Pentagon: Mil-to-mil ties with China critical
By Kate Brannen and Wendell Minnick - Staff writers
WASHINGTON And TAIPEI — The release of the 2011 annual Pentagon report on Chinese military modernization has become a lightning rod for critics on both sides of the Pacific. Those in Washington say it lacks substance, and those in Beijing complain the report is part of a U.S. conspiracy to contain China.
“Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” is not the original name of the report. Two years ago, elements in the U.S. government decided to change the name from “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China” in an effort to soften the tone and hopefully not anger China.
In its annual report to Congress, the Pentagon presents a diplomatic but watchful stance toward the country and urges stronger military-to-military relationships between the two powers.
“Although China’s expanding military capabilities can facilitate cooperation in pursuit of shared objectives, they can also increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation,” the report, released Aug. 24, says. “Strengthening our military-to-military relationship is a critical part of our strategy to shape China’s choices as we seek to capitalize on opportunities for cooperation while mitigating risks.”
The 83-page report comes months after its March 1 deadline. It also follows reports that the United States has decided to deny Taiwan’s request for 66 new F-16 C/D fighter jets and instead upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of older F-16A/Bs. China had described the sale as a “red line.” The Pentagon report fails to mention the F-16C/D issue.
In January 2010, the Chinese government suspended military-to-military relations with the United States, following U.S. approval of a separate arms sale to Taiwan.
“Although the United States and China maintained working level contact during the nine-month suspension that followed, routine military-to-military exchanges did not resume until the final quarter of 2010,” the report says.
According to the report, the United States would now like to see those relationships strengthened.
“This interaction can facilitate common approaches to challenges and serves as a bridge to build more productive working relationships,” the report says.
The report highlights China’s participation in counterpiracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden as one of its important engagements with foreign militaries.
In the realm of cyberwarfare, the report notes that of the thousands of “intrusions” of computer systems around the world in 2010, some appear to have originated in China. These intrusions were focused on stealing information, according to the report.
“Although this alone is a serious concern, the accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks,” the report says, noting that network attacks can serve as a force multiplier when combined with more traditional forms of warfare.
In addition to its growing military might, China also holds about 8 percent of U.S. debt, the largest block in foreign hands. A search of the document for the word “debt” came up with no matches.
As for military spending, on March 4, Beijing announced a 12.7 percent increase in its military budget, saying it would spend approximately $91.5 billion. However, the Defense Department estimates that China’s total military-related spending for 2010 was more than $160 billion.
As a point of comparison, in 2011, the U.S. base defense budget was $530 billion, which does not include expenditures on Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States continues to urge China to increase transparency when it comes to its military spending. According to the Pentagon, producing the report cost just over $73,000, compared with a $2.5 million report on the reserve component published April 5.
Beijing’s strategy is illustrated by Deng Xiaoping, who said that China must “hide our capabilities and bide our time.” This statement explains a lot about China’s tendency to ignore transparency requests and to simply wait when an opportunity presents itself.
In the report, an item of major concern is Chinese missile development.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] is acquiring large numbers of highly accurate cruise missiles, many of which have ranges in excess of 185 km.” This includes the DH-10 land-attack cruise missile, the ship-launch YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile and the Russian SS-N-22 Sunburn supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.
Much of this information is the same as from previous Pentagon reports.
The report does mention the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, but only three times. The DF-21D has been dubbed by the media as the “aircraft carrier killer,” and billboards in China have shown U.S. Navy aircraft carriers being sunk after being saturated by DF-21D missiles. The Pentagon report does not discuss how this type of missile might reshape naval strategy and doctrine.
In another odd section, the report says that China “may also be developing a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, possibly capable of carrying a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV).” Then the report drops the issue from discussion. It does not explain the significance of a road-mobile ICBM carrying MIRVed nuclear warheads, or what that potentially could mean to the U.S. West Coast.
China is also developing long-range stealthy aircraft capable of challenging U.S. air power in the region. China has 490 combat aircraft within operational range of Taiwan and has the airfield capabilities to expand that number by hundreds.
The January flight of China’s next-generation fighter prototype, the J-20, highlights China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics and super-cruise capable engines over the next several years.
According to the report, China is upgrading its B-6 bomber fleet with a long-range variant that will be armed with a new long-range cruise missile.
In comparison, the Taiwanese are still waiting after five years for the U.S. to release 66 F-16C/D fighter aircraft and an upgrade package for 146 F-16A/B fighters. The report fails to mention Taiwan’s long delayed F-16C/D request. Nor is there any mention of Taiwan’s request for submarines.
What the report really lacks is a future picture of what Taiwan would look like if it became a confederacy of China’s. What would PLA bases on Taiwan mean for Japan, Korea and the United States? What if there was a fighter wing of Su-30s at Haulian Air Base, a submarine base at Suao Port, and a B-6 bomber base at CCK Air Base in Taichung?
How would such developments reshape the strategic map for the Pacific Command? How would Japan deal with the problem of securing oil shipments from the sea lanes of the Malacca Strait and South China Sea? What if China said “no” to Japan?