12 Things Missing from China Report
Image Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

12 Things Missing from China Report


The progressive neutering of the annual Pentagon China military power reports is unfortunate, as the report has been among the most authoritative sources of information on specific Chinese military capabilities in recent years. Given the People’s Liberation Army’s unwillingness to reveal this information itself, the report has been one of the few reliable sources of transparency to inform foreign analysts, scholars, and citizens about important Chinese military developments that often have global repercussions. China has experienced important military and security changes over the past year, yet aside from its reformatted font and graphics, the 2012 report proves thin on new content.

While Chinese government spokespeople consistently criticize the Pentagon reports, they don’t provide specific evidence of inaccuracies. There’s no reason to water the report down in the face of criticism unsupported by factual counter-evidence, as doing so deprives citizens around the world of the opportunity to monitor the actions of governments – Chinese, U.S., or any other – and hold them accountable for their actions.

Moreover, like any other sovereign country, China is free to publish its own reports about the U.S. military, and already does so regarding its views on U.S. human rights. It would be very frustrating to think that certain officials in Washington were, at Beijing’s behest, effectively imposing self-censorship of useful and beneficial public discussions of China’s growing military capabilities.

In this spirit of transparency and government accountability, the analysis below looks at the 12 most critical shortcomings and omissions of the 2012 China Military Power Report.

1) The American taxpayer should have access to the highest quality source information on China’s military development given the implications for U.S. national interests. Shying away from critical analysis of important aspects of Chinese military development is a grave disservice to forward deployed U.S. forces in Asia. Our servicemen and women need American taxpayers to be kept well apprised of China’s rapidly growing military power so that voters will be ready to support measures to pay for equipment needed to adapt to the changing circumstances. The Office of Naval Intelligence’s detailed 2009 report on China’s naval development provides an excellent example of a report that provides the type of detail and insights that taxpayers deserve.

2) What factors could hinder or facilitate China’s military development in coming years?  China’s rise as a key global economic and security player depends critically on its economy and the trajectory of its power moving forward is likely to hinge heavily on the country’s economic growth path. In the longer term, a variety of factors may limit PLA budget growth, at least to some extent. Various structural factors including higher health care and pension costs and rapidly rising wages that will erode the Chinese defense industry’s labor cost advantages could greatly restrict China’s ability to sustain rapid military spending growth, regardless of its leaders’ intentions. Personnel, equipment, and operational costs are all rising for the PLA, and there will be a limit to what can be afforded in the future. In coming years, China’s leaders are likely to face wrenching tradeoffs not seen since the post-1978 reforms as China’s population ages, develops increased lifestyle expectations, questions the wisdom of tolerating a growth-at-all-costs mentality, and yet is likely to remain strongly nationalistic. Yet, even at a lower level of defense spending, China could still increase its power and influence substantially in East Asia and even challenge U.S. and allied interests there substantially, but the nature of the challenge could be very different depending on how Beijing chose to allocate its resources between national defense and pressing domestic priorities such as education and healthcare.

3) Very little focus on China’s evolving defense industry, despite the Congressional mandate that the report “…shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development of the People’s Liberation Army…over the next 20 years.” Beijing is aggressively investing in key defense sectors, such as design and mass production of high performance jet engines that would make its aircraft industry independent from foreign parts and assistance.  China’s defense sector is working hard to make the leap from “R&C” (research and copy) to true R&D.  Progress has come in fits and starts, but as the defense industrial complex builds up its human capital base and works to improve quality control and rectify other issues, substantial progress in aerospace equipment and other key sectors is likely during the next 5 years. As such, the China Military Power Report drafters would do well to anticipate likely outcomes and help avoid strategic surprises as China’s defense manufacturers make breakthroughs.

October 18, 2012 at 05:29

It would save American analysts a lot of trouble if they just bothered to learn some Chinese, tuning down the denial would also help.
For example, specification of the VLS on the 052D could easily be derived from a published national military standard GJB 5860-2006, not being able to read it is like a non-English speaking person complaining American lack of transparency because they can't understand Raytheon brochures.

July 4, 2012 at 12:04

It'll be naeive and to be simpleton to say the least that  China with reserve. Of over $ 3 Trillions to remain stuck to R&C and not move to R&D ,particularly for its defense. Peter Drucker,the management Guru said in his interview to Jeffrey of Fortune in Jan .,2004that 21st century is an Asian century and China/ India are future economic powers. He also said that the period of Super Powers is over. Now there will be only Regional groups like EU,APEC,NAFTA. It'll make sense if America stops thinking of resurrection of Roman Empire

June 6, 2012 at 20:11

I do very much hope the same for the leaders of China, because a war is always a waste of irreplaceable resources (Our Best Citizens).

Mike China
June 6, 2012 at 01:35

The US by its action has clearly singled out China for aiming its guns.The PLA would be naive to believe whta Panieet says. Indeed by its actions such as basing in Australia,seeking bases in Vietnam,etc,China would be stupid to accept the US stance.
The PLA would go on modernising regardless.I tell you what.The US could provoke a war by inciting for Taiwan independence.The Taiwanese would pay with massive destruction of the island.
As for the US, China is not Vietnam or Iran.Admittedly it could prevail but at unacceptable cost.The PLA will make 100% sure the price for victory would be so incalculabel,any sane US poitician not to say the President ,would recoil from.

June 6, 2012 at 00:17

Very funny, Rove/Chaney/Bush were far more blatent about releasing secrets for political reason. Sometimes, I think, for elections they had a policy of keep fear and Bin Laden alive. %~0

June 6, 2012 at 00:11

There are good and bad citizens in every government and military.
We must try to mitigate the bad-citizen risk to our family, friends, and culture/nation; However, due to different government models, the USA bad-citizens may be (maybe not) a little easier to remove from the government or military.

June 5, 2012 at 23:58

People with a higher than average IQ will know China’s military agenda to take on greater Asia and US. Just open up a world map and plot the post/pre-WW2 US military bases occupied in greater Asia, from which only WWII Japan, Vietnam, and proxy-North Korea, never China was attacked. The USA had the oil rich regions or China/Russia military bases prior to WW2, the locals can remove USA bases, but China like Japan would never move out of Tibet or any other occupied country without war. Japan and Vietnam know China is ruled by the capitalist-communist plutocrat princes and princesses . China (the Government) cannot hide under any veil with US watching. Freedom, human rights, globalization … propaganda are human and global topics that should always be on all our (US, EU, CN, RU …) lips. Resources hogging, selfish greed to own Planet Earth, and China’s and USA’s world domination objectives are the delusions of just a few government and military megalomaniacs, also known as fools or politicians, not PEOPLE. No point denying, really.

June 5, 2012 at 02:15

People with an average IQ will know USA’s military agenda to take on greater Asia. Just open up a world map and plot the military bases USA is occupying in other countries. It’s encroaching towards either the oil rich regions or China/Russia and their trading partners/interests. All these are hidden under the veil of demoncracy, freedom, human rights, globalisation etc etc etc propaganda. Their true objectives are world domination, resources hogging and selfish greed to own Planet Earth. No point denying, really.

June 4, 2012 at 13:00

Duplicity isn’t a prerequisite for politician?

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