Skip to comments.US victories mute Chinese criticism on ABM
Posted on 12/20/2001 4:21:29 AM PST by Enemy Of The State
US victories mute Chinese criticism on ABM
By Antoaneta Bezlova
BEIJING - Taken aback by sweeping developments in the US-led anti-terror war, Chinese observers have been reviewing strategic and political lessons from the military effort that is drawing to an end in Afghanistan.
In the days before Washington announced its unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty - a move Beijing has feared and opposed for a long time - Chinese state-sanctioned newspapers carried a few signed articles full of praise for America's military success in Afghanistan.
The triumph of US-led high-tech warfare has also softened critical reactions to President George W Bush's decision to pull out of the ABM treaty, seen by Beijing as the bedrock of international strategic balance since the end of the Cold War. Although the Chinese Communist Party flagship the People's Daily criticized the decision as an "unwise" demonstration of unilateral politics, Beijing has kept the rhetoric down, bowing to what some say was inevitable.
"After this war, the United States believes even more than before that high technology can dominate the world," says Zhao Kejin, research fellow at the American Affairs Research Centre of Fudan University. "President [George W] Bush represents the interests of the US military circles and they believe in the deployment of a National Missile Defense [NMD] system."
Despite initial skeptical forecasts on the war against terror in Afghanistan, Chinese commentators in recent days have gone out of their way to applaud Washington's success after the defeat of Al-Qaeda terrorist forces was announced. They spoke of the "efficiency and precision" of the US air strikes on Taliban-ruled territories and praised the "guided way" in which this anti-terror war was led and won. They urged Beijing to heed to the importance of air dominance in conflicts, saying America's previous military interventions in international conflicts, such as the Gulf War and Kosovo, however unwelcome in Beijing, have also showcased that.
Such a commending tone in regard to the US military interventions is unusual for China, which did not support Washington's war with Iraq in the early 1990s and openly opposed America's military actions in Kosovo. When, at the height of the Kosovo conflict, a US bomb hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Chinese media and the public fiercely criticized the United States' high-tech warfare and condemned it as a demonstration of Washington's hegemonistic policies.
This time around, Beijing has not only given a tacit endorsement of the war but has also applauded its swift execution and Washington's diplomatic work behind the scenes that isolated and eventually led to the defeat of the Taliban government.
"The United States has never fought such a smooth war," wrote Jiang Guoning in the widely read Southern Weekend. "American troops had cut-clear guidance, made full use of their air dominance and high-tech weaponry, maximally wiped out the enemy's effective strength and cleverly changed tactics as the war developed. It is not hard to imagine," continued Jiang, "that without the American support in this war, even with all the military equipment provided by Russia to the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban forces would have suffered a defeat."
Analysts here see the example of the US-led war in Afghanistan as yet another sharp reminder for Beijing that China lacks a competitive edge in a modern conflict. During the Mao Zedong era (1949-1976) when China fought numerous conflicts with its neighbors, Chinese leadership invested enormously in developing its ground forces and conventional weaponry.
A vast complex of underground tunnels and shelters, spread throughout the main cities and in caves in the western part of the country, was built to counter a perceived nuclear attack from the Soviets. The experience of modern warfare in the past 10 years has rendered China's past build-up useless and prompted Chinese leaders to review targets for military upgrading.
China's military vulnerability became all too apparent during the Gulf War in 1991 with the rapid and total defeat of Iraq's invasion forces in Kuwait. The Iraqi force was equipped with technology similar to that used by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, as well as with a quantity of arms made in China. The need for modernization became all the more obvious in 1999 during the Kosovo conflict. While Belgrade - with defense systems comparable to those possessed by China - managed to hide some of its weapons from North Atlantic Treaty Organization air forces, its air defenses were unable to inflict any significant casualties.
In the absence of an up-to-date conventional arsenal, Beijing nowadays relies largely on its nuclear weapons and missile forces. The future of its missile arsenal, though, has been put into question by the development of Star Wars-type anti-missile defense shields that may shelter China's potential adversaries, including Taiwan, which Beijing regards as Chinese territory.
"Unlike Russia, which has sufficient number of missiles, China has a very small number of modern weapons," says Professor Guo Xiangang at the Institute of International Relations Study. "If the United States builds a missile defense shield, then China would lose its capability for launching a second strike and has no chance whatsoever."
Officially, Beijing reiterated its concerns that the US withdrawal from the ABM treaty could precipitate a new arms race. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement stressing "the importance of safeguarding international military control and the disarmament system and the stability in the current circumstances".
"China is not going to enter into a new arms race," argues Zhao Kejin. "But the US withdrawal from the ABM has also brought some opportunities for Beijing to develop its own 'smart weapons.'"
One that they are not a signatory member to and one that only restricts the US development of a system to protect itself while Beijing is free to aggressively militarize and become a serious potential threat to the United States considering the fact that Beijing has already made threats to Make a nuclear strike on California should the US intervene in any ivasion of Taiwan.