The ability of the US military to project force around the world is perhaps unmatched by any empire in history. Within a matter of hours, missiles and bombs can rain down on just about any spot on the planet. But the ability to do that is in large part the result of a handful of tiny, remote US bases, including Diego Garcia and Guam. And if those bases were to be targeted and destroyed, US power projection would be severely impeded.
Just this week, the Chinese government released a video to social media that featured a simulation of an attack on an airfield. The video, titled “The god of war H-6K goes on the attack,” is a propaganda film meant to show the Chinese air force’s ability to project its own power. Many who watched the video noticed the fact that the airfield in the video bore an uncanny resemblance to Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam, one of the critical US bases in the Pacific.
Guam is the only location in the Western Pacific that is able to permanently serve US strategic bombers, such as the B-1, B-2, and B-52. Were Guam’s Air Force base to be damaged or destroyed, it would significantly hamper the US’ ability to wage war in the Asia-Pacific region. The timing of the video is particularly important, as China has recently moved to end the one country, two systems arrangement that it shared with Hong Kong, cracking down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and has buzzed Taiwan with Chinese Air Force aircraft on several occasions recently.
There has been some speculation that China intends to follow up its assimilation of Hong Kong with a similar assimilation of Taiwan, likely as part of an attempt to reduce domestic political pressure on the Chinese Communist Party. With the Chinese economy dinged by COVID, and with a continued trade war with the US, China is taking an increasingly belligerent tone towards the US and its Asian allies. The only question now is, will cooler heads prevail, or will this cold war heat up?