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American Forces Press Service

Report Documents Chinese Military Power, Calls for Transparency

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2007 – China must continue to make strides in military transparency as it moves forward to becoming a global power, Defense Department officials said here today.

The officials briefed Pentagon reporters on background following publication of the 2007 Military Power of the People’s Republic of China report. The annual report to Congress covers key developments in China over the past year and changes in Chinese military strategy.

President Bush characterized U.S.-Chinese relations as good following his most recent visit with Chinese President Hu Jintao in April. He said the United States and China can work together to further security and economic prosperity in Asia and around the world.

The annual report to Congress reflects the U.S. view that China is an emerging regional military and economic power with global aspirations.

“It paints a picture of a country that … has steadily devoted increasing resources to their military that is developing some very sophisticated capabilities,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said during a Pentagon news conference yesterday. Gates said the report is a realistic appraisal of Chinese security strategy.

Current relations with China have improved since the low point following the collision of a Chinese jet with a Navy EP-3 in 2001. Military-to-military ties are robust; there are troops visits and port calls. Military education exchange programs are being held at the senior and mid-level officer level. Joint military exercises are planned, and the two countries are working together on regional concerns – such as North Korean missile proliferation – and the danger bird flu presents. There are also discussions about disaster relief cooperation, officials said.

Gates wants China to have more transparency on military budgeting and strategy. The Chinese test of an anti-satellite capability in January caught the world by surprise and left many wondering what brought about that particular operation.

The official Chinese military budget is pegged at around $45 billion this year. But the real number could be as much as three times as high, officials said.

China’s defense budget is increasing by double-digit percentages per year, a rate that China has sustained for more than 15 years, fueled by the country’s remarkable economic growth, a defense official said. This year, the increase was 17.8 percent.

“We are convinced that China’s real defense spending is substantially higher – in the range of $85 billion to $125 billion in 2007,” the official continued.

This discrepancy between the official and actual figure is emblematic of U.S. concerns on transparency. Hiding these sums of money drives uncertainty over China’s intentions, the official said.

“It is not just a concern for the United States,” he said. “Many aspects of China’s military programs lead other nations to question China’s intentions and adjust their own behavior.”

Among the sums off the books are research and development expenditures, some military procurement, foreign purchases and dual-use technologies, officials said.

China is modernizing its forces. Officials said its newest missile -- the solid-fueled, transportable Df-31 -- could be used if needed. About 900 Chinese missiles are in place opposite Taiwan, compared with 710 to 790 missiles in late 2005.

China is developing home-grown advanced aviation and shipbuilding capabilities, and buying foreign – armaments, mostly from Russia. The report gives more information on Chinese moves toward building an aircraft carrier.

Overall, Gates said yesterday, the report is a balanced portrait of Chinese military capabilities.

“It paints a picture of a country that is devoting substantial resources to the military and developing, as I say, some very sophisticated capabilities,” he said. “We wish that there were greater transparency, that they would talk more about what their intentions are, what their strategies are. These are assessments that are in this publication. It would be nice to hear firsthand from the Chinese how they view some of these things.”

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