China's SCS Strategy Thread


solarz

Brigadier
Stockpile a thousand DF-41 and DF-ZF and put it into public law that any attempts to separate Taiwan will result in nuclear confrontation. That should deter American adventurism.

China's stance is clear as it is but some people still imagine that China would not risk nuclear war over Taiwan. China just needs to make it more clear.
Agreed on principle. At first, this seems like a no-brainer: any attempt to separate Taiwan from China should be treated as an attack on Chinese sovereign territory.

However, China's nuclear strategy is based on second strike. Changing that policy to have a first-strike condition will require substantial changes to China's nuclear capabilities.
 
Agreed on principle. At first, this seems like a no-brainer: any attempt to separate Taiwan from China should be treated as an attack on Chinese sovereign territory.

However, China's nuclear strategy is based on second strike. Changing that policy to have a first-strike condition will require substantial changes to China's nuclear capabilities.
By changes to capability, I assume you mean large increase in quantity, right? From what I understand, China's top nukes, DF-41, DF-ZF, JL-2/3 are quite competitive even modestly speaking.
 

Biscuits

Junior Member
Registered Member
Agreed on principle. At first, this seems like a no-brainer: any attempt to separate Taiwan from China should be treated as an attack on Chinese sovereign territory.

However, China's nuclear strategy is based on second strike. Changing that policy to have a first-strike condition will require substantial changes to China's nuclear capabilities.
2nd strike strategy was to ensure conventional war. During 1979 for example, China was fairly confident in beating the soviets in a limited confrontation and were prepared to blitz Vladivostok if the soviets joined Vietnam's side. The point of 2nd strike policy meant that the soviets would be less tempted to use nukes, since even if they were at war with China, there is a "guarantee" that nukes won't be used unless Russia uses them first.

If Taiwan or even more territory was wholly taken over by America, it would mean such a deterioration in the international community that rules no longer exist. The NFU would just be a piece of paper then. And Washington would receive ample warning, since no-one on either side of the pacific actually want a nuclear Armageddon.

This is all a bit OT to the thread itself, but in short, an American invasion of Taiwan would either be a Chinese victory or the end of the world.

On topic, it is more realistic for US to challenge China in the SCS, since it's status is essentially ambiguous. It's also uninhabited aside from military, so they wouldn't use nukes over it. Like, America would nuke someone if they won against the US army in California, but they wouldn't nuke someone if they took Guam.

Or perhaps even better, just challenge some other country that's far away from China so the PLA can't properly support them, and China has zero reasons to escalate. Like Venezuela.
 

solarz

Brigadier
By changes to capability, I assume you mean large increase in quantity, right? From what I understand, China's top nukes, DF-41, DF-ZF, JL-2/3 are quite competitive even modestly speaking.
Not only quantity but doctrines as well. In second strike, your objective is to have a nuclear strike capability that can withstand a enemy first strike and still be able to inflict tremendous damage in retaliation. In a first strike doctrine, your objective becomes destroying as much of your opponent's nuclear capabilities as possible so as to minimize the retaliation. In the former, your missiles target civilian population centers, whose location is public information. In the latter, your missiles need to target enemy military installations, and you'd have to locate those first.
 

AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
Article from CSIS AMTI.

They neglected to mention that Chinese control of the SCS forces Vietnam and Malaysia to side with China.

The Chinese military will be trying to keep the sea lanes through the SCS completely open, whilst the US military will be trying to shut down shipping in the SCS.

The problem is that Vietnam and Malaysia are coastal states that rely on open sea lanes in the SCS for their survival.

So Vietnam and Malaysia would side with China.

THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM ON CHINA’S ISLAND BASES IS DANGEROUSLY WRONG
GREGORY B. POLING
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Last month, during a conference on China’s maritime ambitions, I was asked a question I often get about Beijing’s artificial island bases in the South China Sea. That question goes something like this: Couldn’t the United States easily neutralize these remote outposts in a conflict, negating their value? The assumption is understandable given how seemingly remote the facilities are and how accustomed Americans have become to uncontested dominance over the sea and air. But it is flawed. In fact, China, not the United States, would control the sea and airspace of the South China Sea at the outbreak of hostilities thanks to its artificial island bases. And given current American force posture in the region, it would be prohibitively costly for the United States to neutralize those outposts during the early stages of a conflict. That would make the South China Sea a no-man’s land for most U.S. forces (submarines excepted) during the critical early stages of any conflict — giving the islands considerable military value for Beijing.

