Overconfident? China Thinks Its Military Can Win in Almost Any Scenario


The vast majority of Chinese citizens believe the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could seize islands in the East and South China Seas, even if the U.S. military were to intervene in the conflicts.

No less than 87 percent of respondents said that the Chinese military already possessed the capability to take back the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands from Japan, according to a recent public opinion poll. When asked whether they still believed the PLA could achieve this objective if the U.S. intervened in the conflict, 74 percent said yes.

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The numbers were much the same for the South China Sea. When asked whether they believed the PLA could militarily take back disputed islands in the South China Sea, 85.6 percent of respondents said that China’s military could achieve this objective. Even if the U.S. military intervened on behalf of the Southeast Asian nations, about 73 percent of respondents said they still believed the Chinese military would prevail.

These were just some of the results of a recent survey published by Andrew Chubb and the Perth USAsia Centre (h/t ASPI’s The Strategist), entitled: “Exploring China’s ‘Maritime Consciousness’ Public Opinion on the South and East China Sea Disputes.” The poll, which was the first in what will be an annual poll on Chinese views of the island disputes, was based on phone interviews conducted with 1,413 adult residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha and Chengdu.

Despite the confidence in their country’s military’s capabilities, a slight majority of respondents said they did not want to go to war over disputed islands in either the South or East China Seas. When asked whether it was in China’s national interest to use military force to take back the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers but Beijing also claims, 55.5 percent of respondents said that it was not. Just over 33 percent disagreed while the rest were unsure or didn’t answer.