China Heading For Space, Whether The United States Likes It Or Not
It was no doubt with a sense of irony that US state department officials aired concern about how much China was spending on defense, even though China claims most of its claimed $US44 billion budget for 2008 will go on military schools, new uniforms and higher wages.
It was former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, back in 2005, who began a frosting of relations between the two military and economic giants when he repeatedly howled about future threats from China, because of all the money they were spending on buying up military equipment.
The new US defence secretary, Robert Gates, has done a far better job at keeping relations cool to warm between the two superpowers. He has been concerned by the growth in China's military budget, but is downplaying State Department concerns, no doubt as a counter to the growing threats from Russia over US missile defence in Europe.
But not everybody in the Pentagon, or the State Department, believes China's story about how it will spend its $US44 billion budget, nor do they believe that is the actual figure. Some unofficial estimates put the actual defence spending budget at well over $US110 billion. Still well behind the US 2008 defence budget which has already climbed beyond $US500 billion.
From the Washington Times :
The Pentagon's forthcoming annual report on Chinese military power will reveal a growing threat from Beijing's new forms of power projection, including anti-satellite weapons and computer network attack forces.China is aiming to put its military strength into the upper atmosphere, whether the United States like it or not. Space is the new frontier for weaponisation, and Russia, China, the EU and the US are all too keenly aware that getting massive laser, missile or plasma weapons into orbit will give them vast deterrence capability, as well as future means of striking down enemy missiles in flight, or to take out enemy military and communication satellites.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that the report....shows how China "has steadily devoted increasing resources to their military."
According to defense officials familiar with the report, it also highlights new strategic missile developments, including China's five new Jin-class submarines, and states that Beijing continues to hide the true level of its military spending.
The officials also said that the report will detail how China is developing two new types of strategic forces that go beyond what nations have done traditionally using air, sea and land forces by aiming to knock out modern communications methods on which the U.S. military relies for advanced warfighting techniques.
First, U.S. intelligence officials estimate that by 2010 China's ASAT missiles will be capable of delivering a knockout blow to many U.S. military satellites. Second, China also is training large numbers of military computer hackers to deliver crippling electronic attacks on U.S. military and civilian computer networks.
Asked about China's double-digit percent increases in defense spending for more than a decade and advancing weapon technology, Mr. Gates said: "I think some of the capabilities that are being developed are of concern, sure."
China's buildup also appears directed at deploying forces that can be used beyond a regional conflict over Taiwan, which in the past was thought by U.S. officials to be the main objective of China's military modernization.
For example, the report identifies the five new missile submarines, known as the Jin-class, that will each be outfitted with 12 5,000-mile-range JL-2 missiles, vastly improving China's nuclear missile strike capabilities. The new submarines are considered a significant new power projection capability that China did not have from its lone earlier ballistic missile submarine, which stayed in port and did not sail to open ocean.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley stated recently that the ASAT test, which involved a missile ramming into a Chinese weather satellite some 500 miles in space, was as significant as the 1957 Soviet launch of the satellite Sputnik, which launched the space race.
The Pentagon report also bolsters the findings of a congressional commission report produced in February by Pentagon consultant Michael Pillsbury who stated that Chinese military "space hawks" advocate using ASAT weapons in a crisis with the U.S. The Pentagon report suggests that these "space hawks" represent the Chinese military's strategic intentions and are not fringe authors, as some pro-China officials claim.
As with all moves to get weapons into space, China's first steps come as a business model of building and launching communications satellites on behalf of countries like Nigeria and Venezuela.
From the IHT :
For years, China has chafed at efforts by the United States to exclude it from full membership in the world's elite space club. So, lately, China seems to have hit on a solution: create a new club.Adding to the perceived increase in tensions about military budgets, new missile systems and China making its way into space, there is also the looming threat of a full-blown trade war between China and the United States :
Beijing is trying to position itself as a space benefactor to the developing world - the same countries, in some cases, whose natural resources China covets here on Earth. The latest, and most prominent, example came last week when China launched a communications satellite for Nigeria in a project that serves as a tidy case study of how space has become another arena where China is trying to exert its soft power.
Not only did China design, build and launch the satellite for oil-rich Nigeria - it also provided a huge loan to help pay the bill. China has also signed a satellite contract with another major oil supplier, Venezuela. It is developing an earth observation satellite system with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, Peru and Thailand. And it has organized a satellite association in Asia.
Joan Johnson-Freese, chairwoman of the Department of National Security Studies at the U.S. Naval War College, said China still trailed major aerospace companies in the quality and sophistication of its satellites but that the strategy was working on multiple levels.
"They want to play a leadership role for developing countries that want to get into space," Johnson-Freese said in an interview earlier this year. "It's just such a win-win for them. They are making political connections, it helps them with oil deals and they bring in hard currency to feed back into their own program to make them even more commercially competitive."
...the Chinese focus on satellites has also brought suspicions, particularly from the United States, since most satellites are "dual use" technologies, capable of civilian and military applications.
China is overhauling its military in a modernization drive focused, in part, on developing the capability to fight a high-tech war.
Analysts say the Chinese determination to develop its own equivalent to the Global Positioning System is partly because such a satellite system would be critical for military operations if a war were to erupt over Taiwan.
Most alarmingly to Western countries, China conducted an antisatellite test in January by firing a missile into space and destroying one of its own orbiting satellites. Four months later, Washington is still trying to parse the Chinese motivations for the test, while China has offered little in the way of explanation.
Eric Hagt, a director at the World Security Institute, testified in Washington this year that China's increasing investment in space has also made it feel more vulnerable at a time when the United States is advocating missile defense programs in the name of protection against terrorist states. China seems to believe Washington is determined to dominate space, he said.
The drums are being beaten more insistently, the ominous sound of a march towards a trade war. As Hank Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, stood with Wu Yi, the Vice-Premier of China, on a Washington stage draped in the flags of their countries, he warned that this historic economic summit would have to be more than a talking shop, if it is to lessen the protectionist pressures building in Congress.
"There is growing scepticism in each country about the others' intentions," Mr Paulson said. "Unfortunately, in America this is manifesting itself as anti-China sentiment as China becomes a symbol of the real and imagined downside of global competition. It is up to us, over these two days and the work that follows, to show that words are precursors to action."
The issues are the same as they have been for several years. China's industrial revolution has turned it into a low-cost manufacturing centre and flooded the world with low-cost goods, in the process creating a $232bn (£118bn) trade deficit for the US with China.
Defenders of US manufacturing say an artificially low currency gives Chinese companies an unfair cost advantage that is turfing thousands of Americans out of their jobs. Meanwhile, US businesses are under huge restrictions if they want to operate in China, and all the while China is refusing to respect intellectual property rights and - in the shrillest commentators words - stealing overseas designs to further their own economic progress.
Before the Iraq War began, some watchers of the world economies suggested that if the United States became bogged down in Iraq, as China warned that it surely would, China would use the Iraq distraction to stake its claim to a far more powerful future.
With China's increasing presence on the African continent, the signing of satellite manufacture and launching deals with Nigeria and Venezuela, and energy deals with Iran, Venezuela and a growing number of African nations, there is plenty of evidence to show that China has firmly staked its claim as the next great superpower, rising as the United States declines in financial power and military influence.It is no wonder, then, that China is expressing suspicion and distrust towards the United States as it makes plans to unroll is so-called 'missile defence shield' into countries like Japan and Australia, giving the appearance that the United States is aiming to place a missile ring around China and keep it somewhat contained.
As Russia has already made clear, China cannot be expected to tolerate the United States deploying missile batteries in its vicinity, even if they are there because the United States claims it needs to defend itself, and its allies, from 'rogue nations'.
China well knows that there is a likelihood that in the not too distant future, the United States may view China as a 'rogue nation', where the US currently cites the threat that makes its missile shield a necessity as being that supposedly posed by Iran and North Korea.
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