WASHINGTON — The pace and scope of China’s military buildup is “potentially destabilizing” in the Pacific, a top defense official warned Wednesday as the Pentagon released an annual report cataloging China’s cruise missiles, fighter jets and growing, modernizing army.
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The official, Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, made the remark at a news briefing about the report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011.”
Every year the report, which is submitted to Congress, creates grist for China watchers who look for rising tensions between the United States and China. This year was a particularly rocky one between the countries, so interest has intensified.
Over all, the report described what is generally known:
China’s People’s Liberation Army — with some 1.25 million ground troops, the largest in the world — is on track to achieve its goal of building a modern, regionally focused force by 2020. The Chinese military remains focused on Taiwan, which it claims as part of its sovereign territory, and it has deployed as many as 1,200 short-range missiles aimed in its direction. Moreover, it is developing antiship ballistic missiles, potentially capable of attacking American aircraft carriers.
It is also developing its own aircraft carriers, and is already in sea trials with a refitted Soviet-era carrier from Ukraine — a development the report anticipated, but which occurred after it was printed. Finally, China is developing a new-generation stealth jet fighter, the J-20, which it boldly tested in Beijing in January during a visit by Robert M. Gates, then the defense secretary.
Mr. Schiffer said that no single development led him to describe China’s arms buildup as “potentially destabilizing,” although Pentagon officials had increasingly said they were concerned about China’s military intentions in the Pacific. Instead, he said, he used the phrase because of China’s lack of transparency and its trends in military prowess.
“It’s a combination of the lack of understanding that’s been created by the opacity of their system, but it is also because there are very real questions given the overall trends and trajectory in the scope and the scale of China’s military modernization efforts,” Mr. Schiffer said. “I wouldn’t put it on any one particular platform or any one particular system. There’s nothing particularly magical about any one particular item.”
The report also said that numerous intrusions into computer systems around the world in 2010 appeared to have originated in China, and that developing capabilities for cyberwarfare “is consistent” with authoritative Chinese military writing. The report said that two Chinese military doctrinal writings — “Science of Strategy” and “Science of Campaigns” — identified “information warfare as integral to achieving information superiority and an effective means for countering a stronger foe.”
The report estimates that China’s total military spending for 2010 was more than $160 billion. The Pentagon spends more than $500 billion a year, although the number is closer to $700 billion a year if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are included.
Three months ago a top Chinese general visited the Pentagon as part of what the report cited as positive developments in talks between the American and Chinese militaries. The general, Chen Bingde, said at the time that China had no interest in challenging the American military and that he did not understand why questions were raised about China’s military buildup when similar concerns were not raised about the United States.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/world … f=politics
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