Here’s a not so little aside to start our overview of the Chinese military: China’s budget for its national security is at an all time high, no real surprise there. But now the budget for internal security is even larger. Imagine how challenging it must be for the leaders of China as they plot to defend their rule from without and within.
Internal security will be looked at in more detail in another chapter. This chapter will focus on what one might consider the more usual aspects of national defense, though we will see that once again, even military considerations can not be fully separated from the corruption and struggles behind the Great Wall of Chinese political power.
For all intents and purposes, the armed forces of China have been and still remain essentially a defense force. Oh of course there had been for a long time in the West an image of millions upon millions of Chinese soldiers, swarming and overrunning any land force that dared confront it. Certainly American soldiers of the Army X Corps experienced the weight of overwhelming numbers at Chosin Reservoir just south of the Chinese border in that frigid Korean winter of 1950. But the fact is, when it comes to China’s basic military concerns, it has basically a defensive posture. A quick look at a map (and for that matter, history) will reveal why.
China has fourteen territorial neighbors on its land borders, most of whom it has had disputes with over time; Russia and India, to name just a couple. Five of them are predominantly Muslim and border the expansive far northwest province of Xinjiang, with its restive Uighur Muslim population. And then there is its coastline, all 9000 miles of it, facing out onto North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam, with all the intendant concerns about the vulnerable shipping lanes of world commerce.
For those in China with the responsibility for the nation’s protection, it is easy to see they have their hands full. Add to that the far reaching concerns of conflict with nations on the other side of the globe, and it’s little wonder the Chinese Dragon huffs and puffs from time to time, if only to send a don’t tread on me signal.
Are China’s much publicized launching of an aircraft carrier or flights of a new stealth fighter a signal of its rise as a global military force to be reckoned with? Or is does it mask a deeper national and political insecurity as the internet topples what was once called the Bamboo Curtai? This chapter will take a deeper look into the known and the speculated, even the feared capabilities of the Peoples Liberation Army.