03 January 2010

Is China’s Rocket Science all it’s Cracked up to be, Experts Ask

Greg Torode, Chief Asia correspondent,Is China’s Rocket Science all it’s Cracked up to be, Experts Ask,” South China Morning Post, 3 January 2010.

Given its potential to wipe out an aircraft carrier – for America a core projection of its power – no weapon under development in China exercises strategic imaginations in Washington quite like the anti-ship ballistic missile. …

“This concept has been percolating in China’s strategic consciousness for some time,” Dr Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College, said. “My best guess is that China has the technological capacity to develop an ASBM and has made great progress regarding hardware. Mastering detection, targeting and bureaucratic co-ordination will likely represent an ongoing challenge,” he said, speaking in a private capacity. … Erickson notes that China’s welldocumented investment in anti-ship ballistic missile programmes “suggests Beijing’s leaders are optimistic about this technology”. He also notes that a flood of recent official reports and statements from the US defence and intelligence communities “makes that optimism appear justified”. … Erickson added: “When it comes to targeting a carrier, there will not be a sharp red line between no capability and full capability. Some Chinese analysts believe that even the significant likelihood of a capability may have a large deterrent effect.” … “Authoritative PLA sources reveal overconfidence in China’s ability to control escalation, which is itself an extraordinary danger,” Erickson said. “My own personal theory is that the Second Artillery Corps is overconfident because Chinese strategists have never had the sobering experience of, for example, a Cuban missile crisis, to impress [on them] the realities of the ‘fog of war’ and the potential for misperceptions and unintended, potentially disastrous consequences.”