Ross L. Riggs
Strategic Management for the 21st Century
Dr. Ross L. Riggs
c/o Legacy of Honor 229 E. Main St. Ste. C, Louisville, Ohio 44641 330-871-4692
There remains within the world of the 21st century evil. As long as that evil exists it is borne upon the shoulders of free nations and the men and women who embody the principles of those nations to remain prepared to engage that evil to insure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. An accurate understanding of evil’s objectives and their strategies for attaining those objectives requires comprehensive intelligence and a full understanding of the reasoning behind their overall goals. To this end, the author considers the on-going acquisition, management, and militarization of seaports worldwide by the Republic of China under the current leadership.
THAT NO EVIL EXISTS
Currently, the Republic of China under President Xi Jinping holds possession of 96 international maritime ports around the world. That was an observation made by Dr. Liam Fox, the former British Defense, and International Trade Secretary. Former U.S. National Security Advisor Robert McFarland added that “…giv(es) Beijing strategic dominance without having to deploy a single soldier, ship or weapon.”[i] To develop a comprehensive, intelligence based, understanding of China’s objectives it is important to understand the history and logic behind such acquisition, management, and militarization of these ports. The history will take us from the 21st century back to the 1st century, into the 16th century and finally the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Birth of the Strategy – 1st Century Rome
The ‘world’ of the 1st century around the Mediterranean was controlled ruthlessly by Rome. It is often understood that the system of roads the Roman government built around the western, northern, and eastern shores of the Mediterranean created a time of the Pax Romana, as long as Rome was happy… well, Rome was happy. The roads allowed them to control the trade and transportation everywhere in their world. Taxes could be levied. Armies could be deployed and life grew prosperous. The trade routes coming from the East eventually came to the Mediterranean and travelling by the roads, they made their way to Rome.
However, alternate means of travel became more available, more secure, and the addition of better, sea-worthy ships enhanced further the new ‘roads’ across the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Rome understood that if they controlled the sea traffic over the routes across the sea, often defined by the perilous sea itself, they could control all of the trade and become wealthy beyond even their lustful imaginations. To fulfill their plan for total control of the sea routes the Romans needed three things. First, Rome provided a powerful navy to enforce the shipping regulations. Second, they assured themselves control of the seaports where all ships, maritime and military would be docking. Finally, with the help of Rome’s governors across the vast regions there was the final piece, a military or government presence within the maritime merchandising structure itself to direct shipments and payments to the ‘proper’ places.
Fast Forward 1600 Years England
A nation surrounded on all four sides by water might realize early on their dependence upon the sea for their survival. England understood their relationship with the sea very well and they also realized that they were also surrounded on half their island by a continent full of nations with aspirations toward the resources and lands of the British Isles most of whom also had navies that were capable of defending their own and were not unwilling to raid another. England also understood that to be a world power they needed to open branch offices around the known world to help secure their ability to get all of the things that cannot naturally be created or grown on their homeland.
A statesman, military man, writer, poet of England throughout the last part of the 16th century was Sir Walter Raleigh. He was also quite well liked by Queen Elizabeth the 1st and it was by her, he was knighted. He had named Virginia in her honor. However, the adage ‘hell hath no fury’ can be quite difficult to quench when the woman scorned is Queen of England. When Raleigh passed on the Queen’s affections in favor of those of her handmaid (by chance also named Elizabeth but went by Bessie) he found himself and his new bride living in the Tower of London. Eventually released and after a failed expedition to the Americas was put back into the Tower by Elizabeth’s successor in 1603 James the 1st for treason. He succeeded in eventually being released again to search for gold in South America, although previously failing to find El Dorado. While in South America he raided Spanish villages while King James 1 was trying to make peace with Spain. Recalled to London, Raleigh was put in the Tower and beheaded in 1618.
What, one might ask has this to do with China’s international control over seaports. The link will become clearer as we reach the 19th century. A statement made by Raleigh rang true in the 1st century, proved true for England for many centuries and became ensconced in naval history in the 19th century. The quote, which at first blush may seem to be an obvious aside one might make over a draft in the local pub. However, it has shown itself to be true throughout history. It has become an essential element in understanding world power. That is the link to China’s ambition. Sir Walter Raleigh is known for exclaiming, “He who controls the seas, controls the commerce of world, thus the riches of the world, and finally the world itself.”
