A Defense Department report released today describes China’s military modernization and the Chinese army’s interaction with other forces, including those of the United States, a senior Pentagon official said May 6.
The annual report – titled “2013 Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” – went to Congress today and covers China’s security and military strategies; developments in China’s military doctrine, force structure and advanced technologies; the security situation in the Taiwan strait; U.S.–China military-to-military contacts and the U.S. strategy for such engagement; and the nature of China’s cyber activities directed against the Defense Department.
David F. Helvey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, briefed Pentagon reporters on the report. He noted that the report, which DOD coordinates with other agencies, “reflects broadly the views held across the United States government.” The report is factual and not speculative, he noted.
Helvey said the trends in this year’s report show the rising power increasing its rapid military modernization program. “We see a good deal of continuity in terms of the modernization priorities,” Helvey noted, despite the 2012 and 2013 turnover to new leadership, which happens roughly every decade in China.
The report notes China launched its first aircraft carrier in 2012 and is sustaining investments in advanced short- and medium-range conventional ballistic missiles, land-attack and anti-ship cruise missiles, counter-space weapons and military cyberspace systems.
Helvey noted these technologies all bolster China’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
“The issue here is not one particular weapons system,” he said. “It’s the integration and overlapping nature of these weapons systems into a regime that can potentially impede or restrict free military operations in the Western Pacific. So that’s something that we monitor and are concerned about.”
Helvey said the report provides a lot of information, but also raises some questions. “What concerns me is the extent to which China’s military modernization occurs in the absence of the kind of openness and transparency that others are certainly asking of China,” he added.
That lack of transparency, he noted, has effects on the security calculations of others in the region. “And so it’s that uncertainty, I think, that’s of greater concern,” he said.
Helvey added the report noted China has “increased assertiveness with respect to its maritime territorial claims” over the past year. China disputes sovereignty with Japan over islands in the East China Sea, and has other territorial disputes with regional neighbors in the South China Sea.
“With respect to these claims, we encourage all parties to the different disputes or interactions to address their issues peacefully, through diplomatic channels in a manner consistent with international law,” he said.
Helvey noted China’s relations with Taiwan have been consistent. “Over the past year, cross-strait relations have improved,” he said. “However, China’s military buildup shows no signs of slowing.”
China also is building its space and cyberspace capabilities, Helvey said. He noted that in 2012, China conducted 18 space launches and expanded its space-based intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, meteorological and communication satellite constellations.
“At the same time, China continues to invest in a multidimensional program to deny others access to and use of space,” Helvey said.
Addressing China’s cyber capabilities, Helvey said the Chinese army continues to develop doctrine, training and exercises that emphasize information technology and operations.
“In addition, in 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the United States government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to [Chinese] government and military organizations,” he added.
Helvey noted a positive trend in U.S.-China engagements over the year, including several senior-leader visits culminating in then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s visit to Beijing in September.
The two sides also explored practical areas of cooperation, he said, including the first counterpiracy exercise conducted in September by Chinese and U.S. forces, followed by the U.S. invitation to China to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2014.
“We’ll continue to use military engagement with China as one of several means to expand areas where we can cooperate, discuss, frankly, our differences, and demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the security of the Asia-Pacific region,” Helvey said.