China appears on track to forge a modern military by 2020, a rapid buildup that could be potentially destabilising to the Asia-Pacific region, the Pentagon has said.
Fuelled by its booming economy, China’s military growth in the past decade has exceeded most US forecasts. Its aircraft carrier programme, cyberwarfare capabilities and anti-satellite missiles have alarmed neighbours and Washington.
The US defence department’s annual assessment to Congress on the Chinese military flagged all the major concerns about China’s growing military might, including Beijing’s widening edge over Taiwan. It also noted cyber-attacks in 2010 – including those on US government computers – that appeared to have originated in China.
“We have some concerns [on cyber] about some of the things that we’ve seen. And we want to be able to work through that with China,” said Michael Schiffer, a deputy assistant secretary of defence.
The report focused on 2010, a year when the Pentagon said China’s military modernisation programme paid “visible dividends”. It cited China’s fielding of an operational anti-ship ballistic missile, continued work on its aircraft carrier programme and the completion of a prototype of China’s first stealth fighter jet, the J-20.
The J-20 programme, the Pentagon report said, would not achieve “effective operational capability” before 2018.
“Despite continued gaps in some key areas, large quantities of antiquated hardware and a lack of operational experience, the PLA [China’s People’s Liberation Army] is steadily closing the technological gap with modern armed forces,” the report said.
However, Chinese government officials have come forward to rebuff the Pentagon’s report. From Xinhua:
The Chinese government reacted strongly on Friday to a Pentagon report that warned China’s military modernization could destabilize the Asia-pacific region.
The Chinese Defense Ministry says, the US military’s annual assessment of China’s armed forces , indulged in exaggeration and groundless suspicion.
According to Yang Yujun, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, China’s military is only to protect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It’s not aimed at any particular country or region.
The Pentagon report predicts that by 2020, the PLA will become a “modern, regional-focused military”, and claims that the Chinese mainland is focusing its military buildup on Taiwan.
But Yang Yujun replied saying that as technology advances, it’s very normal for the Chinese military to develop and upgrade its weaponry. The Pentagon report merely “exaggerated the so-called mainland military threat to Taiwan.”
China Could Build a Modern Military by 2020 – the Guardian