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Let’s Pretend: What Happens If the US and China Clash in the Pacific?

RoadRunner401

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As the United States continues provocative actions the South China Sea, it’s worth asking: What would happen in a hypothetical military confrontation between Washington and Beijing? A new report from the nonprofit RAND Corporation compares the capabilities of the two countries in 10 separate fields.
The recently released 430-page report written by 14 scholars on military strategy focuses strictly on military might. Ignoring political policy issues, "US-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1997-2017" considers two hypothetical scenarios – a Spratly islands campaign and a Chinese invasion of Taiwan – to gauge which side would win.

Chinese Air Base Attack

While the Chinese military had only a handful of short-range ballistic missiles in 1997, that number has now risen sharply. With nearly 1,400 in Beijing’s arsenal, those missiles could easily cripple the Kadena Air Base, a US installation on the island of Okinawa.

"Committed attacks might close a single base for weeks," the report reads, and that could dramatically increase the distance that the US Air Force would be required to travel. Forcing the US military to operate out of Alaska, Guam, or Hawaii could give China more time to react to offensive maneuvers.

US vs. Chinese Air Superiority

Beijing has seen a rapid improvement in its air force, modernizing half of its fighter jets. According to RAND, the two nations’ capabilities in the air are almost comparable, with a slight advantage given to the US.

Still, in protecting Taiwan during a hypothetical invasion in 2017, "US commanders would be unable to find the basing required for US forces to prevail in a seven-day campaign," the report reads.

While the US could gain an advantage if it drew out such an operation into a longer campaign, that action could also put ground and naval troops at a greater risk.

US Airspace Penetration

The Chinese military has added a large number of surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems since 1997. With nearly 200 now in Beijing’s arsenal, as well as improved air detection systems, US aircraft would have a difficult time operating in the Taiwan scenario, given its proximity to the Chinese mainland and those defenses.

In a Spratly scenario, however, US stealth aircraft could gain the upper hand, given the archipelago’s 800-mile distance from the Chinese mainland.

US Air Base Attack

American long-range weapons could give the US the capability to shut down Chinese air bases. Looking at 40 bases within range of Taiwan, the US would be capable of closing airstrips for approximately eight hours. Adjusting for 2017, those closures could last for two to three days.

Still, the report acknowledges that this advantage relies on a limited missile stockpile.

"While ground attack represents a rare bright spot for relative US performance, it is important to note that the inventory of standoff weapons is finite, and performance in a longer conflict would depend on a wider range of factors," the report reads.

Chinese Anti-Surface Warfare

While Washington would inevitably rely on aircraft carriers if war were to break out in the South China Sea, Beijing’s development of anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM) could pose a significant threat to US naval forces.

While those carriers may be able to successfully defend against any ASBM with onboard countermeasures, the US would also have to contend with China’s improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and submarine fleet.

US Anti-Surface Warfare

In the Taiwan scenario, RAND estimates that the US would fare well in repelling Chinese amphibious assaults. Able to eliminate roughly 40% of the amphibious fleet, China could suffer "losses that would likely wreak havoc on the organizational integrity of a landing force."

China has, however, already doubled its amphibious capabilities since 1997, and is rapidly improving its anti-submarine potential.

US Counterspace

Washington has been improving its counterspace capabilities since 2002, and features the Counter Communication System, which can jam enemy satellites. Ballistic missile interceptors could also be used to bring down intelligence satellites.

RAND also recommends that the US create high-energy laser systems which could overwhelm the Chinese space program.

Chinese Counterspace

The report calls the threat to US communication satellites "severe," based on a series of successful anti-satellite missile tests conducted by Beijing since 2007.

"More worrisome" is China’s possession of Russian-made jamming systems.

US vs. China Cyberwar

RAND estimates that the sophistication of US Cyber Command and the US National Security Agency would give Washington a cyber advantage during wartime.

Both sides, however, would "nevertheless face significant surprises." The report also points out that the US relies heavily on unclassified Internet networks, which could be easily breached by enemy hackers.

Nuclear Stability

While China has steadily improved its nuclear forces since 1997, it is still far from robust enough to prevent a retaliatory strike from the US, which has a significant stockpile. RAND gives the US a nuclear advantage of 13 to one.

Conclusion

The report predicts that China’s growing military power could create a large decrease in US influence in the Pacific region. Beijing could, hypothetically, "achieve limited objectives without defeating US forces."

"Geographically – the 'bones of strategy' – vastly complicates the challenges faced by the United States," the report reads.

While both sides would suffer heavy losses, the United States doesn’t hold the same kind of Pacific dominance that it once did.

Let’s Pretend: What Happens If the US and China Clash in the Pacific?
 

Speeder 2

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Stupid RAND in its day dream!

air strike on 40 Chinese air bases? :rofl:

Any attack on Chinese soil , a Chinese airbase or Capital Beijing being the same, will be deemed as the start of full-scale war.

for the starter, China will then have fully legit right to counter-attack the source of the attackers:

e.g. if US launched airstrike from an AC, the AC then becomes a legit target to be eliminated by DF series in retaliation. Then the US can not complain later about it.

e.g. if US launched airstrike from a land base, Guam or Hawaii, or a base insside Japan, such a base would then become a legit target in a full scale DF missile precision strike retaliation, then US couldn't bitch around saying its "unfair".

Is that simple?

on the later stage, this will immediately escalate into a full scale nuclear exchange in matter of hours.
 

anon45

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Stupid RAND in its day dream!

air strike on 40 Chinese air bases? :rofl:

Any attack on Chinese soil , a Chinese airbase or Capital Beijing being the same, will be deemed as the start of full-scale war.

for the starter, China will then have fully legit right to counter-attack the source of the attackers:

e.g. if US launched airstrike from an AC, the AC then becomes a legit target to be eliminated by DF series in retaliation. Then the US can not complain later about it.

e.g. if US launched airstrike from a land base, Guam or Hawaii, or a base insside Japan, such a base would then become a legit target in a full scale DF missile precision strike retaliation, then US couldn't bitch around saying its "unfair".

