One of the biggest problems when dealing with a closed police state is figuring out whatís really going on in there. The intelligence game isnít a science, and itís prone to errors. This is an important point that just about everyone forgets.
Case in point is this post at Strategypage.com. (Post from May 25, 2005.) The post points out that itís difficult to figure out just how much China is spending on defense, or how effective the stuff theyíre buying really is.
This is something that Iíve pointed out before. China is certainly increasing its military spending, and most people would agree that they now have the 2nd largest defense budget on the planet. But whatís really confusing is whether or not this means that their conventional forces are going to be a credible threat anytime soon.
For what itís worth, I donít think so. It seems that most of their increased budget is going towards modernizing their weapons systems, like their warships and fighter planes. This is troubling until one realizes that all those upgrades simply allow a portion of the Chinese fleet and air forces to operate on rough parity with the Westís 2nd tier equipment, and not the top-of-the-line stuff. When the next generation of weapons are deployed, like the F-22, then China will have to run even harder to try and catch up.
This doesnít mean that they arenít a problem, or that they canít do a great deal of damage. But I think that the danger is rather overstated.