China: A Realistic View

A number of leading political figures have consistently downplayed both the economic and military threat from China. Democratic party presidential front-runner Joe Biden stated earlier this year, referring to China, “What are we worried about?” It was a follow-up to a comment he made in 2018, when he stated “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man!”

The Reuters news service notes that “…neither Warren, Sanders nor other candidates have made dealing with China, one of the biggest issues facing the current administration, a significant part of their platform.”

Among the mistaken reasons cited for the lack of concern over China’s military threat is the obsolete notion that Beijing’s military, while large, is not sophisticated. China’s government itself has now provided the information that refutes that error, in a white paper from its State Council Information Office entitled “China’s National Defense in the New Era.”

A review of the document by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Anthony Codesman reveals that it  “…flags the fact that America and China are now competing superpowers, and that China’s growing military forces are developing to the point where they will be able to challenge the United States.”

For a number of years, China has moved vigorously to compete and lead in the most sophisticated areas of warfare, including in space. In 2017, CNN quoted General John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command: “They’ve been building weapons, testing weapons, building weapons to operate from the earth in space, jamming weapons, laser weapons, and they have not kept it secret.”

Codesman reports that “Steve Lambakis, a former official at the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said a key PLA objective is to use space weapons to cripple operations of the Hawaii-based Indo-Pacific Command during a future conflict by attacking American satellites. These operations would likely start with disruption and destruction of [command, control, communications, and intelligence] capabilities with cyber and kinetic attacks on satellites and ground assets in support of other Chinese kinetic capabilities…”

The Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz notes that  Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was asked during a security forum in Colorado last week if the United States is falling behind China and Russia in military space systems. “I can’t tell you who’s in front and who’s behind,” Ashley said of the space weapons race… the United States appears to be lagging behind China in developing space weapons…By contrast, a 2018 intelligence report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) stated that China is among the most advanced nations in building space weapons.”

Last year, reports the South China Morning Post, the Chinese engaged in a sophisticated war training exercise. The event tested “reconnaissance, electronic communication, cybersecurity, air strikes and other battle skills,,, aimed at increasing ground troops’ understanding of modern warfare, and fostering new strategic ground force commanders after a sweeping PLA overhaul. More than 50 combat units involving about 2,100 officers [took] part at five training bases. They included airborne troops, special forces and electronic warfare experts from ground forces from the Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and Central command theatres…”

The white paper deals with more than just Beijing’s boasts about its advanced weaponry. It discusses a broad range of China’s view of its role in the world, and its challenges, and reinforces its views that the regions it dominates by force or terror, such as Tibet, and those it seeks to unlawfully expand its direct control over, such as Hong Kong, are within its immediate sights.  And of course, there is the ongoing issue of Taiwan.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government

Print Friendly, PDF & Email