Viewing the Game between China and America from the Past Competition between Britain and Germany

Translated from the Headlines (Toutiao 头条新闻)

Author: Chenfeng Old Court(晨枫老苑)

Pax Britannica did not have a clear start time, but it peaked in the 18th-19th centuries. However, in the 1860s and 1970s, two major events occurred in the world: the American Civil War and the reunification of Germany. Both the United States after the Civil War and the reunified Germany entered rapid development. At the end of the 19th century, the economies of Germany and the United States surpassed Britain, but the United Kingdom continued to maintain a leading position in politics and military for a period of time due to its stock.

Comics about the British-German naval race back then

This is also the era when the British navy still rules the world’s oceans

The United States is too far away, Germany is too close, Europe is still the center of the world, and the focus of Britain is naturally on Germany. This is the age of the navy. The fast and connected ocean makes the navy the inside line of operations, and strong ships and artillery overwhelm the cumbersome army in terms of firepower and mobility. Pax Britannica’s capital is the British Royal Navy that crushes the world.

After the rise of Germany, it is determined to build a sea power that can compete with the British Royal Navy. Tirpitz’s goal is to build a German Navy that can reach 2/3 of the Royal Navy’s strength. Britain’s naval superiority means the ability to implement naval blockades and block Germany’s overseas trade and raw material imports. It also means the ability to cover the landing of the army and the strength to interfere in European affairs. The German navy challenge means to cut off the British military’s ability to intervene in European affairs and break the blockade, and possibly even counter it.

John Fisher, the most influential man in British naval history after Drake and Nelson

Alfred von Tirpitz, founder of the modern German navy

In terms of naval technology, Britain first launched the dreadnought ship in 1906. The combination of speed, armor, and firepower was decisively ahead of the traditional warships of other naval powers, but it was also a decisively high cost.

Dreadnoughts caused naval competitions among Western powers, of which Britain and Germany were the most intense. In turn, the dreadnought itself is also a product of the British-German naval competition. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the British navy still ranked first in the world by its stock, but its fleets scattered all over the world were old and scattered. The First Minister of Maritime Affairs (equivalent to the Commander of the Navy) John Fisher decided to abolish the old ships drastically, shrink the remaining elite forces to England, and vigorously build the decisively leading dreadnought ship.

The battleship “Dreadnought” is epoch-making in naval history, integrating firepower, speed, and armor, leading a generation of naval design

Fisher’s strategy greatly strengthened the strength of the local fleet and the direction of the North Sea, which is the only outlet for the German high seas fleet. The interests of other parts of the world can only be taken care of by allies. For example, the Americas are handed over to the United States, and the Far East is handed over to Japan. Britain is not so naive to trust its allies. Britain has the two-power principle of naval construction to guarantee the bottom line. In other words, the strength of the British navy needs to be greater than the combined strength of the second and third strongest navies in the world, so Britain is not afraid of the allies being active. The navy is capable of maneuvering around the world.

Fisher’s strategy of shortening the front and shrinking forces is also in line with the reality of Britain’s growing financial constraints, but Britain’s financial constraints have also made the principle of the two powers shrinking. The United States was first excluded, and then whether the two powers in Europe were Germany, France or Germany and Russia changed again and again. In the end, the two powers were no longer the sum of the second and third strongest, regardless of enemies and friends, but only enemies.

Beihai is the focus area of ​​British-German competition, and it is vital to the lives of both Britain and Germany.

However, the British public was still immersed in the afterglow of the old empire and insisted on expanding the army to resist Germany (We want eight and we won’t wait, where eight refers to the planned eight dreadnought ships). Under the pressure of strong public opinion, both Britain and Germany expanded the scale of shipbuilding. At the outbreak of World War I, Britain built 20 dreadnoughts and 9 battlecruisers, and Germany had 15 dreadnoughts and 7 battlecruisers. Germany has no time. If the First World War did not break out in 1914, whether Germany could eventually catch up with Britain, there are different opinions, but it is certain to further narrow the gap.

Britain and Germany are financially overwhelmed, and Germany’s strategic position is becoming increasingly difficult. The pressure of Tsarist Russia forced Germany to shift its resources to the army, and militarism also made Germany more and more isolated. In 1912, German Prime Minister Oberbaden von Batemann-Holwig suggested to Britain that Germany should stop its expansion and recognize British sovereignty in exchange for Britain’s neutrality in future wars. Britain refused. Britain believes that it is self-evident that Britain dominates the sea, but Britain cannot sit back and watch Germany dominate the European continent.

Despite the dust, Germany quietly turned, turning to build submarines in early 1914, avoiding direct competition with the British navy. In 1913, the British Treasury also had a serious dispute with Fisher’s route (Fisher retired in 1911, but succeeded Xiao Gui Cao Sui), and Britain’s vigorous shipbuilding was also unsustainable.

The Anglo-German naval race ended on the eve of World War I. Before the war, Britain and Germany had great confidence in a rapid victory. The war was more tragic than everyone had imagined, and the war crippled everyone. Germany was “back to pre-liberation overnight”, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the October Revolution broke out in Tsarist Russia, France became a second-rate empire, the decline of the British Empire also surfaced after the war, the United States and Japan became emerging powers, and the United States Becoming Europe’s “offshore manipulator”, Japan strongly squeezed British interests in the Far East. World War II was a continuation of World War I. The ending of Pax Britanicca and the opening of Pax Americana were finally completed at the end of World War II.

The Anglo-German naval competition is often used to compare contemporary Sino-US competition. China corresponds to the position of Germany and the United States corresponds to the position of Britain. The interpretation of Europe and the United States is: the United States will win a tragic victory like the United Kingdom; China will be interrupted in its rise like Germany. The focus of Europe and the United States is to prevent the United States from being maimed like Britain after the First World War. But history cannot be interpreted mechanically in this way.

On the eve of World War I, the stock of the predominant power Britain was dominant, and the growth of the rising power Germany was dominant. If the outbreak of World War I is postponed, it will only be a matter of time before Germany surpasses Britain. Therefore, by creating incidents, Britain forces Germany to start a war without preparation. Germany insisted on avoiding the war, but in the end, it was dragged into the war by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, its allies.

Both Britain and Germany worked hard to create an allied system. Britain finally pulled France and Tsarist Russia and forced Germany to fight on the land on the two fronts, while at the same time bearing British pressure on the sea. At the end of the First World War, the United Kingdom also pulled into the United States, not counting the cannon fodder countries of the Commonwealth such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Germany grabbed the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, occupying the heart of Europe and the southern wing. It must be said that Britain’s allies are much stronger, while Germany’s allies have more burdens than comrades in arms.

But today’s situation is very different.

The U.S., a conservative power, is still dominant in terms of strength by virtue of its stock, and the rising power of China is even more dominant in terms of growth. The United States has been unable to determine whether it is possible to win the conflict, so, despite aggressive provocations and persecution, it still avoids crossing the threshold of war. With the momentum of China’s rise, the continued narrowing of the stock gap between China and the United States is beneficial to China, and it is even more important to try to avoid war.

It is often said that China’s rise will have to go through a war, and compared with the resistance to US aggression and aid to Korea, they think that the current conditions are better, and they should dare to fight the United States with one punch, so as not to get a hundred punches. China has never been afraid of war. The more it is afraid of war, the more war will come, but this is not the same as actively seeking war. This is not a question of daring to dare. The resistance to U.S. aid to Korea under Chairman Mao was not because of “dare” but because of “must.” It is not yet the necessary time to cross the red line for Taiwan’s independence, and US military intervention is trying to prevent China’s reunification. That is the necessary time.

This is also in contrast with Great Britain and Germany during World War I. Germany, a rising power, was drawn into the war by the pig teammate Austria-Hungary. The Austro-Hungarian Empire on the eve of World War I have nearly torn apart, its national strength was empty, and crises were everywhere. The various interactions of the European powers before the war pushed all parties into a dead end, and the wrong overestimation of their own strength by all parties made the situation firewood. A gunshot in Sarajevo finally ignited the pile of dry wood.

Today, instead, Taiwan Province, a pig teammate of the United States, a major country, may draw the United States into war, and the war will happen at the wrong time and at the wrong place against the United States. The United States cannot yet count on its allies to act as cannon fodder like the British in World War I. Whether it is Quad or Aukus, the United States does not have enough allies in the Asia-Pacific region. China does not have the problem of two-line warfare. The United States cannot even pull on India and force China to fight on the two fronts, because India has no ability to cross the Himalayas to attack China. After all, our neighbor has always been able to take advantage of the strange mentality that others have never wanted to be used by others.

