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National Defense > Blog > Posts > China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)
China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)
By Sarah Sicard

Despite talk of a “rising China” and allegations that it is stealing massive amounts of defense trade secrets, the East Asian nation is still far from equal militarily to the United States, an expert on the country said July 10.

“If I had to look 10 years out, I think you’re going to see something like what the French can do today. Nothing like what the English did with our help in the Falklands,” said Larry Wortzel, author of the new book, “The Dragon Extends Its Reach: Chinese Military Power Goes Global.”

There is a deep incongruity between the China and the United States, he said during a presentation of the book at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“At least for China, they see us as the greatest potential threat,” said Wortzel.

As for potential conflicts with the United States, the most likely scenario would be over sovereignty in places such as Taiwan, or confrontations with allies such as Japan.

“They’re trying very hard to avoid that,” said Wortzel. “I think the likelihood of a major conflict remains relatively low.”

China is a keen observer of U.S. strategies, he noted.

“What they did was essentially watch how we handled the war in the Balkans, and watched how we handled the war in Iraq, and they read everything the United States published on the topic and used that as a model,” said Wortzel. “They focus on us and they focus on our technology.”

“I think the People’s Liberation Army and its Navy have learned a lot in the past few years,” he added. “One of the things I’ve learned from all this research is, if you go through enough articles from Chinese universities by scholars, you really see the guts of some of the ideas and doctrines.”

The Chinese have discovered the importance of overseas military bases. “They need places they can go to reliably for repairs, for refueling, for food,” said Wortzel.

He advised that close attention be paid to the nation’s ability to employ military forces, especially in proximity to U.S. naval bases. “You will see the capacity to deploy ships outside bastions close to the coast that can actually hold parts of U.S. ports — embarkation ports — at risk,” he added.

According to Wortzel, a great deal of what the Chinese are doing is “pretty transparent,” but the United States is lacking in its knowledge of the nation’s intentions or what kind of escalatory action would trigger a conflict with it.

Of China’s plans: “They want to deny the U.S. the ability to operate near China, and then they want to support their own military activities out in the Pacific Ocean,” said Wortzel.

There is potential to work together on joint military operations, he said, but a line would have to be drawn to prevent the United States from giving the Chinese military any information that would later allow it to repress, threaten or harm U.S. allies.

“I think there will remain a competition between us. They are global already in nuclear and ballistic missiles, in space and in cyber.”

Correction: The original story compared the Chinese to the British in the "Balkans." It should have read "Falklands." It also should have read "Balkans" when discussing the war in the "Baltics."


Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S.

ROTFL! This guy clearly doesnt know jack crap about what he's talking abou. With all due respect to France, China is already far stronger than France, is almost as strong as the US, has already closed the gap with the US in most cases, and is working hard to close the few remaining ones. And Putin's Russia is quite happy to help. US military superiority is a thing of the past. It's OVER.
Zbigniew Mazurak at 7/11/2013 1:52 PM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S.

China has evolved several centuries since Mao, and roughly is one generation behind America.  We will reach parity in one or two decades, although she is ahead of us now, in some key technologies.  My concern is her deep infrastructure strength, which parallels ours during World War II.  She produces far more engineers than we do (we produce more lawyers), and she is an industrial giant.  China makes things; we are merchants and farmers.  Like Japan, after the war, Chinese made goods were shoddy, but like Japan, they now range from junk to state of the art, particularly in key technologies like high speed computing.

The world, and the US will be a safer place if the Chinese can convince themselves that peaceful competition with the US is better for them, than military conflict.  They should attempt to buy us, not conquer us.  And they should overcome their deep seated inferiority about the west.  Through incredible effort, they now are a peer with any nation.  She is far more capable of playing Russia off against the US than France ever was.

Our mutual enemy is not each other, but climate change (If it is a real and present danger).  Whoever screws this up, will be destroyed.
R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. at 7/11/2013 9:29 PM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S.

Some of this is inaccurate.  I said that the PRC could not do what the English (British) did in the Falklands.  Also, I said that the PLA watched what the US did in the Balkans and in Iraq.

