News / Asia

Q&A with Tai Ming Cheung: 'Forging China's Military Might'

FILE - Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises back to port after its first navy sea trial in Dalian, northeastern China.
FILE - Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises back to port after its first navy sea trial in Dalian, northeastern China.
China has announced its defense budget for 2014 and caused more anxieties among its neighbor countries in Asia, as the new $132 billion budget increased 12.2 percent from a year ago.
 
China’s growing influence in the world has included expanding military capabilities. While we could never fully know all of China’s abilities, we can examine circumstantial evidence to build a good framework of knowledge about strengths and limitations we could expect to see from China. The nation has not been engaged in a substantial military conflict for almost 40 years, yet China has watched conflicts around the world since that time and has moved to keep its forces updated should it find itself at war.
 
Tai Ming Cheung, the Director of the University of California Institute on Global Conflict & Cooperation in San Diego, along with several colleagues has been assessing China’s level of defense technology innovation. Their findings are in the new book, Forging China’s Military Might, to which Tai Ming Cheung contributed and edited. He spoke with VOA Daybreak Asia host Jim Stevenson about his research.
 

STEVENSON:The subtitle for the book is “A New Framework for Assessing Innovation.” China has long been criticized for copying, stealing, emulating [technology]. How much innovation is really going on within their military at this point?
 
CHEUNG:The Chinese actually have a fairly clear cut strategy. They call this the IDAR strategy. They “I”ntroduce, which is they bring in; they “D”igest; they “A”ssimilate, (and) “R”e-innovate.
 
And the key part about understanding Chinese innovation itself is that there are two types of innovations that the Chinese are trying to do, especially in the defense theater but also more broadly. One is probably called “just good enough” innovation. They do not need to have an advanced, sophisticated approach, but it is having technological capabilities that are just good enough that are cost effective, that match the characteristics of the country. Or the other approach, which is what the U.S. and more advanced countries produce, the “gold plated” type of innovation, very, very frontier type of innovation. And the Chinese are doing that. But that is not where a lot of their focus is. Their focus is on just good enough right now.
 
STEVENSON:In terms of military, if you are behind, it must be very difficult to bring yourself up to par with the leaders out there. And if China is a “catch-up” nation, can they ever hope to really catch up with, say, the U.S. military?
 
CHEUNG:It is a very long term approach. The Chinese have only been really seriously engaged in this catch-up technology and innovation effort in the last 20 odd years. So what they see are different races the Chinese are pursuing.
 
There is the immediate race where they are worried about their external security environment where it is dealing with Japan, of the U.S. strategic pivot, or dealing with Taiwan, or these immediate concerns. They want equipment they can use right now. They import and do this re-innovation strategy. That allows them to get just good enough capabilities.
 
But then the Chinese military and the defense industrial apparatus says, “Well, we also have to keep our eye on the long term. We have to make investments in our research and development base that may not lead to capabilities in the next five or 10 years, but 20 or 30 years."
 
STEVENSON: Are we finding ourselves in somewhat of an arms race at this point in the sense of trying to stay ahead of China?
 
CHEUNG:I think there is an increasing sense of that. The U.S. has been trying to downplay a direct arms race. It is much more of indirect developments that are taking place. The U.S. looks at China, but China is not quite where the Soviet Union was in the Cold War days before the 1990s. China is one of several countries that the U.S. needs to keep attention on itself.
 
But I think that if China is able to continue to make the rapid progress that it showed in defense science and technology in the last decade, and if they are to even continue or accelerate this progress in the next five to 10 years, I think the U.S will become even more concerned than it is now.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid