H. Numan sends this follow-up to his earlier essay about China.
Why is China so dangerous?
by H. Numan
A response from a reader encouraged me to continue my essay about China. His points are valid, and will be exploited to the max by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the near future. China is a dangerous dragon, despite having fairly blunt teeth and very short claws. It remains a terrible danger, simply because of its size. 1.4 billion people can’t be wrong, though they may not have it right.
Let’s look at the People’s Liberation Army. The whole lot of them, army, navy, air force, rocket force and the auxiliary navy. The last are civilian registered ships, operated by navy personnel under military command disguised as fishing trawlers. Yes, the PLA is a powerful force on first glance. However, first looks are deceiving. What they lack is combat experience. They have no veterans. None whatsoever.
You can train someone to become a soldier, easily. But you can’t train someone to become a veteran soldier. Only combat does that. No matter how hard you try. Lots of very promising cadet officers proved to be worthless under fire. Not just freshly-minted lieutenants; it happens to generals, too. Especially if they themselves avoided any hazardous duties, managing desks from as far away as possible, and got promoted based on their relatives, not on experience. In other words: all Chinese generals, admirals and air-marshals.
The current price for three stars (lieutenant general) is 2.5 million dollars. Any Chinese with the right connections and at least that amount of money can become a general. That kind of corruption seeps through down below. A corrupt general (that’s all of them) isn’t going to promote a bright keen honest colonel over his not so bright but corrupt and therefore controllable colleagues. That would be suicide. That bright keen incorruptible colonel cannot be influenced, and makes everybody look bad. Imagine that pest becoming general! What hell can he unleash? Corruption breeds corruption. Only officers with enough money get promoted. Almost the same goes down the line: you need $25,000 to enter the cadet school. Even joining as a humble private costs you hefty $2,500. Which is good news for us: if need be, you simply buy a few generals! It happened in the past. Sun Tzu wrote about it, as a valid strategy in The Art of War [pdf].
Next, almost as bad, is the total lack of experience. China hasn’t fought a war since 1979. A war they lost. All officers, noncoms and soldiers with any kind of experience have since retired. And… they are treated like
dogs**t Chinese civilians. Veterans regularly don’t get their retirement. It’s pocketed by the Veterans Administration. So often, that veterans have to demonstrate to get something. Demonstrating is not something you do for fun and games in China. High-ranking officers have often complained about it to the party leadership. With zero results. You think US veterans have it bad? That’s nothing compared with Chinese veterans.
The only reason one joins the People’s Liberation Army is career advancement and material profits. If a bright ambitious officer cadet longing to die for China doesn’t realize that when his parents shell out $25,000 to get him into the academy, he will long before graduation. He’s got two choices: either he coughs up $75,000 for a nice comfy posting in Beijing. Or he doesn’t, and will be posted to the dark side of the moon (Tibet). Where he remains a second lieutenant, until either he finds the required $75,000, resigns or dies. Whichever comes first. The PLA is truly democratic: the same applies to all ranks. With progressively lower fees, of course. Loyalty does not exist in China, least of all within the PLA.
Remember when Germany invaded Austria, in 1938? People were lining the streets with flowers and cheering the invading Wehrmacht. It was even better than a walk in the park! Of course the official poll where 99.75% voted in favor of unification was rigged. It was not only stupid; it wasn’t even necessary. Almost every party was in favor of unification anyway. At least 60% would have voted yes. Probably a lot more.
However, the Wehrmacht couldn’t take that for granted. It was possible (though unlikely) some units of the Austrian army might resist. Or that parts of the crowd might turn hostile. What do you do then? What if a truck or an armored car breaks down? Do you leave it there or repair it on the road? Or do you tow it? Do you need to post guards around it? Fair questions they simply couldn’t answer in advance. Something you have to experience, and decide on the spot. Only then you can write a combat manual about it. The peaceful invasion of Austria gave the Wehrmacht its first real combat experience since 1919. Something that’s worth gold.
Notice the utter lack of PLA units operating in UN peacekeeping forces. Asians don’t like losing face. That’s worse than stepping into a fat smelly turd with your bare feet. Why do Western units participate? Simply to gain valuable experience. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. Lots of them. Some of them even tragic. But overall they gain lots of combat experience with very little fighting.
Last on the list is equipment. It’s adequate. That’s all I can say about it. Copying and reverse engineering can only get you so much. It will never get you anything better than adequate. Never superb or outstanding. Chinese aircraft are reverse engineered Russian aircraft. They couldn’t reverse engineer the engines. Those aircraft have half the range of the Russian originals. That goes for just about everything. It isn’t really bad, but nothing better than barely adequate. Be it a combat rifle or an airplane.
The navy is even worse. Yes, they have nuclear submarines. Those subs are so noisy a blind man on an Allied warship can point them out. The HMS Queen Elisabeth currently on operations in the South China Sea faced a dilemma: of course they spotted the PLA sub sent to scout them. The question was: how far out would they let them know? A few days later the Japanese navy faced the same problem in the East China Sea. Chinese subs are anything but silent killers. When they move to sea, it’s almost like Barnum & Bailey Brothers moving to another town.
China currently has three aircraft carriers, with three super-carriers under various stages of construction. It’s questionable if those three will be finished. China ran out of money. Why do two of the three other carriers have ski jump decks? Otherwise those under-powered (and performing) aircraft can’t take of. They can take of either with a full combat and half a fuel load, or the other way around. But not both at the same time.
