Pentagon officials, in drafting the report, took care not to link the protests — those overnight police crackdowns — to China’s military planning. But at the very least, the uprising poses a complication for Xi as he seeks to exert authority over other reluctant nationals in the region, including in Taiwan, where US officials remain. doubtful if he can achieve his goal of undisputed dominance.
Xi’s approaching third term in China raises the threat of war over Taiwan
A lot have pointed to 2027 — the 100th anniversary of China’s People’s Liberation Army and a target date Xi has set for modernizing its military capabilities — as the point at which Taiwan should worry about an attack. However, that date is “not a timeline for action,” said a senior US defense official, describing the benchmarks China had set itself to achieve by then as “ambitious.”
“We know what they want to achieve, which is to have more credible military capabilities for a scenario in Taiwan,” said this official, on condition of anonymity to discuss the new report before its release. “In terms of what they will actually be able to accomplish in 2027, I think that remains to be seen.”
Instead, the Pentagon believes China has been trying to establish a “new normal” when it comes to Taiwan, with more missile launches, more naval activity and more “centerline crossings” over the Taiwan Strait by Chinese military jets. Those activities intensified dramatically following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California)’s visit to Taiwan earlier this year and “have not fallen to the level we were used to,” the official said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said he is committed to maintaining the “status quo” around Taiwan’s status, and last week warned his Chinese counterpart against taking “destabilizing” actions. The United States has taken offense at China’s pattern of menacing US ships and that of US allies plying the South China Sea. Austin and others have told their Chinese counterparts that if the measures are designed to prevent Western powers from exercising their right to freedom of navigation, they won’t work.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Pentagon calls out China’s military threats as tensions worsen in Taiwan
A summary of the Pentagon’s report, shared with reporters ahead of the release of the full document, highlights Washington’s alarm over Beijing’s missile tests and the geopolitical implications of its nuclear ambitions. China has more than 400 nuclear weapons, it notes, and the 135 ballistic missile tests it conducted in 2021 were “more than the rest of the world combined.” Those numbers sharpen what is publicly known about the nuclear development program, which has long been the subject of close scrutiny as other research has detailed the construction of missile silos and other infrastructure in the country in support of the country. extension.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, China’s nuclear arsenal is still much smaller than that of the United States, which has about 5,500 nuclear warheads, or Russia, which has nearly 6,000. But China’s progress—and its plans to increase production—incited the communist regime a basis on which the Pentagon believes its leaders should come to the arms control negotiating table. The reluctance to do so, the report argues, is having “a negative impact on global strategic stability – an area of growing global concern.”
“I don’t see any clear indication that they’re looking for some sort of first strike capability here, but they’re certainly developing a range of capabilities that would give them a range of options for some sort of deterrent signaling,” the senior said, according to a defense official. That ability, the official added, “raises questions about what their longer-term intentions will be.”
Further threat to global equilibrium, the Pentagon says, the relationships China is pursuing are beyond its immediate geographic sphere of influence to expand a more conventional military footprint. The report notes how, for example, China and Russia continue to hold joint exercises. Such an cooperation – even if China has not given Russia military supplies its war effort in Ukraine – shows that Beijing “still seems to see a lot of value in their partnership,” the defense official said.
The report lists countries that the Pentagon believes China has “probably considered” setting up military logistics facilities “to support the projection of naval, air and ground forces,” in a style similar to the support base of the Chinese army in Djibouti, which is just a few miles away from a US base, Camp Lemonnier.
Those countries are: Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, the Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola and Tajikistan, the report said. But the senior defense official cautioned that the list should be read as an indication of areas where China was “trying to make progress”, not a warning that a second base like the one in Djibouti was imminent.