Tag Archives: China’s military

New Reports Highlight The Threat From China

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has examined the latest reports on China’s rapidly growing armed threat to the U.S., and summarizes them in this three-part review.

The danger from China’s dramatically increasing military power has been examined by several recently released governmental and private sources. The New York Analysis of Policy & Government recently examined Beijing’s growing nuclear arsenal. The recently released reports provide insights into its vastly increased conventional power.

We have examined these crucial reviews, and summarize them in this three-part article.

The most significant of the worrisome analyses is the Department of Defenses’ (DOD) 2017 “Annual Report to Congress on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Report of China.” (DoD)

According to the DoD, “Since 1996, the PLA has made tremendous strides, and, despite improvements to the U.S. military, the net change in capabilities is moving in favor of China. Some aspects of Chinese military modernization, such as improvements to PLA ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft, and attack submarines, have come extraordinarily quickly by any reasonable historical standard.

“Over the next five to 15 years, if U.S. and PLA forces remain on roughly current trajectories, Asia will witness a progressively receding frontier of U.S. dominance.

“The ability to contest dominance might lead Chinese leaders to believe that they could deter U.S. intervention in a conflict between it and one or more of its neighbors. This, in turn, would undermine U.S. deterrence and could, in a crisis, tip the balance of debate in Beijing as to the advisability of using force.

DOD officials have expressed concern that the technological and qualitative edge that U.S. military forces have had relative to the military forces of other countries is being narrowed by improving military capabilities in other countries. China’s improving naval capabilities contribute to that concern. Challenge to U.S. Sea Control and U.S. Position in Western Pacific Observers of Chinese and U.S. military forces view China’s improving naval capabilities as posing a potential challenge in the Western Pacific to the U.S. Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain control of blue-water ocean areas in wartime—the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War

“In 2016, China’s leaders advanced an ambitious agenda of military modernization and organizational reforms. China’s military modernization is targeting capabilities with the potential to degrade core U.S. military-technological advantages.

“To support this modernization, China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including cyber theft, targeted foreign direct investment, and exploitation of the access of private Chinese nationals to such technologies. Several cases emerged in 2016 of China using its intelligence services, and employing other illicit approaches that violate U.S. laws and export controls, to obtain national security and export-restricted technologies, controlled equipment, and other materials.

“As China’s global footprint and international interests have grown, its military modernization program has become more focused on supporting missions beyond China’s periphery…

“China’s increasingly assertive efforts to advance its sovereignty and territorial claims, its forceful rhetoric, and lack of transparency about its growing military capabilities and strategic decision-making continue to cause concern among countries in the region and have caused some to enhance their ties to the United States. These concerns are likely to intensify as the PLA continues to modernize, especially in the absence of greater transparency.”

A recent Rand study concurs. “Over the past two decades, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has transformed itself … into a capable, modern military. ..Annual real (inflation-adjusted) growth in China’s defense spending averaged 11 percent per year between 1996 and 2015…In December 2004, then-premier of China Hu Jintao outlined “new historical missions” for the PLA, which opened the door to a wider range of operations. … China would enjoy enormous situational and geographic advantages in any likely East Asian scenario … This enables the PLA to focus largely on “tooth” (combat forces) as opposed to “tail” (support assets).”

The Report continues tomorrow

China Matches U.S. in Military Prowess, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government continues its review of China’s growing military power. 

Beijing already has a larger number of submarines than the U.S. Navy, and its overall fleet will exceed America’s by 2020. It’s growing naval power has given it the confidence and ability [to do more than] ignore international law. Reuters  has reported that Chinese spy ships have shadowed the U.S. aircraft Carrier USS John C. Stennis. It’s not the first time the U.S. Navy was openly challenged by China.  In 2007, the Daily Mail reported that “American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk – a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board. By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior NATO officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy. The Americans had no idea China’s fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat. One NATO figure said the effect was “as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik” – a reference to the Soviet Union’s first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age. The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.” [The New York Analysis will provide a longer review of China’s naval strength tomorrow.]

A review in the South China Morning Post  (in conjunction with the Associated Press) highlighted ten weapons that Beijing has unveiled over the past several years that underscore its rising military sophistication. They include:

  • the DF-26 missile, intermediate-range ballistic missile dubbed the “Guam killer”, with its 4,000km range putting it within striking distance of the US naval base at Guam;
  • the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile known as a carrier-killer with a maximum range of 1,450km;
  • the DF-5B The liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic, which can carry three or more nuclear warheads with a range of up to 15,000km;
  • the WZ-19 helicopter used to attack tanks and other heavy targets;
  • the Y-9 transport aircraft, a design platform for the air force’s early warning aircraft KJ-200 and KJ-500;
  • the H-6K nuclear strike strategic bomber; the ZTL-09 armored vehicle, with a 105mm gun that can destroyed armored targets over 2km away;
  • the ZTZ-99A main battle tank with a 125mm smoothbore gun and carousel-style autoloader
  • ; the ZBD-04 Infantry fighting vehicle; and
  • the HQ-10/FL-3000N short-range air-defense missile, capable of expanding the navy’s force projection capability. The weapon is mounted on the navy’s most advanced Type 052D  destroyers and Type 056 frigates.

To take the fullest advantage of its new technology and weaponry, Beijing is modernizing all aspects of its armed forces.

