New Reports Highlight The Threat From China
The danger from China’s dramatically increasing military power has been examined by several recently released governmental and private sources. The New York Analysis of Policy & Government recently examined Beijing’s growing nuclear arsenal. The recently released reports provide insights into its vastly increased conventional power.
We have examined these crucial reviews, and summarize them in this three-part article.
The most significant of the worrisome analyses is the Department of Defenses’ (DOD) 2017 “Annual Report to Congress on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Report of China.” (DoD)
According to the DoD,
Since 1996, the PLA has made tremendous strides, and, despite improvements to the U.S. military, the net change in capabilities is moving in favor of China. Some aspects of Chinese military modernization, such as improvements to PLA ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft, and attack submarines, have come extraordinarily quickly by any reasonable historical standard.
Over the next five to 15 years, if U.S. and PLA forces remain on roughly current trajectories, Asia will witness a progressively receding frontier of U.S. dominance.
The ability to contest dominance might lead Chinese leaders to believe that they could deter U.S. intervention in a conflict between it and one or more of its neighbors. This, in turn, would undermine U.S. deterrence and could, in a crisis, tip the balance of debate in Beijing as to the advisability of using force.
DOD officials have expressed concern that the technological and qualitative edge that U.S. military forces have had relative to the military forces of other countries is being narrowed by improving military capabilities in other countries. China’s improving naval capabilities contribute to that concern. Challenge to U.S. Sea Control and U.S. Position in Western Pacific Observers of Chinese and U.S. military forces view China’s improving naval capabilities as posing a potential challenge in the Western Pacific to the U.S. Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain control of blue-water ocean areas in wartime—the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War.
In 2016, China’s leaders advanced an ambitious agenda of military modernization and organizational reforms. China’s military modernization is targeting capabilities with the potential to degrade core U.S. military-technological advantages.
To support this modernization, China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including cyber theft, targeted foreign direct investment, and exploitation of the access of private Chinese nationals to such technologies. Several cases emerged in 2016 of China using its intelligence services, and employing other illicit approaches that violate U.S. laws and export controls, to obtain national security and export-restricted technologies, controlled equipment, and other materials.
As China’s global footprint and international interests have grown, its military modernization program has become more focused on supporting missions beyond China’s periphery…
“China’s increasingly assertive efforts to advance its sovereignty and territorial claims, its forceful rhetoric, and lack of transparency about its growing military capabilities and strategic decision-making continue to cause concern among countries in the region and have caused some to enhance their ties to the United States. These concerns are likely to intensify as the PLA continues to modernize, especially in the absence of greater transparency.
A recent Rand study concurs.
Over the past two decades, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has transformed itself … into a capable, modern military. ..Annual real (inflation-adjusted) growth in China’s defense spending averaged 11 percent per year between 1996 and 2015…In December 2004, then-premier of China Hu Jintao outlined “new historical missions” for the PLA, which opened the door to a wider range of operations. … China would enjoy enormous situational and geographic advantages in any likely East Asian scenario … This enables the PLA to focus largely on “tooth” (combat forces) as opposed to “tail” (support assets).
Originally published on the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.