China’s Rising Aerospace Power

anil chopra, air power asia, aerospace, China,

“To secure peace is to prepare for war”
—Carl von Clausewitz

Napoleon once said, “China is a sleeping giant, let her lie and sleep, for when she awakens, she will astonish the world.” By the turn of the 21 st century the sleeping giant was not only awake but heavily influencing and, in many ways dictating world affairs. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has had an unprecedented continuous double-digit growth of its economy for nearly two decades, and is still maintaining close to 7 per cent growth. In the same period, Europe and the USA who have been preoccupied with the ‘war on terror’, have had declining or slow rates of growth. While China was raising the standard of living of its people, it has simultaneously been modernizing its armed forces. The balance of world power has already shifted from Europe and the Atlantic to the IndoPacific region. Many in the world and, in particular the West, have been seeing a rising China as a disruption of the status quo of power balance that had evolved after World War II. But China, while strengthening its political, economic and military strength, has been referring to it as “China’s peaceful rise”. During the leadership of Hu Jintao (2002-12), General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, the term “China’s peaceful development” was coined to rebut those who were scaring the world with the “China threat theory”. China also claimed that historically it was not an aggressive empire. It wanted to be seen as a responsible world leader who did not interfere in the affairs of others and wanted to avoid a confrontation. The former vice-principal of the Central Party School, Zheng Bijian, in his speech in late 2003 during the Boao Forum for Asia, had pointed out that in the past, a rise of a new power often resulted in drastic changes to global political structures, and even war. He believed that this was because these powers chose the road of aggression and expansion, which will ultimately fail. Zheng stated that the PRC should instead develop peaceably, and in turn, help to maintain a peaceful international environment. China’s rapid development was viewed by them as a multi-polarizing change that challenged the uni-polarity of the world structure under the USA.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has put himself at the centre of the party since taking power in 2012, designating himself as its “core” and heading dozens of policy committees. Photo: AP

Consolidated Power and Push

In his speech on November 29, 2014 to the Foreign Affairs Work Conference (FAWC)—the first to be held since 2006—Chinese President Xi Jinping exhorted the assembled Chinese officials to develop for China a ‘distinctive diplomatic approach befitting its role as a major country’, stressing that China must ‘conduct diplomacy with a salient Chinese feature and a Chinese vision’. China sought a new international political and economic order, but it was one that can be achieved through incremental reforms and the democratization of international relations. China would “not follow the path of Germany leading up to World War I or those of Germany and Japan leading up to World War II, when these countries violently plundered resources and pursued hegemony. Neither will China follow the path of the great powers vying for global domination during the Cold War.” The U.S.A. in fact helped China to become a privileged member and shaper of the international system. As China grows more powerful, it is displacing decades-old American pre-eminence in parts of Asia. The outlines of the rivalry are defining the future of the continent. On Taiwan, the PRC policy since 2005 has been determined by the Anti-Secession Law. The essence of Article 8 of the law is that Taiwan should be united with mainland China, preferably by peaceful means; but if Taiwan formally declares independence or refuses to submit, the PRC will use force.

Peaceful Development Strategy

In 2005, the State Council of the PRC issued a White Paper defining
China’s peaceful development strategy. Its five chapters essentially covered economic development according to global norms; desire for a multi-polar world rather than hegemony; poverty reduction, and reducing energy consumption; develop science for domestic market growth and cleaner industrialization: more use of information technology; innovative exploitation of human capital through education; support regional integration; invest abroad and maintain large labour force and exports for use abroad; promote democracy in international relations; pursue arms control and nuclear disarmament and resolve remaining border disputes peacefully. The ground reality has been somewhat different till now. China remains assertive in most of its many border disputes.
Ana Nicolaci da Costa, BBC business reporter, wrote on how the world is grappling with China’s rising power. “China’s sheer size and population make it a heavyweight, and a clear strategic rival to the United States. Its influence has boomed—along with its economy—in recent years, as the US and Europe nursed the wounds from devastating financial crises,” she wrote. The USA was keen to retain its dominant position. US President Donald Trump’s Administration launched a trade war with China in 2018, hitting about half of Chinese imports into the USA through tariffs. The tariffs were a response to China’s “unfair” trade practices and alleged intellectual property theft. Many in Beijing suspected that the USA wanted to block China’s rise—which is seen as a challenge to the USA’s own established hegemony. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping said: “Countries have the right to development, but they should view their own interests in the broader context. And refrain from pursuing their own interests at the expense of others.” In a recent speech, US Vice-President Mike Pence said China had chosen “economic aggression” when engaging with the world and “debt diplomacy” to spread its influence, he added. “The Chinese think the USA wants to contain them and certainly a lot of people here do. A lot of people in the USA think the Chinese want to take over the world,” said C. Fred Bergsten, founding director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. Meanwhile, Xi Jinping’s greater claims to power are making many nervous. “The big egos and strong stances of the two leaders are exacerbating it, so at the moment it’s really a collision course towards a cold war,” said Mr Bergsten, who previously also worked as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s deputy for economic policy.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Image Source: jatinverma.org

