China's Military Buildup - How Far Along Is It?

Discussion in 'China' started by Singh, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China's faster-than-expected military buildup has alarmed the United States and its Asian allies and could help the Pentagon gird against deeper defence cuts threatened in some corners of Congress.

    But even though the sophistication of China's People's Liberation Army has exceeded U.S. military forecasts, there is a recognition within the Pentagon that some of its most-cited conventional capabilities are still in their infancy.

    China's first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-era vessel known as the Varyag bought from the Ukraine, began sea trials in July. Chinese sources said Beijing is also building two indigenous carriers, a claim the U.S. military believes is misleading at best.

    Admiral Robert Willard, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told Reuters that while China might be pursuing procurement or some other embryonic action on an indigenous carrier, it would be premature to say "a keel is laid."

    "The only ship that anyone has seen and that they have discussed with any level of fidelity is the Varyag, this particular ship that has floated," Willard said in an interview.

    But the refurbished Soviet-era carrier is not yet fully operational. China, the last permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to get carrier capability, will not be able to effectively field an aircraft carrier with any combat aircraft aboard for years, according to Pentagon estimates.

    A Pentagon assessment to Congress noted Brazil's navy offered to provide China training in carrier operations.

    "However, Brazil's limited capabilities in this area and the extensive problems with Brazil's own carrier program raise some questions as to the implications of the offer," it said.


    Then there is question of China's stealth fighter jet, the J-20, which did its first test flight during a visit by the U.S. defence secretary to China in January.

    Despite the attention given to the J-20, the Pentagon does not expect it to achieve an effective operational capability before 2018.

    There are also questions about how effective its stealth capability may be. The J-20's test flight proved its stealth design but did not reveal other attributes to help it avoid detection that might come later, sources say.

    "China faces several hurdles as it moves towards J-20 production, including the mastery of high performance jet engine production," the Pentagon report said.

    The United States has had a proper stealth fighter since Lockheed Martin's F-117 Nighthawk made its first flight 30 years ago. That aircraft was retired from service in 2007.

    Prior "low-observable" U.S. aircraft date back to the 1950s with the U-2A high-altitude reconnaissance plane.

    The PLA is also still some way from mastering the ability to mount large joint force operations, which will be needed to make the most of newfound capabilities grabbing headlines.

    The U.S. military has spent the past decade of war honing joint operations that weave together teams and skills from across its armed forces -- a hard-won but potent tool.

    The U.S. Navy's top intelligence officer warned before retiring earlier this year against overestimating Chinese military capabilities.

    "I don't view them as 10 feet tall," Vice Admiral David Dorsett said. "Have we seen large joint sophisticated exercises? No ... They are at the front end of developing their military capability."


    At the same time, the U.S. military believes China appears on track to field a modern, regionally focussed military by 2020. A comprehensive strategy to maintain the U.S. edge in the Pacific will require investment, a tough challenge in an era of budget cuts.

    The Pentagon now counts a base budget, excluding war costs, of over half a trillion dollars. China downplays its defence spending but acknowledged in March a 12.7 percent rise in 2011 defence outlays to 600 billion yuan (60 billion pound).

    Still, the U.S. military, while expressing confidence in future funding for the Asia-Pacific region, is not parroting some of the more volatile China rhetoric seen in parts of Congress.

    "I know some folks like to sugarcoat the terms in describing China as a rival or competitor but the fact is Communist China is an enemy of democracy," David Rivera, a lawmaker on the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, said in a recent hearing on Taiwan.

    The U.S. military's estimates of China offer a more mixed view. This year's assessment noted China's lack of operational experience and large amounts of antiquated hardware but said the PLA was "steadily closing the technological gap with modern armed forces."

    Dean Cheng, a China expert at the Heritage Foundation think-tank in Washington, said future Chinese advances like improvements in its anti-ship ballistic missile would influence U.S. risk assessments when deploying near its shores.

    That is not to say China will be able to flat-out deny U.S. access to nearby waters any time soon.

