During the meeting of annual security forum of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi in July 2010, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi faced volleys of complaints about his country’s behavior in the region. Making a derisive comment on Vietnam and staring directly at Singapore’s foreign minister George Yeo, Jiechi bawled “China is a big country,” and other smaller countries in the region must acknowledge the fact.
Yes, the giant dragon wants the world to realize its huge power and indeed the time has come to accept it.
Last month Bill Gertz, the editor of the Washington Free Beacon published a news story on China’s flight test of a new and most advanced long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The first- strike capability missile known as Dong Fong (DF) -41), according to him was Beijing’s first vehicle mounted mobile strategic missile capable to carry multiple nuclear warheads as many as 10 at a single launch.
Quoting a former military intelligence official Larry Wortzel – a member of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Gertz has stated that the DF-41′s multiple warheads are expected to include special simulated warheads called “penetration aids” that are designed to counter U.S. missile defense sensors and it will be hard to detect and counter DF-41 for its mobility.
Phillip Karber a Georgetown University professor and an expert on China’s nuclear program says that DF- 41 could be a force of some 32 missiles with reloads and multiple warheads that would be enough for China to target every U.S. city with a population over 50,000 people.
In the beginning of this month Chinese defense ministry spokesman confirmed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had conducted missile tests within national territory.
Referring to U.S. intelligence sources, Chinese media reported that China’s Second Artillery Corps (SAC) has tested at least three strategic missiles since the last July. The missiles included submarine launched JL-2 ballistic missile, a DF-41 missile outfitted with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and a DF-5 long-range missile with MIRVs.
Similarly People’s Daily (September 2, 2012) highlighted SAC’s achievement as the complete transition from “troops in the mountains” to “troops on the wheel” over the past 10 years. The Chinese daily also admitted that “the wide use of solid fuel and vehicle-mounted missile launchers for both conventional and nuclear ballistic missiles has greatly improved the SAC’s mobility, and thus increased its ability to deal with satellite reconnaissance”.
Global Times, more aggressively supports the missiles program with nuclear capability as a great leap in lifting China’s nuclear strength and wants China to continue it so that other major powers in Asia- Pacific region become adapt to it.
With this test launches China has given the impression that its army has now achieved a stronger and more credible nuclear deterrence capacity to safeguard its national security in a more complicated international environment.
A long and ardent process of Military Rise
Established in 1966, SAC has steadily increased its strength on the basis of mobility and strike range and have grown into a big family of various missiles capability – from short and medium range to long range and intercontinental system.
China’s military rise has been a result of long and ardent process rather than a sudden event. Since 1980s in general and since 2000 in particular Beijing initiated new modernization efforts in arms development, procurement acquisition and deployment of new weapons system. It developed a new war doctrines supported by modern combat capabilities.
Defense experts and U.S. officials have been showing concerns over the purpose of growing Chinese investment in military expenditure, arms purchases, developments and deployments. According to Richard Fisher, a renowned expert on China’s military modernization programs , China’s most advanced DF-41 missiles that has been under development since 1986, is presumed to have overturned the global strategic balance to a large extent.
In 2004, PLA Academy of Military Science had explicitly mentioned that future high tech local wars will certainly be very different from the wars they fought earlier. The enemy instead of sending large troops towards Chinese border “will probably use precision attack weapons and long distance operational aircrafts to launch air raids on strategic targets along our coast or in the interior carrying out relatively independent maritime and air wars.”
Earlier, in its 14th Congress of the CCP Chinese President Jiang Zemin, reiterated his focus on the goals of the advancement of the socialist market system that would indubitably create a society with an increased standard of living by the year 2049 – the centenary of PRC when the country will have fully realized the socialist modernization.
President Jiang also initiated the modernization of Chinese army after the first Gulf War in 1991 that opened the eyes of Chinese leadership that Chinese Army trained and formed in conventional mode was woefully inadequate for the demands of modern warfare. This demanded a major adjustment to its military strategy.
The new defense strategy developed thereafter was to arm the PLA to fight the local wars, armed conflict and domestic social turmoil. Obviously its major strategic goal was to defend its national territory, sovereignty, internal unity and stability that could be achieved only by securing and maintaining stable external environment especially in its periphery with that of secured maritime rights and interests.
To meet that goal, China’s defense budget has been continuously growing. For example its defense budget for the year 2012 has reached more than $ 106 billion- largest in Asia while the defense budget of another Asian giant India is mere $ 40.44. Japan that has just slipped from the World’s second largest economy to the third – slightly after China, spends about half of the China’s spending. As to the nature of its polity, defense sources also acknowledge that China’s actual defense budget is much higher than it publicly stated. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute account China’s real military spending as a percentage of GDP goes higher than 2 percent against claimed officially by the Chinese.
Big country’s big strategic appetite and big service to mankind
Chinese Media like People’s Daily and Global Times reported early in this month that the recent launching of its second generation Aegis destroyer, launched in a shipyard in Shanghai at the end of August — was the most sophisticated combat ships, equipped with phased array radars and modern ship-to-air missiles enabling the ships to provide regional air defense shields for the entire fleet.
They have highlighted the newest type of destroyer and its capacity to produce such destroyer at mass level as a result of second wave of massive shipbuilding after 2000. After an interval of about seven years, a total of six follow-up ships of the first-generation Aegis destroyers have been launched in very short intervals since the end of 2010.
Experts claim that the new destroyer appears to be 7,000 tons and armed with 64 American style VLS (Vertical Launch System) tubes that are compatible with several types of missiles that is more fit to escort the carrier battle group.
With the newest versions of the Type 052 destroyer, China has considerably advanced its destroyer designs. The new ships they have developed are similar in capabilities to the 8,300 ton American Arleigh Burke class Guided Missiles Destroyers.
China’s exponential economic rise never experienced in human history and its dramatic military buildup over the last few decades have caught the world with shock and surprise. The import and impact of an emerging trilateral world mainly dominated by U.S., China and India is yet to be mapped completely, but China’s has preeminently emerged as defining power and is steering the economic and strategic course of the 21st century more aggressively.
As no other country in world history has ever made such an effective invasion over global markets and global strategic environment together. With huge volumes of “Made in China” products it has made itself indispensible for every household. It has given China an enormous amount strategic soft power base that could be used as a successful strategic weapon against any country at any time as it likes. Take for example it is China that has served millions of poor and middle class population in every country in the world by providing them from modern gadgets to fashionable clothing and toys at a throwaway price. It has helped reduce the social and political tension in many countries in many ways. With this a startling question remains – what will happen if China in a strategic move restricts the exports of those goods to some selected countries.
While the world is not even prepared to deal with Chinese market goal, it seems harder to meet the strategic threat it posed to other global powers and contain its military goal.
However, all great powers know: nations need weapons to protect and expand their larger national interests. Obviously they are also familiar with the fact that weapons in one country have been breeding more dangerous weapons in another country. And at times weapons have not only failed to protect their major national interest but ironically, have damaged their larger interests and quite often the stock of weapons in one country’s arsenals have also become the weapons of its enemy. Therefore, we have yet to learn the hard fact that weapons protect people and countries only when they are able to protect themselves by other means.
This article appeared at The Reporter Weekly and is reprinted with permission.