U.S. QDR Uses Veiled Language on China
By Wendell Minnick
TAIPEI - The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) makes little overt reference to China's military buildup. Missing from the 2010 version are several concerns of the 2006 edition, such as China's cyberwarfare capabilities, nuclear arsenal, counterspace operations, and cruise and ballistic missiles.
Instead, there's a stated desire for more dialogue with Beijing - and prescriptions for countering the anti-access and area-denial capabilities of unnamed countries.
Analysts say the QDR attempts to address the threat posed by China without further enraging Beijing.
"If you look at the list of 'further enhancements to U.S. forces and capabilities' described in the section 'Deter and Defeat Aggression in Anti-Access Environments,' those are primarily capabilities needed for defeating China, not Iran, North Korea or Hizbollah," said Roger Cliff, a China military specialist at Rand. "So even though not a lot of time is spent naming China ... analysis of the China threat is nonetheless driving a lot of the modernization programs described in the QDR."
Among the QDR's recommendations: expand long-range strike capabilities; exploit advantages in subsurface operations; increase the resiliency of U.S. forward posture and base infrastructure; assure access to space and space assets; improve key intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities; defeat enemy sensors and engagement systems; and increase the presence and responsiveness of U.S. forces abroad.
All of these could respond to China's development of anti-ship and intercontinental ballistic missiles, ballistic missile defenses, anti-satellite weapons and submarines.
The report does offer concerns about transparency: "The nature of China's military development and decision-making processes raise legitimate questions about its future conduct and intentions within Asia and beyond."
It urges building a relationship with China that is "under-girded by a process of enhancing confidence and reducing mistrust in a manner that reinforces mutual interests."
The new emphasis on confidence-building measures (CBMs) and military dialogue is in tune with President Barack Obama's strategy of offering an "open hand rather than a clenched fist," said Dean Cheng, a Chinese security affairs specialist at the Heritage Foundation. "This includes, it would appear, a greater emphasis on CBMs, arms control proposals and the like toward the PRC [People's Republic of China]."
Compared with the 2006 QDR, the new report makes no reference to Taiwan, but the reasons might be more pragmatic. "The issue of Taiwan has receded since 2006, as cross-Strait tensions have distinctly declined," Cheng said. "The QDR is reflecting that change."
Still, Beijing reacted with unusual fury to Washington's Jan. 29 release to Taiwan of a $6.4 billion arms sale, including Black Hawk helicopters and Patriot missile defense systems.
China canceled military exchanges, threatened sanctions against U.S. defense companies and publicized calls by some People's Liberation Army officers to dump U.S. Treasury bonds.
China had already sold off $34.2 billion in U.S. securities in December, lowering its total holdings from $789.6 billion to $755.4 billion, but that appears unrelated to the arms sale.