China’s military display forces Pentagon to confront end of American dominance

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-17 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-armed missile designed to evade U.S. defenses rumbled through Beijing as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th anniversary in power with a parade Tuesday that showcased China’s ambition as a rising global force. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)


The rest of the world was watching the pomp, circumstance and speeches celebrating China’s 70th anniversary Tuesday, but military analysts were glued to another spectacle in the heart of Beijing: the arsenal of cutting-edge weaponry capable of challenging U.S. military might for decades to come.

The lavish event marking seven decades of Communist Party rule gave Beijing a golden opportunity to showcase new hypersonic missiles, top-of-the-line drones, tanks, stealth bombers, unmanned underwater vehicles, helicopters that rival U.S. Black Hawks, and a host of other military technology that highlights the nation’s ever-rising defense budget and its long-term plan to cut into American superiority in Asia and beyond.

Analysts called the display a clear warning to the West and an indication that China’s military progress — already at the point where Beijing is likely capable of going toe-to-toe with the U.S. in the Pacific — is accelerating at a rapid pace. Pentagon officials say their strategy to counter China acknowledges the new paradigm and the uncomfortable truth that unquestioned U.S. power may be a thing of the past.

“We’re no longer in a period of overwhelming American dominance but rather one in which our armed forces are adapting to fight against near-peer competitors who are fielding increasingly sophisticated capabilities,” Randall G. Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington just hours after the parade.

“Instead of expecting to dominate an opponent, our armed forces are learning to expect to be contested throughout a fight while achieving the political objectives set for them,” he said.

Frightening display

Chinese officials downplayed the idea that the celebration was meant to frighten or intimidate its adversaries. President Xi Jinping again stressed the party lie that China’s “peaceful rise” should not be considered a threat to its neighbors or to the West. China already ranks as an economic and manufacturing superpower, and it could surpass the U.S. with the world’s largest overall gross domestic product within two years.

In fact, the celebration drew unexpected congratulations from President Trump, a chief critic of China who has spearheaded a bitter trade war between the two nations.

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