As China becomes more overtly expansionist and is interfering with other nations on several levels, the threat to the world has grown almost exponentially over the last decade.
This is the first in a series looking at the aggressive policies of China, how they are affecting the world and what can be done to contain the threat that has become China and the oppressive ruling Communist Party. Today’s review looks at the most overt indicator of China’s growing strength and growing threat, that being the Chinese military and its use.
Recent years have seen explosive growth of the Chinese military, especially its navy and long range missile systems. These areas of particular growth are indicative that China intends to project its power beyond the need to defend its immediate borders. China also built its first aircraft carrier and is working on its second, so that it can project power far beyond the western Pacific. China now has the largest navy in the world, larger even than the United States who has two oceans for borders.
The rapid buildup of China’s military is of concern because it clearly intends to use it, and has not waited to do so. Even if we set aside China’s abuse of rights in Hong Kong, ignoring its treaty which guaranteed rights to the island’s citizens, China has begun to overtly try to intimidate its neighbors.
In April, China increased military flights probing Taiwan airspace, threatening the democratic island nation that it claims as its own. Taiwan regularly scrambles jets to escort the Chinese out of the airspace and the US sent a destroyer to pass through the international waters between China and Taiwan, which China denounced as a provocation (though apparently sending a whole squadron of jets to another country’s airspace is not).
China has also started building man-made islands on reefs claimed by several countries and ruled by the UN to be international waters. Public release of photographs showing that China was building islands and harbor facilities on the reefs led Chinese President Xi to declare in 2015 that the islands were only for the safety and servicing of commercial fishing vessels. Satellite photos showing that the Chinese have built airstrips and are regularly landing military helicopters and spy planes indicate that the Chinese are trying to hide the militaristic intentions.
China has also begun to threaten islands claimed by Japan, increasing its expansionist rhetoric against yet another neighbor.
In response to these military moves, Great Britain has announced that it will have two warships permanently deployed to Asian waters and would also eventually send a response group of marines and special forces to be deployed in the area. The United States has yet done little except to increase its “freedom of navigation” sailings through international waters. The US Navy ‘s surface fleet has steadily decreased in size, and what ships there are often have less capability to fight a potential conflict. It is critical that the Biden Administration live up to the previous commitments to increase the number of surface ships. Also important is that President Biden make sure the Chinese know that the US will live up to its promises to defend its allies, such as Japan. the Philippines and Taiwan so that China will have to think hard before it launches an attack.
It is clear from the way it handles any internal dissent and the way it has increasingly oppressed any dissent in Hong Kong despite treaty obligations promising basic rights, that China’s leaders are a group driven by a hunger for power, and absolute power. The rapid increase in the size of their military gives evidence that the hunger for power may not be limited within its own borders.
China’s loud and aggressive posture show its increasing confidence and the US must make clear that there are still important calculations it must make before it would consider a war.