The English language edition of China’s Xinhua news source reports that. “China aims to complete the reform of its 2.3-million-strong army and have the most modern armed forces capable of ‘informationised warfare’ by 2020… China’s armed forces will realise ‘a significant increase of key combat capabilities,’ said the 13th five-year military development plan (2016-2020) issued by the Central Military Commission (CMC), the overall commanding authority of the People’s Liberation Army headed by President Xi Jinping.By 2020, the PLA will have finished mechanisation of all forces and made important progress in incorporating information and computer-technology…More resources will be directed to projects that enhance combat readiness…”

The reforms, notes the Wall Street Journal, “ could enable China not just to challenge U.S. military dominance in Asia, but also to intervene militarily elsewhere … the concern for the U.S. and its allies is that Beijing might use force in ways that conflict with Western interests…The PLA had begun taking tentative steps abroad even before Mr. Xi’s plan. It has sent ships and submarines into the Pacific and Indian Oceans, installed military equipment on reclaimed land in the South China Sea and challenged U.S. naval forces around China’s coast…Mr. Xi has indicated he sees a comparable capability as essential to the “China Dream” he outlined after taking power in 2012, when he ordered the military to prepare to “fight and win wars.” A defense white paper last year gave the PLA a new strategic task to “safeguard the security of China’s overseas interests” on top of its traditional defensive duties.

The Report concludes tomorrow, with a look at China’s naval prowess

China Matches U.S. in Military Strength

The New York Analysis of Policy & Government begins a multi-part review of the growing military prowess of America’s opponents.  

Americans continue to take false comfort in their erroneous belief that the U.S. leads the world in military technology, and that their armed forces, combined with NATO, constitute the strongest alliance on the planet. The evidence to the contrary is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Moscow commands a larger and more modern nuclear force than Washington, and Beijing’s military is nearing equality in technology while gaining an advantage in numbers.

The evidence for all the above doesn’t only come from western intelligence agencies.  Both Russia and China enthusiastically boast about their prowess, and, as demonstrated by the Kremlin in Ukraine and Beijing in its oceanic exploits (in which it has claimed about 90% of the South China Sea) neither has any reluctance in using force aggressively and illegally.

Thanks to a massive financial investment, (China has increased its military spending by 10% percent annually for a prolonged period, even as the U.S. has cut the Pentagon budget) intense espionage against the west, and the sale of supercomputers by the Clinton administration in the 1990’s, China has closed the gap in technology with the United States.

Roger Cliff, author of a major study on Beijing’s military,   writes “With skyrocketing military budgets and new technology, China’s tanks, aircraft, destroyers, and missile capabilities are becoming comparable to those of the United States.” Peter Dombrowski, writing for the War On The Rocks site, provides contrary evidence to those who maintain that America can rely on superior technology: “..the United States might not be able to sustain a high-technology strategy and, in the long run, China may be better positioned in a long-term race…Numerous accounts document how the Chinese defense industry has increased its capacities, at least in part, by using cyber espionage to steal American and Western technologies and reverse engineering weapons and systems…Unless the U.S. military and intelligence communities can somehow overturn the laws of physics, economics, and geography simultaneously, America remains at a disadvantage relative to China in terms of the fundamentals of military conflict in Asia…China may well out innovate and out invest the United States.”

China has also purchased some of Russia’s most advanced military equipment, while also developing its own naval weapons systems, some of which are unmatched anywhere, including a missile which, launched from land, can disable ships almost 1,000 miles away.

The International Business Times (IBI)  notes that “China’s military has been growing at an exponential rate, expanding in manpower, hardware and global presence.”

Examples of Beijing’s rise can be seen clearly in the air, in space, and at sea.

As evidenced at recent air shows, Beijing now has two separate stealth fighters available. The newest is the J-20. According to Russia’s RT news service “China has showcased its new J-20 stealth fighter in southern Guangdong Province’s city of Zhuhai …The J-20 is a long-range radar-evading fighter jet equipped with air-to-air missiles…The J-20, manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industries Corporation, is an original Chinese project.”

The U.S. Naval Institute  reports: “China is designing weapons to counter advanced Western satellite technology using directed energy weapons and jammers and may have already tested some, according to a [2015] Chinese military assessment to Congress. ‘China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space- based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers,’ read the report.”

The Washington Free Beacon disclosed last November that China had “conducted a flight test of a new missile capable of knocking out U.S. satellites as part of Beijing’s growing space warfare arsenal.The test of a Dong Neng-3 exoatmospheric vehicle was carried out Oct. 30 from China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in western China, said two defense officials familiar with reports of the test. A Chinese press report also provided details of what was said to be a missile defense interceptor flight test carried out Nov. 1 [2015].”  IBI reports that “In 2007 … China launched a missile that destroyed one of its own weather satellites in low-Earth orbit. China has launched what many experts say are additional tests of ground-based anti-satellite kinetic weapons…Brian Weeden, a security analyst and former Air Force officer who studied and helped publicize the Chinese test. ‘The U.S. came to grips decades ago with the fact that its lower orbit satellites could easily be shot down..”

The Report Continues Tomorrow

Downplaying the China Threat

It is a potentially tragic replay of the carelessness that led to a lack of adequate preparation for the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor.  The White House, the media, and many others, including corporations seeking to do or expand business in China, continue to downplay the very real potential for armed conflict with that nation.

Beijing’s aggressiveness stems from its new military prowess, its alliance with Russia and Iran, the decline of the American military, and the reluctance of the Obama Administration to diplomatically support regional allies.

The school of thought that the massive trade between the U.S. and China could prevent a war is not substantiated by history. Britain and Germany were each other’s most important trading partners before World War One, for example, and that certainly didn’t stop the conflagration that marked a turning point in history.

