Navy Commander Warns China Ready to Dominate the Seas

Continuing our discussion of the rise of China and its strategic implications, Navy Commander James Kraska, currently at the Naval War College, has a new piece in The Diplomat: “China Set for Naval Hegemony.” Readers might already be familiar with Kraska, author of a recent article in Orbis, “How the U.S. Lost the Naval War of 2015” (.pdf).

In this new piece, Kraska points to recent aggressive Chinese activities in the South China Sea, seizing Vietnamese fishing boats and crewmen, steaming a flotilla near Okinawa and an April 13 incident where a Chinese destroyer slewed its anti-aircraft guns to aim at a Japanese MSDF P-3C patrol plane. “China has made uncanny progress on its dogged trek to transition from an obsolete 1950s-style coastal defense force to a balanced blue water fleet.”

Kraska, along with many others, worries about waning U.S. naval power in the face of declining defense budgets and a China that clumsily careens around Pottery Barn (I didn’t think the “China shop” metaphor worked here) like a “gangly teenager” suddenly experiencing a growth spurt.

“This suggests two outcomes. The first is that China will indeed achieve its goal of becoming the Asian hegemonic power, dominant not only on land, but in the Western Pacific. The second possibility is that other nations—foremost among them Japan and India—but also including virtually every other nation in the region from Russia to Vietnam, will begin to think more overtly about collective measures and how they can balance the growing power of Beijing.”

— Greg Grant

  • CTR1(SW)

    Meanwhile . . .
    Our politicians flush “boatloads” of money in every unconstitutional direction while shrinking the defense budget.
    What was that old saying? “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.”
    Our politicians have one-upp’ed him. They are running through the streets
    lighting all of the fires. (Constitution R.I.P. 1/20/09)

    • Michael

      Right on.

    • AAK

      The US defense budget is going UP, not down, and despite the recession that continues for 2011. Individual programs are cut, the total spend has not.

      When people rant about Gates & Obama ruining the military they should at least get some basic facts right.

  • Chops

    I’ve said it before-the Chinese need to be reigned in and the U S NEEDS TO REPLACE EVERY SHIP THAT RETIRES WITH A NEW ONE -DAMN THE COST.

  • Chops

    I've said it before-the Chinese need to be reigned in and the U S NEEDS TO REPLACE EVERY SHIP THAT RETIRES WITH A NEW ONE -DAMN THE COST.

    • Michael


    • Robert

      I bet you’re the type of guy who also complains about “big government” and “excess spending.”

      You can’t have it both ways.

    • Robert

      I bet you’re the type of guy who also complains about “big government” and “excess spending.”

      You can’t have it both ways.

      • Michael

        It seems to me that without a strong defense supporting national sovereignty, that the luxuries our esteemed Congress insists upon us would be off the table, don’t you think?

        While big gubment and excessive spending are a legitimate problem, you can’t equate a strong military and responsible spending measures meant to “provide for the common defence” (and to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”) as an equal to ubiquitous, yet sub-standard healthcare that isn’t even provided for in the Constitution (but it does mention “to PROMOTE the general welfare”). But, I digress…this isn’t the forum for discussions of healthcare, et al.

        So, in providing for the common defense, and securing the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, if that means spending a lot of money on ships, planes, etc., then let’s do it…responsibly. This is a cause worth pursuing.

        • Robert

          I’m not arguing against fiscal responsibility, or against a strong military.

          I simply think a lot of the military’s current wounds are self-inflicted.

          When our miltary budget is nine times the size of China’s, and we still have issues with force parity — that’s simply a reflection of a broken acquisition program.

      • Chops

        While the gov’t does go overboard on big spending I believe that Defense spending is the most important aspect of our budget and if we want to remain strong militarily we can not keep retiring equiptment and not replacing it.

