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China / U.S. Relations Take Hit
With the controversial U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, $6.4 billion worth, I thought I’d check out the official reaction from China’s government. Global Times is a conservative Chinese publication with ties to leadership and the following is taken from an interview the paper did with Du Wenlong (Du), a senior researcher with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Academy of Military Sciences.
GT: What is the current situation of Taiwan’s military equipment?
Du: Taiwan’s military forces are equipped by the U.S. From 1949 to 2009, the U.S. provided more than $60 billion in military aid to Taiwan. Taiwan’s military industry can only produce low-end products, while higher-end equipment comes from the U.S.
After years of the U.S. arming Taiwan, the current equipment of the Taiwan forces is pretty good, especially for the air force and navy. On land, they have only the second generation of U.S. equipment, since the most up-to-date third generation equipment has not been provided to Taiwan yet.
In the air force, the F16A/B supplied by the U.S. and the Mirage 2000 supplied by France are the main fighters, and also the workhorse fighters in their countries of origin. The missiles supplied are also good, such as the AIM-120 air-to-missile and the MICA missile, which are among the best products in the world.
The main battleships of the Taiwanese navy are either bought from the U.S., like the Kidd-class destroyer, or copied from the U.S.
For instance, the Cheng Kung-class frigate was copied from the Olivier Hazard Perry-class frigate. The Kang Ting-class frigate is copied from France’s La Fayette-class frigate. These are also in the top rank of naval technologies. The Kang Ting-class frigates are the best stealth warship in the Asia-Pacific region, with 3,000-ton ships only registering as 300-ton boats on radar.
Du: Five systems are included in this arms sale: UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, TIDS/Link 16 data chain, mine sweeping vessels, and the PAC-3 antimissile system.
GT: There have been many criticisms in Taiwan against the short-range missiles used by the Chinese mainland. How should we see that?
Du: This issue is inflated by the advocates of Taiwanese independence. They want to use this topic to control the island’s politics. The People’s Liberation Army should do everything they need to do, as allowed by the Anti-Secession Law. These missiles are working for the integrity of China’s territory.
GT: Taiwan also wants to acquire more F16 fighters. What is the military use of these?
Du: There are about 150 F16A/Bs, 58 Mirage 2000s, and about 100 Ching-Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters on the island. The total of third-generation fighters is about 300, which is about the same number you’d expect a mid-size country to have, and much more than they need for air combat. Adding early warning aircraft, it also exceeds their need for air defense.
But, if the fighting started across the Taiwan Straits, these planes will never get a chance to take off. Considering the narrowness of Taiwan Straits and the firepower from the Chinese mainland, their airports are so vulnerable. All airports will be destroyed in the first attack. Even if some of them can take off, they can’t land.
Du: After Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou was elected, he has continued former leader Chen Shui-bian’s policy of “effective deterrence,” of developing the military to be able to deliver more damage than the Chinese mainland expects. Basically, they hope to stop the military attack to Taiwan by “scaring” the mainland.
Under this plan, they are emphasizing the abilities of “Preemption and countermeasure.” “Preemption” refers to operations when they discover the mainland is making military preparations, and “countermeasures” refer to actions after the battles begin.
This is naïve thinking. If the unfortunate situation described in the Anti-Secession Law develops, military actions against independence will not be stopped by any damage done by Taiwan.
Editor: Of course the above glosses over why China feels compelled to target Taiwan with about 1,400 short- and medium-range missiles, as the official says they’re for protecting the mainland’s territorial integrity. Hardly. He is correct, however, in saying that in the initial moments of battle, China will take out Taiwan’s airstrips, rendering the air force worthless.
From the South China Morning Post [Hong Kong] reaction to the U.S. Defense Department’s Quadrennial Review, as reported by Greg Torode and Minnie Chan.
“The Pentagon has outlined a raft of measures to deal with potential military threats from China over the next decade.
“They include new integrated air-sea battle plans, better protection for offshore bases, improved cyber-warfare capabilities and new strategic relationships with China’s Southeast Asian neighbors.
“It also says better surveillance and intelligence are needed, and advocates the creation of unmanned ‘drone’ submarines….
“The Foreign Ministry issued a swift and strongly worded protest yesterday, calling the document ‘misleading, full of clichés and an attempt to interfere with China’s affairs.’
“While the report…makes the case for a nimbler and more fluid military to face a widening array of modern threats, and for moving away from the cold-war-era doctrine of fighting two conventional wars simultaneously, it carries more extensive references to the threats posed by China, and to a lesser extent Russia, than previous reviews over the past decade.
“ ‘The United States faces a complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate,’ the report says. ‘The rise of China, the world’s most populous country, and India, the world’s largest democracy, will continue to shape an international system that is no longer easily defined – one in which the United States will remain the most powerful actor but must increasingly rely on key allies and partners if it is to sustain stability and peace.’….
“While calling for closer ties with China to reduce mistrust, the report stresses the need for the U.S. to maintain its ability to project power against potentially hostile states. It warns of potential risks from China’s ballistic and cruise missiles, its new advanced submarines and air and space defenses, and of threats from North Korea and Iran.
“ ‘China has shared only limited information about the pace, scope and ultimate aims of its military modernization programs, raising a number of legitimate questions regarding its long-term intentions,’ it says.
“Military attaches in the region said that while much in the report would not have come as a surprise to Beijing, the calls for new battle plans would be closely scrutinized. The report calls for improved long-range strike capabilities and better coordination across air, sea, land, space and cyberspace – all part of a new battle concept for defeating ‘adversaries equipped with sophisticated anti-access and area denial capabilities.’
“The report says the U.S. and China should keep talking and seek to solve disagreements to ‘manage and ultimately reduce the risks of conflict that are inherent in any relationship as broad and complex as that shared by these two nations.’
“In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was quick to respond. ‘Over the past years, the Chinese government has taken effective and active measures to improve our military transparency,’ he said. ‘We hope the U.S. side can look at China and Chinese military development in an objective and fair light. The U.S. should stop making irresponsible comments and do more to build mutual trust between the two militaries.’
“Some Chinese observers of military matters said the report would add fuel to the Sino-U.S. row already blazing over Washington’s arms sales to Taiwan.
“ ‘Neither President Obama nor President Hu Jintao would want to see Sino-U.S. relations heading towards such a direction. But the arms sale and the review will certainly make it more difficult for them to bring the ties back on track,’ said Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association, which is based in Macau.
“Professor Ni Lexiong, a military expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Beijing’s strong response to the arms sales to Taiwan and the review was mainly meant for the domestic audience.
“ ‘The reaction to both the arms sales and the review are just political posturing. Beijing wants to show to the Chinese public that it is now ready to take on the U.S. after so many years of silent tolerance. They will also portray the report as an effort by the Pentagon to use China’s rise to win more for its military budget amid the severe financial crisis.’
“ ‘In the end, military-to-military exchanges is only going to play a small part in Sino-U.S. ties. Both understand they have too much at stake as their economies are becoming increasingly integrated.’”
In light of all the above, on Feb. 2, the Chinese government issued a statement regarding the U.S. that said in part:
China has decided to halt bilateral military programs and security talks…
“The U.S. move posed grave danger to China’s core interests and hurt bilateral ties seriously, which will inevitably affect bilateral cooperation on some major regional and international issues,” said spokesman Ma Zhaoxu. “Such a move…severely undermines China’s national security and its peaceful reunification cause.”