China’s Military Striptease

Recall this photo widely distributed in China pre-Games 08. Cyborgs or modern samurai warriors a-la-Kurosawa (depending on your frame of reference)on electric scooters designed to scare the bejeesus out of any bad elements intent on non-harmonious behaviour. To the best of my knowledge, this elite counter-terrorism unit on their mopeds was never sighted again during the Games after this photo opportunity.

Cyborgs on Sedways

Now, most Sino military pundits make reference to this text sooner or later, or if discussing PRC naval power and the Spratly’s, shoe horn in some reference to Alfred Thayer Mahan’s The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660 – 1783.

Personally, I think such pundits are misguided, and should instead be referencing the following text:

The Art of the Military Striptease

Now lets recall how China went about announcing the development of its Chengdu J-20 Stealth Fighter in late December 2009. As reported by Christopher Bodeen/Associated Press (and just about everybody else}:

“Photos leaked online that appear to show a prototype of China’s first stealth fighter jet were discussed in state media Wednesday — a move that supports claims the country’s military aviation program is advancing faster than expected.

Both the English and Chinese language editions of the Global Times ran front-page articles on the photos of what appears to be a future J-20 fighter, along with extensive reports on the buzz the pictures have generated overseas.

Photos of the plane appeared on unofficial military news websites and hobbyist blogs last week and were still viewable Wednesday.

The Global Times did not comment on the authenticity of the pictures, but since the government wields extensive control over state media, the report’s appearance and the fact that censors have not removed images from websites suggest a calculated move to leak the information into the public sphere”.

Now these grainy photo releases of a prototype coincided with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates discussions with President Hu Jintai. Forums for China’s military enthusiasts went positively orgasmic, and Western military experts got into panel discussion-wonk mode.

However, I am beginning to smell a rat here. Want to scare the competition to death. Organise a timely photo opportunity and let the pundits and Sino-observers do the rest. Show them a bit of tit, inflame the senses and their fear of China imaginations will do the rest.

Like the cyborgs on sedways during the Games, a hop, step and jump into the near future and your stealth fighter is a fully operational reality. You can do your own google work here, but here in tubbyland, citizens remain unconcerned.

This hodge podge of flying components is probably a greater threat to its handlers and pilots than it is to any US carrier-based air power in the Pacific.

Think of the bragging and reality check provided by the HSC or even the Three Gorges.

In June KTs Military Affairs Desk discussed the appearance of China’s breakout in naval power projection into the Pacific HERE. In particular, we referenced David Axe’s highly detailed analysis of the aircraft carrier the Shi Lang HERE. Basically, Axe concluded this aircraft carrier was a piece of oversized floating JUNK, and Phil Radford in the Asia Times Online TODAY comes to the same conclusion, and also make the point that “… the ship could prove to be more of a diplomatic liability than a military asset”.

While The Diplomat contains numerous articles on recent developments in PRC naval and airpower, half of which are contrary to my sanguine position, think about this.

When Japan signed the instrument of surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Toyko Bay on Sept 2 1945, the fighter bomber flyover consisted of almost 2,000 aircraft. This concrete display of raw military power was the product of an integrated approach to the business of war….science, engineering, r @ d, personnel training, communications, logistical support and just about every other element entering into the war equation. And in subsequent decades, the US has continually drained the tax purse to feed its military industrial complex.

To think that China could GLF itself in this war business to be a match for the US in the Pacific in this, or in the next decade, is simply ludicrous. Grainy photos of a stealth fighter, the Shi Lang’s return to dock in Dalian after its ‘maiden” (sic) voyage (China Daily report), is just so much striptease titillation for an onanistic domestic audience.

If China seriously believes that it can mount a challenge to the US in the Pacific in the near, or even long-term future, it is placing its faith in Viagra and not the real thing.

Alternative title: How to fox the West with photos and news reports.

