Since the report comes from the U.S. secretary of defense's office, it
can be taken with a handful of salt.
The U.S. DOD doesn't publish such things unless there's an ulterior
motive. Like maybe the White House war criminal asked that federal
government employees and the U.S. media tone down their criticism (or
fear) of China's "growing military threat" before the August Chink-O-
Anyway, the report is balanced.
It'll make some people "happy," and some it'll piss-off! Just where
the split will be, your guess is as good as ...
"Pentagon Report Plays Down Chinese Military Threat"
By Walter Pincus
Monday, March 10, 2008; A13
A recent Defense Department report titled "Military Power of the
People's Republic of China" highlights some of Beijing's potential
weaknesses and some positive steps the Chinese are taking in their
relationship with the United States.
The report noted that China is spending heavily to modernize its
military forces, and drew attention to anti-satellite and cyberspace
activities that represent potential threats to the United States,
which were discussed in last week's column.
But the study also noted that U.S. intelligence agencies estimate it
could take Beijing at least two more years "to produce a modern force
capable of defeating a moderate-size adversary."
More important, the intelligence estimate predicted that the Asian
nation "will not be able to project and sustain small military units
far beyond China before 2015, and will not be able to project and
sustain large forces in combat operations far from China until well
into the following decade." The intelligence estimate was completed
within the past year; this is the first time it has been made public.
Intelligence agencies have long believed that China has never had the
transport capability to carry enough troops across the Taiwan Strait
to invade its tiny neighbor. That is one reason for its emphasis on
threatening the Taipei government with missiles and asymmetric
The Pentagon study also lays out, not for the first time, military and
economic problems that stem from China's growing need for imported
oil. Over 53 percent of China's oil is imported, with the "vast
majority" of the more than 4 million barrels a day coming through two
rather narrow waterways: the Strait of Malacca, which separates
Malaysia and Indonesia, and the Lombok/Makkasar Straits through the
Chinese consumption of oil is expected to increase by as much as 60
percent by 2015. The nation's top foreign suppliers are Saudi Arabia,
Angola and Iran, and in a 2006 defense white paper of its own, China
concluded that "security issues related to energy resources . . . and
international shipping routes are mounting."
The Beijing government, according to the Pentagon report, currently
"is neither capable of using military power to secure its foreign
energy investments nor of defending critical sea lanes against
disruption." Perhaps that is why China is building aircraft carriers
and submarines, and obtaining other maritime-related strike forces,
according to the report.
Recognizing its vulnerability should it face a naval blockade, China,
like the United States, has put together a strategic petroleum
reserve. It is expected to reach 100 million barrels this year, equal
to 25 days of oil imports.
Another element in the Pentagon report is a list of international
military exercises and exchanges conducted by the Chinese last year.
These activities have grown in recent years and represent, according
to the Pentagon, Beijing's expanded international role in support of
its diplomatic and security objectives.
In March 2007, for example, two Chinese guided missile frigates took
part in a multinational naval exercise in the North Arabian Sea hosted
by Pakistan and focused on maritime counterterrorism. The United
States and seven other countries also participated. In April 2007, the
Chinese and Indian navies held a combined-force exercise in the South
In December 2007, Chinese and Indian troops conducted a training
exercise code-named "Hand-in-Hand" that included establishment of a
joint command post, joint battle decision making and anti-terrorism
drills. Despite a boundary dispute, the two nations' defense ministers
met in January 2008 and agreed to have a second military exercise in
India later this year.
As of December 2007, China had 1,800 troops deployed globally in 13
U.N. peacekeeping missions. The 135 military engineers it sent to
Darfur in November 2007 comprised the first non-African Union group in
that multinational force.
U.S. and Chinese military activities are not widely publicized, but
they do occur. A September 2006 search-and-rescue exercise off San
Diego was the first to involve U.S. and Chinese vessels. A hotline
agreement was recently signed and the phone link-up was expected to
become operational this month, according to David Sedney, deputy
assistant secretary of defense for East Asian security affairs, who
briefed reporters on the China report last Monday.
Sedney also said there is agreement to continue a dialogue on nuclear
strategies and exchange information on each country's military
activity in Africa.
"There's a wide range of activities underway," Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates told reporters last Wednesday, "and we think having an
ongoing dialogue with them about the meaning of all that would be very