Chinese BRI and Telecom Concerns

National security worries have also led to curbs on Chinese companies, such as telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, and on Chinese investments abroad. Countries that are supposed to be benefiting from China’s increased wealth also seem to be growing more cautious. The BRI, unveiling since 2013, aims to expand trade links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. But the multi-billion dollar project, which is causing debt concerns in certain countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan are facing growing resistance as recipients fear debt accumulation and increased Chinese interference in domestic politics and influence. “I think first and foremost this is a tool for China to expand, to strengthen its soft power influence through economic diplomacy,” said Michael Hirson, Asia director at Eurasia Group. “There is also a strong strategic dimension which comes into play in the projects that focus on the energy sector and on port deals which serve China’s interest in securing strategic assets overseas,” said US Vice-President Mike Pence flagging the experience of Sri Lanka, which had to hand over control of a port to China to help repay foreign loans. “China is offering hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure loans to governments from Asia to Africa to Europe and even Latin America,” Mr. Pence said. The terms of those loans are opaque at best, and the benefits invariably flow overwhelmingly to Beijing.

The Unpredictable Rise and Concerns

In his paper, ‘The Rise of China and the Future of the West. Can the Liberal System Survive?’ G. John Ikenberry argues that “the rise of China will undoubtedly be one of the great dramas of the twenty-first century. China’s extraordinary economic growth and active diplomacy are already transforming East Asia, and future decades will see even greater increases in Chinese power and influence. But exactly how this drama will play out is an open question. Will China overthrow the existing order or become a part of it? And what, if anything, can the United States do to maintain its position as China rises?” Some observers believe that the American era is coming to an end, as the Western-oriented world order is replaced by one increasingly dominated by the East. Realists feel that as China gets more powerful and the position of the USA erodes, two things are likely to happen: China will try to use its growing influence to reshape the rules and institutions of the international system to better serve its interests, and other states will start to see China as a growing security threat. The result of these developments, they predict, will be tension, distrust, and conflict, the typical features of a power transition. While America seeks a uni-polar world with bi-polar Asia, China clearly wants a bi-polar world and uni-polar Asia.
Daniel Blumenthal, director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in his article, ‘The Unpredictable Rise of China’ that Xi Jinping seeks national rejuvenation, but his nation’s mounting power masks increased instability. Since the end of the Cold War, Beijing has viewed Washington as its chief geopolitical rival, yet official Washington has only recently awakened to this strategic competition. But as American observers start to see China’s ambitions more clearly, they have also begun to misdiagnose the challenges they pose. “Political scientists are discussing the ‘power- transition theory’ and the ‘Thucydides trap’ (when one great power threatens to displace another, war is almost always the result—but it doesn’t have to be), as if China were on the verge of eclipsing the USA in wealth and power, displacing it on the world stage,” he said. According to him, two things emerge. The first is that this is not how the Chinese themselves understand their rise. When Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for the Chinese to realize the “China dream of national rejuvenation,” he is articulating the belief that China is simply reclaiming its natural political and cultural importance. China is not, as was once said of imperial Germany after its unification, “seeking its place in the sun.” Rather, it is retaking its rightful place as the sun. The second is that it’s an open question whether China will achieve rejuvenation in the face of both a seemingly stagnating economy and party factionalism. Xi is more powerful than his predecessors, but his rule is also more fragile. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long faced a crisis of legitimacy, but Xi’s transformation of China into a high-tech police state might hasten this crisis. These factors combine to make China more dangerous in the short term but also less competitive in the longer term. This means that the People’s Republic of China perceives an opportunity for “great renewal” even as it will be less powerful than was expected.

