What China's spin doctors want you to believe this week
Most national governments have some sort of official apparatus for pushing its views in other countries. The U.S. has the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qatar has Al Jazeera, Russia has Russia Today and Russia Beyond the Headlines. China has a few outlets as well, including China Military. We took a quick tour to see what they're talking about right now.
1. Chinese teams are going to impress at the International Army Games
The International Army Games that Russia holds every year are coming up, and China is bragging about the 13 fighter jets it's sending this year. Two of the pilots are from the People's Liberation Army Navy, and this is the first time that pilots from that branch have participated.
It also has paratroopers participating, and it's bragging that its team is the only one using only domestically produced weapons and equipment. That domestic production of equipment is an odd flex since it only matters if you think you might lose access to key imports during a conflict.
But while China's flexes might be odd, don't count them out on performance. Their special operators have done well for themselves at the Warrior Games in Jordan.
2. The White House is lying about Chinese military forces near Hong Kong
(Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0)
China has a bit of a problem in its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Widespread protests there have only grown and international news coverage is turning against the central government. A recent Bloomberg report said that America was tracking Chinese troop deployments near the border of Hong Kong.
China is preferring to call the protests riots and is referring to some of the participants as "radical forces," and it wants to convince the world that the army is nowhere near the conflict. But it also said that the commander of the Hong Kong garrison condemned the protests Wednesday during a speech celebrating the army's 92nd Birthday.
3. China can hold the Taiwan Straits against anything, even without new Russian missiles
China has been seeking to "re-unify" for years with Taiwan. If you don't know, this is a pretty deliberate misnomer. Taiwan was one a part of China the same way that Texas was once part of Mexico. During a brutal civil war, the Communists took control of mainland China while the Republic of China fell back to Taiwan and has defended the island ever since.
The countries are separated by the Strait of Taiwan, and any military deployment near that strait changes the balance of power. So, China's recent deployment of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles manufactured in Russia ruffled some feathers all around the world. China, through China Military, is trying to say that the S-400 deployment is not big deal, though that's obviously crap.
The S-400 is the same missile system that Russia turned to to defend Kaliningrad, Crimea, and other important strategic positions. It's very capable, and even the export version can hit targets over 150 miles from the launcher. It's simply madness to claim that deployment of such an advanced system on the Strait of Taiwan won't affect the balance of power there.
4. China is not a major threat to the U.S. militarily
In an op-ed in China Military, Senior Col. Lu Yin argues that China is not a major security threat to the U.S. Her argument centers on three pillars. First, it's not China's intent to fight the U.S. or establish a sphere of influence. Second, China is not capable of presenting a true threat to the U.S. due to a lack of mechanization. Finally, China hasn't engaged in a war in 40 years.
These arguments have some serious holes. First, China's Belt and Road Initiative is very much about expanding a sphere of influence that China already has, and it has been using an oversized coast guard to punish neighbors and seize territory in the Pacific. Second, China is under-mechanized and modernized, but it has been rapidly closing that gap for 20 years. And finally, China hasn't engaged in a war in decades because it wasn't ready for one. That's no longer the case.
But, it is still a good sign that Chinese military officers are arguing for peace. It's most likely a ruse or a tactic to buy time by keeping some Americans hopeful for long-term peace, but if China starts abiding by agreements like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China and the U.S. could avoid more confrontation and potential conflict.
5. Chinese scientists are creating new marvels of naval might
The U.S. Navy tests a prototype railgun in 2008. China has deployed its prototype weapon.
In the previous entry, we mentioned that China hasn't engaged in a war for decades because it wasn't ready for war, but has been building up its capability. Well, they're currently bragging about engineers getting new citations and medals, likely because of their work in full-electric propulsion.
FEP is useful on any vessel because it allows smooth, consistent power. But it is especially valuable on warships designed to fire energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns, the kinds of weapons that would make a big difference in a future naval fight. China is aggressively pursuing railguns, recently sending its first railgun-equipped vessel out for sea trials.
China does appear to be behind the U.S. in most naval tech that matters, but it's moving fast and it has the industrial capacity to mass produce any weapon and platform designs that work in trials. But it also has a tendency to over-tout its breakthroughs. So it's unclear whether this hinted full-electric propulsion advance really means anything.
6. Chinese troops are securing U.N. compounds and missions in Africa
China has troops deployed in Africa on a peacekeeping mission and China Military and CGTN.com have devoted resources to trumpeting the Chinese role in securing a base after it was hit by a suicide attack. French, Malian, and Estonian troops were injured in the attack.
Meanwhile international coverage has focused on the efforts of Malian and French troops to contain the threat, especially the Malian troops who identified the suicide vehicle and fired on it as it entered the checkpoint. This forced the vehicle to explode outside the gate with enough distance that injuries were limited.
China Military wants everyone to know that, "Chinese sentinels used high-powered telescopes to strengthen observation and the snipers occupied the commanding heights to prepare for shooting." Basically, Chinese troops took over guard towers or similar positions and used scopes and binoculars.
Still, that's not bad considering what troops China deployed to Mali. It has a guard detachment and an engineer detachment on the ground, so hardening the entry points and finishing work on the airport is about all that can be expected. No shame there.
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