China is a frightening country for many reasons, not the least of which is their population. For a country whose physical size is often disputed with America’s for which is bigger (it depends if you add Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong in there), it has an astonishing one billion-plus humans. And since the military as well as the machines they utilize are all made up of and built by humans, that is a huge disadvantage to any other country on earth with the exception of India, which has a similar population but is neither their enemy nor anywhere close to being on an even playing field militarily.
It is a sobering thought to consider what a war with China would be like. It is true that they have always been a few steps behind the West in almost every way, but they have been just as eager to catch up, and have worked very hard to do so. They want desperately to be seen as a superpower in every sense of the word, and they are dedicated to being just that.
Despite the fact that they are a communist country under the complete control of their government, China has real shot at success should there ever be a war- with anyone. And that includes the very prepared United States of America. But the U.S. should not underestimate China’s efforts, especially when it comes to their weaponry and warfare of all kinds that could be detrimental to anyone who opposes them in the future.
Most of the following 15 secret weapons are not so secret with today’s spies, big mouths, and the internet, no matter how much China tries to censor it. They would like to keep all military information a state secret, but have had no such luck concerning most of it. All of it may not be top-secret anymore, but there is still much to learn about China’s military resources and capabilities. In that respect, there are always secrets to learn from these Commies. And make no mistake: Commie or not, China is not to be underestimated in times of war. The 15 “secret weapons” of Communist China on this list will illustrate why.
15. DF-ZF Hypersonic Vehicle
This is something the U.S. for sure wishes they had, because the DF-ZF Hypersonic Vehicle is a hypersonic weapon, meaning it can travel more than five times the speed of sound. While not operational yet, this bad boy is much farther along than anything the U.S., despite its penchant for technology and warfare, has come up with. And that is scary, because the DF-ZF can travel speeds from 4,000-7,000 miles per hour. It has had seven successful tests, and even though the impressive speed is still less than the ones America is developing, it is much closer to being operational than theirs is. Maybe we will finally see the day that China develops a new kind of weapon first, because otherwise they are behind. They may be secretive, but that does not always mean much. Still, recent tests were branded a “warning” to the U.S., as these hypersonic gliders are capable of breaching the U.S. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) System, if launched from a proposed missile defense system in South Korea.
14. Biological Warfare
Another scary thing to think about is China (or anyone) deciding to put their biological warfare to use someday. Although China is part of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, there was concern that they could possibly transfer their biological weapons to Iran. This led to three Chinese firms being sanctioned because they were accused of supplying to Iran materials used in chemical and biological warfare. All of this was years ago, but given how technology only gets better and better, China is likely way more ahead of the game than they were back then. They were reported to have a biological weapons program in the 1980’s, and since China is so secretive, they very well still could. Then there is the little fact that, according to the former director of a Soviet germ-warfare program Kanatjan Aibektov, China suffered a serious accident at one of its biological weapons plants that led to two epidemics of hemorrhagic fever. Yikes. However, it seems as though China has for the most part refrained from the production of chemical warfare at least, as they have complied with various conventions and hosted hundreds of inspections by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
13. Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles
Called the DF-26, China has created an anti-ship ballistic missile, a new variant of the Dongfeng ballistic missile family they have used for a long time. It has also been called Beijing’s Carrier-Killer. The Chinese have described it as a “Conventional-/Nuclear-Capable formation. The DF-26 can perform medium-to-long-range precision attacks on both land and large-to-medium-sized maritime targets. A new weapon for strategic deterrence.” It has a reported range of 2,500 miles, which is not very comforting to the U.S. Navy. The U.S. military has very little information on what could potentially endanger America concerning these missiles, and in fact the issue has gotten confusing even for them. It seems like there is a general consensus that this would pose a great anti-access threat to the Asia-Pacific region, and is a great complicator for the military. That does not sound too good.
12. Sea Mines
One very real global threat is the sea mine. Iran reportedly has several thousand naval mines, North Korea has 50,000, and Russia has a quarter of a million. So where do the U.S. and China fit in there? China has about 100,000, and the U.S. has a very unimpressive 13. But don’t get freaked out just yet; these other countries may have them, but using them is a different story. They must be taken out of storage, armed, and put into the water, all of which is more work than it sounds like. If Beijing really wanted to, they could theoretically mobilize civilian fishing fleets to help, because there are a lot of them. But satellites would still likely pick up on suspicious activity, and involving that many civilians would make it tough to keep quiet, even in the censorship capital of the world. Realistically, to set the mines before anyone noticed would require dropping them from the air, which is both expensive and improbable. Plus, it is a lot more visible. For all of these reasons, sea mines belong on this end of the list.
