China’s ‘wild entry’ has accelerated the global arms race
Major Gen SB Asthana
In the post-WWII era, the arms race was identified by advances and innovations in conventional and nuclear weapons, with the United States and the USSR leading the trend. After gaining sufficient destructive force for “mutual assured destruction” (MAD), a certain common sense prevailed in the face of WMD, and treaties such as the NPT, CTBT, INF and START, to name a few. to name a few, have been signed by world powers. Meanwhile, China continued to develop its Comprehensive National Power (CNP), which included, among other things, significant advances in military modernization and technology using all possible means. China’s recent developments in hypersonic weapons, combined with artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and biological warfare instruments, have alerted the world to some previously unknown vulnerabilities, sparking a new arms race with its wild announcement. but vociferous of the multidimensional threat it poses to potential adversaries. .
Drivers of the global arms race
There are many drivers in the global arms race. In today’s world, every country aims to win, preferably without fighting, for which they must have strong military power to deter the adversary with state-of-the-art arsenal, which triggers an arms race. China’s political goal is to supplant the United States as the lone superpower, while the United States would like to maintain its advantage. Russia also wants to be seen as a world power with all the levers of power intact except for a mediocre economy. China, on the other hand, has increased its NPC by improving its economy and setting its military goals, such as modernizing the PLA by 2035 and developing a world-class military capable of winning wars. here 2049.
Threat to homeland is the other driver of today’s multi-domain warfare, which has elements of kinetic and non-kinetic warfare, contact and non-contact, often wielded in gray area warfare. China finds its wide coastline, other navies in its backyard near the Eastern Sea as a threat, its greatest vulnerability being maritime long lines of communication (SLOC). He explains the logic of rapid expansion of the PLA Navy. The Russian threat is the economy and Western expansion; therefore, as countermeasures close to China, strong posture in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea is the result. The United States has a limited conventional threat except for missiles, space assets, and elements of non-contact warfare like cyber warfare.
A country’s geography is a constant in its NPC, where China has a disadvantage. It is sorely lacking in energy, water, agricultural land, needs to defend large borders and a coastline, with an eastern coast hemmed in by two island chains, from where peak invasions have taken place in the past . The lack of access to hot water in western China is also a handicap. The United States, on the other hand, has sufficient energy, water, food security and faces no land border threats. Therefore, to subdue the United States, China must develop its arsenal to pose an air threat, including space, and threaten it with elements of non-contact warfare such as cyber, information warfare, economy, etc Russia is self-sufficient in energy, industry, technology, military, nuclear and space, but can be targeted economically.
China recognizes that the United States’ defense budget has been three to four times larger for decades and that it has vast superiority in conventional, nuclear, ballistic missiles, heavier naval devices and weapons. aircraft hard to match; as a result, it has attempted to gain supremacy in areas that could make the United States vulnerable, such as hypersonic gliding vehicles, space, cyber, AI, robotics, and 6G networks, as well than the arsenal linked to these technologies.
The arms race is a process without a permanent winner, because for each offensive innovation, new countermeasures are invented by the adversary.
Latest Trends in the Arms Race Unleashed by China
Hypersonic weapons. China has taken a quantum leap in hypersonic technology by mounting the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle on DF17 MRBM, making it difficult to detect, exposing a vulnerability in global air defense systems. The test involving Space Re-entry Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Fractional Orbital Bombardment Systems (FOBS) flying into low orbit, before accelerating towards a target, has warned the US and other world powers to begin work on meter technology, before it’s too late. China has used the provisions of UN treaties and principles on outer space, in which the deployment of WMD in space is prohibited but says nothing about hypersonic re-entry. He also warned Russia, which has such weapons systems, but fears that its technology could not have proliferated. The race consists of bringing the detection point as close as possible to the target, in order to minimize the reaction time. Countermeasures will also see innovations through a laser shield, enhanced detection capabilities in space, or other technologies. It may not be a game-changer, but it certainly threatens certain targets like aircraft carriers crucial to US strike power.
Nuclear arsenal. China is aware of the vast gap it has in its nuclear arsenal compared to the United States and Russia. It has developed a comprehensive missile program, remaining outside some of the arms control treaties. China has set a goal of having at least 700 nuclear warheads by 2027 and 1,000 warheads by 2030. It has also miniaturized nuclear weapons for tactical use in localized conflicts. Despite being a signatory to the NPT, the suspicion of proliferation of nuclear and missile technology to Pakistan and North Korea remains. The United States and Russia may not wish to continue the nuclear arms race, but China is certainly accelerating it.
APL Marine. In a short time, China has dramatically increased the number of combat assets in its navy to become the largest navy in the world with 348 combat ships surpassing 296 of the United States. Qualitatively, the United States continues to have an advantage in terms of 11 aircraft carriers, more nuclear submarines, cruisers, destroyers or large ships. China is expected to increase its navy by 40% in the future, as it finds it largely insufficient to protect its SLOC and global investments.
Technological leap. China has also made rapid progress in unmanned vehicles and robotics. Drone warfare will see a major arms race in innovations as it has been a game-changer in the recent Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. The West is also developing anti-area denial or anti-access (A2AD) weapon systems, laser shields, direct energy weapons to name a few innovations.
Non-kinetic and non-contact warfare
Biological warfare. For various reasons, there is no evidence in the open field that the corona virus was a biological weapon unleashed by China, but there is also no evidence to the contrary. The involvement of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, its alleged connection to the PLA, combined with circumstantial evidence points to the suspicion that it may well be a bioweapon, causing devastation never seen before. If the apprehensions are well-founded, China could have violated the “Biological Weapons Convention”.
Artificial intelligence. China uses advanced artificial intelligence embedded in various military arsenals such as robotics, missile guidance systems and unmanned aerial vehicles, including warships.
Cyber war. Many countries accuse China of launching large-scale cyberattacks like the UK, US and EU. China has put in place a comprehensive cyber and information warfare posture, which others must catch up to, to defend not only their military and civilian systems, but also some of their essential services. Needless to say, the race will see similar abilities generated by others. China is therefore seeking to use disruptive technology to accelerate the arms race.
China as an arms exporter
Over the past decade, China has made significant progress in the arms industry to become the world’s third largest exporter of military equipment. However, his equipment has not yet been tested in wartime and most of his buyers are countries that are highly indebted or have constraints other than quality and reliability, to buy his equipment. It is estimated that 60% of Pakistani hardware is of Chinese origin and that 35% of Chinese-produced hardware is purchased by its captive buyer, Pakistan.
China triggers regional arms race
Regionally, China wants a “China-centric Asia” and has accelerated capacity building for neighbors like India, which sees China as a threat due to its irresponsible aggressiveness in Ladakh and other LAC regions. Its overdrive to boost Pakistan’s military capability, to bolster hybrid warfare against India, including deployment of naval combat assets in the Arabian Sea, transfer of technology to manufacture aircraft, and alleged proliferation/ alleged nuclear and missile technology, are just a few examples to accelerate the arms race in Southeast Asia. If its “winning without a fight” plans fail, China appears to be considering posing a two-and-a-half-front threat in coordination with Pakistan, as well as a “computerized local conflict” if necessary.