Pentagon report details Chinese Communist Party’s plans for military expansion

China Military
Chinese paramilitary policemen march outside the Great Hall of the People after attending a ceremony to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. (Andy Wong/AP)

Pentagon report details Chinese Communist Party’s plans for military expansion

The Pentagon provided key details into China’s long-term intentions in a recent report to Congress, with government officials under President Joe Biden routinely characterizing the communist superpower as a “pacing challenge” and the “most comprehensive and serious challenge to U.S. national security.”

The department released its much-anticipated National Defense Strategy in late October and subsequently released its China Military Power Report on Tuesday, which is an annual report mandated under the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, both documents of which emphasize Beijing’s continued efforts to fulfill its ambitions on a global scale. The Chinese Communist Party, led by Xi Jinping, has established economic policies, foreign policy, and defense policies as a coordinated effort to further these goals as well.

Xi and the CCP have three milestone years in mind for expansion: 2027, 2035, and 2049. They are looking to accelerate the integrated development of the country’s armed forces by 2027 and the “complete modernization” of its national defense by 2035, and their national strategy aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049.

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“First, an important element of the PRC’s strategy is a determined pursuit to amass and expand its national power to transform the international system to one that is more favorable to the PRC’s political governance system and national interests. China has aimed to expand its national power through domestic and foreign policy initiatives,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters. “Second, over the course of 2021, and evident in 2022, we have seen a trend of increasing PRC military coercion. The CMPR highlights that the PLA has adopted more dangerous, coercive, and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. PLA naval vessels and aircraft have exhibited a sharper increase in unsafe and unprofessional behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, including lasing, aerobatics, discharging objects, and activity that impinge upon the ability of nearby aircraft to maneuver safely.”

China “probably accelerated its nuclear expansion” last year, an executive summary of the report reads, noting that the department currently estimates the nation has more than 400 operational nuclear warheads, and that could increase to roughly 1,500 by that 2035 marker on its current pace.

It is also expanding the number of land, sea, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and is working to build out that infrastructure as well. Its efforts for nuclear modernization “exceed previous modernization attempts in both scale and complexity,” it continued. China’s military also has the infrastructure to produce chemical and biological agents or toxins on “a large scale,” and it “probably has the technical expertise to weaponize chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents, and its robust armaments industry and numerous conventional weapon systems, including missiles, rockets, and artillery, probably could be adapted to deliver CBW agents.”

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China’s army has approximately 975,000 active-duty personnel, while its navy is numerically the largest in the world with a battle force of roughly 340 ships and submarines. Its air force is the third largest globally and the largest in the region. Part of China’s plan is also to deter intervention from the United States or any other major military. The People’s Liberation Army has a presence in the immediate periphery of the country for counter-intervention, and China is seeking to strengthen that stranglehold on the surrounding region.

The U.S. and China’s relationship has hit some bumps in recent months, with the tension reaching its peak amid House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) trip to Taiwan in August. She was the highest-ranking U.S. official to travel to Taiwan this century, though the U.S. maintained her trip represented no shift in U.S. policy, despite Beijing’s disagreement. The U.S. subsequently accused Beijing of making a conflict out of nothing in order to further its own goals.

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Taiwan is an island off the coast of mainland China, and while it maintains its independence, Beijing maintains that the island is a part of the mainland. Chinese officials have repeatedly warned the U.S. that they do not have a say in Chinese domestic policies, implicitly demonstrating their belief that the island of more than 20 million people is Chinese. The U.S. has recognized China’s claim to Taiwan but does not support any unilateral change from either side.

Biden has said multiple times since his term began that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily, though administration officials have maintained that there has been no change in the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity,” which is the intentional obfuscation of a specific response.

“If realized, this 2027 objective could give the PLA capabilities to be a more credible military tool for the CCP to wield as it pursues Taiwan reunification,” the defense official added.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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