Bearing in mind the old adage that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, the Pentagon's latest report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China is a worthwhile read. There's nothing especially new or scintillating in the report's review of PLA hardware or doctrine, but there are a few nuggets in its commentary on Chinese strategy. Herewith, my list of the Top 3 Takeaways from the Pentagon's China Report:
3. Windows can slam shut. The report's authors note that Chinese leaders see the early 21st century as a "strategic window of opportunity," and that they're in the habit of publicly promising to reach certain milestones by certain dates. They "routinely emphasize the goal of reaching critical and economic and military benchmarks by 2020" in particular. Now, any negotiations specialist worth his salt will caution political leaders not to commit themselves to definite achievements or timelines. Doing so raises popular expectations. It makes leaders look bad in their constituents' eyes when those constituents compare performance with promise and performance comes up short — as it often does. Popular sentiment could goad Beijing into unwise actions in stressful times, as the leadership tries to uphold its pledges — and maintain its credibility as the keeper of China's interests and aspirations. What will it do should the window appear to be closing?