This is interesting. The PLA’s top officer, Gen. Chen Bingde, announced during his recent visit to Washington that China’s is no where close to matching the United States’ in terms of military capability. Yes, we’re fretting over China’s rise as an economic power, but according to the general, his nation has a long way to go before it catches the U.S. militarily.
From Fox News:
“Through my visit over the past couple of days in the United States, I am surprised by the sophistication of the U.S. military, including its weapons and equipment and doctrines and so on,” People’s Liberation Army leader General Chen Bingde said. “I can tell you that China does not have the capability to challenge the United States. As a matter of fact, the reconnaissance activities along China’s coast by U.S. military aircraft and vessels are seen in China as deterrents.”
For emphasis, the general added, “What I’m trying to say is that we do not have the capability to challenge the United States.”
He even went so far as to try to answer the question that’s long been on U.S. defense officials minds: What do Chinese officials mean when they says they want to ‘defend what is theirs’ with their new military might?
“As it is known to all, the United States is a super-power in the world today; how can China easily have the ability to challenge it? That is simply not part of Chinese culture and we do not have that capability. We would strive for world peace, civility and development and well being of the whole humankind…The United States has far more advanced weapons and equipment.”
Chen took some exception to the accusation, insisting the routine test flight was not targeted at Gates’ visit, and questioned why similar issues were frequently raised to China but not the United States.
The general insisted, “After 30 years of reform and opening up, China’s economy has made tremendous progress and we are now the world’s second-largest economy…Our efforts to grow our economy is to ensure that the 1.3 billion people are better off. We do not want to use the money to buy equipment or advanced weapons systems to challenge the United States.”
From the general’s answer, it sounds like China has no intention of getting into Cold War II with the United States. Arms races can be notoriously expensive and distracting from the buildup of other sectors needed to support a healthy economy; something China is strongly focused on. For now, it seems like China wants to be the big military power in the region while focusing more on the long-term growth of its economy. This reminds me of how the U.S. overtook Britain as the world’s most powerful economy decades before it overtook the empire in terms of military and global political might. However, once China overtakes the U.S. as the world’s largest economy (predicted to happen sometime in the next 20 years if current trends hold) who knows what kind of military investments it will make?