Has the US lost its place as the "most superest" of superpowers?

Recently my friends and I were arguing about a future China vs. the US war. I said that China could easily win it given the manpower, industry, and dedication to the country/government. They could only counter with “You’re sooo stupid”.

I’ve been told that China is the largest holder of American debt and as such could call upon the debt and bankrupt China. So prior to the said war, couldn’t China simply destroy the American economy?

I also know that China has a very large spy network, not strictly for the James Bonq-esque type of stuff that many people are accustomed to but rather economic espionage etc…

Thirdly with the ammount of army spending they have (public records, however its rumored they spend a hell of alot more) they’ve constructed giant training fields for the army, purchased new weaponry like crazy, and we’ve resorted to using Google Earth to find their new nuclear sub…

But who do you think would win that war and why?

The US could still nuke China back to the Ming Dynasty, which pretty much makes them the top dog.

A U.S.-China war almost certainly would escalate to a nuclear exchange. (That is why the U.S. and the Soviet Union fought a Cold War.) There would be no winners, only survivors.

Unless it was relieved through proxy wars… However, in this information age, I find it slightly hard to see what countries would fight and how it would go about as indirectly, China and the US are tied close together.

But could they actually do it? Say tomorrow the US economy went belly up because of China. Would any country allow or justify the Americans use of nuclear arms?

There is no effective way for China to move its massive manpower to the continental United States. Without that ability, their propensity to damage the US in a conventional war is limited. Economic and nuclear wars are two separate discussions.

The point of being a super-super power is you don’t have to ask permission or worry about said justification.

Couldn’t have said it better.

But logically the US couldn’t fend off every nation’s protest for the action, military or otherwise.

Interesting point, never crossed my mind. Otherwise do you think China could certainly fend off an American attack/attempt to invade?

As for Economic wars, can you think of any recent examples of such a thing? Its a relatively new concept for myself.

Um, you do know how debt works, right? The creditor cannot “call upon the debt” unless the debtor has defaulted. Your bank can’t just call you up and say “we want the $200,000 you owe on your mortgage by Friday 2:00 P.M.,” unless you have missed payments. So long at the U.S. Treasury keeps paying interest and principal on T-Bills as they come due, China can’t use debt as a weapon.

In any event, the debtor, particularly a sovereign nation with lots of nuclear weapons, can simply say, “nope, we ain’t gonna pay.” It would make it rather hard for the United States to borrow in the future, but if a foreign country was attempting to use debt as a weapon to damage the United States, repudiation of that debt would be an appropriate response.


I assume you mean “call upon the dept and bankrupt America”.

If the United States and China were really at the brink of war, how exactly would China go about collecting that debt?

China: “Pay us back those billions of dollars RIGHT NOW so that we can cripple you before we attack!”

USA: “Screw you! You want it? Come and get it!”

Now if the United States were to renounce its debt it would have horrible consequences for the world financial markets. But if the United States and China are on the brink of war the world financial markets will be fucked already.

Being so heavily invested in the United States is actually much riskier for China than the United States. It’s in their best interests to keep thing cordial between the two countries so that they can get their money back.

I don’t buy China using are debt against us, for one thing the World Economy as a whole definitely don’t want American currency to become worthless.

This again.

Look, what exactly do you think the war will be about?

Countries don’t schedule wars like RTS games, where one side lines up all their soldiers, tanks, bombers, warships and missiles on one side of the map, and the other side lines up all their soldiers, tanks, bombers, warships and missiles on the other side of the map, and the one with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.

Countries engage in armed conflict for real world reasons. Which means that the “winner” of a war depends hugely on what the war aims of each country are, and note that it is possible for both sides to win, or both to lose, of both sides have their war aims fulfilled or unfulfilled.

As a perfect example, line up the military from North Vietnam circa 1968 on one side of the map, then line up the military from the United States circa 1968 on the other side of the map and let them fight it out. Which side will win? Except, in real life, who quit the game, and who ended up controlling all of Vietnam?

If your war scenario is that the United States attempts to invade and pacify China, then there is absolutely no way this can succeed, even if you wave a magic wand and don’t allow nuclear warheads. If your war scenario is that China attempts to invade and pacify the United States, they fail even worse, they can’t even make it across the Pacific Ocean. At least the United States already has in-theater staging areas in Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

But of course, a war between the United States and China isn’t going to involve invasion of China. So what will it involve? And invasion of Taiwan by China? An invasion of North Korea or South Korea by either China or the US? A war between China and India, in which the US intervenes on the side of India? Chinese backed rebels seize control of Zimbabwe? What, exactly?

