09 May 2016
There are few areas where China is really competitive with the United States: high-speed computing, perhaps (China owns the world’s fastest computer), high-speed rail, enormous dam projects. Many of these “competitions” are mostly symbolic, but it is in outer space where Beijing is not only catching up quickly, but is on the verge of leaving the US space program – once the gold standard – in its wake.
For much of China’s defense and aerospace industry, it is easy be dismissive. Even after twenty years or so of throwing considerable manpower and money at the problem, most of what comes out of China’s armaments and aircraft factories can be considered good — some of it quite good, in fact — but in general nothing particularly exceptional.
To be sure, the weapons that China is currently producing are a vast improvement over the rubbish its factories churned out in the 1980s and 1990s. The J-10 fighter jet, the Yuan-class submarine, and theLuyang III (Type-052D) destroyer, to name but a few new Chinese-built systems, are head-and-shoulders above their predecessors. In terms of overall quality and capabilities, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is being gradually outfitted with weaponry that approaches that of its neighbors and likely competitors.
… Richard A. Bitzinger is a Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The opinions expressed here are his own.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 10/05/2016