The expanding use of drones worldwide continues to rewrite the rules of military engagement, with some analysts declaring them the greatest threat to world peace since nuclear weapons. However, China’s relatively recent foray into unmanned aerial vehicle technology has the U.S. government concerned. A 2012 U.S. Department of Defense report highlights American unease with China’s developing drone program:
"The military significance of China’s move into unmanned systems is alarming. The country has a great deal of technology, seemingly unlimited resources and clearly is leveraging all available information on Western unmanned systems development. China might easily match or outpace U.S. spending on unmanned systems, rapidly close the technology gaps and become a formidable global competitor in unmanned systems."
Some critics say that the U.S. only has itself to blame. As revealed in a Department of Justice white paper in February, the Obama administration justifies drone strikes with fairly limited criteria, a dangerous precedent for the rest of the world to follow.
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin led a HuffPost Live conversation discussing the rise of China’s drones featuring David Wood, HuffPost Senior Military Correspondent, Dillon Zhou, columnist at PolicyMic.com, Heather Roff, an associate professor at the University of Denver, and Jessica Corsi, an international human rights lawyer.
“This is the nuclear arms race on steroids,” says David Wood, HuffPost Senior Military Correspondent.
Recently, it was revealed that China considered using a drone strike to assassinate a Myanmar drug lord wanted for murdering 13 Chinese sailors. Ultimately, the Chinese government decided to take him alive. However, some analysts see this “alarm“ as an overblown projection that overlooks greater concerns over China's military modernization.
"There's a lot of fear coming from the West, but I think it's really unmerited," Dillon Zhou, a PolicyMic.com columnist, said. "Right now there are about 76 countries in the world who are using or developing drones of their own…China is developing a lot of other weapon systems, like their new aircraft carrier, their stealth jets, so they're doing a range of other things to modernize their military."
Questions persist over the effectiveness of regulation, and international l human rights lawyer Jessica Corsi recommends acting proactively to control the proliferation of drones before it's too late.
"If we'd like to regulate the use of drones—if we don't want it to be a free for all, if we do want to specify how they can be used and when they can be used and who they can be sold to, then the time is now to do so and it's much better to do so than not to do so," Corsi said.