      • Jeff N

        Considering the common defense of the states was suppose to be the primary reason for a federal government when the country was formed, defense really should be its main expenditure. Big government, is the Government asserting oversight and primary authority in an invasive way over aspects of American life it previously didn't. Since the Constitution was signed it has had oversight over common defense of the States. Politicians use the term as a catch phrase to mean big spending, but its meaning is that of an invasive beauracracy. Our government can be small and still support a large military.

    • Robert

      And damn the cost!

      That’s the type of attitude that bought us a LCS that can’t fight, a DDG-1000 that no one wants, and a F-35 that still doesn’t work.

    • Robert

      And damn the cost!

      That’s the type of attitude that bought us a LCS that can’t fight, a DDG-1000 that no one wants, and a F-35 that still doesn’t work.

      • Chops

        My damn the cost statement was concerning the fact that every branch of the military is being cut back while we have troops fighting in 2 foreign countries and a congress and senate that throw in porkbarrell spending while our military is denied the equiptment to do the job they are ordered to do.

        • Sev

          You two need to read “Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph” by Ralph Peters

      • myles


    • marketfollower

      As long as you are willing to pay for this with a tax on Chinese imports. By letting multinational companies move manufacturing to China we have reduced our tax base.

  • Carlos

    But We cant to afford to fight this according to Gates. Our power is projected thru our Aircraft Carrier and Air Power. Now SECDEF and POTUS says we cant afford all of this but we can get a massive health care that will cost over a trillion dollars. Almost as if this intentional.

    • Michael

      Our politicians are just “managing our decline”.

  • @Earlydawn

    There are some logical inconsistencies in Kraska’s argument. While it seems likely that China will deploy sophisticated anti-access capabilities to defend the South China Sea, that does not equate to “dominating the seas”. China’s development of modern surface combatants, aircraft carriers, and a sufficient volume of submersibles are still on the extreme edge of the Chinese timeline. Furthermore, in the event of a major military conflict with China, does anyone really believe that Seventh Fleet would duke it out with the PLAN while the Atlantic fleet cruises around and accomplishes nothing? The USN has a huge capability to surge additional naval forces to the region if necessary.

    Finally, and possibly most importantly, let’s not ignore the region. A major naval push by China is likely to alarm India, Russia, and South Korea, and possibly even spur Japan to the level of a formal military power. I predict that China will continue to demonstrate the *capability* to build massive naval power, but only formally invest in anti-access systems for the foreseeable future. They have no reason to rock the boat in earnest when they are doing so well through the global markets.

    • Donnell

      Well said brother and I would like to add that since we owe them a lot of money and I'm sure they would like for us to repay them, that they would'nt do anything to make us stop paying them

  • John Moore

    Makes you wonder if it was china testing a weapon in the real world sinking the SK ship knowing full well nothing can be done about it and they would never be accused.

  • Chris

    We have 11 Carrier battle groups, 75 submarines (fast attack/Boomers/SSGNs), 11 Marine Amphibious Ready Groups. I don’t see how any other nation in the world can dominate with the force the US can project.

    • GaigeM

      The force we can project-for now. Obama and Gates seem pretty intent on hacking that ability apart.

      Will we have anything approaching that capability 10 or even 5 years from now?

  • Tom

    Don’t undersestimate the Chinese. Big mistake. They are expanding and building in more areas than their navy. Their economic and trade expansions into Africa and the Middle-East, as well as with Russia are fairly new ventures for the Chinese and should not be minimized in its impact on the Chinese military projection. If we don’t use wisdom now in preparing for a stronger Chinese military, then we may find ourselves watching helplessly from the decks of the ships of our Navy’s 7th Fleet as the Chinese Communists invade Taiwan. I caution you not to think this is absurd.

  • STemplar

    I say if they are spending time and effort to counter our existing forces, we should probably think about by passing their counter measures, as opposed to trying to get into some naval arms race.

    I think gave a hint of that in his speech when he was referring to the growing missions for submarines. We have 3 SSGNs and we have never really used them. They weren’t even purpose built. I’d like to see what we could do with a Ohio sized vessel designed to be a conventional designed missileer. I bet it would be able to carry even more than the 154 Tomahawks the SSGNs currently deploy. That would certainly be something enormously hard for the Chinese to counter.

