China thinks it can defeat the U.S. in battle

The preemptive strike is off the table — and with it, the risk of a full-scale American counterattack. Instead, Beijing believes it can attack Taiwan or another neighbor while also bloodlessly deterring U.S. intervention. It would do so by deploying such overwhelmingly strong military forces — ballistic missiles, aircraft carriers, jet fighters, and the like — that Washington dare not get involved.

The knock-on effects of deterring America could be world-changing. “Backing away from our commitments to protect Taiwan, Japan, or the Philippines would be tantamount to ceding East Asia to China’s domination,” Roger Cliff, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, said at the same U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Jan. 30.

Worse, the world’s liberal economic order — and indeed, the whole notion of democracy — could suffer irreparable harm. “The United States has both a moral and a material interest in a world in which democratic nations can survive and thrive,” Cliff asserted.

Fortunately for that liberal order, America possesses by far the world’s most powerful submarine force — one poised to quickly sink any Chinese invasion fleet.