New York Times
July 20, 2005
WASHINGTON, July 19 - China is modernizing its military and emphasizing preparations "to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts" over Taiwan, the Pentagon said Tuesday with the release of its annual report on Chinese military power.
With military spending that has grown by double digit rates since the mid-1990's, China "appears focused on preventing Taiwan independence or trying to compel Taiwan to negotiate a settlement on Beijing's terms," the report said.
This political and military pressure on Taiwan may run counter to American national security interests - and to American calls for a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the Taiwan question. But China has not yet built the military power to have full confidence it can achieve its political objectives regarding Taiwan.
Beijing's conventional forces also are not deemed capable of threatening American territory, as "China's ability to project conventional military power beyond its periphery remains limited," the report stated.
At the same time, it cautioned that China was both modernizing and expanding its arsenal of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the territory of the United States.
The 45-page unclassified report trumpets both warning and welcome upon China's arrival as a global superpower.
The United States is eager for "a peaceful and prosperous China, one that becomes integrated as a constructive member of the international community," the report stated. "But, we see a China facing a strategic crossroads. Questions remain about the basic choices China's leaders will make as China's power and influence grow, particularly its military power."
The report has been considered especially sensitive within the administration. It is being published just days before China is to be the host of the first multinational nuclear talks with North Korea in more than a year - a critical diplomatic initiative that President Bush cannot afford to jeopardize.
Washington and Beijing are also in a delicate dance on a variety of economic issues, from a Chinese effort to take over Unocal, the oil producer, to arguments about when and whether China should stop linking its currency with the dollar, a critical issue for the trade deficit with China.
The report, scheduled for release to Congress this spring, was delayed as rough edges were smoothed by a series of debates and editing sessions with the Pentagon, the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council.
The president discussed China on Tuesday, detailing the complexities of dealing with a nation that is a rival and a partner. "It is a complicated relationship," he said, describing how many American farmers depend on sales to China, and how the country's growth has benefited the American economy. But he cautioned that "we've got areas of issues when it comes to values."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described the report as "a very factual presentation," but there was no escaping the political context into which it was released.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the relationship with China had been improving since the early months of the administration, when a Chinese fighter collided with a Navy surveillance plane in international airspace, forcing the American craft to crash-land.
While renewed port calls have improved military-to-military communications, "there are bumps in the road," Mr. Rumsfeld said, a reference to reports in recent days that a Chinese general threatened the United States with a nuclear attack if the United States attacked China during a Taiwan crisis.
Mr. Rumsfeld said that if "the political system gives" and China chooses "a relatively free political and a relatively free economic system, then that would be a good thing for the world. And time will tell."
According to the report, China's military modernization has included an estimated 650 to 730 mobile, short-range ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan, as well as the acquisition of jet-fighters from Russia. China also has deployed its first two Russian-built guided missile destroyers; two more are under contract for delivery, even as China is increasing the size of its submarine fleet.
Although those submarines are far less sophisticated than their American counterparts, Pentagon analysts note that increases in the Chinese fleet pose a critical challenge to the Navy: American carriers responding to a crisis could have to operate hundreds of miles farther from Taiwan, reducing the number of fighter sorties they could launch until the Chinese submarines were subdued.
Administration officials said parts of the report were intended as a subtle reminder to Taiwan. Many administration officials are concerned that the Taiwanese are increasingly using their relationship with Washington as a shield against the Chinese military buildup. New weapons programs - many using technology sold by American firms - have been languishing in Taiwan's parliament. The report strongly suggests that Taiwan must take a greater role in building up its own defenses, an argument that the Taiwanese often say is a cover for American efforts to increase military sales.
The report also complains that China's military budget is so opaque, with much of the spending hidden in other accounts, that it "precludes significant outside analysis." Although noting that the analysis is imperfect, the report states that "the defense sector in China could receive up to $90 billion in 2005," the third largest military spending figure in the world, after the United States, which budgets more than four times that figure, and Russia.
The report argues that any move by the European Union to lift its embargo on arms sales to Beijing could damage the national security interests of the West.
Administration officials said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice previewed the report for Chinese leaders during her visit to Beijing this month. She told them, officials said, that the report showed the need for greater transparency about China's military activities, including its joint military exercises with Russia.
"The lesson for China is that if you don't say what you are planning to do with all this, people jump to dark conclusions," one of Ms. Rice's advisers said.