The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2005 (Excerpts)

Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, October 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2005 (Excerpts)


In July 2005 the US Department of Defense presented its unclassified annual assement of the military power of the People's Republic of China to Congress. The executive summary and the first chapter of the 45-page document, which summarizes the Key Developments reported in the study, are reprinted here.

Executive Summary The rapid rise of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as a regional political and economic power with global aspirations is one of the principal elements in the emergence of East Asia, a region that has changed greatly over the past quarter of a century. China's emergence has significant implications for the region and the world. The United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, one that becomes integrated as a constructive member of the international community. But, we see a China facing a strategic crossroads. Questions remain about the basic choices China's leaders will make as China's power and influence grow, particularly its military power. The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is modernizing its forces, emphasizing preparations to fight and win short-duration, high- intensity conflicts along China's periphery. PLA modernization has accelerated since the mid-to-late 1990s in response to central leadership demands to develop military options for Taiwan scenarios. In the short term, the PRC appears focused on preventing Taiwan independence or trying to compel Taiwan to negotiate a settlement on Beijing's terms. A second set of objectives includes building counters to third-party, including potential U.S., intervention in cross-Strait crises. PLA preparations, including an expanding force of ballistic missiles (long-range and short-range), cruise missiles, submarines, advanced aircraft, and other modern systems, come against the background of a policy toward Taiwan that espouses "peaceful reunification." China has not renounced the use of force, however. Over the long term, if current trends persist, PLA capabilities could pose a credible threat to other modern militaries operating in the region. The PLA is working toward these goals by acquiring new foreign and domestic weapon systems and military technologies, promulgating new doctrine for modern warfare, reforming military institutions, personnel development and professionalization, and improving exercise and training standards. We assess that China's ability to project conventional military power beyond its periphery remains limited. This report outlines what we know of China's national and military strategies, progress and trends in its military modernization, and their implications for regional security and stability. But, secrecy envelops most aspects of Chinese security affairs. The outside world has little knowledge of Chinese motivations and decision-making and of key capabilities supporting PLA modernization. Hence, the findings and conclusions are based on incomplete data. These gaps are, of necessity, bridged by informed judgment. The PLA's routine publication of a biannual Defense White Paper demonstrates some improvement in transparency. However, China's leaders continue to guard closely basic information on the quantity and quality of the Chinese armed forces. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense still does not know the full size and composition of Chinese government expenditure on national defense. Estimates put it at two to three times the officially published figures.

Key Developments Several significant developments in China's national strategies and military capabilities in the last two years relate to the questions posed by the Congress in Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (P.L. 106- 65). These developments include: Grand Strategy, Security Strategy, and Military Strategy * In December 2004, Beijing released China's National Defense in 2004 (hereinafter, Defense White Paper), the fourth such paper since 1998. …

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