A new report on China’s military from the Defence Intelligence Agency comes to a troubling conclusion: The People’s Liberation Army is gaining the characteristic technology and deployment ability to put them on par with Western nations.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has worked to model his military after Western powers, eschewing the Maoist strategies that left China with a force best used for defence.
“This report offers insights into the modernisation of Chinese military power as it reforms from a defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy that engages in military diplomacy and operations across the globe,” wrote Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, who heads the Pentagon’s intelligence arm.
In recent years, China has upgraded its navy with an aircraft carrier, built a homegrown stealth fighter and instituted regional military commands built along American lines. China has also squabbled with neighbours over control of the South China Sea, where the Beijing government has been building artificial islands that host military bases.
With a more muscular military, China has sought to expand its global influence with the “belt and road” initiative, which would build trade ties across Asia and push Chinese power along ancient trade routes known as the Silk Road.
All the while, China doesn’t want to make waves, the report found.
“Beijing has implemented an approach to external engagement that seeks to enhance China’s reach and power through activities calculated to fall below the threshold of alarming the international community,” the intelligence report found.
China’s expanding influence reaches to orbit, the report found, where its military has gained new satellite capabilities and has developed technology to take out American spacecraft.
The report found that Chinese planners, who demonstrated an anti-satellite weapon in 2007, would seek to “blind and deafen” the U.S. military by making satellites the first targets in a war.
China’s growing influence and military power is driving change at the Pentagon. Their space aims are the biggest driver behind the call for a new American Space Force to consolidate military space activities under a stand-alone service. Worries over China are also going to be on display this year as the Trump administration and military leaders push Congress for a massive budget boost.
The fear of falling behind China in military strength is driving a call for a $750 billion defence spending plan, a $34 billion boost over the current budget.
But China, ever thrifty, is getting by with a defence budget of just $215 billion.
America may not have a Space Force yet, but Colorado Springs is home to the nation’s newest space general.
Col. Jennifer Grant, who leads the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, was selected this month for the rank of brigadier general.
She’ll pin on stars after the Senate confirms her new rank.