American plans to develop a missile shield in Asia have alarmed Beijing. With 250 million Chinese officially considered poor, spending billions to challenge the US military could sink China’s economy without firing a single shot.
The Chinese military has voiced concern that the US missile shield plans to destabilize the military balance on the continent.
In March the Pentagon revealed plans to deploy elements of its global antiballistic missile defense system in Asia and the Middle East. Such a shield would include deployable ship-based interceptors and land-based missile interceptors located in the United States’ western territories.
To maintain a credible deterrence, China might have to modernize its nuclear arsenal to correspond properly to the realities of modern warfare.
“It undermines strategic stability,” acknowledged Major General Zhu Chenghu of China’s National Defense University. The General first became internationally known in 2005 when he declared that China might use nuclear weapons if the US intervened militarily in a Chinese conflict with Taiwan.
Now the General says that “Beijing will have to improve its capabilities of survival, penetration … otherwise it is very difficult for us to maintain the credibility of nuclear deterrence.”
The US Department of Defense estimates China’s nuclear arsenal in about 130-195 deployed nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. The scattered estimate shows that American intelligence data on China’s nuclear arsenal is far from exact. The Chinese military has not specified so far what exact modernizations its nuclear arsenal is expected to undergo to successfully counter America’s future nuclear shield in the region.
Does China have enough clout to defy America?
Though China is considered the world’s second largest economy, its financial capability to cope with American economical might is far from certain.
In some ways, modern day China resembles the Soviet Union. Just like in the last days of the USSR, billions from the country’s budget are being spent on military needs. And despite apparent economic prosperity, the gap between the rich and the poor is astonishing.
In the last year alone, the number of poor in China has hit a quarter of a billion. But instead of addressing daunting poverty issues, Beijing has had to buy new weaponry and invest billions into producing its own.
“China’s (arms budget) is now second largest in the world at $106 billion,” international journalist Dr. Conn Hallinan explained to RT. “This is an enormous expenditure of wealth at a time when diverting that could make a real impact on poverty. And it also happens at a time when there’s an economic slowdown that is happening in Asia,” he recalled.
The same applies to India, which last year was the world’s leading weapon importer, including an eye-watering $20 billion worth of French fighter jets.
This is why Washington’s return-to-Asia policy – from selling weapons to holding joint war games in the region – is deeply troubling Asian countries, especially China.
Renato Reyes, a political activist who heads the Bayan Coalition in Manila, Philippines, told RT that “the US wants full spectrum dominance in the region. It wants to project its military power to everyone concerned, especially China. The US may not be headed for a direct military confrontation with China at the moment, but the US wants to contain China, wants to encircle China and keep its subservient to US dictates.”
This situation has drawn historic parallels with the Cold War. Many experts are still sure that the huge arms race in the 1960s between the United States and the USSR was Washington’s tactic to sabotage the Soviet economy.
“When it became more of an economic race, it continued an armed race that weakened the economy of the Soviet Union. It is a stupid game and it has been going on ever since the 1950’s, unfortunately, and Russians were the victims and I think China will to some extent be the victim too,” former Australian diplomat Gregory Clark argues.
It remains to be seen if the Asian giants China and India can continue growing their military muscle without risking political and social instability in the process.