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Beware China's Air Power, Pentagon Report Warns

The modernization of China’s air force is “unprecedented in its history,” the Pentagon warned in a report released yesterday. The PLAAF is “rapidly closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities including aircraft, command and control (C2), jammers, electronic warfare (EW), and data links.”

“[W]ithin a few years,” the Financial Times reports, “the air force would use largely fourth-generation fighter aircraft. The report also claims that China is trying to buy Su-35 aircraft from Russia which has a sophisticated radar system and which would allow it to undertake longer patrols in the East China and South China Seas.” Reports indicate that the Chinese have at least one functioning surveillance drone over the disputed areas of the East China Sea, and its recent naval exercises have been the “largest…to date.”

The report also alleged that China’s real military spending is disguised. The Chinese report a budget of $119.5 billion, but the actual figure is 20 percent higher, the Pentagon said—$145 billion. Keep in mind that the Obama Administration is reducing the American military’s budget at the same time.

The Pentagon’s report comes just days after U.S. and Chinese defense officials sparred at a diplomatic meeting in Singapore. “[A] top Chinese official warned that U.S. actions in Asia were threatening to transform China into an adversary,” the WSJ reports. “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China of taking “destabilizing, unilateral actions” against its neighbors in the region.”

The Pentagon’s report is another indication of the changing focus of the Chinese military from Taiwan, its historical rival, to maritime territory and resources and to Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. And, of course, to the United States. Chinese military officials have long been obsessed by the “first island chain” that essentially hems China’s military in; American ships and aircraft, along with Japanese and Taiwanese forces, can effectively patrol and restrict China and cut off its access to imported resources if necessary. Much of China’s military buildup has been focused on creating the capability to escape the first island chain: new ships, new and farther-reaching aircraft, a more muscular coast guard, and even civilian resource exploration are all tied into this effort.

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  • Anthony

    Remember all that rhetoric about how the mass outsourcing of jobs to China was supposed to make the world more peaceful. The west has made China rich by buying virtually everything we use from a Chinese company, and they, in turn, are using that money to build a first class military to intimidate the other Asian countries and eventually drive the USA out of the region. Nice jobs Wall Street!

    Why didn’t we outsource to South America instead of China?

    • John Stephens

      Ask the people who invested in places like Venezuela and Argentina how well that worked out for them. The Chinese pay their bills.

    • Andrew Allison

      I don’t remember any rhetoric about out-sourcing making the world more peaceful. What I do remember is complaints about job losses, and how the money going to China was being used to finance US government deficit spending. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including the demand by US consumers for ever cheaper goods. FWIW, as noted by TAI recently, China is pricing itself out of the low-cost manufacturing business, which is flowing to SE Asia and Mexico.

  • rheddles

    Must be budget cuts in the air.

    • Andrew Allison

      Exactly! The Pentagon is not a trustworthy source of information on the need for more defense spending.

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