Tue, Nov 27, 2001 - Page 8 News List

China's military build-up a danger

By Tsai Ming-yen 蔡明彥

The improvement of China's position in the world is widely regarded as one of Beijing's top foreign-policy priorities. This year Beijing has accomplished some important diplomatic achievements. In July, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing and earlier this month China was formally granted permission to enter the WTO.

Some observers in both the US and Taiwan believe that China's active participation in international activities and organizations may alter its behavior toward other countries and result in a peaceful resolution of the cross-strait conflict. Such a view, however, is overly optimistic and ignores China's intentions and capacity to intimidate Taiwan with its military muscle.

China's intentions to turn itself into a military superpower, presumably in order to enforce its regional hegemony, has concerned its neighbors. In particular, Beijing has failed to renounce the use of force against Taiwan to bring about unification. China has repeatedly stressed that it will start a war against Taiwan if any of the so-called "three ifs" are realized -- if Taiwan declares independence, if it promotes two Chinas or if foreign countries interfere in cross-strait affairs.

China is making steady

progress in its military modernization. Many important military deployments targeted at Taiwan are underway. To upgrade its air force, China has purchased advanced Su-27SK and Su-30MKK fighters from Russia and it has already deployed more than 72 Su-27s in the Nanjing Military Region, which faces Taiwan.

By the end of this year, the first batch of 38 Su-30 MKK fighters will also be delivered to China. The main force of Su-30s will be deployed at Wuhu (蕪湖) air base in Anhui Province, but others will be deployed at four bases in Fujian Province early next year.

Su-27SK and Su30MKK fighters, which are equipped with AA-10 Alamo medium-to-long range (40km to 110km) radar guided air-to-air missiles, are widely regarded to be superior to the F-16 and the Mirage 2000 that Taiwan's air force deploys. The deployment of these Russian-made advanced aircraft could help China to gain air superiority over the Taiwan Strait.

Most importantly, China has deployed at least 300 short-range ballistic missiles in the vicinity of the Strait and is increasing that amount by 50 missiles per year, meaning that China could have as many as 600 missiles pointed at Taiwan by 2005 if the current buildup continues.

In addition, China has sought to beef up its air-defense capabilities in its coastal areas. New air-defense missiles, such as the Russian-made Su-300, have been installed in Fujian Province.

On Nov. 11 the Chinese Central Military Commission held a large-scale air-raid drill in Fu-zhou, the first of its kind since 1950. More than 100,000 military servicemen, armed policemen, reserve troops and students were mobilized to take part in the exercise. According to the Hong Kong-based Oriental Daily (東方日報), the main purpose of the drill was to show China's determination to fight against territorial separatists.

Given that the People's Liberation Army is pursuing the development of high-tech military equipment in an attempt to secure military superiority over the Strait, the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan cannot be ruled out, even though Beijing seeks to play a more active role on the international scene.

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