How China is advancing its military reach

 Published: 1/18/2012 12:30:01 AM GMT
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As the US shifts its focus to Asia, Alexander Neill, head of the Asia Security Programme at the Royal United Services Institute, sets out the Chinese military advances challenging the regional balance.

At the Pentagon recently, US President Barack Obama announced deep cuts to the US military and set out a shift in attention towards the Asia-Pacific region, in a thinly-veiled message to China.

Despite a narrative of peaceful intent, China's leaders have struggled to reassure the US over the direction of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Both countries admit that their military dialogue falls well behind other aspects of the relationship.

So the shift has brought renewed scrutiny of the PLA's latest capabilities against US dominance in the Pacific.

In recent years the PLA has demonstrated impressive new capabilities at sea and in space, aimed at showcasing the success of its modernisation effort.

The obvious message is to deliver a powerful warning if Taiwan were to declare formal independence.

But Pentagon planners are now concerned that the Taiwan contingency has been eclipsed by China's broader maritime territorial claims and demands for more international space to protect the arteries feeding China's growth.

China is developing a range of capabilities linked to the space and cyber domain in order to sidestep the overwhelming might of the US military in the Pacific region. The PLA calls this fighting "local wars under informationised conditions".


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