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Book Review: Peter Navarro, Crouching Tiger, What CHINA’S MILITARISM Means for the World,(Amherst, NY, Prometheus Books, 2015)  
Raymond Richman, 12/19/2015

Peter Navarro is a professor in the School of Business at the University of California. Irvine campus. He has written previous books about China including Death by China, Seeds of Destruction, Always a Winner, and The Coming China  Wars. In the prologue he writes the “each chapter that follows will provide and important clue presented in the form of a key question leading off each chapter. Each question will then be followed by possible answers across the range of opinion and thought”.

Ch 1.” Based on the historical record, how likely is war between a rising power like China and an established superpower like the United State?” As Thucydides wrote in his History of the Polynesian War, “What made the war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” The war destroyed both states. Citing the competition between England and  Germany for hegemony as the cause of WWI, he concludes that war between China and the U.S.A. is likely but not inevitable.

Ch. 2. Which countries have invaded China over the past two hundred years? France, Germany, Britain,. Japan, Russia, and the USA, an “indelible history of humiliation”. “China’s military buildup is not the end of our detective story—it is simply the beginning.”

Ch.3. “Is China building up its military to guard the trading routes and global investments it needs for robust economic growth.” China embarked on a mercantilist “state capitalism” strategy, encouraging exports and restricting imports. China’s huge oil imports and its exports move through the Malacca Strait.

Ch. 4. “Should China truly fear an oil embargo by the United States and its allies?” The U.S. did that to Japan and it led to our war with Japan. The USA also imposed an embargo on U.S. trade will China which lasted twenty years after China invaded Korea. And more recently, it imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea. Similarly, China has to fear the closing of the Suez Canal to Chinese shipping. And the U.S. maintains dozens of naval and air bases in the countries surrounding China.

Ch. 5. “Will China become a 'revisionist' power or a 'status quo' power?” 

The Chinese have committed numerous acts of aggression successfully since 1950. Its conquest of Tibet, its entry into the Korean War by invading Korea, Chinese missiles helped shoot down over a thousand American aircraft over Hanoi and Haiphong, annexing the Vietnamese Paracel Islands. But he U.S. since the birth of Communist China n 1949, “fought major wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan;  invaded Iraq twice; bombed Bosnia, Cambodia, Libya, Serbia and Syria; engineered regime change in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Iran, and Kosovo….”

The author then assesses the military actions and capabilities of the two countries.  China’s ambition is to drive the U.S. out of Asia. China is developing an anti-battleship missile which may be able to threaten the U.S. fleet. In addition, China has a vast nuclear capability, including a hypersonic glide missile. And China is developing its mine-warfare capability and its diesel-submarine fleet with the help of France, Germany and Russia that are capable of destroying American, Japanese, and Vietnamese naval vessels.  In addition , it has been developing missile-carrying catamarans each of which carries two cruise missiles, travel at speeds up to 40  knots,  Australian-designed and equipped with French diesel engines firing Russian bought missiles. China’s space capabilities have made the U.S. preeminence in space vulnerable.

China lays claim to islands and reefs in the China Sea which “encompasses almost 90 percent of the South China Sea” ranging from Hainan Island near Hanoi, south to islands off the Vietnam coast,  Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and north to Taiwan. China has gradually – which the author refers to as “salami slicing”—taken possession of one reef after another and is building an island fortress on one of them. The danger appears to be that action by the Philippines may drag the U.S. into a war with China it wants to avoid.

China has also been asserting a right to ban freedom of navigation and over flight within two hundred miles of its controlled territory. India, which under Nehru supported Maoist China, concluded a non-aggression pact with China in 1954. Nehru’s maps of India showed Aksai Chin as Indian. In 1958, China did so similarly. China began building roads in Aksai Chin and its control of Tibet and Xinjiang amounts to a threat against India itself. India resents China’s arms sales to Pakistan.

The author argues that nationalism not ideology is the coming driving force among China’s Communist rulers and that war would unite the country behind the regime. In actuality, economic and political changes have created a wide range of special interest pressures which can lead to actions and decisions driven by such forces. The U.S. while militarily and technologically superior at present may not be militarily superior as China grows and some of the U.S. exposed military bases may become vulnerable to Chinese attack. And  “in the meantime, America’s forward bases and aircraft-carrier strike groups remain extremely vulnerable to a well-coordinated missile attack from the Chinese mainland.” Probably the main deterrent to a Chinese attack on the U.S. fleet and forward bases is the likelihood of a U.S. blockage of China’s vulnerable dependency on energy imports and Chinese exports.

U.S. withdrawal from Asia means abandonment of its defense alliances with Australia, Japan and South Korea as well as friendly nations like the Philippines, Taiwan, not to speak of Indonesia, Malaysia, and India, so that is unlikely to occur. Peace and prosperity in these countries depend on their relations with the USA. The U.S. can rely on its military superiority to keep China from directly challenging the U.S. and on China’s continued economic development to modify its political behavior.  But at some point we are going to have to sit down with them and discuss our future relations. As the author points out: ”In particular, we have learned that economic engagement, economic interdependence, and nuclear weapons, are unlikely either alone or together to keep the peace. We have also determined that a neo-isolationist US-military withdrawal may well lead to more , rather than less, conflict and instability while fruitful negotiations with an opaque and truculent China are likely to be very, very difficult. If follows from these sobering conclusions that if a grand bargain is also unfeasible—indeed, perhaps well-nigh impossible—the only option seemingly to consider is that of ‘peace through strength.”

The author asserts the primacy of peace through economic strength, with all the difficulties we seem to be having with achieving sustained economic growth, a new strategy for peace through military strength with our sitting-duck strategy of fixed military bases in Asia and reliance on aircraft carriers. Instead, greater reliance has to be based on nuclear submarines, an expanded space program, an expanded new bomber program, and long-range strike missiles. Imperative is a policy of reciprocal response and building of strong alliances with the countries of East Asia. Finally, Congress is going to have to get its house in order. None of this is possible with divisions at home on the strategy we must pursue.  

It is hard to argue with the author’s arguments. But given the political disunity between the President and the Congress, the U.S. needs new leadership, a new President and a new set of Congressional leaders. The state of our inferior educational system is almost beyond belief. While our military is still number one in the world, our space program is in shambles.  Much needs to be domestically before we can contain the expansion of Chinese influence in Asia.  At the moment, the preponderance of forces is growing in China’s favor.

This is an important book. Our leaders need to read it. So do all our intelligent citizens. World peace is in the balance.

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