Feb 12 2011
As the U.S. downsizes its defense budget, many countries — from the Arabian Sea to the Pacific ocean — feel the need to respond to China’s surging economy and its expanding high-tech military.
According to today’s Wall Street Journal (2/12/11),
Together these efforts amount to a simultaneous buildup of advanced weaponry in the Asian-Pacific region on a scale and at a speed not seen since the Cold War arms race between America and the Soviet Union.
The U.S.-Soviet Cold War arms race got into high gear in ~1950 when the USSR obtained the atomic bomb. U.S. developments included the H-bomb, intercontinetal bombers under the Strategic Air Command, and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) for delivery of nuclear warheads.
The 1960s Space Race was a direct outgrowth of the Cold War arms race. Early modified ICBMs were used to launch satellites and even humans into space; for example, the first American (John Glenn) was launched into orbit in 1962 on a General Dynamics Atlas missile.
According to William E. Burrows (1999) ,
The cold war would become the great engine, the supreme catalyst, that sent rockets and their cargoes far above Earth and worlds away.
The current Asia-Pacific arms race is reminiscent of the 1950s Cold War U.S.-Soviet arms race that triggered the first Space Race to the Moon. The fact that it’s occurring now among China and other vibrant asian economies — one long business cycle after the original Space Race — suggests the stage is being set for a new Space Age by 2015. By then the U.S. economy should also be booming.
The current asian arms race is a serious development. An Australian report notes that the “scale, pattern, and speed…” of the Chinese military buildup is “dead serious stuff” not experienced since WW II.
It is potentially the most demanding security situation faced since the Second World War … (and) is altering security in the Western Pacific.
In its “New Military Strategy” report released last Tuesday, the Pentagon sees connections between China’s growing military and its aspirations in space and elsewhere,
We remain concerned about the extent and strategic intent of China’s military modernization, and its assertiveness in space, cyberspace, in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and the South China Sea.
Although China’s impressive military buildup has triggered the current Cold War-style arms race in asia, it does not necessarily imply that we are headed for a 1960’s-style Space Race. Indeed, China’s near-term economic challenges and the possibility of liberal political reforms may lead instead to a Grand Alliance for Space.