Sunday 31 August 2008

The Threat from China

Missile Strategy

In 2005, the Pentagon expressed its concerns over the speed of Chinas military buildup. While official Chinese sources claim that defense spending constitutes approximately $30 billion, the Pentagon estimates that Chinas defense sector could receive up to $90 billion in 2005, which makes China the third largest defense spender in the world after the United States and Russia, and the largest in Asia. Over the past decade, China has deployed these resources to build a technically sophisticated ballistic missile force: short-range missiles to prevent Taiwans independence; medium-range missiles to gain regional supremacy in East Asia; and long-range missiles to deter the United States from interfering in the first two objectives. China sees the United States as a strategic target and includes ICBM testing in military exercises aimed at Taiwan. In addition, China continues to export its missile technology to Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and others.

Short-Range Missiles

Chinas SRBM force constitutes the bulk of its ballistic missile arsenal, the overriding function of which is military operations against Taiwan. Almost all of Chinas known CSS-6 (DF-15) and CSS-7 (DF-11) SRBMs are garrisoned opposite Taiwan in the Nanjing Military Region, which includes the Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, and Jiangxi provinces. In the event of an invasion of Taiwan, these SRBMs will most likely be deployed against crucial defense facilities as well as naval units, airbases, and missile launchers.

Chinas SRBM force totals some 650-730 missiles. The road-mobile, conventionally-armed CSS-6 and CSS-7 are essentially improved scud missiles, similar to those deployed by Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. They are used for striking military targets or bombarding civilian areas outside the range of traditional ordinance. Both the CSS-6 and the CSS-7 are road mobile and can disperse throughout the country to take up firing positions in support of a variety of military contingencies. Like the Iraqi ˜Scuds, Chinas first-generation SRBMs do not possess true “precision strike capability, but later generations have greater ranges and improved accuracy.

According to the Pentagon, the rate at which China is deploying these SRBMs near Taiwan is growing exponentially. The Defense Intelligence Agency estimates that China adds 75-120 new missiles per year. In addition to threatening Taiwan, these missiles threaten U.S. airbases, ports, surface combatants, land-based C4ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), and integrated air defense systems and command facilities in the Western Pacific.

Medium-Range Missiles

Chinas medium-range missile force is intended to establish regional supremacy in East Asia. China currently possesses 14-18 CSS-2 (DF-3) IRBMs and 19-23 CSS-5 (DF-21) MRBMs. The liquid-propellant CSS-2 is capable of delivering a 3 MT nuclear warhead over a distance of some 2,800 km. At present, the CSS-2 force is being reduced and replaced by the road-mobile, solid-propellant CSS-5. The CSS-5 has a range of 2,150-2,500 km and can carry a high explosive or a nuclear warhead of up to a 300 kT yield. In July 2002, tests of CSS-5 may have included the test of countermeasures, designed to overcome ballistic missile defenses.

Chinas CSS-2 and CSS-5 missiles are targeted principally against Russian cities and military targets, to deter Russian interference in whatever China might want to do in the Pacific Rim. In addition, these missiles are capable of striking Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. In the event of a future conflict, China would be able to isolate these countries from any help they might need to resist whatever military pressure China might choose to exert. By attacking the major ports of these countries, China could make it impossible for the United States to land enough troops and materials to interfere with whatever plans China might have. The Pacific Rim would be off limits to U.S. influence so long as these ports remain under missile threat.

Long-Range Missiles

Deterrence of U.S. interference with Chinese plans in East Asia is the main purpose of Chinas long-range missiles. China will not build, and does not need, the hundreds of long range missiles that would be required to dent U.S. military forces--never mind military capabilities. But the capacity to deliver tens of warheads on undefended U.S. cities will be enough to keep the U.S. out of a region that its other missiles will already have made into a Chinese bastion. As evidence of Chinas intentions, in July 2005 a prominent Chinese general stated that China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. if attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan.

China currently deploys approximately 20 CSS-4 (DF-5) ICBMs, which are capable of striking the United States. The silo-based, liquid-propellant CSS-4 has a range of approximately 13,000 km and can deliver a 3 MT nuclear warhead with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. In addition, China maintains approximately twenty silo-based, liquid-fueled, limited-ranged CSS-3 (DF-4) ICBMs to sustain its regional nuclear deterrent. However, China is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic missile force in order to provide a credible, survivable nuclear deterrent and counterstrike capability. It is currently developing more survivable missiles capable of targeting virtually all of the U.S., as well as India, Russia, and the Asia-Pacific Theater as far south as Australia and New Zealand.

Chinas three main ICBM development projects include the CSS-9 (DF-31), the CSS-NX-5 (JL-2), and the CSS-X-10 (DF-41). The road-mobile, solid-propellant CSS-9 is currently being designed to supplement Chinas silo-based force. It will have a range of 8,000 km and an upgraded CSS-9 (DF-31A) will have a range of 12,000 km. The mobility of the CSS-9 missiles will enable these systems to operate over a larger area, making them more difficult to locate and neutralize.[8] The submarine-launched, solid-propellant CSS-NX-5 will provide an additional survivable nuclear option to Chinas ballistic missile arsenal. With an estimated range of 8,000 km, the CSS-NX-5 will enable China to target portions of the United States for the first time from operating areas located near the Chinese coast. The solid-propellant CSS-X-10 will represent the peak in Chinese ballistic missile technology. The missile is expected to have a range of 12,000-14,000 km, and will thus be easily capable of striking the United States and will most likely become the core of Chinas nuclear strike force.

China is along with Russia one of the main proliferators of nuclear and missile technology. The United States has previously sanctioned several Chinese companies for transferring missile technology to Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and others. Despite official denials from both parties, there is overwhelming evidence that China has exported at least 30 M-11s (CSS-7 export version) to Pakistan in contravention of the Missile Technology Control Regime. China also appears to have reached an agreement with Iran to supply components and/or production technology to produce the M-11. Some reports suggest that this production technology includes both propellant and guidance system facilities. China is also known to have built a production facility near Semnan in Iran which has been producing Oghab artillery rockets and the Iran-130 BSRBM since 1987.

According to recent reports, China is aiding Syrian missile program to extend the range of Scud missiles from short to medium and intermediate. In July 2004, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced that Libya possessed blue prints and all components for a Chinese nuclear warhead. China is also known to have sold some 46 36 CSS-2s with conventional warheads to Saudi Arabia, which are maintained and operated by Chinese personnel. A further Chinese program, the CSS-8 (M-7) SRBM is a modified Russian SA-2 surface-to-air missile with solid-fuelled motors. China embarked on this program after stealing Soviet SA-2s destined for North Vietnam via the Chinese rail network in 1966 or 1967 and reverse-engineering them as the HQ-2 SAM. China exported at least 20 CSS-8s to Iran in 1992, although their relatively short range means that they would be useful only in defense of Iranian territory or for limited strikes against neighboring countries.

Yuanwang Space Tracking Ships

Yuanwang Space Tracking Ships
The PLA Navy currently operates a fleet of four space tracking ships to support China’s intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) testing and space programmes. These ships, together with the land-based domestic and overseas space tracking stations, provide the PRC with a global space tracking, telemetry, and control (TT&C) network that can continuously detect, track, and control satellites and manned spacecraft in space. So far the four vessels, named Yuanwang 1~4, have carried out over 50 key missile testing and space flight support missions successfully.
The four Yuanwang space tracking ships have been heavily involved in China’s national manned space programme (Project 921) since 1999. In a typical ShenZhou spacecraft flight mission, Yuanwang 1 is positioned in the West Pacific off the Chinese coast; Yuanwang 2 is positioned about 1,500km southwest of French Polynesia in Southern Pacific; Yuanwang 3 is positioned off the Namibian coast in the Atlantic; Yuanwang 4 is positioned off the coast of Western Australian in the Indian Ocean. The four ships monitor the flight of the spacecraft, and also send command signals to the spacecraft for solar panel deployment, orbit maintenance manoeuvre, retrofire engine igniting, etc. Should the astronauts make an emergency escape and land in the sea, the Yuanwang ships will also be responsible for the search and rescue mission.

Yuanwang 1 and 2

In 1965, Premier Zhou Enlai first proposed the concept of China developing its own ocean-going space tracking ships. In July 1967, the Chinese leadership approved a large-scale shipbuilding project known as Project 718 to support China’s first full-range ICBM test flight from Shuang Cheng Zi missile test site in Northwest China to the target zone in the South Pacific. The project included two 21,000t missile and spaceraft tracking ships (Yuanwang 1 and 2), an ocean scientific survey ship (Xiangyanghong 10), and an ocean rescue ship (Dajiang class), all to be constructed by Jianan Shipyard in Shanghai.

The first missile and space tracking ship Yuanwang 1 was launched on 31 August 1977, followed by the second ship on 1 September 1978. In early 1980, a large naval task force consisting 20 surface ships departed from Shanghai to the South Pacific for the scheduled missile test. On 18 May 1980, a DF-5 (CSS-4) ICBM was launched from Shuang Cheng Zi and the warhead was successfully recovered by the naval task force waiting in the target zone in the South Pacific.

In the mid-1980s, Yuanwang 1 and 2 were also involved in the full-range test flight of the JL-1 (CSS-N-3) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and the tracking of s first geostationary orbit communications satellite DFH-2 and the third-stage of its CZ-3 launch vehicle. In 1986, the two ships received their first modernisation refit to support commercial launch services for international customers. In the late 1990s, Yuanwang 1 and 2 received their second major refit to support the flight missions of China’s ShenZhou manned spacecraft.
By 2005, Yuanwang 1 had successfully undertaken 41 voyages for 38 missile and satellite tracking missions, totalling some 1,500 days of operation in the sea and covering a total distance of 270,000 nautical miles. During the ShenZhou 5 manned space flight mission, Yuanwang 1 positioned in the Sea of Japan captured the spacecraft’s signal 9 minutes after its separation from the launch vehicle and commanded the spacecraft to deploy its solar panels. During the ShenZhou 6 flight mission, Yuanwang 1 positioned in the West Pacific captured the spacecraft signal only 31 seconds after its separation from the launch vehicle and successfully commanded the spacecraft to deploy its solar panels.

Yuanwang 2 is similar in size and performance to Yuanwang 1. However, unlike Yuanwang 1, which is normally positioned near the Chinese coast, Yuanwang 2 has been positioned in the South Pacific. By 2005 the ship had covered a total distance of 400,000 nautical miles in 31 missions, and was frequently spotted in foreign seaports. During the ShenZhou flight missions, the ship was responsible for commanding the spacecraft to enter its initial orbit after being separated from the launch vehicle.

