With rare exception, China has been considered by the world as little more than a footnote to the history of the nuclear era. However, in recent years the pace and scope of China’s military transformation has been seen to have increased significantly. In the current climate, it is now a fact that China is increasingly modernising its military, and this, in conjunction with China’s rising economic power, is new to history. Following from this, many countries and leaders are no longer hesitant to promulgate their views or express their opinions regarding such policies options, with many countries stating that it is becoming hard to deny that over the past two decades rapid economic growth has allowed China to engage in robust military modernisation with the investment growth rate of more than ten percent per year, with some going as far as to argue that the real defence budget could be two to three times higher than the stated figure of the Chinese government. In short, China is becoming a potential threat to regional and international peace and security. The focus of many countries concerning the Chinese military threat revolves around three main developments, these being nuclear weapons, the defence budget’s rapid and continuous growth, as well as its allocation which continuously has never been entirely accounted for. This is exacerbated by the modernisation of its nuclear and missile forces, as well as the naval and air forces in recent years, while at the same time expanding the scope of its maritime operations. These ideas have been further fuelled by China’s acquisition of advanced weapons systems and the continuous increases in both a secretive and opaque defence budget. These policies have led many to believe that China will soon emerge as the country whose nuclear policy will matter most, not only to its regional partners, but also to the international system as a whole. Due to this, China’s relatively new military modernisation is viewed as a potential threat to the interests and security of numerous actors in the region, but most importantly the United States of America, Japan and the East Asia region as a whole. This paper will therefore seek to provide an analysis of whether the People’s Republic of China’s current modernisation, growth and proliferation of its military forces in both the conventional and unconventional spheres are posing a new and significant threat to the national, regional and international peace and security. Initially the paper will begin with an analysis into China’s concept of military power and the measures that are indicative of the pace and scope of China’s military power, such indicators being defence expenditures, force structure and national wealth. This essay will then proceed to outline the main threat perceptions and reasons for the current Chinese modernisation which will focus on the need to maintain domestic prestige of the regime, as well as the numerous perceived threats that are emanating from both intra and inter-state sources. Following from this, brief case studies of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Japan, ASEAN, Taiwan and the United States of America will be used to ascertain the degree of threat posed by the current Chinese military policies and programs. The final part of the paper will conclude with the argument that although in the current climate the military modernisation does not pose any viable threat intra-regionally or internationally, if such hostilities and tensions that are blatantly evident within the Asia Pacific region are not adequately handled, such modernisation has the ability to spark both regional and interstate conflict which would render the Chinese military a greater threat than otherwise realised presently.
Pace and Scope of China’s Military Rise
China’s concept of military power, which includes its pace and scope, does not only revolve around the axis of military strength and development, although these...
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