Pentagon's Annual Report on the Military Power of China

June 23, 2000
Report to Congress

Pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act

The FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act (Section 1202) directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report "…on the current and future military strategy of the People’s Republic of China. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development on the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts, through the next 20 years."

This report, submitted in response to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act, addresses (1) China’s grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy; (2) developments in China’s military doctrine and force structure, to include developments in advanced technologies which would enhance China’s military capabilities; and, (3) the security situation in the Taiwan Strait.




A. Chinese Grand Strategy

China’s primary national goal is to become a strong, modernized, unified, and wealthy nation. It views its national standing in relation to the position of other "great powers." Beijing clearly wants to be recognized as a full-fledged great power. China considers itself a developing power whose natural resources, manpower, nuclear-capable forces, seat on the UN Security Council, and growing economy give it most of the attributes of a great power. It wants to achieve "parity" in political, economic, and military strength with other great powers. If present trends continue, Beijing believes it will achieve the status of a "medium-sized" great power by 2050 at a minimum. China also wants to become the preeminent Asian power by generating enough "strength" so that no major action will be taken by any other international actor in Asia without first considering Chinese interests.

Chinese analysts calculate the standing of nations by measuring "comprehensive national strength." of these nations. A small circle of strategic advisers for deceased paramount leader Deng Xiaoping developed the method driving this calculus in the 1970s and 1980s. This method relies on a dynamic process of measuring quantitatively and qualitatively key components or "subsystems" of a country’s multi-layered comprehensive national power system. Utilizing this method, Chinese analysts measure four subsystems of national power: (1) material or hard power (natural resources, economics, scientific and technology, and national defense); (2) spirit or soft power (politics, foreign affairs, culture, and education); (3) coordinated power (leadership organization, command, management, and coordination of national development); and, (4) environmental power (international, natural, and domestic).

The PRC government has not enunciated a "grand strategy" to guide its activities and approach to international affairs, in the Western sense of the term. Indeed, Chinese leaders are largely preoccupied with domestic concerns, especially the need to maintain conditions of national unity and internal stability. We can infer from official statements by senior leaders, government planning documents, and government-affiliated writings that the nearest Chinese equivalent to a "grand strategy" would be its national development strategy, which aims to comprehensively develop national power so that Beijing can achieve its long-term national goals. Deng Xiaoping first enunciated this development strategy in the late 1970s as the "Four Modernizations." The post-Deng leadership, led by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Jiang Zemin, has reaffirmed this strategy.

Based on this intellectual foundation, China’s grand strategy aims for comprehensively developing national power so that Beijing can achieve its long-term national goals. This grand strategy, which Beijing defines as "national development strategy," was first initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and has been reaffirmed by the post-Deng collective leadership, which is led by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Jiang Zemin. This development strategy is based on an assumption that economic power is the most important and most essential factor in comprehensive national power in an era when "peace and development" are the primary international trends and world war can be avoided. In this context, Beijing places top priority on efforts to promote rapid and sustained economic growth, to raise technological levels in sciences and industry, to explore and develop China’s land- and sea-based national resources, and to secure China’s access to global resources.

Although this development strategy assumes that economic power is the most important factor in comprehensive national power, Beijing’s strategy also prioritizes addresses the development of military power as a secondary complement to policies of reform and opening up for ensuring that China’s economic power will rise; for protecting important national interests; and, for supporting a policy of eventually playing the role of a great power and perhaps emerging as the preeminent power in Asia. Nonetheless, Chinese leaders since Deng have placed military modernization as the fourth in priority order of the Four Modernizations. In the aftermath of Operation ALLIED FORCE in Kosovo--to include the May 1999 bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade--some Chinese officials have considered seriously reordering the country’s national priorities by upgrading the importance of defense development in China’s national development strategy. However, the senior leadership elite reaffirmed its priority emphasis on economic growth, scientific and technological development, and resource exploration/development at the August 1999 leadership retreat at Beidaihe.

In addition to developing the material "hard" components of national power (natural resources, economics, science and technology, and national defense), some analysts believe China’s national development strategy seeks to enhance the political, diplomatic and economic components "soft" component of national power, which it believes determines the effectiveness of a nation’s material power. Beijing is seeking to enhance its "soft" international power by refining its national policies and decisionmaking capabilities; improving its foreign political, diplomatic, economic, and military relationships; increasing its role in and contribution to multilateral activities, to include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Asian Pacific Economic Council (APEC); raising the per capita income of its people to the global norm for advanced nations; and, improving the social quality of life for its people, including health and education on par with the leading nations of the world.

China’s national development strategy also places special importance on strengthening the "unifying" and "coordinating" component of national power, based on a judgement that development of the material, political, diplomatic, and economic (hard) and spirit (soft) components of national power requires macro adjustment, control and coordination of these two components. Against this backdrop, the senior CCP Central Committee (CC) leadership regularly emphasizes the importance of "party building," which involves modifying and enhancing the party and government’s control apparatus, as well as rejuvenation and development of successive generations of party cadre. The CCP also places particular emphasis on ensuring the absolute control of the PLA by the CCP’s General Secretary and Politburo Standing Committee via the CCP CC’s Central Military Commission (CMC), which is chaired by General Secretary Jiang Zemin. Management of various national programs that impact on hard and soft components of national power is exercised by several governmental organizations, especially the State Development Planning Commission, the State Economic and Trade Commission, and the National Defense Science, Technology, and Industry Commission. Interagency review and policy formulation is conducted by a number of secretive, so-called "leading groups" in the CCP CC, including the Foreign Affairs Leading Group, the Taiwan Affairs Leading Group, the Finance and Economics Leading Group, and the CMC. Senior leaders within the CCP CC’s Politburo Standing Committee exercise decision-making authority.

In seeking to coordinate the development of the hard and softvarious components of national power, some Chinese analysts recognize that environmental "restricting conditions" can influence--negatively or positively--a nation’s ability to develop these components. In particular, China believes that the international (world structure and different balances of power), natural (resources, geography, and ecology), and social (political, economic, and social systems and their stability) environment can influence directly the direction and pace of national development. Accordingly, China’s development strategy emphasizes the need to encourage positive environmental influences and to minimize negative ones. Since 1985, Beijing has promoted the evolution of the global balance of power from a bipolar to a multipolar structure and has sought a peaceful, stable security environment along China’s vast periphery and on the international scene generally. Over the last decade, China has improved its capability to respond to natural disasters--including floods, droughts, earthquakes, plagues, famines, and forest fires--to which China is particularly vulnerable because of geography and historic settlement patterns, including land reclamation. Beijing also is seeking to exploit more fully its natural resources and to develop the military force projection capabilities necessary to protect its access to potentially resource-rich areas of contested ocean territory in the North, East, and South China Seas. Moreover, China is implementing cooptive and coercive measures to maintain social stability in a domestic environment in which economic reforms measures have created or exacerbated political, labor, rural, criminal, and ethnic sources of civil unrest. Beijing has proven willing to move quickly to contain or quell any new sources of dissent, including the quasi-religious Falun Gong sect which has emerged as a national-level political issue over the last year.

In this context, several developments over the last decade--especially in the last year--have prompted some Chinese elites to question seriously China’s longstanding benign security assessments that "peace and development" are the primary international trends, that world war can be avoided, and that balance of global power is shifting from a bipolar to a multipolar structure. Senior leaders are concerned primarily that the United States wants to maintain a dominant position in the Eurasian balance of power by containing the growth of Chinese power and preventing a resurgence of Russian power. Beijing assesses that Washington is trying to sustain a "unipolar" balance of power by strengthening its security alliance with Tokyo and by expanding NATO’s reach beyond Western Europe. China thinks that Russia’s internal troubles preclude it from playing a sustained role in offsetting US dominance in Eurasia. Moreover, Beijing suspects that new US-Japan Defense Guidelines Review measures authorize Japanese military action beyond Japan’s previous defense posture and prompt Tokyo to improve its regional force projection capabilities. Beijing also calculates that US efforts to develop national and theater missile defenses will challenge the credibility of China’s nuclear deterrence and eventually be extended to protect Taiwan, a move that China would consider a gross intervention in Chinese affairs and that would complicate China’s efforts to establish an intimidating conventional theater missile capability opposite the island.

