Monday, March 05, 2012

China increase military to "win local wars"

China's has increased its defence budget by 11.2% for 2012, pushing the country’s military expenditure to more than $100 billion. However, experts believe that the figure could be much higher since China’s nuclear expenditure is not included in the figures.

China’s defence spending has risen each year for two decades to become the world's second-biggest. But it still lags behind the US which spends more than $740 billion on defence [BBC / BBC].

The continuing build of China’s military has concerned not only regional neighbours, but also the United States which has increased its presence in the South China Sea in recent weeks [BBC].

China has long-running territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, and has also positioned hundreds of missiles for a potential attack on Taiwan, which it views as part of its territory.

China now has at least one aircraft carrier and is believed to be increasing its naval defences. In early 2011 it unveiled the J-20 [tvnewswatch: China's stealth fighter takes to the air], a stealth fighter jet which some assert was developed with the help from stolen US technology [tvnewswatch: China stole stealth fighter technology]. And in 2007 China tested a weapon which can target satellites [tvnewswatch: China tests space weapon].

However China insists its military build is purely defensive. Seeking to calm fears over the increase in military spending,  Li Zhaoxing, an official with China's parliament, said, “China is committed to the path of peaceful development and follows a national defence policy that is defensive in nature.” But there are concerns that China is preparing to assert itself more actively in the region and especially in the South China Sea.

While it has the largest standing army in the world, China is still playing catch-up both in regards to conventional and non-conventional weapons. Of particular concern is its growing nuclear capability. Recent satellite picture show new installations in the Qinghai region which appear to show DF-31/31A ICBM launchers [FAS].

The DF-31/31A missiles could target all of Russia and India from Central China though an estimated 20 silo-based DF-5As with some 50 missiles that could reach the United States according to one Senate report [PDF].

Details of China’s nuclear capability are difficult to determine however. While China is understandably reticent to reveal its fire power, the US has also reduced the specific information it publishes.

In its 2010 report [PDF] the Pentagon gave an itemisation of the different types of weapon and launch capability. But the 2011 Report [PDF] was far less transparent [FAS].

China recognised almost two decades ago that the PLA would likely be no match for US conventional forces. As such it began working on what was dubbed "unrestricted warfare" - combining multiple methods to defeat a superior opponent [BBC]. The term first appeared as the title of a book "Unrestricted Warfare : China's Master Plan to Destroy America " [WikipediaPDF / Amazon]. Written in 1999 by two colonels in the People's Liberation Army, Qiao Liang (乔良) and Wang Xiangsui (王湘穗), its primary focus was how a nation such as China could defeat a technologically superior opponent, such as the United States, through a variety of means, including, but not restricted to, economic warfare, cyber attacks, and terrorism.

The PLA has been running military projects mirroring civilian acquisition ventures. Involving dual-use technologies, the military and civilian strands are often indistinguishable. One such example is China’s move into space exploration which many experts believe is a cover for developing space weapons and missile technology.

Of great concern is the prospect of a cyberwar, something which some say China is already engaged in. In reports published yearly by the United States, China is increasingly using cyber attacks, hacking and other methods to procure technology to further its defence capabilities [tvnewswatch: China accused of aggressive spying].

While usually guarded concerning its intentions, China has hinted that it might be more aggressive in asserting its territorial claims in the future. In the opening of the National People’s Congress in Beijing today, Premier Wen Jiabao said the main task of the country's growing military was "to win local wars" [BBC / CNN].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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