The 19th Century Admiral Alfred Thayer Mayhan brought this statement into a well-known discourse on naval strategy. It was perhaps partly promulgated by being born and raised within the walls of West Point Academy, or twenty-five years as a line officer in the United States Navy, after completion of schooling at what had been called the Naval School until 1850 but when he entered, it was the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Nonetheless, something that others noticed within him brought him an invitation to lecture at the War College. That was Mayhan’s coming out party as it led to multiple works on the history of naval strategy and his becoming one of the landmark scholars in naval history. His intellect and reason brought him to come out in another way early on in his preparation for his lecture series. Primarily an advocate for protectionism and a navy that defended the shores at home as a particular defense strategy, his studies opened his mind and he became a zealot for the use of the navy across the globe to deter, contain, and meet threats head-on with a strategy of hit hard, continue to hit, and do not stop until the threat is gone. We will examine in the paragraphs ahead some of Mayhan’s ideology as presented by others in both the U.S. Navy and in the Indian Navy. Here, however, it is important to contribute to the line of his reasoning for hard-hitting war and not for delaying actions. Admiral Mayhan is quoted as saying, “…until it is demonstrable that no evil exists, or threatens the world, which cannot be obviated without recourse to force, the obligation to readiness must remain; and where evil is mighty and defiant, the obligation to use force – that is, war – arises . . .”
20th century Captain H. Kaminer Manship.
A lecture on the writings and lectures of Admiral Mayhan before the U.S. Naval War College, the very college where the U.S. Navy officer Mayhan first lectured in the 1880’s was presented by Captain Manship in September of 1963, the year after a naval blockade of Cuba. It was also a time of the increasing support for the U.S. Navy by then president, John F. Kennedy, himself a veteran Navy officer. It was also the time for growing threats by Russia as the Cold War became warmer and the U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia, Vietnam was escalating. A navy that had been relatively unheard from since the Korean War was about to become more and more center stage.
What was it in Mayhan’s writings that so intrigued the scholars at the War College that they jokingly called his writings on navy strategy, ‘The Gospel According to St. Mayhan’? Those principle thoughts that evolved from the 1st century through the 16th and coalesced in the 19th, are instructive for us in the 21st century to understand China’s Xi Jinping’s bold acquisition of nearly 100 international shipping ports all across the world including the United States in both Houston and Miami.
Mayhan argued that (1) The United States should be a world power; (2) Control of the seas is necessary for world power status; (3) The way to maintain such control is by a powerful Navy. It is not so simplistic as these three points make it seem, still if one considers the same three points from Xi Jinping’s viewpoint then how easy is it to insert ‘China’ for the United States? Mayhan understood first that the seas provided a massive and very lucrative transportation network of routes and ports of call. He knew that for a nation such as the U.S. to be a super-power it must have access to such ports and routes for its merchant vessels to function safely and efficiently. Security of the trade routes was a primary duty for the navy of a country and a military presence or control over a shipping port allows a nation to control the speed at which things are off-loaded when. Time, you will recall, has been said to be money. Delayed shipments, lost shipments cost billions of dollars to merchants worldwide. Countries who cannot maintain secure business for its merchant ships are not super-powers. Within the context of the Cold War, the year prior to this lecture, Russia and its puppet regime in Cuba had made moves to escalate the Cold War against the U.S. and in response, President Kennedy ordered a naval blockade on Cuba bringing the world perilously close to a nuclear war. His bluff called, Khrushchev backed off and America went on to sail another day.
Mayhan stipulated that a nation must be geographically placed to take advantage of the seas and the super-power that can come with it. Germany had tried in the past to take advantage of the seas but their ability to reach the sea effectively, was hampered by their geography. Other nations like the Scandinavian countries have ample access to the sea and do a great merchant marine business but do not maintain impressive standing navies for protection. Still they do well. Mayhan argues the need for both a strong maritime merchant capability and the navy necessary for their security. Those same countries also have what Mayhan called the physical conformation for such naval and maritime ports, that is the deep harbors, the protected shoals all which provide the right combination of geography and physical conformation.
Another attribute, which Mayhan calls communication, the ability to link all of the routes, the ports, the merchants, the military and more together to not just physically communicate but to be integrated effectively is key. When one considers China’s space program, it satellite arrays and even its attempts at a space located offensive weapon the picture of a dream of not just super-power status but a megalomaniac’s vision for world domination appears. This also brings us to Mayhan’s theory on the requirement for sea superiority in war is offense. “Mahan stated it thus: . . . the assumption of a simple defense in war is ruin. War, once declared, must be waged offensively aggressively.”[ii]
That physical force must be applied in concentration. That is, there must be enough military might to overwhelm and completely emasculate the opposing forces. Straddling or utilizing containing methods will not be enough. The shear size of the nation of China and its population makes it certainly believable they have the capability to apply military force in concentration. It was witnessed in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The final piece to the Mayhan overview for worldwide super-power naval strategy will be reviewed as part of a briefing conducted on the same lectures by Mayhan one hundred and forty years after the fact.