The consequences of a direct clash between the two superpowers could prove devastating, particularly since the shrunken American military would be fighting an opponent more powerful than any other in living memory.

A number of worrisome reports have been recently issued.

The U.S- China Economic and Security Review Commission has highlighted the specific danger from China’s rapidly increasing missile arsenal:

“Beijing [has developed] conventional missile capabilities to target U.S. military facilities in the Asia Pacific in general, and Guam in particular…Several new conventional platforms and weapons systems developed by China in recent years have increased its ability to hold U.S. forces stationed on Guam at risk in a potential conflict… China’s commitment to continuing to modernize its strike capabilities indicates the risk will likely grow going forward.

“The current array of Chinese conventional missiles able to reach Guam includes:

  • the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), not yet a precision strike weapon but potentially of concern in large numbers;
  • 2) the DF-26 antiship ballistic missile (ASBM), unproven against a moving target at sea but undergoing further development;
  • 3) air-launched land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), launched from bombers with a high probability of being detected and intercepted by U.S. aircraft and anti-aircraft systems;
  • 4) air-launched antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs), with the same aircraft limitation;
  • 5) sealaunched ASCMs, of concern should the platforms be able to move into range undetected, a challenge for China’s relatively noisy submarines; and
  • 6) sea-launched LACMs, which China does not currently field but is likely working to develop.

 “To evaluate China’s ability to strike Guam going forward, the areas that should be monitored most closely are increased deployments of DF-26 missiles and qualitative improvements to China’s precision strike capabilities, bomber fleet, in-air refueling capability, and submarine quieting technology.

“Guam, a territory of the United States, is growing in importance to U.S. strategic interests and any potential warfighting operations in the Asia Pacific, even as China’s ability to strike the island is increasing. Such attacks could hold key U.S. assets stationed on Guam at risk and also disrupt their region-wide response effort, slowing deployment timetables and reducing the effectiveness of U.S. forces in the theater. China’s leaders could also be more willing to resort to military force in an existing crisis if they believed they could successfully hold Guam at risk, diminishing the United States’ ability to deter an escalation, although it is difficult to determine the extent to which better operational capabilities influence strategic thinking in Beijing.

“Options such as hardening facilities on Guam, further dispersing U.S. regional military facilities, continuing investments in “next-generation” missile defense capabilities, revisiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty, and maintaining superiority in regional strike capabilities offer potential avenues for addressing these key security concerns.”

The Rand organization doesn’t believe that a Sino-American war is necessarily coming, but worries that “As Chinese anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) capabilities improve, the United States can no longer be so certain that war would follow its plan and lead to decisive victory.”

China’s commitment to developing an armed force capable of extending its range across significant distances can be seen in its development of heavy transport military aircraft. Geoff Ziezulewicz, writing for UPI, reported that “China’s homegrown Y-20 heavy transport aircraft entered service with the People’s Liberation Army during its maiden flight [on July 26].”

China’s new global reach can be seen in its development of a new naval facility in Africa, its growing presence in the Caribbean, (including port facilities on both sides of the Panama Canal) its participation in naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, and, as reported by the Arab news sources al-Arabiya its plans to commit military forces to the Middle East in cooperation with Russia, Syria, and Iran.

Report on China’s Military Developments: Part 2

The New York Analysis continues with its review of the Department of Defense’s 2016 Report to Congress on China’s Military Developments.  Today’s second of our three part except of the Report focuses on Beijing growing international activities. 


China is expanding its access to foreign ports to pre-position the necessary logistics support to regularize and sustain deployments in the “far seas,” waters as distant as the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean. In late November, China publicly confirmed its intention to build military supporting facilities in Djibouti “to help the navy and army further participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations (PKO), carry out escort missions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance.” This Chinese initiative both reflects and amplifies China’s growing geopolitical clout, extending the reach of its influence and armed forces.

 China’s expanding international economic interests are increasing demands for the PLAN to operate in more distant seas to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and critical sea lines of communication (SLOC).

 China most likely will seek to establish additional naval logistics hubs in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and a precedent for hosting foreign militaries. China’s overseas naval logistics aspiration may be constrained by the willingness of countries to support a PLAN presence in one of their ports.

So far, China has not constructed U.S.-style overseas military bases in the Indian Ocean. China’s leaders may judge instead that a mixture of preferred access to overseas commercial ports and a limited number of exclusive PLAN logistic facilities—probably collocated with commercial ports—most closely aligns with China’s future overseas logistics needs to support its evolving naval requirements.

 Preferred access would give the PLAN favored status in using a commercial port for resupply, replenishment, and maintenance purposes. A logistics facility would represent an arrangement in which China leases out portions of a commercial port solely for PLAN logistics operations.

 Such a logistics presence may support both civilian and military operations. China’s current naval logistics foortprint in the Indian Ocean is unable to support major combat operations in South Asia.

A greater overseas naval logistics footprint would better position the PLAN to expand its participation in non-war military missions, such as non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO), search-and-rescue (SAR), humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR), and sea lines of communication (SLOC) security. To some extent, a more robust overseas logistics presence may also enable China to expand its support to PKO, force protection missions, and counterterrorism initiatives.

For example, in 2015, the PLAN’s naval escort task forces performing counterpiracy escort duties in the Gulf of Aden were able to utilize Djibouti and Oman for basic resupply and replenishment.


