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All Posts, Military History

Author Q&A: Martin Stansfeld

Theme: Will History Repeat itself in the Indo-Pacific ?

In this post, Martin Stansfeld answers questions put to him by readers.

People keep asking me about Chinese aircraft carriers and what future threat they may represent?
None at present and little to worry over medium or even long term. The US has such a preponderance in the arm and Japan can match China in the same. Add a carrier or two on the parts of India and Australia. Plus the Prince of Wales may soon follow his sister super-carrier Queen Elizabeth to show the flag at Singapore again eighty years later than his fated predecessor.
The prospective danger from China is from cyber warfare.
Interestingly it was an outrageous cyber attack against Australia in answer to criticism of China by Canberra that recently preceded the celebrated nuclear submarine deal between the US, UK and Australia (AUKUS), not that that was a political response. It was a highly considered strategic imperative, to wit……

…..about that submarine deal have France and the EU any right to be offended by it ?

None, it merely harks back to the ABTA agreement following Pearl Harbour. This set up a joint command of the forces of the US, Britain, the Netherlands East Indies ( today Indonesia) and Australia to resist Japan’s ‘drive south’ to seize the oil resources of the area. The EU is on the wrong side of the globe for the Indo-Pacific. And it’s not always been apparent that the EU are any reliably constant kind of partner internationally.

But if the ABTA theatre fell so easily before the Japanese in early 1942 what hope eventually ?

The answer is oil supply. The ‘boot to be put in’ will be on the Allied foot. China is dependent upon imported oil. And China lacks the naval resources to resist an embargo. Why, because George Orwell’s Oceania still rules the waves! His two continental superpowers don’t stand a chance except on their own ground.

What possibly can China (and Russia) get up to that might set them loose on us all?

You may well search for an answer in old James Bond movies. For a start the Commies can use Spectre to shoot down all our satellites and thereby disable communication dependent upon them. Markets collapse, supply chains constipate, riots on the streets, etc. In the Politburos they have so often harked to Lenin’s dictum, ‘If you aren’t sure what to do, then Act ! By doing so you will see what to do Next !’ Like China invade Taiwan and Russia the Baltic states, thanks to the general chaos and collapse of morale in the West and Indo-Pacific East? Can we see the tangle of free world alliances coming together under such stress?
In chaos is a world unmade; the danger is that the application of Lenin’s sort of detergent may cleanse out our democratic histories, and indeed ourselves. Cyber attacks will in some way or other need to be met by means not necessarily copy-cat cyber retaliation.

What can prevent the People’s Republic of China crossing the strait that divides its mainland from the largely Chinese-speaking island nation of Taiwan?

Europe asked that same question of Hitler crossing the English Channel to invade England. First he needed to wipe out the Royal Air Force which he failed to do, and secondly he would have to sail past massed squadrons of the Royal Navy’s gallant destroyers, which his admirals persuaded him was suicide for the elite army divisions picked for the invasion. So he baulked
Well, China has been threatening to invade Taiwan for 7O years. Whatever in all that time has happened ? Nothing. Yet all that stood in their way was a tiny navy of which its flagship was the ex-Japanese Yukikaze (translation Snow Storm), sole destroyer survivor of the 19-strong Kagero-class. How, because the US Navy stood behind Taiwan. It’s memory could act as a symbol for Japan and the Allies of WW2 to rally around. Nothing in the IJN armoury became so respected in post-War retrospect by the Allied navies than the Yukikaze and her heroic ilk
Will Biden stand behind Taiwan ? If not, all that stands between the Peoples Republic of China and Taiwan is the ghost of that forgotten hero destroyer of the Imperial Japanese Navy; relegated as post-1945 war reparations, and whatever redundant hand me downs added from the US Navy.

Why all this talk of ‘Global Britain’ ?

Logical post-Brexit is for Britain to return to being a sea power in order to help defend itself and the Commonwealth and to keep trade routes open. This is why Boris is so keen on large aircraft carriers and flaunting them in the Taiwan Straits. It is why he chose the First Sea Lord, an admiral to become Defence chief instead of a general or air marshal. The English Channel is at long last being re-acknowledged. If the EU wants to defend itself against Russia it will need to add vastly to what it contributes to NATO. London has the ultimate deterrent against EU bullying in revenge for Brexit; it can pull out the British Army of the Rhine. In practice this could be to find other roles for its army and air force such as ‘doing an AUKUS’ in the Baltic, and in the Norwegian Sea, a role more apt for a sea power. After all, Russia harbours most of its submarine fleet in the Kola Peninsula from which it can issue forth from the Behring Sea into the Atlantic and threaten communications between America and Europe.
Long term analysis of the European future may soon predict a Club Med bloc on one inland sea and a Baltic League on the other. What happens in the middle will be anyone’s guess! How about a Charlemagnia, federal capital Aachen (otherwise Aix la Chapelle). It was where the big lad hung out in 800 AD after all, his chapel a resplendent piece of Ravenna in the gothic North. If a monarch called Charles is needed the heir to the House of Hanover could be available if Prince Charles passes the succession to the UK and Commonwealth over to Prince William Arthur, his eldest son currently entitled Duke of Cambridge. As a descendant of Charlemagne via the famous ‘John of Gaunt Junction’ of royal lineages I will do anything to restore the glory of the lineage. Prince Charles is also of that lineage and has no doubt prior rights over me and tens of thousands more other descendants of the first Holy Roman Emperor. All we would crave is a place at court !

Japanese Carriers and Victory in the Pacific is available to order here.