“All warfare is based on deception.
Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy.
Feign disorder, and crush him.” – Sun Tzu
China’s military is among the largest and most advanced fighting forces on the planet. US DOD Estimates on military spending range from 70 to 104 billion in 2006. These are only estimates because Chinese have little transparency in their military budgets. With all this spending it begs the question, why? Unlike the super militaries of the rest of the world, China has seen only sparse action since the Korean War. What does the PRC want for its Yuan?
For starters, the primary role of the Chinese military has gone through significant changes since the 1950s war. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was once a 4 million-man force of low-tech soviet weapons and outdated doctrine. Their primary use was for local border wars and the suppression of the Chinese people. The 1989 Tiananmen Square incident is perhaps the most famous use of Chinese military force for domestic disturbances but the use continues today. The PLA also plays a large part in politics and heavy-fisted support of the communist party.
Today’s Chinese army is more than just a Falun Gong torturing, democracy crushing mob. Now they are becoming a leaner, high-tech force with all the modern trimmings.
Currently, the PLA has reduced its numbers by half while increasing spending dramatically. Military spending has maintained a roughly %12 yearly increase since 1990. Weapon purchases are becoming increasingly sophisticated and centered on the ability to defeat US forces or to crush Taiwan.
The some of the newer weapons include:
Kilo class and other submarines
SU-27/30/33 Flanker aircraft
These aren’t too good for domestic disturbances but are real good at hurting the US Navy.
According to Bill Gertz, a long-time reporter of Chinese military issues, “The buildup of China’s forces includes an array of high-technology arms, including new long-range ballistic and cruise missiles, anti-satellite attack weapons, computer warfare troops, intelligence satellites, and airborne and sealift forces that can be deployed over long distances.”
Most recent developments include the launch of a domestically produced version of GPS. This could allow the PLA to continue to use GPS-like technology after using ASAT missiles or jammers to thwart the US based GPS systems.
With all these scary facts comes a rather odd stance…
China continually promotes the idea that they are a harmless nation whose only international interest is economic prosperity for all. Many American analysts and academics have repeatedly pushed the idea that China is not a threat and the PLA is ineffectual as a fighting force.
Probably worth pointing out that some of these top advisors have been convicted of spying for China! Too bad they already published their propaganda and are widely quoted.
The bottom line is a good indicator of intentions when it comes to China’s foreign policy. Since the reforms of the Deng era to today, Chinese foreign policy has been guided by economics more than ideology. This translated into the military modernization of the PLA as well. There is still a lot that can be inferred by where the money is spent. The central PRC budget committee is not likely to invest in military capabilities that it does not deem vital to national interests.
These new capabilities are a threat to the U.S. military. However, China is careful to appear backwards and “safe” from the American perspective. Once the PLA steps up and proves itself as a capable force (against someone other than the US military) it will catch the attention of the world and spark the fear of the world as well. So for now the PLA will remain relatively unnoticed because of the constant propoganda from Beijing telling us how nice and peaceful they are. Beijing will host the 2008 Olympics. The slogan is “One World, One Dream.” Notice, it doesn’t say whose dream. Even the Nazis held an Olympics before starting WWII.
For now, China is happy to remain in the background. But when the dragon decides to wake up…
For the U.S. – A final thought from the master:
The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable. – Sun Tzu