U.S. Sees Chinese Military Rise, and a Need for More Contact

Chinese military modernization has increased within the past year, according to a Pentagon report. In addition, U.S. Defense officials stress the need for more transparency in China’s military affairs. From Thom Shanker of the New York Times:

The report describes how China’s military modernization has continued over the past year, with a particular focus on Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. China has built up short-range missiles across from Taiwan, even though the report concludes that relations between the two have relaxed over the past year.

Even so, the study said China could not deploy and sustain even small military units far beyond its borders before 2015. Further, China would not be able to deploy and sustain large forces in combat operations far from China until well into the following decade, the report states.

Instead, the Chinese military appears to have embarked on modernization programs that would allow it to fight and win short conflicts fought with new weapons along its periphery.

To blunt traditional advantages of the United States, China has invested in new technologies for cyber- and space warfare, in addition to sustaining and modernizing its nuclear arsenal, the report said. The Chinese military also is expanding and improving its fleet of submarines, and hopes to build a number of new aircraft carriers, the report said.

Cyber attacks are one particular concern. From Paul Eckert of Reuters:

The Pentagon analysis said China is developing weapons that would disable its enemies’ space technology such as satellites, and boosting its electromagnetic warfare and cyber-warfare capabilities.

[…]The United States was increasingly concerned about “computer network intrusions that appear to originate in China,” said the defense official, who pointed to a focus on computer defense and computer attack in Chinese doctrine.

“Some of these intrusions for the acquisition of data would involve the same types of skills, applications and capabilities that would be consistent with a computer network attack,” the official said.

The report, “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009,” can be read here. Excerpted:

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is pursuing comprehensive transformation from a mass army designed for protracted wars of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery against high-tech adversaries – an approach that China refers to as preparing for “local wars under conditions of informatization.” The pace and scope of China’s military transformation have increased in recent years, fueled by acquisition of advanced foreign weapons, continued high rates of investment in its domestic defense and science and technology industries, and far-reaching organizational and doctrinal reforms of the armed forces. China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited, but its armed forces continue to develop and field disruptive military technologies, including those for anti-access/area-denial, as well as for nuclear, space, and cyber warfare, that are changing regional military balances and that have implications beyond the Asia-Pacific region.