As we have been documenting for quite some time, China has been not-so-quietly transforming itself into a serious threat to the West - beefing up its military to contend with the Washington's air, sea, space and cyber weapons capabilities, while scrapping constitutional term limits for President Xi Jinping.
Since 2000, China has built more submarines, destroyers, frigates and corvettes than Japan, South Korea and India combined. To put this further into perspective, the total tonnage of new warships and auxiliaries launched by China in the last four years alone is significantly greater than the total tonnage of the French navy. -IISS
Analysts on both sides of the Pacific believe Xi's aggressive military buildup and power grab have put Beijing on a direct course for conflict with Washington - with the heavy U.S. presence in the region setting the stage for a new Cold War.
“In the Asia-Pacific, the dominant role of the United States in a political and military sense will have to be readjusted,” said Cui Liru, former president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank under the Ministry of State Security that often reflects official thinking. “It doesn’t mean U.S. interests must be sacrificed. But if the U.S. insists on a dominant role forever, that’s a problem.” Cui added that it was "not normal for China to be under U.S. dominance forever. You can’t justify dominance forever."
“China’s military objective is to break through the first chain of islands,” said Mr. Cui, referring to the waters beyond Japan and Taiwan where the Chinese military wants to establish a presence. -NYT
China's navy is also deploying further from home, including Europe, while their base in the Eastern African country of Djibouti will enable more naval deployments. In terms of military computing technology, China has also set out on an ambitious course, as vast resources have been sunk into "extremely high-performance computing and quantum communications," which, along with their weapons advancements and overall defense capabilities mean the country is no longer merely "catching up" with Western progress.
Meanwhile, Xi and other Chinese officials are of the firm belief that the United States is a superpower in decline - which will require China to step into the vacuum left behind.
“It is now clear Xi’s agenda to rebuild an Asian order with China at its center is here to stay,” said Hugh White, a scholar and former defense official in Australia who has argued that the United States must be prepared to share power with China in the Asia-Pacific region.
“I think Xi is impatient,” Mr. White added. “He wants China to be the predominant power in the Western Pacific. He wants to do it himself and for it to go down in history as his achievement. That makes him formidable.” -NYT
In a keynote speech to China's Communist Party Congress last October, Xi promised to make China's armed forces world-class by the middle of the century. In a January speech, Xi told thousands of Chinese soldiers to “neither fear hardship nor death,” during an inspection visit Wednesday to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Central Theater Command in northern Hebei province, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Xi advised the military to continue improving upon its equipment, tactics, technology, and combat readiness by engaging in “real combat training.” The Chinese president - for life, spoke of the need to “create an elite and powerful force that is always ready for the fight, capable of combat and sure to win in order to fulfill the tasks bestowed by the Party and the people in the new era.”
He [Xi] has accelerated the military’s plans to build a blue-water navy, increased spending on weaponry in outer space, and established China’s first military bases abroad. He has promoted a global infrastructure program to extend Beijing’s influence and ignored Western concerns about human rights, which have diminished under the Trump administration. -NYT
Indeed, with the rollout of stealth jets, new high-tech naval artillery such as a "secret railgun," and Chinese media reports bragging about aggressive maneuvers that "dare to shine the sword," our trading partner to the West has made it perfectly clear that they intend on being a dominant global force, both economically and militarily.
Last November, we reported on a secretive hypersonic weapons program, which if successful would be able to hit the United States in under 14 minutes.
“China and the US have started a hypersonic race,” said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing who received a national technology award for the invention of a new heat shield used on hypersonic vehicles in 2013.
And just two weeks ago the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported that China's rapid military modernization is "remarkable," and is set to challenge the West on several fronts.
“China’s emerging weapons developments and broader defence-technological progress mean that it has become a global defence innovator” says Dr. John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of the London-based think tank. Of note, Chipman points out that China's Chengdu J-20 low-observable combat aircraft is set to challenge America's "monopoly on operational stealthy combat aircraft."
The IISS report also notes that China's expanding array of advanced guided-weapons projects, such as the PL-15 extended range air-to-air missile which could enter service this year. "This weapon appears to be equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar, indicating that China has joined the few nations able to integrate this capability on an air-to-air missile," reports Chipman.
Trump and China
Trump has clearly changed his tune Chinese trade - declining to label them a currency manipulator last year because the "timing was bad," and refusing to impose sanctions - however the U.S. President has committed to beefing up defenses with a new nuclear policy calling for the revitalization of the nation's nuclear arsenal, while also reaching out to forge a stronger "Indo-Pacific" coalition with Australia, India and Japan in order to counter China's rapid rise.
“Trump is obsessed with strategic forces,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University. “He is determined to maintain American military predominance in face of China’s strategic buildup. That will make the relationship more profoundly confrontational.”
Chinese analysts downplayed Trump's efforts, however, noting that the United States has been unwilling to fund the projects. “In the short term,” said Shi, “China does not care about it because the ability to form a real coalition is limited.”
Meanwhile, many feel that President Trump will be pressured into taking a harder line with China going into the midterm elections - as Democrats have signaled that they will compare his campaign promises with his softline approach to a country he spent much of the 2016 election railing against.
“Now that it’s clear that President Xi isn’t going anywhere, getting tough on China is even more of an imperative,” said Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “If President Trump and Congress don’t crack down on their rapacious trade practices,” he added, “China will continue eating our lunch for years to come.”
And while Wall Street continues to broker lucrative investment-banking deals with the Chinese government, US manufacturers are growing increasingly frustrated at the prospect of competing with Chinese businesses who steal corporate secrets and regularly undercut their competition.
Manufacturers tend to be more fed up than Wall Street, which continues to do lucrative investment-banking business with the Chinese government. Technology companies have soured on China, though the market is so vast that they are still willing to consider concessions they would make nowhere else in the world.
The Trump administration reflects those fissures. Advisers like Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who both worked at Goldman Sachs, have persuaded Mr. Trump to hold off on tough trade measures against China in the past. -WSJ
On the national security front, the Trump administration has been using "Cold War-like terms," referring to China as a revisionist power that will try "to erode American security and prosperity."
This extends to U.S. colleges, which according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, are underestimating the ability for Chinese students to gather sensitive national security intelligence. Public universities have long been instrumental in the development of both offensive and defensive capabilities for a multitude of US agencies such as the Department of Defense and DARPA.
"The reality is that the Chinese have turned more and more to more creative avenues using non-traditional collectors (of information)," Wray said during the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual open hearings on the greatest threats to the country.
"The use of non-traditional collectors, especially in the academic setting—whether it's professors, scientists, students—we see in almost every field office that the FBI has around the country, Wray said, adding "They're exploiting the very open research-and-development environment that we have, which we all revere, but they're taking advantage of it.'
Specifically, the FBI is “watching” programs at dozens of Confucius Institutes, funded by China’s Ministry of Education that are widely embedded within American universities and public schools to teach the Mandarin language.
The Confucius Institute program, which started operations in 2004, has been the subject of vast criticisms, concerns, and controversies during its international expansion. Many such concerns stem from the program’s close relationship to the Communist Party of China.
According to the South China Morning Post, some 350,000 Chinese students are actively enrolled at American universities, which is about thirty-five percent of the one million foreigners, said the Institute of International Education.
Bottom line: China's rapid military buildup and commitment to becoming a dominant global force will require that the United States either cede power in Asia, or face another Cold War of steadily increasing temperatures. Keep in mind - times are good. The next recession, whenever that might occur, will most certainly push already-strained economic and military relations between the Washington and Beijing into uncharted territory.