China's Current Submarine Threat
UPDATE [No Coincidence]: February 01, 2008 - Third Middle East submarine cable damaged - Undersea cable operator FLAG is reporting that a third cable in the region has been severed. The FALCON cable was cut at a point around 56kms from Dubai, just before 6am today. The first cable - the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) - was cut at 0800 on 30 January, the firm said.
Suppose you are the world's leading communist enterprise, homeland of The Art of War, the famous treatise on successful military strategy. Aware that the recent superpower demise of your former communist ally was accelerated by the successful, capitalistic approach of Western economies, particularly the USA, and wishing to avoid the fate of your communist ally, you adapt to market-oriented economic development. By 2000, output has quadrupled and living standards are improving dramatically for many while personal choice has expanded. You know the West believes that once freedoms and prosperity have been tasted in sufficient numbers there can be no turning back, so you must maintain rigid political controls over your population.
You also know that market-oriented development requires ever more costly maintenance and improvements of infrastructure, outlays for which compete with those for ambitious military plans to overtake your former ally's superpower status. Meanwhile, you remain the de facto role model and primary backer of the world's few remaining communist (e.g. Cuba), socialist leaning (e.g. Venezuela) and symbiotic countries (e.g. Iran).
To show effective leadership you must assert military prowess capable of hobbling the West. It will be at least another 8 years before your nuclear submarine capability is sufficiently credible to matter in world opinion, however. What to do?
If the Chinese can render trillions of dollars worth of communications, positioning, targeting and aquisition satellites useless for pennies on the dollar, countries relying on such military technology would be reduced to (but ill-prepared for) conducting military defense and offense as it had been decades earlier. That would require resources no longer readily available. Obviously, higher numbers of combat troops, ships, etc. had been replaced by technological advances. Suddenly, a China with its million-man army and ships too numerous to have individual names would be very advantaged, perhaps the pre-eminent military power. Give such a military a Western port in Mexico or South America, and the writing would be on the wall.
And, that is relatively high-tech; consider China's current submarine capability: Ship accident causes internet chaos - A simple accident involving a ship's anchor has wrecked internet access for a huge slice of the world. Experts said the chaos caused by the severing of just two undersea cables pointed to the system's vulnerability to terrorist or other attacks.
Some communications can be rerouted. Physical damage to undersea cables can result from dragging anchors (or cable cutters) and can take several days or weeks to repair while the effected region(s) is/are drastically impacted.
In both WWI and WWII, for example, enemy submarine cables (telegraphs in those days) were regularly cut. Germany's cables were severed by the U.S. in both wars, and the Allies severed Japan's cables throughout the Pacific. Very low tech, it is also very illegal in peactime. This commercial YouTube suggests why related facilities are obvious targets of terrorism, as well: