It is said that approximately (over) 360 million live within the watershed of the Yangtze river, and would be exposed to death and destruction should the 3 Gorges collapse. Obviously 360 million people wouldn't be killed, but definitely several million would. That would definitely lead to a nuclear counter-attack by China, and while the Chinese arsenal is not as big as that of the US (or Russia), it is bigger than previously thought (and may already be greater than that of the UK and France, and definitely bigger than Israel's, India's or Pakistan's). An attack on the 3 Gorges would be considered a WMD attack due to the damage on property and lives, and the response would most probably be quite significant. China basically told Taiwan that when there was some talk of either a) cruise missile attacks on 3 Gorges or b) saboteur attacks on 3 Gorges.
There is no president, Republican or Democrat, who would authorize an attack on the 3 Gorges dam without China doing something truly spectacular ...and sinking a USN ship, even a carrier, is not one of them. The probable response (with a president that has functional nads) would be a tit-for-tat on the 'new' (read old Soviet) Chinese carrier. An attack on 3 Gorges would mean a nuke on Taipei (even though they were not involved), a nuke on Guam, and even maybe something to do with Hawaii (I doubt there would be any on the Cont US).
Even if the greatest US presidents were melded together into one super-president, there is no way an attack on a naval vessel would lead to an attack on 3 Gorges in present day China. This unlikelihood simply gets more crystallized as China continues to get stronger. In 1996 President Clinton sent two Carrier battle groups (Independence and Nimitz, with their associated battle groups) into the region during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. In 2008 President Bush had three carrier groups (Nimitz, Lincoln, Kitty Hawk) in the waters off south-east Taiwan for some weeks until Ma Ying-jeou was sworn in (although the issue then was nowhere as serious as the 1996 problem). Every passing five years it gets more and more difficult to assure the safety of naval ships in the area, and the real threat is not even the anti-ship IRBM. When the next US president is sworn in it will be far harder to do what Clinton and W.Bush did, if at all possible from a risk perspective. Already China can arguably deny foreign naval presence unless it is a USN surge, and you can be sure they are working (and spending) hard to come up with a way of dissuading that approach as well. FReeper Jeff Head (copied) maintains a very comprehensive analytical webpage on China's naval advancement that is quite sobering.
They are not strong enough yet, but even now it would be difficult for a sane president to advocate an attack on a dam that would kill several million people. The likeliest retaliation following the sinking of a US naval asset would be a commensurate sinking of an analogous PLAN asset ...probably sending a Sea Wolf/Virginia to put several MK-48 ADCAP through the Varyag ...I mean, the Shi Lang ...aircraft carrier. But destroying the 3 Gorges ...not happening unless Taipei, Guam and maybe Honolulu are no longer that important.
Then you had best learn Chinese friend, because its game, set, match, game over.
China can play that trade all day - we cannot.
ANY attack by any nuke has to lead to the destruction of Chinese C&C and infrastructure or the response is functionally useless.
China would simply continue tit for tat as long as anyone is dense enough to keep trading knights for pawns.
A proportionate response against our naval assets would be to sink every Chinese cargo ship on the ocean. See how long they last when they are unable to receive enough oil and raw materials, and unable to export any goods.
Here’s my thoughts on this:
1) The DF-21 anti-carrier missile is a red herring...a classic Sun Tsu misdriection operation where the talk and thought of such a weapon is meant to invoke an over-reaction by the adversary (us) as if though the weapon in fact is in place and ready...when there is not one shred of proof in existance to support its actual existance and operational status. There has not been one operational live fire test of this missile. In order to create this sophistiacted weapon, the Chinese will have to have breakthroughs in their C4, their surveillance and recon, in their target acquisition, in their guidance, their manuevering and in ECM. All of this to find with relatively scanty intelligwnce and target lock, a carrier, launch on it from 2000+ miles away, to reacquire the target on rentry when the vessel may have moved seversal miles (and depneding on where it moved, may make the manuever impossible...and then to guide onto the target in a heavy ECM and anti-ballistic missile environment. Testing for such a system to work out all of the bugs would take years...and there has not been one live test...ergo, the system does not exist.
2) If the Chinese were able to sink/destroy a US carrier by whatever means (and I am not talking a mission kill here) the US response would not be tit for tat. it would be overwhelming and disporportional. it would tagt the C&C (decision makers for the attack) the C4, the ability for the PLAN to wage major war (meaning all of their major combatants including all three LPDs, their new carrier, and their eight very modern DDGs) as well as the shipyards that build them. it may include a large portion of their commerc ial shipping as well to hurt htem economically.
3) If the method of destruction in step 2 were nuclear, it would simply ensure as extreme a version of number 2 as possible, potetnially including tactical nuclear weapons for the military targets away from population centers.
That’s how I see it after over a decade of research.
If an American President and people did not have the will to do that in the face of that level of aggression, then we can kiss off the Western Pacific because the Chinese would obviuosly at that point be willing to risk it, and our allies and other nations in the region would not be able to depend on us to help in their own defense.
The Rising Sea Dragon in Asia