Thing is, China has a very large military, but it has almost no capability to project power globally. They don’t have long-range submarines, they don’t have aircraft carriers, they have a navy but it’s a brown-water navy organized for coastal defense. They don’t have the ability to ship and fly thousands of troops thousands of miles across the globe and keep those troops supplied with food, ammo, and fuel.

So in the hypothetical war between the US and China, what does China hope to accomplish? Throw back an American occupation force? Occupy and annex Taiwan? Occupy and annex Mongolia? Occupy South Korea or Japan? Occupy Australia? Occupy the Russian Far East? Drop a nuclear bomb on New York? Destroy a couple US carrier groups so that the US cannot project power into east Asia any more? Force the US to withdraw from South Korea? Show enough success against American forces so that China’s military will have to be taken seriously in the future, and thus deter future adventurism on the part of the US?

If China’s goal is simply to absorb, contain, and eventually force the withdrawl of any invading army, they’ve got an almost 100% chance of success–barring internal revolt. Going the other way they’ve got a very tough goal. Just making a landing on Taiwan would be really difficult, but if they could occupy Taiwan and declare it annexed, then the rest of the world would probably let them get away with it. But territorial expansion into India, Russia, or Mongolia? There’s no way the international community would let that stand. Or do they want to send “advisors” into the neighboring country and set up a puppet government? Can they do any of this without wrecking their export economy? It isn’t easy to predict their chances of success unless we define exactly what would constitute success or failure.

And the idea that since China owns a lot of US debt they could crush our economy is silly. If you loan a guy billions of dollars and he won’t pay it back, does he have a problem or do you have a problem?

It depends on why and where the war starts and also how far into the future we’re talking about. What are the aims of either side? As of right now, the conventional military of the United States would smash China’s due to sheer technological superiority. But that might not matter depending on the circumstances of the hypothetical – if for some bizarre reason we’re trying to invade and occupy mainland China, well, that’s not going to work very well at all…

On preview: what Lemur said.

Well if Taiwan and Tibet were to go “out of line” and China used its might to assert itself over the “breakaway” state.

Eep, pressed submit too early.

I’m talking more or less if China were to invade Taiwan and annex it, would the US step with force or simply use diplomatic means?

If it was Tibet, the US would do nothing except send a strongly worded note to the Chinese ambassador. And there would be 20 documentaries made in the next few years about Chinese atrocities in Tibet, and the suffering of the Tibetans, and isn’t it terrible, and see how I’m a good person for feeling bad about it? And probably a slowdown in China’s economic growth as companies weigh the negative PR consequences of opening more factories in China vs the operating costs of those factories.

If it was Taiwan, it depends. Is China really going to attempt to force a landing on Taiwan? If the Chinese start shooting at the US Navy, they’re going to start shooting back. And then, yes, we’ve got a shooting war between China and the US. Except, can China acheive local naval and air superiority such that they can transport thousands of troops across the strait, and land them in the face of determined opposition? Even if China sinks some US warships, I can’t see how they can protect their troop ships from US submarines and aircraft. And even those troop ships make it across the strait, they’ve still got to land. Unloading troop ships takes time, even if you’re in a safe port. If you’re using converted civilian ships, how do you get your troops onto the beach in the face of Taiwanese opposition? What percentage of troops do you expect to survive the invasion? How do you prevent a mutiny when the troops figure out what that percentage is? And even if “succeed” and land troops on Taiwan and crush the Taiwanese military and chase US forces off the island, what exactly have you won? What has “victory” done to your economy? What has it done to your international reputation? What has it done to international trade? Does the fighting stop just because you run up the PRC flag over Taipei? Or are your ports blockaded by the US navy? How do you persuade the US navy to stop sinking your ships? How will India, and Vietnam, and Thailand, and Russia, and central Asia react? And so forth.

There’s lots of smoke lately though:

Unease at China’s threat to sell dollar

China threatens ‘nuclear option’ of dollar sales

China will not sell usd assets in absence of serious dispute - economist

China may sell off Treasury bonds if US imposes trade sanctions - report

China also hinted earlier this year that they were planning to construct another carrier. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has become more prominent in recent years owing to a change in Chinese strategic priorities. The new strategic threats include possible conflict with the United States and/or a resurgent Japan in areas such as the Taiwan Strait or the South China Sea. As part of its overall program of naval modernization, the PLAN has a long-term plan of developing a blue water navy.

Not to contradict you, but for your information/entertainment.

Would the Chinese be so foolish as to start a run on the dollar? They would lose their single largest market. Not only that, their dollar resrves would plummet in value. What i don’t understand-why dont’t the Chinese just buy up Ford and GM? then they could close them down and export cars to the USA. The USA is the debter, co why would the creditor shoot himself in the foot? China will never go to war over Taiwan-they just want taiwan to accept Chinese hegemony. If they do that, the mainland govt. will leave Taiwan alone.