WHEN the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, the United States emerged as the sole superpower in the world. A group of neo-conservatives (or neocons) also sprouted during this period that had great influence on US defense policy, as exemplified by the defense strategy they have formulated. The gist of their thinking is contained in what is now referred to as the Wolfowitz Doctrine: “Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, which poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. . . While the US cannot become the world’s policeman, by assuming responsibility for righting every wrong, we will retain the preeminent responsibility for addressing selectively those wrongs which threaten not only our interests, but those of our allies or friends, or which could seriously unsettle international relations. (Paul Wolfowitz – Defense Strategy for the 1990s, 1994)”
For China, this means that the US will not allow China to rise peacefully; that the US will act unilaterally to prevent China becoming a peer competitor of the US as the sole superpower; that the US will use every pretext to launch a preventive war against China to prevent China from gaining military strength that can compete with the US; and strike China while she is still relatively weak or before China’s economy surpasses that of the US.
Hence, Deng Xiaoping issued the now famous 24-character formula: “Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.”
Deng recognized that China needed time to develop its defensive and offensive capabilities:
• China’s “trump card”–the Assassin’s Mace–was not yet ready at the time;
• The “New Great Walls” were still under construction;
• Stealth fighters and bombers were still under development;
• China’s anti-satellite/anti-space weapon were also under development; and
• Artificial islands in the South China Sea were not yet in place.
So, when the US tried to provoke war with China with the sending of two aircraft carrier battle groups during the Taiwat Incident in 1996; the US/NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999; the spy plane Hainan Incident in 2001; and the massing of seven aircraft carrier battle groups near Taiwan (Operation Summer Pulse) in 2004, the biggest naval armada the world had ever seen–China religiously followed Deng’exhortation: observe calmly…cope with affairs calmly…hide our capacities and bide our time…” China’s offense and defense capacities were not yet ready at the time.
But now, times have changed. In 2016, China’s offense and defense capacities are practically all in place. The “assassin’s mace” system (DF21s, DF26s, HN2000a, DF16s, DF15s, DF12s) is now ready to wipe out all US aircraft carrier battle groups and air bases, together with all the stealth aircraft that are based in such bases, logistics hubs, communication nodes, command and control centers, and forces-in-being stationed in South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, all the way to Guam. The offensive system also includes the destruction of US satellites used for C4ISTAR as well as nuclear submarines within striking distance of China’s east coast. China’s offensive capacities also include DF31s, DF41s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear submarines that can strike any place in the US with nuclear warheads in the event that the US decides to launch a nuclear first strike.
On defense capacities, China has also finished several new “great walls”. More than 5,000 kilometers of strategic tunnels have been built to hide and protect its strategic weapons for a second strike that can also double as civil defense; 41 of its vital air bases have underground hangars; all of its major cities have extensive subway systems that double as civil defense; anti-ballistic missile and anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile systems (HQ9s, HQ19s, S300s, S400s) blanket the entire east coast of China; and anti-submarine underwater hydrophones coupled with swarms of underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) that can monitor and attack submarines, plus more than 70 Chinese submarines protect China offshore. All these defense capacities are now in place.
Hence, there is no more need to hide Chinese capacities in offense and defense. So, when the US tried to provoke another war with China by using the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling from The Hague as its pretext for war, and sending two aircraft carrier battlegroups, nuclear submarines, and strategic stealth bombers to the South China Sea-–China responded with a big NO! China informed the US that they were ready to go to war if the US uses military force to enforce the PCA Hague ruling on the South China Sea dispute. And the US superpower had no choice but to meekly withdraw-–for the very first time.
This was followed by the collapse of the US-Russia peace talks on Syria on Oct. 3, 2016. Russia immediately deployed its air defense systems to Syria (S-300s/S-400s) and warned that any combat aircraft that will attempt to attack Syria will be shot down. Again, like in the South China Sea with China, the US backed down. When Russia put up that “no-fly zone” in Syria, Russia was ready to fight the US head-on–either conventional or nuclear; the same way China was willing to fight the US in the South China Sea. In both of these instances, it was the US that backed out and retreated.
These two separate instances coming one after the other is a signal that a tectonic shift is occurring in the global balance of power. It is like two brother male lions challenging the dominance of the reigning but aging alpha male lion. We are now witnessing the beginning of the end of the unipolar world order and the birth of a multi-polar world order.
The pathetic end of a superpower that used to always have its way around the world came when President Obama went to Hangzhou, China for the G-20 summit where he was forced to exit from the emergency exit of his presidential plane instead of the regular plane exit because the stairway for the presidential plane was not there. Then there was the victory of Trump that can result in the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP). Trump has already agreed to fight ISIS together with Russia; and also expressed his intention of joining the One Belt One Road initiative and the Asia Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) led by China.
If all of these latest developments come true, then the world may finally find long-lasting peace.
A graduate of Philippine Military Academy Class 197n and an MPA 1990 from Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, retired Brig. Gen. Victor N. Corpus spent five years with the New People’s Army (1971-76). He was detained for 10 years under martial law and sentenced to death by musketry. But he later became chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.