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Gates Baffled by China's Military Build-Up


Bob Gates is utterly baffled by China's military build-up:

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on China Thursday to explain its intentions in undertaking a major military buildup that the Pentagon warns is altering the military balance in the region. "There is no question that the Chinese are building significant capacity," Gates said. "Our concern is over their intent."

Maybe their intent is the same as ours: to defend themselves and their access to natural resources around the world. They are just as dependent as we are on foreign oil, but lack the ability to project military power into areas of the world that supply their oil as we do. Maybe they don't want to leave themselves completely at the mercy of unstable dictators and extremist groups who threaten their supply of oil? Sound familiar?

Gates spoke to reporters during a stopover here on his way to Singapore where he was expected to raise US concerns over the increases in Chinese military spending, the size and scope of which is secret. "One of the central themes of everyone who is talking to the Chinese is more transparency," Gates said. "Tell us more about where you're headed, what are your intentions. That's the real issue. The fact that they are building capacity is just a fact. What they plan or do not plan to do with it is what's of interest."

Well, let's see now. China is roughly the same size as the US in terms of territory and they have a population that is more than 4 times greater. Yet, we spend anywhere from 5 to 10 times more on defense than they do. If we take our level of defense spending as a benchmark and adjust it based on a country's land mass and population then China should probably be spending about 4 times more than the US spends.

Maybe we should tell the world what our intentions are with regard to our massive and growing level of defense spending that completely dwarfs that of any other country in the world? Maybe it is our lack of transparency on our intentions that is causing countries like China to spend more than they otherwise would?

Last I checked, sovereign nations aren't required to submit their defense spending plans to Washington DC. The Chinese undoubtedly have a long-term goal of catching and then surpassing the US militarily. This is completely within their rights and is consistent with their own rational self-interest. It shouldn't be a mystery to us at all. Rather than badger them about this we should leverage our current position of superiority and seek to engage them in long-term arms control agreements that will reduce the level of weaponry on both sides. Maybe if we treat China with the respect great nations deserve they will become an ally in the long-run that might be able to help us out in the future when we find ourselves required to intervene military around the world.

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Comments (3)


...except, as usual, some things were left out.

Defense spending isn't a good comparison, for example. Besides the difference in costs (they get soldiers for, effectively, free, due to the type of government and economy they have), a huge percentage of China's military spending is hidden.

For example, most of their "civilian" merchant fleet is run by their Navy, ao they could, in a very short time, put a helluva lot of sailors on whatever ships they build. Ditto for their army, which is either staffed by or "owns" a big part of the Chinese economy. A bunch of those factories that turn out heavy equipment could be turned, literally overnight, into creating things for their military, with little evidence outside of "shortages" in certain exports.

As far as their motivation: if they were only interested in "protecting" their interests, they wouldn't be building the sorts of ships they've been working so hard on. They're creating a massive sealift capacity, which (in pretty much every way) exceeds anything that your "protection" scenario entails.

By the way: comparing to the US and our actions in the Mideast, you left out quite a lot. Like the way we didn't go in and steal all of Iraq's oil (it's still being sold, on the open market, at market prices). On the other hand, nobody (except the more idiotic apologists) thinks that China would go in, take Indonesia's oil fields, and then pay so much as a dime for their crude and natural gas.


I don't think he/she would have any problem with a good many countries projecting military power overseas. I've got no problem with most of Europe, Japan, Australia, and Canada.

On the other hand, it's worth worrying when a country who's previously been looking hard into your military technology decides to pop up a lot more forces.

I think the concerns are overstated -- China's economy is too reliant on the United States for war to be an effective or efficient choice (nice thing about capitalists is that we're greedy bastards) -- but any Security Council nation should be willing to make public their military information.

Also, as noted above, any method of comparing statistics from one country to the next is inherently problematic. Comparing two currency systems across an entire economic divide is just idiocy; the difference in manpower costs alone are vast.

Steve Crickmore:

Larkin, I must leave now...I haven't had time to digest this story completely, but it may explain why the Chinese are engaged in a military build-up.Lawrence B. Wilkerson,

the U.S. Army colonel who was Powell's chief of staff through two administrations, said in little-noted remarks early last month that "neocons" in the top rungs of the administration quietly encouraged Taiwanese politicians to move toward a declaration of independence from mainland China -- an act that the communist regime has repeatedly warned would provoke a military strike.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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