China is rapidly building up its military capability, even expanding the world’s largest Navy, prompting former NATO Supreme Commander Admiral James Stavridis to move up his warning of a U.S.-China military conflict from the once-projected 2034 to just three to five years from now.
“In 2023, 2024, that’s where the danger zone begins to rise,” Stavridis said.
“It’s three years, perhaps five, before China has the full confidence that all of the military improvements they’re now putting in place will allow them to do what they want to do. I believe, unfortunately, the chances of a conflict with China are rising.”
Stavridis said the reason behind the Chinese rapid acceleration is they have the economic capacity and military will to wield control over the South China Sea, and to also surpass the U.S. as a world power.
“China wants to show the world that they can outpace the U.S. militarily,” Stavridis added. “This is why, in particular, they are building mockups, models of U.S. aircraft carriers, and then launching long-range missile strikes against those big marked-out areas.
“They want to show that to the world.”
The South China Sea is rich in resources, Stavridis noted.
“Tactically, they want to control the South China Sea, which is a huge body of water, half the size of the continental United States of America, because there’s oil, gas, and 40% of the world’s shipping goes through this South China Sea,” he continued.
China already has the world’s largest Navy and is accelerating its growth, according to Stavridis.
“China has a larger navy, a bigger fleet, than the United States of America,” he said. “China has about 360 ships. By the end of this decade, they’ll have well over 500. The United States only has about 300 ships, and we’re building ships much slower than China.”
Recent Taiwan talk is merely a consequence of the buildup, and a warning shot across the bow of the U.s.
“They want to bring what they consider the rogue province of Taiwan to heel,” he said. “That South China Sea and Taiwan are potential flashpoints between China and the United States. We need to be mindful of the rise of Chinese military capability.”
The three-year cushion will come to an end as President Xi Jinping grows his power as the leader of the Chinese Communist Party.
“In the fall of 2022, President Xi will be anointed as the new Mao Tse-tung of the 21st century; he’ll be marked as a leader equal to Mao,” Stavridis said. “That will happen at a party conference late in 2022. There’s very little chance of an aggressive move [by China] between now and then.”