Yuanwang 3

The 17,000t Yuanwang 3 is the second-generation space tracking ship launched in 1994. It is the most advanced and capable space tracking ship among the Yuanwang fleet. The ship is equipped with an S-band high-accuracy tracking radar as well as sophisticated computer and communications systems to help calculate the re-entry orbit for the spacecraft. During the ShenZhou flight mission, the ship is normally positioned in the South Atlantic off the West African coast. The ship is responsible for the control of the separation of the orbital module and the re-entry module, and the retrofire of the re-entry module at the end of the flight mission. By 2005, the ship had covered a total distance 214,000 nautical miles in 18 missions.
Yuanwang 4

Yuanwang 4 was converted from the ex-ocean survey ship Xiangyanghong 10, which was also constructed in the late 1970s under the Project 718. The ship was converted into a space tracking ship and renamed Yuanwang 4 in 1998, supplementing the existing three Yuanwang space tracking ships to support China’s manned space flight missions. Yuanwang 4 lacks the ability to control the spacecraft, and serves mainly for spacecraft tracking and communications relay roles. The ship is normally positioned in the South Pacific Ocean during a flight mission to rebroadcast the video and audio communications signals between the ShenZhou spacecraft and the mission control centre in Beijing. By 2005, Yuanwang 4 had undertaken 9 missions covering a total distance of 120,000 nautical miles. The ship was damaged in a collusion and fire accident in mid-2007.
Yuanwang 5 and 6

Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard began to build two hulls of the third-generation Yuanwang space tracking ship in 2005. The first hull Yuanwang 5 was launched on 15 September 2006, with the sea trial beginning in early 2007. The ship was officially handed over to the Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control (SMTC) based in Jiangyin on 29 September 2007. The ship will be joined by its sister ship Yuanwang 6 shortly to support China’s Project 921 manned spaceflight and other space missions. Yuanwang 6 was commssioned on 12 April 2008.

Yuanwang 5 has a full displacement of 25,000 tonnes, and is equipped with a whole range of space tracking and communications systems, including an S-band and C-band tracking and control system, and a C-band pulse radar. The ship is capable of tracking space launch vehicles, satellites, manned spacecraft, and other types of spacecraft, as well as real-time voice/image communication and data exchange with the land-based control centre.

Yuanwang 5 features a fibre optics-based shipboard network for data sharing and exchange between different sub-systems onboard. The living conditions for the crew have also been significantly improved compared to previous Yuanwang space tracking ships. According to the Chinese media report, Yuanwang 6 differs from Yuanwang 5 in that it has a large mission control hall occupying two decks. The ship is expected to be commissioned in 2008.
Mission Equipments

The ships are fitted with C- and S-band monopulse tracking radar, Cinetheodolite laser ranging and tracking system, velocimetry system, and onboard computers to track and control the spacecraft. They use a combination of inertial, satellite, and stellar for accurate navigation and positioning. Communications include HF, ULF, UHF, and SATCOM, in the form of secured telephone, radio, fax and data link. The ships are also equipped with a range of weather forecasting equipments including weather radar, sonde, and weather balloon, meteorological satellite image receiving terminal.

How We Would Fight China

For some time now no navy or air force has posed a threat to the United States. Our only competition has been armies, whether conventional forces or guerrilla insurgencies. This will soon change. The Chinese navy is poised to push out into the Pacific—and when it does, it will very quickly encounter a U.S. Navy and Air Force unwilling to budge from the coastal shelf of the Asian mainland. It's not hard to imagine the result: a replay of the decades-long Cold War, with a center of gravity not in the heart of Europe but, rather, among Pacific atolls that were last in the news when the Marines stormed them in World War II. In the coming decades China will play an asymmetric back-and-forth game with us in the Pacific, taking advantage not only of its vast coastline but also of its rear base—stretching far back into Central Asia—from which it may eventually be able to lob missiles accurately at moving ships in the Pacific.

In any naval encounter China will have distinct advantages over the United States, even if it lags in technological military prowess. It has the benefit, for one thing, of sheer proximity. Its military is an avid student of the competition, and a fast learner. It has growing increments of "soft" power that demonstrate a particular gift for adaptation. While stateless terrorists fill security vacuums, the Chinese fill economic ones. All over the globe, in such disparate places as the troubled Pacific Island states of Oceania, the Panama Canal zone, and out-of-the-way African nations, the Chinese are becoming masters of indirect influence—by establishing business communities and diplomatic outposts, by negotiating construction and trade agreements. Pulsing with consumer and martial energy, and boasting a peasantry that, unlike others in history, is overwhelmingly literate, China constitutes the principal conventional threat to America's liberal imperium.

How should the United States prepare to respond to challenges in the Pacific? To understand the dynamics of this second Cold War—which will link China and the United States in a future that may stretch over several generations—it is essential to understand certain things about the first Cold War, and about the current predicament of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the institution set up to fight that conflict. This is a story about military strategy and tactics, with some counterintuitive twists and turns
Quietly in recent years, by negotiating bilateral security agreements with countries that have few such arrangements with one another, the U.S. military has formed a Pacific military alliance of sorts at PACOM headquarters, in Honolulu. This is where the truly interesting meetings are being held today, rather than in Ditchley or Davos. The attendees at those meetings, who often travel on PACOM's dime, are military officers from such places as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Otto von Bismarck, the father of the Second Reich in continental Europe, would recognize the emerging Pacific system. In 2002 the German commentator Josef Joffe appreciated this in a remarkably perceptive article in The National Interest, in which he argued that in terms of political alliances, the United States has come to resemble Bismarck's Prussia. Britain, Russia, and Austria needed Prussia more than they needed one another, Joffe wrote, thus making them "spokes" to Berlin's "hub"; the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan exposed a world in which America can forge different coalitions for different crises. The world's other powers, he said, now need the United States more than they need one another.

Unfortunately, the United States did not immediately capitalize on this new power arrangement, because President George W. Bush lacked the nuance and attendant self-restraint of Bismarck, who understood that such a system could endure only so long as one didn't overwhelm it. The Bush administration did just that, of course, in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, which led France, Germany, Russia, and China, along with a host of lesser powers such as Turkey, Mexico, and Chile, to unite against us.

In the Pacific, however, a Bismarckian arrangement still prospers, helped along by the pragmatism of our Hawaii-based military officers, five time zones removed from the ideological hothouse of Washington, D.C. In fact, PACOM represents a much purer version of Bismarck's imperial superstructure than anything the Bush administration created prior to invading Iraq. As Henry Kissinger writes in Diplomacy (1994), Bismarck forged alliances in all directions from a point of seeming isolation, without the constraints of ideology. He brought peace and prosperity to Central Europe by recognizing that when power relationships are correctly calibrated, wars tend to be avoided.

Only a similarly pragmatic approach will allow us to accommodate China's inevitable re-emergence as a great power. The alternative will be to turn the earth of the twenty-first century into a battlefield. Whenever great powers have emerged or re-emerged on the scene (Germany and Japan in the early decades of the twentieth century, to cite two recent examples), they have tended to be particularly assertive—and therefore have thrown international affairs into violent turmoil. China will be no exception. Today the Chinese are investing in both diesel-powered and nuclear-powered submarines—a clear signal that they intend not only to protect their coastal shelves but also to expand their sphere of influence far out into the Pacific and beyond.

This is wholly legitimate. China's rulers may not be democrats in the literal sense, but they are seeking a liberated First World lifestyle for many of their 1.3 billion people—and doing so requires that they safeguard sea-lanes for the transport of energy resources from the Middle East and elsewhere. Naturally, they do not trust the United States and India to do this for them. Given the stakes, and given what history teaches us about the conflicts that emerge when great powers all pursue legitimate interests, the result is likely to be the defining military conflict of the twenty-first century: if not a big war with China, then a series of Cold War—style standoffs that stretch out over years and decades. And this will occur mostly within PACOM's area of responsibility.
To do their job well, military officers must approach power in the most cautious, mechanical, and utilitarian way possible, assessing and reassessing regional balances of power while leaving the values side of the political equation to the civilian leadership. This makes military officers, of all government professionals, the least prone to be led astray by the raptures of liberal internationalism and neo-conservative interventionism.

The history of World War II shows the importance of this approach. In the 1930s the U.S. military, nervous about the growing strength of Germany and Japan, rightly lobbied for building up our forces. But by 1940 and 1941 the military (not unlike the German general staff a few years earlier) was presciently warning of the dangers of a two-front war; and by late summer of 1944 it should have been thinking less about defeating Germany and more about containing the Soviet Union. Today Air Force and Navy officers worry about a Taiwanese declaration of independence, because such a move would lead the United States into fighting a war with China that might not be in our national interest. Indonesia is another example: whatever the human-rights failures of the Indonesian military, PACOM assumes, correctly, that a policy of non-engagement would only open the door to Chinese-Indonesian military cooperation in a region that represents the future of world terrorism. (The U.S. military's response to the Asian tsunami was, of course, a humanitarian effort; but PACOM strategists had to have recognized that a vigorous response would gain political support for the military-basing rights that will form part of our deterrence strategy against China.) Or consider Korea: some Pacific-based officers take a reunified Korean peninsula for granted, and their main concern is whether the country will be "Finlandized" by China or will be secure within an American-Japanese sphere of influence.

PACOM's immersion in Asian power dynamics gives it unusual diplomatic weight, and consequently more leverage in Washington. And PACOM will not be nearly as constrained as CENTCOM by Washington-based domestic politics. Our actions in the Pacific will not be swayed by the equivalent of the Israel lobby; Protestant evangelicals will care less about the Pacific Rim than about the fate of the Holy Land. And because of the vast economic consequences of misjudging the power balance in East Asia, American business and military interests are likely to run in tandem toward a classically conservative policy of deterring China without needlessly provoking it, thereby amplifying PACOM's authority. Our stance toward China and the Pacific, in other words, comes with a built-in stability—and this, in turn, underscores the notion of a new Cold War that is sustainable over the very long haul. Moreover, the complexity of the many political and military relationships managed by PACOM will give the command considerably greater influence than that currently exercised by CENTCOM—which, as a few military experts have disparagingly put it to me, deals only with a bunch of "third-rate Middle Eastern armies."

