Updated: Feb 11
How real is the China military threat? Will China displace the U.S. as the largest economy in the world? The media and politicians have painted a picture of China as an ever-present danger to our way of life. China is perceived as the villain, the communist enemy, violator of human rights and democracy.
When viewed from the historical record, the current fear mongering regarding China as a military threat maybe just a bit overblown. The Chinese, by their nature, are not an aggressive people. They built walls over several centuries to keep out invading Mongrel and Manchu armies. The Opium Wars were fought from 1839-1842 and again in 1856-1860 against the British empire whose merchants were illegally selling opium in China. During the First Opium War China lost the island of Hong Kong to Britain along with several other Chinese territories in addition to paying $21 million payment for war reparations. The Second Opium War ended with forced concessions from China to include paying additional war reparations to Britain, legalizing the opium trade to China, and exempting imports from trade duties. These and other concessions heavily favored Britain and France at the detriment to China.
Japan has also found China to be an easy target for repeated invasions. During the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895 China lost possession of the Korean peninsula and Taiwan to the invading Japanese. During the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937-1945, the Chinese were overmatched militarily by their Japanese aggressors which resulted in large scale murder of millions of Chinese. Towns and cities were looted and burned down, famines spread in the countryside killing more Chinese in what is known today as “The Asian Holocaust”.
China has a poor record of defending their nation from foreign invaders. In fact, China historically has failed to modernize their military to effectively meet foreign threats.
From 1950 to the present time, China hasn’t started any major wars or offensive engagements with other countries or even their neighbors. Yes, there were border skirmishes with India from time to time and other short-lived conflicts with Tibet, but never a major declaration of war with any nation. The Chinese would take sides in the Korean War and Vietnam War, but these wars weren’t started by China.
But today China is a much different country economically. Being the second largest economy in the world and growing rapidly it only makes sense that they would want to build up their military strength. Especially since during the last millennia they have been ruthlessly invaded by foreign powers. Is this military build-up a precursor to potential threats to other countries or just a natural defensive security need for self-preservation purposes?
China’s military build-up is viewed by some in the media and by politicians as a legitimate threat to Taiwan. Well let’s look at it logistically, first you need boots on the ground to effectively take over another country. Taiwan being approximately 100 miles from China, would require a massive naval attack on Taiwan to land an amphibious invasion force on the island. Surely with our satellite technology we would see a build-up of naval forces beginning on the coast of China even before the attack began. Remember, the English Channel was only 20 miles wide when the Allies invaded Normandy on D-Day 1944. The Allies didn’t win the war against Germany by bombing Berlin to rubble, it was won after the Russian and the American soldiers occupied Berlin that the war with Germany was finally over. I don’t know how the Chinese could transport enough ground troops to successfully take over Taiwan. The other fact which makes a Chinese attack unlikely is that the Taiwanese themselves do not take the threat seriously. Does China intimidate Taiwan with fighter jet flyovers and naval incursions to their sovereignty, sure they do, but a full-scale war is very unlikely.
China is by no means a perfect country. Politically they are one of five remaining communist countries in the world. They persecute certain ethnic minority groups, violate human rights, and forcefully restrict any direct political threats to their communist system of government. Chinese citizens have limited freedoms and democracy movements are severely punished. But China as a military threat to other countries, realistically doesn’t seem to be in the cards at this time.