With the launch of its own domestically produced warships comparable to American Aegis-equipped vessels, China is angling for control of the regional high seas and challenging U.S. power in the area, analysts and reports indicate.
According to a May report in the Hong Kong Tai Yang Bao newspaper, the new warship – a destroyer – was launched earlier this summer and represents China’s first next-generation vessel built at home. As WorldNetDaily reported, the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, has been purchasing Russian-built Sovremenny-class destroyers to upgrade its “brown water,” mostly coastal-defense navy to a long-range blue-water fleet.
An analysis of the warship, published by the American Foreign Policy Council, or AFPC, said it will be equipped with an advanced radar system, stealth design, a vertical launch system and long-range anti-aircraft missiles, the latter to “fill in for the Chinese navy’s gaps in launching seaborne long- and medium-range anti-aircraft attacks.”
The United States was the first to deploy the Aegis Combat System. Developed for the Navy, the system “was designed as a total weapon system, from detection to kill,” according to the Navy’s description of the technology.
“The heart of the system is an advanced, automatic detect and track, multi-function phased-array radar, the AN/SPY-1. This high powered (four megawatt) radar is able to perform search, track and missile guidance functions simultaneously with a track capacity of over 100 targets,” the Navy says. Aegis was first tested on the USS Norton Sound, a sea plane reconnaissance ship, in 1973.
AFPC said China’s new class of “Aegis” ships will likely be integrated first into the PLAN’s South Sea Fleet within three to five years. The domestically produced ships may not be fully operational before 2005 “because verification of the destroyers’ current computer integrated technology capability – specifically the ability to process a huge amount of signals needed to meet the needs of the phased-array radar systems – has yet to be completed,” said the policy center.
Analysts at the center said the capabilities of the warship mean China has made great strides in shipbuilding technologies over the past two decades as the PLAN moves toward long-range power projection, most likely as a hedge against U.S. naval reach and power.
Aegis Combat Systems were first tested on U.S. warships in 1973 and installed on Spruance- and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the latter like the vessel pictured above.
China rival Taiwan has repeatedly requested the U.S. sell it Aegis-equipped warships, but so far Washington has refused. WorldNetDaily reported in 2001 the island democracy has even offered to build Aegis-equipped warships locally, but only if the U.S. agreed to transfer the technology. The latter demand was a deal breaker, however.
In June, a 59-member panel of the Council on Foreign Relations released a report concluding “the Chinese military is at least two decades behind the United States in terms of military technology and capability.” The report went on to say if the U.S. continued its current level of investment in the military, Washington should retain its 20-year technical and technological advantage over Beijing.
But Richard Fisher, a senior fellow and China analyst at the Jamestown Foundation – while generally praising the CFR’s effort – pointed out current weapons systems being developed by China could negate much of the U.S. technical advantage.
For example, one area “in which the CFR does not give full weight to the capability-accelerating potential of foreign technology is in PLA space warfare plans,” Fisher says in an analysis of panel’s report. He also said a new solid-fuel space launch vehicle, or SLV, based on the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile and the DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile, is being developed to launch anti-satellite interceptors, as WorldNetDaily has previously reported.
The Chinese also are developing the DF-31A, which has yet to be deployed.
“The ability of these SLVs to launch ASAT interceptors was accelerated by a 1998 contract to develop a new generation of micro-satellites signed by China’s Tsinghua University and Britain’s Surrey Space Systems. This technology will accelerate the PLA’s ability to develop satellite interceptors” and, if deployed against U.S. satellites, “a 20-year technical advantage would be rapidly diminished,” Fisher wrote.
China military analysts also say Beijing’s modernization effort is still progressing despite European and American weapons embargoes. China, for instance, has obtained and still does obtain dual-use technologies from U.S. and European firms – technology which, ultimately, is incorporated into various military programs.
And Russia is helping to modernize China’s military machine. As WorldNetDaily has reported, Moscow – in need of capital to modernize its own military – is helping Beijing to attain superpower status.
The Hong Kong Sunday Morning Post reported June 8 that “a new colossus may be forming in the east as Russia and China edge toward a symbiotic relationship that could create the world’s next economic, military and space-faring superpower.”
“Relations with China constitute the most important factor in Russian foreign-policy strategy,” says Gennady Chuffrin, deputy director of Russia’s Institute for World Economy and International Relations.
Beijing and Moscow signed a deal to build a $2.5 billion oil pipeline from Siberia to the Chinese industrial center of Daqing, which is also the location of China’s oldest oil fields. That deal also commits China to purchase $150 billion worth of Russian crude oil over 25 years.
Capital is also key to Chinese military modernization, analysts say, and a great deal of those funds come from a vast and expanding trade deficit with the United States. Of the estimated $400 billion annual deficit, $100 billion is with China.
Perhaps sensing the country’s inability to compete militarily with the world’s other great powers, Chinese leaders have increasingly called for making military modernization a priority.
“New technologies, particularly information technology, have seen spectacular advances that are fueling the evolution of the world’s armed forces,” said Jiang Zemin, head of the powerful Central Military Committee. “Our military faces a formidable challenge but should not miss out on the opportunity to modernize and prepare for combat.”
Agence France-Presse reports that Jiang, since early June, has been urging the 2.5-million strong armed forces to recruit more qualified personnel and join the information age.