The relative shift in focus from the Middle East to the Pacific in coming years—idealistic rhetoric notwithstanding—will force the next American president, no matter what his or her party, to adopt a foreign policy similar to those of moderate Republican presidents such as George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon. The management of risk will become a governing ideology. Even if Iraq turns out to be a democratic success story, it will surely be a from-the-jaws-of-failure success that no one in the military or the diplomatic establishment will ever want to repeat—especially in Asia, where the economic repercussions of a messy military adventure would be enormous. "Getting into a war with China is easy," says Michael Vickers, a former Green Beret who developed the weapons strategy for the Afghan resistance in the 1980s as a CIA officer and is now at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in Washington. "You can see many scenarios, not just Taiwan—especially as the Chinese develop a submarine and missile capability throughout the Pacific. But the dilemma is, How do you end a war with China?"

Like the nations involved in World War I, and unlike the rogue states everyone has been concentrating on, the United States and China in the twenty-first century would have the capacity to keep fighting even if one or the other lost a big battle or a missile exchange. This has far-reaching implications. "Ending a war with China," Vickers says, "may mean effecting some form of regime change, because we don't want to leave some wounded, angry regime in place." Another analyst, this one inside the Pentagon, told me, "Ending a war with China will force us to substantially reduce their military capacity, thus threatening their energy sources and the Communist Party's grip on power. The world will not be the same afterward. It's a very dangerous road to travel on."

The better road is for PACOM to deter China in Bismarckian fashion, from a geographic hub of comparative isolation—the Hawaiian Islands—with spokes reaching out to major allies such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and India. These countries, in turn, would form secondary hubs to help us manage the Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian archipelagoes, among other places, and also the Indian Ocean. The point of this arrangement would be to dissuade China so subtly that over time the rising behemoth would be drawn into the PACOM alliance system without any large-scale conflagration—the way NATO was ultimately able to neutralize the Soviet Union.

Whatever we say or do, China will spend more and more money on its military in the coming decades. Our only realistic goal may be to encourage it to make investments that are defensive, not offensive, in nature. Our efforts will require particular care, because China, unlike the Soviet Union of old (or Russia today, for that matter), boasts soft as well as hard power. Businesspeople love the idea of China; you don't have to beg them to invest there, as you do in Africa and so many other places. China's mixture of traditional authoritarianism and market economics has broad cultural appeal throughout Asia and other parts of the world. And because China is improving the material well-being of hundreds of millions of its citizens, the plight of its dissidents does not have quite the same market allure as did the plight of the Soviet Union's Sakharovs and Sharanskys. Democracy is attractive in places where tyranny has been obvious, odious, and unsuccessful, of course, as in Ukraine and Zimbabwe. But the world is full of gray areas—Jordan and Malaysia, for example—where elements of tyranny have ensured stability and growth.

Consider Singapore. Its mixture of democracy and authoritarianism has made it unpopular with idealists in Washington, but as far as PACOM is concerned, the country is, despite its small size, one of the most popular and helpful in the Pacific. Its ethnically blind military meritocracy, its nurturing concern for the welfare of officers and enlisted men alike, and its jungle-warfare school in Brunei are second to none. With the exception of Japan, far to the north, Singapore offers the only non-American base in the Pacific where our nuclear carriers can be serviced. Its help in hunting down Islamic terrorists in the Indonesian archipelago has been equal or superior to the help offered elsewhere by our most dependable Western allies. One Washington-based military futurist told me, "The Sings, well—they're just awesome in every way."

PACOM's objective, in the words of a Pacific-based Marine general, must be "military multilateralism on steroids." This is not just a question of our future training with the "Sings" in Brunei, of flying test sorties with the Indian air force, of conducting major annual exercises in Thailand, or of utilizing a soon-to-open training facility in northern Australia with the approval of our alliance partners. It's also a matter of forging interoperability with friendly Asian militaries at the platoon level, by constantly moving U.S. troops from one training deployment to another.

This would be an improvement over NATO, whose fighting fitness has been hampered by the addition of substandard former-Eastern-bloc militaries. Politics, too, favors a tilt toward the Pacific: tensions between the United States and Europe currently impede military integration, whereas our Pacific allies, notably Japan and Australia, want more military engagement with the United States, to counter the rise of the Chinese navy. This would work to our benefit. The Japanese military, although small, possesses elite niche capabilities, in special-forces and diesel-submarine warfare. And the aggressive frontier style of the Australians makes them cognitively closer to Americans than even the British.

Military multilateralism in the Pacific will nevertheless be constrained by the technical superiority of U.S. forces; it will be difficult to develop bilateral training missions with Asian militaries that are not making the same investments in high-tech equipment that we are. A classic military lesson is that technological superiority does not always confer the advantages one expects. Getting militarily so far ahead of everyone else in the world creates a particular kind of loneliness that not even the best diplomats can always alleviate, because diplomacy itself is worthless if it's not rooted in realistic assessments of comparative power.
At the moment the challenges posed by a rising China may seem slight, even nonexistent. The U.S. Navy's warships have a collective "full-load displacement" of 2.86 million tons; the rest of the world's warships combined add up to only 3.04 million tons. The Chinese navy's warships have a full-load displacement of only 263,064 tons. The United States deploys twenty-four of the world's thirty-four aircraft carriers; the Chinese deploy none (a principal reason why they couldn't mount a rescue effort after the tsunami). The statistics go on. But as Robert Work, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, points out, at the start of the twenty-seven-year Peloponnesian War, Athens had a great advantage over Sparta, which had no navy—but Sparta eventually emerged the victor.

China has committed itself to significant military spending, but its navy and air force will not be able to match ours for some decades. The Chinese are therefore not going to do us the favor of engaging in conventional air and naval battles, like those fought in the Pacific during World War II. The Battle of the Philippine Sea, in late June of 1944, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait, in October of 1944, were the last great sea battles in American history, and are very likely to remain so. Instead the Chinese will approach us asymmetrically, as terrorists do. In Iraq the insurgents have shown us the low end of asymmetry, with car bombs. But the Chinese are poised to show us the high end of the art. That is the threat.

There are many ways in which the Chinese could use their less advanced military to achieve a sort of political-strategic parity with us. According to one former submarine commander and naval strategist I talked to, the Chinese have been poring over every detail of our recent wars in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf, and they fully understand just how much our military power depends on naval projection—that is, on the ability of a carrier battle group to get within proximity of, say, Iraq, and fire a missile at a target deep inside the country. To adapt, the Chinese are putting their fiber-optic systems underground and moving defense capabilities deep into western China, out of naval missile range—all the while developing an offensive strategy based on missiles designed to be capable of striking that supreme icon of American wealth and power, the aircraft carrier. The effect of a single Chinese cruise missile's hitting a U.S. carrier, even if it did not sink the ship, would be politically and psychologically catastrophic, akin to al-Qaeda's attacks on the Twin Towers. China is focusing on missiles and submarines as a way to humiliate us in specific encounters. Their long-range-missile program should deeply concern U.S. policymakers.

With an advanced missile program the Chinese could fire hundreds of missiles at Taiwan before we could get to the island to defend it. Such a capability, combined with a new fleet of submarines (soon to be a greater undersea force than ours, in size if not in quality), might well be enough for the Chinese to coerce other countries into denying port access to U.S. ships. Most of China's seventy current submarines are past-their-prime diesels of Russian design; but these vessels could be used to create mobile minefields in the South China, East China, and Yellow Seas, where, as the Wall Street Journal reporter David Lague has written, "uneven depths, high levels of background noise, strong currents and shifting thermal layers" would make detecting the submarines very difficult. Add to this the seventeen new stealthy diesel submarines and three nuclear ones that the Chinese navy will deploy by the end of the decade, and one can imagine that China could launch an embarrassing strike against us, or against one of our Asian allies. Then there is the whole field of ambiguous coercion—for example, a series of non-attributable cyberattacks on Taiwan's electrical-power grids, designed to gradually demoralize the population. This isn't science fiction; the Chinese have invested significantly in cyberwarfare training and technology. Just because the Chinese are not themselves democratic doesn't mean they are not expert in manipulating the psychology of a democratic electorate.

What we can probably expect from China in the near future is specific demonstrations of strength—like its successful forcing down of a U.S. Navy EP-3E surveillance plane in the spring of 2001. Such tactics may represent the trend of twenty-first-century warfare better than anything now happening in Iraq—and China will have no shortage of opportunities in this arena. During one of our biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercises the Chinese could sneak a sub under a carrier battle group and then surface it. They could deploy a moving target at sea and then hit it with a submarine- or land-based missile, demonstrating their ability to threaten not only carriers but also destroyers, frigates, and cruisers. (Think about the political effects of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, a guided-missile destroyer, off the coast of Yemen in 2000—and then think about a future in which hitting such ships will be easier.) They could also bump up against one of our ships during one of our ongoing Freedom of Navigation exercises off the Asian coast. The bumping of a ship may seem inconsequential, but keep in mind that in a global media age such an act can have important strategic consequences. Because the world media tend to side with a spoiler rather than with a reigning superpower, the Chinese would have a built-in political advantage.

What should be our military response to such developments? We need to go more unconventional. Our present Navy is mainly a "blue-water" force, responsible for the peacetime management of vast oceanic spaces—no small feat, and one that enables much of the world's free trade. The phenomenon of globalization could not occur without American ships and sailors. But increasingly what we will need is, in essence, three separate navies: one designed to maintain our ability to use the sea as a platform for offshore bombing (to support operations like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan); one designed for littoral Special Operations combat (against terrorist groups based in and around Indonesia, Malaysia, and the southern Philippines, for example); and one designed to enhance our stealth capabilities (for patrolling the Chinese mainland and the Taiwan Strait, among other regions). All three of these navies will have a role in deflecting China, directly and indirectly, given the variety of dysfunctional Pacific Island republics that are strengthening their ties with Beijing.

Our aircraft carriers already provide what we need for that first navy; we must further develop the other two. The Special Operations navy will require lots of small vessels, among them the littoral-combat ship being developed by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. Approximately 400 feet long, the LCS requires only a small crew, can operate in very shallow water, can travel very fast (up to forty knots), and will deploy Special Operations Forces (namely, Navy SEALs). Another critical part of the littoral navy will be the Mark V special-operations craft. Only eighty feet long, the Mark V can travel at up to fifty knots and has a range of 600 nautical miles. With a draft of only five feet, it can deliver a SEAL platoon directly onto a beach—and at some $5 million apiece, the Pentagon can buy dozens for the price of just one F/A-22 fighter jet.

