Last month’s confrontation at sea between the People’s Republic of China and the United States made one fact all too clear: The two countries have very, very different national interests in key strategic areas.
The United States, the dominant power in Asia and the Pacific, would rather retain the status quo while the rising power China wants to carve out its own sphere of influence in the South China Sea. These interests are for the most part mutually exclusive — that is, China’s gain must come at a cost to the United States, and vice-versa.
While neither country is interested in war, the two sides are beginning to use military forces — such as the USS Lassen — to get their point across. This leads to an interesting question: If the two countries were to go to war tomorrow, just how much could China hurt the U.S.?
We all know the United States has the world’s most powerful conventional and nuclear forces. And war with China is a long, long way off. But for all of the talk of China as a rising military power, modernizing its armed forces with more powerful, more efficient weapons, how much damage could China inflict on the United States?