Retired Adm. James Stavridis has a book out, “2034,” in which a war breaks out with China. It escalates to include a nuclear exchange and the seizure of Taiwan. There have been a number of interesting reviews as the admiral (there is a co-author) accrues book sales based on his former status. Stavridis is well known as a vocal senior retired officer and is in what we call the retired generals and admirals club, a very exclusive group.
What the admiral misses is the gravity, acceleration, and immediacy of Beijing’s plans. The book should be called “2021” because we are facing immediate conflict with China. China needs three things that we dominate: food, energy, and access to the capital market. We control it, they need it. We take it for granted, they don’t. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) war machine also needs access to dual-use chips. Taiwan has them and we desperately need them also.
And then Secretary of State Antony Blinken makes a comment that sows confusion, saying “our purpose is not to contain China.” Words matter and Blinken’s comment unshackles the planners of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and perhaps assures conflict, just like our actions with Japan in 1941.
Maybe “containing” isn’t the exact right word for the U.S. policy on China, but an expression very close to it should be used. China needs what we have, they need it now, and our current administration doesn’t seem to realize the advantage they’re sitting on and are intent on vacuous policy comments that are hyper-analyzed by the CCP information warfare machine.
Furthermore, as Steven Mosher points out in his book “Bully of Asia,” the CCP feels it’s their time to displace the United States and become the world’s uncontested Hegemon. This means displacing or destroying the United States—right now. Things are coming to a head now, not in 2034.
Thucydides Trap? Maybe
The often used and hard to pronounce Thucydides Trap paradigm is often thrown around to describe the approaching catastrophe. Simply put, it’s the collision of a rising power with a fading dominant power. China may be given the term “rising power,” but much of the acceleration of the timetable for war is its dire need for what we have. So a “desperate power” may be more apropos for the CCP.
In many ways, we’re back to a World War II-era grand strategy on centers of production, resource control, and the ability to generate war material on scale. Taiwan is our center of production for chips and must be defended as our Silicon Valley West. Would we have let Detroit fall to the Axis in World War II and just shrugged our shoulders?
I urge the Biden administration to move to the “arsenal of democracy” mode immediately to build capacity to deter and prevent war, but that doesn’t seem to be the top priority for the administration.
Turning little boys into little girls, turning coal miners into coders, or placing William Burns as head of the CIA, an appointee with stunningly questionable connections, may be the priorities of the administration, which doesn’t impress but only emboldens the CCP. We need to come together as a nation and realize the immediate existential threat we’re facing.
Will China go against Taiwan as their first move? Maybe, but if I was a PLA/PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy) planner, I’m not sure I would want to attempt the first opposed landing in CCP history against Taiwan. A dry run is in order, and northern Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines, looks much more appealing.
The quick establishment of a “Co-Prosperity” trade enclave in the Philippines would be a much better way to exercise the logistics and planning functions for complex military projections. There’s not much the Philippine military and government could do if a large Chinese amphibious group showed up with no warning at a major beach or port (let’s say the old U.S. Navy Base at Subic Bay).
This action would secure the right shoulder of PLAN access to the deep Pacific. The Philippine operation would also prep the PLA/PLAN for the much more difficult move on Taiwan.
Taiwan is no longer about unification—it’s about two things: securing the TSMC chip production industrial base and securing the left shoulder of China’s main access point to the second island chain, which includes the sovereign U.S. Territory of Guam and the Northern Marianna Islands.
When the CCP moves on the Philippines or Taiwan, they’re not stopping. It’s about knocking the United States down and replacing us. Everything will be on the table including nuclear strikes against sovereign U.S. territory.
We have the upper hand and can avoid this war, but the current administration doesn’t seem to know it.
It’s of the utmost importance that the Biden administration realizes it’s facing an immediate showdown with China. Not in 2034, but right now. America has the decisive control of food, energy, and the capital markets which the administration must start using as tools against the spiraling military preparations of the CCP. The U.S. military enterprise and industrial base needs to be placed on an urgent footing to prevent war.
This includes forgotten World War II- and Cold War-era precepts of an industrial base on scale. The Navy public-private shipbuilding partnership needs to go on a 24/7 schedule to reestablish itself and pull out of its dismal status. By my count, there are essentially two large, carrier-size drydocks on the West Coast, and these will be much needed to return a battle-damaged carrier to service.
Furthermore, the “lanes” available for large ship construction on the West Coast are filled up by the leisurely pace of current Navy shipbuilding and ship repair. There is no surge capacity as it stands now for repair or construction. The Panama Canal is essentially under Chinese control already, so leveraging East and Gulf coast shipyards isn’t a certainty. A naval crisis this is. Halsey (and Reagan) would be confounded at the current naval state of affairs.
Massive funding is needed immediately for the shipyard industrial base and shipbuilding program. One key rule to make this an efficient ramp-up: This must be multi-year appropriations and authorizations so that funding can be wisely spent over time, not subject to the horribly inefficient one-year cycles that significantly drive up costs of capital projects due to extreme budget uncertainty.
The Air Force needs similar immediate attention to generate overwhelming air power. The Marine Corps, Army, and Space Force need right sizing and transformation also. Missile defenses need to be greatly expanded for Pacific Islands, Alaska, and the mainland United States. Once the CCP starts, nothing will be off the table.
The Capital Hill Autonomous Zone may look like a shambles now, but it will be un-shambled when the CCP unleashes a nuclear strike on Seattle. Many more things need to be done, but it all starts with the resolve and clarity of the president in power. The more we sweat now, the less we’ll bleed later. The more unclear we are, the more we’ll bleed later.
The window is rapidly closing on even the most optimistic of administration watchers and their hope of Blinken and a few others maintaining successful deterrence of a brazen China.
If the current administration declines to take this situation seriously, perhaps we need the previous administration back in place to protect the American citizens and the nation. But the downriver effects of the Maricopa County election forensic recount are material for another story.
Retired Col. John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now, Great Power Competition. He is the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense. On Gab: @ColonelRETJohn. On Telegram: Daily Missive
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.