21st century Commodore V Venugopal Menon (Retd.). In a lecture before post-graduate students at Rashtriya Raksha University, Gujarat, Commodore Menon spoke on the lectures of Admiral Mayhan and it is the last principle that really needs to be viewed in the context of this century. “Mahan perceived that governmental attitudes and processes inevitably conditioned a nation’s outlook on overseas commerce and naval strength. He reasoned that if the advocates of maritime commercial expansion and those of naval preparedness held a preponderant voice in the councils of government, a nation would inevitably support and expand its maritime posture.”
It is clear that Mayhan realized the U.S. government busy with expanding America westward was land-focused and the horse soldiers of the prairies were fighting the last Native American tribes to complete that expansion. What was going on in other parts of the world held little sway with the government or the people and the need for a strong navy presence worldwide in 1880 was not a good cart to be pushing looking for someone to buy. China in the 21st century does not face that difficulty nor do they truly face any pushback from the business world or the basic citizenry of China. They have not had a voice in anything for decades, why would they start now and why over Chinese navy expansion particularly if it improves their ability to move manufactured goods out faster and bring in goods more efficiently? For the merchants of China and the government (often times it is difficult to tell one from the other) it is a win-win. Dr. Sam Beatson of the Nottingham University Business School agrees. “…it makes sense for China to be engaging in these deals given the volume of containers China continues to deliver at accelerating rates of growth. China’s ports, shipping and maritime trade industry is strategic in part because of its massive size and global role, not only the huge numbers it employs and its role as a national industry that has championed the growth of many of China’s largest coastal cities,”
However, I want to take a word that Mayhan uses in defining this particular principle. Character of government. Mayhan, I know, was speaking toward their attitudes either toward or against the western push versus navy expansion but what if we use the term character in its moral sense? Could the character of the Chinese government either aid in its world domination efforts or could it hinder it? Much has been made about collusion between Xi Jinping and Putin particularly when it comes to Ukraine and Taiwan. The fact is they met in February of this year just before Putin invaded Ukraine. However, when it comes to how their interests may coincide, Mayhan makes an interesting note about alliances. In an alliance, each partner, no matter how dedicated to the operational objective they may be, they still come to the table with their own agenda and their own ways they would like to see things be completed. The character of those two partners is a sure formula for disaster. The week would not be out before one is pulling out a sicarii or jambiya to end the accord in bloodshed.
The educated, elite, merchants of China who are less concerned with China’s politics and government than with their own money-making efforts will be more inclined to look favorably upon this domination scheme if it fits their anticipated market shares. However, that same group can be monopolized by their ability to have the freedom to make as much money as they can without interference. Once government interference is felt, support for the worldwide domination will quickly fade. Putin has no backing in the Politburo, the merchants, or the general public He holds on to power by the KGB under whatever current name they are using. Xi Jinping also holds on to power by brutality. Eventually such is replaced, sadly often by another of the same cloth. Whether or not character can truly become the domino that makes all the others fall for Xi Jinping is anybody’s guess. If it does, it will have to come from within China itself. Right now the U.S. poses no threat to either China or Russia. Until leadership at the top for the U.S. changes dramatically, the ability of the U.S. to make any kind of play to derail Xi Jinping’s plans is unlikely to say the least.
The following is a clear representation of the countries in which China exhibits considerable influence by various methods but particularly through the ownership and management of international maritime ports.
Understanding that their 96 ports which obviously help them reach and have significant interest in the trade of those countries is better understood when China’s primary trade routes are examined.
These trade routes provide China with both the raw materials they need for manufacturing, open markets for their products, an open capability for enhancing their military and cyber and computer systems materials as well as vast amounts of funding for supporters for new ventures. Expand these routes to the ports of call owned across the globe and the stage is set for Chinese global ascendency. Experts agree that Xi Jinping and others within his cabinet are deeply invested in Mayhan’s concepts though many who understand Mayhan well believe that some of the Chinese in decision-making positions do not understand Mayhan in context and in so doing may misapply some of what he taught. Still, notice the strategy of chokepoints in the Chinese trade routes. Now listen to what some experts report.