South China Sea. China depicts its South China Sea claims by using a “nine-dash line” that encompasses most of the area. China remains ambiguous about the precise coordinates, meaning, or legal basis of the nine-dash line. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Vietnam all contest portions of China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

In 2015, China accelerated land reclamation and infrastructure construction at its outposts in the Spratly Islands. When complete, these outposts will include harbors, communications and surveillance systems, logistics facilities, and three airfields. Although artificial islands do not provide China with any additional territorial or maritime rights within the South China Sea, China will be able to use its reclaimed features as persistent civil-military bases to enhance its presence in the South China Sea significantly and enhance China’s ability to control the features and nearby maritime space.

Throughout 2015, Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ships maintained a presence at Scarborough Reef, continuing operations that began in 2012. Chinese officials asserted in 2015 that the patrols were normal and justifiable, claiming that China has indisputable sovereignty over the various features in the South China Sea and adjacent waters. Both China and the Philippines continue to claim sovereignty over Scarborough Reef and Second Thomas Shoal. China maintains a continuous CCG presence at both locations while the Philippines stations military personnel aboard a tank landing ship that has been grounded on Second Thomas Shoal since 1999. In October 2015, an arbitral tribunal constituted at the request of the Philippines and pursuant to Chapter XV of the Law of the Sea Convention ruled that it has jurisdiction to decide certain disputed issues between the Philippines and China, such as whether a particular feature is an “island” entitled to a territorial sea, an exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf; a “rock,” a subset of islands that are entitled only to a territorial sea; or a feature that is submerged at high tide and thus not entitled to any maritime zone of its own. The arbitral tribunal will not rule on sovereignty claims to land features. The tribunal is expected to issue a ruling on the merits of the case in 2016. China continues to reiterate that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal and will not abide by its decision.

Other disputed areas include the Luconia Shoals, Reed Bank, and the Paracel Islands. The Luconia Shoals are disputed by China and Malaysia and may contain extensive oil and natural gas reserves, as well as productive fishing grounds. Reed Bank is claimed by both China and the Philippines, and in August 2014, China sent hydrographic research vessels to survey the area. In disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, tensions between China and Vietnam spiked in 2014 when China deployed and commenced operation of a state-owned exploratory hydrocarbon rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam.

East China Sea. China claims sovereignty over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea; this territory is also claimed by Taiwan. Since 2012, China has used maritime law enforcement ships and aircraft to patrol near the islands in order to challenge Japan’s administration. Chinese officials continue to claim the islands are part of China’s territory and that China will resolutely respond to any perceived external provocation.

Last year, China balanced this concern with efforts to improve relations with Japan gradually. The two countries resumed official senior-level exchanges in 2015 following President Xi’s first bilateral meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in November 2014, where both sides announced a four-point agreement to improve bilateral ties.

China-India Border. Tensions remain along disputed portions of the Sino-Indian border, where both sides patrol with armed forces. After a five-day military standoff in September 2015 at Burtse in Northern Ladakh, China and India held a senior-level flag-officer meeting, agreed to maintain peace, and retreated to positions mutually acceptable to both sides.


China seeks to leverage engagement with foreign militaries to enhance its presence and influence abroad, bolster China’s international and regional image, and assuage other countries’ concerns about China’s rise. PLA engagement activities also assist its modernization by facilitating the acquisition of advanced weapon systems and technologies, increasing its operational experience throughout and beyond Asia, and giving it access to foreign military practices, operational doctrine, and training methods.

Combined Exercises. PLA participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises continues to increase in scope and complexity. In 2015, the PLA conducted at least nine bilateral and multilateral exercises with foreign militaries. The PLA conducted its first field exercise with Malaysia, first naval exercise with Singapore, and first air force exercise with Thailand. China also conducted bilateral exercises with Russia, Pakistan, India, and Mongolia. China participated in the Mongolia-hosted multinational peacekeeping exercise, KHAAN QUEST and a counterterrorism exercise with Tajikistan under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Many of these exercises focused on counterterrorism, border security, peacekeeping operations (PKO), and disaster relief; however, some also included conventional air, maritime, and ground warfare training.

China and Russia also conducted NAVAL COOPERATION 2015, which consisted of two phases; the first in the Mediterranean Sea and the second in the Sea of Japan. This was the fourth NAVAL COOPERATION exercise since 2012 between China and Russia and was intended to strengthen bilateral military ties and increase mutual trust between both militaries. Phase one in the Mediterranean focused on protecting sea lines of communications (SLOCs) and combating terrorism and phase two in the Sea of Japan featured simultaneous amphibious landings, joint air defense drills, and anti-surface ship drills.

A PLAN task force conducted a cruise around the world from August 2015 to February 2016, during which it conducted bilateral training with Denmark. Ships from the 20th Naval Escort Task Force in the Gulf of Aden stopped in 13 countries, including Poland, Cuba, Sweden, the United States, Denmark, and Australia. This is the first PLAN operation to circumnavigate the globe since 2002, building on more recent naval visits to Africa and Europe.


China has used low-intensity coercion to enhance its presence and control in disputed areas of the East and South China Sea. During periods of tension, official statements and state media seek to frame China as reacting to threats to its national sovereignty or to provocations by outside actors. China often uses a progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed areas and avoid escalation to military conflict. China has also used punitive trade policies as instruments of coercion during past tensions and could do so in future disputes. In 2015, China continued to employ Chinese Coast Guard and PLA Navy ships to implement its claims by maintaining a near-continuous presence in disputed areas in order to demonstrate continuous and effective administration. Recent land reclamation activity has little legal effect, but will support China’s ability to sustain longer patrols in the South China Sea. In 2012, China restricted Philippine fruit imports during the height of Scarborough Reef tensions. In 2010, China used its dominance in the rare earth industry as a diplomatic tool by restricting exports of rare earth minerals to Japan amid tensions over a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese patrol ship.