5 Responses to “China’s Military Striptease”

  1. NiubiCowboy Says:

    When a military spends more time on parades, carefully staged photo ops, and choreographed drills in attempts to impress citizens and intimidate rivals, I can’t say I’m too worried. A couple of years ago during one of the Chinese and Pakistani militaries’ friendship exercises, the Chinese special forces detachment simulated attacking a fixed position for the benefit of the Pakistani soldiers and foreign observers. The footage that aired on CCTV showed two Chinese soldiers rappel from a helicopter, after which one of them performed a diving roll in full kit towards…well, nothing. It looked like something better suited to an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger than an actual combat environment. That bit, along with the rest of the drill, was so visibly rehearsed it was painful to watch.

    With regards to the PLA’s perceived advancements in weapons technology, I think it’s important for the general public in countries that seem most concerned about China’s rise (USA, India, Japan, Vietnam, etc.) to remember that China’s military modernization isn’t taking place in a vacuum in which the rest of the world stands idly by with hands in pockets, twiddling their thumbs, and kicking the occasional rock. While China improves its military capabilities and begins to develop new, “indigenous” weapons platforms, the militaries of the US, Asian, and Oceanic countries are all continuing to modernize their own militaries. China will be playing catch up for decades to come, and that’s assuming that no major crises (water, energy, social inequality, environmental degradation, etc.) emerge to derail its economic growth, a prospect which seems more unlikely by the day.

    Anyway, great post! Also, if you haven’t already, check out David Axe’s latest post on his vacation to Shanghai and his subsequent thoughts on China and its military.

  2. kingtubby1 Says:

    Many thanks. Hey, I would really appreciate the links for those David Axe references you mention.

    Was in Shenzhen during the big earthquake and recall watching (every five minutes on the TV on the bus to work) paratroopers jumping into the more inaccessible regions. They had appropriate heroic, stoic demeanors, and I couldn’t help but note the occassional eye roll among fellow passengers.

    The PLA’s response was tres tardy. Farm boys in sandshoes. No engineering bridge building corps one associates with modern armies.

    I can’t help but think that China’s Pakistan alliance is a major mistake. Pakistan – an imploding state by any definition – is the equivalent to a bag of angry snakes willing to bite all and sundry. There is serious negative blowback for any state with a relationship with Pakistan, and China will be no exception.

    Anyone with half a brain would be better off forming an alliance with a skunk.

  3. NiubiCowboy Says:

    Here’s a link to David Axe’s recent post:

    I’ll have to try and track down the CCTV piece I mentioned. Another tidbit I remember from that story is that the average age of a special forces operator in Pakistan is 35, while in China it’s 22. Throughout much of the rest of the world, special forces are special in part because leading up to their acceptance in the spec ops community they’ve accumulated enough experience over the years to dull their 22 year-old self’s “Young, Dumb, and Desperate to be a Hero” reflex. Jumping through hoops of fire and running through a ropes course isn’t going to create an operator overnight. When I lived in China I caught a documentary about Chinese special forces on some random channel on TV, and, just like seeing that silly roll I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t help but laugh at these poor soldiers who were, yes, jumping through rings of fire as if they were participating in a traveling circus act.

    Yes, that “all-weather friend” nonsense gets a bit tiring. It’s pretty clear who derives the most benefit from that relationship. When discussing the aid that the US gives Pakistan, Jon Stewart described it as thus: “And you know Pakistan, of course, was last year’s honored recipient of the United States’ $3.2 billion dollar ‘Be Our Friend Please’ scholarship, awarded each year to the country that, if we didn’t give them $3.2 billion dollars, would in no way be our friend.”

  4. China Says:

    Tammera Crier

    Recall this photo widely distributed in China pre-Games 08. Cyborgs or modern samurai warriors a-la-Kurosawa (depending on your frame of reference)on electric scooters designed to scare the bejeesus out of any bad elements intent on non-harmonious beha…

  5. kingtubby1 Says:

    Many thnx, and all that pre Games hoopla seems like eons ago.

    Couldn’t find the photo but my favourite image was of Chinese female troops (all chosen for their hotness) marching and all decked out in white boots, pink outfits etc. Looking more like overdressed strippers in a go go bar before they got down to business.

    At least the 2014 Football World Cup in Brazil will offer more cinema verite action with its anticipated social protests.

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