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Military Power of the People's Republic of China

Annual Reports to Congress

The FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 1202) directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report "...on the current and future military strategy of the People's Republic of China. The reports shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development on the People's Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts, through the next 20 years."

These reports, submitted in response to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act, addresses (1) China's grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy; (2) developments in China's military doctrine and force structure, to include developments in advanced technologies which would enhance China's military capabilities; and, (3) the security situation in the Taiwan Strait.

China Military Power Reports
2010 (PDF)
2009 (PDF)
2008 (PDF)
2007 (PDF)
2006 (PDF)
2005 (PDF)
2004 (PDF)
2003 (PDF)
2002 (PDF)
Unrestricted Warfare
Book published in China in February 1999 proposes tactics for developing countries, in particular China, to compensate for their military inferiority vis-a-vis the United States during a high-tech war.
Unrestricted Warfare (PDF)
China Military
(People's Republic of China)
Chinese Armed Forces Website

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, right, reviews Chinese troops with Chinese Minister of Defense Gen. Cao Gangchuan, left, during a military welcome ceremony honoring Gates in Beijing, China, Nov. 5, 2007.

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - China not only is a rising international economic power, but also is a rising military power with new and developing capabilities that have global implications, according to the 2008 China Military Power Report released March 3.

The annual report mandated by Congress analyzes China's military development and strategy and says that the country spent as much as $139 billion, more than three times its announced defense budget, modernizing its military forces last year.

That amount dwarfs the military budgets of Russia, Japan and South Korea, and has been the driving force behind the country's military transformation, fueled by the acquisition of advanced foreign weapons and far-reaching organizational and doctrinal reforms.

Combined with what Defense Department officials call a lack of transparency, the military development poses risks to stability by increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation, the report concludes.

"China's military buildup has been characterized by opacity, but (there is an) inability by both people in the region and people around the world to really know what ties together the capabilities that China's acquiring with the intentions it has," said David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia. "So there are a lot of areas where there is misunderstanding. There are a lot of areas where there is lack of knowledge."

The Chinese government generally protests the report, said Sedney, but this year the two sides have agreed to talk about their objections and officials hope to get more answers to their questions. This is the first time this has been done, he said.

"As China continues to grow and expand and influence the course of world events, it's important for us to have a clear understanding," Sedney said.

To date, the Chinese have invested in new generations of survivable nuclear missiles, capable of targeting the United States as well as regional powers; advanced short and medium-range ballistic missiles; advanced attack and ballistic missile submarines; Russian aircraft and precision weaponry; multi-mission F-10 fighter aircraft; Russian guided missile destroyers; and modern, long-range, mobile air defense systems.

China's near-term focus appears to be on Taiwan, but long-term trends suggest China is building a force scoped for operations beyond Taiwan, according to the report. China continues to deploy its most advanced weapons systems to the military regions opposite Taiwan. China's military is developing capabilities for a number of different military options against Taiwan, including coercion, an air and missile campaign, blockade, and amphibious invasion, according to the report.

Of particular concern to Defense Department officials is the country's ability to use cyberspace to attack computer networks. Several "intrusions" around the world in which a computer network is infiltrated and information gathered, Sedney said, have been sourced back to China. None of the intrusions were into classified material, Sedney said.

"While we are not able to definitively label them as the work of the (People's Liberation Army) or the Chinese government, the techniques that were used, the way these intrusions are conducted are certainly very consistent with what you would need if you were going to actually carry out cyber warfare," Sedney said.

But, overall, Sedney said, there is no one "big" change this year in the continued military growth in China.

"The real story is the continuing development, the continuing modernization, the continuing acquisition of capabilities and the corresponding and unfortunate lack of understanding, lack of transparency about the intentions of those and how they are going to be employed. What is China going to do with all that?" Sedney said.

Still, the overall U.S.-China defense relationship continues to improve, as demonstrated by extensive high-level visits in both directions; ship visits; and officer exchanges, including for mid- and junior-grade officers and between military education institutions, according to the report.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met in November with Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and said, "the United States has a relationship with China that is candid, constructive, and cooperative. Minister Cao and I discussed ways to build on positive momentum in our defense relations, and how to use these interactions to improve communications and reduce the risk of misunderstanding."

On Feb. 29, the two countries agreed on establishing a telephone link between their respective defense departments. Officials believe the link will be operational this month. Still, U.S. officials would be more comfortable with China's military expansion if it understood the country's overall intentions, officials said.

"The United States welcomes the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China," the report reads. "The United States continues to encourage China to participate as a responsible international stakeholder by taking on a greater share of responsibility for the stability, resilience and growth of the global system. However, much uncertainty surrounds China's future course, in particular in the area of its expanding military power and how that power might be used." Assessment

In our estimation, China is the the United States' top long-term military threat. If economic power equals military power, then China is the new world military heavyweight.

Iraq has shown the world, and China, that the United States can conquer you, but not defeat you. But China won't need an insurgency to fight the US. China is procuring and acquiring thousands of planes, tanks, and other war materials. Having stolen plans to many of America's most technologically advanced weapons, the ever-resourceful Chinese are quickly catching up to the U.S. in all aspects of the military spectrum. China is the new Soviet Union! But there is one critical difference. Unlike the Soviet Union, China has a roaring state-controlled capitalist economy. China won't crumble from within because of economic inefficiencies.

The Chinese are meticulous planners. There should be no argument that the Chinese are planning the eventual takeover of Taiwan, whether it be in five years or fifty. It's not sure that even the Chinese have a concrete timetable for the conquest of Taiwan, but they are taking steps and they will jump at the chance when the odds are in their favor. Of course, China could pull off a political coup and gain Taiwan without firing a shot. Or overwhelming Chinese military might could force the capitulation of Taiwan, also without firing a shot. Or the Chinese, in the years after the 2008 Olympics, and after gaining regional military superiority over U.S. and allied forces, could launch a full-scale military assault to reclaim Taiwan.

A full-scale assault on Taiwan could cripple the United States naval fleet. Does America want to risk the bulk of its Carrier Battle Groups, floating half a world away, against an enemy that has hundreds of airstrips and thousands of planes? Whether yes or no, the fall of Taiwan will signal a worldwide tilt in economic power. Except for South Korea, China and Taiwan account for a good part of the world's supply of advanced computer components and a host of other high-tech components. (Plus, the U.S. could lose more Top Secret material to the Chinese if American military facilities in Taiwan, including eavesdropping posts, are captured. The equipment the US left behind in Panama was immense and regrettable, and Jimmy Carter and all those responsible for the abandoned equipment should be tried and convicted. But this loss will pale in comparison to what America could lose in Taiwan.)

Beyond Taiwan, China is making inroads across Asia and Africa. And they are slowly turning to the Western Hemisphere as well! Imagine the Chinese military in Cuba, Venezuela or even Mexico! It could happen, considering that some Latin American countries, having become disenchanted with American capitalism, could welcome an alternative to the United States.

In a nutshell, the United States needs to wean itself from the mass production of China. The United States defeated the Soviet Union by strangling its economy, in part by dumping ten dollar a barrel oil on the world market with the help of Saudi Arabia. If China isn't reaping tens of billions from the U.S. economy each year, then it won't have as much money for military dalliances.

And the United States needs to start shoring up strategic alliances in the Far East. Of note, the United States needs to become India's best friend. India has a budding economy and a billion people of its own (many of whom speak English).

The current situation between the U.S. and China is sort of like the tipping point in a game of Risk, where one player gains control over a couple of continents and the armies start multiplying for one side and diminishing for the other. With the trade imbalance as it is with China, and with a BILLION resourceful Chinese people, we might be at that tipping point. Only long-range planning and actual implementation by the United States can turn this tide.