plunge the world into catastrophic warfare.

Taiwan, as we’re all aware, remains the primary flashpoint in US-China relations. China has positioned approximately 500 medium range missles across the Taiwan Straits (Think shock and awe, only much bigger.) as a hedge against any attempt on the part of the Taiwanese to declare themselves independent. Meanwhile, independence is something that Taiwan seems increasingly anxious to declare, despite warnings from both China and the US. Since the time of the Nixon administration, the US has maintained a somewhat ambiguous position regarding Taiwan, supporting its reintegration with the mainland, but simultaneously declaring that any reunification must be both peaceful and mutually agreed upon. President Bush took the almost unprecendented step of publicy admonishing Taiwan against declaring independence during the recent US visit of Chinese president Hu Jintao.

Nonetheless, the US is not quite ready to declare itself out of the game in Asia. In an unprecendented show of naval strength, and possibly as warning to China not to make any assumptions on the US’ willingness to defend Taiwan, the US navy is planning it’s largest naval excercise deployment in the far Pacific ever. Operation Summer Pulse ’04 will see seven (!!) aircraft carrier battle groups deployed off the coast of China. According to the Straits Times article,

Sources in Beijing say China’s reading is that Summer Pulse is being mounted with it as the target audience, a suspicion reinforced by reports that Taiwanese forces are slated to join in the drill. Clearly, given Beijing’s repeated warning that it will use force, as a last resort and whatever the cost, to stop Taiwanese independence, the US feels it needs to send Beijing a message.

So where does that leave us? Is the US coasting towards war? It’s hard to say. History shows war is most likely to occur when one side underestimates the willingness or capability of the other side to fight. Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, even Gulf War I are all examples. But are we underestimating China’s willingness to fight? And if war breaks out between the US and China over Taiwan, will North Korea take the opportunity to launch a full scale offensive on the South? What are the ramifications of three nuclear armed states at war with each other? What would be the likely outcome, both from an immediate military perspective and a long-term strategic perspective? Should the US be doing all it can to avoid war? If so, what?

21 thoughts on “China & India: The Emerging Powers”

  1. See Instapundit for a clarification; the news release states that “seven aircraft carrier strike groups (CSGs) will … [be] operating in five theaters with other U.S., allied and coalition military forces.” They aren’t all going to China. But I’d bet that more than one of them is.

  2. While the Indian SU-30s might have won the fights, it’s unclear how handicapped the U.S. F-15s were. I’m not sure I’d put too much stock into this report as indicating U.S. air-superiority is waning. More likely, it’s a way for USAF Generals to show Congress why they really, really NEED the new F-22s.

  3. Jay, that still leaves unanswered the question, what are they wargaming? Something big, obviously. Also, have you given thought lately to our ambiguous policy over Taiwan? What would it mean for the US and China to fight a war? Do we want to find ourselves in a war with 1/4 of the worlds people? Over Taiwan? What would it mean for the US and China to become enemies? It certainly seems like it’s in our interest not to allow that happen considering how quickly China is evolving.

    CRS, I wouldn’t be sneezing at the latest generation of MiGs and Sukhois. The F-15 was first fielded in the 1970’s. Even the F-15E (Strike Eagle) is an early 1980’s design. You can upgrade radars and air-air missiles, but you can’t change the basic aerodynamic performance characteristics of a 30 year old aircraft/engine combination. We do need the F-22.

    But you’re missing the wider point. India has come a long way, economically and militarily. So has China. There’s no sign of it slowing down any time soon. Even with USAF ‘slightly handicapped’, the fact that the Indian AF gave them a run for their money is a major development. Doesn’t that imply that without a being handicapped the USAF would maybe only be able to fight the Indian AF to a draw? When was the last time US forces had to fight without air superiority? Do you have any concept how that limits the options available to military commanders? If India is capable, what makes you think China is not capable of the same feat? I agree with Hoge to a large degree. We’re watching the early phases of the emergence of two major Asian powers. Our policy needs to reflect that.

    Has it occurred to anyone why China has not been more forthcoming on the North Korean nukes issue? China could bring the Norks to their knees in a matter of months if they chose to do so. Simply cut of their oil and food supplies. I have a theory why their playing a double game here and it’s directly related to Taiwan. The Norks are China’s ace in the hole. Turning a nuclear armed NK army loose on South Korea would enormously complicate any Pacific war for the US and our allies. Just a theory.

  4. Aside from the morality of allowing Taiwan to be invaded by China, you should consider that a successful military venture of that magnitude by China would almost certainly lead to Japan’s rearming.

  5. Aside from the morality of allowing Taiwan to be invaded by China…

    I agree that since we’ve given our comittment to Taiwan we now have a moral obligation to defend them. I’m simply saying that from a realistic, practical point of view it’s not in our best interest to fight a war with China. We should be working to get the Taiwan issue settled.

    BTW, how many Taiwanese are standing shoulder to shoulder with us in Iraq? As far as I know, zero. Apparently, the moral obligation is one directional. They are more than happy to have our sons and daughters die for them.

  6. “BTW, how many Taiwanese are standing shoulder to shoulder with us in Iraq? As far as I know, zero”

    I may be mistaken but I heard that the US wants it this way, for precisely the geopolitical chess reasons relating to the aforementioned China. China views participations in such matters by Taiwan as participation by China.

    So the policy may just be, don’t rock the boat.

  7. So our 30 year old fighters were bested by the latest and greatest the Rest Of World had to offer? Ohh, and our 30 year old fighters were additionally handicapped…

    I’ll say it again, the only enemy we have to fear is transnational progressivism.

    Unless we give china a good moral reason to fight, they will always be scared to go to war with us. If india contunies to grow at the 6-8% rate for DECADES??? That article is just a bit too optimistic for the enemies for my tastes.

    Propaganda or News?

  8. I think the south can defend itself. Thier whole culture has been living with a dark cloud over thier heads for 50 years. Do you think that they will let this risk be “taken car of” by someone else? They’re the ones who’re going to take the losses.

  9. “According to Kanwa Defence News, which specialises in Chinese military matters, Beijing can cope with just one CSG currently.

    ‘But in five to 10 years, it can certainly take on seven,’ said Mr Chang Hong-yi, head of Kanwa, in an interview with The Straits Times. ”

    Ouch! That’s a pretty strong statement from the sinos, and they typically exaggerate thier capabilities!

  10. So our 30 year old fighters were bested by the latest and greatest the Rest Of World had to offer? Ohh, and our 30 year old fighters were additionally handicapped…

    Actually, the Su-27 through Su-37 and MiG-29 series are of the same basic vintage as F-18 and F-15E; that is, late 70’s & early 80’s. The Su-27 ‘Flanker’ was the original model, and the Su-31, 35 & 37 are major upgrades to the same basic model. These planes are often considered equals of their US counterparts. The lastest models are clearly better. Their missiles are considered better too, with the ability to track and attack at angles of up 45 degrees off boresight. They also have better beyond-visual-range (BVR) performance.

    The big difference has always been pilot training, something the Indians have clearly been concentrating on. Take that edge away and the USAF could fing itself in serious trouble. The Chinese have buying latest generation Flankers in quantity.

    BTW, while the F-22 is truly a world dominating, 21st century fighter, the real money is going to be in procuring 3,000+ F-35’s, which is a vanilla milkshake by comparison. It’s performance is barely better than an F-18, although it does have much better front aspect stealth. Still, the range and payload are quite poor for a plane that’s being advertised as a fighter-bomber. It reminds a lot of people of the F-111, which was the DoD’s first attempt to produce a one-size-fits-all fighter-bomber. It ended up not doing anything very well, although it did have excellent range. The F-35 looks like it’s not going to do anything very well either, with poor range to boot. I’m not impressed. We should cancel, maybe keeping only the short-takeoff-vertical-landing (STOVL) version to replace the Harriers the Marines use. Let the USAF and Navy develop their own planes for their own unique missions. That development model has always resulted in the best product.

    Check out this excellent website on the worlds fighters and their capabilities:

  11. Fighters are sooooo 20th Century…who care’s about them anymore with more and more advanced UAVs coming online all the time. UAV get’s shot down, pilot switches to another one in the swarm.

  12. That’s a really interesting point, David. I believe the big hurdle is creating an ‘environment’ that is sufficiently real and real-time for the long-distance pilot. There’s a lag time between sensor transmission from the UAV, pilot reaction, and retransmission to the UAV. They just can’t react like an on-the-scene pilot. And with the speed of light constant, I doubt they ever will.

