Since the de facto stalemate in the Korean War and the defeat of US forces in Vietnam, US military doctrine has been established that the US cannot win a conventional land-war in east Asia. But that doesn’t keep dreamers from dreaming. You may kill your conventional forces in Asia, but you can’t kill a dream.
For some time, post WWII US war planners had, in their view, a ‘Samson option’, to use nuclear missiles against China in the event of a major war. Then something happened.
China carried out its first nuclear test on October 16, 1964, and in so doing, China joined the the nuclear club. Seeing how the American nuclear threat during the Korean War and the divorce from the Soviet Union made it vulnerable, Mao propelled China towards the bomb which in some ways mirrors North Korea’s. Mao Zedong was known to have said in 1956, “…if we don’t want to be bullied, we have to have this thing.”
China has nevertheless not built itself into an over-sized nuclear power, and instead experts long believed that it had shown its ability to build very big bombs, but only few of them.
But this changed, when China began to leak data about the size of its arsenal, normally a highly guarded state secret. New estimates put the number in the several hundreds, not thousands.
In the 1950’s, the USSR generously shared technical, industrial and military knowledge and material with China. This set China off on the right foot, and despite the latter split between the two Marxist-Leninist states, China took with it much in the way of acquired expertise.
That said, China has generally understood that in any confrontation with the US, it would be approaching a situation of asymmetric warfare.
For China, asymmetric warfare represents a tactic with ancient roots that was successfully applied in the contemporary age. In Beijing’s view, asymmetric warfare means using their own capabilities and strength to attack a weakness of the enemy.
This tactic may involve the use of terrain, tactics or application of new or different technologies.
To understand this Chinese strategy a little, we can cite the book “The Art of War” by the author Sun Tzu, who says that in order to obtain many victories, asymmetrical means must be used with military movements of surprise, besides warning that an army should employ a combination of normal direct offensive and defensive moves, and unusual, unexpected or sudden movements to dominate the battlefield.
Chinese planners consider the so-called “Taiwan scenario,” where the more powerful [China] force faces a weaker enemy, but an even more powerful enemy force (such as the US) could intervene in the conflict. Chinese strategists have called for the use of a set of weapons to damage the economy and communication in the event of war with the United States. One such weapon is cyber attacks and computer networks. They further understand that networks are the foundation of society, being critical to national security, according to The National Interest magazine .
Chinese military investigators believe that offensive operations against an adversary’s information systems can cause serious damage to the population and economy, causing huge financial losses.
In addition, China is testing the effects of detonating a high-altitude nuclear weapon that creates a highly destructive electromagnetic pulse, known as EMP weapons, which could paralyze and disrupt vast areas of US infrastructure and technology. China and the US are competing to develop and refine electromagnetic weapons.
China is working on a variety of next-generation weapons that would be used to attack and penetrate defense systems and others on land or at sea, as it believes that this will help in the area of possible conflicts.
Beijing is also focusing on the militarized use of near earth orbit ‘space’, believing that this will be of fundamental importance in any future war.
Since China is focused on an irregular war, US forces are facing a new challenge and the need to revise their ideas about the vulnerabilities inherent in the current American way of making war. The US will have to ‘defend itself’ against Chinese tactics and weapons, such as the potential use of electromagnetic weapons, for example. In addition, the US will have to consider using legal mechanisms to challenge Beijing’s efforts to change international law.