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China’s Quest for a Superpower Military

China’s Quest for a Superpower Military

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No. 2036May 17, 2007
This paper, in its entirety, can be found at:
Produced by the Asian Studies CenterPublished by The Heritage Foundation214 Massachusetts Avenue, NEWashington, DC 20002–4999(202) 546-4400 • heritage.orgNothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflectingthe views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attempt toaid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.
China’s Quest for a Superpower Military
 John J. Tkacik, Jr.
The People’s Republic of China announced onMarch 4, 2007, that it would increase its militarybudget by 17.8 percent in 2007 to a total of $45 bil-lion—by far the largest acknowledged amount thatChina has ever spent on its military. However, CIAcalculations suggest that China really devotes 4.3percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to itsmilitary, including off-budget sectors such as for-eign arms purchases, subsidies to military indus-tries, China’s space program, the 660,000-manPeople’s Armed Police, provincial militias, andreserve forces. Adjusting China’s 2006 GDP of $2.5trillion for purchasing power parity yields a GDP of about $10 trillion, which pegs military spending at$430 billion.In other words, the size of Beijing’s military bud-get puts China in the top stratum of global militarypowers with the United States. Despite the Beijingleadership’s espousal of China’s “peaceful rise,” thisunprecedented peacetime expansion of China’s mil-itary capabilities can no longer be viewed as thoughsome benign force animates it.
Military Buildup.
The pace and scope of China’smilitary expansion are startling.
Nuclear Forces.
In the past decade, China’snuclear forces have brought the reliability, surviv-ability, response times, and accuracy of their ballis-tic missiles to state-of-the-art standards. China hasabout 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)targeted at the United States. China’s missile subma-rines are already loaded with solid-fuel Julang-1s,and each new Type-094 nuclear submarine after2010 will deploy with 12 ballistic missiles that havea range of 8,000 km.
 Anti-Satellite Weapons.
On January 12, 2007, theChinese successfully intercepted and destroyed atarget satellite. China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) technol-ogy is now state of the art. Unsurprisingly, Beijingrebuffs verification issues while purporting to seekan international pact to “prevent an arms race inouter space.” More than any other Chinese militaryprogram, the ASAT program reflects not just a capa-bility, but also, given the lack of feasible alternativetargets, an intention to strike U.S. space assets intime of war.
Naval Forces.
China has made naval moderniza-tion its top arms priority. Since 1995, China hasbuilt a modern fleet of 29 advanced diesel-electricsubmarines, and 10 more are being built. China’ssurface fleet is also growing rapidly and is develop-ing a capability to project force throughout the Asia–Pacific. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA)Navy is refitting a Ukrainian aircraft carrier andlaunched 19 new heavy transport ships and 10amphibious landing ships between 2003 and 2005.
No. 2036May 17, 2007
 Air Forces.
The PLA Air Force now boasts about400 new Russian-designed fighter aircraft and 60new Jian-10 fighters with expected production of atleast another 190 Jian-10s—more than a match forTaiwan’s fighters in the Taiwan Strait.
Ground Forces.
China’s army is still the world’slargest with 1.64 million men and is modernizingapace. The PLA’s Type 98 main battle tank arguablyoutclasses the weapons on the U.S. M-1A2 Abramstank, and Chinese arms makers now display animpressive array of new armored vehicles, mobileheavy artillery, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters, andnew small arms.
Cyberwarfare Forces.
New PLA doctrine seescomputer network operations as a force multiplierin any confrontation with the United States or otherpotential adversaries, such as Taiwan, Japan, SouthKorea, and even the United Kingdom. PLA cyber-war units apparently are the only PLA troops thatregularly attack enemy targets, making at least fourmajor attacks on U.S. government computer sys-tems in 2006 alone.
Geostrategic Implications.
China’s militaryexpansion is extravagantly in excess of anythingrequired by a responsible stakeholder in the existinginternational system and is even beyond thatneeded to “liberate” Taiwan. China shares land bor-ders with 14 nations, none of which is a threat to it,yet China still has contentious territorial claimsagainst India and Japan and in the South China Sea.China’s gathering geopolitical punch portends a21st century that may well become the Chinese cen-tury in Asia—a new century of China’s support forilliberal forces that will buttress the legitimacy of Beijing’s regime at home.
