China Is Preparing for Conflict – and Why We Must Do the Same

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Ever since Richard Nixon opened relations with Communist China in 1972, Chinese intentions have been a matter of incessant and often fevered speculation in this country.

In particular, national security and regional experts, non-governmental organizations and office-holders alike, have endlessly debated whether the People’s Republic of China could be brought into a U.S.-dominated international order and world economy in a manner consistent with American interests and, better yet, as a partner in opposition to mutual adversaries (e.g., the Soviet Union, North Korea, and the global jihad movement).

Regrettably, this controversy over China’s intentions has now been largely settled by actions of the Chinese government – and a rapid militarization. Under successive regimes – and most especially that of the incumbent Chinese ruler, Xi Jinping – the Chinese have relentlessly and unmistakably striven to put themselves in a position to challenge, and ultimately to displace, the post-World War II Pax Americana with a new order. This position would return China to what its leaders consider to be China’s rightful place as the Middle Kingdom, the preeminent global power strategically and economically.

At this critical juncture, it is both foolhardy and irresponsible for America and its allies to continue to construe China’s conduct as non-threatening. That conclusion is powerfully articulated by eight essays featured in a book just released by the Center for Security Policy, entitled Warning Order: China Prepares for Conflict and Why We Must Do the Same. (A video introduction is here.)

A Warning Order is a technique long used by the U.S. military to put its units on notice of an impending danger that requires countervailing action. The draft Secretary of Defense directive that briefly summarizes and suggests how to operationalize the findings of the contributors to this new volume – former U.S. Senator Jim Talent, former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral James “Ace” Lyons, China and national security experts Dr. Peter Navarro, Gordon Chang, Dean Cheng, Kevin Freeman and Lindsey Neas and journalist Bill Gertz – reads as follows:

WARNING ORDER:  Required Preparations for Conflict with China

  1. Situation. The People’s Republic of China is incrementally, but relentlessly, putting into place in its own region (notably, the East and South China Seas) and elsewhere around the world the capabilities required to engage decisively in military conflict with the United States and its allies.

China’s preparations include:

  • The acquisition and deployment – both at home and increasingly in global choke points – of advanced air, sea, land and space systems and asymmetric capabilities that appear designed to: 1) interdict allied forces, 2) deny them access to and the ability to operate in strategically important areas and 3) otherwise achieve the destruction and defeat of the U.S. and/or its allies;
  • The fielding of sufficient numbers of modern aircraft, ships, missiles, space weapons and nuclear forces to secure for China quantitative and, in some areas, qualitative superiority, at least regionally;
  • People’s Liberation Army cyber warfare operations that are intensifying in sophistication, aggressiveness and effectiveness against both official and private sector targets;
  • A variety of means of challenging and undermining the United States’ economic security, including by threatening: the dollar’s reserve currency status, Wall Street and other financial operations, and U.S. access to and relations with key trading partners;
  • High-intensity intelligence, information and influence operations against the United States and its allies; and
  • Amassing the dedicated military and dual-use industrial capabilities necessary rapidly and substantially to expand, and/or recover from battle-damage to, the PRC’s current conventional and nuclear arsenals.

It is not possible at this time to ascertain Chinese intentions or whether, if they do seek to precipitate a conflict, when and where it might begin. Our posture must not be based on assessments of such intentions, however, but be rooted in a clear-eyed, capabilities-driven threat analysis.

  1.  TaskingAll DOD agencies, military services and combatant commands are hereby ordered to take such steps as are required to achieve at the earliest possible moment levels of readiness and power-projection needed to deter and, if necessary, to defeat any Chinese aggression.  U.S. capabilities required to perform such missions over the longer term are to be identified and acquired at the earliest possible time.  Wherever practical, useful and consistent with operational security considerations, the support and assistance of allied militaries should be obtained for this purpose.

Warning Order is intended to move our nation past a now-irrelevant debate about Chinese intentions and onto a far firmer footing, rooted in a focus on China’s capabilities – one that enables us to deter the PRC’s future use of existing, and anticipated, threats to our security and vital interests. It should be required reading for both prospective Commanders-in-Chief and those whose safety they will be responsible for safeguarding.

Frank Gaffney, Jr.
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