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DoD Report Examines China's Military Goals

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 1998 – The military will play an important role in the People's Republic of China reaching its goals of being a great world power and the pre-eminent one in Asia.

This is the conclusion of a DoD report submitted to Congress by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. The report covers the future military capabilities and strategy of the People's Republic of China.

The ultimate goal of the most populous country on the globe is "parity in economic, political and military strength with the world's leading powers by the middle of the next century," the report says.

China has no major external security threats, and the Chinese are taking advantage of this to reorganize and modernize their army. The People's Liberation Army will still be the largest on Earth even after it finishes a cut of 500,000 soldiers. Officials are equipping the army with more modern weaponry and developing a more educated officer and enlisted corps.

The report says barring a declaration of independence by Taiwan, which China claims as its own, the chance of an unavoidable large-scale conflict is "almost negligible" over the next 15 years. China is, however, preparing for possible military contingencies along its southeastern flank -- the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. China's goal, the report says, is to field forces that can deploy rapidly and win a future regional war along its periphery under high-technology conditions.

If a small war broke out, Chinese strategy would be to contain the conflict and apply sufficient force to win before outside powers could intervene, the report says. U.S. military officials call this doctrine "local war under high-tech conditions."

China's aim at becoming the pre-eminent Asian power will "require the weakening of U.S. political influence in the region," the report says, adding China will not directly confront the United States.

China, like the United States, is seeking to exploit the "revolution in military affairs." The report says the Chinese military is intensely interested in information operations and information warfare. They are developing or seeking to buy mobile ballistic missile launchers, land- attack cruise missiles and advanced surface-to-air missiles. China is also working to improve command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, training and logistics.

China is a nuclear power and may have started a warhead modernization program. It announced a nuclear test moratorium in 1996.

The report says China may be building an anti-satellite capability and already may able to track and "image" low- orbiting satellites. It also may have acquired high-energy lasers needed for ground-based anti-satellite systems.

The Chinese have a robust space program and may have a manned launch before the end of the decade, the report says. "While one of the strongest motivations for this program appears to be political prestige, China's manned space efforts could contribute to improved military space systems in the 2010-2020 time frame."

The Chinese navy is getting more, better and quieter submarines. The Chinese are also developing amphibious capabilities and an airborne corps.

Internally, policies are geared to keep the Chinese Communist Party in power. Problems are cropping up, though. China will confront large-scale unemployment as reform continues in state-owned enterprises. Minority and human rights agitation will continue, and the party must confront widespread corruption, ecological disasters and an ever- growing population.

A large part of the security strategy hinges on China improving its already robust economy. The Chinese will continue to promote rapid economic growth, improve education, and maintain political unity and stability.

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