The analyzes were made by Robert Czulda for Defence24. Their assessments, opinions and comments on the topic do not reflect the position of BulgarianMilitary.com
BEIJING, ($1=6.39 Chinese Yuans) – The Pentagon recently published a new nearly 200-page report that deals with changes in the military potential of China [People’s Republic of China]. This document is submitted to Congress every year.
The overall tone of the document is unchanged and already well known – China is perceived by the United States as a “pacing challenge”, having economic, diplomatic, military, and technological means to pose “a constant threat to a stable and open international system. China is speaking more and more openly about its ambitions and intentions.
Beijing wants to change the shape of the international order and to achieve full reunification by 2049, not later than the 100th anniversary of Mao Ze-dong’s establishment of the PRC. The document mentions the announcement by the Chinese leader Xi Jin-ping, who in 2017 declared that by 2035 the Chinese armed forces would complete all the key elements of modernization and by 2049 they would become “world-class”.
In turn, in 2020, Beijing announced that by 2027 the process of creating a fully networked “systems of systems” would be completed, meaning that the armed forces would be based on close component integration, artificial intelligence, and real-time data exchange. So it is not surprising that the Chinese – as the Pentagon also notes – are dynamically developing cyber-capabilities, radio-electronic warfare, satellite systems, artificial intelligence, reconnaissance, and intelligence, as well as psychological operations, in line with the Chinese doctrine that wars of the future are primarily waged among the societies of the countries under attack – they should be broken up, weakened and persuaded to their right, which may make strictly military actions unnecessary.
The Americans emphasize that the Chinese – in line with the Chinese concept of “military-civil merger” – treat the armed forces of about 2 million soldiers as one of the instruments of foreign policy that can also be used in times of peace to pursue interests in the coming “new era”. The tasks of the Chinese armed forces include waging an equal and ultimately victorious war with a world power [implicitly – with the United States], the ability to resist aggression and any interference in the Chinese sphere of influence, military interventions in selected areas [for example in Taiwan or the South China Sea] as well as global power projection. According to American analysts, the Chinese potential is growing in every aspect and there are no signs that this will change in the foreseeable future.
The Pentagon emphasizes that the Chinese navy has become the largest military fleet in the world. According to American estimates, it has about 355 surface and submarines. The Americans predict that shortly the Chinese will increase their ability to destroy ground targets from long distances – this will be due to the development of maneuvering missiles onboard surface ships and submarines. This will constitute, especially in the case of the latter, a marked increase in the threat to American military bases in the area, including in Hawaii.
At the same time, the Pentagon points to the increase in the potential of the Chinese anti-submarine force.
The air force [including naval force], currently the third-largest in the world in terms of size, has approximately 2,800 aircraft [excluding training and training and UAVs]. In this aspect, the Americans point out first of all that in 2019 Beijing confirmed the plan to rebuild the air arm of the nuclear strategic triad – it was then that the H-6N was presented, i.e. a strategic bomber designed to carry nuclear weapons. The statement was repeated that China was planning to increase the number of missiles in the launch on warning mode.
The American attention did not miss the further and systematic development of the Chinese missile forces, which include both nuclear missiles and conventional missile weapons. Here, the main emphasis is on further work on new ballistic missiles with an intercontinental range, which is equipped with MIRV. According to Pentagon knowledge – at least as disclosed to the public – three bases with hundreds of new underground surface-to-ground missile launchers are under development in China. At the same time, Americans are concerned by the fact that China is increasing the number of DF-26 missiles, i.e. both conventional and unconventional intermediate-range missiles, as well as DF-17, i.e. hypersonic missiles.
According to the Pentagon, Beijing will significantly strengthen its nuclear forces both quantitatively and qualitatively in the coming decade. It is estimated that by 2027 the Chinese may have 700 nuclear warheads, and by 2030, as many as 1,000. These seemingly dry numbers are one of the main new elements of the report, as they represent a greater increase than assumed by the Pentagon in 2020. Secondly, the Americans recognize as a novelty the rapid qualitative growth of the aforementioned strategic triad, which was to be enriched with missiles maneuvering with air-to-ground nuclear warheads, as well as new versions of the water-to-ground and ground-to-ground systems.
The latest Pentagon report does not contain any groundbreaking news in practice, and above all, no confirmation of the previous observations. Of course, corrections were made as a result of observing Chinese work and the activities of its secret services [although, of course, it should be remembered that we do not know what knowledge the Pentagon has, because a lot of data is classified, and the presented document is an element of a political game].
It seems legitimate to say that the current knowledge about Chinese plans, especially strategic directions, is confirmed. China is trying to achieve two main goals and so far it is doing very well.
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