Newspaper article International New York Times

Why Help China's Military Progress?

Newspaper article International New York Times

Why Help China's Military Progress?

Article excerpt

With tensions rising in Asia, Washington must view its military exchanges with Beijing through the lens of American security interests.

The head of China's navy, Adm. Wu Shengli, recently asked his American counterpart, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, to allow Chinese officers assigned to its new aircraft carrier to board an American carrier to learn about maintenance and operational procedures. United States policy makers are considering the request. It is a bad idea.

Although military-exchange programs are widely believed to reduce the chances of misunderstandings that lead to armed conflict, Washington must view them through the lens of American security interests. This proposal would be less an exchange than a transfer of knowledge and perhaps even of technology.

The Chinese stand to gain far more in this deal than the United States. At a time when tensions in Asia are rising over Beijing's more assertive posture toward its neighbors, Washington should not give a potential boost to the Chinese military.

The Chinese navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, in 2012, and its pilots have been practicing carrier- based operations -- mainly launches, arrested landings and safety drills -- ever since. To watch videos of these drills is to recognize how the Chinese have borrowed from the American instruction manual. As retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly, former commander of the Nimitz strike group, pointed out, the Chinese have already copied, in detail, safety techniques to reduce damage to aircraft from small debris left on deck by hard landings and visual communications to control takeoffs.

The recent request by Admiral Wu was more direct than the usual show-and-tells that foreign dignitaries typically receive when they visit American warships. He has made it clear he would like to focus on the "details" of tactics and maintenance.

The Chinese still want to learn exactly what parts of the planes, arresting gear and catapult systems need maintenance between flights, and how often. Even allowing the Chinese to see the level of automation or redundancy in certain American systems would go a long way to speeding up their learning curve -- and, ultimately, strengthening their military. …

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