Top US defence chiefs have warned of the stunning rise of China’s military capabilities — warning the country could potentially “dominate” America in a conflict by the middle of the century.
Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Joe Biden adviser, warned that we could wake up one morning in the near future to find out China has “showered” Taiwan with rockets.
He told Axios that “China’s military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate,” and the US is running out of time to prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.
The military leader said the new presidency cannot afford to be complacent with China, warning its “ability with rocketry and whatnot has essentially changed the dynamic”.
“My concern would be, we wake up one morning and China has just done a fait accompli,” he said. “They have just showered Taiwan with rockets.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s top general said robotic weapons would be common around the world within 10 or 15 years, and China is rapidly developing such capabilities.
“They would like to not only match us but exceed us, dominate us, be able to beat us in armed conflict by mid-century,” Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley said in an online symposium at the US Naval Institute this week.
RELATED: America ramps up moves against China
RELATED: Beijing slammed for ‘bully conduct’
He said the US military has to fully embrace robotics and artificial intelligence if it is to maintain superiority to China, and that the Pentagon needs smaller, more capable forces armed with long-range missiles posted more widely around Asia to compete with China.
“We are in the middle of a fundamental change in the character of war,” Milley said.
He cited the spread of precision-guided munitions, drones and other robotic equipment, and advanced satellite communications, and said that those who master them best will be “decisive” in war.
“Our ability to sense is unbelievable. We can see the world today as you could never see it before.”
“We can reach out and we can track, see, identify,” he said, adding that with long-range precision munitions, if you can see it, you can hit it.
“This is fundamental. And this has a huge impact on the future of combat,” he said. “If you put in artificial intelligence and you do man-machine teaming, add that to robotics, put in precision munitions and the ability to sense and see, throw in a few hypersonic weapons, and you’ve got a fundamental shift in the global battlefield.”
Milley, who is expected to remain in his job under President-elect Joe Biden, said the US should shrink its military footprint abroad, saying that permanent bases in places such as South Korea and Bahrain leave US forces, their families and staff vulnerable.
“I am not a fan of large permanent military bases from the US overseas, in other people’s countries,” he said.
“Smaller forces, widely distributed, that are very difficult to detect will be key for a future military.”
To prevent China from taking control of the western Pacific in a conflict, he said, the US should have land-based units in the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia, operating long-range precision missile batteries that could take out Chinese navy ships.
“Why should we just cede that space to them? We shouldn’t,” he said.
To back that up the Pentagon needs to plan to build its naval fleet to more than 500 vessels by 2045, from the current level of around 300, with one-quarter or more to be unmanned, robotic ships, and up to 90 submarines.
“If you’re serious about great power competition and deterring great power war, and you’re serious about having dominant capability over something like China … 500 (ships) is probably your entrance ticket,” he said.
That did not include adding more to the fleet of large US aircraft carriers, relatively easy targets for China’s potent long-range precision missiles, he said.
“I’m not saying you’re gonna have a war with China. I’m saying we want to prevent a war with China, and we’re going to have to invest in the capabilities in the force to prevent that from happening.”
“You want your opponent to know unequivocally that if they get in a fight with the United States of America, hands down, they will lose, and they will lose in a very large way, very swiftly and in a very catastrophic way to their national interest,” he said.