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arms race in space a “historical inevitability?”

November 3, 2009

Will we see a new shift in Chinese military spending?  The AFP reports:

A top China air force commander has called the militarisation of space an “historical inevitability”, state media said Monday, marking an apparent shift in Beijing’s opposition to weaponising outer space.

“As far as the revolution in military affairs is concerned, the competition between military forces is moving towards outer space… this is a historical inevitability and a development that cannot be turned back,” Xu told the paper. “We must build an outer space force that conforms with the needs of our nation’s development (and) the demands of the development of the space age.”

Could this be just a Chinese commander speaking out in a bellicose manner, like General Xiong Guangkai who in 1995 threatened Los Angeles with attack?  Or is it like the pipe dreams of the PLA in obtaining aircraft carriers, an idea that Peter Singer at Brookings demolished pretty handily?

But a little reality check may be in order. First, their “new” carrier is not all that new. Actually, the Varyag was first laid down back in 1985. Originally planned for the Soviet fleet, it was never completed. Instead, at the Cold War’s end, it was scrapped of all its electronics and engines and sold off to be a floating casino. Even if the Chinese can refurbish it, at best they will be getting an old, untested ship that carries only a third as many planes as a U.S. carrier.

What he also doesn’t say is that, in the event of a war with the US, any Chinese aircraft carrier would probably be sunk within minutes.

Still,  the same article (from mid 2009) rather hits the nail on the head in terms of combatting potential threats from East Asia:

Rather, as we wrestle with defense planning, we should focus less on fictional capabilities that will likely never match our strengths and more on the real, near-term capabilities the Chinese are building to defeat these strengths from other angles. Their computer hackers have reportedly obtained access to vital military and civil communications networks, as well as the designs of our latest jet fighters. Their submarines have snuck past the defenses of our aircraft carriers and surfaced, a little showoff of how they could have sunk them at will. Their army is presently obtaining anti-ship ballistic missiles able to target a warship 1,500 miles away, far past the range of the planes from our aircraft carriers.

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