While US Chief of Joint Staff General Milley speaks in the face of new Chinese nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons which will neutralize all US missile defense as a “Sputnik moment”, Biden declared that the USA will defend Taiwan militarily , the Global Times asked whether the USA still sticks to its former Taiwan strategy of strategic ambiguity or hasn´t left this path, and after the USA after AUKUS want to deliver anti-submarine fighter aircrafts P-2,a new arms race and growing tensions seem to be the coming trend. As the Newsweek reports:
“China’s Submarine Fleet Is Catching Up to the U.S., Causing Partners to Panic
China’s push for mass military modernization includes new, more advanced submarines to add to the world’s largest navy, causing U.S. partners in the region to scramble to acquire new capabilities of their own.
Their answer to the rising underwater threat is a passenger plane-sized submarine killer called the P-8 Poseidon, and orders for the aircraft are pouring in from countries like Australia and India. Both are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which also includes the U.S. and Japan as part of a quasi-alliance that seeks to enforce a „free and open Indo-Pacific.“
And countries as far away as Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom have also purchased the aircraft.
One senior Pentagon intelligence official said it’s no coincidence that countries were buying up the anti-submarine warfare platform.
„China is expanding their undersea warfare capability to extend beyond the South China Sea, which presents a strategic threat to not only nations with territorial disputes, but throughout the entire Pacific area,“ the official told Newsweek. „It is essential for the national security of partner nations to have the ability to detect and monitor Chinese submarines. The P-8 Poseidon is the best capability to perform that task.“
„With an advanced anti-submarine warfare suite,“ the official added, „the P-8 is the best answer to countering Chinese submarines.“
A spokesperson for Boeing, the U.S. aerospace company that produces the P-8 and its submarine-fighting P-8A variant, said the aircraft was „deployed around the world, with more than 135 aircraft in service, and over 400,000 collective mishap-free flight hours.“
But even with these new capabilities in stock, China’s prowess continues to multiply, presenting a formidable competitor as tensions simmer across the seas of Asia.
The U.S. military’s latest assessment of Chinese military power, published in September 2020, estimated that China had 50 diesel-powered attack submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines and four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The U.S. is estimated to possess roughly 68 submarines, all nuclear-powered, but China’s fleet is expanding rapidly.
The report described submarine development as a „high priority“ for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and estimated that the force „will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.“
China has set out to update two key submarine models, the Xia-class Type 092 and the Jin-class Type 094, according to a report published last month by French submarine expert Eric Genevelle and retired U.S. Navy submarine sonar technician Richard W. Stirn.
This campaign includes vessels equipped with nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), as well as an array of other weapons such as anti-ship missiles and torpedos. The latest Chinese SLBM, known as JL-2A, has a range of nearly 8,600 kilometers, more than 5,340 miles, putting potential targets as far as the U.S. mainland within range, as estimated in Genevelle and Stirn’s paper.
China’s submarine fleet serves another important strategic function.
These quiet undersea craft traverse the depths largely undetected, making them ideal for gathering intelligence as they conduct missions as far out as the Indian Ocean. They also can serve to fortify Beijing’s broad territorial claims across geopolitically sensitive spots in the South China Sea and East China Sea, where Japan last month sent both warplanes and warships in response to a suspected Chinese submarine spotted too close for Tokyo’s comfort to islands claimed by both countries.
With the U.S. and partnered nations seeking to challenge China’s version of the world map, the People’s Republic views submarines as a key asset. Using advanced monitoring equipment, China seeks to establish what it refers to as a „Great Underwater Wall“ to keep tabs on some of the world’s busiest waterways in the South China Sea.
Combined with an even more potent surface force, this project has helped fuel the rush for the P-8, a plane best known for its premier reconnaissance capabilities.
„I think the purchase of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft by international partners is as much a testament to the P-8’s multi-role maritime patrol capabilities as it is to the growing naval threat from China,“ Eric Wertheim, editor of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, told Newsweek.
„The P-8s are indeed capable submarine hunters,“ he added, „but they are also a potent tool for any type of marine domain awareness, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and anti-ship/anti-surface operations, just to name a few important naval missions for the P-8.“
Wertheim described the P-8 as a remarkably versatile aircraft.
„The P-8 has very capable radar and other sensors that make it valuable for tracking submarines, but also tracking surface assets as well,“ he said. „The aircraft can also carry a wide array of weapons including torpedoes and cruise missiles.“
Wertheim said that „while the threat of Chinese submarines is certainly growing“ for regional countries using the P-8, like Australia, India, New Zealand and South Korea, he argued that „so is the threat from Chinese surface ships and other naval assets, and the P-8 is an important tool in helping deal with any potential naval threats.“
In addition, he said the aircraft „are also very useful for peacetime activities and can be invaluable assets for humanitarian assistance operations and research-and-rescue duties as well.“
But China’s anti-aircraft options have also expanded.
The People’s Liberation Army has deployed surface-to-air missile systems not just on the mainland but also on islands in the middle of the South China Sea. Warships also have P-8s in their sights, as evidenced by last year’s February incident in which the U.S. Navy accused the crew of a Chinese destroyer of shining a laser on one of the Pentagon’s top-of-the-line aircraft.
Beyond acquiring the P-8, a number of U.S. partners are also shaping up their own submarine fleets to adapt to the modern maritime military environment. In fact, both the U.S.-aligned bloc and China appear to be caught in a cycle of weapons development in which Hu Bo, director of China’s South China Sea Probing Initiative, felt Beijing had the upper hand.
„The underwater arms race in the Asia-Pacific is intensifying, and similar operations by the U.S. and others will only spur China to invest more in the underwater sector,“ Hu told Newsweek. „Given China’s extraordinary capacity for national mobilization, the result of China’s input could be even more challenging for the United States, which may run counter to current American policy expectations.“
„The great development of China’s surface forces in the past 20 years have fully illustrated this point,“ he added.
Yet the races goes on.
Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. announced a new alliance last month, along with plans to help Australia develop its first nuclear-powered submarine. The news drew quick condemnation from China, which accused the trio of pursuing destabilizing moves in the region. France issued immediate protests as the agreement effectively scrapped an ongoing multibillion-dollar French deal to develop such a vessel for Australia.
Also last month, U.S. ally South Korea debuted its SLBM capacity, becoming the first non-nuclear nation to enter this realm. Weeks later, rival North Korea launched an SLBM, demonstrating that the nuclear-armed state was also investing in undersea warfighting capabilities.
„Our ministry keeps monitoring the North Korea military situation, including its submarine activity, closely,“ a South Korean National Defense Ministry spokesperson told Newsweek.
While maintaining a robust alliance with Washington, Seoul has increasingly sought to balance that relationship with its ties to Beijing. It has also measured deterrence and diplomacy with North Korea, an ally of China.
When it comes to the underwater domain specifically, Blake Herzinger, a fellow at the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum research institute who served as an intelligence officer for a P-8 squadron that also included the plane’s predecessor, the P-3, told Newsweek that South Korea „is far more concerned about North Korean submarines than they are about those of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.“
However, he noted that China’s „goal of bolstering its blue water capabilities will likely encourage the PLAN to continue sending its submarines farther abroad.“ And for others in the region, „if that presence continues to increase, or becomes persistent, states further from China’s coastline, like India, Australia, and New Zealand, would likely perceive a significantly greater threat,“ Herzinger argued.
Much focus has been given recently to China’s other myriad military achievements, marked most recently by reports in the Financial Times of two hypersonic missile tests said to have been conducted over the summer.
This side of the next-generation arms race does evoke classic Cold War fears, but as the U.S.-China rivalry plays out today primarily on open waters, the still mostly unseen threat of the submarine continues to top the list of concerns for sailors on the frontline.
„In very general terms, and in all submariners‘ fondest dreams, submarines are certainly a threat both in terms of surveillance and kinetic maritime threat,“ Herzinger said.
Reciting what he called „an old adage,“ Herzinger said, „There are are only two types of ships: submarines and targets.“
The DDP government in Taiwan however warns of a looming internal crisis in China which could bring Xi Jinping to the conclusion to start a military adventure against Taiwan:
“Taiwan warns of „global catastrophe“ „The danger exists and it is growing“: Taiwan’s foreign minister has insisted on the possibility of an escalation in the conflict with China. Beijing could try to divert attention from its own problems. 10/26/2021 In the face of mounting tensions with China, Taiwan has issued clear warnings against further escalation. A military conflict between the two countries would be „a catastrophe – not only for Taiwan, but also for China and the rest of the world,“ Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told AFP. China could try to create an „external crisis“ to divert attention from domestic political problems. Economic growth in the People’s Republic has slowed, western sanctions are also having an effect and there are energy bottlenecks, said Wu. „Such situations could create an environment in which an authoritarian leader ponders external measures to divert attention domestically,“ he said. „The danger exists and it is getting bigger,“ he added. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have been increasing for years. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland – if necessary with military force. China’s President Xi Jinping recently repeatedly affirmed China’s claim to reunification with Taiwan. In recent months, incidents of Chinese fighter jets entering the Taiwanese air defense space have also increased. Biden pledges aid to Taiwan In the event of a military conflict, Taiwan can count on US help: the US government has an „obligation“ to do so, Joe Biden recently told CNN. The US is not looking for a conflict with China, but Beijing must understand „that we will not take a step back, that we will not change our positions,“ said Biden.