  • MadMike

    Maybe it's time to haul our beloved Iowa-Class, USS Wisconsin, out of mothballs. Or better yet, reduce the national debt by selling her to the Chinese. She is in “like-new” condition and was last upgraded in the late 1980s. She has been used only three times: once at the end of WWII, once during the Korean War, and once during “Operation Desert Storm.” And she'll fire a round the size of a Volkswagen!! A one-owner “cream puff”, she is.

    • cisco

      Mike you are the first person to say something I REALLY LIKE on this post!!! I think they need to pull all 3 of the battle wagons back in service. Nothing like a full broadside to get someone’s attention!! they especially need one down by where those pirates are at.

  • Nathan

    Anti access weaponry is a legitimate threat and consideration but this ‘paper’ is crap. I mean, it is conceivable that the author’s scenario could happen if, you know, the CVN was steaming along without escorts or CAP and with all its sensors turned off and with the entire rest of our navy in the middle east for some reason.

    If china were to decide to declare war against us they could conceivably sink some of our ships and keep us away from their coastline (at least for a while) but they could do that now and it would still not do anything for the blue water balance of power. And there is absolutely no way that they could sink a CVN with a ballistic missile in such a way that we would be unaware that it was attacked. This paper is absurd.

  • sglover

    “How many of these analyses are for real and how many are FUD aimed at driving sales for the defense industry?”

    Answer: ALL of them. Obviously. I remember when the usual propagandists were cranking out hysterical disinfo about the mighty Soviet navy. Kraska’s spew is identical, but for the cast of characters. Kraska’s essentially a mid-level manager working in the marketing department of a lawnmower company, trying to get the suburbanites in a tizzy over crabgrass.

    But as long as there are credulous, bed-wetting nitwits like this clown:

    “I’ve said it before-the Chinese need to be reigned in and the U S NEEDS TO REPLACE EVERY SHIP THAT RETIRES WITH A NEW ONE -DAMN THE COST.”

    …tools like Kraska will always find a fool eager to hand over his checkbook.

  • M.G.Halvorsen

    Perhaps, sglover…but I still recall reading of all the Admirals and Generals who were saying that the Japanese presented no real threat to the US Navy…or how that little blowhard, Herr Hitler, would never start a war with the mighty French army.
    If we’ve learned anything from history, it should be to watch out and take ANY threat perception seriously.

    • sglover

      “If we’ve learned anything from history, it should be to watch out and take ANY threat perception seriously.”

      Brilliant, ace. That’s an excellent formula for a completely brain-dead “strategy” that cedes ALL the important decisions to others.

      Are you even dimly aware of how truly exceptional and unique the circumstances of the 30’s & 40’s were?!?! If you were, you’d realize how tedious and laughable the “Munich! Appeasement” bleats really are. It was self-anointed Caesars like you who hyper-ventilated about the “threat” from bankrupt Iraq, turned your brains into channels for Bush-Cheney disinfo, and helped us waste a trillion dollars for — nothing. You’re in no position to advise anybody about anything.

  • Cannon Fodder

    We are doing it to ourselves. We used to be a manufacturing Mega-Power. Now, in the name of greed, we have given China the technology, equipment and know how to a country that vastly outnumbers us.

    We may no longer be facing a billion chinese armed with AK-47’s (scary thought still) but a nation armed with numerous capable air land and sea weapons.

    • MadMike

      I know a lot of us might like to, but you can’t go out and shoot the banker who holds the mortgage to your house! That’s the situation the US is in now. We can’t drop a bomb on ’em because we owe ’em too much money! We’d probably have to borrow the money from ’em first, before we could build the bomb.

  • Dean

    War is like poker, when the other side is knowing you are holding all of the cards
    they aren't going to bet against you i.e. start a war. Gates is saying to China here are my cards, I know I don't 'need' this many to beat you so I'm going to give some up. But what Gates doesn't know is that China is good at cheating at poker.

