As expected, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense earlier this week reacted with indignation at the contents of the Pentagon’s latest report on the Chinese military, released last week.
Like in previous years, Chinese officials deplored what they saw as a misrepresentation and unfair depiction of China’s military development, adding that US officials were “deliberately playing up the imbalance” of military power in the Taiwan Strait to justify arms sales to Taiwan.
At a press conference on Monday, Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng (耿雁生) assured the world that, contrary to what the Pentagon report suggested, the Chinese military is developing “for the exclusive purpose of safeguarding the country’s sovereignty, security and developmental interests,” and that Beijing has “firmly adhered to a peaceful development path and adopted a defense policy that is wholly defensive in nature.”
There is no denying that China is a rising power and that it should be allowed to develop a military that is commensurate with its economic might and growing role internationally. As such, a large share of the billions of dollars it has injected into the military in the past decade has gone toward revamping what not so long ago was a ramshackle army that could no longer meet the requirements of a major regional — and increasingly global — player.
What undercuts Geng’s reassurances is the fact that this development is showing signs that it is going well beyond a purely defensive posture. News that the People’s Liberation Army has embarked on a program to build at least three aircraft carriers over the next seven years — a hugely expensive endeavor, especially as China has no experience building such platforms — raises the specter of a navy that intends to exert its influence well beyond China’s shores. To this we add a growing fleet of modern destroyers, nuclear submarines and an arsenal of conventional and ballistic missiles of various ranges.
Again, critics of the Pentagon report could resort to moral equivalence by pointing out that other countries, such as the US and Russia, have similar — in fact, far greater — military capabilities, and that China is entitled to have those as well.
However, the problem with that line of argument derives from how one defines China’s “defensive policy.” While it is normal for countries to feel jittery whenever a new regional hegemon arises, such apprehensions can usually be assuaged through political signaling and self-restraint on the part of the mightier party.
For the good part of the first decade of the 21st century, China did remarkably well in that regard, behavior that in part was the result of knowledge on Beijing’s part that it had yet to develop a military capable of taking on regional competitors.
This has since changed, especially in terms of naval capabilities, and countries like Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam are now aware that should it decide to do so, China could fight a war with them and expect to win. Consequently, long-simmering disputes over contested islets in the South China Sea and exclusive economic zones, which in the past could not escalate beyond the occasional skirmish, could now be resolved once and for all through military means.
And as a rising power that has observed how other great powers have behaved in the past, China could very well reach the conclusion that it, too, is entitled to use force to achieve desired political outcomes. After all, the US in 2003 launched a “defensive”— or “pre-emptive” — war against Iraq, while Russia did much the same in its war on “terrorism” in Chechnya, or “separatism” in Georgia.
When China’s regional claims encompass pretty much the entire South China Sea, countries with interests in the area can be forgiven for having doubts about what Beijing means when it says “purely defensive.”
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
During a news conference in Vietnam on Sept. 10, a reporter asked US President Joe Biden about the possibility of China invading Taiwan. Biden replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is too busy handling major domestic economic problems to launch an invasion of Taiwan. On Wednesday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a document outlining 21 measures to make the Chinese-controlled Fujian Province into a demonstration zone for relations with Taiwan. The planned measures would expand favorable treatment for Taiwanese people and companies, and seek to attract people from Taiwan to buy property and seek employment in Fujian.
More than 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels and aircraft were detected making incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of National Defense reported on Monday. The ministry responded to the incursions by calling on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” saying that Beijing’s actions could “easily lead to a sharp escalation in tensions and worsen regional security.” Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the unusually high number of incursions over such a short time was likely Beijing’s response to efforts