11. Xian Y-20 Strategic Airlifter
More commonly known as the “Chubby Girl” within the Chinese aviation industry (due to its wide fuselage in comparison to other Chinese aircraft), the Xian Y-20 Strategic Airlifter is a military transport aircraft. Its official codename is Kumpeng, as in Ancient China’s mythical bird capable of flying thousands of miles. Just last summer, the Chinese military was requesting upwards of 1,000 Y-20’s. Along with this statement to the People’s Daily newspaper in Beijing came the announcement that China also plans to build transport aircraft comparable in size to the Antonov An-225 Mriya. The need for both is based on what the experience of the United States and Russia. The 200-ton aircraft that first flew in January 2013 is capable of flying non-stops to everywhere in Europe and Asia, and some places in the U.S., Northern Africa, and Australia. China also wants to build a 600-ton aircraft that would be comparable in size to the world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380.
10. Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark
Chinese engineers developed the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark based on Russian Su-33 Flanker. It is a sleek, carrier-borne multi-role fighter, and with its development came even further proof that China is doing whatever they have to do to become a recognized world power economically and militarily. The fighter jet was the source of controversy between China and Russia because Russia said that China violated their intellectual property agreements, and it ultimately led to the end of negotiations between the two countries in terms of military aircraft trade. The aircraft is indeed based on the Russian Su-33, but it has indigenous engines, weapons, and radar. Compared to the Su-33, the Shark is much faster, has a longer range, and has a higher service ceiling. The news with this most recently is that China has stepped up developments of the Shark, adding CATOBAR (Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) operations. In September, photos surfaced of a Shark with what appeared to be a catapult launch bar on its nose wheel.
9. AG600 Seaplane
You may think of World War II when you think of seaplanes, but they are something to be feared if ever the West gets into it with China. This is because China possesses the largest seaplane on earth. Nearly eight decades ago in the Second World War, these planes were instrumental in rescuing downed pilots and giving other aid. A long-range aircraft capable of landing in water would be invaluable in another big war, particularly if an ocean separates the two fighting countries. But for now, China has the upper hand in this respect, because their AG600 Seaplane is monstrous; it is as big as a Boeing 737 and can carry 50 people. It can fly 3,100 miles and stay in the air for 12 hours. All of this is quite impressive (and intimidating if you are not Chinese) for a plane that can land on the water. America may want to take a lesson from the Chinese on this one, just in case, although we all know that with their closely-guarded military secrets (as they should be), there is not a whole lot that can be learned from them.
8. CV-17 Aircraft Carrier
China’s first homebuilt aircraft carrier is none other than the CV-17 Liaoning, which is nearing completion. Satellite photographs hint that although the major construction is mostly complete, it will likely not be ready to use until at least 2020. The CV-16 was originally a Soviet carrier that wound up with the Chinese Navy, despite having been purchased with the intention of turning it into a casino. It was China’s first carrier, but now the CV-17 still only looks to have a ski ramp to assist with takeoffs, indicating that China has not gotten their catapult system down yet. This limits the carrier’s ability to detect threats on land and at sea. This carrier will likely be able to carry approximately 48 aircraft, and a dozen helicopters. It will displace 60,000-70,000 tons. The CV-17 may be an improvement from the CV-16, but it will still take a few years of refitting and ship trials before it will be able to set sail.
7. New Long-Range Strategic Bomber
The H-6K Long-Range Strategic Bomber is definitely no secret, but China is in the process of developing an even longer-range one than this. That is most definitely top-secret, as no one knows what it is even called, or if it will be a new model, or crafted after the H-6K, which is nicknamed China’s B-52. It flies further and carries more than older models do, and the new one will likely out-perform even that, which is a sobering thought. Along with Russia and America, China is the only country that operates long-range bombers, and someday the fuel-efficient heavy bomber may fly far enough to reach America. Supported by tankers, this aircraft could potentially hunt American ships in the Pacific, or fly within striking distance of America’s main bomber outpost in Guam, over 3,000 miles from mainland China. Luckily, that also requires precision and planning, and it remains unclear whether China possesses such capabilities so far away yet, although their time will come someday.
6. Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has one of the world’s largest submarine fleets. It has five nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and over 50 diesel-electric attack submarines. There is no accurate account of how many vessels they are planning to add to the fleet, but it is a lot, as China’s Navy is assuming a larger role in the region and internationally. China’s nuclear submarines are some of the most secretive Chinese military platforms, so this year when there was an actual photo released of their newest and stealthiest nuclear attack submarine, it was pretty big news. Photos of such things are very rare. The new Type 093B Shang nuclear attack submarine is quiet, fast, and the first of its kind in China to fire vertically-launched cruise missiles. The United States Defense Department believes that three of these were launched in 2015, and may be in service soon, if not already.
5. Type-052D Luyang III Guided Missile Destroyer
This weapon belongs to a class of guided missile destroyers deployed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Surface Force, and was spotted being built at two different Chinese shipyards a few years ago. Now, 11 of 13 planned Type 052-D Luyang III Guided Missiles has joined the surface fleet of the Chinese Navy. Of these 11 destroyers, four are with the South Sea Fleet patrolling the South China Sea, four are with the North Sea Fleet defending northeast China, including Beijing, and three are with the East Sea Fleet, supporting the invasion of Taiwan. Two more are currently being built to join the South Sea Fleet and the East Sea Fleet. Russian media outlets are hailing this destroyer as a “carrier killer” due to its YJ-18 long-range supersonic anti-ship missiles that add to its intelligence capabilities, necessary for access-denial operations for the region they are patrolling. It has massive acceleration capabilities as well, potentially making it difficult for the U.S. defenses to shoot down the missile.
4. SC-19 Anti-Satellite Missiles
China has a new missile capable of destroying satellites in space, which is one of Beijing’s most dangerous weapons as of now. In fact, they were preparing to test their new Dong Neng-3 anti-satellite missile, and these preparations were detected at a central China military facility, according to the Pentagon. China closed certain flight zones that would be in the path of the DN-3, and when they did so quite recently, intelligence agencies were put on alert for the test. Few details were given except that the tests were likely to happen December 7 or 8, dates which have come and gone with no other news. Sources say the tests are/were likely to launch from the People’s Liberation Army satellite launch facility called Jiuquan in Inner Mongolia, and/or Korla in western China’s city of Xinjiang. Since this is all very current and so little is known, it is even more frightening.
3. Cyber Warfare Capabilities
China may be behind the times and trying to catch up in several aspects, but we should not underestimate them. There is a stereotype in America of Asian people being unusually smart, and that is because only the very smartest of them ever get to study in the West, where we see them. But when you have a population of over one billion people, that makes for a lot of the “very smartest”, whom they undoubtedly utilize for cyber warfare development. In fact, recently we have learned that China has three cyber warfare forces to be concerned about, if not more. These are: specialized military network warfare forces for carrying out network attack and defense, teams of specialists in civilian organizations to carry out network warfare operations, and external entities that can be mobilized for network warfare operations. Hacking and espionage by the PLA is nothing new, but its implications never get any less scary.
2. Nuclear Weapons
We know that China possesses several nuclear weapons, as well as the ability to develop chemical and biological warfare. However, it remains uncertain how China’s attempt at modernizing their military will shape their capabilities in the future. Their nuclear weapons program began in 1955 and they had a successful nuclear test in 1964 (its first hydrogen bomb test occurred in 1967). They continued to test until 1996. They are careful to guard information surrounding their nuclear arsenal, of course, but it is known that they have about 260 warheads as of 2015. China has the second smallest nuclear arsenal amongst the five nuclear weapons states acknowledged by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Even though they were the first to adopt the “no first-use policy” and officially pledge not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries, it is still unsettling to know they are continuously improving their military capabilities, and that includes weapons of mass destruction.
It has been called China’s top-secret weapon, the best of them all, and it is something everyone knows about: education. Well, when you have a staggering population of over one billion people, all of whom are fiercely nationalistic and brainwashed by their leader (dictator) since birth, it makes sense. Plus, there is the minute detail that it is compulsory for men to register for the military upon turning 18. This is why education (or perhaps just sheer numbers) is the number one threat from China, and gets the first spot on this list. It is an obvious thing, so many people do not even consider it. But educating that many nationalistic people is an economic, technological, and even military weapon. If ever there were a scenario where it came down to numbers, they would win against any country, hands down (except maybe India). They could blow all of America away, have the same number of casualties, and still come out with more than 700 million people, which is more than double our population right now.
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