Developing the third type of navy will require real changes. Particularly as the media become more intrusive, we must acquire more stealth, so that, for example, we can send commandos ashore from a submarine to snatch or kill terrorists, or leave special operators behind to carry out missions in an area over which no government has control. Submarines have disadvantages, of course: they offer less of a bombing platform than aircraft carriers, and pound for pound are more costly. Nevertheless, they are the wave of the future, in no small measure because protecting aircraft carriers from missile attack may slowly become a pursuit of diminishing returns for us.

Our stealth navy would be best served by the addition of new diesel submarines of the sort that Australia, Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Sweden already have in the water or under development—and which China will soon have too. But because of our global policing responsibilities, which will necessarily keep us in the nuclear-sub business, we're unlikely to switch to diesel submarines. Instead we will adapt what we've got. Already we are refitting four Trident subs with conventional weapons, and making them able to support the deployment of SEAL teams and eventually, perhaps, long-range unmanned spy aircraft. The refitted Tridents can act as big mother ships for smaller assets deployed closer to the littorals.

None of this will change our need for basing rights in the Pacific, of course. The more access to bases we have, the more flexibility we'll have—to support unmanned flights, to allow aerial refueling, and perhaps most important, to force the Chinese military to concentrate on a host of problems rather than just a few. Never provide your adversary with only a few problems to solve (finding and hitting a carrier, for example), because if you do, he'll solve them.
Andersen Air Force Base, on Guam's northern tip, rep- resents the future of U.S. strategy in the Pacific. It is the most potent platform anywhere in the world for the projection of American military power. Landing there recently in a military aircraft, I beheld long lines of B-52 bombers, C-17 Globemasters, F/A-18 Hornets, and E-2 Hawkeye surveillance planes, among others. Andersen's 10,000-foot runways can handle any plane in the Air Force's arsenal, and could accommodate the space shuttle should it need to make an emergency landing. The sprawl of runways and taxiways is so vast that when I arrived, I barely noticed a carrier air wing from the USS Kitty Hawk, which was making live practice bombing runs that it could not make from its home port in Japan. I saw a truck filled with cruise missiles on one of the runways. No other Air Force base in the Pacific stores as much weaponry as Andersen: some 100,000 bombs and missiles at any one time. Andersen also stores 66 million gallons of jet fuel, making it the Air Force's biggest strategic gas-and-go in the world.

Guam, which is also home to a submarine squadron and an expanding naval base, is significant because of its location. From the island an Air Force equivalent of a Marine or Army division can cover almost all of PACOM's area of responsibility. Flying to North Korea from the West Coast of the United States takes thirteen hours; from Guam it takes four.

"This is not like Okinawa," Major General Dennis Larsen, the Air Force commander there at the time of my visit, told me. "This is American soil in the midst of the Pacific. Guam is a U.S. territory." The United States can do anything it wants here, and make huge investments without fear of being thrown out. Indeed, what struck me about Andersen was how great the space was for expansion to the south and west of the current perimeters. Hundreds of millions of dollars of construction funds were being allocated. This little island, close to China, has the potential to become the hub in the wheel of a new, worldwide constellation of bases that will move the locus of U.S. power from Europe to Asia. In the event of a conflict with Taiwan, if we had a carrier battle group at Guam we would force the Chinese either to attack it in port—thereby launching an assault on sovereign U.S. territory, and instantly becoming the aggressor in the eyes of the world—or to let it sail, in which case the carrier group could arrive off the coast of Taiwan only two days later.

During the Cold War the Navy had a specific infrastructure for a specific threat: war with the Soviet Union. But now the threat is multiple and uncertain: we need to be prepared at any time to fight, say, a conventional war against North Korea or an unconventional counterinsurgency battle against a Chinese-backed rogue island-state. This requires a more agile Navy presence on the island, which in turn means outsourcing services to the civilian community on Guam so that the Navy can concentrate on military matters. One Navy captain I met with had grown up all over the Pacific Rim. He told me of the Navy's plans to expand the waterfront, build more bachelors' quarters, and harden the electrical-power system by putting it underground. "The fact that we have lots of space today is meaningless," he said. "The question is, How would we handle the surge requirement necessitated by a full-scale war?"

There could be a problem with all of this. By making Guam a Hawaii of the western Pacific, we make life simple for the Chinese, because we give them just one problem to solve: how to threaten or intimidate Guam. The way to counter them will be not by concentration but by dispersion. So how will we prevent Guam from becoming too big?

In a number of ways. We may build up Palau, an archipelago of 20,000 inhabitants between Mindanao, in the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia, whose financial aid is contingent on a defense agreement with us. We will keep up our bases in Central Asia, close to western China—among them Karshi-Khanabad, in Uzbekistan, and Manas, in Kyrgyzstan, which were developed and expanded for the invasion of Afghanistan. And we will establish what are known as cooperative security locations.

A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country's civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens. Because the CSL concept is built on subtle relationships, it's where the war-fighting ability of the Pentagon and the diplomacy of the State Department coincide—or should. The problem with big bases in, say, Turkey—as we learned on the eve of the invasion of Iraq—is that they are an intrusive, intimidating symbol of American power, and the only power left to a host country is the power to deny us use of such bases. In the future, therefore, we will want unobtrusive bases that benefit the host country much more obviously than they benefit us. Allowing us the use of such a base would ramp up power for a country rather than humiliating it.

I have visited a number of CSLs in East Africa and Asia. Here is how they work. The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country's military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media—and they long preceded the response to the tsunami, which marked the first time that many in the world media paid attention to the humanitarian work done all over the world, all the time, by the U.S. military. The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country's approval for use of the base when and if we need it.

Often the key role in managing a CSL is played by a private contractor. In Asia, for example, the private contractor is usually a retired American noncom, either Navy or Air Force, quite likely a maintenance expert, who is living in, say, Thailand or the Philippines, speaks the language fluently, perhaps has married locally after a divorce back home, and is generally much liked by the locals. He rents his facilities at the base from the host-country military, and then charges a fee to the U.S. Air Force pilots transiting the base. Officially he is in business for himself, which the host country likes because it can then claim it is not really working with the American military. Of course no one, including the local media, believes this. But the very fact that a relationship with the U.S. armed forces is indirect rather than direct eases tensions. The private contractor also prevents unfortunate incidents by keeping the visiting pilots out of trouble—steering them to the right hotels and bars, and advising them on how to behave. (Without Dan Generette, a private contractor for years at Utapao Naval Station, in Thailand, that base could never have been ramped up to provide tsunami relief the way it was.)

Visiting with these contractors and being taken around foreign military airfields by them, I saw how little, potentially, the Air Force would need on the ground in order to land planes and take off. Especially since 9/11 the Air Force has been slowly developing an austere, expeditionary mentality to amend its lifestyle, which has historically been cushy in comparison with that of the other branches of the armed forces. Servicing a plane often takes less on the ground than servicing a big ship, and the Air Force is beginning to grasp the concept of light and lethal, and of stealthy, informal relationships. To succeed in the Pacific and elsewhere, the Navy will need to further develop a similar outlook—thinking less in terms of obvious port visits and more in terms of slipping in and out in the middle of the night.
The first part of the twenty-first century will be not nearly as stable as the second half of the twentieth, because the world will be not nearly as bipolar as it was during the Cold War. The fight between Beijing and Washington over the Pacific will not dominate all of world politics, but it will be the most important of several regional struggles. Yet it will be the organizing focus for the U.S. defense posture abroad. If we are smart, this should lead us back into concert with Europe. No matter how successfully our military adapts to the rise of China, it is clear that our current dominance in the Pacific will not last. The Asia expert Mark Helprin has argued that while we pursue our democratization efforts in the Middle East, increasingly befriending only those states whose internal systems resemble our own, China is poised to reap the substantial benefits of pursuing its interests amorally—what the United States did during the Cold War. The Chinese surely hope, for example, that our chilly attitude toward the brutal Uzbek dictator, Islam Karimov, becomes even chillier; this would open up the possibility of more pipeline and other deals with him, and might persuade him to deny us use of the air base at Karshi-Khanabad. Were Karimov to be toppled in an uprising like the one in Kyrgyzstan, we would immediately have to stabilize the new regime or risk losing sections of the country to Chinese influence.

We also need to realize that in the coming years and decades the moral distance between Europe and China is going to contract considerably, especially if China's authoritarianism becomes increasingly restrained, and the ever expanding European Union becomes a less-than-democratic superstate run in imperious regulatory style by Brussels-based functionaries. Russia, too, is headed in a decidedly undemocratic direction: Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, reacted to our support of democracy in Ukraine by agreeing to "massive" joint air and naval exercises with the Chinese, scheduled for the second half of this year. These unprecedented joint Russian-Chinese exercises will be held on Chinese territory.

Therefore the idea that we will no longer engage in the "cynical" game of power politics is illusory, as is the idea that we will be able to advance a foreign policy based solely on Wilsonian ideals. We will have to continually play various parts of the world off China, just as Richard Nixon played less than morally perfect states off the Soviet Union. This may well lead to a fundamentally new NATO alliance, which could become a global armada that roams the Seven Seas. Indeed, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the Germans, and the Spanish are making significant investments in fast missile-bearing ships and in landing-platform docks for beach assaults, and the British and the French are investing in new aircraft carriers. Since Europe increasingly seeks to avoid conflict and to reduce geopolitics to a series of negotiations and regulatory disputes, an emphasis on sea power would suit it well. Sea power is intrinsically less threatening than land power. It allows for a big operation without a large onshore footprint. Consider the tsunami effort, during which Marines and sailors returned to their carrier and destroyers each night. Armies invade; navies make port visits. Sea power has always been a more useful means of realpolitik than land power. It allows for a substantial military presence in areas geographically remote from states themselves—but without an overtly belligerent effect. Because ships take so long to get somewhere, and are less threatening than troops on the ground, naval forces allow diplomats to ratchet up pressure during a crisis in a responsible—and reversible—way. Take the Cuban Missile Crisis, in 1962. As the British expert H. P. Willmott has written, "The use of naval power by the Americans was the least dangerous option that presented itself, and the slowness with which events unfolded at sea gave time for both sides to conceive and implement a rational response to a highly dangerous situation."

