China is moving faster than the Pentagon thinks....
Economist Irwin Stelzer writes that China plays chess while we play tiddlywinks. Evidence of this comes from none other than SecDef Robert Gates, who warned China re its J-20 stealth fighter that America would "respond appropriately" but also recently admitted that Chinese military modernization has outpaced our expectations. China tested its stealth fighter hours before SecDef Gates arrived; US officials reportedly think the top civilian leaders did not know of the test. But AEI China expert Dan Blumenthal ridicules the idea that China's autocrats did not know of the test; they fully control the military, the country's most important institution; the J-20 test, DB writes, was a deliberate insult on the eve of this week's State visit. DB also co-authored a Weekly Standard article further detailing China's high-tech military build-up and how China aims to project influence into the Indian Ocean via nuclear submarines; DB proposes the US push forward with key programs, inlcuding reviving the F-22 and accelerating the new strategic long-range stealth bomber program.
Here is an Aviation week assessment of China's J-20, and an AW editorial on maintaining defense spending to deter Chinese moves.. AEI defense scholar Tom Donnelly writes that the J-20 is more likely a medium-range bomber than an air superiority fighter, as it is too large for the latter role; such would make it a formidable anti-ship weapon. More detail is presented by an Airpower Australia article on the J-20. Another WSJ piece reports that concerned Asian allies plan to ask America to restart production of the F-22. Japan, Australia and Israel had requested production of an export model of the F-22, which President Obama & SecDef Gates rejected in 2009 in deciding to end the F-22's production run. Japan responded by beginning to build an indigenous 5th-generation fighter (stealth) prototype. Gates reiterated his insistence that Japan accept the less-stealthy F-35 in lieu of the F-22, despite the F-35 program being plagued by problems while the F-22 (though hardly problem-free) is operational.
Granted, the F-35, if it attains oeprational status, is likely to be more than a match for a first stealth model like the J-20. But keeping the F-22 production line open hedges against the prospect that the F-35 program fails to deliver an operational model. Time to "reset" the F-22 shutdown.
China rebuffed SecDef Gates's appeal for broader military cooperation, citing US aid to Taiwan. Fareed Zakharia sees "a dangerous chip on China's shoulder" creating risk of conflict in the Western Pacific.
Bottom Line. China is making an all-out effort to freeze America out of the Western Pacific, the success of which would force our allies to strike a neutralist pose, closer to China and distancing themselves from American policy. We ignore their drive at our geostrategic peril.
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