    "Denial is a function of risk -- what level of risk are we willing to accept in order to do whatever it is we're going to do out there," Cheng said, noting U.S. submarines, for example, can be very difficult to detect.

    The PLA's aggressive posture in the South China Sea and its increasing military edge over Taiwan are sources of concern -- as are its investments in nuclear submarines, which suggest China is seeking to support operations well beyond Taiwan.

    Those concerns have found fertile ground in Congress, where the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee accused China of widespread cyber espionage.

    Some lawmakers have reacted angrily to the U.S. decision to give Taiwan a $5.85 billion arms package including upgrades to F-16 A/B fighter aircraft, instead of also delivering the late-model F-16 C/D fighters that Taipei wanted.

    "China is on the march in Asia, and its primary target remains democratic Taiwan," said the House Foreign Relations Committee's chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

    China sees Taiwan, a self-ruled island, as an illegitimate breakaway from Beijing's rule that must accept eventual reunification. The United States switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to mainland China in 1979 but it is obligated by law to supply Taiwan sufficient arms for self-defence.

    As China's regional military ambitions come into view, so does discussion of its global goals. But Dorsett noted China's global aspirations are longer term, seeking to turn its navy into a global power "by the middle years of this century."

    "That's their timeline," said. "Should we expect them to be much more competent 10 years from now than they are today? As long as their economy's robust, absolutely."
  3. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

    Dec 17, 2009
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    What we are seeing is China coming into the level of late Soviet technology by 2020. Call it somewhat of a mirror image if you will. There are still several gaps in their industrial base for them to claim even that title now.
  4. cir

    cir Senior Member Senior Member

    Dec 28, 2010
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    China has barely made a start. It is still on the starting block.

    Those who are concerned with China's military development can start shouting when China has at least 8 CV battle groups, 500 J-20As and Bs, 1000 J-XXs, 200 submarines(conventional, nuclear, strategic, tactical)
    100 8000 ton plus destroyers, 5000 nculear war heads, space-based weapons, laser guns....etc...

    Until then, just sit back and watch how China's military R&D and industry complexes(which are many) turn out an ever increasing range of weapons.

    If a $14 trillion US can afford what it has now, a $30 trillion China can surely afford more.

    China has a growing economy the size of which is predicted to surpass the US in or around 2017. It also has lots of smart, very smart people in their late 20s and early 30s who are totally devoted to China's military mordenization

    So just watch this space.
  5. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

    Dec 17, 2009
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    China is too reliant on foreign engines to be a competing global power. Fighter engines come from Russia, transport and trainer engines come from Ukraine, marine diesels come from France, sub diesels from Germany, helicopter turboshafts from France, they still can't make a big horsepower tank engine so they rely on Ukraine. Until you get the power plant right, you will never be a real power.
  6. DMF

    DMF Regular Member

    Jan 10, 2010
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    You a very right my friend, China is still on the way to be an industrialized country, is really a developing country now.
    In 1949 when new China established, more than 90% the citizens a peasants, very few industry. In the 1950’s China introduced from the Soviet union 156 project, including a fighter air plane factory, and the education system, this is the seeds of China’s industrialization, the first 5-year very successful, our great leader chairman Mao got very high and make the great leap forward movement in 1958, this made deep dent to the country, 3 years famine follows, power struggle follows between the party leaders, then came the culture revolution. During all this time, China collected a group of USA returned students to make atomic bombs and rockets, the related industries saved and have development. By the end of 1970, China very poor and industrial ability very low. But since then after 30 years of work, China make a lot progress, but still can not compare with the developed countries, they have a 200years of industrialization. China has a lot of lessons to make up. Now the government got the money, and they know what they want. Around the year of 2020, the engine problem will be basically solved.
    You know the high technology embargo against China. China not like Japan or Korea, China can not buy, no where to pay the patent royalties, the only way for China is to copy, reverse engineering is a very hard way to develop the industry. China just lunch a satellite for French less then a month ago, this satellite does not container a single component from USA, so can be lunched by China, you know? Almost like secret lunch.

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