Chinese Military Power Report Addresses U.S. Concerns
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
The 45-page report, required by Congress each year, "is a very factual presentation of what's taken place in the People's Republic of China," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, shortly before the report was released.
An executive summary of the report contends "the United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China." However, it goes on to say, China faces a "strategic crossroads" with regard to the country's growing military capabilities and strategic influence.
Modernization of the Chinese People's Liberation Army seems geared toward preventing Taiwan's independence and "preparations to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along China's periphery," the summary states.
Lack of transparency in China's military spending is a particular concern to U.S. officials. Rumsfeld said in June that China's defense expenditures are much higher than Chinese officials have published. "It is estimated that China's is the third-largest military budget in the world, and clearly the largest in Asia," Rumsfeld said in a speech to Asian defense leaders in Singapore.
Defense officials estimate China spends two to three times more than it admits on defense, leading U.S. officials to believe China has one of the largest defense budgets in the world, and by far the largest in Asia.
At the same time, Taiwanese military spending is dropping, significantly shifting the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait to Beijing.
China continues to build on its missile technology, adding to its short-range attack capabilities and working to build capabilities to reach outside its immediate area. The report states China has deployed 650 to 730 mobile CSS-6 and CSS-7 short-range ballistic missiles to garrisons opposite Taiwan.
"Deployment of these systems is increasing at a rate of about 100 missiles per year," the report states, adding that newer versions have improved range and accuracy.
Though its strategic emphasis remains on Taiwan, China also appears to be looking to expand its military reach. Longer-range ballistic missiles, including newer versions with intercontinental range, are expected to come into service in the county's arsenal "over the next several years," the report states.
The senior defense official said improvements in China's missile technology indicate the country is "not a Third World military power."
"There are some areas in which they are becoming a First World military power," the official said. "And this seems to be one example."
Defense officials are quick to point out this report reflects more than just Defense Department views. Before the information was presented to Congress, the report went through a thorough interagency review within the U.S. government. Rumsfeld called the report "a fully coordinated interagency product."
"The report has been widely worked ... with the CIA analysts, with the Department of State and the National Security Council staff," he said.
While some concerns brought out in the report might seem ominous, the report is not intended to appear that DoD is "beating the war drum," the senior official said. "We're not ... saying China is a threat or not a threat; we're being descriptive."
Speaking at the Pentagon July 19, Rumsfeld noted there have been "bumps in the road" of the U.S.-China relationship, such as China holding American aircrew members hostage for several days in 2001 following the emergency landing of a U.S. reconnaissance plane and a senior Chinese general threatening last week to use nuclear weapons if the United States were to attack China over the Taiwan issue.
"But as I see it," Rumsfeld said, "China is on a path where they are determined to increase their economy, the opportunities for their people and to enter the world community. They want the Olympics to go well." The 2008 Summer Olympics are scheduled to be in Beijing.
However, Rumsfeld added -- echoing sentiments he expressed in Singapore in June -- China's economic path requires "an increasing degree of openness on their part."
China will "be most successful if they have a relatively free political and a relatively free economic system," he said. "Then that would be a good thing for the world, and time will tell."
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