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It may or may not turn out to be true, but one U.S. publication’s report about the possible cancellation of an American fighter jet program is being seized on by Chinese media as evidence of the Asian giant’s growing military prowess.|
An article appearing on Monday on the websites of the state-run People’s Daily as well as its popular tabloid the Global Times describes comments made by one U.S. analyst on future weapons purchases as the all-but-guaranteed stance of the Obama administration. The comments, which first appeared last week on the website of a niche defense publication, suggested the U.S. might rethink its purchase of the long-anticipated F-35 fighter jet due in part to rapid advancements in China’s military.
Andrew Krepinevich, president of the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, was described as saying plans for the long-anticipated F-35 could diminish as the defense systems of potential U.S. adversaries, such as China, have improved more rapidly than the fighter jet’s development.
On Monday, the website of the People’s Daily, a mouthpiece for the Communist Party, reported the Obama administration was reconsidering its purchase of the fighter jets as a result of “astonishing progress” by militaries of China and other potential U.S. adversaries.
While the Chinese media describe Krepinevich as a member of a think tank, the articles legitimize his praise of the Chinese military by saying his comments would likely receive “close attention from the Pentagon.” In China today, research institutions free from the government’s stamp are rare, and comments made by researchers on sensitive issues are often regarded as a sanctioned point of view.
Krepinevich is well-known in Washington and a frequent commentator on U.S. military strategy, but he does not speak for the administration, and it’s not clear his comments reflect the views of anyone inside it. His comments haven’t yet turned up widely in other U.S. press, either.
China is in the middle of developing plans to use the press as a purveyor of a softer image abroad for the party, but this kerfuffle suggests a lack of precision in state-run press will continue to curb its effectiveness.
The state-run Xinhua news agency is key to that effort. For example, the agency is in the process of finalizing a deal to move its North American headquarters to a gleaming office in News York’s Times Square.
“Xinhua’s move into Times Square basically signals a new era in which they want to become a global player,” Rus Leong, an adjunct professor of Asian-American Studies at the University of California-Los Angeles, said of Xinhua’s expansion. “China is realizing in the global arena that soft power is as important as hard power.”
Whether that translates into greater accuracy for the state-run media is yet to be seen.
– Brian Spegele