Last item is the proof of the pudding. The eating, in other words. Who buys Chinese arms? Only very desperate nations who cannot buy anything else. Either vile despotic regimes that are under Western boycotts, or dirt-poor nations that have to accept mafia-like sales conditions. Nobody else. Even Argentina would rather buy third- or fourth-hand F-16s than JF-17s. The UK has blocked every sale to Argentina since the Falkland War. Argentina’s only option left over is China. At the moment they have almost nothing flying. They have been trying to buy literally anything for the last 40 years, without success. That should give you an idea how good Chinese weaponry is.
All I have said is how bad the PLA is. Now for the dangerous part. Because they aren’t just bad, China (not the PLA) is very dangerous.
Nazi Germany had to go to war in 1939, and had to invade the USSR in 1941. They had no other choice, apart from admitting defeat and having Hitler and his NSDAP resign from power. Imperial Germany had a comprehensive social system. It was even the best of the world, for the time. After the war the socialists gained power and expanded that system. From 1919 until 1933, Germany was almost exclusively governed by socialist coalitions.
Hitler gained power partly on promises of a much enlarged social welfare system. As a real socialist (yes, Hitler was definitely a socialist.) he killed the economy immediately. He stopped all exports as far as possible, and tried to convert Germany into an autarky. In other words: he slaughtered the goose that laid the eggs, and demanded that it lay a lot more at the same time.
The German army wasn’t ready in 1939. They needed much more time, materials, training and especially oil to fully mechanize. The navy didn’t get to start plan Z, let alone finish it. At the same time Hitler fulfilled his social promises. Both cost enormous amounts of money that Germany simply didn’t have. Even a genius like Hjalmar Schacht couldn’t perform miracles.
In 1939 Germany was running out of money. Not just out of money, near bankruptcy. They estimated they would run out of oil in September 1941. The attack on the West was essentially mugging on a grand scale. The prime objective was always to get to the gold reserves of the conquered nations as fast as possible. They mostly failed in that. Second objective was to milk the occupied territories for all they were worth. In that they succeeded with an army and an economy not fully geared for war.
The Blitzkrieg was a stunning success. It stunned even the Germans themselves. During the Battle of Britain Hitler was already focused on the coming conquest of the USSR. Operation Barbarossa was more a deception plan than a real invasion. When Hitler realized the UK wasn’t going to fold, he concentrated on what we now know as Operation Barbarossa. Which had to start in June 1941.
Why? He simply had no other choice. He needed oil, badly. Germany didn’t have any. They only could get it from Romania, and that wasn’t enough. Not even remotely. His only other oil source was the USSR, and that was not a reliable source. Arab oilfields were either under development or too far away. America and Venezuela were also too far away. The only oil within reach was in the USSR. He couldn’t attack in 1940; it was far too late for that. The army needed to recover from that campaign.
So the attack had to come in 1941. What most people probably don’t know is that the muddy season in Russia, Rasputitsa, is not one but two seasons. We know about the autumn rains that turned bad roads into mud pools. The other season is the spring thaw, which does exactly the same. Hitler couldn’t attack any earlier, as the roads weren’t ready yet.
Let’s get back on track. We aren’t too much interested in National Socialist Germany here, but in International Socialist China. At the moment they face almost exactly the same problems as Germany back then. A lack of nearly everything. No money. Failing businesses. No oil. Not enough coal. Inclement weather destroyed the harvests. So, not enough food. The Chinese population was already warned before last year not to let food spoil, minimize portions and limit the number of dishes. (Nobody gives a hoot so far.)
The worldwide pandemic was caused by the CCP. The coal shortage is entirely Chinese. The CCP embargoed Australia when it asked questions about what China would do to compensate for the pandemic. They hoped to beat Australia into submission. It didn’t work, and now major industries and half the country face enormous blackouts. The winter (-20 C) has yet to come. Incidentally, the embargo also covers Australian grain. Really clever, when you already have severe food shortages.
The Chinese long-term policy is equally bad. The Belt and Road Initiative proved to be a very costly failure. For two very obvious reasons: shipping goods by rail isn’t going to replace shipping by sea. One single container ship can carry more freight than a rail link between Beijing and Rotterdam can carry in a full year, at a much lower cost. The cutthroat negotiations and mafia tactics warned some nations not to fall for it. Sri Lanka lost a port they had build by the Chinese to the Chinese when they defaulted on payment. Piraeus in Greece and the port of Darwin are/were Chinese owned. Piraeus still is, Darwin was canceled. They even tried to buy the port of Rotterdam.
Right now China is in the same position as Germany was before starting WW2. Not enough money, and too many ambitious goals that cannot be met. There are more than enough grudges from the past that only need a little kindling before becoming a raging fire. The Unequal Treaties. The Opium Wars. The Boxer Rebellion. The fact that China is the oldest existing and continuous civilization in existence. Being subjugated by an upstart of less than 250 years old.
It’s not the Chinese army that is dangerous. The auxiliary fleets are far more dangerous. They sail to the coasts of Northern Africa, Peru and Ecuador (the Galapagos Islands, to be exact) where they empty the seas of life. Anything edible is fished. The local coastguards cannot do anything about it. They are overwhelmed by fleets of more than 200 ships at the same time. Their navies don’t have 20 ships, let alone the guts to send the full fleet. What do you do? Shoot? Risk a war with China? Some of those Chinese trawlers are armed, just in case.
That’s part of the salami slicing tactic. A tactic also used by Germany in the past. The problem with salami slicing is that you do get what you want, but it is very expensive and takes a very long time. And you run the real risk of losing it all. Germany sliced itself into Austria, Czechoslovakia, and lost everything when they tried to slice the Danzig corridor.
China sort of has the same problems. And it ran out of peaceful options. We’re in a very dangerous situation with Chinese characteristics.
— H. Numan