How good are China's warplanes

Military power ChinaArming for a new world order?

"To the Chinese military aircraft at an altitude of 4,000 meters southwest of Taiwan. You are in our air surveillance zone and affect our flight safety. Please turn back immediately!"

A hectic radio message across the Taiwan Strait: A pilot in the Taiwanese Air Force urgently calls on Chinese fighter planes to turn back. China's aircraft entered Taiwan's air surveillance zone 88 times - in April of this year alone (as of April 20, 2021) - this is how the island state calculates. Flight maneuvers intended to provoke, the surveillance of which costs Taiwan nearly a billion US dollars annually and which have been increasing steadily since 2016.

(imago-images / Zuma Wire) Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region - Taiwan is arming against Chinese threat
The Taiwan Strait separates mainland China from the island of Taiwan. China has been gradually increasing its military presence in the strait for years. The tensions have now reached a new high point: The Chinese jets are advancing further and further into Taiwan's air surveillance zone.

"Over the past year, China has held a military exercise around Taiwan every two or three days. Very frequently, and with an increasing number of aircraft, from high-speed combat aircraft to low-speed anti-submarine aircraft. This is very stressful for our air force . We are a small country with few aircraft. Our air force handles it very well, but we are on our own. "

China wants to have built the leading army by 2049

Sheu Jyh-Shyang conducts research at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taiwan's capital Taipei. His area of ​​expertise includes: Chinese Politics, Military, and War Scenarios. A close observer of the Communist Party across the Taiwan Strait.

"China is not yet the greatest military world power. But that is its goal. If you listen to Xi Jinping's words at the 19th party congress in 2017, the Communist Party leader says that China has two goals in the development of its military: by 2035 China will achieve a 'fundamental modernization'. The country wants to have built the leading army by 2049. From this one can deduce that China wants to become the largest military power in the world by 2049. "

A goal that is becoming more realistic every year. China's party leadership always increases military spending more than its gross domestic product grows. It was not until March that the People's Congress passed an increase in military spending of 6.8 percent. According to a newspaper report, General Secretary Xi Jinping said in front of representatives of the People's Liberation Army and the armed People's Police:

"In view of the unstable security situation, our armed forces need a comprehensive plan for deployment and preparation for war in order to be able to react immediately to difficult situations. They should defend national sovereignty, security and development interests and support the building of a modern socialist country."

China’s navy is numerically the largest in the world

"National development interests" have become an integral part of the Communist Party's rhetoric under Xi. With this, China justifies the construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and their expansion with military infrastructure, the arming of the Chinese coast guard and the large-scale military exercises with warships and fighter planes in the region. Everything broadcast on television every day.

(dpa / Frederic J. Brown / Pool via AP) China and the USA - a conflict that will remain
Relations between China and the US are worse than they have been in 40 years. The two powers face each other as competitors in numerous fields, and the aggressive rhetoric is on the rise. Not much will change if there is a change of government in the White House.

Missiles are launched from a combat ship, loud commands from the command center: The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV-7 shows the new military capabilities of the People's Liberation Army around the clock: on water, on land, in the air, at the missile terminal and in cyberspace. This is how the armed forces are structured after the 2015 military reform. The CP is striving for leadership positions in all five areas. With two million active soldiers, the People's Republic has by far the largest troop strength in the world. Only Russia has more than 7,000 main battle tanks. And on the seas, the Chinese warships are already in the majority, according to defense researcher Sheu Jyh-Shyang:

"The Chinese Navy is already the world's largest in numbers. The US has more large ships, aircraft carriers with 100,000 tons, many more of these ships than China, with a higher capacity. That is, in terms of strength, China is still inferior to the US, but in terms of numbers China already has the largest navy. In addition, there are China's missiles, which the NATO states do not have. "

US destroyers would be defeated by China's warships

James Fanell has seen the expansion of the Chinese Navy at the forefront. Until 2015 he was chief of the naval intelligence service of the US Pacific Fleet. Today he lives in Switzerland and writes military analyzes for the think tank "Geneva Center for Security Policy".

"The reality is that China's military is no longer supposed to work internally, but has global ambitions and operates in the global arena."

This is making the USA increasingly nervous because it is falling behind on the seas, says the former "Navy Captain".

