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What Are China's Military Intentions in Central Asia?

China's performance in the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization exercises in Kazakhstan suggests that Beijing is preparing its military to be able to intervene unilaterally in Central Asia, says Roger McDermott. He also notes that China seemed to be showing off equipment and capabilities that were domestically produced and which Russia, in particular, lacked:

Intervention during a crisis in Central Asia appears more plausible, though it remains unclear whether the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or the SCO might offer a viable multilateral framework in such circumstances, or if a bilateral agreement would be preferred resulting in a unilateral operation...

As the PLAAF develops its air combat group, integrating combat, early warning command, long-range strikes, escort and cover, and in-flight refueling, Peace Mission 2010 was confidently used to demonstrate advances made towards carrying out independent long-range precision strikes. The PLAAF was evidently practicing offensive air operations in an informatized network-centric context. The underlying message appeared to be that the PLA stands out among the SCO forces for its growing power projection capabilities.

Since the other members of the SCO currently lack network-centric capabilities, it is revealing that China chose to demonstrate these power projection levels during a multilateral exercise. The reasons underlying this show of genuine military strength are rooted in the dynamic tension that exists within the competitive and cooperative Sino-Russian strategic partnership. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis and China’s emergence as the second strongest world economic power, many perceive that Beijing is willing to raise its defense profile internationally...

Peace Mission 2010 reminded Moscow that Beijing actually possesses military capabilities currently lacking in the Russian conventional armed forces. China conveyed the message in the exercise that it has its disposal the capability to intervene “cleanly” in Central Asia, without the need for temporary or permanent regional basing...

Most of what we've seen about China in Central Asia suggests that Beijing is more interested in economic than military power. And it's hard to imagine a scenario in which China would find it necessary to intervene in Central Asia. A serious Uighur uprising using Central Asia as a rear base? Russia interfering with the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline? Maybe China is exercising these capabilities out of sight in Central Asia that it might instead be preparing to use somewhere like Taiwan? Plenty of food for thought.

By. Joshua Kucera

Originally published by EurasiaNet.org




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  • Anonymous on October 12 2010 said:
    I think it's called muscle flexing. I'd say its more likely aimed at the US then the Russians. Saying,'we can also fight a modern hi-tech war ''in the Pacific'' if we need to'. At present they will depend on Russia far too much for oil and gas to be threatening them.

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