Back in 2012, I predicted that:
“The PRC will replace the US as the world’s top military and economic power no later than in the next decade, and probably much sooner than that, so relations with China will be much more important than relations with the US.”
The PRC is, of course, the People’s Republic of China.
My prediction is now fully on track to be proven true before long. Economically, China has ALREADY overtaken the US – it’s GDP is already bigger than that of the US, as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), according to both the International Monetary Fund and the CIA World Factbook.
Militarily, China – despite the claims of the legion of China “threat deniers” in the US – has already matched or overtaken the US in terms of military power by most measures of such power, and is now working on closing the remaining few gaps.
In the last few weeks, China has taken several huge steps in that direction.
Firstly, on April 13th, it signed a contract for the purchase of at least six battalions’ worth of S-400 systems with Russia’s Rosoboronoexport company. These systems can detect and shoot down aircraft and missiles at a range of up to 400 kms and at altitudes starting at 25 m (aircraft flying lower than that can be shot down by the ubiquitous Shilka, Tunguska, Tor-M1, and Pantsir-S1 SPAAGs and by other types of AAA, thus belying the claim of A-10 Warthog defenders like Pierre Sprey that the A-10 is still useful for suppression of enemy air defenses).
The S-400 is the best air defense system in the world, hands down, far superior to the woefully MIM-104 Patriot. Beyond the S-400’s far superior range, it also offers a radar that can look at a 360 degree azimuth (i.e. see everything all around it), while the Patriot’s radar only has a 90 degree azimuth; and the S-400 is highly mobile, capable of relocating in minutes, while the MIM-104 is not mobile at all – it’s only transportable, and requires a large ship, a large train, a large truck cavalcado, or a C-17 Globemaster III to transport it.
China’s air space – like Russia’s – is already firmly closed to all nonstealthy aircraft, thanks to China’s large procurement of S-300 and HQ-9 air defense systems. This means that the only Western aircraft with any real chance of safely penetrating Chinese airspace are the F-22 and the B-2, to be joined in the 2020s by the Long Range Strike Bomber.
But China has nonetheless decided to procure an even better, longer-ranged air defense system. Why?
Because the S-300/HQ-9 has a range sufficient to cover “only” half of Taiwan, while the S-400, if deployed opposite Taiwan across the Taiwanese Strait in the Guangdong Province, can cover ALL of Taiwan. This means the entire island will be entirely at China’s mercy when the S-400 is deployed in Guangdong – the Chinese military will be able to shoot down any Taiwanese civilian or military aircraft at will.
And, of course, it reinforces China’s air defenses further against anyone who would wish to bomb that country. As stated below, the country’s airspace is firmly closed to any nonstealthy military aircraft – leaving the US with the F-22, the B-2, and the yet-to-be-produced LRSB as the only viable options for bombing China.
Secondly, China has recently flown a new variant of its Shenyang J-11 fighter – the J-11D. Equipped with powerful, domestically-produced Woshan WS-10A engines and AESA radar, this fighter is far superior to anything flown by the Indian Air Force, the Japanese Self-Defense Air Force, or the Republic of China Air Force, except the IAF’s Mirage 2000 and Japan’s F-15s. It should be noted that no aircraft currently operated by the IAF or the ROCAF has an AESA radar, although the IAF has recently ordered the French Rafale fighter, which DOES have such a radar (the RBE2).
A YouTube video of the J-11D’s first flight published by Chinese aviation enthusiasts.
This flight not only strengthens the Chinese air force, but also demonstrates two crucial capabilities that China has – and which American “China threat deniers” have long denied: a high-performance domestically-built turbofan jet for fighter aircraft and a domestically-produced AESA radar.
Moreover, with that capability, China no longer needs to import advanced fighters or even fighter engines from Russia. Thus, Russia should not hope it can still sell Su-35s or AL-31F or AL-41 engines to the Middle Kingdom.
This also means China can built engines for its J-20 and J-31 stealth 5th generation fighters on its own.
All in all, these two steps constitute yet more proof that China has caught up with the US military in most respects and is now working hard on closing the few gaps that remain – despite the pious, desperate denials of the legion of China threat deniers in the US.
It also constitutes proof that all nonstealthy American aircraft – incl. the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, A-10, EA-6B, EA-18G, B-52, B-1, MQ-1, MQ-9, and others – are now hopelessly obsolete and utterly useless in all but the most benign threat environments – where the only opponents are insurgents incapable of contesting control of the air.
The China threat is real, present, and grave. Wishing it away or denying it only makes America less secure, not more – even if it does lull the American people and American policymakers into a false sense of security.
Last, but certainly not least, China’s emergence as the world’s new top military and economic power is bullet-proof evidence of what a visionary (if not indeed a prophet) and a master geopolitician Charles de Gaulle was. He, as President of France, was the first Western leader to officially recognize the People’s Republic of China in January 1964. At the time he predicted thaat “China could one day become the world’s greatest power again.”
In economic terms, that occurred at the end of 2014, when China’s GDP exceeded that of the US. Militarily, this is on the cusp of happening.