Another example was the Seven Years War (1754-1763) mainly between Britain and France, eventually France lost. In 1778, France recognized and allied herself with the United States during the American war of independence (1775-1783). France declared war on Great Britain and sent armies and navy to fight Britain while secretly provided money and supply to arm the American revolutionary army since 1775. Later Netherland and Spain joined France making Britain fighting alone with no allies. France helped the U.S. to defeat the British because France was seeking revenge to the Seven Years War. Ultimately, the Americans won independence by her revolutionary army not her Navy. This historical incidence demonstrates that there are limitations to naval power in wars. Britain with the strongest navy in the world could not prevent the American revolutionary army from winning independence. In 1982, Britain successfully defended the Falkland Islands from Argentina invasion by her navy only because of the help from the U.S. and France.
During the 19th century, all the Western powers with a strong navy overwhelmed the Qing Dynasty’s antiquated naval defense. It was the Britain’s Navy power that crushed China in the first Opium war (1840-42) resulted in a series of unequal treaties (Treaty of Nanking, etc) between China and the foreign powers, Britain, France and the U.S. Five ports were forced open to foreign trade, Hong Kong was seized by the British and China was forced to pay 21 million taels of silver as an indemnity. The British Empire and the French Empire initiated the second Opium War (1856-60) against China for obtaining further trade concessions and forcing ten more ports openings to foreign trade and allowing foreign ships to navigate freely on the Yangtze River, in addition to paying an indemnity of four million taels of silver to Britain and 2 million to France. These historical facts should have taught the Chinese a lesson that Navy power is important and modernization of military weaponry is essential for national defense.
Unfortunately, the awakening of the Chinese to foreign invasions was too slow and timed behind the Japanese Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). During the Meiji era, Japan went through a political reform and social structural change resulting in an imperial and militaristic nation. Japan revealed her military power and ambition by winning the first Sino-Japan war (1894-95) forcing China to sign the Treaty of MaGuan; the Japanese gained the Penghu, Taiwan (where Japanese had to fight a short war to establish control), Lüshun Port (Port Arthur) and the Liaotung Peninsula (they were returned by the intervention of Russia, Germany and France but for their own interest), and were paid a large indemnity greater than six times of Japan’s annual national budget. A few years later (1904-05), the Japanese Navy defeated the Russian fleet in the ocean between Korea and Japan. The above victories had inflamed the Japanese ambition later to devise a plan to conquer and occupy China all by herself, which eventually led to WW II. Russia, a nearly land-locked nation recognized the importance of Navy, was to build and maintain a strong navy and submarine fleet post WW II.
After defeating Germany and Japan, the U.S. emerged as the superpower having the strongest navy in the world. The U.S. Navy has the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with ten in service, four in the reserve fleet and three new class carriers under construction. The service has over 300,000 personnel on active duty and over 100,000 in the Navy Reserve. It has 272 deployable combat ships and more than 3,700 aircraft in active service as of March 2015.[update] The carriers with aircrafts can essentially bring air force and army soldiers to any country in the world, but they do need ports to duck for maintenance, supplies and personnel recreation. Therefore, it is understandable that the U.S. must maintain so many naval bases in all major continents and strategic islands. The U.S. is reported to have between 460-1180 military bases on foreign land (an uncertain secret number). The dispute of the naval base in Okinawa highlights a necessity that a strong navy must have access to ports all over the world to be effective.
Two news articles deserve our attention, First (Reuters, Tim Kelly & Manuel Mogato 2015-05-08) is that the Philippines and Japan will hold joint naval drill in May 2015. This announcement was made right after the U.S. and Japan revised the guidelines of the U.S.-Japan Defense Treaty permitting Japan and the U.S. to use force to intervene in a third party’s warfare. Right away, Japan eagerly wanted to hold a naval drill with the Philippines who had her own military treaty with the U.S. What does this signify? Flexing Naval muscles, for what purpose? Or preparing for war, with whom? These international gestures and maneuvers can be intriguing but also can be very obvious, sometimes stupid.
From the past century and half, China must have learned enough from history, a credible navy is essential to the country's defense. Of course, China was too poor to build a navy half a century ago and she was also sanctioned from acquiring military technology by the Western powers. Even buying a used Russian carrier (Riga, first launched in 1988 then renamed Varyag in 1990) was a comic story. China had to pay a big price in 1998 for the striped carrier hulk Varyag) via a business man buying it for tourism. It took China 14 years to refurbish it and commissioned it as a training carrier in 2012. However, this China’s only carrier and China's increasing capacity in naval ships and submarines have aroused serious concerns in the U.S. military circles. Numerous articles are painting a ‘China Threat’ in military sense despite of the fact that the U.S. military power is far superior to China’s, especially in naval power.
Two recent news are amusing, one by Joe Gould, 5-22-2015, in DefenseNews, Analyst: China’s Djibouti Ambitions a Sign of the Future and another by Colin Clark, 5-12-2015, BreakingDefense, China Seeks Djibouti Access: Who’s A Hegemon Now? These titles are very catchy but their implication is almost laughable. Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent, used for covert, anti-terrorism and other operations in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere across Africa. It is the only permanent US base on the continent. China doing tremendous business in Africa and wishing to have access to Djibouti port for her navy ships seem to have an obvious and legitimate reason, a convenient and qualified port for offering ship maintenance and supply, hegemony purpose? Very funny!
The U.S. expressed concern with China’s land reclamation project in the South China Sea and is dispatching navy to patrol in that area, an obvious naval muscle flexing. The Philippines and Vietnam had been doing reclamation projects for years for resource exploration purposes. Nearly one third of China’s two trillion dollars trade with over 100 countries is passing through South China Sea, why shouldn’t China build port facilities on her islands in South China Sea for safeguarding maritime (trade) freedom and/or offering rescue operation if any ship is in need. Are China’s port construction activities more threatening to peace than the naval ships from the U.S., Japan, the Philippines and China playing cat and mouse games in the South China Sea?