Should Americans Fear a Chinese Attack?

Should Americans Fear a Chinese Attack?

Gordon G. Chang

Security, Asia

If the Chinese military feels it’s on the defensive, it could attempt a preemptive strike.

Key Point: Chinese generals are not convinced they’d face enormous repercussions from attacking the United States.

“The United States is most afraid of death,” said Rear Admiral Luo Yuan on December 20, 2018, to an audience in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. “We now have Dong Feng-21D, Dong Feng-26 missiles. These are aircraft carrier killers. We attack and sink one of their aircraft carriers. Let them suffer 5,000 casualties. Attack and sink two carriers, casualties 10,000. Let’s see if the U.S. is afraid or not?”

Luo, who has a history of bellicose statements, is nonetheless seen as reflecting thinking in the senior ranks. He was the second Chinese military officer in December, just days before the fortieth anniversary of America’s recognition of the People’s Republic on January 1, to publicly urge an unprovoked attack on American vessels.

In China, there is war talk, and not just from the officer corps. “China’s hottest new read” at the moment is a re-issuance of a collection of 1938 speeches of Mao Zedong. On Protracted War warned a country then in the midst of both civil and external strife that the Chinese people would have to endure long hardships before prevailing over enemies.

At a time Chinese state media is full of venom for the United States, the current popularity of Mao’s message is a warning. It is possible Chinese leadership figures are talking war as a way to prevail in factional infighting.

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