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China is stirring: why now?

By John E. Carey - posted Thursday, 1 February 2007

In the last few weeks and months, two important new military capabilities were apparently demonstrated by China to show the US new - and some say troubling - Chinese military powers. First, in October 2006, a Chinese Song Class diesel electric submarine crept covertly to within five nautical miles of the USS Kitty Hawk, a US navy aircraft carrier.

This one act said to many naval observers two things: that China intends to patrol further than ever from its shores and that China now can effectively evade US navy anti-submarine warfare systems and place warships in a position to quickly eliminate the US navy’s capital ships.

Then on January 11, 2007, China launched a land-based rocket that intercepted and destroyed an old Chinese satellite. This one act indicated that China may have the early stages of a “space denial” weapon system for use against the US in a crisis or war.


Both incidents followed a period of decreased intelligence gathering by the US against China.

Military intelligence officials told us that the US Pacific Commander, Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, had restricted US intelligence-gathering activities against China, fearing that disclosure of the activities would upset relations with Beijing. Last week the White House announced that Admiral Fallon is now the President’s nominee to succeed General John Abazaid as the Commander of the Central Command.

We asked ourselves, “Why would China be revealing these apparently new, and to some frightening, capabilities at this time?”

We discovered a mixture of reasons after questioning several current and former officials of the State and Defense Departments in the US along with former National Security Council staff members and some well known “China watchers”. We also drew upon the excellent reporting on China by Bill Gertz of the Washington Times.

Burgeoning power

China is the burgeoning superpower of the world. China’s economy, the world’s fourth largest, is likely to enjoy a fifth straight year of double-digit growth in 2007. On January 20, 2007, Reuters reported that “Beijing’s leaders, despite unveiling a slew of policies in recent months to prevent over-heating, are unwilling to countenance a major slowdown because of the need to create jobs for millions of people joining the workforce every year”.

It seems as though every product for sale at your neighbourhood Wal Mart or Sears is marked “Made in China”.


Speaking of China’s government leaders, Yuan Gangming, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top think-tank, said “As in 2006, they want a growth rate of 10.5 per cent or even higher”.

China is spreading its wings and its economic influence the world over. In China, the sea routes and overland transportation system from China to the sub-Saharan region of Africa is called “The New Silk Road”. The original “Silk Road” was a key trade route comprised of an interconnected series of roads, routes and sea lanes spanning from Korea to the Mediterranean Sea.

“This new ‘silk road’ potentially presents to sub-Saharan Africa - home to 300 million of the globe’s poorest people and the world’s most formidable development challenge - a significant and rare opportunity to hasten its international integration and growth,” says World Bank Economic Adviser Harry G. Broadman, author of the study Africa’s Silk Road: China and India’s New Economic Frontier.

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First published in Peace and Freedom on January 23, 2007.

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About the Author

John E. Carey has been a military analyst for 30 years.

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