I spent part of my day today reading through the opening section of the new Pentagon report on China‘s military power. Quite frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed by chapter 1, the “annual update” where significant developments related to questions raised by Congress in the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act are discussed. Perhaps it is because I have been studying China for the entire time frame this report covers (2009) – there really wasn’t much here that was new to me; or perhaps it was because when I read the previous version (2009) of the China Military Power report in the spring of 2009 I was a fairly new “China watcher”; now most of this seems like old hat. Or maybe it was because every time I read the report talking about things happening in whatever month (say for instance, June), I had to remind myself that since the report is so late in being released this year, they aren’t talking about the month of June that recently ended, but instead the June that is nearly 15 months ago now. So a lot of what is discussed seems a bit stale and out of date. Note to DoD: release the report on time, and this last beef won’t be nearly such an issue.
There aren’t a lot of surprises in chapter 1. That said, here are a few nuggets I found to be interesting. The PRC continues its military buildup unabated, regardless of thawing relations across the Taiwan Strait. (You don’t say.) The PRC continues to add to its arsenal of short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and cruise missiles aimed at Taiwan. (It was nice to see that the DoD estimate of the number of SRBMs opposite Taiwan in December 2009 to be 1,050 to 1,150; many of the scare-mongering pieces I see currently talk about more like 1,500 SRBMs.) China is developing a host of anti-access, area-denial weapons systems, one of which is the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), designed to be a U.S. “carrier killer.” In conjunction with developing anti-access technologies, the PRC is also beefing up its over-the-horizon skywave and surface wave radars. These radars are used to help target ships at sea that continue to move after a ballistic missile is launched in their general direction and are used to supplement surveillance satellites. There is a (very) short section in chapter 1 (a single paragraph on page 7) that discusses the PRC’s cyberwarfare capabilities. I hope there is more on this topic later in the report, for otherwise this is a pretty big topic of interest for me that was hardly mentioned in chapter 1.
- Pentagon report: China extending military reach (cnn.com)
- Pentagon hits at Beijing’s military secrecy (ft.com)
- US: China military in secret rise (bbc.co.uk)
- Rising Dragon: China’s Military Power Growing (abcnews.go.com)