WASHINGTON China's military modernization efforts are focusing on upgrading its ability to project force beyond its own shores as it seeks to become a regional power, according to a Pentagon report to Congress.
In a 45-page study ordered by Congress, Defense Department officials again said Chinese military spending for modernization continues to accelerate. Some private estimates peg annual spending at as high as $90 billion. The official spending figure released by Beijing in March was $29.9 billion, a 12 percent increase.
If trends continue, China would have the world's third-largest military budget, trailing Russia and well behind the United States.
While continuing to intimidate Taiwan with a growing battery of short- and medium-range missiles massed along its east coast across the Taiwan Straits, China is also reported to be spending heavily to extend the range, accuracy and mobility of these and a new generation of nuclear missiles. It is also deploying cruise missiles, submarines, mobile missile batteries and advanced aircraft like the People's Liberation Army's new F-10 fighter to project regional power and deter "third-party" intervention in a Taiwan crisis.
For now, however, the DoD study released on Tuesday (July 19) concludes that "China’s ability to project conventional military power beyond its periphery remains limited."
The Pentagon report argues that some Chinese military leaders are looking beyond Taiwan to break what they consider a military "blockade" against China. As a result, the report warns that China could eventually threaten its Asian neigbhors.
The DoD report cites a recent interview with Gen. Wen Zongren of the PLA's Academy of Military Science in which he told the report's authors that "Only when we break this blockade shall we be able to talk about China’s rise."
The DoD report reiterates earlier findings that China is seeking to leverage information technology as a "force multiplier" that can also help close a perceived technology gap with the west. The result, the report said, is continuing development of an integrated C4ISR network (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance).
Western exports of dual-use technologies have raised concerns here that Beijing might be diverting commercial technologies to its military modernization efforts. The Defense Department frequently takes a hard line on U.S. technology exports to China, but observers said U.S. technology export policies toward China remain confusing.
The Pentagon assessment concludes that China is "most likely interested in acquiring advanced space technology, radar systems, early-warning aircraft, submarine technology and advanced electronic components for precision-guided weapons systems.
The report also stresses that China is deploying mobile, solid-fuel ICBMs, giving it a "survivable nuclear" option. Nevertheless, the report acknowledges that China maintains a comparatively small nuclear force and continues to adhere to a "no-first-use" nuclear policy.
Experts also point out that the China's current nuclear readiness is hampered by liquid-fuel missiles that take hours to prepare for launch.