No doubt most people probably know China has the largest military in the world with over two million soldiers, and that they have occasionally hinted at using it against U.S. allies such as Taiwan and Japan.
Now this has never seriously concerned me before. Even though they have such a huge military, it’s by far technologically inferior to ours (for instance, their air force lacks modern fighter jets able to compete with ours, with the exception of a few bought from Russia). In an unlikely event armed conflict was ever to break out between us and the Chinese, I have no doubt our vastly superior technology would dominate the battlefield.
Some recent events, however, have caused me to reevaluate the situation.
One event occurred in October when, according to a Washington Times report, an undetected Chinese submarine surfaced within firing range of an American aircraft carrier. Of course no shots were exchanged, but it made a disturbing demonstration of the vulnerabilities of our carrier fleet, which are key to U.S. battle strategy.
In recent years, China has invested a great deal in a submarine force that has the capability to sink US aircraft carriers. The Washington Times article reported China has built 14 new submarines between 2002 and last year, and that these subs have been made even more deadly because they’ve been equipped with long-range anti-ship missiles bought from Russia.
Besides creating forces to counter our aircraft carriers, the Chinese are now also able to threaten another key U.S. military asset: Satellites.
The Economist reported another incident that occurred last month where, for test purposes, China shot down one of their own weather satellites using a ground-launched ballistic missile.
And even though the Chinese shot down their own satellite, this has some serious implications for the U.S. military. This test demonstrated the Chinese ability to threaten our considerable military assets orbiting in space. Without our spy, communication, and global positioning satellites, our ability to make war would be seriously hampered.
Now I’m not sure what China’s motives are. It is possible they believe the United States poses a serious threat and they are just equipping themselves for defense. But in a worst-case scenario, they could be plotting to invade Taiwan, or even Japan, and preparing themselves for U.S. retaliation. At any rate, these two recent events show that China is making gains at evening the odds technologically in order to prepare for a conflict against the United States or its allies.
I don’t, however, think that this conflict will come any time soon, if at all. Our economies are intertwined to the point of where it would be entirely disadvantageous for either nation to go to war with the other (not to mention the loss of life that would accompany such a war). Instead, what we need to be the most concerned about is the possibility of an arms race and a new cold war. Hopefully, diplomacy and China’s entry into the global market will prevent this from happening.
Andy Nicewicz is a senior political science major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.