Is the Chinese military a threat to the US?

China - a military threat to the USA?

Status: 09/17/2020 9:00 a.m.

The Trump administration has significantly tightened its confrontational policy towards China in the past few months - at least rhetorically.

The US continues to have a military presence in the Pacific.

High-ranking US government officials have accused the Chinese leadership of seeking "global supremacy", threatening the "American way of life", and even the "life and existence" of Americans. Several American China experts warn of the counterproductive consequences of such one-sided and exaggerated claims. Rachel Odell is a China expert at the Quincy Institute think tank" in Washington. She believes the increased anti-Chinese rhetoric is primarily intended to appeal to Trump's electoral base.

There is a combination of different factors: "The bad polls for Trump and the economic and ideological nationalism of the government." The administration is trying to exaggerate the Chinese risk in order to win the elections, says Odell. "China poses no direct military threat to the US - not to our territory and not to the security of US citizens."

USA no longer undisputed No. 1

The economic rise of China has changed the balance of power in the world. The US economic and technological supremacy and its role as the sole superpower are a thing of the past. There is also no longer any clear military superiority of the USA in the region around China, says Michael Paul from the Berlin Foundation for Science and Politics. The Chinese armament has made it difficult for the USA to help its allies in the region "This of course threatens the alliance system and the superpower role of the USA."

China is getting stronger militarily

Indeed, China has significantly improved and expanded its military capabilities in the Pacific over the past few years. There is no longer any freedom of action for the USA and an escalation dominance in this region. China justifies its rearmament with the need to counter the expansion of the US military in the region. Reference is made, for example, to the stationing of US missile defense systems in South Korea, Japan and other regions of the Pacific. These measures could threaten China's nuclear second strike capability - i.e. in the event of a US attack, Beijing would no longer be able to fight back with its own nuclear weapons. The Chinese leadership also perceives the armament of Taiwan by the US as a threat.

Beijing wants to prevent US intervention

Chinese security expert Tong Zhao from the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy" Beijing does not believe that China, for example, as the Pentagon claims, is aiming to double its nuclear warheads. In any case, China would then only have about a tenth of the American or Russian nuclear arsenal. But in the Asia-Pacific region, the target of the Chinese military is clear, says Tong Zhao. "China's military intent is to develop the ability to deter the US from intervening militarily in the region. This affects the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Here, China has territorial disputes with its neighbors."

Increasing military presence

Both the US and China are increasingly carrying out military maneuvers in the region. China has taken possession of several islands in the South China Sea, to which other neighboring countries are also claiming. The disputed islands have been militarily secured by Beijing. The US considers the Chinese approach to be a violation of international law. US Navy units and fighter planes are therefore regularly patrolling the area to demonstrate that the Chinese claims are not being recognized.

Dispute over Taiwan

Head of State Xi Jinpeng is aiming for reunification with Taiwan.

China expert Rachel Odell from the Quincy Institute in Washington believes that a military conflict could particularly threaten Taiwan. "Chinese President Xi Jinping repeatedly makes it clear that his goal is reunification. However, this does not mean that he now wants to achieve this by military means. This could only be the case if, for example, Taiwan declares its formal independence China would see that as a provocation. But the current government in Taiwan has no such intention. " Therefore, a military conflict over Taiwan is extremely unlikely at the moment, according to Rachel Odell.

US efforts to form anti-China coalition

The Trump administration has recently been campaigning for the establishment of a kind of anti-Chinese alliance in the Pacific - similar to NATO. In fact, there are already maneuvers in the region in which the US is practicing together with Indian, Australian and Japanese units. But Michael Paul of the Berlin Foundation for Science and Politics considers a NATO-like military alliance to be unrealistic, because the interests of the states in the region are not identical.

Despite territorial conflicts, the states in the region are interested in good relations with both China and the USA for economic and security reasons. US military cooperation with partners in the region is likely to intensify further in the near future. However, an integrated military alliance like NATO will not be built.

Arms race more and more likely

China is spending more and more money on armaments. However, the military budget is significantly lower than that of the Pentagon.

However, even without a formal military alliance in the region, there is a threat of a further spiral of armament - especially between the USA and China. Tong Zhao from the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing sees the mutual threat perception as the reason. There is a risk of an arms race. For example, the Chinese government is planning to increase military spending by six percent next year.

In the United States, the Defense Committee of Congress has decided to increase the military budget to $ 740 billion. Compared to the previous year, this is an increase of only 1.5 percent, but overall, according to the Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI, the USA spends almost three times more on armaments than China.

No fundamental change of course under Biden

If Joe Biden wins the presidential election, that will not change much, believes Michael Paul from the Science and Politics Foundation: "Like Trump and Obama, Biden will assume that China has become a serious rival with him one has to deal with. And its attempts to undermine American supremacy in the world are, of course, perceived as a threat to American economic and security interests. " In this respect, there will probably be fewer differences in substance, but there will be in rhetoric.

 

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NDR Info | Armed Forces and Strategies | 09/19/2020 | 7:20 pm