A top mainland rocket expert has expressed doubt over the effectiveness of Washington's planned missile shield.
Lin Jin , a senior researcher with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and a professor at the PLA's National University of Defence Technology, said he was not concerned about the strategic implications of the US decision to build a national missile-defence system.
'The defensive abilities of such a system have been greatly exaggerated. I doubt it can be successfully implemented,' Professor Lin said on the sidelines of the NPC meeting.
A top priority of the Bush administration, the missile defence plan calls for an elaborate system of satellites and anti-missile batteries to protect US soil from long-range ballistic missiles attacks, particularly from so-called rogue states such as North Korea.
If successfully developed, however, the system could have severe consequences for Beijing's security posture because it could render the mainland's small nuclear weapons arsenal useless, potentially igniting a new arms race.
But Professor Lin said he was not worried, noting that most preliminary tests of the missile shield had failed and many US experts believed it was not feasible.
'Even the American scientists themselves admit the system is ineffective, so it would not change the situation,' he said.
On China's recent hi-tech weapons advancements, Professor Lin said there had been significant improvements but the mainland still trailed behind more advanced nations.
'There remains a lot of catching up to do,' he said.
Professor Lin said a key barrier to the development of the mainland's defence industry was the sector's inability to attract the nation's best scientific minds because it paid lower salaries than other hi-tech fields.
'The pay in the commercial sector is so much higher,' he said. 'We need to spend much more money to get and keep our nation's best talents. Unless there is enough money, the talents will leave.'