"The Chinese Navy not only has more ships, it also has more capabilities than the US Navy - in terms of anti-ship missiles. Let's just take a Luyang III Type 052D destroyer versus a US destroyer. The Chinese have anti -Ship missiles with a range of more than 200 kilometers, supersonic speed and 'sea-skimming' - so fly just above the surface of the water, unnoticed by any radar. In addition, they can hardly be defeated in close combat. The US Navy still has its' Harpoon 'system. Subsonic speed. Very slow. And in the event of a defense it cannot maneuver like a Chinese missile of the type' YJ-18 '. "

(dpa / picture-alliance / Ho) maritime lawyers on China's expansion policy - "power expansion in a relatively easy way"
China is creating artificial atolls to consolidate its claim to territory in the South China Sea. This is not only contrary to international law, but also an almost irretrievable destruction of the coral reefs, explained the emeritus professor of maritime law Rüdiger Wolfrum in the Dlf.

James Fanell outlines that the USA cannot currently hold out against China's navy in an open naval battle, for example off Hawaii. Actually, the USA would have advantages with around 20 large aircraft carriers, China only has two so far, but another answer:

"China has developed ballistic anti-aircraft carrier missiles. Only designed to sink aircraft carriers. The first they developed a good 15 years ago - the" Dongfeng 21 D ". With a range of 900 kilometers. And now they have a new one in their arsenal - the "Dongfeng 26", which has doubled this range. So they can threaten the US Navy on the sea from Guam to China. "

Does China want unlimited military expansion?

But China's defense policy is not even aimed at the US base on the small island of Guam in the western Pacific, says Alexander Huang. He is Professor of Chinese Military Strategy at the Institute for International Affairs and Strategy Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei. He has been researching this topic for 30 years and comes to the conclusion: The Communist Party is concerned with protecting its economically flourishing coastal region.

"China's recent outward expansion is something like the 'Great Wall of China by Water'. It may not be acceptable to neighboring countries, but for China it is a small extension of its sphere of influence, from Beijing to Tianjin, Tsingtao, Shanghai, to To protect Guangdong and Shenzhen from foreign armies. It is not about unlimited military expansion or global leadership. Such ambitions are not yet in the Chinese DNA. "

Nonetheless - China has had its first foreign military base in the Horn of Africa since 2017: in Djibouti. And China is now advocating its claims more and more aggressively - also towards neighboring countries.

(picture alliance / Kyodo) China and India - How two neighbors compete for the Indian Ocean
The presence of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean has increased significantly in recent years. The focus of the activities is the safety of an important shipping route for Chinese oil tankers. India is increasingly concerned about this development.

Unresolved border conflict with India

Hundreds of Chinese soldiers armed with shields and batons wade through the Galwan River in the Indian border region of Ladhak. Indian soldiers oppose them. It can be seen on film recordings made by the Chinese military broadcaster CCTV-7 on June 15, 2020. The film later shows four Chinese soldiers killed. Russian and Indian sources speak of more than 40. India reports 20 of its own soldiers killed.

The border skirmish is part of a simmering conflict over control of the border between Tibet and Kashmir. Both sides have been negotiating since February 2021 - so far without an agreement. In the event of war, India would be clearly inferior to the Chinese army.

However, experts see the greatest military threat from China in Taiwan. The KP considers the neighboring island with 23 million inhabitants to be part of its national territory. There are "no compromises," said China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a press conference in March.

"The two sides of the strait must unite and they will unite. This is the collective will of the Chinese people. The Chinese government is unwaveringly determined to uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are capable of any form of separatist Thwarting 'Taiwan independence' actions. "

The strategically important location of Taiwan

In the event of an official declaration of independence, China threatens an attack: Over 1,000 Chinese short-range missiles are already aimed at the island 130 kilometers off China's south coast. Taiwan used to be part of the German Empire, but never belonged to the People's Republic, which was founded in 1949. The island has since been ruled by the losers of the Chinese Civil War - the KMT - whose one-party rule turned into a flourishing democracy in the 1990s. For Beijing a dangerous counter-example to authoritarian China. Then there is the strategic importance of Taiwan, says Professor Huang:

"From a geopolitical point of view, it is very obvious: The US has troops in South Korea, Japan, the Ryukyu Islands and the Philippines. This is the 'First Chain of Islands'. Taiwan is at the center of the First Chain of Islands. An occupation of Taiwan by China would the breakthrough of the island chain. If it cannot take Taiwan, it will be very difficult for China to project the strength of its navy and air force outward. "

It's also about China's submarines. Military strategists say that China's submarines can only sail unseen into the Pacific if they take off from Taiwan's east coast, because only then does the sea floor drop steeply. Beijing is working hard on the capabilities for a military takeover, according to Taiwanese defense researcher Sheu:

"You are currently working on a lot of capacities: The Air Force now has Y-20s, which are large-scale transport aircraft. The Navy is developing amphibious assault ships, Type 075, and transport ships for amphibious landing units, Type 071. This is a power projection. These capacities could be in South China Sea or even further away, but of course also against Taiwan. "

(imageBROKER / Jeff Tzu-chao Lin) Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region - Taiwan is arming against Chinese threat
The Taiwan Strait separates mainland China from the island of Taiwan. China has been gradually increasing its military presence in the strait for years. The tensions have now reached a new high point: The Chinese jets are advancing further and further into Taiwan's air surveillance zone.

