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Pentagon panicking over storm in a China teacup

Published time: August 26, 2011 22:56
Edited time: August 27, 2011 02:56

Artists' conception of Varyag/Shi Lang completed (image from http://china-defence-mashup.com)

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A new Pentagon report warns China will become a leading military power by 2020. But Conn Hallinan, an expert on Asian military affairs, believes the US military lobby is exaggerating the threat to save their budgets.

“There is a push to cut the military budget,” Hallinan said. “The arms companies and the military are sort of digging in their heels and so they are throwing up this kind of Chinese bugaboo.”

The US report goes on to say that China’s building aircraft carriers, missiles and developing cyber warfare could potentially destabilize Asia. But Hallinan says China is nowhere near challenging the United States.

”They have one aircraft carrier which is one half the size of American aircraft carriers,” he explained. “And the Americans have ten Nimitz class aircraft carriers.”

The Chinese military are said to be developing weapons specifically for the purpose of sinking aircraft carriers. But according to Hallinan the missile has not even been tested yet and its real capabilities are unknown.

Hallinan says the US is still spending five times as much as China does on its military.

“According to the American figures the Chinese will spend in 2011 around $190 billion,” he said. “The US spends about $1.1 trillion a year, because much of the military budget is hidden away in other budgets. Nuclear weapons are part of the energy budget etc.”

Conn Hallinan also gave his view on the reason China has come to the decision to expand its military power.

“I think that the major reason why China is doing this is because of what happened in 1996,” he said. “In 1996 there was a lot of tension between Taiwan and the mainland. And as the tension grew the Clinton administration sent two aircraft carrier battle groups into the Taiwan Strait, which was a rather unsettling message. The Chinese were forced to back away from that. They felt humiliated by that and they felt as if the United States was dictating their internal politics in their own home waters.”

“And after that they went on a crash course of naval building,” he pointed out.

Hallinan believes the United States still has a Cold War mentality and thinks that “in order to have political influence in some place they need to have a military presence.”

“There is a lot of hype going on right now in the US and some of it is because they want to raise the Chinese up so they are a big danger. That way we can keep a large military footprint in Asia.”

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