China sure has a lot of people. The USA is the 3rd largest country (by population) in the world – but China’s numbers are so overwhelming that their population dwarfs our own. There are over 1 billion people living in China and just over 300 thousand of us here. That’s about where the military advantages cease for China… but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of confidence in their military might.
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The bad news first. The People’s Republic of China now believes it can successfully prevent the United States from intervening in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or some other military assault by Beijing.
Now the good news. China is wrong — and for one major reason. It apparently disregards the decisive power of America’s nuclear-powered submarines.
Moreover, for economic and demographic reasons Beijing has a narrow historical window in which to use its military to alter the world’s power structure. If China doesn’t make a major military move in the next couple decades, it probably never will.
The U.S. Navy’s submarines — the unsung main defenders of the current world order — must hold the line against China for another 20 years. After that, America can declare a sort of quiet victory in the increasingly chilly Cold War with China.
Given China’s place in the world, its underlying national trends and America’s pointed advantage in just that aspect of military power that’s especially damaging to Chinese plans, it seems optimistic for PLA officers to assume they can launch an attack on China’s neighbors without first knocking out U.S. forces.
Not that a preemptive strike would make any difference, as the only American forces that truly matter for containing China are the very ones that China cannot reach.
For they are deep underwater.