This answer provoked enough of a stir among conference attendees that I took to Twitter to see what fellow South China Sea watchers and security experts thought. Their responses were overwhelmingly consistent with my argument and added several concerns for the United States that I had overlooked. This confirmed a worrying disconnect. Most of those who follow the South China Sea most closely see China’s artificial island bases as major gamechangers in any future Sino–U.S. conflict. Yet the conventional wisdom throughout Washington still seems to be that they can be safely dismissed as lacking strategic value. That’s wrong.

The main purpose of China’s artificial islands is not to help fight a war against the United States. Beijing’s primary strategy in the South China Sea is to use civilian and
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to
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its Southeast Asian neighbors into abandoning their rights. Thanks to the facilities on its island bases, hundreds of militia vessels and a large number of coast guard ships are based hundreds of miles from the Chinese coast for months at a time. They engage in frequent harassment of civilian and law enforcement activities by neighboring states, making it prohibitively risky for Southeast Asian players to operate in the South China Sea. The threat of Chinese naval and airpower, meanwhile, dissuades neighboring states from using more forceful military responses against these illegal actions. Left unchallenged, this primarily nonmilitary strategy will secure Chinese control over the waters and airspace of the South China Sea in peacetime and undermine America’s role as a regional security provider. It will make clear to Southeast Asian partners that a security relationship with the United States cannot safeguard their interests in the face of a rising China and will thereby undercut the rationale for governments like the Philippines and Singapore to support the U.S. military presence in the region.

But China also recognizes that its strategy might fail. It could miscalculate, provoking a violent conflict with the United States. Or a fight could start in Northeast Asia and spread south. The People’s Liberation Army has therefore invested in facilities and deployments in the Spratly Islands that not only support its current peacetime coercion but also favorably shift the balance of power in any future conflict. As a result, the islands not only guarantee China air and surface dominance in the South China Sea in the opening stages of a conflict, but they are also far more difficult to neutralize than conventional wisdom suggests. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at CSIS has exhaustively documented the growth of these capabilities using commercial satellite imagery and other remote sensing tools.

China has constructed
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at its three airbases in the Spratlys — Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi Reefs — along with
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on Woody Island in the Paracels. It has so far held off on deploying combat aircraft to the Spratlys but
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frequently through Woody. Assuming it was the first mover in a conflict, it would be able to deploy combat aircraft rapidly to the airfields in the Spratlys, instantly establishing air dominance in the theater. Unless the Chinese happened to pick a fight when U.S. forces were engaged in a major exercise like Balikatan in the Philippines, the closest U.S. ground-based combat aircraft would be in Okinawa and Guam, approximately 1,300 and 1,500 nautical miles away, respectively. The only U.S. military planes in the region would be patrol aircraft in the Philippines and potentially Malaysia.

China has, meanwhile, deployed
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anti-ship cruise missiles to its outposts in the Spratlys and Paracels, backed by longer-range missile capabilities from the mainland. And it has invested heavily in
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capabilities on all the islands, making it a safe bet that it sees just about anything moving on or above the South China Sea. A U.S. Navy vessel sailing in those waters would be well within the range of Chinese fire when hostilities broke out. Lacking supporting ground-based fire or air cover, the only rational option would be to pull back to the Sulu and Celebes Seas, and probably beyond, as quickly as possible. This would be especially true of any U.S. aircraft carrier that happened to be in the theater, since it would be far too valuable to leave in such an indefensible position.

In the face of these Chinese advantages, could the United States still neutralize the island bases early in a fight? Probably, but not at an acceptable cost. Doing so would require expending a lot of ordnance likely desperately needed in Northeast Asia, diverting important air and naval platforms and placing them at risk out of proportion to the potential battlefield gains.

continued...
 
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AndrewS

Captain
Registered Member
...continued

The island facilities are considerably larger than many observers seem to realize. As Thomas Shugart, then a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security, once
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, most of the District of Columbia inside the I-495 beltway could fit inside the lagoon at Mischief Reef. Pearl Harbor Naval Base could fit inside Subi Reef. The critical infrastructure that would need to be hit to seriously degrade Chinese capabilities is spread out across a considerable area. That amounts to a lot of ordnance to drop, even if the goal were just to hit critical nodes like sensors, hangars, ammunition depots, and command and control facilities.

