By John E. Carey
For The Washington Times
May 7, 2007
In the last seven months there have been five or more significant revelations about China that could cause some people concern, worry and even alarm.
On November 13, 2006, The Washington Times’ military and security policy reporter Bill Gertz wrote, “A Chinese submarine stalked a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific last month and surfaced within firing range of its torpedoes and missiles before being detected.”
China had never before demonstrated any ability to closely approach a U.S. aircraft carrier.
“This is a harbinger of a stronger Chinese reaction to America’s military presence in East Asia,” said Richard Fisher, a Chinese military specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, who called the submarine incident alarming.
“Given the long range of new Chinese sub-launched anti-ship missiles and those purchased from Russia, this incident is very serious,” he said. “It will likely happen again, only because Chinese submarine captains of 40 to 50 new modern submarines entering their navy will want to test their mettle against the 7th Fleet.”
When asked about a Chinese submarine “stalking” the American aircraft carrier at a Brookings seminar, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chief of Naval Operations and ever the diplomat said he wanted to avoid the word “stalking.”
But he also said that he wanted a phone connected between the U.S. Navy and the Chinese Naval Headquarters so that future incidents could be discussed, understood and rapidly resolved without conflict.
As Mr. Fisher said, the submarine incident needs to be evaluated in the context of what other new military hardware and capabilities China is procuring or developing.
On January 11, 2007 China used a space-launch vehicle derived from its DF-21 medium-range missile to strike and destroy one of its own aging weather satellites.
This was another first: only the United States and the Soviet Union had ever demonstrated an anti-satellite (ASAT) capability.
Yet it was China that apparently wanted the world to know at this time that ASAT was no mystery to them anymore.
China’s military doctrine stresses the need for asymmetrical ways to fight the United States. Holding at risk America’s fleet of satellites that provide communications, intelligence, navigation and other invaluable assets, China could achieve a “game changer” with ASAT.
On March 23, 2007, Bloomberg reporter Tony Capaccio wrote about China’s purchase of Kilo class submarines from Russia along with a very high speed anti ship missile referred to as the “Sizzler.” He also stated that the U.S. Navy may only have a limited defense against this missile.
Like Bill Gertz and others, Mr. Capaccio always works to answer the question, “What does this mean?”
One possible explanation came from Orville Hanson who evaluated U.S. Navy weapons systems for 38 years. “This is a carrier-destroying weapon. That’s its purpose. Take out the carriers” [and China] “can walk into Taiwan,” he said.
Retired Rear Admiral Eric McVadon, a former U.S. naval attache in Beijing, assessed the Sizzler missile this way: “This is a very low-flying, fast missile,” said. “It won’t be visible until it’s quite close. By the time you detect it to the time it hits you is very short. You’d want to know your capabilities to handle this sort of missile.”
The China submarine incident and the ASAT test seemed to be intentional demonstrations meant to display new Chinese military capabilities. Revelation of the “Sizzler” missile, though not a demonstration, clearly could have been hidden from the U.S. China is showing off new capabilities and potential capabilities.
Shift gears in your mind a little to the China that has been violating copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights for decades. China has a culture of corruption, getting more for less, and playing tricky business games. We should be shocked to learn that cheaper, inferior ingredients have been slipped into pet food while we pay full price for the good stuff?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that melamine had been added to wheat gluten inside China to replace more costly materials, thus boosting profits. The product was used in pet food and pets across America suffered and died. Melamine is poisonous.
Last week, the FDA ordered U.S. farmers to hold off the market 20 million chickens. FDA is working to ensure products containing substances such as melamine added to feed manufactured in China do not reach the U.S. human food supply.And finally this.
In a similar effort to decrease manufacturing costs and increase profit, an antifreeze and solvent called diethylene glycol that can kill humans, was discovered in pharmaceutical supplies manufactured in Panama. The diethylene glycol was found to have come from China labeled as sweetener. Over 100 people who have used the products have died.
The Newspaper known as “The Old Grey Lady” reported that, “Over the years, the poison has been loaded into all varieties of medicine — cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs — a result of counterfeiters who profit by substituting the sweet-tasting solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup, usually glycerin, commonly used in drugs, food, toothpaste and other products.”
Reporters Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker found that, “Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades…. records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs.”
These military demonstrations and acquisitions along with revelations about China’s industrial/pharmaceutical games could all be unrelated, independent or coincidental activities.
But another explanation could also be that China is testing, probing and evaluating the response of the United States to some asymmetric activities, especially as we are distracted by Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
A U.S. intelligence expert we spoke to said, “China wants the U. S. to know that they are not powerless or weak anymore. And asymmetric engagement is real.”
Mr. Carey is a retired U.S. Naval Officer and former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc. He is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times who has lived in China.