China paused its two-year land reclamation effort in the Spratly Islands in late 2015 after adding over 3,200 acres of land to the seven features it occupies; other claimants reclaimed approximately 50 acres of land over the same period. As part of this effort, China excavated deep channels to improve access to its outposts, created artificial harbors, dredged natural harbors, and constructed new berthing areas to allow access for larger ships. Development of the initial four features—all of which were reclaimed in 2014—has progressed to the final stages of primary infrastructure construction, and includes communication and surveillance systems, as well as logistical support facilities.

At the three features where the largest outposts are located, China completed major land reclamation efforts in early October 2015 and began transitioning to infrastructure development, with each feature having an airfield—each with approximately 9,800 foot-long runways—and large ports in various stages of construction. Additional substantial infrastructure, including communications and surveillance systems, is expected to be built on these features in the coming year.

China’s Government has stated these projects are mainly for improving the living and working conditions of those stationed on the outposts, safety of navigation, and research. However, most analysts outside China believe that China is attempting to bolster its de facto control by improving its military and civilian infrastructure in the South China Sea. The airfields, berthing areas, and resupply facilities will allow China to maintain a more flexible and persistent coast guard and military presence in the area. This would improve China’s ability to detect and challenge activities by rival claimants or third parties, widen the range of capabilities available to China, and reduce the time required to deploy them.

U.S. Commission warns of China’s military

he New York Analysis of Policy & Government presents its third and final excerpt from the  U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission 2015 Report to Congress.

U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission 2015 Report to Congress

Military & Space Affairs

China’s meteoric rise to military superpower status comes both from its robust economy as well as through outright theft of U.S. and other nation’s technological advances.

China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is extending its global reach, particularly through the increased international activities of the PLA Navy. In 2015, the PLA Navy evacuated hundreds of Chinese and foreign citizens from Yemen in what was China’s firstever PLA-led noncombatant evacuation operation. In addition, the PLA Navy has maintained its antipiracy presence in the Gulf of Aden, and has expanded its naval presence in the Indian Ocean with submarine patrols. Since it first sent a submarine to the Indian Ocean in late 2013, the PLA Navy has conducted at least three more Indian Ocean submarine patrols. In September 2015, the PLA Navy sailed through Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, the closest it has ever sailed to U.S. territory during a far seas deployment without a port call. The PLA Navy’s increasing activities far from China’s shores reflect China’s growing capability and willingness to use its military to protect its overseas economic assets and expatriate population. To support these activities, China appears to be seeking to establish its first overseas military facility in Djibouti.

These developments are enabled by China’s continued military modernization program, which seeks to transform the PLA into a technologically advanced military capable of projecting power throughout the Asia Pacific region and beyond. In 2015, China acquired or produced an array of advanced naval and air platforms, many of which would be useful in contingencies in the East and South China seas and those involving islands held by Taiwan. Some of China’s military modernization developments, such as its continued development and production of advanced submarines and surface ships, could increase the PLA Navy’s expeditionary capabilities.

The PLA’s training missions and exercises are increasingly sophisticated and reflect China’s goal to build a modern, integrated fighting force. To support its military modernization campaign, China’s official annual defense budget rose 10.1 percent to $141.9 billion (RMB 886.9 billion) in 2015, though its actual aggregate defense spending is much higher, as Beijing omits major defense-related expenditures from its official budget. After nominally increasing its defense budget by double digits almost every year since 1989, China’s defense spending appears sustainable in the short term. Although China’s slowing economic growth will generate opportunity costs as government spending strains to meet other national priorities, there is no sign this has affected military spending.

U.S.-China security relations suffered from rising tensions and growing distrust in 2015, largely due to China’s cyberespionage activities against a range of U.S. government, defense, and commercial entities and its massive island-building campaign in the South China Sea. In May, as more details of China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea emerged, the U.S. Navy began to publicize its air surveillance patrols near China’s reclaimed land features; in October, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation patrol within 12 nautical miles of one of the reclaimed features for the first time. Though China’s maritime dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea was less newsworthy in 2015, China continued to quietly increase its military and civilian presence in contested waters by conducting regular air and naval patrols near the islands.


Based on decades of high prioritization and sustained investment from its leadership, China has become one of the world’s preeminent space powers, producing numerous achievements and capabilities that further its national security, economic, and political objectives. China’s space program involves a wide network of entities spanning its political, military, defense industry, and commercial sectors, but unlike the United States it does not have distinctly separate military and civilian space programs. Rather, top CCP leaders set long-term strategic plans for science and technology development, coordinate specific space projects, and authorize resource allocations, while organizations within China’s military execute policies and oversee the research, development, and acquisition process for space technologies. China’s military also exercises control over the majority of China’s space assets and space operations.

China is pursuing a broad array of counterspace capabilities and will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime if these capabilities become operational. China’s 2007 test of the SC-19 direct-ascent antisatellite (ASAT) missile destroyed an aging Chinese satellite and sparked worldwide criticism for creating dangerous orbital debris. The test demonstrated China’s ability to strike satellites in low Earth orbit where the majority of U.S. satellites reside. China’s 2013 DN-2 rocket test reached the altitude of geosynchronous Earth orbit satellites, marking China’s highest known suborbital launch to date and the highest worldwide since 1976; this indicated China is developing the capability to target higher orbits which contain U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and most U.S. ISR satellites. Since 2008, China has also conducted increasingly complex tests involving spacecraft in close proximity to one another; these tests have legitimate applications for China’s manned space program, but are likely also used for the development of co-orbital counterspace technologies. Computer network operations against U.S. space assets attributed to China have likely been used to demonstrate and test China’s ability to conduct future computer network attacks and perform network surveillance. Finally, China has acquired ground-based satellite jammers and invested heavily in research and development for directed energy technologies such as lasers and radio frequency weapons.

