Not Really the China Century

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 (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.

7 thoughts on “Not Really the China Century”

  1. This argument is valid for those systems that we have, but over the years we have rejected other paths.

    Two come to mind:
    1- Directed/exotic output atomic weapons: We deployed directed X-Rays in Sprint, but many other forms of energy remain unexplored.

    2- The S.A.C. proposed a Deep Space Bombardment Force to JFK, he rejected it for reasons unexplained.

    China rejected exploration years before Columbus, their untred Ocean was there for others to use.

  2. Remember we’re only 5 years into this century. Where was the US relative to other powers in 1905?

    1/4 of all humans are Chinese. Their economy is growing at an enormous rate. If that rate of development continues, they will surpass every other power in their ability to apply economic and military power. I suspect that in the 2025-2050 timeframe they will become the most powerful nation state on the planet.

  3. Having scarce resources, as any institution does, means making decisions not to pursue some avenues of development. It is hard to believe there is any low hanging weapons fruit that we have not nibbled. And even if we have missed one or some, it is unlikely that they are sufficient in and of themselves to negate the advantages of our established systems and our ongoing development efforts.

    To understand how foolish this thinking that China will be a military power is, consider that Japan is the second largest economy in the world. What economic sacrifices would be required of the Japanese to build a military infrastructure, ignore manning it, comparable to ours? It would require a huge sacrifice. The Chinese have begun to provide prosperity to some of their people. To now demand the level of sacrifice necessary to be competitive with the U. S. Militarily would bring down the Chinese government.

    So China can build a more efficient and effective military that will beble to defend China from invasion. But it is difficult to see China able to project military power in the next 25-50 years. Their presence in the tsunami relief effort is a demonstration of how little capability they have.

    China’s decision to reject exploration was a decision to stick its head in the sand.†While we have not pursued some weapons systems, it cannot be said that we have stick our heads in the sand. Unilateral disarmament is not on the agenda.

  4. It will be a long time, if ever, before the Chinese military is on par with the US. However, two things matter: 1) just how big the relative gap in power is, and 2) to what degree the Chinese cleverly develop their power to take advantage of weaknesses in American doctrine, equipment or strategy.

    Right now, the gap between us is huge. But if China moves from say 60s vintage military tech to 80s or even 90s vintage, the gap narrows. Further, what if they develope asymmetric strategies? (And they say that they are going to.) For example, developing a strong anti-satellite capability. Without GPS, satellite communications and especially satellite reconnaissance and intelligence, we lose most of our force multipliers, becoming a well equipped and well trained army with capabilities not far ahead of where we were in the 80s.

    The Chicoms don’t have to make uniform, across-the board improvements to their military to become a credible threat.

  5. Missiles with nukes make them a credible threat now. And China already has sufficient force and location advantage to make an invasion by the U. S. out of the question. But those dimensions of power are a lot different than the ability to project power on the world stage. To project power, they will need across the board improvements in their systems. They will need sealift and airlift capabilities and a logistical infrastructure to support troops and weapons overseas. Even the Europeans, with the possible exception of the UK, do not have a credible power projection capability. The French had to lease helicopters from the Russians to help in the tsunami!

  6. “China’s decision to reject exploration was a decision to stick its head in the sand. While we have not pursued some weapons systems, it cannot be said that we have stick our heads in the sand.”

    China forsook the Sea, JFK gave up the chance to control Outer Space.

    “To project power, they will need across the board improvements in their systems. They will need sealift and airlift…”

    They could race to match us in Earthlift, or they could bypass the whole problem. With cheap enough Spacelift/asteroid mining, “Rods of God” type systems could control both land and the Sea.

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