PENTAGON REPORT ON CHINA’S PLA
May 14, 2015
The Pentagon released its annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments, with an emphasis on China’s navy, its maritime capability, and modernization. The Chinese government expressed strong opposition to the Pentagon’s report, claiming that “the US report makes willful speculations and comments on China’s military growth in defiance of the facts.”
The new assessment from the U.S. Defense Department confrimed China’s fighting ability, modernizing in the midst of a broad base and at a fast pace. However, the development of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has aroused tension between China and neighboring countries, especially in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. The report noted China’s “use of low-intensity coercion,” known as salami slicing, in the South China Sea when China used white-hulled Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessels to advance its interests without escalating disputes to a military level. In addition to direct interaction with claimant countries in the South China Sea, the report underscored China’s effort to operate vast land reclamation.
In the East China Sea, China’s enforcement of its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) against Japanese aircraft and responses to Japanese maritime activity near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are cited as examples of China’s intent to defend its claims while avoiding serious miscalculations with Japan. The report also noted Beijing’s ability to establish forces effectively in disputed regions.
Given that the Taiwan Strait remains the focus and primary driver of China’s military investment, the Pentagon pointed out that China’s military advancement and its defense budget 10 times greater than Taiwan have eroded Taiwan’s ability to defend itself. The report also confirms China’s continued positioning of artillery and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) opposite Taiwan. Besides 1,2000 SRBMs, Beijing also possess medium-range ballistic missile (MRBMs), including the DF-21D “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missile. These developments were noted as a serious security concern for the U.S. given its strong ties to Taiwan.
In addition, the report pointed out some limitations of Chinese operations, such as training and combat effectiveness, logistics, and intelligence support capability. However, aware of its deficiencies, the PLA is increasing joint exercises, reducing non-combat forces, bolstering “new-type combat forces” for naval aviation, cyber, and special forces operations, and establishing a theater joint command system.
Chinese media and government representatives voiced strong opposition to the Pentagon report. The state-run Xinhua news agency released commentary titled “Time for U.S.to call off biased attack on China’s military development,” saying “Uncle Sam, which seems as arrogant as ever, should be reminded that it has as always been the world’s No.1 military power and culprit of cyber attacks and wiretapping.” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokewoman Hua Chunying said, “we urge the U.S. to abandon its Cold War mindset, take off its colored glasses, and have an objective and rational understanding of China’s military development.”
The East and South China Sea disputes are not only important to China’s territorial interests but also the core interests of major U.S. allies in the region. Meanwhile, considering the Obama Administration’s pivot to Asia strategy, the Pentagon is not likely to tone down its assessment of a China military threat. However, while building up its own Asia Pacific security architecture is important to the United States, it is also necessary to forge a sound bilateral military relationship with China to avoid unnecessary disputes. Unfortunately, the report lacks practical suggestions on how to maintain and increase mutual trust between the U.S. military and the PLA.
For more information on this topic, consult the following sources:
The U.S. Department of Defense – “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015″
Office of Naval Intelligence – “The PLA Navy:New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century”
The Wall Street Journal – “Clear Strengths, Fuzzy Weaknesses In China’s Massive Military Build-Up”
Xinhua Net – “China opposes U.S. annual report on Chinese military”
International Business Times – “Pentagon Says China Willing To Tolerate More ‘Regional Tension’ To Expand Power And ‘Defeat Adversary Power’ Including US”
The Diplomat – “What the Pentagon Thinks of China’s Military”
环球网 – “美军方发布中国军力报告 关注南海和东海争端”
铁血网 – “图解《2015中国军力报告》”
Compiled and edited by Stella Ran Zheng