Is that simple?

on the later stage, this will immediately escalate into na full scale nuclear exchange in matter of hours.
The report implies one of China's first actions in order to succeed in a capture Taiwan scenario would be to put bases in Japan and Guam out of action.
Attack on US bases in Japan, let alone Guam, a US territory, would lead to expansion of the warzone to include Chinese ports and airbases (military) anyways, so the point is moot.


Also the US wouldn't whine about unfairness if China lobbed missiles at US bases, it would retaliate.

Frankly the CCP shouldn't wan't to get into a bombing contest.

 

HongWu002

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^ LOL at museum piece when China already tested our Mach 5+ recon and strike aircraft / spacecraft.

When we launch our attack on Taiwan around 2020, we will defang USA by sinking at least three or four carriers.

Our silo ICBMs have an obscene number of warheads each.
 

Schutz

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^ LOL at museum piece when China already tested our Mach 5+ recon and strike aircraft / spacecraft.

When we launch our attack on Taiwan around 2020, we will defang USA by sinking at least three or four carriers.

Our silo ICBMs have an obscene number of warheads each.
Because the USA doesent have the same, except your surrounded by countries that would invade you if you were under attack, Japan would pounce, Russia would get excited at the chance of eating more borders, even India would probably take some land. USA only has to worry about Canada and Mexico. If China is ever attacked the potential loss of human life in China alone would be gigantic on a scale of multiple world wars, it would start shrinking within weeks.
 

21 Dec 2012

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Because the USA doesent have the same, except your surrounded by countries that would invade you if you were under attack, Japan would pounce, Russia would get excited at the chance of eating more borders, even India would probably take some land. USA only has to worry about Canada and Mexico. If China is ever attacked the potential loss of human life in China alone would be gigantic on a scale of multiple world wars, it would start shrinking within weeks.
I will use nuke! You die!
 
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Tiger Genie

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China will NEVER fight against the USA and USA will NEVER fight against China - because they are very dependent on each other. Chinese economy will tank and the Chinese know that. World trade will crash, Wall Street knows that.

Even if an idiot such as Trump becomes president.
 

Hyperion

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I bet that many respected members of this forum know better what will happen if China and the US were EVER to clash than RAND, and RAND knows squat!
 

anon45

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^ LOL at museum piece when China already tested our Mach 5+ recon and strike aircraft / spacecraft.

When we launch our attack on Taiwan around 2020, we will defang USA by sinking at least three or four carriers.

Our silo ICBMs have an obscene number of warheads each.
ah welcome back hong wu!

what if china crashes the dollar then?
I think that will be the least of either side's worries.

A war is very much a last resort.
 

applesauce

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The report implies one of China's first actions in order to succeed in a capture Taiwan scenario would be to put bases in Japan and Guam out of action.
Attack on US bases in Japan, let alone Guam, a US territory, would lead to expansion of the warzone to include Chinese ports and airbases (military) anyways, so the point is moot.


Also the US wouldn't whine about unfairness if China lobbed missiles at US bases, it would retaliate.

Frankly the CCP shouldn't wan't to get into a bombing contest.
the whole point of attacking US bases is to prevent the US from acting, or limit its options in the opening days of a taiwan scenario. thereby establishing a fact on the ground that the PLA more or less controls the island by that point(you can argue they cant quite take the island so quick yet, but you cant deny they're getting to that point). the US could and most definitely would retaliate, but by that point it's either all out war or make a statement(ie retaliate against a chinese base here and there) then leave as there is no longer anything to defend. full out war does nothing for anyone, since it will likely lead to a nuclear exchange, and trying to take back a taiwan already overrunned by the PLA will be extremely costly in materials, manpower and wealth more than any war since WW2. the PRC of course, hopes the US will consider the effort to be too much effort and cost for too little gain and just come to a negotiated settlement after some retaliations. of course war is the last option for everyone involved, and probably will only come to that in 2 situations, 1. the ROC declares independence, 2. ROC seeks nuclear weapons.

the rand study aside, what happens if the PLA DON'T attack US bases? in either a SCS or Taiwan Scenario. this is of course another train of thought in china. where the PLA do not attack the US. but has demonstrated, in tests or otherwise that it can cause many tens of thousands of US military casualties at a minimum, ie: unacceptable costs, thereby causing the US to hesitate, hopefully long enough for the PLA, to again, establish facts on the ground. or if the US does join the fighting right away then there is legitimate cause for attacks on US bases and others since now the US is no longer officially considered neutral(unofficially, of course it's never considered neutral). in this case too, the US must weigh the decision to attack the PRC homeland, since such an attack will widen the war, opening the US homeland to any attacks the PRC can muster, which might not seem like much given the limited chinese power projection capabilities, but there are other ways, such as using spies or container bombs. of course all this isnt so that the chinese can say "they hit us first". its so that negotiations become easier, compared to a surprise attack on the US bases. but it does give up the advantage of catch the US unprepared. eitherway i would consider the Taiwan situation to be stable and no chance of war in the medium term. the SCS is fairly stable as well, no claimant stand a chance against the PRC anyhow and the SCS isnt about anybodies mainland or survival of the state. and any accidental shooting war with any other claimant will probably lead to a chinese victory within days.
 

opruh

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If such thing happen, usa will be conquered immediately and will serve as an agricultural land of China with american citizens as the farmers. All this thanks to China's superior military capabilities.
 

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