China’s space program has also progressed in the areas of spacebased command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), space-based PNT, space-based communications, and space launch functions. China now has approximately 142 operational satellites in orbit, with approximately 95 of these owned and operated by military or defense industry organizations. China’s current system of C4ISR satellites likely enables its military to detect and monitor U.S. air and naval activity out to the second island chain‡ with sufficient accuracy and timeliness to assess U.S. military force posture and cue other collection assets for more precise tracking and targeting. China’s regional PNT satellite system, known as Beidou, became operational in 2012, with global coverage expected by 2020. When completed, this system will provide PNT functions, essential to the performance of virtually every modern Chinese weapons system, independent from U.S.-run GPS. Although it lacks a designated civilian space program, China since the mid-1990s has incrementally developed a series of ambitious space exploration programs, categorized as civilian projects. China is one of three countries, along with the United States and Russia, to have independently launched a human into space, and has launched ten Shenzhou spacecraft and the Tiangong space lab in recent years as part of its human spaceflight program. In the program’s next phase, scheduled for completion by 2022, China plans to launch a permanent manned space station into orbit. China’s lunar exploration program has featured several lunar orbiting missions with multiple Chang’e spacecraft and the landing of a lunar rover, Jade Rabbit, in 2014. China plans to land and return a lunar rover in 2017 and become the first nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon’s “dark side” in 2020. Beijing is likely also conducting research for a manned mission to the moon and a mission to Mars, although neither project has yet received official approval.

China’s space activities present important implications and policy questions for the United States. Space capabilities have been integrated into U.S. military operations to such an extent that U.S. national security is now dependent on the space domain, and China’s 2007 antisatellite missile test in particular has been described by General John Hyten, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, as a “wakeup call” to the U.S. military regarding the vulnerability of its space assets. In the economic realm, U.S. providers of commercial satellites, space launch services, and GPS-based services may face increased competition as China seeks to expand its foothold in these markets, benefited by the blending of its civilian and military infrastructures and by government funding and policy support. U.S. export controls have also prompted many European countries and their industries to pursue space systems that are free of U.S. technologies—and therefore restrictions—in order to reach the Chinese market. Finally, China’s achievements in space will provide Beijing with greater prestige in the international system and expand its growing space presence, concurrent with declining U.S. influence in space; the United States currently depends on Russian launch vehicles to send humans into space, and the International Space Station is scheduled for deorbiting around 2024. Moreover, given current Congressional restrictions on U.S.-China space cooperation, the United States would not participate in any space program involving China, which raises concerns that reduced U.S. investment in its manned space program could result in the continued erosion of its technological edge and a shift of influence within the international space community.


China’s offensive missile forces are integral to its military modernization objectives and its efforts to become a worldclass military capable of projecting power and denying access by adversaries to China’s periphery. The PLA’s Second Artillery Force— responsible for China’s missile forces initially as a solely nuclear force and since the 1990s as a conventional force as well—has taken on new missions and seen its bureaucratic status within the PLA elevated. The Second Artillery provides China with a decisive operational advantage over other regional militaries competing to defend maritime claims, and its long-range precision-strike capabilities improve its ability to engage the U.S. military at farther distances in the event of a conflict. These capabilities provide an increasingly robust deterrent against other military powers and— in the case of China’s nuclear arsenal—serve as a guarantor of state survival, ultimately bolstering the CCP leadership in its quest for legitimacy.

China is making significant qualitative improvements to its nuclear deterrent along with moderate quantitative increases in the course of its efforts to build a more modern nuclear force. China’s nuclear doctrine is premised on the concept of a “lean and effective” force guided by a doctrine of “no-first-use” of nuclear weapons (although the exact circumstances under which China would use nuclear weapons, what China would consider “first use,” and whether the policy may be reconsidered have been subjects of debate). China has approximately 250 nuclear warheads, according to unofficial sources. It has specifically invested in enhancing its theater nuclear force and diversifying its nuclear strike capabilities away from liquid-fueled, silo-based systems.

China’s DF-5 missiles have been equipped with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles, confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for the first time in 2015; newer intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in development could also have this capability, increasing China’s ability to penetrate adversary missile defenses and enhancing the credibility of its nuclear forces as a deterrent. China is expected to conduct its first nuclear deterrence submarine patrols using the JIN-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine by the end of 2015, marking China’s first credible at-sea second-strike nuclear capability and presumably requiring changes to its “de-alerting” policy of keeping nuclear warheads stored separately from missiles.

China may also be developing a nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile, the CJ-20, potentially introducing an air-delivered theater nuclear strike capability into its arsenal for the first time. Importantly, as stated by Dr. Christopher Yeaw, founder and director of the Center for Assurance, Deterrence, Escalation, and Nonproliferation Science & Education, in his testimony to the Commission, China may also perceive its nuclear arsenal to be useful in the political management of an unsustainable conventional conflict, in which it would punctuate non-nuclear operations with tactical- or theater-level nuclear strikes to seek deescalation on terms favorable to China.

A key implication of this approach for the United States is that China “may escalate across the nuclear threshold at atime and manner, and for a purpose, that we do not expect.” China has achieved extraordinarily rapid growth in its conventional missile capability, according to DOD, developing a wide range of conventional ballistic and cruise missiles to hold targets at risk throughout the region, even as far as the second island chain. China’s short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) force has grown from 30 to 50 missiles in the mid-1990s to at least 1,200 in 2015, mostly deployed along the Taiwan Strait.

