China: The Illusion of Military Power


November 8, 2005: China's ever increasing spending on modern weapons and military equipment gives the illusion of growing military power. It is very much an illusion. The 2.3 million troops in the Chinese armed forces are poorly trained and led. China has a long history of corruption and rot in the military during long periods of peace. The last time the Chinese military has been in action was 1979 (when they attacked Vietnam, and got beaten up pretty bad). You could count the encounter, in the Spring of 2001, where a Chinese fighter buzzed an American navy patrol aircraft, and managed to collide with the U.S. plane, and crash (the U.S. aircraft landed, despite its damage.)

American sailors are constantly exposed to examples of the poor training and leadership in the Chinese navy, whenever they encounter Chinese warships at sea. Foreigners living in China, and speaking Chinese, can pick up lots of anecdotes about the ineptitude and corruption found in the military. It's all rather taken for granted. But in wartime, this sort of thing would mean enormous problems for the troops, when they attempted to fight.

November 6, 2005: China has increased the effectiveness of its web censorship tools, to the point where offenders can be spotted within minutes, and attended to (issued a threat, deleting material, or arrested) within hours. This is forcing many Chinese web users, keen to find out what is really happening in their country, to go underground. Non-government news sites and bloggers are going to email, and text messaging. Monitoring email is a much more difficult task, and the government censorship campaign is working at cross-purposes with the nationalism campaign the government has been operating. Many Chinese want to see China as strong and respected, but they are turned off by the increasingly heavy handed government web censorship.

November 1, 2005: The gadfly president of Venezuela has threatened to give some of his F-16 jet fighters to Cuba and China. Cuba cannot afford to operate them, and China got their hands on the same model of F-16, from Pakistan, in the 1990s.


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