Disabling the airstrips themselves would be an even taller order. The United States fired 59 Tomahawks at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria in 2017, all but one of which hit, yet the runway was back in operation just a few hours later. Considering that China has deployed
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and constructed
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at all these bases, some percentage of missiles fired would never reach their target. And much of the infrastructure has been hardened, including China’s
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,
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, and
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. The most effective means of cratering the runways themselves would be to drop heavier ordnance from the air, but that would put high-value U.S. bombers at unacceptable risk in a secondary theater (more on that below). So a safer bet would be to just focus on hitting key information nodes with longer-range munitions. A hundred cruise missiles per outpost would not be an unreasonable estimate to effectively disable the bases. That amounts to 300 missiles just for the major bases in the Spratlys, another 100 for Woody Island, and dozens more if the United States wanted to disable smaller facilities (for instance, the
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on Duncan Island that would likely be used for anti-submarine warfare operations).

What platforms would launch these hundreds of cruise missiles? The only thing safely operating in the theater after hostilities started would be U.S. submarines. They would find it a lot harder to remain undetected in the face of active Chinese anti-submarine operations once they started shooting. Every launch would put them at some risk. And in that environment, U.S. subs would likely be busy attacking Chinese surface ships and other high-value platforms, not trying to blanket thousands of acres of infrastructure at Mischief or Subi Reefs with valuable ordnance with no guarantee of success. Anything else sent into the theater — long-range bombers from Guam, surface ships, etc. — would be operating at high risk given Chinese dominance of the sea and air space.

No matter how the ordnance was delivered, the math would be the same. Effectively neutralizing China’s bases would require hundreds of missiles, emptying the magazines of valuable U.S. platforms that don’t have ordnance to spare. And it would do so in what is sure to be a secondary theater. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which the United States would be seriously considering kinetic strikes on Chinese bases in the South China Sea that would not also involve fighting in Northeast Asia. That would mean that anything the United States launched against the Spratlys would be something it could not use for operations in defense of U.S. and Japanese forces or for the relief of Taipei.

This punishing math could be changed, especially by the full implementation of the
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to allow rotational deployments of key U.S. capabilities in the Philippines. These should include combat aircraft at Basa Air Base on Luzon and Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa to contest Chinese air dominance over the South China Sea. And it should include preparations to rapidly stand up U.S. fire bases at these and other facilities in case of hostilities to hold Chinese outposts and ships in the South China Sea at risk.

Barring an unexpected change of heart, these plans are unlikely while Rodrigo Duterte remains president of the Philippines through 2022. In the meantime, the United States can lay the groundwork for full implementation of the defense cooperation agreement by undertaking more ambitious infrastructure projects at agreed-upon sites and pushing the Armed Forces of the Philippines to support those upgrades. It should also push for more opportunities to deploy combat aircraft to defense cooperation sites as part of bilateral exercises, as American F-16s were for the
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at Basa last year. This would help acclimate both sides to U.S. fighters operating from these bases and, if frequent enough, could strengthen deterrence by giving the United States some rapid-response capability in the South China Sea. But these steps will not fundamentally alter the math.

Without the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or some undiscovered (and unlikely) stand-in, U.S. forces would have little choice but to concede the waters and airspace of the South China Sea to China in the opening stages of a conflict. The logistics and maintenance hurdles China would face during wartime would likely prevent its island bases from effectively operating over the long-term. But for several weeks at least — time that would be critical in a Taiwan contingency, for instance — they would pay huge dividends for Beijing. So long as the United States lacks ground-based combat aircraft and fire bases along the South China Sea, American planning needs to acknowledge that reality.

Gregory B. Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and a fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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advill

Junior Member
China claimed the South China Sea and had converted reefs into Islands. It had earlier rejected UNCLOS ruling brought up by the Philippines. The Chinese strategy for these "islands" included installation of Military Assets and now appears to include forward bases for their commercial enterprises vis-a-vis fishing fleets. Recently Chinese fishing boats protected by China Coast Guard intruded into Indonesia's EEC of the Natuna Islands. This intrusion is wrong even if the Chinese reasoning that the waters are "traditional fishing ground" for Chinese fishing vessels. Wisely, after Indonesian protests, China's Coast Guard vessels and fishing boats had since withdrawn from this Indonesian EEC. To establish continued good relationship with Indonesia as well as the 4 claimants of their territorial waters in South China Sea, the long discussed Code of Conduct must be established soon without any ambiguity. Countries want Peace and Stability in South East Asia, and in Asia as a whole. Let common sense prevail without posturing by any big powers in our region.
 

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