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January 11, 2011

Good News...China Unveils And Tests It's Own 5th Generation Fighter!

You know, the one they weren't supposed to have until 2020, which meant we could safely cancel the F-22 program? Yeah, that one.

And the normally secretive Chinese wanted to make sure everyone saw it.

There's a reason for the change in policy.

More than anything, the PLA has taken on a different tone. Emboldened by the notion that China’s rise is unstoppable, its military has shed its traditional secrecy to become a brash, even boisterous interest group that openly advocates for policies, brandishes its new equipment and makes other claims like never before.

“Over the years, the Chinese military doctrine was ‘hide and bide’ – hide your resources and bide your time,” Vice Adm. David J. “Jack” Dorsett, director of U.S. naval intelligence, told reporters this week. “They now appear to have shifted into an era where they’re willing to show their resources and capabilities.”

Also of note about the test? It's timing. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates just happens to be in China now.

U.S. officials said that President Hu appeared to be taken by surprise when Mr. Gates asked him about the test flight during a meeting, hours after pictures and accounts of it began appearing online.

Analysts said that would be an embarrassment for China’s top leader—who in theory controls the military as chairman of the Central Military Commission—just as Chinese officials anxiously try to make sure Mr. Hu’s planned trip to the U.S. next week goes smoothly.

If the military deliberately kept Mr. Hu in the dark, that would reinforce concerns that hawkish elements in the military are increasingly driving China’s foreign policy—including ties with the U.S.—and that they are trying to enhance their power in China’s domestic politics ahead of a leadership transition next year.

“It was clear the civilian leadership was uninformed” of the J-20 test, said a senior U.S. defense official after the meeting between Mr. Gates and Mr. Hu.

There's really no good option here. Either Hu knew about the test and went along with the proactive timing or...he didn't know and other players are exerting pressure. Players like the Defense Minister who says China is preparing for, "Military Conflict In Every Strategic Direction"?

What could go wrong?

All of this comes on the heels of Gates announcing budget cuts for the Department of Defense. In addition to canceling major weapons programs like the Marines next generation amphibious assault vehicle (which given costs and the unlikely nature of an opposed amphibious assault in a world with modern missiles is certainly defensible and a discussion worth having), Gates is also talking about cutting troop numbers after years of expanding the Army and Marine Corps.

As I watched his presentation last week with Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all I could think of was what they were really saying was, "Honestly, history won't repeat itself again.".

Problem is, the Chinese are showing us that they are doing everything to ensure that yes, it will.


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posted by DrewM. at 03:26 PM

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