In order to keep up with the US, which still outspends China four to one in military hardware, the Chinese have been developing drones that can fly and attack in a swarm.
According to an in-depth review by the British Financial Times the Chinese government is at a breaking point in the discussion about which way to go: further technological advance or more troops and hardware. Some of the general staff want to rely on the sheer size of China’s possible reserves and add planes and ships, whilst the younger generation is intoxicated by technological advances. Xi Jinping, China’s president, will have the final word.
At a June 11 demonstration of “swarm” technology by China Electronics Technology Group, which is a cover for a state-owned high-tech company, the Chinese managed to simultaneously fly 119 drones. That made it the world’s largest-ever swarm which broke a US-held record (that video is for some reason no longer available on youtube).
For the past twenty years China has tried to modernise its military by developing stealth fighters, guided missile destroyers and ballistic “carrier killer” missiles, whilst at the same time reducing troop numbers. In 2017, it is estimated It will spend at least $152bn on its military.
Randall Steeb, engineer with the Rand Corporation in the US has seen their advance. He commented: “This goes all the way back to the tactics of Attila the Hun. A light attack force that can defeat more powerful and sophisticated opponents. They come out of nowhere, attack from all sides and then disappear, over and over.”
The Russians have also noticed the development of their southern border neighbour. Whereas for the past decades it was mostly the Soviets that were matching up to the US military, China is clearly overtaking that role. Mr Vasily Kashin, who is Russia’s expert when it comes to Chinese military developments and is employed by the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, declared that: “Swarming is currently considered to be one of the most promising areas of defence technology development in the world. The Chinese are prioritising it.”