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Politics & Security

Neighbors Alert as China Shows Off New Anti-Ballistic Missile Technology in Centennial Year

The region and the world are watching as Xi Jinping and the CCP seek power to create new boundaries through military strength and rewrite history to justify these new territorial lines

Dr. Monika Chansoria

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Xi Jinping has entered the centennial year of the Communist Party of China (1921-2021) on an expected foundation of demonstrating greater military stealth and technological prowess. 

Most recently, Xi conducted a land-based mid-course anti-missile interception technology test on February 4, 2021. This becomes the fifth land-based, anti-ballistic missile test that Beijing has publicly announced with previous tests conducted in Jan 2010, Jan 2013, July 2014 and Feb 2018.

The latest test raises further questions about China’s military advances, ranging from its land-based mid-course anti-missile interception capabilities, to its anti-missile interception capabilities at advanced stages of a missile launch, and how many relevant tests has China conducted beyond the ones acknowledged in the public domain?

Missile Launch during Joint China-Russia Military Exercises (REUTERS/China Newsphoto/File)

Technological Advances

Beijing has come a long way since 2016, when the Central Military Commission (CMC) established the Science and Technology Commission – a high-level defense research body subordinated to the CMC. The S&T Commission is tasked with guiding cutting-edge technological innovation in military technology in order to further the PLA’s military modernization initiatives. It seeks to increase the pace of military technology development to modernize the PLA using both civilian and military S&T resources.

Indeed, China’s PLA in the past decade has laid out a highly ambitious and cutting-edge defense technology agenda including space, ground, and sea-based surveillance and early-warning systems, UAVs, hypersonic missiles, etc. 

It has most recently displayed its mastery of anti-missile interception-related technology by successfully conducting a land-based mid-course interception test with a higher degree of accuracy on counts of interception success rate and reliability.

Anti-missile interception technology is based on land, at sea, and in space, according to the place of launch of the anti-missile systems. Mid-course interception is considered a very critical missile-related technology, given that it is put in motion right at the middle stage of the ballistic missile’s flight trajectory. This is the second stage before the missile re-enters the atmosphere. Mid-course anti-ballistic missile testing usually caters to medium, long-range, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Wang Yanan of Beijing’s Aerospace Knowledge magazine highlighted the cutting-edge technology involved in a midcourse interception operation. Tasked with shooting down medium, intermediate-range, and ICBMs, a land-based, midcourse interception test typically involves several steps, including the launch of a target ballistic missile. This is followed by the missile surveillance satellites’ detecting the launch and immediately alerting ground-based early-warning systems to track the target and guide the interceptor toward it. 

Finally, the interceptor is fired and locked on to the incoming missile, before exploding near the target or directly hitting the target. Besides, researchers at China’s People’s Liberation Army National Defense University have said Beijing uses a kinetic kill vehicle to directly shoot down ballistic missiles – a technology known to be possessed only by the U.S. 

Behind the Immediate Military Advances

It is the beginning of his kick-off for the Fall 2022 campaign which will see him going in for an unprecedented third term as General Secretary of the CCP and Chairman of China’s CMC. 

The coming months shall see Xi Jinping maximizing domestic power and control while focusing on the upcoming National People’s Conference and China’s 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025). 

Since 1953, China’s Five-Year-Plans have been regarded as perhaps the most important guiding document signaling policy direction for China’s future economic development, which in turn bears a vital imprint on Beijing’s overall military and defense posturing, too. The robust military modernization program undertaken by the PLA has become the primary foundation of deterrence to attain China’s foreign-policy objectives. 

Xi Jinping, territorially, is seeking for Han Chinese power to create new boundaries, rewrite history to justify these new territorial lines, and using military stealth to ensure that history gets rewritten. 

China’s regional policy and posture in the above backdrop will be guided equally by its economics and military. As Beijing pushes its boundaries, managing growing Chinese power and influence and its strategic posture is critical for the entire Indo-Pacific’s security order.

Author: Dr. Monika Chansoria

Dr. Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of The Japan Institute of International Affairs or any other organization with which the author is affiliated. She tweets @MonikaChansoria.  Find other articles by Dr. Chansoria here on JAPAN Forward.

Dr. Monika Chansoria is a Senior Fellow at The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) in Tokyo. Previously, she has held appointments at the Sandia National Laboratories (U.S.), Hokkaido University (Sapporo, Japan) and as Associate Director of Studies at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris). She specializes in contemporary Asian security and weapons’ proliferation issues, nuclear strategy, and, Great Power politics and strategy in the Indo-Pacific. Dr. Chansoria has authored five books on Asia’s security affairs, including “China, Japan and Senkaku Islands: Conflict in the East China Sea Amid an American Shadow” (Routledge © 2018) and “Nuclear China: A Veiled Secret” (2014) among others. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of The Japan Institute of International Affairs or any other organization with which the author is affiliated. She tweets @MonikaChansoria