Image Source: Bloomberg

Xi Jinping’s Personal Power Play

Jonathan Tepperman, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy, in his article ‘China’s Great Leap Backwards’ writes, “For decades, the country managed to avoid most problems suffered by dictatorships. Now Xi Jinping’s personal power play risks undermining everything that made China exceptional. In the last 40 years, China has seen unprecedented economic growth, lifting 800 million people out of poverty. China scholar Orville Schell describes this record as “one of the most startling miracles of economic development in world history.” “Under the guise of fighting corruption, President Xi Jinping is methodically dismantling and is erecting a colossal cult of personality focused on him alone, concentrating more power in his hands than has any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong,” Jonathan says. To maintain power, some individuals repress dissent and rule by intimidation. Because bureaucrats and citizens live in fear, they compete to flatter their bosses. Nobody tells the truth, especially when it could make them or their leaders look bad. As a result, cloistered tyrants— their egos bloated by constant, obsequious praise—find themselves increasingly cut off from reality and the rest of the world. Until Xi assumed power in 2012, China was building what scholars have called an ‘adaptive authoritarian’ regime. While remaining nominally communist, the country embraced many forms of market capitalism and a number of other liberalizing reforms. Censorship never disappeared, but party members could disagree and debate ideas, and internal reports could be surprisingly blunt. No longer. Today, Xi is systematically undermining virtually every feature that made China so distinct and helped it work so well in the past. He is undoing the most unusual feature of the system Deng created which allowed distributed power among various leaders. Since assuming power in 2012, Xi has worked to dismantle China’s collective leadership system in several ways. First, in the name of fighting corruption—an important goal and one that China badly needs—he has purged a vast number of officials whose real crime, in Xi’s view, was failing to show sufficient loyalty to the paramount leader. Xi has also consolidated his power by abandoning the term limits on his job and by refusing to name a successor, as his predecessors did halfway through their tenures. He has also assumed direct control of the armed forces; and made himself ‘Chairman of everything’ and a large number of working groups on policies ranging from finance to Taiwan to cyber-security, report directly to him. The odds that China will experience a seriously destabilizing economic crisis is what Ruchir Sharma, the head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley, has been predicting for years, are rising. “The big question is whether one of the ticking time bombs—bad debt, overheated property markets, oversized state owned enterprises—will explode,” says Alexander Gabuev, a China specialist at the Carnegie Moscow Centre. “Because of Xi’s concentration of power, no one will give him advance warning if one of these bombs is about to go off.” Since taking power, Xi has charted a far more aggressive foreign policy than his predecessors, alienating virtually every neighbour and the USA by pushing China’s claims in the South China Sea, threatening Taiwan, and using the military to assert Beijing’s claims to disputed islands.

Military Modernisation and Reorganisation

On the other hand Xi reminds that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had long struggled to restore China to its historic centrality in international affairs. “Ours is a great nation,” he said, “that has endured untold hardships and sufferings.” But the Communist Party, he said, had forged ahead, “thus opening a completely new horizon for the great renewal of the Chinese nation.” The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is developing its capabilities at a rapid speed, changing the balance of power in Asia to its advantage. The International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates that since 2014 the People’s Liberation Army Navy has “launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the total number of ships currently serving in the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.” Its shipbuilding program is outpacing that of the USA. Between 2016 and 2017, 32 new ships were commissioned by the PLA, in comparison to 13 by the USA. China is also spending vast sums on breakthrough technologies like artificial intelligence, hypersonic systems and robotics, which could tilt the nature of warfare to its advantage. Ben Westcott of CNN in his analysis, states that “China’s military is going from strength to strength under Xi with a focus on fighting and winning future wars.” Xi has also embarked on a massive internal reorganization of the PLA, streamlining the organization and bringing it firmly under his control. China’s 2019 defence budget of US$ 177.54 billion grew 7.5 per cent over previous year, albeit as it is still very small vis-a-vis the US defence budget of US$ 750 billion. China’s military modernisation objectives remain as ambitious as ever. It continues to plan for multiple contingencies. While the US Navy still dominates the world’s oceans, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is rapidly gaining ground by churning out naval vessels and making technological advances, according to Andrew Erickson, professor of strategy at the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. “No one has presided over this level of Chinese military development in Chinese history before Xi Jinping,” he said.

