For the past 50 years, American leaders have been supremely confident that they could suffer military setbacks in places like Cuba or Vietnam without having their system of global hegemony, backed by the world’s wealthiest economy and finest military.
During the 2016 campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised his supporters that “we’re gonna win with military… we are gonna win so much you may even get tired of winning.” In August, while announcing his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, Trump reassured the nation: “In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed.
The Trump White House may still be basking in the glow of America’s global supremacy but, just across the Potomac, the Pentagon has formed a more realistic view of its fading military superiority. In June, the Defense Department issued a major report titled on Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World, finding that the U.S. military “no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,”
This sober assessment led the Pentagon’s top strategists to “the jarring realization that ‘we can lose.’” Increasingly, Pentagon planners find, the “self-image of a matchless global leader” provides a “flawed foundation for forward-looking defense strategy… under post-primacy conditions.”
This Pentagon report also warned that, like Russia, China is “engaged in a deliberate program to demonstrate the limits of U.S. authority”; hence, Beijing’s bid for “Pacific primacy” and its “campaign to expand its control over the South China Sea.”
Over the last year the US Fleet has been grounded due to failing defensive systems, increasing the threat of losing it global hegemony. Three of the US most advanced destroyer warships faced collisions with container and fishing vessels, while the 3rd collision involved an oil tanker. Its aircraft carriers have also become obsolete after China developed a carrier destroying missile that will keep the warships at bay.
Indeed, military tensions between the two countries have been rising in the western Pacific since the summer of 2010. Just as Washington once used its wartime alliance with Great Britain to appropriate much of that fading empire’s global power after World War II, so Beijing began using profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund a military challenge to its dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.
With the world’s “most active land-based ballistic and cruise missile program,” Beijing can target “its nuclear forces throughout… most of the world, including the continental United States.” Meanwhile, accurate missiles now provide the PLA with the ability “to attack ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean.
Some telltale numbers suggest the nature of the future great power competition between Washington & Beijing and Beijing that could determine the course of the 21st century. In April 2015, for instance, the Department of Agriculture reported that the U.S. economy would grow by nearly 50% over the next 15 years, while China’s would expand by 300%, equaling or surpassing America’s around 2030.
Similarly, in the critical race for worldwide patents, American leadership in technological innovation is clearly on the wane. In 2008, the United States still held the number two spot behind Japan in patent applications with 232,000. China was, however, closing in fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400% increase since 2000. By 2014, China actually took the lead in this critical category with 801,000 patents, nearly half the world’s total, compared to just 285,000 for the Americans.
With supercomputing now critical for everything from code breaking to consumer products, China’s Defense Ministry outpaced the Pentagon for the first time in 2010, launching the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A. In emerging military domains, China has begun to contest U.S. dominion over cyberspace and space, with plans to dominate “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battle space.”
Over the longer term, the American education system, that critical source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. In 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tested half a million 15-year-olds worldwide. Those in Shanghai came in first in math and science, while those in Massachusetts, “a strong-performing U.S. state,” placed 20th in science and 27th in math. By 2015, America’s standing had declined to 25th in science and 39th in math.
China’s army has by now developed a sophisticated cyberwarfare capacity through its Unit 61398 and allied contractors that “increasingly focus… on companies involved in the critical infrastructure of the United States — its electrical power grid, gas lines, and waterworks.”
After identifying that unit as responsible for a series of intellectual property thefts, Washington took the unprecedented step, in 2013, of filing criminal charges against five active-duty Chinese cyber officers.
Information Clearing House.com / AA Magnum News 2017.