China: March 6, 2004


China is determined to create armed forces that can beat Americans in combat. Chinese military and political leaders were heavily influenced by the American performance in the two Iraq wars, and in Afghanistan. For decades, many Chinese military and political leaders still believed that a massive guerilla war (as in World War II against the Japanese) would defeat any invader. But the Americans demonstrated an ability to quickly (and with few casualties) brush aside a less well trained and equipped army. Worse, from the Chinese point of view, was the American use of Special Forces and Civil Affairs troops to quickly get the support of the majority of the population. While the world's media dotes on the continued resistance of Taliban and Saddam loyalists, the Chinese note that the Americans were very quick in winning over the majority of a foreign population. Of course, the US is the only army on the planet with anything like Special Forces troops. But the American military is the only one on the planet that China really fears.

So China is trying to duplicate the American armed forces methods and equipment. Right now, there are less than 100,000 troops in this mini-modern army, air force and navy. It costs a lot of money to buy the equipment, select the troops and then let them train to the same standard as the Americans. China is also, like the Americans, studying new and novel ways to fight.

The Chinese are discovering that all that realistic and intense training is very expensive. But, increasingly, China is coming up with the cash. China's actual defense spending is running at about $55 billion a year. Precise numbers are not released, and many purchases for the military are not declared as "military." But much of this money still goes to support over two million men (and a few women) who serve in the armed forces. The official budget is $22 billion, and this has been going up at least ten percent a year for the last few years, and this rate of growth is to continue. Manpower is being reduced from 2.5 to 2.3 million. But for now, and the rest of the decade, the Chinese military has a thin crust of modern weapons and troops, beneath which are the bulk of the forces equipped with 30-40 year old technology and poorly trained and led. 

Getting the troops to "think like Americans" isn't easy either. But it will all be worth it if China can produce even a small force that can "fight like Americans." For the most immediate enemy is not America, but Taiwan. Here are Chinese who often "think like Americans", and could possible fight like Americans (although the Taiwanese armed forces, to the frustration of American advisors, is more prone to think like Chinese.) If there is war with Taiwan, it might also mean facing American forces. In any event, the ability to win quickly will be very, very valuable. And the Americans have shown how that can be done.





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