Tag Archives: China

Sea Control 96 – Host Review

seacontrol2Our cadre of hosts: Matthew Hipple, Natalie Sahmbi, Alex Clarke – and now Matthew Merighi, discuss everything – from China to personal life. This is an update or sorts, or an introduction, for those who haven’t been with us from the beginning, or those who want to know what comes next.

DOWNLOAD: Host Update


CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

September Member Round-Up Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of the September 2015 Member Round-Up, covering the last two weeks of the month. In the past two weeks CIMSEC members have analyzed several international maritime security issues, including the aircraft carrier’s future in the U.S. Navy, Russian military deployments in Syria and the strategic alliance between India and the U.S. regarding security in the Asia-Pacific.

Beginning the Round-up at The War on the Rocks, Bryan McGrath discusses the effectiveness the aircraft carrier brings to the U.S. Navy’s high-end warfare contingency planning despite the mounting number of threats the carrier faces in potential conflict zones. Mr. McGrath explains that in addition to retaining the important traditional contributions the carrier provides to U.S. surface operations, it will also be a primary element of American tactical airpower in any high-end conflict and therefore must remain at the center of the Navy’s force structure.

Focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, Ankit Panda for The Diplomat discusses China’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier along with certain specifications including the ship’s length and width. Mr. Panda identifies that the carrier is significantly smaller than most U.S. carriers, however, it will certainly be able to provide the PLA-N with critical features for enhancing the country’s anti-access/ area-denial strategy. Also at The Diplomat, Mr. Panda examines the ability for the growing strategic and commercial bilateral relationship between the U.S. and India to increase regional stability in the Asia-Pacific by preventing piracy, terrorism and nuclear/ conventional weapon proliferation.

ADM. James Stavridis, for Foreign Policy, provides a geopolitical analysis on maritime Asia where he describes the artificial islands China has constructed as “unsinkable aircraft carriers” and considers their strategic ability to become long-term forward deployed airfields in the South China Sea. ADM Stavridis provides an explanation of how these unique airbases can alter the current dynamic of competing U.S. and Chinese forces in the region.

Leaving the Asia-Pacific region, ADM Stavridis speaks with Defense One regarding the deployment of Russian forces to Syria to assist the Assad regime. ADM. Stavridis explains that Syria has become a high-risk operation region considering Russian and U.S. forces have not established strategic or tactical levels of communication for deconfliction. Additionally, ADM. Stavridis identifies that the stationing of Russian missile-carrying ships as well as SA-22 air-defense systems on Syria’s coastline could limit U.S. areas of operation and add tension to an already hostile environment.

Staying in the Middle East, Chuck Hill for his Coast Guard Blog discusses the United Arab Emirates (UAE) acquisition of the SeaHake mod-4 Extended Range torpedo. Mr. Hill explains that the UAE acquiring the world’s longest-range torpedo will substantially increase their standoff capabilities in the Persian Gulf by allowing them to attack Iranian Kilo-class submarines inside their naval bases on the Iranian coastline in a potential conflict.

Also for his Coast Guard Blog and to conclude part two of the September Member Round-up, Chuck Hill discusses Poland’s acquisition plan to receive at least three Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) starting in 2017. Considering significant Russian-NATO tensions throughout Eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea region, these “Czapla” OPC’s will resemble war ready Polish forces as the ships will have mine-countermeasure capabilities and a wide range of advanced weapon systems.

Members at CIMSEC were also active elsewhere during the second part of September:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to dmp@cimsec.org.


Book Review: James Bradley’s ‘The China Mirage’

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

James Bradley. The China Mirage: the Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia. Little, Brown and Company. 417pp. $35.00.


The United States has a troubled relationship with China. The confrontations over military budgets and the South China Sea are profound but they are not the first flash-points to develop in the relationship. The details of American involvement in China’s so-called “Century of Humiliation” are not widely known among Americans. In steps James Bradley, author of Flags of our Fathers, with his newest offering: The China Mirage. Bradley offers in the introduction to examine “the American perception of Asia and the gap between perception and reality.” While the book’s direction and intent are admirable, The China Mirage lapses into a mirage of its own, in which every American action in China is driven by economic exploitation, abject naivety, or criminal gullibility.

