China’s Air Deficit?

Jacqueline A. Newmyer has an interesting military analysis of China’s seeming air-power deficit in Policy Review. Indeed, the air force of the People’s Republic of China is based primarily on old Soviet fighter designs that are throughly outclassed by American aircraft. Even National Guard units have better aircraft than the PRC’s air force.

Newmyer points out that Chinese strategic doctrine realizes that the only way to limit US forces is to make their control of the air hazardous through anti-aircraft missiles, guns, and jamming technology. However, it seems that US advances in stealth technology may undercut that doctrine by ensuring that efforts at jamming are made more difficult.

The Chinese do have a formidible military, and a Sino-American war would be devasting (and thankfully unlikely despite recent tensions). However, the real relevance of this article is in the possibility that Chinese methods may be used by other hostile nations in the future – which is why the US military must maintain the ability to fight a war on the land, sea, and air, at any place and any time.

2 thoughts on “China’s Air Deficit?

  1. China represents a clear example of how global economic policy is going to be a greater threat to our national security than anything related to policy, even though this threat falls underneath our radar screens since our lawmakers can’t see past the dollar signs in the eyes of their corporate campaign contributors. By allowing global trade policy to price American manufacturing labor out of the marketplace, we’re empowering the Chinas of this world to dominate the production end of the economy and thus be dependent on their exports for the very goods we may ultimately need to fight a war with them.

  2. Mark has a point.

    As for China’s air power, yes, they are relying on mostly outdated MiG and Su designs- they’re on par or better than 70’s and 80’s era F-14’s and F-15’s, in many cases, but still fall far short of our modern air power. On the other hand, as is obvious from their space program, they do have very advanced aerospace technology, and their next generation of fighters and bombers are probably on some Shanghai engineer’s screen as we speak. Considering their lack of will to build a navy, it wouldn’t suprise me if they’re taking a pure-air-power doctrine with their millitary- given their position in Asia, they wouldn’t even need to project power with carrier groups to establish dominance over Asia and Oceanea. Who needs to transport troops to Taiwan in ships when you can assault their air defenses with cruise missiles, secure the airspace with air-superiority fighters, drop special forces on their airbases, and start airlifting in tanks while simultanously bombing their conventional army? You’ve just displaced the entire need for a modern navy- one that China, not isolated from the rest of the world by two oceans, doesn’t need.
    Also, the Chinese have A LOT of air-power, even if it isn’t too high-tech. After a few elite, high tech units in the vanguard have taken out the major opposition, primitive carpet bombing isn’t out of the question for a relatively unethical power such as China.

    As for their economic buildup, the most recent issue of Wired quotes their GDP as being $6 trillion, with a 23.6% growth rate. That’s massive… that’s a per-capita GDP of roughly $4200. That’s an eighth of that of the US, but they also have five times our population.

    Their unemployment rate? 3.1%

    Their literacy rate among the 15-24 year old population? 98.2%


    Bill Gates has called the Chinese “the smartest people on Earth”. While I’d be willing to dispute the claim, they’ve got the work ethic of the Japanese, natural resources nearly as abundant as the US, and the largest labor force in the world, combined with a very different ethical outlook than ours. I think I’d like to keep these people on our “good side”, if you will.

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