After months of unprecedented military activity in the South China Sea, the Pentagon has admitted that China has overtaken the US in the development of some advanced weapon systems – and that it is on the verge of becoming the world leader in a variety of military technologies.
This was revealed in China’s Military Power, modernising a force to fight and win – a 140-page report from the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) published on Tuesday.
The unclassified report notes that the People’s Liberation Army “is still far from being able to deploy large numbers of conventional forces globally, but China has developed nuclear, space, cyberspace and other capabilities that can reach potential adversaries across the globe”.
Most pressing is China’s growing confidence that it has the military means to take back Taiwan.
A month ago, Chinese naval commanders were taunting the Americans, boasting how afraid they would be when the Chinese sank their aircraft carriers – pointing out how 10,000 lives would be lost. It was the language of people spoiling for a fight.
For its part, Taiwan – the breakaway Republic of China – has recently called upon the world to help defend its democratic independence. This week it began a series of military exercises.
The DIA report makes clear that bringing Taiwan back into the fold has been the key motivation for China’s military expansion and ongoing push for supremacy.
“Beijing’s long-standing interest to eventually compel Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China’s military modernisation,” said the DIA report.
In his introduction to the report, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, wrote that China had used fair means and foul to acquire the advanced technology, thwarting all attempts to limit its access to weaponry in the face of international opposition.
“As international concern over Beijing’s human rights policies stymied the (People Liberation Army’s) search for ever-more sophisticated technologies, China shifted funds and efforts to acquiring technology by any means available.
“Domestic laws forced foreign partners of Chinese-based joint ventures to release their technology in exchange for entry into China’s lucrative market, and China has used other means to secure needed technology and expertise.”
As a result, Lieutenant General Ashley observed, the PLA is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world”.
Building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains,Lieutenant General Ashley said that China is able to impose its will in the region.
“As it continues to grow in strength and confidence, our nation’s leaders will face a China insistent on having a greater voice in global interactions, which at times may be antithetical to US interests,” he said.
The report comes two weeks after one of China’s war ships was photographed in fog, sporting an electromagnetic railgun on its deck – a weapon that fires projectile at five times or more the speed of sound.
The photo was taken in light fog and could have been a ruse to scare the hell out of the Americans. If operational, it could reportedly tear a hole in an aircraft carrier 150 kilometres away.
The day after the picture was posted on social media and picked up by news outlets, President Xi Jinping ordered the PLA to prepare for an emergency, and “strengthen their sense of unexpected hardship, crisis and battle”.
This week, the US and the UK finished six days of exercises in the South China Sea – and Britain talked about establishing a military base in Asia.
Meanwhile, with Japan increasingly anxious about China’s increasing might, the US for the first time is about to engage in missile testing at Okinawa.
Everybody’s flexing their muscles, dancing around the ring and waiting for the bell to go off.