Xi has also begun a reorganization of military personnel, stressing quality and effectiveness over quantity of staff. Many former generals have been disciplined or imprisoned for corruption in an attempt to professionalize the armed services. Despite Western concerns, Zhang Yesui, the National People’s Congress spokesman, recently told reporters: “China’s limited defence spending, which is for safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, poses no threat to any other country.” The Chinese government has built a navy and armed forces designed to protect the country and exert its influence in the surrounding region, especially the East and South China seas. The Chinese government’s focus is on controlling the South China Sea (SCS) where it has been building militarized artificial islands and holding regular drills. Pakistan owes its “all weather friend” China at least $10 billion debt for the construction of the Gwadar port and other projects, a top US general has said, as he underlined Beijing’s “predatory economics” to expand its global influence, reported Lalit K. Jha in the Live Mint. Gwadar is de facto a Chinese port with full access to PLAN. PLAN opened its first international base in Djibouti in July 2017.

Image Source: AP

Aerospace: The Doman of Focus

Aerospace has been the key area of Chinese military investments. China is conscious about the primacy of aerospace power as the major instrument of waging modern wars. China wants to harness the speed, range, lethality, accuracy and flexibility that aerospace offers. Space stations and satellites not only act as vantage points for reconnaissance and communications, but space is also used for weapon transition and future manned flights. Armies and navies around the world are investing more and more in element air. Aerospace is technology and cost driven, and requires huge capital acquisition budgets. China thus has given itself targets. ‘Made in China 2025’ is the target for all aerospace technologies.
China has consolidated its aviation industry under the state—owned aerospace and defence umbrella organization called the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). It was last ranked 143th in the Fortune Global 500 list26 AVIC has over 100 subsidiaries, 27 listed companies and 542,236 employees across the globe. The major plants are at Chengdu, Shenyang, Xian, and Changhe. It covers manufacturing of all military, air transport, and general aviation aircraft. AVIC also manufactures helicopters, UAVs, aircraft systems and automobiles. Initial aircraft building plants in China had come up with Soviet/Russian support. As the Chinese industry began to grow, China wanted to free itself of Russian control and therefore began stripping Russian aircraft and systems and weapons to understand technology and manufacturing details and started reverse engineering systems much to the anger and helplessness of the Russians. They have often been accused of infringing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), both by Russia and the USA. China however continues to lag in critical aviation technologies including, aircraft engines, Air Interception (AI) radars, Electronic Warfare (EW), stealth technologies, ejection seats, and also Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) technologies. But all this is work-inprogress. China is also working on Lasers and Directed Energy Weapons (DEW), Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications for defence aviation, and hypersonic systems technologies. Between 1997 and 2017, China’s share of the global research and engineering budget grew 900 per cent, from 3 per cent to 27 per cent. At US$ 177.6 bn, China’s 2019 defence budget is over three times that of India. China was spending close to 20 per cent of its defence outlay on R&D as compared to a mere 5-6 per cent in India. Amounting to nearly US$ 35 billion budgeted for defence Research and Development (R&D) every year, the Chinese are fast catching up with the USA.

Image Source: Space.com

Space: Frontier of the Future

China already has over 250 satellites and in 2018 it had 38 space-centric rocket launches surpassing the USA which had 34. Its ‘Long March’ rockets are among the most powerful in the world that can take a 5,500 kg satellite into geostationary orbit and a 12,000 kg satellite into space for a Leo orbit. The newer variant Long March 5B, which is 53.7 metres long and 849 metric tons in weight, was launched in May 2020. Space is also corporate China’s newest frontier with 80 space start-ups. The BeiDou satellite navigation system consists of 35 satellites and has begun providing global services. BeiDou is providing an alternative global navigation satellite system to the United States-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) and is expected to be more accurate. China has a clear time table for its Moon and Mars Lander. China has around 260 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). They put humans in space in 2003 and an un-crewed moon explorer in 2007. Their target is to have a 60-tonne permanent space station by end 2020, many elements of which are already in place. A human expedition to the Moon is targeted for 2025. Missions to Mars and beyond are planned. China also plans an Orbital Solar Power Plant to tap energy from space. China also has a plan for a crewed lunar base. China is a signatory of all treaties for peaceful use of space. They had carried out a successful anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) test in 2007 when they blew up an old defunct Chinese weather satellite. More tests have since been carried out to fine tune what the Chinese call ‘ground-based midcourse missile interception technology’. Some analysts believe that the Chinese are simultaneously trying to perfect technology against ballistic targets. China is also studying possible space based ASAT systems.

PLAAF H-6 Refueler with fighter aircraft. Image Source: newsnationtv.com

PLAAF

The Chinese air force, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), has also been regularly inducting new and improved planes and weapons, including the twin-engine J-20 stealth fighter. PLAAF is now the third largest in the world, and is closing the gap with the USA across a spectrum of capabilities. China’s combat aircraft building program includes two stealth fifth-generation fighters (J-20 and J-31), a stealth bomber (H-20), a large transport aircraft (Y-20), an AWACS, variety of utility and attack helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). China has a ‘Wing Long’ Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV program and their own cruise missiles up to 1500 kilometre range. China has even shown an interest to revive the world’s largest cargo aircraft, the Ukraine’s 640-tonne Antonov An-125 cargo aircraft which was halted in 1994 for lack of funding. China is also designing its own ‘Mother of All Bombs’ to be dropped one day from the H-6K bomber. Clearly, China wants to leap ahead of the biggest aerospace power, the USA. With nearly 400,000 personnel and nearly 2,000 aircraft, of which 800 are 4th-generation plus, and nearly 150 airbases, PLAAF is significant in size. The thrust is on netcentric warfare and the need to operate in the cyber-warfare and electronic attack domains. The PLAAF commanders are conscious that it still remains a branch of the politically much more connected People’s Liberation Army (PLA) which pushes its Army mindset on aviation decision making. The basic structure of the PLAAF remains in the form of departments which include elements from the Communist Party’s political wing. Besides, the flying units are structured like army regiments. Many PLAAF commanders would prefer the force to be called the Chinese Air Force.

PLAAF Exposure and Strategy

China has undoubtedly made rapid progress. Some experts, however, doubt its ability to fight as a coherent force or the experience of its troops. Chinese Armed Forces have limited exposure to exercises with major world powers. They have last seen major combat engagements only in the Korean war of 1950. Maintaining such a huge military manpower and significant numbers of legacy systems, takes away a large chunk of the annual defence budget for revenue expenditure. The defence of mainland remains with the Chinese armed forces, and, in turn, PLAAF’s primary mission. The east coast remains the primary area of threat and priority. Reclaiming the ROC ‘Taiwan’ and retaining economic and military control over the South China Sea (SCS) are major strategic goals. The Pacific remains the main area of threat from the USA and Japan. There are territorial issues with Japan also. China targets to push Forward Edge of Battle Area (FEBA) into enemy territory. It believes that greater use of SSMs makes it difficult for the enemy to defend itself. Reliance on net-centric air war backed by AWACS and FRA coupled with own secure global satellite navigation system will help dominate the air war. It’s territorial interests against India are primarily in Arunachal Pradesh area and to protect China National Highway 214 (G214) which runs through Aksai Chin. PLAAF will concentrate its operations in these two areas. Chinese aircrew have had very little war-like exposure for many decades, and nor have they participated in air exercises with any major Western air force. Therefore, PLAAF now puts greater emphasis on technical knowledge and training for aircrew.

PLAN Aircraft Carriers. Image Source: nationalinterest.org

PLAN

China is known to have over 500 naval craft. With over 250,000 personnel, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is a significant maritime force. Roughly 26,000 of these are known to be employed in the air arm. China’s first aircraft carrier was the Liaoning Type 001. It was a refit of the Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser ‘Riga’ and commissioned in PLAN in 2012. The Chinese used it mainly for training, experimentation, and to gain familiarity. Since 2016, it has been combat ready. Chinese maritime fighters (J-15s) have been operating onboard. Shandong (Type 002) is the first indigenous Chinese aircraft carrier. Commissioned in December 2019, it can house 44 aircraft. It has an active electronically scanned radar array (AESA) system. Like its predecessor, it uses the simpler ‘short take-off but arrested recovery’ (STOBAR) launch and recovery system, and therefore cannot take on the heavier J-31 aircraft. PLAN mostly uses older PLAAF aircraft like the J-10, J-15, H-6, IL-28, Ka28, Ka-31 and KJ 200. Future carriers like the Type 003 (70,000 ton) and Type 004 (110,000 ton) would use the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and host heavier J-20 and J-31 class of aircraft. It is projected that China may possess five or six aircraft carriers by the mid-2030s. China could then have a significant presence even in the Indian Ocean.

