Did America Just Miss the Chinese Sputnik Moment?

August 2, 2021 Updated: August 4, 2021

Commentary

On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union (USSR) launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, into space. The moment was characterized as the “Sputnik Moment” because the United States recognized that it had grossly underestimated the capabilities and intentions of the USSR.

Now, twice in the past month, the world has witnessed the Chinese communist regime building hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos in the deserts of central China. The rapid buildup of these silos represents a dramatic shift in China’s nuclear posture and is an existential threat to the security of America … and the rest of the world.

At the end of June, 120 silos—identical to other existing People’s Liberation Army Strategic Rocket Force nuclear ICBM launch facilities—were identified by commercial satellite imagery near the city of Yumen in Gansu Province. Then, at the end of July, another 110 of the exact same type of ICBM silos were identified 240 miles northwest of the Yumen field, near the city of Hami in the eastern Xinjiang region.

If there ever has been a Chinese version of the Sputnik Moment, the identification of these 230 new nuclear ICBM silos is that moment.

So, what is Washington doing about this? Apparently, nothing.

Why hasn’t President Joe Biden said anything? What about his national security adviser? What about the secretary of defense who was recently in the region, where a public statement regarding these revelations could have been addressed to reassure our allies that America is aware of the Chinese regime’s actives and won’t be sitting by and doing nothing? Is a tweet from U.S. Strategic Command enough to awaken the American public and to generate the kinds of actions that are necessary to defend this nation?

And why hasn’t one member of the U.S. Congress been on the floor of either chamber to warn the American public about this startling and dangerous information? Or why hasn’t the national press covered this story and the lethal threat these nuclear silos represent?

Is it possible that Americans are so numb from five years of constant shrieking from hyperpartisan politics and biased media that, as a nation, we are unable to recognize or understand what this Chinese Sputnik Moment means for our national security?

Since Beijing tested its first atomic weapon in 1964, Mao Zedong and successive paramount leaders of the Chinese regime have proclaimed a “No First Use” policy with respect to the use of nuclear weapons.

For another 50 years, the U.S. defense and foreign policy establishment largely accepted the regime’s claims because it was understood (through intelligence sources and methods) that the PLA didn’t possess an arsenal that would allow the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to shift from a “minimal deterrent” posture to a “First Use” posture.

Then, in late 2011, Phil Karber, a national security expert in the Reagan administration and Georgetown University professor, released a study titled the “Underground Great Wall” that revealed, through open-source analysis, that the CCP had some 3,000 miles of underground tunnels and that the PLA’s nuclear arsenal was much bigger than officially estimated by the Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community.

An undated photo shows a nuclear-powered submarine of the People's Liberation Army Navy's North Sea Fleet preparing to dive into the sea. The Chinese regime has begun deploying submarines armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles. (AFP/Getty Images)
An undated photo shows a nuclear-powered submarine of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s North Sea Fleet preparing to dive into the sea. The Chinese regime has begun deploying submarines armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles. (AFP/Getty Images)

That report was largely dismissed by the “experts” within the U.S. defense and intelligence communities, and for another 1o years, the United States and its allies paid little attention to the CCP’s nuclear arsenal. Yes, the very people who were charged with defending America from such a threat essentially did nothing, as their belief in unconstrained engagement with the Chinese regime blinded them to information that didn’t fit their worldview.

Then during the Trump administration, Americans were told over and over by a hyperpartisan media and political opposition (the Democratic Party) that Russia was the single greatest threat to America. After Russia, North Korea was the next biggest threat, Americans were told. Former President Barack Obama admitted to telling President Donald Trump that the small Asian country was his No. 1 concern during their transition meeting in the White House in 2017. Never once did the Obama administration give a clear and unambiguous warning about the CCP’s nuclear arsenal.

Even while the Trump administration was responsible for the biggest turnaround in U.S. policy toward China, many in the U.S. government still refused to see the threat from the CCP. For instance, the Pentagon’s 2020 report to Congress on the PLA still assessed that China had just over 200 warheads and conservatively projected that that number could double in the next five years.

In other words, the “experts” in Washington still believe America has plenty of time.

Guess what? America, and the world, doesn’t have the luxury of time.

The CCP is working on a timeline to complete its leader Xi Jinping’s “Great Rejuvenation,” which includes the territorial restoration of what the Party believes is their land, with Taiwan being the most important target.

As such, Americans can expect these new nuclear silos will be filled with nuclear-tipped ICBMs (such the DF-41) and will be used as a “First Use” nuclear blackmail against the United States and allies in any operation to take Taiwan. Once that task is accomplished, expect Beijing to use the same strategy against India over territorial disputes along the Sino–Indian border.

Instead of being warned about this very real threat, Americans are being subjugated to an information campaign about the virus, mandatory mask-wearing, lockdowns, and vaccine passports, all of which have come from the CCP.

Like a frog in the pot, it’s time for Americans to realize they are in boiling water.

Let’s just hope the next time we hear about these Chinese ICBM silos isn’t when the PLA launches them. Wake up, America: This is not a drill.

Jim Fanell, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is currently a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Switzerland, and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. His nearly 30-year career as a naval intelligence officer spanned an unprecedented series of afloat and ashore assignments across the Indo-Pacific, specializing in China’s navy and its operations. A recognized international public speaker and accomplished writer, Fanell is the creator and manager of the Indo-Pacific Security forum Red Star Rising/Risen.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

James E. Fanell
James E. Fanell
Jim Fanell, a retired U.S. Navy captain, is currently a government fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Switzerland, and a former director of intelligence and information operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. His nearly 30-year career as a naval intelligence officer spanned an unprecedented series of afloat and ashore assignments across the Indo-Pacific, specializing in the People’s Republic of China’s navy and its operations. A recognized international public speaker and accomplished writer, Fanell also is the creator and manager of the Indo-Pacific Security forum Red Star Rising/Risen.