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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 08/29/2011

China builds up while the U.S. slashes defense

The Hill has reported:

In its annual report to Congress, released Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that China’s military is “steadily closing the technological gap with modern armed forces.”
Speaking to reporters that afternoon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Schiffer said Beijing’s buildup could end up being a “destabilizing” force in the Asia-Pacific region.
As part of its military buildup, China is expected to increase its defense spending by nearly 13 percent over last year’s amount. That will continue its years-long trend of annually increasing military spending.
Beijing, over the next decade, will field a number of combat systems that are “on par with” or will “exceed global standards,” Schiffer said.
Those findings alarm pro-defense hawks on Capitol Hill.

While the Obama administration and many in Congress are willing to use massive cuts in defense as a backstop should the joint debt-reduction committee not reach its goal, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is sounding the alarm. In a written statement, he reacted to the report documenting China’s military spending spree:

“This report is a critical tool for members of Congress to understand the People’s Republic of China’s increasingly aggressive military modernization plan. The Department of Defense assesses that the transformation of China’s People’s Liberation Army remains on course. In the coming weeks, we will review this assessment in greater detail. Initially, however, two things stand out. First, Beijing’s increasing assertiveness and military capabilities, particularly China’s ability to deny access to the western Pacific, is of growing concern not only to the United States but to China’s neighbors, leading to changes in the military posture of regional actors. This has significant consequences for the security and stability of the region. Second, China clearly believes that it can capitalize on the global financial crisis, using the United States’ economic uncertainty as a window of opportunity to strengthen China’s economic, diplomatic, and security interests. Therefore, security in the Pacific could be further jeopardized if our regional allies also come to believe that the United States will sacrifice the presence and capability of the U.S. military in an attempt to control spending. This is an unacceptable outcome in such a vital region of the globe.”

There could be no better example of the folly of divorcing defense spending from our strategic needs. Kelly Currie, a former Bush administration who now works for a think tank focused on Asia, tells me, “Having a blue water navy is really expensive. That’s why there aren’t that many countries that can afford to keep one afloat. China is building one now and there are reasons to be concerned about how and why they are doing this.” Meanwhile, she explains, the U.S. is “moving toward a situation where we eventually will be facing decisions about whether we can afford to maintain ours and when you fall below a certain number of ships then you reach a point of rapidly diminishing capabilities.”

And to top it off, the administration is expected to deny Taiwan's request for new F-16s and instead offer to update the current fleet. Why deny Taiwan's request in the face of China’s military buildup? This ABC report explains: “In May, nearly half of the Democrat-led Senate sent a letter urging Obama to authorize the deal. There is likely even broader support in the Republican-controlled House. Giving the green light would set back Obama’s efforts to cultivate a stable, cooperative relationship with China, which has reacted to previous arms sales to Taiwan by cutting military ties with the U.S.” In other words, China enhances its military capability and tries to intimidate us from arming allies while all the while we go through round and round of defense budget cuts. No wonder China is becoming more belligerent. The communist regime perceives a lack of will by the U.S. to check its military ambitions.

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 08/29/2011

Categories:  foreign policy, National Security

 
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