China’s rise is the greatest threat to national security and a free and open international system. While the report was released, a senior defense official who spoke anonymously said China’s military ambition and intention are becoming increasingly apparent. He said it was essential to figure out what the PLA’s way of war would look like, assess their current activities and modernizing capabilities, evaluate their future military modernization goals, and understand their military modernization goals.
An official said China’s strategy “is a determined pursuit to amass and expand its national power to transform — at least — aspects of the international system to make it more favorable to the PRC’s political system and national interests.” This is a crucial element of both domestic and foreign policy initiatives.
The official said that the PLA’s more coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region are part of a trend. We would call certain of these behaviors dangerous, he said. This includes PLA ships and aircraft exhibiting dangerous and unprofessional conduct.
“It’s important to understand the contours of [Peoples’ Liberation Army] modernization to include their thinking about what the PLA’s way of war would look like, to kind of survey their current activities and modernizing capabilities and to assess their future military modernization goals,” he said to reporters prior to the release of the report.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III noted during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers meeting in Cambodia last week that this issue was addressed.
China is working to enhance the PLA’s strategic deterrence capabilities. China broadly defines this element as nuclear, space, cyber, electronic warfare, and counter-space capabilities.
China currently possesses around 400 nuclear warheads, according to American intelligence. However, the official said that if this upgrade project continues, China’s nuclear arsenal could grow to approximately 1,500 warheads by 2035.
China’s intensified diplomatic, economic, political, and military pressure on Taiwan is among the issues examined in the report. The report also deals with China’s attempt to link the US’s One China Policy with the PRC’s One China Principle. Chinese leaders do this to ‘misleadingly claim wide international support for the PRC’s claims over Taiwan and to legitimize PRC coercive actions against Taiwan,’ according to an official.
The PLA’s future warfare views are the key focus of the report, according to an official. ‘Systems destruction warfare’ is described as the future way of war, the official said. A ‘core operational concept’ is what the PLA refers to as ‘multi-domain precision warfare,’ according to the report.
“They’ve also begun discussing a new operational concept for them: what they call a core operational concept … called multi-domain precision warfare,” the official said.
This new approach aims to identify important vulnerabilities in an enemy’s operational system and deliver precise strikes against them, whether kinetic or non-kinetic. This is a method they are considering looking across domains to discover weaknesses in an enemy’s operational system and then exploit them to bring about its destruction, the official said.
The PLA’s approach to military diplomacy is also illuminated by the report, the official said, citing topics such as Chinese leaders’ thinking on strategic stability, China’s views on information dominance and information, and PLA strategic thinking.
A senior administration official explained that one of China’s key objectives is for its economic, political, social, military, and security developments to mutually reinforce one another, as well as Xi Jinping’s ambitious objective of national rejuvenation by 2049. Therefore, the report examines China’s military advancements and defense policies, as well as China’s economic policy and foreign policy, ‘and how these all come together with military and defense developments in pursuing regional and global objectives,’ the official said.
The report addresses China’s military-civil fusion development strategy in particular. Beijing seeks to develop and acquire advanced dual-use technology for its military, which the report says will strengthen all of China’s national weapons.
The Chinese national industrial and technological base is also expanding. According to the official, the PRC is focusing on strengthening and adapting its armed forces to what it sees as long-term trends and global military affairs. In addition, Beijing is focusing on accelerating and intensifying the PLA’s modernization efforts over the next five years in response to the 20th Party Congress, which includes strengthening what they call its strategic deterrence system.
The report says that the Department of Defense needs to communicate effectively and quickly with the PLA. According to the official, that warning emphasizes the importance of conducting responsible strategic competition with the PRC. “Even as competition intensifies, we maintain that strategic competition does not necessarily mean that confrontation or conflict is inevitable or unavoidable. We strive to prevent conflict from occurring unnecessarily with the PRC. We agree that responsible management of strategic competition is critical to preserving peace and maintaining stability in the East Asia region.”
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