Behind The Iron Mask In China

Western analysts have two, quite different, opinions of Chinese military power. The more popular analysis is that most Chinese military developments of late have displayed a keen ability to design and build very modern weapons. This makes for scary (and profitable) headlines. Politicians and military leaders love it, because it provides a foreign threat. With that scary monster, the voters can be persuaded to pay for more weapons and troops. That means more jobs for the military and weapons manufacturers, and more ways to attract votes to reelect politicians.

Then there's the other view, usually obtained over drinks with Chinese, Japanese, South Korean or Taiwanese businessmen. All of these guys have experience with Chinese industry, and often some direct knowledge of military industries. All tell the same story. Chinese military procurement is as corrupt as they come, and the wonder weapons are much more impressive on paper than they are in reality. Western military people, especially those in the navy (who see their Chinese counterparts up close), or military intelligence (who collect all sorts of inside information on the Chinese armed forces) also tell the same story. The bottom line is that the Chinese military is much less than it appears to be, and it's been that way for a long time.


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