China’s military in 2015 became more assertive in the South China Sea, projected a greater global presence and underwent nascent reforms intended to make it deadlier and more loyal to the ruling political party, according to an annual U.S. Defense Department report.

The report, mandated by Congress, highlights China’s defense strategy and developments.

“China continues to focus on preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, but additional missions such as contingencies in the East and South China seas and on the Korean peninsula are increasingly important to the [People’s Liberation Army],” said Abraham M. Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, during a news conference Friday at the Pentagon.

Taiwan’s government was formed when the Chinese Nationalist government lost a civil war with the Communist Party of China in 1949 and its leaders fled to the island. The Communist Party regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must, eventually, be brought back into the fold.

The U.S. agrees with that in principle but maintains that it must not be done through force. Thus, the U.S. has for decades assisted Taiwan in maintaining its defense.

Although China’s economy has been slowing down, it continues to sustain spending for defense. “From 2006 through 2015, China’s officially disclosed military budget grew at an average of 9.8 percent per year in inflation-adjusted terms,” Denmark said.

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Featured Image – People’s Republic of China, People’s Liberation Army Navy ship Yueyang – FF 575. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tiarra Fulgham/Released.)