The China Mirage is organized chronologically and examines American involvement and missteps in East Asia. It begins with detailed treatment of the life of Warren Delano, the grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who made the family’s fortune by opium smuggling and conveniently described his activities as “the China trade.” It continues in a grand historical arc covering both Roosevelt presidencies, both Sino-Japanese Wars (from 1894-1895 and 1937-1945), the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chiang Kai-Shek, Mao Zedong, the outbreak of World War II, the Chinese Civil War, the “who lost China” debate in the United States, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. This feat is a tall order for any author and Bradley manages to keep the pace moving throughout his 400-page tome with vignettes from lives of Great People.

While the book is nominally about China, it spends a large portion examining the United States’ relationship with Japan. The long treatment of characters such as Theodore Roosevelt (TR) and Baron Kaneko, Japan’s

A photo of Kitaro Kaneko at his Harvard Graduation
A photo of Kitaro Kaneko at his Harvard Graduation

Harvard-educated diplomat who built a strong relationship with TR, mentions China on the periphery but the reader can clearly see the fruits of Bradley’s research in his earlier book about TR’s presidency, The Imperial Cruise, shining through in this newest text. While the United States’ treatment of Japan was somewhat connected to China, the amount included in The China Mirage was excessive and distracting. At times, the narrative style is frenetic, moving back and forth between China and Japan fast enough to induce whiplash.
Bradley’s style is, at its core, polemic and his words drip with venom. He uses vivid portraits to weave a narrative about the various decision-makers on both sides of the Pacific who drove the hundred-year drama. Lurid details and shortcomings are front-and-center with the author’s voice providing commentary. The Republic of China is referred to as “The Soong-Chiang Syndicate”; American missionaries are called Chiang Kai-Shek’s “favorite sycophants”; Baron Kaneko’s interactions with TR are described as “canoodling.” China’s population is referred to as “Noble Chinese Peasants” to reflect American incorrect assumptions that the Chinese were ignorant and eager to adopt America’s Christian culture. The style is certainly not boring but, as the narrative progresses, it became more of a burden than a boon. The sarcastic use of terms such as “Southern Methodist Chiang” or “foreign devils” became distracting as they were used repeated throughout the entire book, implying that they were not just rhetorical flourishes but an opportunity for the author to express his disdain for many of the players involved.

In an ironic twist, The China Mirage ends up crafting caricatures which cleve as much to a fantasy as the American vision of the Noble Chinese Peasant which Bradley derides throughout the entire book. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt appear as bumbling fools who were taken in respectively by the Japanese or Chiang Kai-Shek. The reader is treated to vivid, often unnecessary, digressions into the men’s Harvard connections and material opulence. FDR is essentially a

FDR sits between Chiang Kei Shek and Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference.
FDR sits between Chiang Kei Shek and Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference.

tottering fool who lives large off opium money while being seduced by bureaucratic charlatans and bamboozled by colorful maps. These analyses both ignore the savviness of both of these men in their Presidential roles as well as the fact that one person, even a President, is unable to successfully implement policy without buy-in from others in the policy-making world. The book’s implied belief that these men’s personal failings single-handedly lead to policy-blunders is overstated.

On the other hand, Bradley lionizes Mao Zedong as a people’s champion who was a better choice than Chiang Kai-Shek to lead China. Mao is portrayed as the key character in anti-Japanese resistance during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), exhorting the corrupt Chiang to “show some spine.” The problem with this assertion is that, unlike Bradley claims, Mao’s forces were barely ever involved in fighting against the Japanese. A vivid portrait is painted of Mao’s seemingly saintly activities in his Yan’an enclave in the 1930s without any mention of the thousands of Communists who were purged during those years to cement his hold on power. One could assume that this omission was mere oversight were not for the fact that, in a preceding chapter, Chiang Kai-Shek’s execution of a few journalists was given top-billing in the narrative. The reader gets the impression that the book has a purposeful slant and bias.

There are other conclusions which might cause some arched eyebrows. The decades-long recognition of Taiwan as the seat of the Chinese government is portrayed as a singular act of American arrogance and ignorance, yet non-recognition was the exactly same policy used by the United States with the German annexation of Austria in 1938 and the Soviet annexation of the Baltic States in 1940. A condemnation of the FDR Administration’s Lend-Lease policy, derided as an “attractive fiction that, after their wars were over, England, Russia, and China would return the materials the U.S. lent to them,” misses the fact that many of those materials were returned, even by the Soviet Union during the early stages of the Cold War. These attacks indicate that the objective of the narrative is to find any and every way to undermine the people whom the author does not like rather than focusing on the book’s main purpose: analyzing the United States’ relationship with China.

