China’s leaders believe they must step up Beijing’s efforts in preparation for eventual confrontation with the United States sooner rather than later because of America’s overwhelming technological military success in the war in Iraq, according to Asia experts and analysts.
Willy Wo Lap Lam, senior China analyst for CNN, says Beijing also has begun to fine-tune its domestic and security policies to counter the perceived threat of U.S. “neo-imperialism.”
Richard Fisher Jr., a senior fellow and China analyst with the Jamestown Foundation, agrees that the United States’ demonstrable military technology advantage in both Gulf wars concerns Beijing and has led China to speed up weapons procurement and development.
An F/A-18C Hornet launches off bow of USS Kitty Hawk. China has no aircraft carriers.
“I see a long-term effort under way to accelerate the modernization of all of China’s armed forces,” Fisher told WorldNetDaily.
Al Santoli, Asia expert and editor of the China Reform Monitor – an occasional electronic newsletter published by the American Foreign Policy Council, says recent statements by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao “show the new leadership has concluded that China is facing formidable challenges.”
“In the near term, concern is focused on the impact of rising oil prices and the need to build up a strategic oil reserve,” Santoli wrote. “Of more concern, as People’s Daily commentator Huang Peizhao pointed out, is the view that U.S. moves in the Middle East ‘have served the goal of seeking worldwide domination.’ Chinese strategists think if the U.S. can score a relatively quick victory over Baghdad, it will soon turn to Asia.”
Santoli said some Chinese officials may even believe the U.S. will attack North Korea over rising nuclear-weapons tensions as early as this summer.
A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber moves into position to be refueled in-air.
“Until late last year, Beijing believed a confrontation with the U.S. could be delayed and China could concentrate almost exclusively on economic development,” said Santoli. Quoting a Chinese source close to the diplomatic establishment, Santoli wrote that many political cadres and think-tank members believe Beijing should adopt a more proactive, aggressive stance to thwart perceived American aggression.
Lam says many Chinese, who are “glued” to their television sets watching the U.S. progress in the war, believe Baghdad is using the “people’s war” doctrine set forth by the late Mao Zedong. “‘Saddam Hussein is a good student of Mao Zedong,’ so goes a popular saying in Beijing,” Lam wrote last month.
“Mao also noted that crafty use of people’s and guerrilla warfare could enable a militarily backward – but politically motivated – country to win over a much stronger power,” Lam said. “Possible theoretical cross-fertilizations aside, Mao has also been celebrated the past fortnight for two reasons: his championship of high-tech weapons and his defiance of American supremacy. And it is these two legacies that may exert a significant influence on Chinese policy.”
Chinese aircraft can be refueled in-flight, but the technology is old.
He said the U.S.-Iraq war was prompting calls for greater funding of the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA. “… The allied forces’ stunning display of firepower since late last month is being cited by the PLA – and nationalistic elements in Chinese society – to raise the budget for procurement of hardware,” Lam wrote.
Lam said he doesn’t believe the U.S. will strike North Korea, at least this year, because Washington is overextended militarily due to the fight with Iraq.
“China is preparing for a number of possible military scenarios that it may have to confront in the coming five to 20 years,” Fisher said. “These would definitely include, first and foremost, a possible conflict with the United States.”
He said possible flashpoints include Taiwan and North Korea, adding that China’s eventual goal is to “displace” the U.S. as Asia’s primary power.
The first Gulf war, Fisher said, “prompted a profound re-evaluation of China’s military modernization” efforts. U.S. successes in the 1991 conflict led Beijing to “many decisions, the results of which are being revealed the path that China has chosen” in modernizing its forces since then.
“The second Gulf war can [also] be expected to have a very specific influence on the direction of China’s military modernization as well,” he said.
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on Saturday called China’s military modernization and expansion destabilizing.
“China began to develop nuclear arms more than 40 years ago. Its development of launch vehicles is even more terrifying,” Chen said in a keynote speech delivered at the opening of the International Seminar on Asia-Pacific Cooperative Security.
“In addition to possessing conventional guided missiles, it is developing cruise missiles and missiles with multiple warheads. These missiles will not only threaten Taiwan but also other countries within range of them,” Chen added.
Chinese military scientists also are working to perfect anti-satellite and laser weapons, and are working with civilian space authorities to launch the country’s first manned space flight, perhaps by next year.
Chinese combat planes, warships, and missile systems are said to still be light years behind U.S. capabilities, American military analysts say, though Beijing has managed to reverse-engineer some weapons systems in a fraction of the time it took American scientists to develop them.