WASHINGTON --- China continues to build up its military to challenge and supplant the United States as the preeminent power in the Indo-Pacific region, the assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs said today.
Randall G. Schriver briefed the Pentagon’s press corps following the release of the new China Military Power Report. He said China continues to challenge U.S. military advantages, such as America’s ability to deploy and sustain forces anywhere in the world and its unparalleled alliance system.
China is investing money and time into capabilities and capacity, Schriver said.
“Our 2019 report finds that in the coming decades, China seeks to become both prosperous and powerful, and the report notes that China has a stated goal of becoming a world class military by 2049,” he said.
China Building Military
China is continuing to build its missile force, Schriver said, and it has begun building a second aircraft carrier. The nation is sailing two new cruisers and is building more, he said. And China’s air force has flown its J-20 fifth-generation aircraft, Schriver said. The aircraft has stealth characteristics and many U.S. officials have said they believe it may contain technologies stolen from U.S. manufacturers.
Chinese conventional forces are moving to improve training and evaluation of ground, sea and air forces, he said. Newly published doctrine “emphasizes realistic and joint training across all domains and tasks the PLA to prepare for conflict aimed at ‘strong military opponents,’” Schriver said.
China is emphasizing civil-military integration with civilian companies entering the military market to achieve greater efficiencies, innovation and growth, he said.
The report also touches on Chinese espionage, including cybertheft, targeted investment in foreign companies with crucial technologies and its exploitation of access that Chinese nationals may have to U.S. technology. “In 2018, we saw specific efforts targeting such areas as aviation technologies and anti-submarine warfare technologies,” Schriver said.
DOD officials have said they expect China will increase its military footprint, both in and out of the Indo-Pacific region. “We believe China will seek to establish additional bases overseas as well as points for access,” Schriver said. He cited Chinese desires to establish military bases in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific.
China has been working seriously to bulk up its worldwide status for more than 20 years. China’s economy is expanding and the Chinese Communist Party can mandate a strategy unchecked by democratic forces in the nation. Two programs — the “Made in China 2025” and “One Belt, One Road” initiatives — point to the path China would like to take to ensure it is the preeminent power in the region.
Schriver said the initiatives have caused concern in many nations that following them would mean a loss of sovereignty if the nations by into the Chinese strategy. “Chinese leaders have softened their rhetoric and sought to rebrand [the initiatives], however the fundamental goals of these programs have not changed,” he said.
The report covers Chinese efforts in “influence operations” — Chinese efforts to influence media, culture, business, academia in other countries to accept the Chinese way.
China continues efforts to claim the South China Sea and East China Sea. They continue to claim land on its borders with India and Bhutan.
China’s attitude toward Taiwan continues to be threatening as they use elements of persuasion and coercion against the island,” Schriver said. He said this is destabilizing to the entire region.
The U.S. National Defense Strategy says the United States is in competition with China, but that does not preclude the United States and China from working together when the interests align, Schriver said. “We continue to pursue a constructive results-oriented relationship between our countries, and it is an important part of our regional strategy to have stable, constructive relations with China and a relationship which mitigates the risk of incidents or accidents.”
Click here for the full report (136 PDF pages) on the Pentagon website.
Click here for the related press briefing by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver.