The Pentagon sent its annual report (PDF) on China’s military to Congress Wednesday, highlighting American areas of concern about China’s growing military power. The main points come as no surprise – the Pentagon is wary of China’s ambitions for a ‘great power’ navy, impressed with the speedy rise of China’s ability to project power far from its own shores, and eager to push for further transparency and military-to-military ties.
Cyber warfare gets some attention, with a warning that the phishing and data-theft attacks seen so far are producing useful experience for ‘computer network attacks’ that could take down operational systems – while the PLA has just been on CCTV apparently attacking a Falun Gong web site.
China’s military, the report argues, is modernizing rapidly, moving toward long-range sea and air power and is already far along the road to access denial capability in its ‘near seas.’ Space, the report concludes, is also a major battleground in the minds of PLA planners, who aim to strike data systems before fighting battles. While decades away from being able to think about fighting wars far overseas, China may soon be able to plausibly demand the United States get out of its back yard.
The report concludes that the PLA’s mission still primarily focusses on Taiwan, although it’s gearing up to go farther afield in order to protect China’s economic interests as well as its borders. A case in point is China’s newly-renovated Soviet aircraft carrier, superfluous for attacking an island 100 miles away, which the Pentagon expects will be succeeded by a ship built in China from the ground up by 2015. The report also devotes substantial attention to China’s involvement in peacekeeping missions, a key means for countries without active wars to get experience operating overseas.
This year’s report has provoked little response in China, except a rebuttal from Xinhua, which dismisses concerns over China’s growing power in Asia as ‘a cock and bull story…based on a wild guess and illogical reasoning.’ While the report largely avoids criticizing China’s intentions, Chinese leaders have long objected to the annual report, which is required by US statute, as part of an American ‘containment’ strategy.