China’s Less Than Transparent Military Build Up

China’s Less Than Transparent Military Build Up

US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, in Beijing this week for talks with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials, urged China to be more transparent about its military build up.

The Chinese have just bumped up military spending by 17.8% this year.

Asking the Chinese to be transparent about their military agenda is a bit like casually asking Darth Vader to be transparent about the Empire’s new and improved Death Star plans. It ain’t going to happen.

Chinese ship building has been in high gear since 2002. Amphibious assault vessels, capable of ferrying troops have been a major focus. Some intelligence estimates suggest that some 20 of these vessels are in the works, along with a fleet of submarines.

Why the urgency? Some of this build-up relates to ongoing tensions with Taiwan – territory China has never relinquished and threatens to take back if the Taiwanese make any move toward de facto independence.

To demonstrate that this is no mere posturing, the National People’s Congress is in the process of introducing a law that will make the formal secession of Taiwan forbidden. Definitions covering so-called “separatist activity” will also be addressed, as will the role of “traitors” – together with proposed penalties.

The Taiwanese government has described the legislation as laying “a legal base for an invasion”.

The Chinese Congress through mouthpiece Jiang Enzhu denies such allegations and plays down any provocative interpretation of the law. Meanwhile yuan keeps getting pumped into an arms build-up that continues to heft up.

Given the Chinese history of aggression toward Tibet, accompanied as it was with a litany of denials and justifications to mollify world opinion, any Taiwanese citizens who sit easily with Chinese reassurances would have to be smoking something other than tobacco.

According to US Department of Defense sources the Peoples Liberation Army now has around 700 ballistic missiles near the Taiwan Strait. Hong-Niao cruise missiles are also in production. This build up has had the effect of overturning Taiwan’s edge in the face-off across the Strait. The advantage has shifted decidedly to the side of mainland China.

Despite the large amounts of cash being funneled into the military with the aim of projecting Chinese power not only in the direction of Taiwan, but far beyond its borders – the Chinese army is untested when it comes to modern warfare. It’s been 25 years since the PLA was involved in serious combat.

They are trying to off-set this deficit by engaging in joint military exercises with Russia. In August of this year, exercises took place in the Liadong Peninsula. The PLA needs to be able to compare its capabilities with a major military player, and for the present Putin seems willing to oblige.

The Chinese military escalation also involves military espionage on a large scale (predictably denied by the Chinese). US industries have been routinely targeted by spies working for China.

A notorious 2005 case involved a Korean spy named Ko-Suen Moo. He managed to ferry a F110-GE-129 turbofan engine (used to power F-16 fighters into upper speed ranges) – out of the US. It ended up in Shenyang, in northeastern China and Ko-Suen cleared $ 1 million in profits over and above his original investment.

This is just one case of many. Given all the evidence it would appear the Chinese are making a concerted effort to scour the globe for any military secrets they can lay their hands on.

So when John Negroponte asks for transparency from Beijing, the rejoinder “good luck” sounds like an exercise in irony.

Aidan Maconachy is a freelance writer and artist based in Ontario. You can visit his blog at