The Corner

National Security & Defense

The Coming U.S.-Chinese Arms Race

Chinese President Xi Jinping with President Trump, November 9, 2017. (Reuters photo: Thomas Peter)

When it comes to the U.S.–China military balance, I take my cues from esteemed National Review contributor Jerry Hendrix, who has been a marvel of productivity these past few weeks. But I thought I’d weigh in on the most recent Military Balance report released by the Institute of Strategic Studies, which should make our defense planners very nervous. The pace of China’s military advancement is picking up, and it’s not clear the Trump administration and Congress are sufficiently alarmed.

As reported in a recent Economist article, over the last several years, China has made good use of its military budget, which has grown in step with GDP by 6 to 7 percent a year. For example, in no more than two years, China will have its own stealth combat aircraft, which will end the United States’ monopoly on the technology. It is also upgrading its air-to-air missiles, to the point where they will soon be comparable to the best missiles in the West. And finally, firms in China are working to develop quantum computing to better crunch big data and secure its communications. Such technologies may seem far off, but in fact, China already launched its first quantum satellite in 2016.

All this spells trouble for the U.S. and its allies. “Since the end of the Cold War, the air domain has been one of assured superiority for the United States and its allies,” the Military Balance report suggests. “This dominance, however, rests on weapons and technologies that China and Russia are increasingly attaining as part of a broader effort to counter U.S. capabilities, and to deny US and allied forces unimpeded control of the air.”

In turn, for the U.S.-led alliance to regain air dominance, it will have to commit funding on a level “not required since the end of the Cold War.” Even then, dominance will likely be fleeting without continued investment, as Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich argued in an authoritative 2016 International Security article. To make things more complicated, when Chinese Premier Xi Jinping asks the Chinese public and private sectors to work on advanced military projects, it’s an offer that can’t be refused. In the U.S., however, Silicon Valley can simply say no. The only want to ensure we can keep up is to spend and, if we can’t stomach rising deficits, tax.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Religion

The Catholic Church’s Rotherham

‘We are deeply saddened.” So begin the many perfunctory statements of many Catholic bishops today in response to the Pennsylvania grand-jury report detailing how priests in that state abused children and how bishops shuffled these priests around. What deeply saddens these men? The rape of children, the ... Read More
Education

The Deflation of the Academic Brand

Trumpism is sometimes derided as an updated know-nothingism that rejects expertise and the input of credentialed expertise. Supposedly, professionals who could now save us tragically have their talent untapped as they sit idle at the Council on Foreign Relations, the economics Department at Harvard, or in the ... Read More
Elections

My Journey into the Heart of Obama-Trump Country

After eight years of displeasure with Barack Obama’s presidency, Carla Johnson was ready for a drastic change. The 41-year-old lab technician from Cresco, Iowa, fell for Donald Trump very early in the 2016 primary season. She loved his “take-no-[sh**]” style, his conservative stances on gun control and ... Read More