China’s development of medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) provide the ability to conduct precision strikes against land and naval targets within the first island chain. China in 2010 fielded the world’s first antiship ballistic missile, an MRBM variant known as the DF-21D, and revealed at a September 2015 military parade that the DF-26 IRBM—with a stated range reaching out to the second island chain, including Guam—also has an antiship variant.

China has also continued to modernize its cruise missiles, most notably by developing two supersonic antiship cruise missiles: the surface ship- or submarine-launched YJ-18 and the air-launched YJ-12, both of which will provide a significant range extension over previous capabilities. China has a hypersonic weapons program in developmental stages, and reportedly conducted its fourth and fifth hypersonic glide vehicle tests in 2015, after conducting three in 2014.

Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, testified to the Commission that China may be able to field a regional hypersonic glide vehicle by 2020 and a supersonic combustion ramjet-propelled cruise vehicle with global range before 2025. Whether China arms its hypersonic weapons with nuclear or conventional payloads—or both—will provide more information regarding how it intends to incorporate hypersonic weapons into PLA planning and operations.

The increasing survivability, lethality, and penetrability of China’s missile forces present several implications for the United States. First, these forces can threaten increasingly greater portions of the Western Pacific, and a spending competition between additional Chinese missiles and U.S. missile defense systems would likely be highly unfavorable to the United States based on relative cost. In response, the United States is working to develop lower-cost-per-shot missile defense systems, while other options include disrupting networks that would support Chinese missile forces or using long-range stealth bombers to operate beyond the reach of advanced Chinese missiles. Second, China’s increasing ability to threaten U.S. partners and allies with its missile arsenal supports its regional ambitions, improves its coercive ability, weakens the value of deterrence efforts targeted against it, and widens the range of possibilities that might draw the United States into a conflict. Third, China’s missile buildup has contributed to a U.S. policy debate regarding the modern-day relevance of U.S. treaty obligations to forgo developing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (311 and 3,418 miles); some experts suggest modifications could allow the United States to strengthen its regional deterrence capabilities. Finally, these developments present new challenges for the United States and China as they consider how to successfully manage and deescalate potential crises in an environment with new factors of instability.

The Commission recommends:

  • Congress direct the U.S. Department of Defense to provide an unclassified estimate of the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Force’s inventory of missiles and launchers, by type, in future iterations of its Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, as included previously but suspended following the 2010 edition.
  • Congress direct the U.S. Department of Defense to prepare a report on the potential benefits and costs of incorporating ground-launched short-, medium-, and intermediate-range conventional cruise and ballistic missile systems into the United States’ defensive force structure in the Asia Pacific, in order to explore how such systems might help the U.S. military sustain a cost-effective deterrence posture.
  • Congress continue to support initiatives to harden U.S. bases in the Asia Pacific, including the Pacific Airpower Resiliency Initiative, in order to increase the costliness and uncertainty of conventional ballistic and cruise missile strikes against these facilities, and thereby dis-incentivize a first strike and increase regional stability.
  • Congress continue to support “next-generation” missile defense initiatives such as directed energy and rail gun technologies, and require the U.S. Department of Defense to report to committees of jurisdiction on the status of current component sourcing plans for the development and production of directed energy weapons.

U.S.-China relations at the danger point

China’s rise to superpower status in both military and economic realms has, despite all hopes to the contrary, been neither peaceful nor beneficial to the international community.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by Congress to report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

In its 2015 Report to Congress, the Commission presents a worrisome outline of the current state of Sino-American relations, with a candor rarely expressed by either government or the media.  The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has examined the lengthy report, and we begin our three-part summary with the testimony before Congress of Dennis Shea, vice chairman of the Commission.

U.S.-China security relations suffered from rising tensions and growing distrust in 2015, largely due to China’s aforementioned cyberespionage activities against a range of U.S. government, defense, and commercial entities, as well as its unprecedented island-building campaign in the South China Sea.

In just two years, China has presented other South China Sea claimants with a fait accompli by dredging up nearly 3,000 acres of sand in disputed waters on which to stake its claim, station military assets, and project force into contested waters. These activities are stirring anxiety and distrust in Southeast Asia; Vietnamese government officials and other experts expressed to the Commission the growing sense that China is strategically encircling the country.

In October, after months of China’s increasingly aggressive assertions of its South China Sea claims, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation patrol within 12 nautical miles of one of the reclaimed features for the first time. Though China’s maritime dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea received less media attention in 2015, China continued to quietly increase its military and civilian presence in contested waters by conducting regular air and maritime patrols near the islands and erecting 16 energy exploitation structures. China’s military continues to expand its reach beyond the East and South China seas.

In September 2015, China’s Navy sailed through Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, the closest it has ever sailed to U.S. territory during a distant sea deployment without a port call. China’s military also conducted exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, antipiracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, and an evacuation of noncombatants in Yemen. To support these expanding capabilities, China appears to be seeking to establish its first overseas military facility in Djibouti.

The Chinese Navy’s increasing activities far from China’s shores reflect China’s growing capability and willingness to use its military to protect its overseas economic assets and expatriate population. Beyond the increasing blue water profile of China’s naval forces, the Commission examined two additional aspects of China’s ongoing military modernization efforts: China’s space and counterspace programs and its offensive missile forces.