While the style and content might at times be suspect, Bradley does a valuable service by introducing historical issues which are not in the American mainstream: the sad legacy of the Exclusion Act and anti-Chinese violence in mid-19th century America; the lingering distrust in China of outsiders who preach a noble message but are perceived to act in their self-interest; the role the United States oil embargo played in the outbreak of war with Japan; the opportunity, though overstated and oversimplified, for the United States to broker an agreement with Mao before the Chinese Civil War formally began; the abominable treatment of people with China experience in the State Department during the early days of McCarthyism. These are important topics that should be more widely known so that the average American can have a more nuanced understanding how the Chinese people, rather than just the Chinese government, will react to American policy.
American policymakers will need to get the US-China relationship right if they want to successfully navigate a turbulent 21st Century. To achieve this, they will need to shelve preconceived notions of what China is and view on-the-ground facts rather than projecting their own culture and worldview. The China Mirage can be a jumping-off point for the uninitiated but recognize that, just like other historical narratives about China, it has its own shortcomings.

Matthew Merighi is CIMSEC’s Directors of Publications. He is also a Master of Arts candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy studying Pacific Asia and International Security.

September Member Round-Up Part One

 Welcome to Part One of the September 2015 Member Round-up, covering the first two weeks of the month. CIMSEC members examined several international maritime security issues, including Russian blue water operations, European maritime security threats, the PLA-N maritime strategy in the Asia-Pacific and aspects of the U.S. military defense procurement program.

The first part of the September Round-up begins with Alex Calvo for The Jamestown Foundation, where he discuses Russia’s naval presence in Spain’s African exclave of Ceuta. Mr. Calvo describes the strategic importance of Ceuta as a launching point for Russian surface fleet operations throughout the Mediterranean Sea region. Additionally, a geopolitical assessment is provided regarding the unique relationship between Spain and Russia in a period of high tensions between Russia and NATO over Ukraine.

Continuing on European maritime security issues, Chuck Hill, for his Coast Guard Blog, discusses the development of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) in France and in the Netherlands. Mr. Hill identifies the development of OPVs in France as a response to the government attempting to increase their enforcement capabilities of EEZ territory. Regarding the Netherlands, Mr. Hill describes the specifications of future OPVs with emphasis on the deployment of ‘hull vane’ technologies to increase OPV mobility, stability and range.

Entering the Asia-Pacific region, Ankit Panda, for The Diplomat, analyzes aspects of innocent passage and the movement of U.S. warships near the newly constructed Chinese islands in the South China Sea. With tensions increasing in the region, Mr. Panda explains that continued cooperation between India and Vietnam could enhance the strategic security relationship between the two countries allowing for a more effective approach to confronting China.

In a separate article, Mr. Panda explains that Vietnam has independently begun to increase its maritime capabilities by approving Coast Guard vessels to deploy major weapon systems. This will allow the Vietnamese CG to be more active in the nation’s maritime security objectives and will significantly increase the effectiveness of EEZ enforcement. Mr. Panda also provided a description of three major Chinese missile systems that pose significant regional and global threats to military adversaries. The Df-16 SRBM, the YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the DF-41 ICBM are components of China’s missile force that greatly contribute to the country’s access denial strategy and global military influence.

Harry Kazianis, for The National Interest, shares an analysis on the U.S. Navy’s plan to modernize the Aegis Combat System’s hardware and software. The technological improvements being added will provide increased effectiveness for the Aegis system to conduct its integrated air and missile defense operations. Also for The National Interest, Mr. Kazianis discusses China’s new DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile as well as the characteristics of a conflict between China and the U.S. in the South China Sea.

Bryan McGrath for The War on the Rocks, concludes the Round-up with discussing aspects of the U.S. Navy’s procurement strategy. He provides a detailed examination on the number of ships required by the U.S. Navy to meet the current security threats facing the United States as well as to sustain the requirements of the maritime objectives of the navy itself. Mr. McGrath explains that the current and projected size of the U.S. Naval fleet, 273 and 308 respectively, is too small to remain effective in multiple regions. He references the U.S. Navy’s 346-ship fleet from the Clinton-era as an appropriate number for managing the current maritime environment and providing sufficient influence in all U.S. theatres of operation.    

Members of CIMSEC were also active elsewhere so far in September:

At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to me, the Director of Member Publicity, at dmp@cimsec.org to make sure we include them in our next round-up.