China’s Military Complex

Let the arms race begin

China’s military might is nothing to scoff at. Estimates put its annual military budget at around 160 billion dollars. While their expenditures are less than a quarter of what the United States spends every year, their military development continues to grow, and if recent trends continue could reach US expenditures by 2050.

With nearly 3.2 million on active duty, China has the largest reserve of soldiers in the world. In spite of arms embargoes against China following the Tiananmen Massacre, China has managed to purchase huge stockpiles of high-tech weapons from Russia over the years. Of greater concern to the US is its strategic moves to ward off potential American intervention in the Taiwanese strait, the only thing separating Mainland China from the island of Taiwan.

While Taiwan was historically a part of China, it has retained its sovereignty since the Republic of China fled there in 1949. Chinese leaders have vowed military action should Taiwan declare formal independence from China, reiterated in the Taiwan Anti-Secession Law passed in 2005.

Taiwan is not the only country that Mainland China has in its crosshairs. Territorial disputes with Japan persist to this day. After centuries of abuse at the hands of Japan, China is eager to exact vengeance with its dominant military. The People’s Liberation Army alludes to this sentiment, saying, “active defence is the essential feature of China’s military strategy…if an enemy offends our national interests it means that the enemy has already fired the first shot [and we must do all we can] to dominate the enemy by striking first.”

While the United States has remained ambiguous about how it would respond to an attack on Japan or China, it is clear given its past intervention in the region that it would intercede in both situations. Clearly the US would have the absolute advantage with both unparalleled military technology, experience, and support from most OECD and Asian nations. That being said it is difficult to quantify the strategic advantages that China has due to its home-field advantage and recent technological buildup.

Many question the likelihood of China initiating a war citing the inevitable economic malaise and world-wide disapproval that would accompany such a move. While this is a very valid point, as China’s economy faces the inevitability of stagnation in the decades to come and its citizenry begin to demand political reforms and democratization, it is within the realm of possibility that the Communist Party would pursue an international conflict to drum up nationalist sentiment and shift attention away from political failures. One can only hope that the seven men who control China’s political, economic, and military sectors have the common sense to spare themselves and the world from irreparable destruction.

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3 Responses to China’s Military Complex

  1. Dashwood says:

    Interesting article. I remain skeptical about the world’s second largest economy sparking a world-wide conflict. While it continues to agitate over its maritime borders, China seems unlikely to launch a full scale invasion of Japan (ala economy #3). So much of these military antics seems to be phallo-centric brinksmanship. Who has the biggest army. The biggest nuke. Perhaps that mindset should have been left behind in the Cold War. North Korea’s army is huge, but with no economic heft the global community doesn’t really take it seriously.

    In any case, your theory about the Communist Party drumming up a red herring international conflict to maintain domestic power is a fun one. Though I certainly hope it doesn’t come true, it strikes me as the kind of plot that you’ll soon see coming to an airport bookstore near you.

  2. A timely post as China’s military budget shows no signs of relenting. There’s a great deal of talk of the “China Dream” under Xi Jinping – this is the sound-bite coming from China today. Over the next decade, it will be interesting to see if this “China Dream” is a militarized dream. While I hope China will continue to tow the Hu Jintao-era “peaceful rise in a harmonious world” policy, already we are seeing the PLA “going out.” In neighboring Burma, China sold gunship helicopters to the United Wa State Army – an armed ethnic group which has been in an on-off conflict with the Burmese military (Tatmandaw). This move by China has disturbed Burma as it is viewed as an antagonistic measure and a breach of sovereignty. Perhaps in neighboring states we’ll be seeing more of this militarized cross-pollination.
    —Hapless Blogger

  3. aaronmbr says:

    I agree with your position that China’s growing military expenditures is and will be a major issue for the United States as well as nations that are in close proximity. Also territorial issues between Taiwan and Japan, are extremely sensitive issues and solutions to these problems should not be handled haphazardly. However, with regards to China attempting to aggressively take over territory, I do no believe that any rational leader would choose to take this route. Looking at back over the past 20-30 years, the world has seen: Iraq aggress on Kuwait, America plunge into multiple wars over reasons that were extremely circumstantial, and the demise of dictators due to globalization and the interconnectedness of today’s world. I believe that the consequence of China using force to resolve their territorial disputes would be far worse than beneficial.
    For one, China would be condemned and targeted by the international community, which would most likely result in trade embargos at the minimum to full military intervention. Also the effects of such an action could have implications regionally as well as internationally. With regards to Japan, an aggressive act by China or Taiwan or Japan could be the necessary push needed to arm Japan with nuclear capabilities that would change the current balance of power situation in East Asia. I think that China’s military threats are bluff attempts by the Chinese government to convince the international community that China possesses more hard power than they actually do. On China’s Military Complex.
    -Think Free Break the Chains

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