What World War I Reveals About the Next China-Japan War

What World War I Reveals About the Next China-Japan War

The First World War is the gift that keeps on giving when surveying modern Asian geopolitics and pondering how to manage it.

Japan has overcome bulkier foes before—and done so with panache.

As it turns out, then, gauging the outcome of a Sino-Japanese war is anything but simple or straightforward. And that’s a good thing! Forbearance may reign in Beijing so long as Chinese leaders doubt they can get their way in Asian quarrels by force of arms. Doubt and fear in Chinese minds are friends to the U.S.-Japan alliance.

So the Great War at sea presents an example worth emulating in certain respects and modifying or rejecting in others. Let’s devise forces capable of mounting a low-cost strategy, keep the alliance sturdy, and cultivate mariners, soldiers, and aviators who extract full value from their fighting machines. Do that and Tokyo may yet prevail.

James Holmes is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College. The views voiced here are his alone.

This article first appeared in November 2018.

Image: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj