Earlier in March, the top U.S. commanders in the Indo-Pacific and Pentagon officials gave testimony in Congress about the balance of U.S. and Chinese forces in the region.
Although the US military and its allies still have the preponderance of equipment, the future doesn’t look quite as good.
Indeed by 2025, China, according to the US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), is expected to militarily outmatch US forces in the region. Some of the numbers that they provided in the House Armed Services Committee hearing are alarming.
For example, by 2025, China is expected to have approximately 100 modern multi-warfare combatant vessels, such as the Type 055 destroyer. Further, by 2025, the Chinese Navy is estimated to have over 60 submarines, 12 amphibious assault ships, and three aircraft carriers.
In comparison, US Navy forces in the region will be able to field only 12 destroyers or cruisers, ten submarines, four amphibious assault ships, and one aircraft carrier.
But the maritime domain isn’t the only area in which China is projected to have an edge. The projected balance in favor of China continues in the air and space domains. Again, by 2025, China is expected to have 150 5th generation fighters and more than 1,800 older generation fighter jets.
On the other hand, the U.S. Air Force would be able to launch approximately 100 5th generation fighters, such as the F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lightning Strike II. Of course, in addition to these jets, the U.S. would be able to deploy 150 older generation fighters, such as the F-16 or F-15, that are still quite a formidable foe.
Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said that “absent a convincing deterrent, China will be emboldened to continue to take action to supplant the established rules-based international order, and the values represented in our vision for a free and open Indo Pacific. Our deterrence posture in the Indo Pacific must demonstrate the capability, the capacity and the will to convince Beijing unequivocally, that the costs of achieving their objectives by the use of military force are simply too high.”
To be sure, these are the current and projected U.S. forces in the region but the Pentagon can deploy forces from elsewhere and also rely on local allies and partners who have a vested interest in resisting a Chinese dominance, especially if that dominance is coupled with Beijing’s disregard of the rules-based system that the U.S. has helped to establish in the world after the end of the Second World War.
“As our department’s priority theater, we’re committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, can pursue economic opportunity and resolve disputes without coercion, and can exercise the freedoms of navigation overflight, consistent with an open and stable international order,” David Helvey, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said in his opening remarks. “It’s an order that places all nations on a level playing field and holds them responsible for preserving the principles that have benefited all of us.”
In 2000, the Chinese military had a budget of $14.6 billion. In 2021, Beijing will be spending $209.4 billion on its military.
But China isn’t the only threat in that area of operations. When it comes to North Korea, tensions in the Korean peninsula have been on the decline since 2017. Nonetheless, the regime of Pyongyang still poses a threat not only to the region but to the continental U.S. as well, especially if it manages to create a nuclear ballistic missile that can reach the West Coast.
Army General Robert Abrams, the commander of Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, stated that “We have not become complacent when it comes to North Korea,” he said. “We remain clear-eyed about the persistent challenges we face today and in the future. North Korea continues the development of nuclear and advanced missile systems, cyber capability, as well as other conventional and emerging asymmetric military technologies. We will continue to ensure a strong and effective deterrence posture so the North Koreans never misjudge our role, never misjudge our commitment and our capability to respond as an alliance.”
The Indo-Pacific is vitally important to the US, both in terms of the economy and national security. Currently, the region accounts for 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and if current rates of economic and population growth continue, by 2031, the region will contain 2/3 of the world’s economy and population.
China might be the biggest threat to US national security but it’s also the largest opportunity. Conflict with Beijing isn’t predestined nor necessary. However, a potent US military and strong regional and global partnerships are crucial in deterring China.
Mark McFarling says
Possible thanks to the corporate whores who are only worried about their bank balances as well as people’s addictions to shine new things. Of course the corporate whores are the ones who build factories in China. The US government can shoulder a Huge chunk of the blame by borrowing money from China. Thanks Billy and Hillary!!! Idiots….
You had it all right until you blamed Clinton. Geez. He left power more than 20 years ago, and the things he did had bi-partisan support.
But indeed. China is a real threat. We should take the CCP at its word when it says it will invade, and we should prepare accordingly. Taiwan should be a porcupine of mobile anti-ship and anti-air missiles. Missiles are a lot cheaper and they can be built a lot faster than planes and ships, even in China. We should give Taiwan the ability to strike Chinese population centers if China targets Taiwan’s. And frankly, we should be prepared for all out war if necessary. Nothing short of that will deter a determined gangster like Xi. Nothing.
The US should make building hardened aircraft & personnel bunkers it’s top priorities in Guam. Building Aegis Ashore or other missile defense system needs to be a priority as well. Deploying the “Long Range Precision Cannon” would give our military the force projection we need in South East Asia.
I Think corporate american greed is to blame for all the us dollars going into factories in China. They were tripping over each over to get into the chinese domestic market for all the cheap labour they could get their hands on to escalate their balance sheets. Imagine if they had invested in Mexico, for instance, immediately to the south, then one can only imagine what huge benefits that would have brought to the US and world. Bringing Mexico out of poverty, raising THEIR living standards, less dependency on drug money and less drugs coming into the US over the border, oh, and how about not having to “BUILD THAT WALL” the cost of which goes into the billions.( And no, Mexico won’t pay for it ).
President Xi must be laughing all the way to the bank (and the indo pacific)…