In the aftermath of Operation ALLIED FORCE’s success in Kosovo, Beijing thinks it will have increasing difficulty managing potential U.S. meddling in internal Chinese affairs or military interventions in potential conflict scenarios involving China. A wide range of Chinese elites point to US intervention in Kosovo as setting a dangerous precedent for eventual US military operations against China in Taiwan Strait or South China Sea conflict scenarios. They also suspect Washington will intervene openly or covertly in Beijing’s internal disputes with ethnic Tibetan or Muslim minorities in western China. Beijing also suspects that the precedent of US intervention in Kosovo reinforces any US inclination to intervene in a North Korean crisis scenario, a move that could challenge longstanding Chinese interests on the Korean peninsula. United States nonintervention in response to Moscow’s military operations in Chechnya has moderated Chinese concerns about the precedent of ALLIED FORCE operations somewhat, based on the fact that, unlike Yugoslavia, China and Russia maintain nuclear-capable forces. Nonetheless, Beijing’s fundamental concerns about US military intervention in potential conflict scenarios involving China remain real.

From China’s perspective, these international trends are creating an international environment that will "restrict" Beijing’s efforts to develop the hard and soft material, political, diplomatic, and economic components of national power. China believes that these trends indicate that it will be difficult for Beijing to develop a special relationship with Washington that would fundamentally moderate any US intent to "contain" China or that would encourage the United States to cooperate with China in offsetting Japan’s growing power. Moreover, China’s fundamental problem in responding to this negative security environment is that it has limited options in developing the international leverage necessary to offset US power in Eurasia. Since the 7 May 1999 bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade, China’s leaders reportedly have been discussing ways to offset US power, to include accelerating military modernization, pursing strategic cooperation with Russia, and increasing China’s proliferation activities abroad. However, none of these options is likely to improve fundamentally Beijing’s position.

China does not appear to have concluded that any of these options would necessarily improve its security environment. Senior leaders resisted domestic pressures in the early- and mid-1990s to raise the importance of defense development in China’s national development strategy because of concern that doing so would complicate efforts to ensure the growth and modernization of China’s economy. Beijing believes that the economic growth is an important element in its strategy for maintaining the stability of its domestic social environment; moreover, foreign trade and investment links are central to China’s development of the economic element of material (hard) component of national power. China’s leaders also suspect that increasing the role of defense in national priorities would only reinforce Washington’s efforts to contain China and justify Japan’s intent to improve its force projection capability. Over the last decade, senior PLA strategists periodically have cautioned China’s leaders to avoid being goaded by the United States into a lopsided arms race that could derail China’s economic modernization.

While China’s options are limited in seeking to offset US power, its security policies and positions increasingly have contained themes that indirectly or directly challenge US security policies and positions politically. Beijing frequently makes public and private statements that accuse the United States of engaging in "hegemonistic" international behavior. China also has enunciated a "new security concept" that calls for basing international security on multilateral dialogue and on pledges by states to foreswear the use of military threats, coercion, and military intervention in the internal affairs of other countries. In particular, this new security concept criticizes the bilateral and multilateral security alliances as being relics of the Cold War that undermine, rather than enhance, international security. Over the last three years, China has juxtaposed this position with US efforts to strengthen the US-Japan security alliance and to encourage the enlargement of NATO in various diplomatic or public forums in a thinly veiled effort to criticize US security policies in Eurasia. More recently, China has cooperated with Russia in successfully lobbying other United Nations members to support a UN resolution that criticizes US development of national missile defenses.

China’s criticism of the direction of US security policies, in part, reflects genuine security concerns on the part of its leaders about perceived efforts by Washington to "contain" and "encircle" China and to encourage Japan to expand its defense scope in ways that Beijing believes will undermine regional security. However, this criticism also is driven by a calculus in China that US policies are creating an "international" environment that will "restrict" Beijing’s efforts to develop the material (hard) and spirit (soft)comprehensively the various components of national power and complicate China’s effort to become the preeminent power in Asia. China embarked on this effort to develop comprehensive national power during a period in which it believed it could focus on "peacetime construction" because it faced a benign security environment, a situation senior leaders increasingly are questioning in the post-Cold War era.