Submarines have been an exception to this rule, but their very ability to operate both literally and figuratively below the surface, completely off the media radar screen, allows a government to be militarily aggressive, particularly in the field of espionage, without offending the sensibilities of its citizenry. Sweden's neutrality is a hard-won luxury built on naval strength that many of its idealistic citizens may be incompletely aware of. Pacifistic Japan, the ultimate trading nation, is increasingly dependent on its burgeoning submarine force. Sea power protects trade, which is regulated by treaties; it's no accident that the father of international law, Hugo Grotius, was a seventeenth-century Dutchman who lived at the height of Dutch naval power worldwide. Because of globalization, the twenty-first century will see unprecedented sea traffic, requiring unprecedented regulation by diplomats and naval officers alike. And as the economic influence of the European Union expands around the globe, Europe may find, like the United States in the nineteenth century and China today, that it has to go to sea to protect its interests.
The ships and other naval equipment being built now by the Europeans are designed to slot into U.S. battle networks. And European nations, which today we conceive of as Atlantic forces, may develop global naval functions; already, for example, Swedish submarine units are helping to train Americans in the Pacific on how to hunt for diesel subs. The sea may be nato's and Europe's best chance for a real military future. And yet the alliance is literally and symbolically weak. For it to regain its political significance, NATO must become a military alliance that no one doubts is willing to fight and kill at a moment's notice. That was its reputation during the Cold War—and it was so well regarded by the Soviets that they never tested it. Expanding NATO eastward has helped stabilize former Warsaw Pact states, of course, but admitting substandard militaries to the alliance's ranks, although politically necessary, has been problematic. The more NATO expands eastward, the more superficial and unwieldy it becomes as a fighting force, and the more questionable becomes its claim that it will fight in defense of any member state. Taking in yet more substandard militaries like Ukraine's and Georgia's too soon is simply not in NATO's interest. We can't just declare an expansion of a defense alliance because of demonstrations somewhere in support of democracy. Rather, we must operate in the way we are now operating in Georgia, where we have sent in the Marines for a year to train the Georgian armed forces. That way, when a country like Georgia does make it into NATO, its membership will have military as well as political meaning. Only by making it an agile force that is ready to land on, say, West African beaches at a few days' or hours' notice can we save NATO.

And we need to save it. NATO is ours to lead—unlike the increasingly powerful European Union, whose own defense force, should it become a reality, would inevitably emerge as a competing regional power, one that might align itself with China in order to balance against us. Let me be even clearer about something that policymakers and experts often don't want to be clear about. nato and an autonomous European defense force cannot both prosper. Only one can—and we should want it to be the former, so that Europe is a military asset for us, not a liability, as we confront China.

The Chinese military challenge is already a reality to officers and sailors of the U.S. Navy.they recently spent four weeks embedded on a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Benfold, roaming around the Pacific from Indonesia to Singapore, the Philippines, Guam, and then Hawaii.

During thier visit the Benfold completed a tsunami-relief mission (which consisted of bringing foodstuffs ashore and remapping the coastline) and then recommenced combat drills, run from the ship's combat-information center—a dark and cavernous clutter of computer consoles. Here a tactical action officer led the response to what were often hypothetical feints or attacks from China or North Korea.

Observing the action in the combat-information center, learned that although naval warfare is conducted with headphones and computer keyboards, the stress level is every bit as acute as in gritty urban combat. A wrong decision can result in a catastrophic missile strike, against which no degree of physical toughness or bravery is a defense.

Sea warfare is cerebral. The threat is over the horizon; nothing can be seen; and everything is reduced to mathematics. The object is deception more than it is aggression—getting the other side to shoot first, so as to gain the political advantage, yet not having to absorb the damage of the attack.

As enthusiastic as the crew members of the Benfold were in helping the victims of the tsunami, once they left Indonesian waters they were just as enthusiastic about honing their surface and subsurface warfare skills. They even picked up a feeling, especially among the senior chief petty officers (the iron grunts of the Navy, who provide the truth unvarnished), that they might be tested in the western Pacific to the same degree that the Marines have been in Iraq. The main threat in the Persian Gulf to date has been asymmetric attacks, like the bombing of the Cole. But the Pacific offers all kinds of threats, from increasingly aggressive terrorist groups in the Islamic archipelagoes of Southeast Asia to cat-and-mouse games with Chinese subs in the waters to the north. Preparing to meet all the possible threats the Pacific has to offer will force the Navy to become more nimble, and will make it better able to deal with unconventional emergencies, such as tsunamis, when they arise.

Welcome to the next few decades. As one senior chief put , referring first to the Persian Gulf and then to the Pacific, "The Navy needs to spend less time in that salty little mud puddle and more time in the pond."

Tuesday 26 August 2008

China's Naval Secrets

Experts attempting to understand the strategic aims behind China's aggressive military expansion have generally focused on Taiwan. But a new naval base points at Beijing's significant and growing interest in projecting power into waters far from the Taiwan Strait. China, in fact, is equipping itself to assert its longstanding and expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, and this plan could raise tensions well beyond the region.

The new base is near Sanya, a city on the southern tip of Hainan Island. It's an ideal place for a naval base, and a significant expansion compared to the nearby naval base in the port city of Yulin. Sanya features much larger piers for hosting a large fleet of surface warships, a new underground base for submarines and comfortable facilities that would attract technically proficient soldiers and sailors. Its location will allow China to exert greater dominance over disputed territories of the South China Sea; to place a much larger naval force closer to sea lanes crucial to Asia's commercial lifeblood; and to exercise influence over the critical Straits of Malacca.

While construction of this new base has only recently been visible via commercial satellite imagery, since 2002 military and security officials in three Asian governments have conveyed to this analyst details, and at times concerns, about China's construction of a major naval base at Sanya. It's not just a matter of the base's existence, but of what Beijing appears to intend to do with it. Officials in two of these governments have pointed to a unique feature of this base: a large new underground facility designed to house nuclear and non-nuclear submarines. In a conversation at an academic confernece in late 2004, a general in China's People's Liberation Army admitted that Beijing was building a new base on Hainan, but denied there was an underground facility.

New high-resolution satellite imagery, however, appears to belie the general's statement. Acquired by Jane's Information Group from satellites of the DigitalGlobe Corporation, this commercially available imagery shows cave openings around the Sanya base consistent with another known PLA underground submarine base in Jianggezhuang near the Bohai Gulf. Other openings on the opposite side may have facilitated excavation or could serve as weapon- or supply storage areas. The size of the underground submarine facility is unknown, although one Asian military source has suggested it will hold at least eight submarines. There is space in this area for a supported underground structure that could house more than 20 subs.

Sanya will prove crucial to China's strategic nuclear and power projection ambitions. The Bohai Gulf in the north of the country, the location for the base of the first PLA nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), is too shallow to support nuclear deterrent patrols. But with the opening of the Sanya base, China's new Type 094 SSBNs can soon find safer 5,000-meter-deep operating areas south of Hainan Island.

The Pentagon projects that the PLA will build five Type 094 SSBNs. Should the submarine-launched ballistic missiles on these submarines contain multiple warheads, as some Asian military sources suggest, the SSBN fleet based at Sanya could eventually house up to half of the PLA's total nuclear missile warheads.

As such, China is going to invest in the facilities and forces needed to defend these vital strategic assets. Sanya has piers necessary to base a far larger force of surface warships, a new large pier, and many new housing and headquarters buildings in this attractive resort area. Both to protect its SSBNs and to defend China's growing interest in securing sea lanes to critical resources in distant areas like Africa, the Persian Gulf and Australia, Sanya can be expected to host future Chinese aircraft carrier battle groups and naval amphibious projection groups. Some Chinese sources suggest that the PLA could eventually build four to six aircraft carriers.

This concentration of strategic naval forces at Sanya will likely heighten China's longstanding desire to consolidate its control over the South China Sea. In 1974, 1988 and 1995, China used military force to capture Vietnamese- and Philippine-controlled or claimed islands and reefs. Its most recent acquisition, Mischief Reef, located about 200 kilometers off the Philippine island of Palawan, now contains two large concrete structures. The PLA appears to have a constant ship presence in this reef, which is very close to one of Asia's key maritime superhighways.

Now Beijing also has the Sanya base at its disposal. And sure enough, in mid-November 2007, the PLA held major naval and air exercises south of Hainan near the disputed Paracel Islands, prompting protests from Vietnam. Either in conjunction with this exercise or soon after, the first Type 094 SSBN moved to Sanya, where it is today -- as caputured by DigitalGlobe satellite images. The implication is clear: Sanya will serve as a base from which to assert China's dominance in the crowded South China Sea.

China and the U.S. have already tangled around Hainan. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3 electronic reconnaissance aircraft flying in international airspace near Hainan tangled with a PLA Navy jet fighter. The Chinese pilot died, but in the fight, forced the damaged U.S. aircraft to land on Hainan and endure a humiliating disassembly by PLA intelligence services. This is likely a foretaste of the sensitivity China will accord U.S. or other naval forces that seek to monitor China's nuclear naval operations -- aimed in large part at the U.S.

* * *

While conflict with China over this region need not be preordained, there is a clear need to request that Beijing explain the content and purpose of its new large naval base at Sanya. China's potential to base a large force of nuclear weapons so close to the region covered by ASEAN's 1996 nuclear-free-zone treaty would at a minimum appear inconsistent with Beijing's pledge to sign protocols to this treaty. Furthermore, the Philippines' lack of any credible air or naval forces to defend its contiguous sea lanes, upon which much of Asia's commerce depends, creates a dangerous power vacuum.

China's movement of nuclear and future large-scale conventional naval forces to Sanya may fill this vacuum, but the interests of Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi, Canberra and Washington will also be engaged. China's buildup in Sanya is a clear illustration of the need for China to respond to calls by Japan, Australia and the U.S. for greater military transparency. The only other prudent alternative is for these countries to increase their cooperation to defend their interests in deterring nuclear threats and threats to maritime safety.

Chinese Naval Sonar Evolves From Foreign Influences

Lateral moves supplant great leaps forward.

The types of sonars equipping Chinese warships are a barometer of Chinese naval technology and antisubmarine capability. The evolution of Chinese sonar from old Soviet equipment to series production, to indigenous designs, to French examples and finally to modern Russian vessels with sonar suites parallels Chinese naval progress. Just as these systems have grown from secondhand gear to indigenous designs supplemented by up-to-date foreign technologies, so has the Chinese navy transitioned to a force designed to serve the nation’s maritime needs.

The initial phase of the Chinese sonar program began with Soviet searchlight sonars provided from 1954 to 1975. The searchlight sonars were high frequency (HF) units that transmitted and received echoes in one direction. The first sonar-equipped submarines acquired from the Soviet Union were four World War II vintage S-class submarines with the MARS-12 passive sonar delivered in 1954. Two years later, components for the first of 21 Soviet Whiskey-class diesel submarines included the TAMIR 5LS active sonar. The Chinese assembled these kits in their own shipyards with Soviet assistance. China established a manufacturing plant for these sonars and produced more than 100, and they likely were exact copies of the Soviet examples.

