If there is a theme to China’s military developments, it is pushing the adversary back. A vast and growing assembly of sensors and weapons is the modern expression of what the former Soviet Union called a reconnaissance-strike complex. The targets are ships, submarines and bases in the Western Pacific, most obviously the U.S. Navy’s ships, its base on Guam and the U.S. Air Force facilities on that Pacific island. The message: Go away.
The same idea of pushing back appears in the field of air combat, in which the PL-XX missile has such obviously long range that commanders may have to pull vulnerable support aircraft away from the enemy.
The Soviet Union could never focus like this. Warding off the seaward threat from the U.S. was only one major military task for Moscow in the Cold War. For China, intent on having a free hand in dealing with Taiwan, driving U.S. forces from the Western Pacific has become the core of strategy.
Focus brings results. Year after year, China introduces new systems to find, track and attack U.S. targets beyond the first chain of islands to its east; year after year, the deployed numbers rise. The resources China spends facing other directions are modest by comparison. The U.S., like the former Soviet Union, has other priorities; it cannot put the bulk of its military effort into dealing with the one problem of maintaining access to East Asia.
“China is developing a dense, overlapping set of strike capabilities, including anti-ship ballistic missiles, anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles, strike aircraft, surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, etc., etc.” says analyst Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The overlapping of capabilities is important: China is generally not relying on any one method to deal with any one kind of target. (end of excerpt)
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