Beware, the PLA is coming. On Wednesday, the Pentagon released its annual report on Chinese military operations. It is full of mealy-mouthed wording to try to put the best possible spin on the rapid rise of the People's Republic, but one scary conclusion is unavoidable: China is becoming an increasingly serious threat to U.S. national security. The day may come soon when U.S. military preeminence takes a back seat to the People's Liberation Army. The balance of power is already shifting in Asia.
Beijing is making more aggressive territorial claims as its power grows. This is particularly worrisome in resource-rich Southeast Asia where numerous nations lay claim to the same area. The Chinese Communist Party considers the whole South China Sea to be its historical waters, promising unending friction with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore, which all border that important strategic space. China already fields the world's largest standing army and is working overtime to arm it with more sophisticated weapons. Many experts fear the PLA's development of a blue-water navy is to acquire force projection sufficient to take resources it needs for its growing import-dependent economy. As the Defense Department's report states, "In 2006, PLA Navy Commander Wu Shengli called for a 'powerful navy to protect fishing, resource development and strategic passageways for energy.' "
Beijing's buildup is not limited to conventional arms. Over the past decade, the communist state has steadily increased the number and quality of warheads in its nuclear arsenal and the missiles needed to deliver them to faraway targets. Before long, if the capability has not already been achieved, the PLA will be able to hit every U.S. and allied military base in the Western Pacific.
"A new disclosure in the annual assessment reveals China's deep underground facilities located in central China and connected with over 3,000 miles of tunnels," Bill Gertz reports in Friday's edition of The Washington Times. "The facilities are used for storing and hiding missiles and nuclear warheads, and for command bunkers hardened against nuclear attacks." The communists claim their armed forces are for defensive purposes only, but they are preparing for large-scale war.
President Obama's deficit spending and crippling debt erode America's options in times of crisis. This nation maintains agreements that obligate us to defend democratic allies on the other side of the Pacific. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all have dangerously tenuous relationships with Beijing. While America still enjoys technological military superiority, our edge is softening.
The perception of diminishing U.S. economic, diplomatic and military power is leading to a decline in global influence. Political leaders around the world sense that the United States is in decline and are nervous about being on the losing team. All of this emboldens Beijing.
Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the forthcoming book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, November 2011).
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