The Concerns Over Advancing Chinese Military Capabilities

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Context

200_Chinese_Stealth_Fighter_J-20As Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Pakistan and US Secretary of Defense continues his three-day visit to China, the Chinese have recently disclosed two sophisticated weapons that can threaten key capabilities of US and its allies in the future.

 

Analaysis

The two recently revealed Chinese weapons include the J-20 stealth fighter jet prototype and Dong Feng 21D anti-aircraft carrier missiles. Experts believe the development of defense systems such as an aircraft-carrier ballistic missile, anti-satellite weapons and stealth fighter, pose a threat to the United States and its allies. No doubt these capabilities would be particularly worrisome for India. Meanwhile, India has also made recent overtures reflecting that it does not necessarily endorse ‘One-China’ policy.

Chinese officials have claimed that the test flight of J-20 stealth fighter as US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is visiting China, was a mere coincidence.

“I asked President Hu about it directly, and he said that the test had absolutely nothing to do with my visit and had been a pre-planned test. And that’s where we left it,” Mr. Gates was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Pentagon has downplayed the importance of these weapons:

“Developing a stealth capability with a prototype and then integrating that into a combat environment is going to take some time,” said US director of naval intelligence Vice Admiral David Dorsett.

On the other hand, Chinese Minister of Defense Liang Guanglie made the following comments countering US and western apprehensions:

“We cannot call ourselves an advanced military country,” Liang told reporters. “The gap between us and advanced countries is at least two to three decades.”

United States wants to engage China in a comprehensive dialogue to gauge its strategic intent and to avoid potential mishaps, the possibility of which exists in the tense Korean Peninsula. China’s defense budget escalated between 1999 and 2009 and is reported to be at $78bn in 2010, while US has the world’s largest military budget at around $700bn.

Before suspending military to military dialogue, China had laid down three conditions to improve relations between US and China:

  • Cease weapons sales to Taiwan.
  • Stop its naval and air-based surveillance activities off China’s coast.
  • Eliminate laws that prevent U.S. interaction with China’s military.

There are no signs that these terms were met and Chinese seem to have shifted the onus of improving relations to the US. As noted in previous evaluations, the US-China relations have far reaching implications for Pakistan and India. PoliTact has noted that if the military to military, or political and economic relations, between US and China deteriorate, it would likely impact US-Pakistan relations negatively.

Pakistan is a strong ally of China and key partner of US, whose role is pivotal to the resolution of Afghan conflict. However, the public perception of US in Pakistan has dipped to such an extent that it has become difficult for the government to carryout any policies that appear to be connected to American interests. In this context, Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Pakistan has taken on added significance.

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