B. Chinese Security Strategy

China seeks to become the preeminent power among regional states in East Asia. Beijing is pursuing a regional security strategy aimed at preserving what it perceives as its sovereign interests in Taiwan, the South China Sea, and elsewhere on its periphery and protecting its economic interests, while at the same time promoting regional stability.

Beijing’s primary priority is to prevent further steps by Taiwan toward permanent separation, with a long-term objective of eventual reunification under China’s terms. China also seeks to counter what it perceives to be Japan’s growing military cooperation with the United States and to prevent what it views as a rebirth of Japanese militarism. At the same time, it will continue to value the economic benefits it derives from its access to Japanese technology, trade, and foreign investment. Maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula also is one of Beijing’s regional security goals. China’s other important security goals in East Asia include preventing the development and deployment of a regional theater missile defense (TMD) system, particularly one involving Taiwan; defending its claims in the East and South China Seas; and, promoting its political and economic interests via such organizations as ASEAN, APEC, and the ARF.

Beijing’s actions in the region will be shaped in good measure by its relations with Washington and by its perceptions of US ties to South Korea, Japan and, Australia. China likely will continue to promote what has been referred to as a "strategic partnership" with Russia marked by cooperation over border issues, trade and investment, and military sales. China’s security interests in South Asia center on Pakistan and India--both nuclear-armed countries--and Beijing’s desire for peace and stability on the subcontinent. In Central Asia, Beijing remains concerned about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism into Xinjiang, while promoting efforts to develop energy resources, trade, and closer political ties with states along its border.

Outside the Asia-Pacific region, China seeks to enhance its status as a great power. While Beijing prefers bilateral diplomacy, it is attempting to expand its role and exert a greater voice in international fora. Beijing also is seeking out economic opportunities and promoting China’s international influence and stature. It continues to give high priority to thwarting Taiwan’s quest for international recognition. Beijing remains firmly committed to expanding its political and economic presence in such areas as Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa; however, China has no ambitions to establish a military presence in these regions.

With respect to Taiwan, in particular, Beijing asserts that Taiwan is part of and demands that Taiwan accept the principle of "one China" as a basis for negotiations aimed at eventual reunification. China insists that Taiwan should engage in "political talks" which would set the stage for the island's eventual reunification with the mainland under the "one country, two systems" formula. China also has condemned Taipei's activities aimed at broadening its international recognition. For its part, Taipei rejects Beijing's version of "one China" and demands that Beijing deal with Taiwan on an equal basis. Taipei has traditionally predicated unification on the condition that China attain levels of economic and democratic development similar to those enjoyed on Taiwan. In the interim, Taipei believes that the two sides should focus on technical or procedural issues, such as cultural and educational exchanges and the resolution of commercial disputes arising from Taiwan's extensive trade and investment interests on the mainland. Taipei also has worked actively to counter Beijing's efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally.

Both Beijing and Taipei have stated that they seek a peaceful resolution to the reunification issue. However, China’s leaders have refused to renounce China's right to use force against Taiwan. Beijing claims that, should Taipei declare independence or should a foreign power intervene in Taiwan’s internal affairs, it would consider using force against Taiwan. In the interim, it will continue to prepare its military forces for such a contingency; in addition, it will attempt to influence political developments on the island and prevent Taiwan from moving toward de jure independence.

Despite its refusal to renounce its right to use military force against Taiwan, Beijing has consistently emphasized its desire to achieve national reunification peacefully through agreement with Taipei based on the "one country, two systems" formula. Some in China are aware that war with Taiwan could be economically and politically devastating. China's main national policy priority remains economic reform and development within an environment that is both peaceful and stable. To that end, Beijing has avoided activities that might threaten its economic growth and its access to foreign markets, investment, and technology. In initiating a military conflict with Taiwan, Beijing would run the risk of jeopardizing both its continued economic development and its political standing, especially among those regional states with which it has unresolved territorial disputes. China’s resolve to employ military force, however, should not be discounted.