Four Points On China’s Military Build-Up

This Bystander takes four highlights away from the latest edition of The Military Balance, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS), annual global defense spending  review (summary here).

  • ‘The global redistribution of military power now underway’ as a result of contracting defense budgets in developed nations and expanding ones in developing nations, means that Western arms manufacturers are facing strong and growing competition from non-Western defense industries, such as China’s, in markets for basic military equipment.
  • The attention to the build-up of Beijing’s aircraft-carrier and submarine fleets is misplaced. The IISS reckons that the PLA-Navy’s “new landing platform docks and its deployment of more effective anti-ship missiles hold greater strategic significance”. Similarly with the attention being paid to the PLA Air Force’s J-20 ‘stealth’ fighter. That may be an indication that China “is gradually closing the gap between itself and the West”, but it is the addition of Sukhoi Su30 multirole fighters, in-flight refueling tankers and AWACS aircraft that is “significantly strengthening China’s air capability”.
  • Beijing’s unremitting modernization of its military forces, which includes the development of anti-satellite and cyber-war capabilities, means that “that the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait is gradually changing in favor of the PLA.”
  • China’s increasingly assertive naval presence in the East and South China Seas has prompted a build-up of the defense capabilities of Japan and its Southeast Asian neighbors, while anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean and  funding of port construction in Pakistan and Sri Lanka have provided a justification for India’s own naval expansion plans.
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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Four Points On China’s Military Build-Up

  1. David Wolf

    Equally compelling is that the PLA is gaining a level of operational experience – particularly with expeditionary deployments – that it has lacked. We cannot ignore the important role the Gulf of Aden and Libya deployments are going to have on the evolution of PLA doctrine, something which is of at least equal if not greater importance than the platforms themselves.

  2. We think the PLA-N’s focus remains regional, but there is no doubt that it is also making cautious foray’s farther afield as you note. We wrote about this last month, China’s Navy, Unusually, Sails Forth Both the anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and the Libya evacuation are primarily to protect Chinese interests. As China’s global trade and investment reach extends so will needs be the capacity of the PLA to defend them. — CB

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