In 2012, China has offshore oil fields in the South China Sea -- fields contested by Vietnam and other neighboring nations. Beijing lays historical claim to several Pacific islands along its littoral, including one named Taiwan. Peering further into the Pacific, Chinese war planners see Japan, Singapore and the U.S. territory of Guam. Chinese admirals also observe U.S. Navy super-carrier task forces.
A book-length study published last year by the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), "China's Lessons From Other People's Wars," devotes a chapter to Chinese interpretations and reaction to the Falklands.
The Chinese have concluded, according to the SSI, that Argentina failed to conduct an "accurate pre-conflict strategic assessment." Indeed, the junta underestimated British resolve. Chinese war planners intend to avoid that mistake. However, the Argentines were tasked with "preventing an outside power from interfering in a territorial dispute" -- a direct analog to Taiwan, in Beijing's estimate.
The Chinese believe Argentina failed to attack Britain's biggest weakness: its long sea and air supply line. The Argentines did not dramatically reinforce their ground units on the islands, nor did they upgrade island airfields to handle high-performance jets. Their aerial refueling capabilities were limited. As a result, Britain's jump jet carriers provided just enough air power to give the fleet a protective "bubble."
China intends to pierce any adversary's protective "bubble." Beijing has ballistic missiles designed to suppress Taiwan's airfields and conceivably U.S. bases on Guam. China intends to triple its arsenal of land-based maritime strike aircraft; robust air refueling capabilities increases their range. China is building more diesel and nuclear submarines, to attack supply ships and -- yes -- super-carriers. Trust that any Chinese invasion force successfully seizing an island will receive heavy ground, air and air defense reinforcements with alacrity. And never say never.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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