The passive arrays could have been slightly improved MARS 24 sonars, indicating 24 instead of 12 transducer elements. This would provide much improved bearing accuracy and reduced beam side lobes. Chinese shipyards went into a large production run of the submarines, designating them as Type 031. Chinese efforts to obtain more modern Soviet submarines and sonars were thwarted by the cooling of relations in 1960 when the Soviet Union began to pull back its military technicians and engineers. China did manage to obtain plans and drawings of the Romeo-class diesel submarine. This submarine had TAMIR 5L active sonar and a FENIKS passive array. China’s shipyards produced 64 Romeo copies, designated Type 033. Unlike the Type 031, the Type 033 bows did have a unique fez-shaped topside transducer, which indicated that the newer sonars had been obtained. Two 033 submarines reportedly were upgraded with French DUUX-5 sonars in 1983.

Similar efforts were directed at surface vessels. In 1954, the Soviet Union provided components for four Riga-class destroyer escorts that were built in a Chinese shipyard in 1958. These ships included PEGAS-2 hull-mounted HF searchlight sonars. Starting in 1964, Chinese shipyards produced five more copies, with no Soviet parts supplied, called Jiangnan class. The Soviet Union provided two classes of warships in 1955 that included sonar equipment. These included 10 Kronstadt patrol craft equipped with TAMIR-10 HF searchlight sonars. Based on these examples, Chinese shipyards produced 14 more copies, including the sonars. The other class comprised four T-43 ocean minesweepers equipped with HF TAMIR-11 searchlight sonars. China’s Wuchang and Donglang shipyards produced 37 more T-43 sonars, designated Type 053HT by China.

China began developing indigenous sonars around 1962 when all Soviet assistance and shipments ceased, and it produced them roughly from 1975 until 1987. Because the sonar transducer dome or fairing is the only part of sonar that is visible externally, observers can detect two levels of sonar design technology. The earliest, the transducer on the keel of a ship, was initially a hoist-lower device that transmitted and listened in only one bearing—the searchlight sonar. Newer technology transmits sound around 360 degrees, and echoes are displayed on a plan position indicator cathode ray tube (CRT). This is the conventional scanning sonar. A bow dome device cannot be a hoist-lower unit because of tight space restrictions, and so it is assumed to be scanning technology. Small bow domes indicate that HF scanning equipment is present, and larger more bulbous domes likely contain medium frequency (MF) or even low frequency (LF) sonar technology, if very large.

The first mention of a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) designation for a sonar was the EH-5 on the Jianghu frigate in 1975. It reportedly also was on 25 of the Jianghu frigates in variants I through IV from 1975 until 1986. Photographs show HF bow dome sonar on Jiangwei frigates. The Jiangnan V frigate had a sonar designated an EH-5A, which would seem to be an improved version. The next Chinese sonar designation was not evident until 1991 when the SO-7H was installed on the Jiangwei I (FF 539 to 542) and Jiangwei II (FF 521 to 524) frigates. Photographs of Jiangwei ships in drydock clearly show a medium-size bow dome, and models or drawings on display support this observation. This transducer location indicates very strongly that these Chinese sonars are the more modern scanning type.

Because it seems that the Soviets supplied only old searchlight sonars, the question is how did China advance into a next-generation scanning design? A crucial issue is whether China received an example of a first-generation Soviet scanning sonar or if China designed a scanning sonar from scratch. Examples of new naval equipment designed in China without foreign help usually involved many years of work before that equipment became operational, and then many times, the technology was not placed in production, indicating poor results. One notable example is the HQ-61 surface-to-air missile for two Jiangdong frigates that took 10 years to become operational. Both ships were decommissioned after a few years, and their successor ships were Jianghu frigates.

Two major events in China greatly retarded or stopped the normal design process of newer sonar-unique technology such as audio and video scanners. The Great Leap Forward from 1955 to 1959 basically moved industry to a local backyard-furnace level, where quality control standards were virtually nonexistent. Next, the 1965 Cultural Revolution featured Red-Book-waving fanatics who jailed and beat nonproletarian engineers and scientists as deviationists. These activities continued until the 1970s. This atmosphere in China impeded any significant sonar improvements for the crucial period from 1955 to 1970.

These facts contribute to a strong case for the conclusion that China received a foreign example on which to base its scanning sonar. The first-generation Soviet HF scanning sonar, called Titan MG-312, was developed in 1957 and installed on Petya and Kashin vessels in 1960. This sonar also is referred to by observers as one of several Herkules sonars, also known by the NATO designation Wolf Paw. The Soviet Union continued providing equipment to China until 1962, and it is certain that China had listed scanning sonar as a priority request. Because it is not considered an offensive system, the Soviet Union could have provided at least one set, possibly with drawings. This would have allowed China several years to reach full production for bow dome Jianghu frigates by the early 1980s.

China had several facilities that could contribute to the design and production of an indigenous sonar. The first leading-edge development challenge for Chinese naval construction was the Han nuclear attack submarine (SSN). Prior to this, China copied Soviet submarines, destroyer escorts and patrol craft. The largest ship was the Luda, which appeared to be very similar to the Soviet Tallinn class. The Han had sonars installed in 1970, but systems were not certified until 1975. The active sonar was designated SQZ-3 and the passive version was SQC-1. The Shanghai 22nd Radio Plant reportedly produces the SQC-1, but too little time seems to have elapsed to develop the expertise to design and build a sonar more capable than the crude TAMIRs known to be in production.

China has had several highly respected oceanographic universities. The first was established in Qingdao in 1952, and in 1958 the government created six navy research and development laboratories, including underwater acoustics and underwater weapons. In 1965, China expanded its old Bureau of Oceans into a vast network of facilities, research and forecast centers and bureaus called the State Oceanographic Agency. By 1970, it created special underwater acoustic sites in the Bohai, East China and Yellow seas. Technical institutes known to be very involved in sonar design are Institute 715 in Huangzhou and Institute 706 in Beijing. Other sonar manufacturing plants include the Dongfeng Mechanical Plant that produced the SQ2-D sonar for diesel submarines, the Jiangxin Machinery Plant, the Jiangning Mechanical Plant and the Great Wall Radio Factory in Beijing.

Although there are no photographs of indigenous Chinese sonars on warships in open sources, an interesting photograph taken in 1978 inside the J-302 vessel participating in submarine-launched ballistic missile test shots showed a “splashdown monitoring team” manning a unit. With one large CRT and three smaller CRTs above, it looked like a sonar set, although the operator was not wearing a headset.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, China opted to import modern sonars. These tend to fall into two categories. France provided modern sonar equipment from 1974 until 1993. The second period of modern Russian sonar systems extends from 1994 to the present.

The first imported French sonars were two sets of the lightweight Thomson SS-12 variable depth sonars in 1974. These can be used as a dipping sonar on antisubmarine warfare (ASW) helicopters or as a variable-depth stern-mounted sonar on a small ASW patrol craft. The five Han-class SSNs reportedly obtained French DUUX-5 sonar sometime around 1974, as did the single Xia nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) around 1988, although Chinese SQX- designations were used. Three Chinese diesel Song-class submarines carried French TSM-2233 and TSM-2255 sonars beginning around 1988.

In 1987, on Haiju patrol craft hulls 688 and 697, SS-12 variable depth sonar (VDS) replaced the aft 57-millimeter guns. These sonars could have been copies of the two acquisitions from France. The workhorse Luda-class guided missile destroyers (DDGs) had their first notable upgrade in 1987. The lead ship built in 1972, DDG 105, received facilities for two helicopters and 57-millimeter guns but no new bow sonar. This was known as the one-of-a-kind Luda II. What is not as well-known is that another Luda, DDG 131, was in a Shanghai dry dock with a large bow sonar dome in the same year but was not called a Luda II.

The most capable French sonar provided was the DUBV-23 surface-ship scanning LF search sonar. The first example appeared on the first Luda III conversion in 1990. The two new construction Luhu DDGs had the DUBV-23 in 1993, and the larger Luhai DDG had one in 1999. The largest and best warships of the PLAN all sported the DUBV-23, and the Luhu also had the French DUBV-43 LF VDS aft. China had licensed production rights from France for both sonars.

The Russian import sonars are significant because they were included as part of a full weapon/sensor suite on modern vessels that China bought. The modern ASW torpedoes and missiles with associated fire control systems greatly enhanced the capabilities of the complex sonars.

In 1995 the first of two modern, quiet 877E Kilo submarines were procured with MKG-400 and MG-519 sonar suites. Two additional improved-636 Kilos followed in three years, but the sonar suites were nearly identical. The MKG-400 was improved to the MGK-400 EM variant. In 1999 the first of two Sovremenny DDGs arrived from Russia equipped with MG-335 MF bow sonar and MG-7 HF fire control attack sonar. Because of the clustering of the most modern Kilo and Sovremenny units in the Zhoushan area, it is probable that Russia established a maintenance and support group there for the ASW suites.

China’s designation for sonar systems installed on various surface ships is “SJD” followed by a unique number. The Kronstadt with TAMIR in 1955 was SJD-3, increasing with odd numbers to SJD-11 on the Luda III in 1992. It is probable that Luhu and Luhai are equipped with SJD-13 and -15, but this is not confirmed. The logistics support, maintenance and operator training are challenging because of the variety of old Soviet and modern French and Russian sonars, in addition to several indigenous searchlight and scanning sonars.

Based upon 43 sets of sonar equipment provided by the Soviet Union, China produced 417 additional sonars for various classes of warships and submarines. The few ships fitted with modern French sonars are fairly certain, and the new Russian sonar suites on Kilo submarines and Sovremenny DDGs are very publicized. The sonar types of a vast number of Chinese designed combatants launched between those two known sonar installation groups are the interesting mystery. These numerous indigenously designed destroyers, frigates, patrol craft and submarines total more than 100 vessels. It is hoped that in the near future, China will be more open and the actual state of PLAN sonar technology will be revealed.

Hull Configurations Indicate Sonar Types

Except for the Luda-class destroyer, Chinese antisubmarine warfare (ASW) ships from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s had port and starboard bow anchors. Experts estimated that Chinese sonars were Soviet high frequency (HF) searchlight technology, with keel-mounted hoist-lower domes. After 1990, French DUBV-23 low frequency (LF) bow sonar domes and bow stem anchors are known Chinese sonar designs. The Jianghu series of 35 frigates built from 1975 until 1986 bridge the critical transition period, and naval experts differ on estimated sonar types and locations. Correlating visible anchor and bow configurations to sonar technology may provide a possible answer to this riddle.

