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The China Conundrum

Updated on January 20, 2012

Friend or foe? Friend for now, foe later? Friend until further notice? The facade of a friend but deep inside, a foe?

From the outside, it appears the China is turning pro-western with all of its modern buildings, the buying of US debt, investing in many foreign industrial regions for resources, buying western franchises, allowing so much western influence, like Apple, to be worshiped. The rising middle class created by many western companies seeking cheap labor that would otherwise still be farmers and so on. Yet, every so often, the Chinese government, flexes it ideals and makes sure its people and the world knows they are not a democracy but a communist regime who likes and permits capitalism because it benefits them. A perfect example is Hong Kong. For 100 years it was British colony, and when the keys were turned over to China, China made is a special economic zone that is far different than other provinces of China because they would rather "milk the cow" than force it into something that will cause failure of the 'goose that lays a golden egg".

Yet, China seems to have two heads: the political leadership that governs the population and the military. It is the latter that the West may have to reckon with in the coming years. As Many Western countries cut military spending, China is spending and creating way to counter the US dominance in the Pacific. At some point when key resources important to China (oil, for one) are needed yet unobtainable, one can see its military threatening it. Oil is so important to China that much of it comes from Iran and now the Chinese have even built an oil rig in Cuban waters to drill.

One new threat recently discovered is their new DF-21D anti-ship missile, which defeats the US ship defenses by avoiding them. Instead of coming in from a low angle under the radar, it flies in a very high arch and when over the target turns in a 90 degree vertical dive on the ship. While US ships could defend from 1 or 2 of them, China, like Iran, could overwhelm the ship defenses with 5 or 6 or more. It only takes one to cripple a USN Carrier or smaller ship. Let's hope Iran has not bought any of these. The missile has a range of 1700 miles, so this would in effect keep enemy ships away from China. China has been also developing electronic warfare to knock out communications and satellites, key for most military ops. In 2007, China demonstrated it could shoot down satellites. In 2006, the Chinese demonstrated their stealth submarines by surfacing in the middle of a US task force which had NOT detected them at all. Scary.

In 2002, China had only 8 subs with anti-ship missiles. They now have 29. At this rate, in another 8-9 years, they will have 50 or so. They have started production of its J-20 Stealth fighter. China is also building smaller aircraft carriers. The real question is why?

A nation that is so big, so intertwined with the world economy, why would they need this much military when economically, they could also wreck havoc since they own much of the US debt. China leaders have said that China has interests outside of its borders with Taiwan, the obvious one, but also the East China Sea which Japan also claims. Both want it for its oil and gas, there is the South China Sea off Vietnam, for the identical reasons. So far, the disputes have been friendly as to who owns what, there is the Strait of Malacca off Malaysia, which is vital shipping lane that is very narrow. The Chinese military would like to push back the US Navy dominance back to Guam and Hawaii. It is currently in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Philippines. This would enable its navy to move about freely in the western pacific and Indian ocean during a conflict.

You may not be worried as long as you get consumer products made in china, but the US Navy is about China's growing military capability.


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    • tuteramanda profile image

      tuteramanda 4 years ago from beijing china

      Friend for now, betterfriend later

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago

      I think that if the US navy is concerned about the Chinese capabilities, whether the DF missile works well or partially, is a real concern. The fact that their subs surfaced undetected near US warships is more of concern. Many of iran's weapons come from China, who knows if any of this technology has been bought by iran.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Very interesting article Perrya. I would just like to point out that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea (we call our disputed area West Philippine Sea) area is not that friendly. It may not be hostile at the moment, but it is tense at times. Back in the late 80s, the Chinese and Vietnamese navies clashed in their disputed area. The fact that there may be oil or gas in those disputed areas ensures that it will continue to remain a potential flashpoint.

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      A couple comments:

      1) In all likelihood, DF-21 is a paper tiger. Soviet Union had spent bazillion rubles researching ballistic anti-ship missiles and they got nowhere. The decided they that supersonic anti-ship missiles, when launched in big enough salvos, works quite well. No need to go all exotic.

      2) Furthermore, consider how DF-21 works: it needs to go into space and re-enter atmosphere. Remember, a spacecraft is BLIND during en-entry phase, and you can see a launch coming thousands of miles away. it can't start adjusting course until it has slowed to a speed that it can start maneuvering, and because it's slower it can be intercepted. It's MAIN advantage was speed, and it can't manuever with that short of speed. Its ONLY use would be to deliver a nuke into the vicinity of the US fleet and hope the nuke can damage the carrier, and China is not ready to go nuke on the US fleets.

      I wrote a explanation on how this work and how it *may* work against the US fleet. It's overblown, IMHO.

      3) China considers itself center of the world. Remember, "China" written in Chinese, zhon-guo means "Center Nation". It had been, and there's a lot of "national pride" involved. It's sort of its own manifest destiny, to try to control all of Asia, or at least influence it to a large extent.

      4) China needs a military, ostensibly to control its borders and do power projection, but it's also a contingency force if (or when, depending on who you ask) the government may go down, when the economic stresses tear the society apart.

      5) You think the gap between the poor and the rich is big in the US? China had is MUCH MUCH WORSE. People in rural villages live on a few dollars a day, while the richest people in cities drive Ferraris and other exotic cars and put their video on Youtube. Heck, there's the "My father is Li Gang" story a while back (look it up). Cronism and nepotism is rampant, and corruption is endemic. China's main income is through its cheap labor. When they raise their living standards enough, they will no longer be cheap, then what will China do?

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago

      A wolf in sheep clothing........

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 6 years ago from Singapore

      China also befriended India with its rhetoric of Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai( Indian Chinese brothers). They followed up by attacking India in 1962. China cannot be trusted as the Indian's realized and all I can say to the US is 'Beware of China'