The US Department of Defense released its annual report to congress last Thursday, detailing the military capabilities of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The report describes China’s attempt at revitalising the nation’s military capabilities and it’s goal to become a “world-class military by the middle of this century”.
As a nuclear-capable nation, China is currently equipped to launch strikes from both land and sea. However, findings show that the Air Force is being “re-assigned a nuclear mission”. “The deployment and integration of nuclear-capable bombers would, for the first time, provide China with a nuclear “triad” of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air” says the report.
The Pentagon also noted that “Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets.”
The Department of Defense also has reason to believe that the bombers are being used to intimidate and coerce it’s neighbors in line with it’s One-China Policy. In May, nuclear-capable bombers were landed on an artificial island built in the South China Sea, an area of highly contested territory China is seeking to be a dominant force in. The report claims that China is using “increasingly advanced military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan”.
China’s growing economic power is also being leveraged towards gaining dominance as a global power the report says. The Pentagon claims that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an economic strategy intended to connect the nation’s economy with nearby trading partners has the potential to create a condition of “over-reliance” on Chinese capital. The report predicts nations involved in the BRI risk China “shaping their interests” and “could advance potential military advantages for China”.
In line with President Xi Jinping’s claims that the PLA is “accelerating toward informatization”, the Department of Defense believes China is continuing to launch cyber attacks on US Government systems. “China uses its cyber capabilities to support intelligence collection against U.S. diplomatic, economic, academic, and defense industrial base sectors” the report says.
The report also mentions increasing capabilities of Chinese anti-missile defence systems and a growing interest in space warfare. The news comes after President Trump announced the establishment of a US Space Force. “China also continues to develop counterspace capabilities, including kinetic-kill missiles, ground-based lasers, and orbiting space robots, as well as to expand space surveillance” says the report.
In response to the information gathered, the Pentagon advises the government to drop it’s “Cold War attitude” and pursue a path of “transparency and non-aggression” with the Chinese military.