What History Says about China's Chances in a War with America
"If it's possible for the weaker contender to play a weak hand wisely, it's also possible for the strong to play a strong hand foolishly."
So to rifle through the pages of Jane's Fighting Ships, project the victor in a naval clash, and pronounce other possibilities irrational is to rule out human ingenuity, human fallibility, and the vagaries of war. Worse, it rules out politics. Japan only needed a small-scale triumph over imperial China to fulfill its aims in 1894-1895. It saw no need to overthrow the Qing regime, occupy China, or even vanquish the entire Qing navy. Today, likewise, China need not utterly defeat American arms to achieve modest goals. Capability sufficient to Beijing's purposes may soon fall within the PLA's grasp. Heck, it may already be within reach.
Take your prophecies, with a pinch of salt.
James Holmes is Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College and coauthor of Red Star over the Pacific, published this year in Mandarin through the China Academy of Social Sciences. The views voiced here are his alone.