China will eventually have a military powerful enough to compete with the United States, state media said Friday ahead of the visit of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
The claim in a newspaper editorial followed reports that China had completed a prototype of a stealth fighter and after a top US military official said Beijing was stepping up efforts to deploy a “carrier-killer” missile system.
“Whether the reported new weapons are true or not, in the long run, China will own first-class weapons that are capable of competing with the US war machine,” said the Global Times, known for its nationalist tone.
Gates arrives in China on Sunday to smooth over tense defence relations between the two countries — one year after Beijing cut military ties with Washington in protest against US arms sales to rival Taiwan.
“Apparently, the US is not ready to treat China as a major power. They cannot accept the fact that China will sooner or later possess a first-class military,” the editorial said.
“They are too used to the old power structure, in which China and other developing countries have long been treated unfairly.”
In an interview last week with a Japanese newspaper, the head of the US Pacific Command Admiral Robert Willard said China was pushing development of “carrier-killers” and aimed to project its influence beyond its regional waters.
US military analysts have warned China is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile — a new version of its Dongfeng 21 missile — that could pierce the defences of even the most sturdy US naval vessels and has a range far beyond Chinese waters.
Whereas Gates’s Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie has said that China will push forward with modernisation of its military thanks to a booming economy, the United States is facing major cuts.
Citing “dire” fiscal pressures, Gates on Thursday proposed deeper cuts than planned in US military programmes, scaling back ground forces for the first time since the 1990s.
Gates, in a compromise with the White House, said the 78 billion dollars in cuts and other measures would result in a slower pace of growth in defence budgets over the next five years, despite earlier plans to keep spending at a higher rate.
China has long described its military build-up as “defensive” in nature but top armed forces officials have recently made increasingly strong statements about its quest for a powerful military.