20 March 2011

China SignPost™ (洞察中国) #25 Cited by George F. Will in Washington Post Op-Ed: “America’s Navy and the Rise of China”

George F. Will, America’s Navy and the Rise of China,” Washington Post, 16 March 2011.


Scholars at the Naval War College here probably nodded in vigorous agreement with a recent lecture delivered at another military institution 130 miles away. Speaking at West Point to leaders of tomorrow’s Army, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that “any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” This underscored Gates’s point that “the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements – whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf or elsewhere.”

Here at this 127-year-old college, where the American practice of war-gaming began in 1887, the faculty members are professional worriers, especially about Asia, meaning China. Its naval doctrines, procurements and deployments invite inferences about its geopolitical intentions. Faculty members noted that when Libya descended into chaos, China sent a frigate through the Suez Canal to be in position to assist Chinese nationals in distress. This was the first time the People’s Republic had positioned a high-end combatant ship for a possible evacuation.

From such scraps of evidence, scholars here try to solve a high-stakes puzzle involving a decades-long process of designing and building ships: How should the U.S. Navy be configured for a world in which China’s maritime capabilities and intentions will be…

… Whatever China’s navy becomes, some thoughtful people will be surprised. What they do here is scholarship, not intelligence — they devour the flood of Chinese military publications. And the scholars differ about the most fundamental question, which is: Will China, for the next three to five decades, concentrate on economic growth — on prospering from globalization’s unimpeded flow of raw materials, goods and services — and be content to let America bear the burden of policing this? …

For full text of cited article, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “China Dispatches Warship to Protect Libya Evacuation Mission: Marks the PRC’s first use of frontline military assets to protect an evacuation mission,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 25 (24 February 2011).