Right before Christmas 2010, amateur photos of China’s J-20 stealth fighter (歼-20) began to appear on the Internet and media around the world speculated about the plane’s authenticity. In this Huanqiu.com report, the J-20 made its first public flight today. Back in 2009, a high ranking Chinese military official announced the progress of this program and its expected roll-out into service around 2020. Compared to the U.S. F-22 “Raptor”, which went into service in 2005, China is 15 years behind. Of course that is assuming the J-20 is on par with the F-22, which many analysts doubt. The Russian T-50, “Sukhoi PAK FA” is expected to go into service in 2012.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in China this week to discuss military ties between the two nations. China cut off military exchanges with the U.S. after Obama announced selling arms to Taiwan. (In some ways, Chinese sentiments against that move can be summed up in this Open Letter from a Chinese netizen, LTML.) Gates made the controversial decision in 2010 to cap the production of the F-22 at 187 units in favor of advancing the F-35. This NPR report continues:
The J-20 would pose the greatest immediate threat to Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as Chinese territory — to be recovered by force if necessary. Taiwan’s air force is composed mostly of aging U.S. F-16s and French Mirage jets, and its electronic warning systems would find it difficult to cope with stealth technology.
It is pretty interesting though to see the tactics used by the U.S. media. See how they snug this “threat to Taiwan” in the report? Other recycled themes are that this revelation of the J-20 was timed to “upstage” Gates. I often wonder why Americans put up with so much junk in their media.
While reading up about this news in China, I watched a panel discussion on CCTV about the impact of the J-20. One of the panelist made some comments I thought very interesting. With the U.S. budget deficit and the $700billion+ annual military budget, it is clear the U.S. will have to cut back. Gates announced recently cutting Pentagon budget by $78billion over the next five years. The panelist argued that it will be tougher for the U.S. to make this cut now, because opponents will cite China’s J-20 progress.
Also, military spending employs many Americans. Given the high unemployment rate, cutting back on military is even more tough. In this post, “Map of U.S. Military bases around the world” I argued given the U.S. footprint around the world, we might see it becoming more belligerent as a means to justify its size. And yes, that belligerence also means forcing Japan and South Korea to pay even more for the U.S. presence than what they are paying today.