New DOD report on Chinese military details nation’s power projection, espionage
China is increasingly willing to project its military power, grow its armed forces and develop military technology, all with growing negative perceptions of the United States, according to a report on Chinese military power released Thursday by the Defense Department.
The report, mandated by Congress, highlights Chinese military advancements in power projection, stating that “ground, naval, air, and missile forces are increasingly able to project power through peacetime operations.”
China, the report states, is expanding its capacity to contest U.S. military superiority in the event of a regional conflict in the Indo-Pacific.
China is expected to commission its second aircraft carrier this year, further expanding the country’s ability to project its military power beyond the militarized islands and reefs it’s developed in the South China Sea since 2014, according to the report. The U.S. has 11 carriers, with four more under development.
“China’s aircraft carrier and planned follow-on carriers, once operational, will extend air defense coverage beyond the range of coastal and shipboard missile systems and will enable task group operations at increasingly longer ranges,” the report said.
The report also pointed to espionage activities by China to “acquire sensitive, dual-use, or military-grade equipment,” including dynamic random-access memory computer technology, aviation and anti-submarine warfare technologies and military communication jamming tools.
It also mentioned China’s growing interest in the arctic, referring to a “polar silk road” initiative. Beijing has invested in icebreaker vessels and last year published its first arctic strategy.
The report warned of a possible strengthened military presence in the Northern Sea Route, “which could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attacks.”
The report said China increasingly sees the U.S. “as adopting a more confrontational approach, reflecting China’s long-held perception that the United States seeks to contain China’s rise.”
The 2018 National Defense Strategy listed China as a competitor and a threat for its expanding influence in the Pacific and militarization of islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
“China sees recent U.S. actions on trade and the public releases of U.S. defense and national security strategies as indicative of this containment strategy,” the report said.
The report said China’s advancement and expanding reach increases the risk of an accident that could lead to a conflict, so it’s important to maintain an open dialogue between leaders of both countries.
In September, the USS Decatur and Chinese destroyer Luyang nearly collided when the Luyang came within 45 yards of the U.S. destroyer during a freedom-of-navigation operation near the Spratly Islands.
“In 2018, the U.S. and China military-to-military relationship focused on advancing strategic communications and reducing the risk of misunderstanding or miscalculation through high-level engagements and recurrent exchanges,” the report said.
The report said the Pentagon will continue to shape its engagements with China in a way that encourages Beijing to act in accordance with a “free and open international order,” to reduce the risk of confrontation and defuse tensions between forces operating close to one another.
“The United States will compete from a position of strength while encouraging China to cooperate with the United States on security issues where our interests align,” the report said. “DoD engagements with China seek to reduce risk and prevent misunderstanding in times of increased tension.”