China gained its first aircraft carrier, carried out 18 space launches in 2012, expanded anti-space capabilities
The conclusions of the Pentagon’s annual publicly available intelligence report on China — “2013 Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” [PDF] — are that China’s claims of technological backwardness are far from reality.
According to U.S. Department of Defense experts, China’s military can hack into its rivals, potentially crippling their power, their water, and their communications. It has developed new technology to shoot down enemy satellites — or simply hack them. And it has developed sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles. And in 2012, it launched its first ever aircraft carrier, which gives it a mobile platform for air dominance.
Together this arsenal culminates into a sophisticated area-denial and anti-access strategy. Comments David F. Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, to reporters, “The issue here is not one particular weapons system. It’s the integration and overlapping nature of these weapons systems into a regime that can potentially impede or restrict free military operations in the Western Pacific. So that’s something that we monitor and are concerned about.”
In terms of hacking, the U.S. continues to accuse the Chinese military of an actively hostile stance. Comments Asst. Sect. Helvey, “In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the US government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military. [This information] could potentially be used to benefit China’s defence industry, high technology industries… and military planners.”
State-sponsored Chinese hackers have allegedly cyber-attacked a deluge of U.S. targets.
[Image Source: Asia Society]
The U.S. is concerned about China’s growing sea dominance and its “increased assertiveness” regarding maritime territory conflicts with Japan over island territory in the East China Sea.
Also troubling is China’s secrecy. In recent years China developed stealth aircraft and aircraft carrier technology seemingly out of the blue. Reportedly, China stole parts of these technologies via hacking or junk parts purchased from crash sites in the Middle East.
Comments Asst. Sect. Helvey, “What concerns me is the extent to which China’s military modernization occurs in the absence of the kind of openness and transparency that others are certainly asking of China. And so it’s that uncertainty, I think, that’s of greater concern.”
China launched its first aircraft carrier in 2012. [Image Source: Xinhua]
While the U.S.’s days as a space superpower appear to be waning, China is flexing its muscle in search for space supremacy. In 2012 it had 18 successful launches. U.S. intelligence says that these launches dramatically improved China’s surveillance capabilities, communication capabilities, and navigation capabilities. Currently China’s global position system (GPS) rival BeiDou only operates in Asia, but the company is constructing a global replacement dubbed COMPASS or BeiDou-2, which is expected to be complete by 2020.
Asst. Sect. Helvey adds, “At the same time, China continues to invest in a multidimensional program to deny others access to and use of space.”
There are some signs of improving Sino-American relations; the nations tentatively agreed to conduct joint military exercises in 2014. And last September the two nations conducted joint anti-piracy exercises.