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China’s naval fleet is becoming a force to reckon with

maritime-executive.com/editori

So I read that China’s naval force is becoming powerful.

Sometime between 2015 and 2020, China’s Navy crossed a critical threshold: it fielded more battle force ships than the U.S. Navy, making it the world’s largest navy numerically. Today, at around 360 hulls, it exceeds its American rival by more than sixty warships.

The article goes on to summarise the recent ship-building achievements by the China’s naval forces. It’s clear, the force-projecting machine is on the rise. This is especially worrying in the context of the regional waters around China, especially South China Sea disputes (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Territor).

This has implications in regard to the rise of hi-tech as a strategic asset: production of computer processors is becoming a strategic and vital military issue. C.f., e.g., the insightful article by Ben Thompson here: stratechery.com/2020/chips-and. It boils down to this observation: chips are everywhere and especially so in advanced weapons. You can’t win a war without chips. Who owns chip production, owns a strategic resource and it provides them a freedom to operate in military theatre.

The most advanced chip production facilities are owned by TSMC and reside in Taiwan. The fact that EU and USA are becoming disadvantaged in chip production (it’s of course way more nuanced, but generally true) is a strategic military planning concern. China’s growing ability to project naval power and to capture Taiwan if it decides so are, in this sense, problematic.

There’s one more interesting observation:

More broadly still, it offers modern history’s sole example of a “land” power successfully becoming a “sea” power and sustaining that status over time.

Indeed, as well argued by e.g., G. Friedman in The Next 100 Years, China is a land power. It’s limited by it access to the Pacific Ocean by all the islands it needs to navigate to get to the Ocean. So regardless of their fleet size, their capability to project power beyond this region is limited as far as they do not control the whole archipelago between Japan and Indonesia. So far, they don’t. Their growing naval capability, however, potentially threatens that to change. That well explains the growing USA obsession with China and Taiwan issues: threaten the control of Pacific Ocean by USA and you get their attention.

This is one of the slowly moving games played out there, curious to see further developments in the coming decades.

@FailForward It’s all about protecting their interests in terms of Taiwan and the surrounding area. Nothing different from what the US does today. The problem is, the US can’t stand that it’s losing influence in the world, so must demonize those forces that it can’t compete with in a Free Market.

@marathon Well, “can’t stand” is a bit too emotionally loaded. From US perspective, it’s an absolutely rational behaviour to protect its safety and interests as much as it can and as far away from their core territory as it can. And over the last 8 decades it can project that power very far. So it’s also rational on their side to do so. If I were a top decision maker on their side, I would do the same. The fact that as an occasional receiver of their policy decisions I am not always happy with it makes little difference.

@FailForward Sorry but I don’t find anything rational about the US behaviour recently. Time and time again it has come across to many outsiders as pretty irrational. Their form of capitalism has been shown to not work for the masses. It’s a battle of which system is better — I believe history will show that the Sino method is far better for their surrogates. China uses a softer glove with their colonization. So, I believe any rational person/nation would realize it’s China’s time.

@marathon Do I understand it correctly that you are suggesting that it would be better for your own country to switch from US sphere of influence to China’s sphere of influence and that it would significantly improve your life?

@FailForward You bet with the China Road initiative and for the next 100 years, absolutely!

@marathon
Good luck there. I was born in a non-US sphere of influence and I am glad we are out. If I had to choose only between living in China or living in the US, I’d take US anyday. But of course, different people have different preferences. Some don’t mind government oppression. I do.

@FailForward
Well future wise there won’t be much to be said about any US sphere of influence. It’s in decline.

@marathon I highly doubt it. But each is free to draw his own conclusions.

@FailForward I have to say though, I find it very annoying that this situation isn't remedied, or even talked about, properly in "the west". Basically what China is planning to do is to overtake, and destroy, a functional independent democracy. China has already proven that the "1 country 2 systems" isn't working, with harrowing examples of freedom fighters in Hong Kong still are imprisoned. The "west" is mainly idly sitting by wathing this situation repeat itself in the near future for Taiwan, and the only reason for in-action is that China says it will punish whoever supports Taiwan.

Now, here's a thought: what if every country synchronised their recognition of Taiwan as a souverign state, that indeed is, and has been for a long time, independent from China? Would China really stop trading with "everyone"? I don't think so. But if they all, one by one even act in an officially Taiwan friendly way, China can pin-point their pressure and financial muscle towards that country.

Giving China control over all chips manufactured in the world would be a truly scary concept. I'm not saying China is "more" in the devices than Apple are in the american devices, but I still think there needs to be more than one player in any market. I obviously didn't use Android (Google) as an example, as most of the Android phones are manufactured in Taiwan/South Korea anyways already.

Disclaimer: I have direct family living in Taiwan and am following developments in the region on multiple fronts.

@mathias

Re Taiwan: clearly, that is the strategic goal. It can only be prevented by a mightier power, US in this case, projecting itself into the region. I’d say, Sauron’s eye (i.e., US) is looking in the right direction in this case. Any military intervention on the side of China risks a hot war and that is not something China takes lightly against US. I think the balance will go on using economic leverage - as Trump started and Biden will, no doubt, continue. I am no way an expert on this, but since China’s development seems to heavily depend on exports, it seems to me that the US (and EU) has a long long lever there. But what do I know?

Personally, I think how this plays out over the next decades will be the story of our generation.

Some (like Friedman in the book I mentioned previously) think there’s a good reason to bet on China’s implosion/reversal to their introvert nature and future closing off. I find the argument why quite interesting, but have not enough good information to judge its merit.

Western warships invade South China Sea as tensions escalate with Beijing

Britain. France. Germany. Holland. Canada. All are sending warships to the South China Sea in growing “pushback” against Beijing.

Interesting developments in South China Sea: news.com.au/technology/innovat

@mathias

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