Friday, February 5, 2010

China Rising

And now a bit of shameless self-promotion . . .

But first, a disclaimer to protect my employer (and me): The views expressed in this post and on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Heritage Foundation. 

It's nice getting published.

On Tuesday, the Heritage Foundation published a paper written by me and Mackenzie Eaglen, Research Fellow for National Security at Heritage: "Submarine Arms Race in the Pacific: The Chinese Challenge to U.S. Undersea Supremacy."

The idea for the paper came from reading a newspaper article on Australia's plans to double its submarine fleet as part of a larger shipbuilding program. What caught my attention was Australian officials explaining this decision in terms of China's rapid naval buildup, especially its submarine fleet, and declining U.S. naval power in the Pacific. I started poking around and discovered a pattern of other countries in the region strengthening their navies, presumably reacting to the growing Chinese threat. The hidden irony in the title is that the "submarine arms race" is not between China and the U.S., but it is a multilateral race between China and Australia, India, and several Asian countries. If this were an athletic race, the China and the U.S. would be roughly even, but China is sprinting forward while the U.S. is walking back to the finish starting line.

In the paper, many of the conclusions are deliberately stated in neutral terms or left unsaid. One reason is that credible conclusions must be supported by solid arguments and facts, both of which are in short supply in regard to communist China. In some ways China is more inscrutable than the Soviet Union ever was. However, some of the implications are clear, including that China is a growing threat to freedom in the region and to the United States and its friends and allies.

I do not expect a hot war between China and the U.S. in the next couple of decades, but I suppose a war by proxy is a possibility. And China will certainly use any military advantage it may acquire as leverage to draw its neighbors more tightly into its sphere of influence.

A related consideration is that the Chinese government tends to take the view (decades and centuries), and it plans and acts accordingly. This approach differs dramatically from the behavior of democratic systems, such as the United States, which has trouble planning beyond the next federal budget cycle or remembering anything that happened before the current budget cycle.

Writing the Paper
Researching and writing the paper was actually quite fun, when I could find the time to do it. It was pleasant change to actually write something from scratch rather than try to fix someone else's writing. I began working on the paper in earnest last May, but was interrupted frequently and for weeks at a time by my real job. Thanks to several colleagues, especially Mackenzie and Dean Cheng, it became a much better paper than I ever could have written by myself. I'm particularly thankful to Dean for catching what would have been a particularly embarrassing factual error.

On a different note, going through the editing and publishing process myself did make me more sympathetic toward the authors whose papers I edit. I expect that sympathy will last at least to the end of this week.

Note: Those who actually look at the paper will notice that I'm listed as the second author, even though it's no secret that I was the primary author. But I am quite happy with the arrangement, it part because she contributed significantly to the paper. She is also listed first for the practical reason that it's better for Heritage that a full-time defense expert answer any press inquiries (which are routed to the first author listed). Mackenzie argued that I should be listed first, but I'm quite happy to let her deal with the press. Handling the press isn't part of my portfolio as an editor--for that matter neither is writing on defense issues, but that can actually be fun.

Picture: Chinese Kilo-class submarine, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Revised 2/5/2010  12:11 pm

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure which is scarier, the build up of the Chinese military might - or the combination of their deep and diverse economic power backed by their military power.

    It seems to be analogous to having a loan officer with some very large men with guns to make sure the unwise debt load gets serviced.



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