Friday, January 26, 2007

US concern over China's military modernization

A new cold war may be brewing as the US continues to raise concerns over China’s military plans. In the last week the United States led representations to the Chinese government over the test firing of a ‘space weapon’. The test involved the firing of a ballistic missile at a redundant Chinese weather satellite. The satellite was destroyed. It left behind space debris which the US is concerned may pose a risk to its own satellites. It is true that space debris poses a risk to satellites, and even the space shuttle and International Space Station. However the resulting debris left behind from China’s ‘space weapon’ test is minute compared to the space junk already floating around the Earth.

There is a concern amongst military analysts in the US, that the weapon poses a more direct threat to its satellites. China have already been accused of ‘blinding’ US spy satellites over the past few years, and the threat or potential threat of this new satellite destroying technology is ruffling many feathers in Washington.

Today, CNN broadcast a report which may raise further concerns in the west. China’s military budget has risen significantly over recent years. In 2000, China’s military spend was $14 Bn [¥415 Bn]. According to recent figures released it has risen by more than 200% to $30 Bn [¥855 Bn]. The rise may seem significant, but China’s military force should also be seen context. China is seen by some analysts as just trying to play catch-up. David Lampton, a military analyst, said their standing should not be overstated. “They are still far behind [the technological standing of] America” he told the American news broadcaster. Indeed if statistics are compared with other ‘world powers’,

China is far from the top of the list with regards military might. The US alone has 9 aircraft carriers and at least 1 in production []. China has no aircraft carriers but is believed to have made a decision to build one. The Chinese have reportedly held discussions with the French and Russians concerning design and construction of new carriers, and have considered purchase of ex-Russian ships. When it comes to destroyers, warships and frigates, the numbers reach little above double figures compared to the US fleet consisting of more than 100. China’s airforce too stands way behind other industrialized countries. The Chengdu J-10 is one of the country’s newest acquisitions to a substantial airforce consisting of over 2000 combat aircraft []. However, the US possess more than 15,000 aircraft [wikipedia]. When it comes to nuclear weapons, the US comes out on top with up to 12,000 warheads. China is believed to possess around 150 [wikipedia].

China’s increased military strength could be seen more as a sign of posturing. Russell Moses, a political commentator, told CNN he thought it was a “Signal to show it [China] won’t be pushed around”. China confirmed the space weapon’s test this week, but a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the test was “not targeted at any country nor threatening any country”. Andrew Brookes, an Aerospace Analyst, said “The Americans can do what they like and that seems to be their remit, but if the Chinese do something in order to demonstrate their technological prowess suddenly they’re being offensive, they’re being provocative. All around the world the United States is being incredibly provocative. And if I was in the Chinese military I’d be saying, ‘Look, If you want to interfere in the Far East ... you’ll have us [China] to deal with’ ”. However, China and pundits alike have to convince a more than sceptical US administration.

1 comment:

T said...

Very thorough articles with good additional background information.
I have been following this blog for some time, and find it a most rewarding news outlet. T.