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China's Military Strength Growing, Defense Department Says

20 July 2005

Report shows gains follow increased political, economic influence

By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- China is rising rapidly as an Asian political and economic power and is modernizing its army to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its borders, according to a new Defense Department report.

Submitted annually by congressional mandate, the report, entitled The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2005, was released July 19.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, asked about the report during a meeting with reporters shortly before its release, said, "I think it's a very accurate characterization of … the behavior of and the collective decisions that are being made in [China] with respect to military investment and acquisitions."

He said it would "be factual, straightforward, and we believe is [as] accurate as a fully coordinated, interagency product can be."

The report, in its executive summary, states that it outlines what the U.S. government knows of China's national and military strategies, military modernization efforts and regional security implications.

"But, secrecy envelops most aspects of Chinese security affairs. … Hence, the findings and conclusions are based on incomplete data," it acknowledges.  "Informed judgment," it says, has necessarily been substituted for missing information, such as the full size and composition of Chinese government expenditure on national defense.

"The United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, one that becomes integrated as a constructive member of the international community," the report says.  "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."


According to the report, China's short-term objective seems to be preventing Taiwan's independence, or bringing about a negotiated agreement favorable to China.  China is also trying to prevent possible intervention in China-Taiwan problems.  The Chinese army now has at least 650 mobile, short-range ballistic missiles clustered across the Taiwan Strait, adding about 100 annually.

The report says China is also expanding its force of long-range ballistic missiles, "cruise missiles, submarines, [and] advanced aircraft."

Furthermore, the Chinese military is purchasing new weapons systems (including new Soviet-made warships) and technologies, reforming its warfare doctrine, its institutions, its personnel development and professionalism, and its exercise and training standards.

Overall, though, the report assesses that "China's ability to project conventional military power beyond its periphery remains limited."

The report is divided into six chapters:

• Key Developments;

• Understanding China's Strategy;

• China's Military Strategy and Doctrine;

• Resources for Force Modernization;

• Force Modernization Goals and Trends; and

• Force Modernization and Security in the Taiwan Strait.

The full report (PDF, 52 pages) is available on the Defense Department’s Web site. 

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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