Larry Wortzel at 7/15/2013 1:22 AM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

From a global power projection perspective, the ability to deploy offensive assets across the globe in any significant level, the US remains heads and shoulder above everyone else. The UK, Russia and France are at the next distance level and China at best over the coming years is in this group. However, aside from the Taiwan issue, the Chinese doesn't appear to have the desire to develop such global power projection capability (at least not the scale like the US). What worries the Pentagon is in the so called 21st century warfare or asymmetric warfare arena. Areas like advanced missiles, cyber warfare, space based weapons, communications, etc, the Chinese are much closer to the US and in some cases arguably already on par. They're not trying to deploy a bunch of carrier battle groups in the middle of the ocean to challenge the US navy (20th century style warfare) as they would have absolutely no chance. What they're doing is developing capabilities that deny and poses a serious threat to the US ability access to the western pacific. In a way using their home court to their advantage.
Ben at 7/20/2013 5:59 AM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

this is one of the true points the author has made but China has never tested its millitary capability as yet. Its voice is only heard through its veto power in the UN. Hope it goes to war with one country with the authorisation of the Security Council>
Tepan Kak at 9/14/2013 3:59 AM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

In ten yrs China will be way ahead of the USA militarily. Their military is advancing at warp speed.
Informed Citizen at 10/1/2013 5:37 AM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

Western countries love to chant that China is stealing their technologies every time they make some progress.  For those who are competent in world history, can you please tell these arrogant and ignorant westerners, particularly the Americans, where China stole technologies from when ancient China was home to the world's most distinguished engineers?  Where were USA and UK etc in those days?  If the Chinese have the DNA then, their offspring would have even better DNA today than yesterday.  Period.  Never underestimate your enemy.  Arrogance + ignorance = perfect recipe for failure.
Celtron at 12/13/2013 2:13 AM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

West was more advanced in ancient times as well. There is simply no comparison between Roman engineering and that of China. We still can see those Roman projects but there is nothing left in China if it ever was there on same scale as Romans built.
I believe China will walk into the war just by completely overestimating own capabilities as I see from local Chinese posters here.
sss at 1/3/2014 6:04 PM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

1st USA
2nd China
3rd Britain
4th Russia
5th India
6th France
7th Japan
8th Brazil

1st USA
2nd Britain
3rd France
4th Russia
5th China

1st USA   By a long way
2nd Russia
3rd Britain + China
4th France
5th Turkey
X at 1/15/2014 1:51 PM

Re: China’s Military Capabilities Closer to France’s Than the U.S. (UPDATED)

I think that saying that China's capabilities are closer to France than the US is simultaneously accurate and inaccurate. Yes, the Chinese do not have a well-developed "global reach" capability. They can deploy a handful of ships to the Gulf of Aden or the Med Sea, but little more than that. Chinese global hard power capabilities are at best on par with Western European nations such as Britain and France, and that is debatable. France probably DOES have the advantage in the global reach stakes.
However, this misses a very, very important thing.

China's military isn't geared towards a global strike. In its home theatre, China has developed leaps and bounds. The Chinese military, in terms of regional conflict capabilities, exceeds the abilities of France and Britain by orders of magnitude. The Chinese military has overtaken Russia as the second most capable fighting force on the planet. America remains far and away the strongest power on earth, but China has developed capabilities that may be capable of pushing America beyond the First Island Chain in the Asia-Pacific region. These distinctions are important. The Chinese are decades away from being able to send an army to the Middle East or Africa (and more importantly, to supply it long-term once it's arrived!), things which Britain and France are both able to do somewhat competently. However, I believe China is less than 5 years away from being able to conquer Taiwan even with US opposition. That capability MAY already be in existence, although it is hard to say. China's reach is growing. It has an advantage over the US in that it takes an awful logistical strain to project power all over the world. The United States is stretched awfully thin. China can focus on its own region and achieve local military superiority within 10-15 years in my opinion.

However, China has a glaring Achilles heel. It is currently unable to defend the oil shipments it receives from the Middle East (especially Iran). It currently depends on US goodwill in keeping the sea-lanes open. China may have to develop the ability to operate substantially in the Indian Ocean, or else create more overland pipelines, in order to secure its oil supply. Otherwise the US can always starve it of that vital warfighting material
Alesayr at 4/25/2014 11:42 AM

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