The United States of America has long enjoyed the status of being the most militarily advanced nation in the world, forcefully projecting its power. All of that is currently at risk, however, as China poses a serious threat to U.S. military might.
Why is China a military threat to the United States? China is an ancient civilization that takes great pride in its antiquity. Calling itself the “Middle Kingdom,” China believes it has a right to be the leading country in its region, and even the world. The United States stands in China’s way of achieving that goal. China hasn’t forgotten the “century of humiliation,” when outside Western powers gobbled up spheres of influence in China and subjected them to their will.
After communism came to power in China, it began a slow and arduous climb to once again becoming a global power equipped with a strong military. China witnessed the might of the United States when it broke the back of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Lumping the United States in with its old imperialistic Western enemies, China is determined to level the military playing field and force America to reckon with its strength. Not since the Cold War has the United States faced an adversary so ideologically opposed and determined for retribution.
China’s hostility toward the United States is well documented and can be seen playing out in their current military approach. China’s armed forces have built their game plan on directly countering U.S. military strategy, proving that they perceive the United States to be their top rival. There are several examples of this, including restocking long-range nuclear weapons, developing stealthier nuclear-powered submarines, and enhancing surveillance systems.
China has also recently produced cheap, yet effective, long-range missiles. These warheads are intended to overwhelm and parry the capabilities of America’s aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers have been a central pillar of the United States’ navy for the past few decades, and China is looking to counter that threat to its military using its new missile technology.
The People’s Republic of China has always maintained an enormous number of troops, but historically, these troops have suffered from the notable weakness of being under-equipped. However, Chinese leadership, particularly under, President Xi Jinping, has worked to eliminate this issue, which has dogged China’s military for decades. As the Chinese strongman stated to thousands of his troops during a military assembly, “[The military should] create an elite and powerful force that is always ready for the fight, capable of combat and sure to win in order to fulfill the tasks bestowed by the Party and the people in the new era.”
These “tasks” are easy to uncover based on China’s centuries-long grudge against the West.
Before China can declare itself as the premier military power in the world, it intends to first solidify itself as a regional juggernaut. It is currently creating “islands” (man-made deposits of sand on top of marine staples such as coral reefs and submerged land formations) to claim a national right to the South China Sea. These islands will be used to launch planes and dock naval ships, capabilities that China desperately needs because it lacks friendly international ports, although even this issue is currently being resolved.
China already has the second highest defense spending budget, surpassed only by the United States, but its military spending continues to increase. Military spending rose by 8.1 percent in fiscal year 2018 and by 7 percent and 7.6 percent in 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Chinese military technology is also increasing by leaps and bounds. The Chinese Air Force has experienced a boost in power, with the introduction of two new fighters to its stable: the Su-35 and the J-20. The Su-35 is a highly advanced, Russian-built aircraft that was created to go toe-to-toe with the best American fighter planes, such as the F-15. The Su-35 is stealthier than the F-15, has more hardpoints, and features an infrared search and track system, an advanced piece of technology that can make it easy to detect stealth aircraft at short to medium ranges.
Additionally, China has created the highly advanced J-20 stealth aircraft. Its systems, weapons, and overall capabilities give it comparable features to both the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. Although it has yet to prove itself in battle, the mere fact that China has been able to close the gap this much with America’s fourth- and fifth-generation fighters should be cause for alarm.
Furthermore, Chinese naval power has increased astronomically. Less than 20 years ago, China had a significantly weaker navy than the United States, suffering from a lack of aircraft carriers and fighter planes. The tables have turned dramatically in recent years; currently, China has a significant numerical advantage over the United States in these areas, although the United States continues to maintain a technological advantage—for now.
Admiral Philip Davidson stated in the starkest of terms that “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.” In other words, the U.S. Navy is in dire straits compared to the surging Chinese fleet, and the strength differential will only continue to worsen if the United States doesn’t make significant investments soon.
America has the potential to negate the Chinese threat, but in order to do so, the United States must be willing to expand its defense budget significantly, something that has become increasingly more difficult in the current political climate, especially because of America’s growing national debt.
China’s military dominance is a significant danger to the United States, but if the right countermeasures are taken, America can ensure it remains the world’s most powerful nation.
PHOTO: SOUTH CHINA SEA (July 8, 2012) – The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) conducts a vertical replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earheart (T-AKE 6) in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, are underway for a routine summer patrol in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Declan Barnes). Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Liam Sigler is a student commentator at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia.