News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

March 1, 2006

Pete Chalos: China poised to become next big economic, military power

“If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition onto the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons. … If the Americans are determined to interfere, we will be determined to respond. … We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”

This statement was made a few months ago to members of the press by General Zhu Chenghu of the People’s Liberation Army, also a professor at China’s National Defense University, concerning U.S. opposition to China’s threats to invade Taiwan.

Napoleon once warned about China, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.” China’s economy, growing at a rate of 9 percent a year, is expected to replace that of the U.S. as the largest economy in the world within two decades. Rapid military modernization across the board and an estimated conventional force exceeding 2.5 million professional soldiers and 1.2 million reservists positions China to overtake the U.S. as the dominant superpower within 50 years, if not sooner. This giant is not only awake, it’s hungry.

Some claim that China’s military, though huge, is not modern enough to pose a challenge to the U.S. In actuality, experts estimate that China has at its disposal more than 10,000 tanks, more than 2,000 light tanks, 4,350 military aircrafts, more than 20 destroyers, 37 frigates, and 400 nuclear warheads. In addition to this, China has plans to purchase aircraft carriers and is developing nuclear submarines. China may not match the U.S. in military hardware or technology but the nation would certainly pose a formidable challenge in a military conflict.

If our current military can’t stabilize a region as small as Iraq, how could we hope to fulfill our promises to established democracies like Taiwan, Japan or South Korea if China became determined to move its borders outward? Even worse, what if China and North Korea (with it’s 1 million man army) formed an alliance? The balance of power in our world may be shifting in the coming decades. One thing is for sure, we are not alone at the top of the food chain anymore.

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