According to the US Defense Department annual report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (2011)[i] delivered to Congress on Aug. 24, China’s military is modernizing, but the Chinese government needs to be more forthcoming on why it needs these new capabilities.
Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, briefed[ii] Pentagon reporters on the report.
“The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful China that contributes to international rules and norms and enhances security and peace both in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe,” Schiffer said.
A good military-to-military relationship is one part of that engagement, he added, noting that China is working with the international community, for example, to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. The Chinese military also has contributed to earthquake relief in Pakistan and played a role in delivering humanitarian aid to Haiti, he said.
“However,” he added, “the pace and scope of China’s sustained military investment have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties.”
The capabilities could pose a temptation for the Chinese government to use military force “to gain diplomatic advantage, advance its interests, or resolve … disputes in its favor,” Schiffer said. This danger, he told reporters, re-emphasizes the need for a sustained and reliable military-to-military dialogue between the United States and China.
The report also points: “China has made modest, but incremental, improvements in the transparency of its military and security affairs. However, there remains uncertainty about how China will use its growing capabilities.”
Chinese government reaction[iii]
The Chinese government reacted strongly to the Defense report that warned China’s military modernization could destabilize the Asia-pacific region.
The Chinese Defense Ministry said that the report is exaggerated and groundless.
According to Yang Yujun, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, China’s military is only to protect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It’s not aimed at any particular country or region.
[i] http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2011_CMPR_Final.pdf, Annual Report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2011.
[ii] http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=65130, China Report Notes Military Modernization By Jim Garamone. American Forces Press Service