This article was written by Rebecca Wostenberg (’14).
On Oct. 1, 2019, the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 70th anniversary with full authoritarian pomp and circumstance. Amongst the pageantry of the massive military parade, China publicly flaunted the Dongfeng-17, a medium-range missile system equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle.
Although the U.S. was aware of the existence of the DF-17, the parade highlighted two significant questions: first, why do hypersonic weapons matter, and second, how did China beat the United States in fielding a hypersonic capability? The answers are complicated and include over 60 years of boom-and-bust cycles in America.