… (China) has invested heavily in the strength and technical sophistication of its missiles. The Pentagon has described China’s programme as “the most active land-based ballistic- and cruise-missile programme in the world”.
Missiles are good value. Compared with a fully equipped aircraft-carrier, which might cost $15 billion-20 billion, a missile costs about $1m. And missiles can be potent. The chart shows how, in terms of numbers, China has concentrated on short- and medium-range missiles. This puts Taiwan within easy range of a devastating cruise- and ballistic-missile attack. Military analysts fear that the Second Artillery could retarget the missiles, putting Japan at risk, as well as America’s Asian bases.
China also has a few intercontinental ballistic missiles, able to carry a nuclear payload. And American strategists are closely watching an experimental anti-ship ballistic missile with a manoeuvrable warhead, which could make it hard for American fleets to approach the Chinese shore. China recently hinted that it may be ready to cut the number of missiles targeting Taiwan. Whether this comes to anything will depend upon relations with the island—and they can be highly unpredictable.