Inside China’s ‘monstrous’ military: New aircraft carrier, missiles explained by expert

Chinese military ‘live-fire exercise’ in South China Sea in May

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China has massively ramped up its incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) this year. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted 555 raids in the first six months of 2022 compared to 187 in the first half of last year, Taiwan’s defence ministry said last week. One of the communist superpower’s largest flyovers came in January as it sent 35 warplanes into the island nation’s skies, including near the Pratas Islands, which Taiwan controls in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will one day be reunited with mainland China, has claimed in the past that its missions are training drills to safeguard its sovereignty, and it has refused to rule out an invasion.

As well as the South China Sea, Beijing has also shown its military might in the South Pacific in recent months, with an apparent bid to construct a new military base in Papua New Guinea less than 100km (62 miles) from Australia.

Details of China’s attempts to secure a special economic zone in the town of Kikori – denied by the Chinese Embassy in Papua New Guinea – were reported by the Daily Mail earlier this month.

Against the backdrop of China’s expanding influence in the South China Sea and South Pacific, a US expert has taken an inside look at the “monstrous” military of the 1.4 billion-strong nation.

Dr John Callahan is a former diplomat and State Department spokesperson, who now works as a military adviser and a dean at New England College in the US.

Speaking to, he said: “The Chinese military is huge. It’s monstrous.

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“They just launched a third aircraft carrier. They are doing hundreds of aircraft sorties in the area around Taiwan.

“They are well known to have thousands of ballistic missiles and they make a lot of talk about their hypersonic missiles.”

Last month, China put on its latest show of military capabilities as it unveiled its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian.

The 80,000-tonne vessel, dubbed the “jewel in the crown” of the PLA Navy, is seen as a major rival to the US’ fleet of 11 aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, China claims to have also bolstered its military with its continued development of hypersonic missile technology.

In May, Beijing conducted tests of an air-breathing engine for the cutting-edge weapons, in an apparent breakthrough as it races against the US and Russia to develop the technology.

The engine can reportedly be used to power a plane or missile to achieve speeds of up to five times the speed of sound (6,174 kmph).

While Dr Callahan noted China’s military advances, he also stressed that it remains unclear how the country’s armed forces would perform in a conflict.

He said: “It is hard to say how strong they really are for several reasons.

“One is they haven’t fought a real war since the Seventies and Vietnam kicked their butts in that war.”

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He added: “They tried to invade North Vietnam after the Vietnamese had finished with the US, and they made short work of the Chinese.

“And that is kind of crazy because we were operating across half of the globe.

“We won most of the battles. We weren’t militarily defeated, but they managed to send us off.

“And then China – which is right next door with a giant army – the Vietnamese saw them off too. So that says something.”

Dr Callahan also spoke about how China’s military advances may be worth little until it develops its military doctrine further.

He said: “You go back to the Korean War, and all they knew how to do was launch human wave attacks.

“And I’m sure that their doctrine has improved since then.

“But the problem is that until you use the doctrine it is very ephemeral.

“In other words, they may be awesome, but they won’t be awesome at the outset of a conflict.

“Because they’re going to have to learn how to actually implement all the ideas that they have come up with or stolen from the US.”

He added: “People talk about the third aircraft carrier, but so what?

“Show me how you can do 24/7 flight operations off of an aircraft carrier in a combat zone, which the US Navy – up until the last two or three years – did regularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

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