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Is China Really Closing the Military Gap?
#1
Rand: China closing military gap with U.S.

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Jun. 16, 2005 at 9:32PM

China's military capability is catching up with that of the United States according to a Rand Corp. study.
A Rand report quoted by the Russian newspaper Pravda Thursday said the gap was expected to further narrow in the next few years.
Pravda said excerpts from the report drawn up for U.S. intelligence chiefs detailed China's military breakthroughs and development over the past few years.
The newspaper said the report had probably been leaked to the public to increase support for higher budget allocations for the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Pravda also said publication of parts of the report had sent a warning to China to take more vigorous action to raise the value of its national currency, the yuan. It said the published reports may also have been meant to derail the European Union's plans to lift its arms embargo on China.
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When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, I was under the impression that the USSR was really ahead of us militarily. I was frightened, like almost everyone els, and concerned of our safety. However, as time passed and I received my commission as an armoured officer, I began studying Soviet armor in relation to US. And lo and behold, the Soviet armor was simply terrible.

That was my first revelation, and it only grew with me reading the 1983 book "The Threat: Inside The Soviet Military Machine". It described just how inept and sorry the Soviet military really was. (note: unfortunately the clearing of the casche here eliminated the two chapters I had inserted)

So, when I read this article, I am a complete skeptic. Granted, the gap will close, as it naturally has to. But somehow, I suspect that the PRC will have a terribly hard job creating a milirary that can equal, much less surpass that of the US.

Here is why. First, the PRC is having to do just what the Soviets did: steal everything not nailed down. This puts them behind the eight ball becsuse they are always behind the cure, no matter how close they may approach

Second, The Collectivist/Command system is not responsive or elastic enough to allow for ingenuity or origional thinking. Command systems never have the ability to push ahead as they are constantly relying upon a select central core to make the decisions.

Three, And this is also very important, the very system also bleeds down to the military itself. Initiative is discouraged. Lower ranks are not allowed to have command decisions. In the US Army, NCOs are constantly using equipment and making decisions that most militaries retain for commissioned officers. And also, the motivation factor is not there like in the US, which has a pride of professionalism that is unmatched by the PRC.

Four, the very economic system that supports a military expansion will work best if it is growing steadilly. And the Chinese economy is not growing as it is forecast, nor will it continue. it's Collectivist/Command system does not allow for this. Naturally, it will quickly reach a certain point, but once it reaches that point, only a major change in the system will allow for it to grow further.

Comments?
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#2
Donno how to react... Pravda is one of the less reliable Russian sources (on the "plus side" they have nice UFO articles...) and it is not clear why Rand would chose Pravda to leak anything...
Government is necessary because people left unchecked will do evil.

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#3
John L, I hear you, but think there is much to worry about in this matter. My approach concerns more of the high-tech theft of capability. There is no shortage of capable computer scientists in the PRC. Many of the best turned out by U.S. universities are not U.S. citizens, and take their expertise back to Beijing. I do also know that Laural allowed our most important high-tech satellite codes to be recovered by the PRC, so that any ElInt or Satellite Surveillance is compromised. The USSR was defeated by an earlier decision to hard wire electron tubes into their war machines to defeat the expected EMP from neutron bombs. When the Stealth high-tech info was purposefully leaked to them, they understood their earlier decisions obviated any upgrades to compete. Without more than three times their entire national product being spent, our jets, missiles, and even tanks on the battlefield would be invisible and remain untraceable and unstoppable. Stealth required super-cooled cabling and micro-miniaturized super computers, and the USSR was unable to match us.

The Chinese do not have that problem. Even with their outdated military, they have the tech-base to replicate ours and have the economic capability to match us. I understand that during the Clinton administration, the PRC had more Cray super-computers than we had. The only advantage we have over the PRC is our force-multiplier, based on superior technology to make each of our soldiers worth more than each of theirs. They physically outnumber us, and the force-multiplier which was tangible during the 80's was lost in the 90's.

The one check I see on them is sheer inertia. Their army is too big. Their makeup is too large, and their internal problems will keep them staring at their navels more than us. That being said, however - focused responses for specific short-ranged goals will be possible for them.
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#4
I think what worries me the most is their visibility on the world scale. The U.S.'s might is feared by countries around the globe, but I am not sure about China.

What's even more disturbing is that we have principles (not to mention checks and balances) which guide our behavior (and prevent us from going nuclear on any country we have a disagreement with); but I wonder if China, with such a centralized power system, would be as rational a world super power as the U.S. has been. Any thoughts on the matter?
"The government is best which governs least."
-- Thomas Jefferson
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#5
Punk, I think that there are several things at play here. The PRC is a centristic, tyrannical Collectivist country, that is trying to have things both ways. Unfortunately for them, this is not possible. If they are to pull themselves out of the hole that most Collectivist states are in, they are going to have to change their economic system drastically. The number of state owned businessis (SOB) is still huge. And they are not doing well for natural reasons.

If they are going to develop their military that is going to be a technical marvel in the future, they must have an economy and mindset that will allow for it. And while I agree with Bill above about them having many there who are smart and technically educated, it is the mindset that really matters. And an elite with that mindset is fine, but it has to be from top to bottom if it is to rival the US.

And as far as rational, I would suspect that they are no less, or more, than the Soviets. Plus, I don't think that China will be all that fearsome after they finally break up in about the next 20-25 years. It's the latest trend in downsizing. IT's all about efficiency and Liberty, don't you know.

Today, the average enlisted man in the Army or Marines has more technical knowledge at his disposal than many can begin to imagine. And soon we are going to go with each soldier having his own hand held computer, GPS system, smart weapons, and extensive individual communication system. We are talking about soldiers of the future here. And what about smart artillery that will take out the enemy by grid coordinates OR with a single Operator directing each and every round.

And the navy is on the way to stealth development added with the gun boat type philosophy that is capable of support that is unbelievable. And the near future is going to dawn with pilotless aircraft that will not have a G stress problem. And the Chinese are not even working on this.

So, I have nothing but positive things to think with regards to our ability in the future and China not being able to equal us in quality. Only quantity, and in today's battlefield, that is increasingly irrelevent.
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#6
As for China not being able to equal us - all they have to do is imitate us by stealing our high-tech military with their unstoppable espionage system, which has skipped two entire generations of catch-up already. How far do they need to go?
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#7
WmLambert Wrote:As for China not being able to equal us - all they have to do is imitate us by stealing our high-tech military with their unstoppable espionage system, which has skipped two entire generations of catch-up already. How far do they need to go?

Like the Soviets, correct? And what makes you think that they are unstoppable? Sounds pessimistic to me Bill. Do you think that they will be able to get away with what they did in 1996 with the election of Bubba? And do you think that we will be standing still?

And do you think that their system is equal to ourt when it comes to production?
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#8
The problem as I see it John, is that they already have the info they need. The heavy-lifting was sadly accomplished during Clinton's watch, but they now have the tech-base and key researchers to carry on, on their own. Their espionage is a novel idea. All expatriate Chinese in the U.S. are pumped for information. No one is bribed or coerced - but so much info is collected that almost all areas are thoroughly covered. No one is per se a "spy" - yet espionage information is secured nonetheless.

I worry less because China is much like OSC described it in the Ender's Shadow sequels - too self-absorbed with itself to really pose much threat of expansion.
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#9
Sorry, double entry
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#10
you know Bill, I used to listen to how the Soviets were going to destroy us militarily, and in the 80s I listened to how the Japanese were going to bury us economically. I've listened to all the fear induced worry coming from all corners. And in spite of it all, there were all serious shortcomings that were there all along and no one ever bothered to note them

With the Soviets, it was the Collectivist/Marxist system. It was a Command system that was very good at certain things. It could get people into space, it could produce thousands of tanks and assemble hords of military personnel. It had a superb chemical/biological/ radiological system. And yet, the system was only good enough to be good at SOME things. The rest was left to struggle, and the West conveniently overlooked this.

With the Japanese, it was the Planned/Familial alliance system. Granted the japanese had a superior economic system to the Soviets in that their system was quite open, they were democratic for the most part, and worked hard and smart up to a point. But again there were many shortcomings that even I overlooked, not like with the Soviets. But they too had a terribly inneficient system in that they lived by the Alliance system as is found in just about all asian societies. It is a real shortcoming as it relates to economics and trade, and the US completely overlooked, with a few exceptions of course.

In case the reader is not aware of the Familial/Alliance system here it is. Under the system, businesses allign themselves with other businesses that tend to make up a complete package with each other. Thus they usually make up at least one major bank, an electronics manufactorer, an automobile and aircraft corporation, steel producer, several parts producer, etc, etc, etc. Together they are all able to service the other. Thus, there are a number of large alliances. It's like family units.

The real problem with the system is that the banks loan money to each of the other members within the alliance and seldom operate outside them. Consequently if there are problems within the alliance, they ripple down to the other ones. If Mitsubishi makes a bad investment with their automobiles and have trouble repaying it's huge loan to it's patron bank, the bank tends to cover up the bad investment, as it tends to make the entire alliance lose face. The bad loan is not publically written off the books and is carried as an ongoing solvent loan.

After a while these bad loans can add up to the point where it eventually comes crashing down and the entire alliance is in desperate straights. This is exactly what happened with Japan by the late 80s. The once feared financial system of the Japanese went into the toilet because the number of required government bailouts simply overwhelmed the economy. And the Keynesians at the World Bank/IMF made things worse by talking the Japanese into using their "Cure" which we all know now as the very worst thing they could do.

Now, with China, we have a combination of the worst of both worlds here. The PRC is a tyrannical Collectivist/Marxist like contry that is in to the Command thing as with the Soviets. Granted they have opened up their country to more private investment than the Soviets, but the majority of the industry for China that is security related is made up exclusively of SOBs (State Owned Businesses), and they are inefficient, corrupt, not responsive, and old.

And worst of all, the system is again run under basically the same system of familial/alliances as the Japanese. Thus they are in the middle of a growing financial scandal that will require bailouts in the countless Billions of Dollars worth. Whether or not they can make it to 2008 for the Olympics before coming to a halt is still questionable.

So, if you think that the Chinese, who are like the Soviets, capable of doing some things well, but not all well, are going to easily play catchup with the US, I can't change your mind. But I do a lot of thinking on this very subject, and it is always in the back of my mind. And I conclude that as long as the Chinese system continues, it will eventually fall flat on it's face.

So, somewhere along the line, it must make a radical change and open itself up to more honest representation by it's citizenry, or it will break up simply because it tried to hold on too tightly. I think the later is what will happen. I think that the Regional kingpins will see the break up coming and grab their own little fiefdoms and the entire country will become at least five or six entities. It is simply too big and too corrupt to carry on this way.

And frankly Bill, since you and I are perhaps the two most well read economic people here, I am surprised that you are unable to see this. Basically this is all about economics. The PRC is an economic vehicle that has an engine that while twelve cylinders, is currently running on six of them. And eventually the engine is going to blow. can't you see this, or have you been paying attention to other things such as the US and Europe?

I am amazed that you do not see this. When a country combines the very worst of two possible systems, it is a sure recipe for failure. Sorry, but I simply do not agree with your thesis. Granted their spy system is extensive, but they are also unsophisticated as some of the papers I have read tell. They are no more elegant than the NKVD were. And you simply cannot effectively gather enough information for Everything. Lord Bill, the mentality of the Chinese is not geared to efficiency in most all things.

Here is an indication of the Chinese way of thinking. In James Glassman's piece, The Blessings of Free Trade, he relates a friend's personnal experience with Chinese building a dam.
Quote:To see what I mean, let me relate an anecdote used by my friend Jerry Jordan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, in an article in the Cato Journal last summer. Jordan described a U.S. businessman visiting China a few years ago. The American came upon a team of 100 workers building a dam with shovels. Shovels.

He commented to a local official that, with an earth-moving machine, a single worker could build the dam in an afternoon. The official replied, "Yes, but think of all the unemployment that would create."

"Oh," said the businessman, "I thought you were building a dam. If it's jobs you want to create, then take away their shovels and give them spoons."