However the DDP speaks now not anymore about the 1992 consensus, a status quo, but Tsai Yingwen is putting 4 demands, „4 musts“ against the PR China including a democratization of Mainland China:
“MAC tells PRC to commit to democratic reforms
‘FOUR MUSTS’: Minister Chiu Tai-san said that Taiwan would not falter as it prompts Beijing to put aside hostility and embrace peace to boost cross-strait ties
Beijing should commit to democratic reforms and conduct good-faith dialogue with Taiwan, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said yesterday, echoing President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “four musts.”
As China pursues modernity and national power, the MAC calls on Beijing to share the benefits of economic prosperity and political power with its people, Chiu told a conference on political, economic and social trends in China at the Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei.
Transfers of power within the Chinese government should be regulated by institutions, he said.
“Beijing must understand that President Tsai’s ‘four musts’ is Taiwan’s bottom line and the consensus of the political mainstream,” he said.
On Oct. 10, Tsai said in her Double Ten National Day address: “Let us here renew with one another our enduring commitment to a free and democratic constitutional system; our commitment that the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China should not be subordinate to each other; our commitment to resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty; and our commitment that the future of the Republic of China (Taiwan) must be decided in accordance with the will of the Taiwanese people.”
Taiwan would not change its promises as it prompts Beijing to put aside hostility in favor of peace and improving the cross-strait relationship, Chiu said.
Beijing should commit to healthy dialogue with Taiwan to build trust, he said, adding that the talks might help relax restrictions on exchanges when the COVID-19 pandemic eases.
The Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly draconian rule has deviated from the path to democracy, underscored by the regime’s external propaganda that glorifies single-party rule, he said.
At the same time, China is bolstering its military and competing for leadership positions at international organizations, while using economic sanctions to press others into adopting its political positions, Chiu added.
These actions signal that the regime is making a bid to change the rules and reshape the strategic environment to its own benefit, he said.
Beijing’s forcefulness in expanding its sphere of influence, and its attempts to infiltrate the political and economic systems of other countries, has prompted a backlash from the world’s democracies, he said.
The “4 musts” are a bit further than all previous demands of the KMT. Although the KMT line under Chinag Kaichek was first to be reconquer red Mainland China, was abolished with Kennedy’s rejection of a Chinese Bay of Pigs in the 60s, the KMT then set hope for an internal regime change as in 1989, which wanted to democratize China and bring a return and a reunification with the motherland under KMT leadership, but officially the KMT never said this and engaged more in a holding operation of the status quo after 1992, which now also turns out to be no longer tenable but the open and offensive demandof the DDP for a democratization of the PRC, which is known to be rejected by the CCP, is a very offensive behaviour. . Combined with the Taiwan Representative Office and Tsais leaking of the presence of US military advisers in Taiwan, this becomes highly explosive.
A leading German sinologist commented:
“Yes, I also consider this Taiwan policy to be extremely dangerous. Because if you push Xi Jinping to the extreme with pinpricks (and this statement about the American military in Taiwan is nothing else; it has certainly been agreed with the USA), then it will be dangerous. Perhaps one expects from this that he will not dare to invade Taiwan and thereby lose approval in the VR. But hat could be a mistake.”
Maybe the hope is that an escalation will topple Xi and bring a more moderate collective leadership of the CPC again or even a regime change in the PR China and therefore an end of the confrontation. However, a very risky war game. And it’s not just Taiwan. The renewed debate about a NATO membership for Ukraine by US Secretary of Defense Austin is also a dangerous offense. Firstly, an illusion and, secondly, Putin would answer this with a war in Europe Maybe some regime changers like in Taiwan hope that an arms race and a more offensive posturing would topple Putin and XI, whereby one overlooks the fact that this time Russia will not get involved in an arms race at an equal level, not again as the Soviet Union falls into this trap and that the balance of power has changed. The USA is no longer capable of a two-front war against China and Russia. While higher arms spending to deter China and Russia might be appropriate, but no longer this eternal EU and NATO expansionism and new plays with the Taiwan card.
However, German sinologist and China expert Professor van Ess made a mind game and brain storming which is similiar to the scenario Putin´s Gazprom adviser Dr. Alexander Rahr developed in his book „2054“:
„Perhaps the US doesn’t care about either Taiwan or Ukraine. You would lose the two countries, but for that the Europeans would have to rejoin the US, under its leadership, of course. That would create a strong block. Germany and thus Europe would of course emerge politically and economically weakened from a dispute if Russia and China were to be subjected to harsh sanctions. Public opinion would be clear on the US side. And the German dependence on trade with China would inadvertently be a thing of the past. Bad for BMW and Daimler, of course. The only question is how long such a construction would last.“
And how long the USA without Taiwan could remain a dominant force in the Indopacific, especially if Biden or the Democrats would not be reelected in 2024, but Trump or a Trump-like president.