The Pentagon has just warned that China's 17.6% increase in its 2008 military budget "threatens the stability of Asia."China's official military budget is $58.8 billion, but the real figure is estimated at around $110 billion. Even so, Washington's warning was pretty rich coming from the sole superpower that spends 10 times more on its military than China -- a nation with four times the U.S. population.
American Defence Secretary Robert Gates unblushingly accused China of "lack of transparency" in concealing major defence programs. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Some $200-250 billion of secret "black" projects are hidden in the Pentagon's trillion-dollar budget and those of other departments.
Washington's constant warnings about Cuba, Syria, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea make it look like a spinster terrified by a mouse. The combined military spending of those nations is a paltry $10 billion. The U.S. and its closest allies account for two-thirds of the world's military spending. Trying to keep up with the West militarily drove the old Soviet Union to bankruptcy.
The U.S. spends more on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than Russia and China do on defence.
Now, the Bush administration is trying a rerun of Reagan years by goading Russia into more military spending to justify high U.S. military spending. Without the "threat" from China and Russia, how will the Pentagon justify a new generation of F-22 and F-35 fighters it wants, new tankers, heavy bombers, submarines, carriers and other surface warships?
You don't need any such fancy hardware to fight rag-tag jihadis armed with rifles and homemade bombs.
But there's a deeper issue with China. The U.S. has yet to come to terms with China's rise as a major modern military power. The U.S. Navy has dominated South Asia's littoral since 1944. By 2015-17, maybe sooner, China will be the dominant Asian power. This means U.S. geopolitical influence will be pushed back from the Asian mainland into the Pacific.
This process will be gradual. Today, China has only around 350 modern warplanes, a weak navy, and no ability to project power more than 160 kilometres from its coasts. China rapidly is developing the capability to conquer Taiwan and neutralize U.S. Navy task forces coming to its rescue. This will be accomplished by barrages of air- and sea-launched anti-ship missiles, and electronic warfare.
China also threatens to attack America's Achilles heel: Vulnerable space-based communications and satellites upon which U.S. forces have become dangerously dependent.
Taiwan aside, military tensions between the U.S. and China are totally avoidable -- unless stoked by neocon Republicans longing for war with China. What is even more bizarre, while the Pentagon fulminates against the dangers of China, Iran, etc., the U.S. is helping build the military power of a huge nation that one day could become a serious strategic threat to the United States -- India.
The Bush administration is striving to conclude a deal to supply Delhi with nuclear fuel, technology, and billions of high-tech weapons. Meanwhile, India is developing nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and sea-launched strategic missiles that could one day pose a threat to the United States.
Why is no one in Washington asking if India needs 7,000-mile range ICBMs, nuclear-powered missile submarines and powerful anti-ship missiles? Its current medium-range missiles cover all China. ICBMs are needed only to reach Europe or North America. India is unlikely to target Paris or London, but one day will compete heavily with the U.S. for Mideast oil, other resources and regional influence.
China inevitably will join this strategic, three-way rivalry as Beijing and Delhi's economies and ambitions grow. Washington's helping India become a potential threat is short sighted in the extreme and will antagonize China needlessly.
The astoundingly incompetent Bush administration is thus seeding future conflict in Asia. But that's tomorrow. Today, by creating a monstrous credit bubble, wildly printing money, and recklessly spending, the Bush White House is spreading dangerous inflationary forces throughout the world economy. That, not China, is the real danger.
Eric Margolis writes a regular column for The Toronto Sun.
© 2008 The Toronto Sun