This is their mindset Bill. Do you honestly believe with this mindset they will actually become the world power that everyone is concerned about, unless they actually make serious changes? I don't. Of course, that does not mean that they won't appear to be a serious threat. But if you look under the hood, you will be able to see the badly tuned engine, and old electrical wiring.

Sorry, but I am much more optimistic( actually as Micnael would say, realistic) than you are. And I will continue to stand by it.
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#11
John L, I agree with what you say. My worries are that the military functions above the familial/industrial complexes, as a supra unit, with family connections all its own. The top leaders are incalcitrant and unlearned - but they don't make any decisions. They have skillful underlings who have risen to a high place by stint of ability. This means that just under the generals in the Red Army are some very competent people who control power through the manipulation of their superiors.

These few competent people grab off the competent scientists and engineers and use them wisely. Wise for them is unwise for us. Out of two billion people, how many have to be competent to sting us?
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#12
5 years later that's where we are.
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#13
As long as the Pentagon is buing $700 toilet seats and $500 wrenches, I am not worried.S6

The crux here seems to be China's interest in protecting supply lines through the strait of Malacca, and in testing the West and SE Asia to see how far they can go before they meet serious resistance (especially in the South China Sea) in the competition for resources.

The Chinese therefore obviously have an interest in neutralizing the effectiveness of the US fleets in both of these regards. US fleets are spread over large swaths of the world and and not focused on SE Asia. So it does not take much in the way of Chinese technology (anti ship missiles and submarines) to counter the efforts of the US in SE Asia. One hopes that Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam (more) will contribute to countering Chinese naval power.
Jefferson: I place economy among the first and important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our choice between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.
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#14
I never realized just how much China has going against itself, until I started reading several pieces from Stratfor. Logistically and stratigically China is pretty much boxed in, with much less free flow of movement than one thinks. She is surrounded by deserts, high mountains, and oceans that harbour distrustful neighbors, who want nothing more than contain China at all costs.

China has no natural allies, and that includes Russia: especially Russia.

And when you add up all the inside pressure from a disgruntled citizenry, China is riding a dragon that could just as easily do it in. Can anyone come up with a real ally for PRC?
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#15
The US.

At least, so long as we're entwined economically as we are. The second we're not.... who knows?
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#16
Good Point "P". As long as we are so close economically we will really have need of each other, like it or not.

I still see India as the natural/obvious competitor to China. They do not like each other, and each is a major upcoming economic powerhouse. However India has one big advantage over China: its location. It has free access to the Indian Ocean and is pretty much able to project power in both directions, whereas China is really not. And I know I keep on with this 'space elevator' fixation, but India is very close to the equator and can almost any time reestablish its control over Sri Lanka, which would be a great location for a space elevator, which is very close to the equator. It has immense advantage over China IMO.

This is why China and Pakistan will become even closer in the future.
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#17
John, you are right about China being physically insular. In the past, China survived by Navel-gazing. What happened within those mountains and deserts was all that mattered. Now with the intrusion of technology, those boundaries have shrunk. The Internet, satellites, and telecommunication has put every nation right next door. Yeah, the US is a trading partner - but rubbing shoulders with the entire world is new to them - and their first response was shutting down the internet where they could.

To my thinking, Physical neighborhood is losing importance to issues.
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#18
India doesn't do much in foreign affairs, they've been very reluctant to be assertive. I wouldn't count India as an opponent of China unless China invades India.

There's no logic to the view China can't and won't become a global naval power if they desire to. At that point we would be in the Mexican standoff deal with them just like we were with the USSR, avoid conflict at all costs.
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#19
Patrick, I'm not saying PRC won't become a regional Pacific naval power. But not a world power. PRC would have to have easy access to the Atlantic, which they don't. Even with access to Suez, they would be concentrated and easy targets from there to Gibraltar.

That is why they are cultivating Venezuela, and perhaps others. But they are just too vulnerable IMO.
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All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
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#20
WmL Wrote:To my thinking, Physical neighborhood is losing importance to issues.
And your thinking is right:
There is at present an axis with Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela.
Barely neighboring countries.
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