According to a Voice of America news report, “China experts believe that establishing ports in geo-strategically important countries, including those that are located near maritime chokepoints, are central to Beijing’s global strategy. “These port linkages allow Beijing to exert political influence not only in the country hosting the port, but in many cases the surrounding countries as well,” Craig Singleton, a China expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told VOA. James R. Holmes of the U.S. Naval War College, a former U.S. Navy officer, noted prosperity is the top priority for any government. And Beijing’s port investments mean it can hold a large portion of a country’s prosperity hostage, compelling its leadership to take political stances agreeable to the Chinese Communist Party. “So, seaports are a critical enabler for China’s bid for commercial, diplomatic, and military influence.”[v] Such influence can also come in the form of military intelligence. Well known for their propensity for spying, China not long ago bought the Port of Haifa in Israel. The U.S. Navy fleet has ships there performing operations continually. The ability for China to gain valuable intelligence from their operation of the port was confirmed by a former Israeli military intelligence officer Dr. E. Pinko. He told VOAnews.com, “You can track the whereabouts of ships and communications. Once you own and operate the port site, these are very easy to do. You can do whatever you want. You are the landlord there,”
Conclusion. Earlier I quoted Admiral Mayhan and I repeat it here… “…until it is demonstrable that no evil exists, or threatens the world, which cannot be obviated without recourse to force, the obligation to readiness must remain; and where evil is mighty and defiant, the obligation to use force – that is, war – arises . . .”
We have watched with incredulity over the course of the last few years what Putin has done without so much as a whimper of displeasure at the war crimes he is committing and the treaty agreements he is violating, not to mention the innocent civilians he is killing in Ukraine. China continues to pressure Taiwan. The world, particularly the United States, stands silent. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues ethnic cleansing regardless of international borders, some reports of over 600 civilians murdered since 2019, most of those in northern Iraq. Where is the international community? (I nearly choke when I use that term) The Palestinians continue to send rockets and bombs into Israel, the ruthless murders of Jews goes on indiscriminately. The list goes on and on. There is one section of Hayden’s quote upon which I will focus and then close for you to draw your own conclusions. That part of the quote is…”the obligation to readiness must remain” I submit to you that should Xi Jinping go full tilt in completing his plan, not only will countries like the United States not be ready to respond… most governments won’t even care. It will be business as usual. The response will have to come from outside government because our governments are already sold out. At the beginning I used the phrase… “As long as that evil exists it is borne upon the shoulders of free nations and the men and women who embody the principles of those nations to remain prepared to engage that evil to insure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity.” If it will not be the free nations because their governments have changed course, then the responsibility is borne upon the shoulders of… the men and women who embody the principles of those nations… for the sake of our posterity. We must take the stand for their sake if nothing else.
Beatson, Sam Dr., Nottingham University Business School
Holmes, James R. U.S. Naval War College
Mayhan, Alfred Thayer, Admiral. Concepts of Sea Power. U.S. Naval War College circa 1890
Pinko, Eyal, Dr. Israel Military Intelligence, retired.
Singleton, Craig Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Author Biography Dr. Ross L. Riggs is Vice President for Operations for the Legacy of Honor a 501c3 to assist veterans, military, first responders and their families. (www.honorthelegacy.org ) He is a U.S. Air Force Veteran, a career police officer, Retired Chief of Police, graduate of the FBI National Academy, Ohio Lifetime Certified Law Enforcement Executive, served fifteen years as owner of Security Consulting Investigations, LLC and worked throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean training missionary teams in high risk areas about security and safety. Dr. Riggs holds both a Doctor of Ministry and a Master of Ministry degree from Summit University and Seminary, a Master of Public Administration from Kent State University, a Bachelor of Education and Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice from Akron University. Dr. Riggs is the author of two books and numerous professional articles on security, counterterrorism, and police functions. He served as an EMT, a firefighter/investigator and interim Fire Chief. He lives in Louisville, Ohio. He works to raise awareness about lung disease, as a current patient with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a hardening of the lungs with no known cause and no cure. Dr. Riggs is available for speaking engagements. Please call Legacy of Honor at 330-871-4692
[i] DAILY MAIL Opinion as reported by VOANEWS.com
[ii] Chennai Center for China Studies https://www.c3sindia.org/defence-security/concepts-of-sea-power-admiral-alfred-thayer-mahan-by-cmde-v-venugopal-menon-retd/