    UAVs have a role to play, but not as fighters. They might make good bomb trucks and they already make good recon vehicles.

  13. Why not have a pilot room in the bomb bay of a B1 Stealth bomber for a couple of pilots to fly the fighter drones from? Comms problem solved!

  14. I wouldn’t be too sure about the inability of UAVs to fight manned intercepters on something like even terms. Every interceptor since jets hit the sky has had the ability to maneuver better than the pilot can handle. A UAV pilot can make 15 or 20 G maneuvers without having to worry about blacking out.

  15. Current dogfight analysis shows the side that makes the first positive ID and gets the first weapon fired off is the side most likely to win an encounter.

    That means the winning platform is the one with: 1) Better situational awareness – meaning better sensors. 2) Better weapons – meaning long distance attack capability and high maneuverability.

    The speed and agility of the platform is crucial in two ways: 1) If the first shot attack fails and the pilot finds himself/herself in a furball. 2) Dodging the opponents weapons.

    Having a UAV that makes a 20G turn is great but where & how does it get it’s awareness? How does it think? The state of the art in software and hardware doesn’t begin to approach the capability of a human being to analyize and react to a wide range of situations. It isn’t even a contest. That only leaves remote piloting, and you’re right back to lag time. If I have better situational awareness, ID your UAV at long distance and get off a high speed, high maneuver missile, your UAV is either toast or will have to run so far and so fast to escape it’s essentially out of the fight.

    So awareness is just as important as maneuverablity. The F-22 has two modes of awareness. It has a state of the art radar for active searching. It also has an entire suite of passive sensors and data receivers. The recievers allow the pilot to share data from an AWACS or another F-22. The pilot can then see what the AWACS or the other F-22 sees. That gives the pilot huge awareness while not having to use his own radar. That’s important because as soon as you turn on your radar, you’re telling everyone where you are and you’re defeating your own stealth advantage. The F-22 has very high front aspect stealth and moderate stealth from other angles. If no AWACS is available, one F-22 can do all the radar searching for an entire flight of fighters. He doesn’t even have to be flying with them. He can be well in front, or off to the side. He can use a directional antenna to broadcast to the other F-22s.

    Also, the F-22 has Pratt & Whitney F-119 TVC supercruise engines. Those marvellous engines allow them to cruise supersonically; no afterburner required. Afterburners burn huge amounts of fuel. They also have thrust vector control (TVC). The engine nozzles can change the direction of the thrust, allowing the pilot to turn whithout rolling the plane into a bank. They simply point the plane in a different direction and fly there. (The F-35 doesn’t use F-119 engines. Too expensive, they felt.)

    Additionally though, you want a platform that has good range and carries a good load of weapons. More fuel and more weapons mean more size and weight, which both work against speed and agility. There’s a reason long range fighters have two engines, it’s so they have sufficient thrust to overcome their larger size and weight. But that makes them cost a lot more and gives them higher maintainence costs too.

    Gets complicated doesn’t it? That’s why it’s always best to decide what the primary mission of a platform is; fighting or bomb carrying. Being good at one always means NOT being good at the other. Physics doesn’t allow it.

  16. All this shows..(even though the rest of the world is still far back…)is the need to colonize space and space weaponry.

  17. that russian pravda article is hilarious. you really start to appreciate cnn and the ny times after reading it…

  18. i agree that this is meaningless and probably designed to make sure the military gets enough new fighters. old handicapped planes losing to the best new planes in the rest of the world is hardly a shock. plus, it doesn’t take into account america’s overwhelming superiority in almost all other military technology, as well as whatever the heck they have floating around in space by now.

    also, the article is about china and india, but those two countries are enemies and it’s not like they’re ever going to ally against america.
    china may have a nuclear north korea, but that’s all they have in the region. russia would probably sit out any war in asia, and pakistan is close to both china and the us.

  19. Michael Hiteshew:

    If your flight is unmanned, can you simplify the acquisition problem? Go from “It’s in front of me, and i know it’s an enemy, so shoot” to “It’s in front of me, and i’m not certain it’s a friend, so shoot.” That might make up for the remote fuzziness and delay.

    Seems a dangerous attitude to take though.

    Matya no baka

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