Many are noticing that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its stance not just regionally but to the United States also. This is seen when “China’s generals have unveiled three major new weapons that could challenge the military supremacy of the United States and provide the firepower to underline China’s superpower status”.
The first part of this should be taken as it is, however the Chinese armed forces, collectively called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), will not be able to challenge the United States for decades to come. Even for this to happen, the US Federal Government would have to stop spending all of its $600 billion that it spends of defence now for and continue doing this for China to even catch up. This is not to diminish the increasing power of the PLA and China’s increasing willingness to show off this power.
What is undoubtedly impressive is that fact that “smoke has begun to billow from the chimneys of the Shi Lang, a hulking Soviet-era ship that China bought from Russia and has refitted to become its first aircraft carrier”. This project is four years ahead of time, but for a little prespective, the US Navy currently has eleven aircraft carriers, in addition to one under construction, with two more being planned.
It must be said however that China is catching up to the United States quickly. In addition to thier aircraft carrier that is years ahead of time, the “first stealth fighter jet has been spotted taxiing along a runway. It has yet to take off, but American plane-spotters have already begun speculating that it might be able to beat an F-22 in a dogfight”. Not only this, but a “new missile that could sink a US aircraft carrier, the first such weapon in the world. The Dong Feng (or East Wind) 21D missile is now ‘operational’, according to Admiral Robert Willard of the US Pacific Command”.
Funding meanwhile has come from “China’s economic miracle [which] has paid for the munitions, with the PLA’s official budget increasing more than fivefold from $14.6 billion in 2000 to $78.6 billion this year. Unofficially, the spending is thought to be far higher, at $150 billion, with China’s leaders keeping many of the PLA’s deals off the books in order to avoid alarming the rest of the world”.
What is all this for? The PLA’s “generals have been careful to tone down their nationalistic rhetoric in recent years, dropping the suggestion of an imminent invasion of Taiwan, the army is behaving with more swagger, at least in its own backyard”, yet at the same time “but it has dramatically increased its penetrations of Japanese airspace, resulting in Japanese fighter jets being scrambled 44 times in the past year, double the total for 2006”.
Any notion that China would be a belevolent superpower would be naive and dangerous, it is in Asia’s and ideed the world’s interests to keep the US strong. When the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, went to Washington, “After an unusually rocky year in their relations, both China and the United States hope for respite. But mutual wariness is growing, thanks not least to China’s hawkish army”.
Worringly “Despite China’s increasingly assertive military posture in the western Pacific, a region where America’s armed forces have long held sway, communication between the two sides is minimal at the best of times” this was seen when “In 2009 it proved useless when tempers flared over a standoff between Chinese boats and an American surveillance vessel in the South China Sea”. This was in stark contrast to the first diplomatic crisis of the Bush administration when a spyplane was shot down in 2001 over Chinese airspace. The incident was handled well and President Bush left office in 2009 with the US-Sino relations at an all time high. There seems to be little communication between the PLA and their political counterparts. The article notes that “During a meeting with Mr Hu, Mr Gates mentioned the test flight earlier in the day of a Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20, China’s first aircraft supposed to evade radar. Speculation about progress on the highly secretive project has intensified with the appearance online of photographs of a J-20 at an airfield. The flight on January 11th, video of which appeared on unofficial websites, was the first ever reported. But Mr Hu and other officials in the room appeared to be unaware of it, a Pentagon official claims”.
However despite the obvious military and political problems the US is having with China, there are other internal problems, the geopolitical elements have been mentioned here before. Not only that but, “More than 50 per cent of the mainland’s wealthiest, who each have assets of more than 10 million yuan (€1.15 million), spend between one million yuan (€115,000) and three million yuan (€230,000) every year, and own more than three cars”. In addition to this, and perhaps most dangerously for the internal stability of the regime, “The average age of the respondents with at least 100 million yuan was 39; that of those with at least one billion yuan was 43. Both averages were a year younger than last year”. This means that those that have benefited will remain happy as long as the economy keeps growing, yet it also means that when things go wrong, they will have far less patience with the authorities when they do.
The article reports that “China’s real-estate boom stems from a powerful cocktail of factors. With inflation running at about 5 per cent, there is no point keeping your money in the bank because the deposit rate is only about 2.5 per cent. So people look for other investment vehicles. With the stock market looking pricey, the classic investment is property”. This will ring true with what happened in the US, UK, Ireland and a host of other nations over the world.
Standby for the pop.