Why US Defense Decline is Inevitable: A PRC Perspective

By Li Jie

For a long time, the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept has prevailed in the US.

It seems that this concept has grown mature enough to be implemented.

However, the US’s economic condition and military superpower status have declined since 2007.

The ruthless reality is that the US can do nothing without enough money, not to mention employ advanced air, sea and space weapons.

Even the US itself has realized that the concept is already out of date. 

Nowadays, due to the growing strength of East Asian countries, US aircraft carriers and operational aircraft dare not patrol at will at the first island chain, specifically the first chain of major archipelagos outside the East Asian continental mainland coast. Their patrol is at most a show.

As senior US officials and experts seek a way out, T. X. Hammes, a retired US Marine Corps colonel, recently published an article, “Offshore Control is the Answer,” in Proceedings Magazine under the US Naval Institute. 

According to Hammes, “Offshore control would deny China the use of the sea inside the first island chain, at the same time defend those islands, and dominate the air and sea outside that theater.”

Another viewpoint in the article, which is also favored by senior US officials is to create “a stand-off military campaign focusing on a war of economic strangulation rather than on penetrating Chinese airspace to physically destroy its infrastructure.” 

This, according to Hammes, would force China to fight in ways where the US has the greatest military strength while China has the least.

This actually goes beyond the ASB concept, stresses the geopolitical advantages of the US, and seeks to “maximize the effectiveness” of the block and control ability of the US air, sea and land forces, aiming to contain a rising China and using the least cost to bring the most impact.

Maybe the “offshore control” theory is not as terrifying as imagined. But what’s worrying is the US may combine the “offshore control” theory with the ASB concept.

The US may also improve one theory and make the other a supplement, which means it may develop offshore theory at the first island chain, and utilize the updated ASB concept outside this area.

In other words, the US will focus on using economic blockades in daily practice.

But whenever it feels it necessary, the US will send nuclear-powered Nimitz Class Aircraft Carriers, F-22 Raptor Fighter, B-2 Stealth Bomber and X-47B air vehicles to the first and second island chains and carry out precise long-range attacks.

It is not difficult to see that in the next 10 years, as the US’s tide of war recedes, its national defense budget will be cut by as much as $489 billion.

The US, with its declining national strength, can only bow to reality.

The variation and combination of the two theories will generate more complex situations than a single theory does, and will bring an even more negative effect to the Chinese navy.

The author is a researcher with China Navy Research Institute.





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