The link below is an AP report reprinted by the National Public Radio website. As you can see in the link’s text, China recently claimed that its military power is now “comparable” with the military forces of the Western nations (which mostly means the USA). The report also cites a recent Pentagon report which ranked China’s military power as “below” that of the USA but it acknowledged that China is now able “to develop and produce advanced weapon systems such as missiles, fighter aircraft and warships.” Let’s examine this comparison in more depth.
China is known to have the world’s largest army, and its military modernization program is also seen as a factor in “emboldening the country’s military and civilian leaders in using force to back up political and territorial claims.” The reference to China using military force to back up its “territorial claims” likely refers to China’s ongoing territorial disputes with India, and I will, hopefully, have a blog discussing Indian-Chinese relations posted fairly soon.
China now has the largest submarine force of any Asian nation, and it includes about 70 subs, ten of which reportedly are nuclear-powered vessels. China’s surface fleet also includes 80 destroyers and frigates and hundreds of other smaller vessels. The comparison between the naval power of China and the USA has one glaring deficiency in the Chinese navy: its lack of aircraft carriers. The NPR story mentions China’s lack of aircraft carriers. If China thinks its military is now comparable with the USA and the West, how does it arrive at that conclusion given the lack of Chinese aircraft carriers? The link below cites one analyst who thinks China has “exaggerated its technological prowess.”
I think that China is closer to parity with the Western militaries due to a factor not mentioned in the NPR report. Despite China’s immense funding capacity, it has poured its resources into building submarines, surface warships and new classes of cruise missiles. China has avoided building aircraft carriers. Why? I think it is because the Chinese war planners have decided that carriers are now far too vulnerable to justify the expense of building them. Previous blogs have documented that Russia and China have both deployed “sizzler” cruise missiles on their warships which can attack U.S. carriers (and any other vessel) with supersonic attack speeds. US carriers were built with defensive systems designed to track and defeat subsonic cruise missiles. A recent blog of mine also discussed China’s development of ballistic missiles which can be fired at US carrier groups. If the USA has not developed and deployed defensive systems which can track and shoot down both supersonic cruise missiles and incoming ballistic missiles, then US carriers are “sitting ducks” for new Chinese (and Russian) weaponry. If there is a war between China and either Taiwan or India, we will soon find out whether U.S. carriers can defend against these threats as the USA will be expected to come to the aid of any nation attacked by China. If the USA doesn’t have the ability to defend its carriers and U.S. carriers are sunk and their sailors and aircraft lost, the Obama administration and the Democrats now governing America will almost surely be crushed at the next election in the USA after any such event. Indeed, the Democrat Party might not be able to survive as a functioning entity in US politics due to its being blamed by the nation for such a devastating defeat. If U.S. carriers are sunk, Obama would go down in history as the most gullible and foolish president in U.S. history. I wonder if Obama and the Democrats realize their political survival could depend on the ability of the US Navy to successfully defend its carriers?
China’s refusal to build carriers even though it could easily afford to do so argues that China believes such large vessels are not defensible against supersonic cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. The USA’s continued reliance on aircraft carriers for its power projection argues that (A) it believes that it can defend U.S. carriers against such threats or (B) the USA is bluffing and hoping China does not “call its bet.” If a war erupts involving U.S. and Chinese forces, we will find out the answer. If the USA and/or Israelis attack Iranian nuclear facilities, we may find out the answer even sooner. As my previous blogs have suggested, Russia and China may want such an attack against Iran as it will give them a justification to fire Russian- and Chinese-made cruise missiles (including supersonic sizzlers) based in Iran at all U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf. If such missiles sink a U.S. carrier, the U.S. superpower era has come to an end. It is that simple because it will mean Chinese and Russian subs shadowing U.S. carriers can sink them anywhere in the world by using the same cruise missiles against them. The USA would have to withdraw its carriers to US ports until they are equipped with new defensive systems that can defeat Russia and China’s new missiles. Indeed, if U.S. carriers cannot defend themselves against the new Russian and Chinese missiles, any third world nation buying such Russian- and Chinese-made missiles will be able to deter U.S. carrier forces from coming anywhere near their shores (or ships).
Above, I mentioned that the link below cites an analyst as saying that China is “exaggerating” its strength when it claims its military forces are now comparable to those of the West. Let’s consider a more sinister possibility. I wonder if that analyst is aware of Sun Tzu’s book, the Art of Warfare, which serves as a guide for Chinese strategists. If I recall correctly, one of the guiding principles of Sun-Tzu’s book is that “when one is strong, feign weakness.” Because Chinese planners are well-aware of Sun-Tzu’s advice, China’s claim that its military is now comparable to the West’s military forces may actually understate China’s beliefs about its true level of power. If so, Chinese military leaders may be increasingly eager to test their new advanced weaponry against western military defenses. As the link below acknowledges, “the odds of conflict with the U.S., Japan and other regional militaries is likely to increase as China further beefs up its arsenal.” I entirely agree with that viewpoint. I hope someone in the White House is paying attention.