PLAAF and PAF Shaheen Exercise. Image Source: PAF via arabnews.com

China-Pakistan Aviation Ties

One of the biggest offshoots of Pakistan being China’s all-weather friend has been the Chinese support for Pakistan’s aerospace programs. China supplied PAF F-6 (MiG 19) in 1965 and H-5 (IL-28) in the 1970s. China helped set up the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) at Kamra in 1973. PAF got F-7 (MiG 21) from China in the 1980s. JF-17 ‘Thunder’ is a PAF–specific jointly developed Sino-Pakistan fighter aircraft. Nearly 120 have already been delivered and the PAF targets 300 finally. Aircraft is also being offered for export. PAF also uses Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS and the K-8 flying trainers. China has also supported Pakistan in its missile development program and has supplied air-to-air missiles. It has offered the use of the Beidou satellite navigation system to Pakistan and many other countries.

PAF’s Chinese ZDK-03 AWACS. Image Source: globalsecurity.org

Tibet Autonomous Region

Even though the east coast remains the greater priority area, China has been developing economic and military infrastructure in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The Indian border with China is entirely covered by the Chinese Western Theatre Command. The geographical area of this command is equivalent to all the other four Chinese theatre commands put together. There are eight Chinese dual-use airfields in TAR which has infrastructure for PLAAF aircraft operations. Three more are under development. Most of these airfields are at altitudes of around 3-4 kilometres, thus placing maximum take-off load restrictions and requiring much longer runways. The aviation infrastructure in Southern Theatre Command, which is immediately to the east of Myanmar, is also likely to be used by PLAAF in case of an air war across the Himalayas. There are at least five Chinese airfields from where PLAAF would have to overfly Myanmar, with or without permission. The blast protection in most TAR airfields is still under development. Similarly, ground radars are far and few in the mountains. So is the case for the IAF, both for airfields and radars in the eastern region. AWACS will be important to both sides. China is militarily not fully ready. Currently it is more of posturing.

Airbases across Line of Actual Control

Options for India

In 1962, despite better aircraft, the IAF was not allowed to be used by the political leadership of the day. In a possible military conflict, India would have to maintain an aggressive defence approach. The IAF which is currently at an all-time low of just 30 fighter squadrons would have to be quickly built up to the authorized strength of 42. This itself could take around two decades. In the meantime, the IAF would fight as per its Plan ‘B’, that is with existing assets. Air power would also have to be used extensively for inter-theatre movement of military assets. The IAF will require to support the Indian Army (IA) for inter- valley movement of troops and heavy weapons. It has no choice but to build more infrastructure in the east and also step up operational flying training in the mountains.

Air Power India. Image Source: m.dailyhunt.in

In view of the existing capability gap and China still pushing ahead because of much higher military spending, India needs to review its military and geo-political options. To reduce the military capability gap, India has to increase defence spending. It needs to adopt an out-of-thebox approach to military tactics and strategy, and also invest in force multipliers. China’s surplus industrial capability and shrinking Western markets make India’s huge and fast growing market critical for its exports. India must leverage this Chinese requirement to its advantage. India needs to strategically balance between the USA and Russia, both of which are significant to the geo-politics of the region. While India uses different approaches to engage China, it needs to have a fresh look at its own regional equations with China’s neighbours.

Header Picture Source: Pinterest

Published by Anil Chopra

I am the founder of Air Power Asia and a retired Air Marshal from the Indian Air Force.

2 thoughts on “China’s Rising Aerospace Power

  1. Great analysis Anil..but I have doubts about the bubble bursting like Ruchir thinks..let’s not forget that despite economic progress most of its tech is borrowed or stolen and cannot survive long term competition with the USA , esp under a sanction regime .. but the case for India to spend more on defence is well made ..we need to gird up our points and a strong aerospace power will help ..
    Best
    Murli

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree with you completely. They have along way to go, but growing economy and quick decision making helps. Omly that over ambition can boomrang. Too many people are on guard.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: