Think Again: China’s Military

An article in Foreign Policy looks at whether recent alarmist reactions to China’s rising military might are warranted:

From the early 1990s, China’s defense planners began intensively studying doctrine and sought to acquire superior foreign technologies for their People’s Liberation Army (PLA). They also made a major strategic shift by cutting the size of their force to emphasize new technologies that would enable them to catch up with the United States and other possible foes.

Should the rest of the world be worried? Taiwan, long claimed as Chinese territory and well within range of Chinese ballistic missiles and conventional forces, certainly has cause to feel threatened. Even as cross-strait relations have warmed in recent years, Beijing has positioned more medium-range missiles facing Taiwan than ever. When asked why, Beijing demurs. India, Asia’s other would-be superpower, also seems increasingly on edge. Last September, Indian analysts and media loudly worried over the publication of an article by Chinese analyst Li Qiulin in a prominent Communist Party organ that urged the PLA to bolster its ability to project force in South Asia.

But it’s probably too soon for Americans to panic. Many experts who’ve looked closely at the matter agree that China today simply does not have the military capability to challenge the United States in the Pacific, though its modernization program has increased its ability to engage the United States close to Chinese shores. And the U.S. military is still, for all its troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most capable fighting force on the planet.

February 23, 2010 12:23 PM
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