China's Military Might: First, the Good News

Redheart

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China's Military Might: First, the Good News - Bloomberg View

Every week seems to bring new cause for concern about China's rising military power and assertiveness. Some scholars and pundits worry that the Chinese government is aiming to block U.S. forces from operating in East Asia altogether -- and even plans to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower.

While China’s buildup indeed creates security challenges for the U.S. and its Asian allies, the consequences are more subtle and complicated than some alarms would suggest. Despite its quickly increasing defense budgets in the last 20 years, China still lacks the ability to project combat power in a sustained way far from its shores, and the U.S. maintains full-spectrum military superiority, even in East Asia. Chinese forces lag far behind their U.S. counterparts in quality of equipment, experience and training.

Unfortunately for the U.S., the good news ends there. China doesn't need to be a peer competitor to pose serious problems in East Asia, a region of great importance to America and the rest of the world. I'll explain why in a second article tomorrow.

Meanwhile, however, let's put the arsenals and fighting abilities in context. China’s large military establishment was traditionally a land army for homeland defense against the Communist Party's foreign and domestic foes and was supplemented by a small number of stationary liquid-fueled missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. In the 1990s China began developing the ability to project military power abroad with its navy, air force and conventionally tipped ballistic missiles. Some of these highly accurate solid-fueled missiles can apparently even strike moving targets at sea.

China is also modernizing its nuclear arsenal by employing mobile land-based missiles, as well as submarine-launched nuclear missiles. But other than the conventionally tipped missiles, which the U.S. has chosen not to develop because it has other methods of delivering the ordnance, no Chinese capabilities come close to surpassing those of the U.S. Internal Chinese military writings readily recognize the wide gaps between China and unnamed, superior high-tech enemies and call for designing tactics and strategies that might allow “the weak to prevail over the strong.”

The ability to wage cyberwar is often cited as a potential Chinese trump card. China has developed a large cadre of government-sponsored hackers and cyberwarriors. But just because it has significant assets in cyberspace that should concern us doesn't mean China is somehow in the lead. The U.S. government rarely refers to its own cyber-offensive abilities, which are highly classified. But in 2013, Keith Alexander, the general who was then in charge of Cyber Command, said they are “the best in the world,” and there has been little reason to doubt the veracity of his claim.

Another much-heralded advance by the Chinese was the deployment of its first aircraft carrier, a vintage Cold War-era warship they bought from Ukraine. Since then, the government has announced plans for two more carriers it will build itself. This development is significant, particularly for China’s weaker neighbors, but it is hardly a game changer in the Chinese-American balance of power.

The U.S. has 11 nuclear-powered carriers, with massive and fully trained battle groups to accompany and protect them. It also has decades of experience from World War II and the Cold War in tracking and targeting enemy carriers. Many military analysts worry more about the vulnerability of U.S. carriers to attack by Chinese missiles and torpedoes than they do about the offensive threat posed to American forces by aircraft taking off from Chinese carriers. A U.S. defense expert who generally frets greatly about trends in China’s defense modernization once half-joked to me, “When I dream happy dreams, they are full of new carriers: Chinese carriers.”

In addition to having more advanced weapons systems, the U.S. has a huge advantage in training and war-fighting experience. China has not been in a major international conflict since 1979, when Deng Xiaoping ordered the ill-fated ground invasion of Vietnam. By contrast, the American military has been in harm’s way somewhere in the world almost constantly since the first Gulf War began in January 1991.

One of the biggest advantages the U.S. has compared with China is its network of allies -- some 60 countries, which (including the U.S.) account for some 80 percent of global military spending. China has a formal alliance only with North Korea and a strong security partnership with one other Asian country, Pakistan. It has defense cooperation and an arms trade relationship with Russia, but mutual mistrust between the two historical rivals makes it hard to label this an alliance.

So after laying out the evidence showing continued American superiority, why am I still concerned about the bad news? Measures of the overall balance of power between two countries are most relevant when considering wars of survival, such as World War I and World War II. But most international security politics involves coercive diplomacy and limited military engagements short of full-scale war. In such struggles, geography, politics, psychology and perceptions can play an even more important role than the military balances of power. In tomorrow's excerpt, I'll describe what that means.
 

LilAnn

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I am going to sleep a little better tonight after reading this. It didnt mention, (I don't believe), about the 42,000 drones China ordered. Do you happen to know what kind of drones they are?
 

joshposh

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When it comes to conflict of any size or magnitude, you can never underestimate your opponent. I don't care how much experience you have, you do not take your opposition likely and fall back on experience as the dominating factor. Tell the guy in suit that never fought in a war at Bloomsberg to sit on that. Leave it to the couch potatoes and hindsight viewers to sway public opinion on matters that they have no knowledge about.
 

Redheart

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I am going to sleep a little better tonight after reading this. It didnt mention, (I don't believe), about the 42,000 drones China ordered. Do you happen to know what kind of drones they are?
Were they ordering or building their own?