What the Administration and CongressShould Do.
Asia does not believe that Washing-ton—preoccupied with Iraq—is concerned aboutChina’s spreading influence, much less that it has astrategic vision for the Pacific Rim. Managing theemerging security challenge requires a new U.S.partnership with democratic Asia and a new atti-tude in Washington. The U.S. should:
List China as the top U.S. foreign policy chal-lenge.
The entire bureaucracy must prepare toimplement a coherent China policy to addressdefense, global, and regional issues, using coun-terintelligence and export control strategies asneeded.
Commit resources to preserving the U.S. posi-tion as the world’s preeminent military power.
 America cannot bluff its way out of this challenge. America’s most urgent needs are increasing itssubmarine fleet, enhancing its anti-submarinewarfare capabilities, and ensuring the survivabil-ity of its space platforms (e.g., satellites).
Reinforce eroding alliances,
eschew inclina-tions to take China’s rhetorical side against Japan or against Taiwan, reinvigorate ties inSoutheast Asia, build on new ties with India,and reengage the Atlantic Community in dia-logue on shared global interests and values of human dignity and freedom.
The Asian perception that theUnited States is a declining Pacific power may ormay not prove prescient, but China is clearly emerg-ing as the preeminent power in the Asia–Pacific.Faced with this reality, an engaged America canstrengthen the current robust trans-Pacific align-ment, knitting together the democracies of the Americas and the Western Pacific Rim, or a disen-gaged America can allow a Sino-centric continentalaxis to crystallize as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Taiwan, Korea, and eventually Japan, Australia, and South and Central Asia band-wagon with China.The choices made in Washington on how tomanage the emerging Chinese superpower willdetermine not only the direction of Asian democ-racy, but also the prospects for global political andeconomic freedoms in the 21st century.
 —John J. Tkacik, Jr., is Senior Research Fellow inChina, Taiwan, and Mongolia Policy in the Asian Stud-ies Center at The Heritage Foundation.
This paper, in its entirety, can be found at:
Produced by the Asian Studies CenterPublished by The Heritage Foundation214 Massachusetts Avenue, NEWashington, DC 20002–4999(202) 546-4400 • heritage.orgNothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflect-ing the views of The Heritage Foundation or as an attemptto aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress.
China is spending 4.3 percent of its GDP($430 billion per year) on its military, placingit in the top stratum of global military pow-ers. The People’s Liberation Army now fundsvast modern weapons systems in outerspace and cyberspace, as well as in the tra-ditional battle spaces of land, sea, and air.
China is building a military capable of pro- jecting power and influence throughoutAsia and the Western Pacific, not just againstTaiwan.
Current trends indicate that the 21st centurywill be a Chinese century in which Beijingbecomes the economic, trade, political secu-rity, and human rights rule-maker in Asia asthe United States recedes from the region.
Washington needs to make fundamentalchanges in its Asia policy and engage alliesand friendly countries in the region to meetthe China challenge.
Talking Points
No. 2036May 17, 2007
China’s Quest for a Superpower Military
 John J. Tkacik, Jr.
The National People’s Congress of the People’sRepublic of China (PRC) announced on March 4,2007, that it would increase the country’s militarybudget by 17.8 percent in 2007 to a total of $45 bil-lion—by far the largest acknowledged amount thatChina has ever spent on its military.
The Chinesegovernment went out of its way to reassure the worldthat this spending hike was normal and need notworry anyone. “China is committed to taking a path of peaceful development and it pursues a defensive mil-itary posture,” a spokesman said.
 As the Chinese aphorism goes, “listen to what theysay, but observe what they do,” and what Beijing issaying is quite different from what it is doing.The resources that Beijing devotes to its armedforces put China in the top stratum of global militarypowers. With China’s 2006 gross domestic product(GDP) in excess of $2.5 trillion (about $10 trillion inpurchasing power parity terms) and its militaryspending estimated by the Central Intelligence Agency at 4.3 percent of GDP,
China’s military spend-ing is more accurately pegged at about $430 billionthan at $45 billion. While China’s declared military budget primarilyincludes personnel costs (and a 17.8 percent militarypay hike is reasonable), the declared budget is only asmall part of overall Chinese military spending. Theexact methodology that U.S. intelligence agencies useto estimate the military’s share of China’s GDP is clas-sified, but it reportedly accounts foreign arms pur-

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