Pentagon Reports on China’s Military

The U.S. Department of Defense released its annual report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China”, regarding China’s military on August 24, 2011. The Pentagon report has been prepared on an annual basis since 2000. The report has received negative feedback and criticism from the People’s Republic of China for its “interfering nature, distortion of facts and baseless speculations.” This year’s report indicates the Pentagon would prefer the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will continue to provide transparency in its military and security affairs. The report states that China has increased naval abilities and is in the development process for anti-ship missiles capable of targeting aircraft carriers. Although the document states that the United States acknowledges that China has made contributions to support a secure global environment, the report asserts that Taiwan remains the PLA’s main focus and suggests uncertainty as to China’s military intentions. The ambiguity created by the report’s mixed assertions reflects the unease of international sentiments and perception of China’s military expansion.
China continues to point to the defensive nature of its national defense policy and recently submitted documentation in March with the hopes of improving its military transparency in an effort to gain international trust in its military expansion. This report raises significant questions for the relationship of the United States and China moving forward. Should the United States continue to provide these annual reports despite China’s disapproval? Is the aim of global security strengthened by such probing or do the pointed assertions of the report hamper this relationship? Does China have an obligation to improve its military transparency to the United States specifically? Given the United States’ military recent involvement globally, is the nature of this annual report hypocritical?
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  1. I think it is ironic and hypocritical of the United States to continue to release reports on China’s military when, oftentimes, the American public is kept in the dark as to U.S. involvement in various military engagements and advances. After significant negativity began to emerge on an international scale towards American troops still active in the Middle East, it is quite possible that the Pentagon is releasing these reports strategically to avoid the “hot seat” itself. China’s frustration stems primarily from its disapproval of the probing nature of these reports by the Pentagon and the fact that, as a nation in an international scheme, China has made positive progress towards a “secure global environment.”

    Yet, on the other hand, if a nation has nothing to hide by way of its military innovations or technological improvements, these reports would not be probing at all; instead, their purpose would simply be to keep all countries in the loop, so to speak, as to where each of their militaries rank and what they could potentially have up against them.

  2. That the U.S. desire for greater military transparency on the part of China is hypocritical likely goes without saying. But the growing economic and military force that is China poses a great many challenges to U.S. influence in the Pacific region. I think it’s difficult to untangle the many threads that bind the U.S. to a position in which they must constantly monitor China. Perhaps most self-evident is the concern that a militarily strong China would have a “potentially destabilizing” effect in the Pacific [see A precarious balance has been maintained in East Asia for some decades now, with constant U.S. military aid and financing flowing to Japan, South Korea – and Taiwan. Will a mighty China feel confident enough to risk a fight to “take back” Taiwan?

    Or are these reports an indication the U.S. merely doomed to repeat the past, in which, in the language of power transition theory, the waning hegemonic power carefully monitors the rising hegemon, desperately hoping to maintain its former position of power?

    What makes the relationship uneasy is: Is China friend or foe? Rising concerns over China’s cybermilitaries, for one, make it difficult for other nations to necessarily trust its assurances that it is promoting a “secure global environment.” Furthermore, I find it significant such a report is so public: Are we letting China know we’re watching? Or perhaps we’re signaling other countries to beware?

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