Some articles I read seemed to indicate that they intend to produce about 42,000 miitary drones by 2023 and that they'll be deployed to secure the "disputed" south China seas. They most certainly are serious about driving everyone else out of territory they consider to be theirs.
 

LilAnn

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Were they ordering or building their own?

Some articles I read seemed to indicate that they intend to produce about 42,000 miitary drones by 2023 and that they'll be deployed to secure the "disputed" south China seas. They most certainly are serious about driving everyone else out of territory they consider to be theirs.
I wasn't sure if they were producing them, or if they ordered them. I still 42000 is a little excessive. Then again, we are talking about the same people who thought building a wall around their country was their best bet. Lol
 

DancingLady

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When it comes to conflict of any size or magnitude, you can never underestimate your opponent. I don't care how much experience you have, you do not take your opposition likely and fall back on experience as the dominating factor. Tell the guy in suit that never fought in a war at Bloomsberg to sit on that. Leave it to the couch potatoes and hindsight viewers to sway public opinion on matters that they have no knowledge about.
Excellent point. China should not be underestimated. It is no secret they wish to be the most powerful nation in the world. I do not think they will be easily deterred in their efforts to achieve this goal as it is a matter of national pride. As long as the Chinese people want this, they will continue pushing for it. It would probably take a large majority of the people wanting to stop military expansion to slow down their progress at this point since the government is so determined.
 

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Excellent point. China should not be underestimated. It is no secret they wish to be the most powerful nation in the world. I do not think they will be easily deterred in their efforts to achieve this goal as it is a matter of national pride. As long as the Chinese people want this, they will continue pushing for it. It would probably take a large majority of the people wanting to stop military expansion to slow down their progress at this point since the government is so determined.
Honestly, we have no way of really knowing what they are capable of, or how far they're willing to go. When it comes to millions of lives, calling someone bluff is NOT a good move.
 

Redheart

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I wasn't sure if they were producing them, or if they ordered them. I still 42000 is a little excessive. Then again, we are talking about the same people who thought building a wall around their country was their best bet. Lol
42,000 drones deployed to the South China seas would effectively "secure" the area. As long as it gets them what they want nothing is excessive. This conflict isn't just about the Islands anymore. China wants to dilute the U.S's influence in the Far East and this [forcing the U.S to admit that they own the Islands] is but the first step towards achieving their goal.
 

pcgamer

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China is going to be a number one superpower by 2050, surpassing US. Don;t you think that when they will make economic advancements, the military and technology gaps is only going to shrink?
 

vegito12

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China is expanding real fast which is surprising, other countries should not underestimate them and they do not bow down to anyone and will do what they want and don't want any interference in their plans. The islands are something China will not back down from and believes they have a right to it and have secured the area as well and warning anyone travelling there to back away. I wonder what else China plans on doing, we have only seen maybe a small portion of their power and the real power must be hidden away and need to be careful of this country as they can change from being friendly to being your worst enemy.
 

vash

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China is expanding real fast which is surprising, other countries should not underestimate them and they do not bow down to anyone and will do what they want and don't want any interference in their plans. The islands are something China will not back down from and believes they have a right to it and have secured the area as well and warning anyone travelling there to back away. I wonder what else China plans on doing, we have only seen maybe a small portion of their power and the real power must be hidden away and need to be careful of this country as they can change from being friendly to being your worst enemy.

Actually most countries would show off what they have in order to intimidate the opponents without having to fire a shot.

The US intelligence is full aware of China's true capabilities. After all, you can't hid how many ships are building, and have already completed. Most modern Chinese jets are still using Russian engines, and thus making it easy to count how many jets they have built by checking the number of engines they have imported.

Just take a look at those "carrier killers", "stealth jets". They are all still in testing stage, yet China had shown them to the whole world. It is a good strategy to tell everyone they have a problem with to back off peacefully.
 

Kyler

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It's just really complicated. I don't know if it's good because it might seem good, but then what will happen after?
 

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Sometime in the 1980s when the Philippine population was pegged at 50 million, there was this article that said China has an army of 50 million. Can you digest that? China's army is as many as our population. And that number excludes the navy and air force. It is a might that you cannot just underestimate when it comes to numbers.
 

Xanthosh

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They've researched the thing thoroughly. Pakistan has been an ally to China from very early on. Russia has been friends with it.
 

vash

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Sometime in the 1980s when the Philippine population was pegged at 50 million, there was this article that said China has an army of 50 million. Can you digest that? China's army is as many as our population. And that number excludes the navy and air force. It is a might that you cannot just underestimate when it comes to numbers.
Did you actually believe such propaganda? :D

China never had more than 5 million troops since PRC was established in 1949. Their current number is down to 3 million and decreasing since they are focusing on modernization and high tech instead of human wave.

Numbers? What numbers?
China might have more manpower, but look at the number of jets, choppers, warships, tanks. The United States have more of everything in term of equipments and firepower. A company of infantry will have no chance against an attack chopper or jet. A division of soldiers armed with portable weapons might not be able to do anything against a single destroyer.
 

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