UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) May 24, 2007
How much of a threat is China's growing military to the security of the United States? China's investment in its military, from conventional weapons to cybersystems, along with its lack of openness regarding its intent, raises the possibility of a miscalculation that could spark a conflict with the United States, according to U.S. security policy experts.
So too could the perennial increases in its military spending. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China's official defense budget for 2000 was approximately $14.6 billion. It was increased the following year by 17.7 percent.
In 2001 China acknowledged its defense budget to be more than $17 billion, a figure higher than the defense budgets of India, Taiwan and South Korea combined. In 2002 China again increased military spending by 17.6 percent, or $3 billion, bringing the reported total to $20 billion.
The following year China once more increased military spending to $22 billion. Again, that figure grew by another 11.6 percent in 2004 to $2.6 billion. And in 2005 China raised its military budget another 12.6 percent, to $29.9 billion.
For the current year China's military expenditure is expected to hover around $44.94 billion. That's a jump of some $30 billion in just seven years.
In terms of manpower, China has 2.25 million troops, 800,000 reserves and nearly 4 million paramilitary forces, a total of more than 7 million. Compare that to the United States, which has 1.4 million active military personnel, 858,500 reserves and 53,000 paramilitary, a total of 2.3 million personnel.
But despite having the world's largest military force, China's army is smaller per capita than those of many countries, including the United States. Furthermore, some experts see the very size of the Chinese army as a hindrance to modernization. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, China cannot afford adequate pay, training or modern weapons for most of its forces. China will not be able to develop modern military forces unless it either greatly increases military spending (which seems unlikely) or drastically cuts the size of its forces.
With the number of troops presently in uniform, China can defend its territory, but its capacity for external aggression is minimal.
Yet Americans do not seem to be too preoccupied by China's military strength and expenditure, according to a new UPI-Zogby International poll. The poll, which has a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points, was carried out May 16-18 and had 5,141 U.S. residents as respondents.
Only 7.2 percent of Americans believe China represents a military threat to the United States, and even fewer -- 2.3 percent -- believe the issue of Taiwan could strain relations with China. China's occupation of Tibet ranked a meager 2 percent.
As for President George W. Bush's handling of relations with China, 40.9 percent give him "poor" marks, 23.2 percent rate him "fair," 21.1 percent "good," and 4.3 percent give him an "excellent" rating.
More than half of those polled -- 53.7 percent -- said they have a somewhat favorable opinion of the Chinese people, but only 4.8 percent have similar feelings for the Chinese government.
When asked whether China is a threat to U.S. national security, an economic threat to the United States or an economic partner and an ally, 21.7 percent of respondents said China is a threat to national security, 59.8 percent said China was more of an economic threat to the United States, and 5.7 percent believe China to be an economic partner and an ally.
Regarding China's continuing military buildup, 29.7 percent said they were "very concerned" while 2.9 percent showed "no concern at all." As far as China's threat to U.S. national security, 18.7 percent believe the communist country poses "a great threat," while a minority -- 3.7 percent -- see "no threat at all from China."
Although Taiwan barely registered as an issue of contention between the two nuclear powers, about half of the nearly 6,000 Americans polled -- 53.5 percent -- believe the United States has a responsibility to defend Taiwan, should it be attacked by China, while 36 percent disagree. About 45 percent of Americans believe China is a threat to stability in East Asia, and 63.8 percent fear China's space program.
Regarding the war on terror, only a tiny minority -- 1.8 percent -- of Americans believe China is a valid partner in the global war on terror; 18.2 percent "somewhat agree," but the majority, 63.6 percent, disagree.
earlier related report
by Pamela Hess
Washington (UPI) May 25 - A new Pentagon report claims China is building an expanded military with a force projection far beyond its home area.
"Analysis of China's weapons acquisition ... suggest(s) China is looking beyond Taiwan as it builds its force," states the Defense Department's annual report to Congress on "Military Power of the People's Republic of China."
The report came as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates prepared to attend the Shangri-La conference, an international Asian security meeting.
The report said new conventional missile units already deployed at various locations in China could be used against targets other than Taiwan.
Beijing's investment in airborne early warning systems and in-air refueling jets permitted extended operations over the South China Sea. Its investment in five different classes of submarine and a stated desire to build an aircraft carrier "reflect Beijing's desire to protect and advance its maritime interests," the study said.
Over the long term, improvements in China's command, control and reconnaissance capabilities, including space-based and over-the-horizon sensors, could enable Beijing to identify, track and target military activities far into the western Pacific Ocean, the report said.
A Pentagon official told reporters Friday that China was developing a hard-to-target, road-mobile long range intercontinental ballistic missile known as the DF-31, which it assesses as "available" although not yet integrated into China's missile force. It is also "developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses," according to the report.
Exactly what China's strategic interests beyond Taiwan were remained unclear, according to the report. As in previous years, the Pentagon report complained of China's lack of transparency as to its intentions, as well as in its published national security budget.
"We would like to have greater insight into their intentions, why they are developing this force," the U.S. defense official said.
China's aggregate national defense budget is officially about $45 billion. But the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and other U.S. government and research institutes put the number much higher, when added to China's "defense-related" expenditures, including in space, missiles and shipbuilding. The DIA expects China's 2007 defense spending to total between $85 billion and $125 billion.
One of China's possible areas of interest is securing the sea lanes that connect the country to its imported fuel and coal.
"At present, China can neither protect its foreign energy supplies nor the routes on which they travel, including the Straits of Malacca through which some 80 percent of China's (crude) oil imports transit," the report said.
"China's concern over vulnerability and other resource supply is increasing ... (and) may end up shaping how they view force planning for the future," a defense official said.
In 2006 China signed a large number of new energy contracts -- its largest annual increase -- with Saudi Arabia and several African countries, according to the report. China held an African summit in November in Beijing that was attended by 40 heads of state and delegates from 48 of the 53 African nations, according to the report.
Beijing has sold military technology to nations in order to secure access to energy reserves, and has strengthened relations with "countries that defy international norms on issues ranging from human rights, support for international terrorism and proliferation," the report said.
The report noted China seemed to be shifting from just buying modern military equipment to training its forces properly to use them -- moving from a military whose strength lies in numbers to one with real capabilities.
The report also raised the possibility that China was developing a military organized for "preemptive" strikes, including surprise attacks. It notes that Peoples Liberation Army writers describe "preemption as necessary and logical when confronting a more powerful enemy.
"According to PLA theorists, an effective defense includes destroying enemy capabilities on enemy territory before they can be employed," the report stated.
Source: United Press International
Email This ArticleRussia Seeks Review Of Landmark Arms Control Pact
Vienna (AFP) May 23, 2007
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Wednesday called for an emergency meeting to review an arms control deal aimed at establishing defence parity between the US and several European countries. His call to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that a US plan to build a missile defence system in eastern Europe could launch a new arms race.
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