Does China’s Military Capacity Echo The Beat Of Its War Drums?
Reportedly, Mao Tse Tung once said that China’s “army is not merely an organ for fighting; it is also an organ for the political advancement of the party.”
Some contend that it is this belief that is behind China’s recent military movements under the direction of its leader, Xi Jinping.
“But the specter of war is not the only possible explanation for Xi’s saber rattling and demands for combat readiness. For even as Japanese leaders and U.S. officials were publicizing their concerns this winter about a region on the brink of naval conflict, it became clearer that Xi and his close military confidants are squarely focused on domestic politics,” John Garnaut posits in Foreign Policy magazine.
Garnaut also subscribes to the belief that the focus on their domestic audience may be blinding China’s leaders to the military’s actual ability to wage war and that it could be that China’s “recent drums of war are a sign of China’s weakness and not its impressive new strength.”
In fact, he says, recent discussions with military analysts “believe Japan’s disciplined, professional forces would prevail” even without direct U.S. intervention.
“More broadly, I have heard growing doubts about China’s actual fighting capabilities in some sections of the Chinese military, foreign diplomatic corps, and U.S. academia, many of whose members are revising their views on the PLA. ‘Our assessment is they are nowhere near as effective as they think they are,’ a Beijing-based defense attaché from a NATO country told me,” he reports.
While Xi has been beating the war drums, China has simultaneously reached out to strengthen military ties with the US in recent weeks, the Financial Times reports.
Questions Also Linger About China’s Political Strategy
As analysts raise questions about China’s military capabilities, others are drawing into question the political strategy its leaders are employing to achieve its long-term goals.
“Beijing’s assertive behavior in Asia is mobilizing its neighbors against it at a moment when it needs a peaceful external environment more than ever to meet greater internal challenges.
“Chinese leaders are well aware of the great challenges they face, but it seems they have neither a strategy nor the political will to adequately address them. Beijing’s behavior appears a far cry from Western imagery of a far-sighted China guided by Sun Tzu and a long-term strategic calculus,” write Robert A Manning and Banning Garrett in the Asia Times.