China has become one of the world’s leading space powers after decades of prioritization and investment. China’s space program generates international prestige and influence, and enables China to collaborate on a range of bilateral and multilateral space activities. Among its goals in the space industry, China specifically aimed to capture 15 percent of the global launch services market and 10 percent of the global commercial satellite market by 2015, although these efforts have produced mixed results. Militarily, as its developmental counterspace capabilities become operational, China will be able to target vulnerabilities in the spacedependent U.S. national security architecture.

These capabilities could hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime. China’s space and counterspace programs have significant implications for the United States. That’s why the Commission recommends Congress continue to support the U.S. Department of Defense’s efforts to reduce the vulnerability of U.S. space assets through cost-effective solutions, such as the development of smaller and more distributed satellites, hardened satellite communications, and non-space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets such as unmanned aerial vehicles.

When examining China’s offensive missile forces, the Commission found China has achieved extraordinarily rapid growth in its conventional missile capability. In fact, China has the most active ballistic and cruise missile program in the world today. China’s initial conventional missile development focused heavily on expanding its short-range ballistic missile force for Taiwan contingencies. In the past decade, China’s development of longer-range missiles, pursuit of advanced missile technologies, and diversification of its launch platforms have enabled it to hold at risk a wider range of targets farther from its shores, even as far as the second island chain. China’s short-range ballistic missile force has grown from 30 to 50 missiles in the mid-1990s to more than 1,200 in 2015, mostly deployed along the Taiwan Strait.

China has also developed and fielded new types of medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. It currently has the ability to conduct precision strikes against land and naval targets within the first island chain. As part of its missile force modernization, China is developing cruise missiles that are increasingly difficult for the U.S. military to detect and defend against. It fielded its first ground-launched land-attack cruise missile, and is developing air-, ship-, and submarine-launched cruise missiles with land-attack and antiship missions.

The YJ–18 anti-ship cruise missile is almost certainly capable of supersonic speeds during the terminal phase of its flight, a feature that reduces the time shipborne defenses have to react to an incoming threat. In the meantime, the sheer number of China’s cruise missiles poses a formidable challenge against existing U.S. Navy defenses. These developments have led the Commission to recommend Congress direct the U.S. Department of Defense to provide an unclassified estimate of the People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Force’s inventory of missiles and launchers, by type, in future iterations of its annual report to Congress analyzing military and security developments involving China.

How to deal with China’s military rise

China’s meteoric rise in military spending, made even more effective by Beijing’s massive espionage efforts to obtain the latest western technology, has changed the balance of power in the 21st Century.

China has not been shy about advertising its new muscle. It’s recent “Victory Day” parade commemorating victory over Japan in World War II, (a feat that was largely accomplished by the United States) featured a display of its new weaponry.  Additionally, Beijing has not been hesitant about using its power aggressively against U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines, as well as other regional nations. Beijing has also evidenced its intentions through the development of military bases on disputed shoals, rocky outcroppings that its People’s Liberation Army has significantly enlarged.

Washington’s response has been negligible. Not only has it failed to initiate substantive diplomatic responses, but the continuing weakening of American armed forces has essentially encouraged China’s dangerous path.

The Rand Corporation has completed a study  of China’s military prowess. The conclusions are disturbing.

Rand’s analysis notes that “Over the past two decades, China’s People’s Liberation Army has transformed itself from a large but antiquated force into a capable, modern military. Its technology and operational proficiency still lag behind those of the United States, but it has rapidly narrowed the gap… China enjoys the advantage of proximity in most plausible conflict scenarios, and geographical advantage would likely neutralize many U.S. military strengths…China is not close to catching up to the United States in terms of aggregate capabilities, but … it does not need to catch up to challenge the United States on its immediate periphery. Furthermore, although China’s ability to project power to more distant locations remains limited, its reach is growing, and in the future U.S. military dominance is likely to be challenged at greater distances from China’s coast.”

Rand recommends:

  • S. military leaders should ensure that U.S. planning for Pacific military operations is as dynamic as possible. The U.S. military should adopt operational concepts and strategies that capitalize on potential advantages and utilize the geographic size and depth of the theater, as well as areas of particular U.S. military strength.
  • Specifically, the U.S. military should consider employing an active denial strategy that would improve the resiliency of the force and diminish its vulnerability to preemptive attack. Forces would be more dispersed at the outset of conflict, with many deployed at greater distances from China, but with the ability to move forward as Chinese missile inventories are exhausted or reduced through attrition.
  • Military procurement priorities should be adjusted, emphasizing base redundancy and survivability; standoff systems optimized for high-intensity conflict; stealthy, survivable fighters and bombers; submarine and anti-submarine warfare; and robust space and counterspace capabilities. To save money, U.S. decision makers should consider more rapid cuts to legacy fighter forces and a decreased emphasis on large aircraft carriers.
  • Political and military leaders should intensify diplomatic efforts in the Pacific and Southeast Asia with the goal of expanding potential U.S. access in wartime. This will provide greater strategic depth and more options for U.S. forces.
  • Western governments and commentators should make it clear to China that aggression would carry immense risks and that China should be cautious not to exaggerate its ability to prevail in armed conflict. They should also engage China on issues of strategic stability and escalation.

Some of Rand’s recommendations are viable, others are questionable. But the inescapable reality is that no strategy for dealing with China can be effective while America’s navy is at its lowest level of strength in a century, the Army the lowest level since before World War I, and the Air Force, the lowest in history.

In addition to rebuilding the U.S. military, the New York Analysis of Policy and Government also recommends a novel strategy. The cost of America’s military rebuilding effort should be deducted from Washington’s financial debts to Beijing.