Defense and Freedom points out the startlingly high rate of naval expansion in Asia compared to the rest of the world. Is this a problem?
I agree with most of what Sven has to say. Here's where I part company with him:
Conclusion; The capability to easily overturn naval power balances
exists in East Asia (including Japan and Taiwan) - they were just kind
enough not to use it (and were our friends for decades). But now the PRC is on the rise also in shipbuilding - and might not be so kind in 20, 30 or 40 years if we piss them off.
Conclusion; The capability to easily overturn naval power balances exists in East Asia (including Japan and Taiwan) - they were just kind enough not to use it (and were our friends for decades). But now the PRC is on the rise also in shipbuilding - and might not be so kind in 20, 30 or 40 years if we piss them off.
First of all, according to the chart in Sven's post, two American allies, South Korea and Japan, are outpacing the PRC in ship construction. To the extent that represents two major allies in the Pacific assuming a larger part of the burden of keeping the sea lanes open, great. After 60 years, there's no sign that Japan is suddenly going to have another imperialist seizure any time soon, so we'd be alarmist in the extreme to be afraid of a reasonable expansion of the Japanese navy.
Second, the PRC doesn't necessarily want or need to continue expanding (or "modernizing," to use the more polite term) at the same rate. Chinese naval strategy is more about sea denial than sea control; the former is always a lot cheaper than the latter. We can start worrying when the Chinese start investing heavily in sealift capability, signaling obvious designs on Taiwan.
Third, we're just talking about numbers of ships here. Technology plays a much larger role in naval and air warfare than in ground warfare. As long as the US maintains its technical edge in all three parts of the USN, subs, ships, and aircraft, increases in numbers are far less alarming than they might first appear.
The big question to ask is, how can the PRC afford to invest heavily in sea power? Sadly, the United States is helping to pay for all these new ships. Before 2001, the amount of American debt that the Chinese held was the source of a lot of leverage and potential economic power. US policy towards the PRC has been, for decades, best to use that economic leverage right back at them, by staying economically and politically engaged with the Chinese regime.
After 2001, cut-and-spend Republicans ballooned the debt, making it harder to manage this relationship. Meanwhile, the decline of the dollar reduces a key American advantage in the global economy. Last year, the US trade deficit with China was $162 billion. Bye-bye, leverage. The burden of federal debt makes any quick build-up of the USN far less likely, and certainly more expensive in the long run, if, in 20 years we "piss off" the PRC.
Worried about China? Take a long, skeptical look at the war in Iraq.