“It’s a year or two from now” and here’s what we see: explosions at Pearl Harbor and nearby Hickam Air Force Base, a drone attack at Naval Base San Diego, the collision of a Chinese-crewed fishing vessel with a US oil tanker departing Hawaii for the Western Pacific. Meanwhile, “the People’s Liberation Army is ashore on Taiwan in large numbers.”
Its internet and other communications down, Taiwan is cut off from the world. The US government is caught flat-footed. The Marines never make it to Taiwan and US Navy ships on their way from Singapore, Guam and even West Coast ports are hit by missiles before they have time to react. Chinese special forces launch attacks in Hawaii, Guam and Japan.
“Taiwan realizes no help is coming. It sues for terms and gives up. Immediately, the rest of Asia gets the message.” The reputation of the US has been shredded. Its First Island Chain of defense in the Western Pacific is broken. China can no longer be contained and it will not stop at Taiwan.
This fictional “informed speculation” kicks off Grant Newsham’s new book “When China Attacks: A Warning to America.” It is a wake-up call for anyone who thinks the dispute between the US and China can be solved by reasonable discussion.
Newsham is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies. His career has spanned intelligence and liaison roles in the US Marines, counterinsurgency and commercial positions as a US Foreign Service Officer and a business career in Tokyo with an investment bank and in the high-tech industry. His writings have appeared in many publications, including Asia Times.
Having grabbed the reader’s attention, Newsham shifts gears to present an extensively researched comparison of America with its decline and loss of resolve versus China with its coherent strategy and clear objectives.
The topics are familiar: In the US, they include social decay and economic weakness brought about by the loss of manufacturing, the corruption of academic, financial, corporate and political elites hooked on Chinese money and the debilitating impact of America’s woke cultural revolution pitting national self-criticism against the Fourth of July. In China, there is the single-minded focus of a one-party state on comprehensive national power.
Newsham describes China’s:
- use of psychological warfare,
- manipulation of international legal frameworks (“lawfare”),
- capture of international organizations,
- exploitation of Covid and involvement in American addiction to fentanyl
- undercutting of American industry and the US dollar, and
- extraordinarily widespread hacking of IT infrastructure.
He reviews the US government’s acquiescence in China’s de facto takeover of the South China Sea and the military possibilities of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
It is impressive and useful to have all this information in one book.
The US and international order it created after World War II have been under attack for many years. Americans hoping to reach a profitable compromise with China just haven’t wanted to reach that logical conclusion. Their wishful thinking is supported by a mindset that draws a line between kinetic and non-kinetic warfare.
It is important to keep in mind,” Newsham writes, “that the Chinese Communist Party does not distinguish between peacetime and wartime like Americans do. To the communists, there is no distinction… Non-kinetic warfare measures and an actual shooting war are on the same spectrum…
“How do we know this? The Chinese told us.
“In 1999, two People’s Liberation Army colonels [Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui] published their book Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America. They call for economic warfare, attacks on key infrastructure, propaganda and influence efforts to weaken and tear apart an opponent’s society and political system, and any number of lines of attack.”
The Chinese have also told us (again and again) that one way or another – by peaceful means if possible, by force if necessary – Taiwan will be reunited with the mainland. And now, after a military build-up of unprecedented scale and speed, they are ready to enforce that demand.
“Analysts differ,” Newsham writes, “but in my opinion, the People’s Liberation Army is capable of launching a full-scale invasion. Having learned from Russia’s mistakes in Ukraine, the Chinese will move suddenly, with overwhelming force, and quickly take the island.
“Once they have done so, they will have open access to the Pacific. This will enable them to surround Japan and position themselves between America and Australia. US dominance as we have known it will be gone. Military and economic containment of China will be rolled back.”
How can this scenario be avoided? Newsham believes that the United States “needs its own political warfare strategy that systematically combines diplomacy, propaganda and economic, financial, and technological strengths with military power and alliances, thus forming a proper campaign plan.”
A lot more money must be spent to make sure the US military has the weapons it needs to defeat any enemy, including China, and with that spending there must be accountability, the author argues.
Poor performance as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan and the shortages of missiles, ammunition and other materiel revealed by the war in Ukraine cannot be tolerated. Professionalism must take priority. Wokeness in the military must end.
Most of all, the US needs the will to fight. “We must realize that there is presently no deal to be cut with the Chinese Communist Party,” writes Newsham. Investment in China must be stopped. Nothing of importance should be imported from China. The ruthless totalitarian nature of communism and the Chinese regime must be explained to the American people at every opportunity.
“If we lose the war with China, it will be because we want to lose,” he concludes.
“And if we want to lose, it will be because the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] and its proxies and fellow travelers have gotten into our heads and have made us forget what it is to be American. What it means to be free.”
Newsham’s views are clearly and forcefully expressed. This writer has only one quibble with the book, namely over the US defense budget. Newsham argues that US $850 billion is not much. An experienced military officer, he knows more about the cost of deterrence than I do.
But as a financial and industry analyst, I would note that at $20 billion a pop, that’s more than 40 new semiconductor factories per year. Might the US not be doing to itself what it did to the Soviet Union, i.e. bankrupting itself by pushing military spending into the stratosphere while neglecting serious economic and social problems at home?
The contradiction is in raising the specter of Chinese drone and missile attacks on the US West Coast and then presenting Taiwan as the stopper in the bottle that denies China access to the wider Pacific.
In February, the Philippines granted the US military access to four new bases in addition to the five already available for joint exercises and pre-positioning of supplies under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Japan and Australia are also stepping up their military cooperation with the Philippines. It seems unlikely that the US and its Pacific allies would simply quit and go home if China were to take Taiwan.
Follow Scott Foster on Twitter: @ScottFo83517667