Part one of two
China is building its military forces faster than U.S. intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials.
U.S. defense and intelligence officials say all the signs point in one troubling direction: Beijing then will be forced to go to war with the United States, which has vowed to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack.
China’s military buildup includes an array of new high-technology weapons, such as warships, submarines, missiles and a maneuverable warhead designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses. Recent intelligence reports also show that China has stepped up military exercises involving amphibious assaults, viewed as another sign that it is preparing for an attack on Taiwan.
“There’s a growing consensus that at some point in the mid-to-late ‘90s, there was a fundamental shift in the sophistication, breadth and re-sorting of Chinese defense planning,” said Richard Lawless, a senior China-policy maker in the Pentagon. “And what we’re seeing now is a manifestation of that change in the number of new systems that are being deployed, the sophistication of those systems and the interoperability of the systems.”
China’s economy has been growing at a rate of at least 10 percent for each of the past 10 years, providing the country’s military with the needed funds for modernization.
The combination of a vibrant centralized economy, growing military and increasingly fervent nationalism has transformed China into what many defense officials view as a fascist state.
“We may be seeing in China the first true fascist society on the model of Nazi Germany, where you have this incredible resource base in a commercial economy with strong nationalism, which the military was able to reach into and ramp up incredible production,” a senior defense official said.
For Pentagon officials, alarm bells have been going off for the past two years as China’s military began rapidly building and buying new troop- and weapon-carrying ships and submarines.
The release of an official Chinese government report in December called the situation on the Taiwan Strait “grim” and said the country’s military could “crush” Taiwan.
Earlier this year, Beijing passed an anti-secession law, a unilateral measure that upset the fragile political status quo across the Taiwan Strait. The law gives Chinese leaders a legal basis they previously did not have to conduct a military attack on Taiwan, U.S. officials said.
The war fears come despite the fact that China is hosting the Olympic Games in 2008 and, therefore, some officials say, would be reluctant to invoke the international condemnation that a military attack on Taiwan would cause.