Less than a month after Chinese defense officials came out and said that the PLA doesn't compare to the United States military, the Asian giant's defense minister quantified that statement, saying that China's armed forces are about 20 years behind the U.S. technologically.
In fact, he called the gap "big" and maintained that China is only building up its military to defend its sovereignty and "core interests". Hmmm, Taiwan, anyone?
Here's what Chinese Gen. Liang Guanglie said about the PLA's modernization at the annual Shangri-La Asian security summit, writes my old colleague Wendell Minnick at Defense News:
There is a 20-year gap between China and the U.S. military in equipment, weapons and systems, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie told the 10th Shangri-La Dialogue on June 5 in Singapore.This kind of reminds us of what we all know. Even China's newest military gear is reminiscent of Western or Soviet technology from about 20 years ago, or more. I mean, its first operational carrier is a 20+ year-old Soviet hull with updated electronics and even its stealth fighter is rumored to have been build with secrets stolen from the USAF's 30 year-old F-117A design.
"I would call the gap big," he said. Liang acknowledged that China's military modernization has improved, but the "main battle equipment of our services ... is mainly second-generation weapons." China does not have a large arsenal of third-generation weapons, systems or platforms. "For example, the army is still being motorized, not mechanized," he said.
Still, anyone can see the PLA is advancing at a decent clip and as China's economy grows and its spy services steal more secrets, it may advance even quicker than it has over the past few decades (in my humble non-China expert opinion).
And while China's miliary hardware may still lag behind the U.S.', its cyber capabilities, considered by most to be critical to waging 21st Century warfare may be on par with or ahead of the U.S.'