The first 14 Jianghu frigates built at Jiangnan shipyard had port/starboard anchor locations, which would indicate keel-mounted HF searchlight sonars. The following 11 Jianghus built at Pudong shipyard after 1983 had an anchor in the sharper raked bow stem and another further aft on the port bow, which indicates a bow sonar dome. These observations are the basis for a strong argument that China had an HF or medium frequency indigenous scanning sonar in 1983 that impelled the redesigned bow on Jianghu and Jiangwei frigates.

However, some anomalies to this point of view exist. For example, the 15 Luda destroyers all had a raked bow stem anchor since 1971. China almost certainly had only copies of Soviet keel searchlight sonars during that period. Other Chinese non-ASW large ships with sharply raked bows have traditional port/starboard anchor arrangements. A Luda was observed in dry dock with a large bow dome in 1987, three years prior to China receiving the first French LF sonar. China has been producing DUBV-23 bow sonars under licensed production rights for 12 years. More than half of the Ludas, not just the single Luda III, could have LF bow sonars.

Sunday 17 August 2008

East confronts west in Latin America

China and Russia are challenging the US for dominance in Latin America by pursuing trade and military deals

While the United States remains deeply focused on its adventure in Iraq, new security challenges are emerging in other parts of the world. One of the most intriguing is in Ecuador, a nation of 14 million on the Pacific shoulder of South America that has rarely figured in global politics.

For the last decade, the US has operated an air and naval base in the coastal Ecuadoran city of Manta. The 475 Americans based there use Awacs surveillance planes and other advanced equipment to interdict cocaine shipments headed north. Since 1999 they have reported carrying out thousands of missions and confiscating drugs with a street value that reaches billions of dollars.

Critics suspect that more goes on at the Manta base than just drug interdiction. They believe it may also have been used to support clandestine operations against leftist guerrillas fighting in nearby Colombia, which is 20 minutes away by air, and to monitor communications in Ecuador and nearby countries.

President Rafael Correa, a US-educated nationalist who is part of the leftist wave that has washed over Latin America in recent years, campaigned on a promise to close the Manta base when its lease expires in 2009. It is a reflection of how radically things have changed in Latin America that he was not only able to win with that promise, but is now carrying it out.

This will mean a serious setback to the ill-conceived American "war on drugs". A senior US officer at Manta told the Los Angeles Times that "the geographical position of Manta is invaluable" and the base "is a terribly important asset in the war on drugs".

Losing this "forward operating location" in the drug war, however, would not be the only consequence of closing the Manta base. President Correa has offered to lease it to China.

During a visit to Beijing in November, Correa said China could turn the Manta base into a transit port from which to exploit the riches of the Amazon. China, which is engaged in a headlong rush for timber, minerals and other resources around the world, is said to be looking favourably on the idea.

This deal, if consummated, will mark a major leap for Chinese strategic influence in the western hemisphere. China would undoubtedly use the base for security and intelligence operations like those the US is said to be carrying out there today. It would be the first time US and Chinese interests pushed so closely against each other in the Americas.

China is already making large strategic investments in another Latin American country, Panama. This is evidently the beginning of a long-term relationship. The teaching of Mandarin has been made compulsory in Panamanian schools.

Russia is also challenging the US in Latin America. In retaliation for US plans to build missile defence installations in Europe, Russia has threatened to build a refuelling base in Cuba for its nuclear-armed aircraft.

All of this raises the prospect of a suddenly changed hemispheric balance. It would be defined by a Russian base in Cuba, effective Chinese control over the Panama Canal and a Chinese base in Ecuador from which China could project power into Pacific sea lanes while exploiting the Amazon more systematically than anyone ever has.

The US may have been showing its displeasure at this prospect when President Correa passed through the Miami airport on his way to China. Immigration officials refused to recognise his official status. Instead they treated him like an ordinary passenger, a slight that Ecuador's foreign minister called a "humiliation of a head of state, from arrogance by a country that believes itself above all others".

This pitiful kind of pressure is not going to persuade Ecuador to change its mind about closing the Manta base. There is one thing that might, however. President Correa has offered a quid pro quo. He will withdraw his opposition to extending the base's lease, he says, if the US will allow Ecuador to build a military base in Florida.

The US should take him up on his offer. Doing so would allow the US to hold onto a base it considers strategically important, prevent the base from falling into Chinese hands and signal a new approach to Latin America. It might even be the beginning of a trend that would be healthy for the whole world: allowing foreign countries to operate military bases in the United States.

Allowing these bases to open would give Americans some sense of what it means to be host to a foreign military force. They will see foreign flags flying over military installations on American soil, and see jeeps full of uniformed foreign soldiers driving on their streets. Pieces of the US would have been turned over limited foreign control.

The US maintains more than 700 military bases around the world, far more than any power in modern history. Americans assume that their government has every right and reason to maintain these bases. Many would be horrified, however, if another country opened a base on US territory. Why this imbalance?

Opening an Ecuadoran military base in Florida would no more infringe on American sovereignty than the Manta base infringes on Ecuador's. It might even lead some Americans to begin wondering why the US needs so many foreign military outposts, and whether some of them may be creating popular hostility that outweighs their military value.

China's strategies in Latin America

CHINA TODAY faces an immediate challenge: energy dependence. For many years it has tried to diversify its sources of hydrocarbons, but the deposits of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea have turned out to be disappointing, with reserves much below preliminary estimates. As a consequence, within the last decade China has been paying close attention to Africa and Latin America. However, Beijing's growing political and economic presence is increasingly perceived by the United States as a serious intrusion, particularly when it comes to Latin America, an area the United States has long regarded as being in its sphere of influence. Altogether, China's moves have aroused great anxiety in the United States.

The People's Republic of China (PRC)--eighth largest importer of oil in 2000 and fourth in 2003 after the United states, Japan, and Germany--will probably occupy second place before the end of this decade. Imports, which accounted for 27 percent of China's oil consumption in 1999, 37 percent in 2002, and 43 percent in 2005, are on a constant upward swing. Thus, dependence on foreign energy has become a major preoccupation of China's leaders, who see the current situation as an obstacle to achieving the broader role they intend China to play on the world stage.

Until 1990, three countries (Indonesia, the Sultanate of Oman, and Iran) were China's principal suppliers of imported oil. However, diversification became necessary because of the PRC's increase in consumption and Indonesia's diminishing reserves. (1) Consequently, resource-rich Latin America has become coveted territory, especially since the United States is now perceived to have established its hold over all the countries of the Middle East (except Iran) as a result of its intervention in Iraq. Meanwhile, the shortfall in Caspian Sea deposits (now estimated at just 2 to 4 percent of world reserves) is exacerbating China's problem.

Latin America, with 9.7% of world oil reserves, could potentially enable the PRC to meet its projected energy requirements. Not surprisingly, therefore, China has become the second largest importer of Latin American oil, after the United States. In fact, since 2001, China's appetite for Latin American oil has grown at least ten-fold.

China's Omnipresence

Although it has been active in Africa since the 1960s, China had--until recently--never exercised significant political or commercial influence in Latin America. For a very long time the continent remained veritable terra incognita for Beijing. In part, China's reluctance to enter the region resulted from U.S. influence, especially during the Cold War. Most Latin American governments awaited Richard Nixon's visit to Beijing in February 1972 before establishing diplomatic relations with the PRC (Argentina and Mexico in 1972, Brazil 2 years later, and finally Bolivia in 1985). In recent years, though, the PRC's diplomacy has been particularly dynamic and determined in Latin America. The 2-week tour in November 2004 by Chinese President Hu Jintao, who traveled through several countries of the region (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Cuba), illustrates this determination.

For the moment, Latin America is only a modest supplier to the PRC, but bilateral trade is growing, from $12.6 billion in 2001 to 26.8 billion in 2003 and 30 billion in 2004. In conducting its campaign of economic and political expansion, China has adopted the following modus operandi: It negotiates and ensures regular oil supplies in exchange for investment; it then uses commercial ties to generate agreements on political and military cooperation.

The financial bridgehead Beijing has established in Latin America is now being continually reinforced. In 2003, more than a third of China's foreign investment was placed in Latin America, and the bulk of its investment outside Asia was made in the region. By way of comparison, 14 percent of Chinese investment was made there against 80 percent in Asia and 1.7 percent in North America. (2) China is also increasing investment in the oil sector in Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico, without neglecting smaller producers such as Ecuador and Peru.

In August 2003, in Ecuador, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) was accorded prospecting rights by Ecuador's President, Lucio Gutierrez. (3) A few months later, China National Chemical (Sinochem) bought 14 percent of an oilfield in Orellana Province from ConocoPhillips for $100 million. Known as "Block 16," the oilfield has a surface area of 2,200 square kilometers. Sinochem takes 8,000 barrels per day from Block 16, which is principally exploited by the Spanish firm RepsolYPF (55 percent) and the Taiwanese company Chinese Petroleum Corporation (31 percent). More recently, in September 2005, the consortium Andes Petroleum, led by the CNPC, bought the interests of a Canadian company, EnCana, for $1.4 billion. With this operation, China will gain production of 75,000 barrels per day (thanks notably to the Tarapoa and Shiripuno fields) and control of reserves estimated at around 143 million barrels.
In 2004, the CNPC bought a subsidiary of PlusPetrol in Peru, PlusPetrol Norte, for $200 million. (4) Then, in March 2005, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) signed an agreement with Cuba's Cubapetroleo to develop the field at Pinar del Rio on the west coast of the island.

Similarly, Mexico, although a member of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA, which consists of Canada, the United States and Mexico), has not escaped Chinese attention. The visits of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in December 2003 and Hu Jintao in September 2005 ended with the signing of oil contracts. For the moment, Mexico is not exporting hydrocarbons to China, but the CNPC has obtained drilling licenses..
n Bolivia, Beijing's presence remains modest, but given the former's significant gas reserves, it could also become one of China's suppliers in time. In 2004, two Chinese companies began construction of a chemical complex there. Finally, in Colombia, China is offering to finance the construction of an oil pipeline on the Pacific Coast, to move oil to the Tribugal terminal in the Choco region from Venezuela's Maracaibo region.

Beijing's strategy of investing in raw material sources in South America is a priori comparable to that followed in Africa, but acceptance and support of its presence is facilitated by hostility and resentment in the region against the United States.

Venezuela's Role

Venezuela, the sixth largest world oil producer in 2004, remains a primary supplier to Washington, at a level comparable to Saudi Arabia's. (5) Even so, Venezuela constitutes the cornerstone of Beijing's diplomacy in Latin America. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the American continents (6.5 percent of world reserves), more than those of the three members of NAFTA combined. Its gas reserves are also abundant--2.4 percent of known world reserves, or slightly less than those of the United States. For the time being, Washington remains Venezuela's principal customer, purchasing 60 percent of its exports (the other clients, apart from Beijing, being Japan and Cuba); however, Venezuela's proportion of U.S. oil imports is in decline, from 17 percent in 1997 to 11.8 percent today.

The overt hostility the United States manifests publicly and diplomatically towards Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's current president, has given further impetus to the establishment of a firm partnership between Venezuela and China. In December 2004, during an official visit to Beijing, Chavez concluded several economic and commercial cooperation accords with Hu Jintao.

Cooperation in commercial and oil matters between the two countries has already proved fruitful. Bilateral trade has increased from $150 million in 2003 to $1.2 billion in 2004, and is thought to have doubled in 2005. A visit by Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong to Caracas in January 2005 further underlined Beijing's interest in Venezuela. On that occasion, several contracts were signed, among them agreements permitting China to invest $350 million in the development of 15 oilfields (which could yield a billion barrels of oil), and $60 million in Venezuela's railway network, refineries, and other oil-related infrastructure. China also offered Venezuela a credit line of $40 million for the latter to buy Chinese agricultural equipment.
In 2004, Venezuela provided 0.5 percent of China's oil imports, with 12,000 barrels per day. Last year, the volume was nearly six times greater, at 68,000 barrels per day, or 1.8 percent of total imports. Contracts for offshore gas exploration have also been signed by Sinopec and Petrrleos de Venezuela. At the end of August 2005, China and Venezuela created a joint company, in order to develop the Zumano field in the state of Anzoategui, where reserves are estimated at 400 million barrels. Thanks to these investments, Chavez plans to double his country's oil production by 2012--for China's specific benefit. China therefore expects to multiply its annual imports almost 5 times to reach 110 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million tons of Orimulsion[R] in less than 7 years.
As one would expect, such close cooperation in the oil and commercial spheres would imply a need for Chinese expatriate commercial experts and businessmen. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Chinese-national community in Venezuela is now estimated to number more than 130,000.

However, irrespective of the current plans, the volume of Venezuela's exports to China remains limited for the moment because of the narrowness of the Panama Canal, which cannot accept large ships. The alternative maritime mute, around Cape Horn, is twice as long (taking up to 45 days) as the Pacific crossing.

China a Threat?

From Washington, the Chinese presence is described by some as a threat under one or more of three headings: political, military, and economic.

Political threat. Chinese influence in the domestic political life of many Latin American countries is no longer debatable. In December 2004, during a visit by Hugo Chavez to Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party announced measures to strengthen links with Chavez's Movement for the Fifth Republic. This political measure was far from unique, since China maintains close relations with several "progressive" and revolutionary movements, including the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) in Bolivia. Led by Evo Morales, an indigenous highlander, the MAS took power in Bolivia after elections in 2005. Moreover, in Nicaragua, the possibility exists of a victory by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, led by Daniel Ortega, in this year's presidential election--a worrying prospect for Washington.

Some attribute the success of Chinese diplomacy to the limited interest the administration of President George W. Bush showed toward South America during his first term in office. Clearly, Beijing's political support for revolutionary movements in Latin America can only encourage mistrust towards the United States. The links created with Beijing have therefore bolstered the efforts of Hugo Chavez as standard-bearer for the "Bolivarian alternative for the Americas," a project intended to reinforce the integration of Andean region economies.

Additionally, in June 2005 Venezuela concluded the Petrocaribe agreement with 13 Caribbean countries. This agreement entails the delivery of Venezuelan oil at preferential tariffs in order to reduce the influence of the United States on the area's economies. One result is that today Cuba has attained a measure of energy independence attributable in part to its own production, which covers half the needs of the island, and to supplemental deliveries by Venezuela.
Security threat. In military matters, China's influence in Panama since the departure of the United States in December 1999 has fed alarmist debate in Washington. The role of the Hong Kong-based port-operating company Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL) has been the catalyst of such concerns. HWL is one of Hong Kong's principal firms, with 150,000 employees spread over 40 countries. Through its various subsidiaries, HWL has operations in the telecommunications, hotel, and port management fields. HWL's Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH), is one of the main port-operating firms in the world, handling 10 percent of the world's container traffic.
HPH now manages over 30 ports throughout the world, most being nodes of international commerce such as Rotterdam, Freeport in the Bahamas, Jakarta, Kwangyang and Pusan in South Korea, the British port of Felixstowe, and several Mexican terminals, including Veracruz and Manzanillo. Since 1996, HPH has also taken over management of 2 port terminals in Panama, Cristobal and Balboa, on leases for a period of 25 years. On several occasions the U.S. Department of State has voiced fears aroused by the management of this strategic point by a Chinese firm.

According to some American observers, the Chinese presence in the Canal Zone has made the Zone a veritable crossroads for international criminality. Two-thirds of the ships transiting the Canal come from or are going to the United States. During the passage through the Canal, ships travel at a very slow speed, giving criminal groups opportunities to stow drugs or contraband of Latin American origin on board for transport to the United States. China is openly accused of allowing these illicit activities to flourish. The Panama Canal is also seen as a springboard for clandestine immigration into the United States, with Chinese complicity.

In addition, control of the Canal is perceived as a diplomatic weapon for Beijing to use against states which have diplomatic relations with, and recognize, Taiwan. Among the 25 states maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan, almost half are Latin American, including Belize, Costa Pica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and El Salvador, together with 4 Caribbean countries (the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nevis-Saint Kitts, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). Chinese control of this commercial artery, upon which many of these nations depend in part for trade, may well convince some of their governments to review their policies toward Taiwan.

The deployment of 125 Chinese police to Haiti in 2004, under the auspices of a UN mission, was also part of China's policy of influence.

Finally, China is also developing military cooperation with several Latin American countries. For example, Cuba allows China to use the telecommunications infrastructure built and since abandoned by the Russians, notably the Torrens base near Havana, which contains sophisticated equipment. This base was constructed in 1964 and housed more than 1,000 Russians until 2001.

Economic threat. China's presence is encouraged by Latin American governments intent on reducing the commercial and financial influence of the United States over the region.

In part, this is evident in the diversity of trade being developed with regard to raw materials. PRC investment is not limited to the hydrocarbon sector, but also includes trade and investment, most notably in mining and food production industries.

With 25 percent of the world's reserves of silver, 30 percent of tin, and 45 percent of copper, Latin America constitutes a real reservoir of raw materials. Today, Chile alone accounts for 40 percent of copper exports to China, which is the world's leading consumer of copper.
China is also multiplying its trade investments in Brazil. In 2000, it was 15th among Brazil's commercial partners; today it is Brazil's second-ranking customer. In 2004, the largest Chinese steel producer, Baosteel, invested $1.5 billion in Brazil. Also, in May 2004, Brazil concluded an agreement between Sinopec and Petrobras which aims to double Brazilian oil exports to China. Beijing, for its part, agreed to invest in oil and gas exploration and participate in infrastructure financing (oil and gas pipelines).

The United States has also been concerned about the increasingly numerous Chinese expatriate communities in Latin American countries and the risks of aggravated criminality, particularly in the strategic region between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay known as the triple frontier, or Tri-Border Area (TBA). Close to the Brazilian port of Paranagua, the TBA is formed by three towns served by the Pan-American Highway: Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), Iguazu (Argentina), and Fos do Iguacu (Brazil). The ethnic Chinese population living in this region is now estimated at 30,000, mainly in Ciudad del Este.

Since the 1970s, the TBA has been a flourishing site for commerce (40,000 people cross the Friendship Bridge between Brazil and Paraguay each day), as well as smuggling and narco-trafficking. Several Chinese criminal organizations, such as the Fu Chin and the Tai Chen Saninh, are actively engaged in customs fraud, extortion, drug trafficking, and counterfeiting. These groups are also thought to provide selective logistic support to groups aiding radical fundamentalist Islamic movements present in the TBA. The United States assesses that this region, which houses a large Muslim community (mainly Lebanese but also Syrian), harbors dormant networks able to commit attacks of the kind perpetrated in Argentina on the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and 2 years later against a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The link between the drug cartels, the Asian triads, and some small groups associating themselves with radical Islam is seen as a destabilizing factor to the overall security of the region.

Above all, Washington is concerned about China's attitude in the coming years as it seeks to preserve its valuable economic interests and its expatriate presence. In Venezuela, several Chinese expatriates have recently been killed. Such actions could enable Beijing to justify a more assertive military presence.
The Future Azimuth

Their political, military, or economic goals notwithstanding, the Chinese face several obstacles in their dealings with Latin America.

First, Beijing will be unable to dominate these countries, whose economic weight remains significant--in contrast to their ability to influence certain African countries.

Next, with regard to competing for energy resources in Latin America (just as in Central Asia and Africa, particularly the Sudan), China faces rising competition from India, whose need for oil is also growing continuously. India shows every sign of becoming the fourth-ranking consumer of oil by 2010, behind only the United States, China, and Japan. Already, India depends on foreign imports for 70 percent of its oil, a proportion projected to reach 80 percent in 2010 and 87 percent in 2020. And, although the Indian government intends to speed up oil prospecting on its own territory, any possible new fields will not satisfy its steadily increasing consumption.
Not surprisingly, in March 2005 India concluded a partnership with Venezuela enabling an Indian company, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC Videsh Oil), to acquire 49 percent of the San Cristobal oilfield. In Cuba, this same firm was granted several oil concessions. Cuba's exclusive economic zone is divided into 59 blocks, open to foreign investors since 1999. Estimates of the reserves have settled at around 5 million barrels.

Thus, China can be expected to continue its determined quest for hydrocarbons and, after Africa (especially Sudan and Angola), will be venturing into the United States' traditional zones of influence. Therefore, from the Gulf of Guinea to the Andean Cordillera, from the Caspian Sea to the Spratley Islands, a competition for oil between the United States and China is under way and can only get worse. From now on, however, the two protagonists must also take into account rising and determined competition from India in seeking fossil fuel resources.