Attack on Taiwan by 2030?

The only question is, when could an attack on Taiwan occur? It is important to look at the 100th anniversary of the People's Republic in 2049, says ex- "Navy Captain" Fanell.

"They won't do it until 2048, and then expect everyone to come to China next year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the People's Republic of China with them. So it has to happen beforehand. And there is a historical example: Tiananmen Square in 1989. Everyone in the world saw it and was shocked by the barbarism of the Communist Party, which used tanks against its own people. The world condemned it. And then - 19 years later - in the bird's nest in Beijing for the opening of the Olympic Games - the Polit-Bureau looks down on the sweating crowd in air-conditioned boxes, including George W. Bush, the leader of the free world.

And that sent a message to the people in the CP: The West is decadent, the West has a short attention span and memory. Even the President of the United States comes and watches this ceremony in a hot stadium. If you take this analogy, you come to the year 2030. That's why I now call it the Decade of Concern, because we know that the People's Republic's military is unlocked and loaded. "

The Communist Party would prefer not to fire a single shot to take Taiwan, Fanell said. All other power options should be exhausted beforehand: diplomatic pressure, economic interdependence, false news campaigns and cyber attacks on the infrastructure of the island democracy. Defense Researcher Sheu:

"Taiwan experiences several million cyber attacks every year. In cyber warfare - gray zone warfare - Taiwan is a field of experimentation for China. What is tried here could be used against the USA, Japan or Europe in the future. Some hacker groups have been proven Part of the army, but some jobs are also carried out by private companies. "

China wants to regain its place as a great power

In view of the growing tensions, the United States recently sold offensive weapons to Taiwan for the first time, such as anti-ship missiles and land attack missiles. Much to the displeasure of Beijing. According to the Foreign Ministry, it is Western military maneuvers that would destabilize the region. Foreign Office Spokeswoman Hua Chunying:

"Militarization of the South China Sea, China cannot put this hat on. The US used the stamp 'militarization' to deprive China of its right to self-preservation and self-defense."

(picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS | Koki Kataoka) Post-pandemic economy - ″ China is going full throttle while we are stuck in the corona swamp ″
China has managed to stop the corona pandemic in the People's Republic, says political scientist Sebastian Heilmann in the Dlf. As a result, the economic recovery is going much faster there than in the west. At the National People's Congress, the country is now initiating the "overtaking process" against the USA.

From China's point of view, they are only regaining their traditional place as a great power in the region. Imperial powers would have taken that in a "century of humiliation" - meaning the exploitation of China by European colonial powers from the 19th century to the end of the Second World War. The CP wants to keep this memory alive, says military professor Huang:

"China still complains about imperialism and the hegemony of the Western powers, but under these circumstances it has become the second largest economic power and the largest trading nation in the world. Why does China still use this narrative today? Because it is a means of building consensus on one's own The people are constantly being reminded, "We have been humiliated. This is why what we do is legitimate. Our country has been weak and has been harassed, so you need me as a leader." The feelings of the population are being used to implement the political control of the dictatorship. "

Disadvantages for Europe and the USA in the region?

A modern army legitimizes the Communist Party's claim to power. And at the same time secures the important trade routes and thus the economic success of the country and thus more and more wealth for the Chinese. The promise of prosperity is one reason why the one-party dicature is stable, at least from the outside. Defense researcher Sheu predicts that the old economic powers could lose out in the region:

"If China continues to militarize here, then that will directly affect European countries. China's current approach, with the construction of artificial islands to make its maritime territorial claims clear, and the border claimed by China in the South China Sea, which overlaps with many other countries - that will affect Europe in terms of trade. "

The South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait are important routes for world trade and for prosperity in the United States, Japan, and Europe. So that the freedom of navigation is not disturbed, there is now a rethink, says US military strategist Fanell. The French, British and also Germany are increasing their military presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Bundeswehr frigate heading for the South China Sea

"What I see now is a good trend. Europe is now paying attention. Not only for economic reasons, but also for moral reasons, when we talk about what China is doing in Xinjiang, what they have done in Hong Kong and what they are threatening Taiwan with . "

In August the Bundeswehr sends a frigate from Wilhelmshaven to the South China Sea for the first time in decades to strengthen Germany's presence as a "creative actor and partner" in the region, as stated in the German government's Indo-Pacific guidelines. That should no longer impress the close trading partner China.