By Mohammad Mazhari

China is on its way to surpassing the U.S. in military power: Indian professor

April 28, 2021 - 15:1

TEHRAN – A leading Indian academic says that China is going to outcompete the U.S. in military power by capitalizing immensely on weapons technology.

"China's major influence globally and in Asia will remain primarily economic; however, though China is still behind, it is on its way to surpassing the U.S. in military power with increased spending on weapons technology and developing several secretive weapons," Ashok Swain tells the Tehran Times.

"The world is moving towards being bipolar again, but the two poles of this bipolar world will be, to some extent, multipolar in character, he adds. 

The UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has said that China will overtake the U.S. to become the world's largest economy by 2028, five years earlier than previously forecast.

There is an ongoing discussion that China is emerging as a new superpower, replacing the U.S. from the global power structure. 

China emerging strongly from the growing global economic crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Donald Trump's ally-alienating policies within NATO for the last four years have pushed this narrative forward considerably. 

While there is no doubt that China has already become the global powerhouse economically, some pundits have doubt that Beijing can overtake Washington in terms of military power. 

However, Swain believes that "China under President Xi has prioritized enhancing its military strength, and it will be foolish to downplay China growing military power."

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you see the fate of confrontation between China and the U.S.? Do you think that China can surpass the U.S.?

A: China has recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic-induced global economic crisis. There is no doubt that China has already become the global economic powerhouse, and it is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world's biggest economy by 2028 or even before. The former U.S. President Donald Trump's ally-alienating policies within NATO between 2017 to 2020 have pushed China's position upward firmly at the global power table. China is undoubtedly acquiring economic and military strength superior to the U.S. sooner than later. Still, there are some doubts over its internal political stability in the long run and its ability to make alliances with other regional powers in different parts of the world. Though China has been enjoying political stability for a long, the Chinese people lack similar trust and confidence in their political system as the Americans have in theirs. The lack of complete political legitimacy might be a challenge for internal security. It might be a hindrance also in commanding the respect of other countries in its competition for getting the global superpower status.

“The 25-years strategic pact has made the relationship between China and Iran more long-term and strategic.” Q: Some experts say that Chinese influence in Asia and the world at large will remain economic while others predict that China resorts to military tools to curb the United States. What is your comment?

 A: China's major influence globally and in Asia will remain primarily economic; however, though China is still behind, it is on its way to surpassing the U.S. in military power with increased spending on weapons technology and developing several secretive weapons. China is not bound by the Immediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between Moscow and Washington, and it has already acquired the largest number of ballistic missiles. China is particularly the world leader in medium-range missiles and has immense capability to strike with its nuclear weapons anywhere it wants. Though China is estimated to have only 320 nuclear weapons, but is a big unknown and has never given any number of its warheads officially. Nuclear weapons are also part of its ongoing project to modernize its military to close the gap with the U.S. China already has a larger navy than the U.S. China under President Xi has prioritized enhancing its military strength, and it will be foolish to downplay China growing military power.

Q: Why does the U.S. try to portray the world in a monopolar state supposing itself as the only legitimate leader of the world? 

A: The concept of a monopolar world has disappeared for nearly a decade now, and the U.S. has already realized it. The U.S. has basically accepted that China has become a bigger economic player and soon going to outcompete it militarily. The U.S. is only engaged now in pursuing a policy to contain China using its better political and cultural influences worldwide. One of the strategies in the post-Trump period has been to strengthen its old alliances across the Atlantic and create a new partnership in the Asia Pacific region. China has developed some working alliances with Russia and, at the same time, getting new allies from Asia to Europe and from Africa to Latin America. China is using its enormous economic power and the Belt and Road Initiative to build alliances. So, the world is moving towards being bipolar again, but the two poles of this bipolar world will be, to some extent, multipolar in character.

 Q: What will be the impact of the 25-year partnership between Iran and China on bilateral ties and the region as well?

A: The U.S. President Donald Trump's decision in 2018 to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was extremely foolish morally, legally, strategically, and diplomatically. This prompted Iran to explore a 25-year strategic pact with China, involving both military and economic cooperation. President Joe Biden had promised in his campaign as a candidate to return to the Iran nuclear deal. However, after coming to power, he dithered, which led to Iran and China signing the 25-year partnership agreement in the last week of March. This $400 billion pact is a significant agreement for Iran and also China as well to get its foothold in West Asia/Middle East region. At the same time, there are signs of progress of improved U.S.-Iran relations in the future and the revival of the nuclear deal. It is in Iran's best interest to develop a strong partnership with China and maintaining a good relationship with the U.S.     

Q: Given that certain Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, are U.S. allies, do you predict any possibility to form economic blocs in Asia to confront America's presence?

A: The U.S. has long economic and military cooperation with Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Through Quad, the U.S. is trying to include India into a similar type of alliance, and speculations are there to make Quad Asia's NATO. While the U.S. is building an economic and military bloc in Asia, China has a robust economic partnership with several ASEAN countries and Pakistan. Some other countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal are also increasingly coming within China's economic influence. The 25-years strategic pact has made the relationship between China and Iran more long-term and strategic. So, China is already engaged in creating an economic bloc (if not military) in Asia to counter the U.S. and its allies.   

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