Pentagon Officials Testify on Chinese Military Buildup
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 25, 2008 Though the Defense Department doesn’t see China as a strategic adversary, the country’s military buildup and lack of openness in how it’s going about it has officials wondering about Chinese leaders’ intentions, senior Pentagon officials told the House Armed Services Committee today.
James J. Shinn, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and Air Force Maj. Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, vice director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified on the topic. Their testimony revolved around three key questions from the Defense Department’s recently submitted China Military Power Report:
-- What are the Chinese doing in terms of their military modernization and buildup?
-- What does it mean for the United States and its allies in the region?
-- What are the Defense Department and the U.S. government doing to react?
According to the report, the Chinese have engaged in a sizeable and sustained increase in military expenditures over the past few years. Their official budget is reported to be about $60 billion, but the Defense Department estimates that it’s twice that, Shinn said.
The buildup is across all of China’s services, Shinn added. “It’s comprehensive in the sea, land and air forces. It’s also particularly significant that it includes its nuclear as well as the conventional forces,” he continued.
Shinn noted China’s heavy investment in personnel, recruiting and training, which in previous years was not as big a factor as the overall numbers of its forces. The Chinese also are devoting much effort into logistics and the command and control apparatus, he said.
China’s buildup reflects a deliberate and well-thought-through strategy to invest in asymmetric warfare, cyber warfare, and counter-space capabilities, Shinn told the House panel, and also has sophisticated cruise missile and under-sea warfare programs.
The buildup means the United States and its allies in the region could be at risk, because the increasing capabilities may alter China’s intentions, which currently seem to be peaceful, Shinn said. The increasing capacity may present the Chinese leadership with more options, he noted.
“As the Chinese nuclear forces increase their size and survivability, we don’t know if [their intention] is going to alter,” he explained. “We are very careful about inferring intent as to expanding capability. Part of the reason for the deep seriousness of the report is that one must always plan for the worst.”
Therefore, he said, DoD will continue pressing intelligence collection and analysis to understand Chinese leaders’ intentions for their country’s increased capabilities. The United States will continue to train, equip and posture Pacific forces and work closely with regional allies to strengthen their capabilities, he said.
Shinn also stressed the importance of U.S. forces engaging and maintaining dialogue with the Chinese government and leaders of the People’s Liberation Army to learn more about them and their intentions. The Defense Department does not currently see China as a strategic adversary, but rather as a competitor in some respects and a partner in others, he said.
“China’s rise certainly presents a variety of opportunities and challenges, but the Chinese are definitely not destined to be an adversary,” he told the committee.
Breedlove affirmed Shinn’s comments, noting that cooperation continues to progress between the United States and China in areas of mutual interest such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and military environmental protection.
“An encouraging sign [of cooperation] was China’s reception of relief supplies delivered to the needy Chinese by our military aircraft during this past winter’s storms and most recent earthquake,” Breedlove said.
China’s military modernization is no surprise, given the country’s impressive economic growth, the general said.
“[The United States] continues to communicate to China that our desire for greater transparency and openness is to gain a better understanding of their strategic intent,” he said. “We believe it is clearly in the interest of all to avoid any misunderstanding or miscalculation. We continue to watch the situation closely and respond in a matter that brings peace and stability.”