Has China obtained the strategic surprise on the West?

Just over a year ago, we titled " Has China surprised the Pentagon? In an article that presented a large number of defense programs and reforms undertaken by the Chinese armies, without the Pentagon having taken the measure in time. This observation was confirmed in 2020, and it is even widely extended, to the point that today, there reigns in Washington a feverishness and palpable concern about Chinese advances, both in the military, technological and industrial fields, and we can now wonder if Beijing has not obtained the strategic surprise on the West.

Let's start by defining the term “strategic surprise”. This belongs to the military term, and designates a set of actions, situations and capacities allowing a belligerent to gain the ascendancy over his opponent on the scale of a conflict, or at least of a theater. operations. Strategic surprises have punctuated history, from the Crossing of the Alps by the Carthaginian Hannibal Barca to the Blitzkrieg and the German Panzer divisions of 1939. In all cases, the adversary finds himself helpless and unable to react within the time limits set for him. turn around or even stabilize the situation, leading to a very probable defeat in the short or medium term. The strategic surprise does not rest, for that, not only on military capacities and daring maneuvers, but on a set of factors, including economic and technological, which contribute to widen the gap between the belligerents.

On August 2, 216 BC, the Carthaginian Army commanded by Hannibal Barca and his Celtic, Iberian and Numidian allies crushed the Roman legions after crossing the Alps in winter, something the Romans were not prepared for.

It is precisely this scenario that seems take place between China and the United States, as well as their respective allies, or at least is it the fear of many American officials belonging to the Pentagon as well as to Congress or civil society. And the careful and objective analysis of the strategic data concerning the two main protagonists goes, indeed, in this direction, without it being necessary for that to sink into catastrophism. Thus, in the next 10 to 15 years, it now seems very difficult for the United States and its allies to face up to Chinese ambitions, at least in the current state of the means and political ambitions displayed.

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