Defense Dept. Releases Report on China Military Power

Defense Dept. Releases Report on China Military Power

The U.S. Department of Defense has released a sobering report on China’s “Military and Security Developments.”

As this column has noted in the past, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) now has the world’s largest navy. Additionally, it may have missile technology more advanced than Americas’. Aware of these advantages, Beijing is increasingly reliant and confident in wielding its military power to progress towards its goals.

The Pentagon notes that China is strengthening its strategic deterrence capabilities. “Beijing defines this element broadly to include nuclear, space, cyber, electronic warfare, counterspace capabilities and more.”

The Department of Defense states that China has more than 400 operational nuclear warheads in its stockpile. If this modernization effort continues, the Chinese could field about 1,500 warheads by 2035.

According to a Defense Dept. official, “…an important element of China’s strategy is a determined pursuit to amass and expand its national power to transform — at least — aspects of the international system to make it more favorable to the PRC’s political system and its national interests. This is a prime aspect of both domestic and foreign policy initiatives.”

The official noted that as part of this, there is a trend of more coercive military endeavors by China. “We’ve seen more coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region, including some of which we would highlight as being dangerous,” he said. This includes PLA ships and aircraft demonstrating unsafe and unprofessional behavior…”

According to the Report, the PRC has increasingly turned to its advanced military power as an instrument of “statecraft” as it adopted more coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. Having purportedly achieved its 2020 modernization goal, the PLA now sets its sights to 2027 with a goal to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and “intelligentization” of its armed forces. If realized, this 2027 objective could give its military capabilities to be a more credible armed tool for the Chinese Communist Party to wield as it contemplates an invasion of Taiwan.

In addition to the development of the military’s conventional capabilities, China has continued to accelerate the modernization, diversification, and expansion of its nuclear forces. The PRC has stated its ambition to strengthen its “strategic deterrent,” while being reluctant to its developing nuclear, space, and cyberspace capabilities, negatively impacting global strategic stability—an area of increasing global concern.

The Report stresses that China “wants its economic and political and social and military and security developments to be coordinated and mutually reinforcing, and to support the ambitious objectives that Xi Jinping has laid out for national rejuvenation by 2049.”  In plain language, this clearly means that Beijing has placed its nation on a war footing.

The PRC continues to develop and acquire advanced dual-use technology for its military.

Military power is more than just weapons.  It also includes the industrial and technological capabilities necessary to provide a powerful military. “…in terms of kind of broader defense ambitions, the PRC has a strategy that entails strengthening and adapting its armed forces to what it views as kind of long-term trends and global military affairs,” the DoD official said. “As an outcome of the 20th Party Congress, Beijing is focusing on intensifying and accelerating [it’s military] modernization goals over the next five years, including strengthening what they refer to as its system of strategic deterrence.”

The report details China’s regional and global ambitions. “As we noted in last year’s report, Xi Jinping and the PRC leadership are determined that the armed forces should take a more active role in advancing the PRC’s foreign policy goals globally.”

The Chinese military is pursuing overseas bases and logistics facilities. This would allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at much greater distances from its borders.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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