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American Forces Press Service

Beijing Leaders Believe U.S. "Poses a Challenge," Pentagon Report Says

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2003 -- While China seeks to benefit from trade and technology "interactions" with the United States, Beijing leaders still believe the U.S. poses a "significant," long-term challenge, according to a DoD report released to Congress July 30.

The Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China

focuses on Chinese strategy, military leadership transition, military forces, arms sales from the former Soviet Union, and the security situation in the Taiwan Strait.

The 51-page report states that China's leaders base their beliefs on assertions that the United States seeks to maintain a dominant "geostrategic" position by containing the growth of Chinese power and "dividing" and "Westernizing" China, while preventing a resurgence of Russian power.

It also states that Beijing has interpreted strengthened U.S.-Japan security alliances, increased U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region -- including Central Asia -- and efforts to expand NATO as "manifestations" of Washington's strategy.

To counter this strategy, China has embarked on a force modernization program intended to increase its options of force against Taiwan and to complicate U.S. intervention in a Taiwan Strait conflict, according to the report.

One Beijing high-priority security interest is to prevent further steps by Taiwan toward permanent separation from the mainland and to secure the eventual resolution of the Taiwan issue on China's terms. The reports states that Beijing probably assesses that U.S. efforts to develop missile defenses will challenge the credibility of China's nuclear deterrent and eventually be extended to protect Taiwan.

According to the report, Beijing states its No. 1 strategic priority is economic development and raising living standards for its more than 1 billion citizens. However, it also indicates it regards economic development as an important step in gradually increasing China's international leverage and military modernization.

That modernization heavily relies on Russian and former Soviet Union countries' assistance in procuring weapon systems and technical assistance.

Beijing has greatly expanded its arsenal of lethal ballistic missiles and long-range strike aircraft, says the report. China is in the midst of a ballistic missile modernization program that is improving all classes of missiles both "qualitatively and quantitatively." This modernization, the report states, is intended to improve China's nuclear deterrence by increasing the number of warheads that can target the United States, as well as its operational capabilities for contingencies in East Asia.

China is replacing all of its nearly 20 CSS-4 Mod 1 intercontinental ballistic missiles with the longer range CSS-4 Mod 2. China also is developing two follow-on, extended-range versions of the DF-31, a solid propellant, mobile ICBM and a solid propellant submarine- launched ballistic missile.

The report also notes that China has acquired more Russian Su-30MKK fighter aircraft. China is also producing Su-27 front-line fighter aircraft that, along with the Su-30s, have been more rapidly integrated into operational units.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force and PLA Naval Air Force tactical forces are developing and acquiring advanced air-launched munitions. China has acquired the AA- 12/ADDER active-radar guided air-to-air missile from Russia. And the report refers to Moscow press reports that indicate the Chinese naval air force will acquire a naval strike version of the Su-30, capable of launching anti-ship cruise missiles.

The report also lists improvements in training, combined arms and joint operations. Beijing's military training exercises focus increasingly on the United States as an adversary and on preparing for combined arms and joint operations under more realistic conditions.

The army has also trained to counter more militarily advanced adversaries and to incorporate the "Three Attacks and Three Defenses" initiative. That initiative includes air defense training concentrating on attacking stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and helicopters.

In addition, the reports states that the army has improved officer and enlisted training and has put more emphasis on maritime and amphibious operations, and the integration of conventional ground units with marines, airborne and special operations forces.

According to the report, in March 2002 China announced a 17.5 percent, or $3 billion, increase in spending, making the publicly reported total $20 billion. Estimates of real total spending, however, range from $45 billion to $65 billion a year.

The report said that annual spending on the military could increase in "real terms" three- to four-fold by 2020. And for the fourth year in a row, contracts for advanced weapons systems from Russia were $2 billion annually -- double the average yearly figure throughout the 1990s.

Beijing leaders have come to a consensus that Chinese interests can be best served by projecting a positive, cooperative image to the United States and the international community, the report states. Chinese leaders have indicated of such cooperation by increasing contacts with NATO in 2002 and early 2003. China also played an active role in the Iraq issue and voted for Resolutions 1441 (supporting weapons inspections in Iraq) and 1483 (lifting economic sanctions against Iraq) in the U.N. Security Council.

Another sign of cooperation the report pointed to: Although China continues to voice opposition to U.S. missile defense, withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and U.S.-Taiwan defense ties, Beijing has argued "less stridently" than in previous years and has responded only "moderately" to those concerns.


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