Patrick Marshall: China and the South China Sea
Other experts, however, argue that China's intentions are not so benign. China is patiently building toward the day when it can militarily and economically dominate not just the South China Sea but all of Asia, they claim.
President Xi Jinping has “an empire-building intention,” says Ming Xia, a professor of political science at the College of Staten Island in New York. “In foreign affairs, China wants to be respected and feared by countries in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea and India. I think the appropriate comparison is to Japan in the 1930s,” when the Japanese invaded Manchuria, a region of China, in 1931.
China's need to dominate the region, says former Sen. Talent, is particularly acute because the country's leaders don't have the legitimacy that comes with democratic elections. “They have to be able to show to their people that they have produced success as rulers,” he says. “Part of that is quality of life at home and part of that is prestige in Asia. That is what is driving them to assert sovereignty over the seas, including the South China Sea.”
Others point to fundamental problems in China's military, which lags the U.S. military in hardware. China has 1,230 fighter aircraft to the United States' 2,308. China's navy, with an estimated 714 vessels, is larger than the 415 vessels in the U.S. Navy, but China has only one aircraft carrier to the United States' .
China has about 260 nuclear warheads, far fewer than the 7,100 in the U.S. arsenal.
Adding missiles and other hardware isn't the only challenge for the Chinese, some experts say. “The Chinese defense industry management is so corrupt, [it's] like a black hole,” says Ming Xia, a professor of political science at the College of Staten Island in New York. “And training is horrible.”
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