Earlier this week, I commented on a New York Times editorial urging the United States to prepare a military strategy to contain or confront China. In today's edition, in a piece written as Secretary of Defense Gates arrives in Beijing, the Times once again hypes the alleged threat from the Chinese military.
Even the Times, however, is too ashamed not to admit, in its piece today: "By most accounts, China remains a generation or more behind the United States in military technology, and even further behind in deploying battle-tested versions of its most sophisticated naval and air capabilities."
But with the new House Republicans pledging to cut $100 billion from the budget while exempting defense, "homeland security," and veterans benefits, and with Gates pledging to make cuts in weapons systems and other Pentagon spending but still maintain overall military spending on an upward curve, the threat from China is a useful bugaboo to scare Americans into giving the Department of Defense more, more, more.
The Times article cites "new reports," presumably its own, suggesting that China "could launch several [aircraft] carriers by 2020." And it says that "a widely anticipated antiship ballistic missile, called a ‘carrier-killer' for its potential to strike the big carriers at the heart of the American naval presence in the Pacific, appears to be approaching deployment." And it quotes a former aide to Gates to the effect that "China's recent strong-arm reaction to territorial disputes with Japan and Southeast Asian neighbors had given both the Pentagon and China's neighbors cause for concern."
But the same article quotes Vice Admiral David J. Dorsett thus:
"Have you seen them deploy large groups of naval forces? No. Have we seen large, joint, sophisticated exercises? No. Do they have any combat proficiency? No."
The fact is, although China is becoming a dominant economic force worldwide, it has invested only a fraction of what the United States spends to achieve global military dominance. What the Chinese see is a huge American military presence to its west, in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, a vast American Navy surrounding its coasts, a network of American military bases throughout the East Pacific, US military alliances with Australia, Japan, South Korea, and other regional powers, and, of course, a die-hard US commitment to defend the breakaway island "nation" of Taiwan. Above all, it is Taiwan that sticks in China's craw, the President Obama's decision to sell an additional $6 billion in arms to Taiwan last year needlessly inflamed US-China relations.
As China expands its political and economic power, there's no question that it will develop a strong military. If the United States chooses to accommodate China's rise, pulls back from its unnecessary military presence in Asia and elsewhere, and winds down the Afghanistan war, there's no reason why China would shift from a defensive to an aggressive stance militarily. Would you, if you could let your manufacturing industry speak for itself?