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Chinese Military Aerospace and Maritime Development: Short-Range Tailwinds, Long-Range Headwinds
Andrew Erickson, Associate in Research at John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University
By any measure, China’s economy and defense budget are second only to those of the United States. Yet tremendous uncertainties persist concerning China’s military development and national trajectory, and areas with greater information available often conflated misleadingly. Fortunately, larger dynamics elucidate both areas. Particularly since the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait Crisis, China has made rapid progress in aerospace and maritime development, greatly facilitating its military modernization. The weapons and systems that China is developing and deploying fit well with Beijing’s geostrategic priorities. Here, distance matters greatly: after domestic stability and border control, Beijing worries most about its immediate periphery, where its unresolved disputes with neighbors and outstanding claims lie primarily in the maritime direction. Accordingly, while it would vastly prefer pressuring concessions to waging war, China is already capable of threatening potential opponents’ military forces should they intervene in crises over islands and maritime claims in the Yellow, East, and South China Seas and the waterspace and airspace around them. Far from mainland China, by contrast, it remains ill-prepared to protect its own forces from robust attack. Fortunately for Beijing, the non-traditional security focus of its distant operations makes conflict unlikely; remedying their vulnerabilities would be difficult and expensive. Despite these larger patterns, critical unknowns remain concerning China’s economic development, societal priorities, industrial efficiency, and innovation capability. Dr. Erickson will examine these and related issues to probe China’s development trajectory and future place in the international system.
Monday, January 27, 2014 | 4:15 pm — 5:30 pm