The Taiwan Strait is not the North Sea, it is too close to the mainland and too far away from the United States

It is impossible for India to cross the Himalayas to launch a meaningful attack on China

This is different from the First World War or even the Cold War era. The Russian army took the initiative to attack during the First World War. During the Cold War era, China may also launch an offensive against the Soviet Far East. In fact, the Soviet Army and the People’s Liberation Army are likely to be forced to attack. The Soviet Army can only protect the long and fragile communication lines by attacking ahead of the People’s Liberation Army. Only by attacking the People’s Liberation Army can it be possible to cut off the communication lines. Passivate the Soviet armor offensive. But such a situation cannot happen in the Himalayas. The PLA only needs to implement flexible defenses on the ridgeline and wait for work to be able to crush any offensive by the Indian army that enters the plateau.

Now it is not the same as resisting US aggression and aiding Korea. At that time, the United States had no expectation of China’s decisive battle. The strategic focus of the United States was always in Europe. The Soviet Army in the Far East also exerted pressure on the US troops stationed in Japan. Volunteers were fighting with the US military with one hand tied behind its back. China is now the only focus of the United States. China’s strength has greatly increased, and the US stock is still strong. It is more general to say that it is more advantageous than the era of resisting US aggression and aid to Korea.

In the British-German competition, Britain was tactically passive, but strategically active, forcing Germany to follow its own design and step by step on the path of self-determination and provoking war. Now it is the United States that takes the initiative in tactics and can continue to challenge things, but China has taken the initiative in strategy. The United States did not play the Taiwan card when the gap between China and the United States was greater and the United States became stronger because it did not see the necessity of playing this card, and the United States did not want to pay any price. By the time I realized it, the price was unacceptable. However, if the card is played late, it is no longer a question of cost, but a question of survival.

China also forced the United States to face its own structural problems. Biden’s 3.5 trillion rebuilding plan shrank to 1.2 trillion (deducting normal appropriations, actually only 550 billion). It was not passed before COP26, but it was passed. It’s not that Biden is better than Obama and Trump, but that both parties realize that it is too late to raise their heads from the party’s feud and face the real problems of the United States squarely. This is not only far from enough, but also efficiency issues. If China’s infrastructure investment needs to be valued by purchasing power equivalent factors, the United States needs to use efficiency factors to depreciate. This has not yet been included in the United States’ lack of a system for launching infrastructure. There is still a long way to go before the allocation of funds is turned into reality. During the epidemic, the United States has given a lot of money, and all levels of finance have the problem of “money can’t be used”, but the actual problem has not been solved because of this.

China’s nominal GDP has exceeded 70% of that of the United States, and its purchasing power equivalent GDP has surpassed that of the United States in 2017. However, China’s military expenditure accounts for only half to 2/3 of the United States’ GDP. In other words, China spends more resources on Economic and people’s livelihood development has greater potential for development. But China’s military modernization has already put tremendous pressure on the United States.

China’s GDPPPP has already surpassed the United States (the algorithm is different, here it was exceeded in 2015, and the World Bank data is in 2017), and the nominal GDP is also steadily approaching, and it is expected to exceed it by 2030

China’s military spending still lags behind that of the United States, but the gap is narrowing; after accounting for PPP adjustments, the gap is even smaller

However, the proportion of GDP is still very low, and the expansion potential greatly exceeds that of the United States.

The United States does not have the two-power principle, but the United States has become accustomed to crushing advantages, especially the navy and air force, and such advantages are now disappearing. As in the British-German naval competition, the US government and the opposition are calling for military expansion. As at that time, the fiscal pressure in the United States is also high. It is also possible for China to mobilize the flow of American resources through a moderate arms race and delay the reconstruction of the United States.

China does not have many reliable allies, but this also makes China’s decision-making free from the ties of allies, and there is no problem like Germany being dragged into war by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. All the cards are in its own hands. The biggest card is Sustainable and sustainable development.

But the United States, apart from Taiwan, doesn’t have many cards anymore. The United States can play the Taiwan card, but Wang Zhan is always in China’s hands. When and under what conditions will Taiwan independence be considered to have crossed the red line, the decision-making power lies with China, not the United States, and China’s decision-making is unnecessary and will not be transparent to the United States. Strategic ambiguity is not something that only the United States can play. The United States thinks that it is possible to boil China in warm water through Taiwan, but it is actually China that boils the United States in warm water all over the world.

The United States wants to play the Taiwan card, but Wang Zhan is in China’s hands

There are fewer and fewer choices and more and more difficult. This is the greatest sign of the passiveness of the US strategy.

For China, you must have determination and patience, and time is on China’s side. It’s not that it is not reported, the time has not arrived.