  • Gregory Marshall Smith

    Kraska’s piece on how America will lose a 2015 naval war with China is almost ludicrous. And it’s even worse because he’s a naval commander.

    While he does lay the groundwork by using policies to show how power is changing hands, he does a disservice to his fellow officers and enlisted with how the aircraft is destroyed.

    In his piece, he states a Chinese missile rips through all 14 decks of the ship and kills more than 4000 sailors. Chinese ships rush to the scene and rescue sailors in a huge PR campaign.

    That might seem plausible except that aircraft carriers don’t sail alone. Especially, in a “show-the-flag” situation so close to a powerful rival. Carriers would have guided missile cruisers and destroyers, as well as anti-submarine frigates. It would even be conceivable that there would be attack submarines in the area.

    Thus, a missile hitting the carrier undetected would be nearly impossible. A jamming signal from the missile would not hide its exhaust or disruption of air currents. If the attack was by torpedo, the sonars and hydrophones of the frigates and destroyers would pick them up. A mine would not have that kind of punch.

    All that aside, the possibility of only Chinese ships being around to rescue sailors is a farce. The rest of the carrier battle group (CBG) would be there. Ships from Sasebo and Yokosuka, Japan would sail immediately. Navy and Air Force planes from Japan would be on the scene in a few hours and certainly would be on scene before any relatives would be able to fly into Beijing for “tearful” reunions.

    And, I’m also at a loss for words with what Kraska is implying. Does he think we need to match China’s China Sea output? To do that would mean having several carriers, along with 60 submarines and 75 surface ships in the area of the South China Sea.

    That’s okay for China because its ports are close by. Where would all those American ships operate out of? There’s not enough room at Yokosuka or Sasebo.

    Think of it like the Russians trying to take the Gulf of Mexico from us. We could have carriers, subs and surface ships from Mayport, Florida to Corpus Christi, Texas, while the Russians would be hard-pressed to find bases in Cuba and, maybe, Venezuela.

    While I do agree with the political stands that Kraska makes in his piece, I think he kills the entire article with the implausible carrier scenario.

  • MikeP

    Let the Chinese become the hegemon….then maybe the world will expect them to solve all their problems instead of the US.

  • TSW

    The US Navy is still by far the most capable Blue Water Navy in the world and will likely hold that position for quite some time. Once we get ourselves out of the 2 wars that have put us in such a poor economic state, I’m sure that the focus will be on rebuilding or 2 forgotten services (Navy and Air Force). Not so sure that we should be shaking in our boots over China.

  • tsw


  • Tony C

    China is the military power in the far east at this time. Japan could be the military power if it chose to become one. The Russian’s are the biggest competition for China in the theater of concern. The Taiwan issue is a thorny one for both the US and China if the Chinese actually follow through with their threat to take the island by force. The Chinese are more confident and aggressive ow then at any time in the apst fifty years. This is a dangerous precedent for the US military.

  • howard

    ‘…The second possibility is that other nations—foremost among them Japan and India—but also including virtually every other nation in the region from Russia to Vietnam, will begin to think more overtly about collective measures and how they can balance the growing power of Beijing.”…
    – Greg Grant

    from the defense websites it seems this is very much a here and now event. heck, even India is putting supersonic missiles in their planes and on their vessels. i don’t think we have to wait until the non Chinese arms race begins. it has.

  • Jim Morris

    how do you break up into 2 replies???

  • howard

    i’d use the old ploy of begging rivals against each other. India is the most prominent of them to the South and West. Russia is the other to the North.
    Australia and Japan and the US are to the East.

    China, for all it’s grand designs is literally surrounded by other allied forces.

    they have a centuries long history of just trying to defend their vast country and keep the citizens in control. a few million armed forces isn’t the same as a billion or so mad Chinese on the farm.

  • rumplesnitz

    I’ve said it for years - when China decides to come there ain’t enough bombs in the world to stop ’em. We’re just friggin’ screwed.