Michael Reeves, worked at State Government of Victoria (2002-2008)
Answered Dec 31
Originally Answered: Would America win a war against China?
Yes the US would win easily and this is why. Despite US superiority in its military and that the US and its allies vastly outmatch China in most areas it is not conflict that will win the war.
It is control of resources or specifically energy. China imports 80% of its oil from the Persian Gulf. The US Navy controls the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea and has a large presence in the Indian Ocean, it has dozens of bases throughout all the regions mentioned along with large ground and air forces, let alone naval.
Without this oil supply the Chinese economy would collapse in a matter of weeks. China has no way presently to contest the oceans against the huge US forces present in this region let alone fight the US Navy on the open seas. While China has advantages 1500km from its main land due to land based missiles and aircraft. A blockade of Chinese oil 7000km away in the Persian Gulf results in a collapse of Chinas economy and China has very few military assets that can reach this far, nothing that can challenge the huge US military presence. Oil supplies from Russia can be easily cut with some missiles on the Chinese side of the border, other pipe lines or railways can also be hit which transport oil from international destinations, railways and pipelines don't move. China has no capability to do the same to the US, let alone the US has the majority of its oil supplies under its own feet or from Canada and Mexico. In pure energy supplies the US can conduct a long war while China needs a short sharp war prior to oil supplies running out.
On top of this what would the loss of China’s exports markets mean, certainly the US market is gone. The EU would also be doubtful along with many of the other US allies which also happen to be Chinas biggest export markets. The US can also force the issue and institute a complete Naval blockade 3000 miles from Chinas coast and China can do very little to prevent this.
So China is now in a position that it cannot get the oil it needs to keep it’s economy running, let alone keep hundreds of millions Chinese employed. It also lose much of its export markets a double jeopardy. The US can keep most of its oil supply and a large part of its exports to Europe, however exports only make up 11% of US GDP. While China has a large reserve it will not last longer then 3 months if that. I'm sure US strategist know this, in fact the US can play defensive if they like, mustering there forces for months outside of Chinese military capabilities to hit them and launch a large offensive once they know Chinese oil reserves are hurting.
How long will the 200 million Chinese vehicles put up with no fuel to drive them. That's a lot of angry people, let alone the hundreds of millions who will be without work. Who will they blame as trains stop working, trucks transporting food stop working, good and services cease to move around the nation.
This is why China wants to move to an all electric car fleet by 2030 which is very ambitious, as they understand they cannot win a war vs the US under present conditions. China can certainly do a sudden strike and a limited war but should the US choose to fight and prolong the war using its strategic advantage in energy and time China loses. This is another reason for Chinas play in the south china sea to try and tap its vast resources oil and gas, however even these are easily targeted by long range missiles. Oil rigs are easy targets.
Right now China cannot win a major war vs the US. The only wars China could win is a sudden rapid strike like taking Taiwan prior to the US being able to intervene, then its up to the US if they want to expend the huge resources to expel the Chinese forces. This is the only real way China can fight and win until they can either match the US Navy on the open seas and win (unlikely to ever happen) or it has very limited dependence on foreign oil. Both options are decades away.
Chinese intervention in North Korea as an example exposes China to all of the above risks. Let alone the military risks. Look at the map of China, its coast line. All of its Naval ports are well within US striking range from its bases and naval forces. The PLA Navy has no where to hide, it can be targeted and sunk in the opening days of any conflict as it simply has now where to go except deep up river and into the interior for ships that can get that far. While the bulk of the US Navy remains well outside of Chinese weapons range, not able to be sunk in the opening days of conflict. A Chinese Admiral said a few years ago, that in the event of war with the US he would not expect the PLA Navy to last more then 100 hours with the bulk of it sunk for the above reasons. In order for the PLA Navy to survive it needs to break out into the open ocean which wont happen as it needs to pass through Japanese/US controlled areas or that of US allies. With out a Navy China loses its ability to protect its sea lanes, its islands and its territorial claims.
Unfortunately for China it cannot devote the resources required to beat the US Navy let alone the US, Japanese, Australian and likely British and other allies that will aide the US. China has to many potential enemies on all sides with massive land borders, its needs a large Army to protect its borders unlike the US. The US can focus on its Navy and Air forces and project power while China has limited ability to do so. If China fails to keep a large Army it risks being defeated on land which opens it up to invasion, let alone the ability to put down int*ts. China needs to choose, is it a Naval power or a Land power.
Like Zhukov once said to a Russian Admiral when they wanted to build spend more resources on a Russian Navy prior to World War II. Zhukov said, why. In every war Russia has fought in the last 200 years the Russian Navy has scuttled itself in the opening phases, meaning scuttled or been sunk. Land powers should invest in their advantages. If Germany had built more submarines and forgot about a surface fleet then victory in the Atlantic may have occurred, starving Britain out of the war. China will lose most of its fleet in any war vs the US, against anyone else they could certainly win one on one, against the US and its allies it has no hope so why waste the resources. China would be better off focusing on nuclear attack submarines in massive numbers, forget the surface fleet. Keep a limited fleet to fly the flag, invest in Subs and more subs as power projection. This would certainly keep US Admirals awake a night far more then a Chinese Carrier or 3. Learn the lessons of history, you cannot defeat the established naval powers at such a disadvantaged. Submarines however offer an ability at least for now. Even that though is being eroded as the US develops swarms of drone Subs which seems to be the future of underwater warfare.
I think that's enough of an answer.