Skip to main content

China’s military leaps forward to catch up with US

By quietly building up its stash of high-tech weaponry, China is threatening US military supremacy in the Pacific, worrying its neighbours and contributing to a renewed arms race in Asia, analysts say.
Just days before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington and as US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was in Beijing this week to patch up frayed defence ties, China’s military sent its first stealth fighter into the skies.
Analysts agree the test flight of the J-20 carried out by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which surprised many military observers, was no coincidence.
“China is sending a strong message to the US and countries in the region that China’s military modernisation is unstoppable, and China is determined to become this region’s dominant actor,” said Taiwan-based PLA expert Arthur Ding.
The emergence of the first photos of the J-20 just before Gates’ visit forced the Pentagon chief to admit that China “may be somewhat further along in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had predicted”.
Analysts who have studied every pixel of these shots say while it is difficult to estimate just how advanced the plane — seen as an eventual rival to the US Air Force’s F-22A — really is, the message sent by Beijing is clear.
“While it does not truly demonstrate China’s capability in terms of developing the latest-technology military equipment, it certainly does demonstrate their ambition,” said Gareth Jennings, an aviation expert at Jane’s Missiles & Rockets magazine.The PLA — the largest army in the world — is hugely secretive about its defence programmes, which benefit from a big military budget boosted by the nation’s runaway economic growth.
Officially, China says its military technology is 20 to 30 years behind that of the United States, and maintains that the modernisation of its army is purely defensive in nature.
But its neighbours are worried. Japan last month labelled Beijing’s military build-up a global “concern”, citing its increased assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.
Analysts say Beijing’s stated position no longer corresponds to the facts.
China, without formally acknowledging it, is building at least one aircraft carrier, which more than anything else will showcase its ability to project its military might further afield.
“They have equipment that is far from being defensive. More and more they have planes capable of striking ground targets,” a western military expert based in Beijing, who refused to be named, said.
“What is the use of that when you say you want to defend yourself?” In 2007, China — a nuclear power — sparked international concern when it destroyed one of its satellites with a missile strike. And last January, the Chinese military intercepted an airborne missile.
Now, it is developing a ballistic missile capable of striking aircraft carriers — a move that threatens US supremacy in the Pacific.
Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Wednesday that China’s new weapons programmes, including the J-20, appeared to be directed against the United States.
Observers worry that the balance of power will shift in East Asia, where there are several potential sources of conflict revolving around Taiwan, North Korea and territorial disputes with neighbouring states.
They say a new arms race seems inevitable.
“Today, nobody knows for sure how many J-20s the PLA will eventually deploy, nor how many ballistic missiles,” said Dennis Blasko, an expert on the PLA based in the United States.
“Neither can we predict the size and composition of US and allied forces beyond four or five years.” Dean Cheng, a China expert at the Heritage Foundation, a US think tank, said there was “still time for the US to take corrective measures to hedge against these Chinese capabilities, both in its own arsenals and in what it provides Taiwan.” The self-ruled island is a sore point in China-US military ties. Last year’s multi-billion-dollar arms deal between Washington and Taipei angered Beijing so much it suspended defence relations with the United States.
But for Rick Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, the United States and its allies “have a very short timeframe to get really smart about the PLA’s intentions and technology directions”.
“If this cannot be done, for reasons of lack of information or lack of political will, Washington could soon find itself increasingly following China, and not leading the arms race,” Fisher said.—AFP


Popular posts from this blog

A historic moment in the Arab world

لحظة تاريخية في العالم العربي
As a democratic revolution led by tech-empowered young people sweeps the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's director-general, shares a profoundly optimistic view of what's happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond. In the first talk posted online from the TED 2011 conference in California, Khanfar describes the powerful moment when people realised they could step out of their homes and ask for change. "كما ثورة ديمقراطية بقيادة الشباب التكنولوجيا ذات صلاحيات تجتاح العالم العربي ، وضاح خنفر ، الجزيرة المدير العام والأسهم وجهة نظر متفائلة بشكل كبير ما يحدث في مصر وتونس وليبيا وخارجها. وفي اول حديث له نشر على الانترنت من مؤتمر تيد 2011 في ولاية كاليفورنيا ، خنفر يصف لحظة قوية عند الناس أدركت أنها لا يمكن الخروج من منازلهم ونطلب من أجل التغيير." This talk was given on March 1, 2011 in Long Beach, California. TED 2011 is taking place between March 1 and Mar…

Kashmir Jihad - Analysis & Options


Kashmir is an incomplete agenda of partition of India. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars on this issue. According to UN resolutions, Kashmiris have to decide their accession to Pakistan or India through impartial plebiscite, which could not take place due to Indian reluctance. Recently, India revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Kashmir, it was done to unilaterally integrate occupied Kashmir. This is a violation of the UN resolutions and the Simla bilateral agreement, which demands to maintain status quo until the final settlement. The US and world powers are emphasizing that Kashmir should be resolved bilaterally, though India has refused to hold talks with Pakistan. In the present scenario, while India has turned Kashmir into the largest prison of 9 million people, denying basic human rights and oppressing the Kashmiris' who want freedom from India, Pakistan cannot watch as a silent spec…

Our Captured, Wounded Hearts: Arundhati Roy On Balakot, Kashmir And India

With his reckless “pre-emptive” airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inadvertently undone what previous Indian governments almost miraculously, succeeded in doing for decades. Since 1947 the Indian Government has bristled at any suggestion that the conflict in Kashmir could be resolved by international arbitration, insisting that it is an “internal matter.” By goading Pakistan into a counter-strike, and so making India and Pakistan the only two nuclear powers in history to have bombed each other, Modi has internationalised the Kashmir dispute. He has demonstrated to the world that Kashmir is potentially the most dangerous place on earth, the flash-point for nuclear war. Every person, country, and organisation that worries about the prospect of nuclear war has the right to intervene and do everything in its power to prevent it.  Keep reading  >>>>

India has built around itself an aura of a global power whose time has come. For at least the last t…