China has done an interesting study of the Battle of Guadalcanal and came to rather intriguing conclusions regarding that battle that affects how the U.S. should see the region. In the U.S. this battle is mainly known for its grinding ground campaign, but the naval campaign caused massive Japanese losses that were critical in turning the tide of the war.
The first biggest lesson is that the Japanese pursued an offensive strategy when their loss at Midway a few a months earlier showed they should have gone on the defense. This suggests that at least a few analysts in China are more in favor of a defensive posture that contrasts with seizing islands in the South China Sea and a preemptive military strike using missiles.
The second major lesson was a lack of coordination between ground and naval forces. The Japanese forces were proud of their ability to conduct close, night attacks, but this meant they relied on small caliber hand-held or crew- served weapons instead of much more powerful naval bombardments. A common critique of China is that they don’t have the operational experience to use and coordinate all the weapons and platforms from different services, and their lessons from Guadalcanal underscore that concern.
Finally, the Japanese failed to develop radar technology to let them locate and find enemy planes. American forces did, which gave them a critical edge in anticipating and reacting to Japanese attacks. This suggests that Chinese planners are assessing their shortcomings, though they still have a long way to go. There is concern that China would use its newer missiles for a surprise attack. But these are simply the newest version of technology that was created in World War II, and the U.S. is continually upgrading those countermeasures. Unlike the Japanese in this battle, the Chinese must address the radar and deeply layered and upgraded counter-missile technology of American forces if they hope to actually prove themselves a threat.
It is encouraging to see that the Chinese are questioning an offensive posture, the coordination of their military branches, and the need for proper implementation of technology to try and overcome the lack of combat experience in their forces. It is uncertain if these reforms will be effective and what the future holds, but we can find hints of it by carefully studying the past…like Guadalcanal.