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US Dept of Defense - Report Says Chinese Military Transparency Still Lacking

China has made some progress, but not enough, in military transparency, and the Chinese decision to suspend military-to-military contacts with the United States is acting against the interests of both countries, according to the latest annual report (pdf) in a congressionally mandated series.

Defense Department officials released “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” today.

China is developing into an economic superpower, and that growth is allowing the Chinese government to invest more in its military. China has embarked on a massive effort to modernize its military and transform its structure, doctrine and strategy, according to the report.

The pace of the transformation effort has increased in the last 10 years, and China’s military capabilities have developed to influence events well beyond its borders. The Chinese army now can contribute to international peacekeeping efforts, humanitarian assistance and counterpiracy operations. The United States welcomes these capabilities, and wants to work with China to develop them further, the report says.

However, the report says, other capabilities are more disturbing. China is investing in anti-access technologies that would force U.S. naval and air forces farther from Chinese shores, and has fielded large numbers of short- and intermediate-range missiles and cruise missiles.

The Chinese navy has a potent mix of surface ships and submarines and is working to develop naval air wings to operate off an aircraft carrier China bought from the Ukraine in 1998. The Chinese could begin work on an indigenous carrier this year, the report says.

The Chinese army has 1.25 million in the ground forces and is upgrading its formations with new tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers. The army also is stressing command and control capabilities, joint air and ground coordination, and assault operations.

China also is building space and cyber assets, the report says, and the Chinese are still building and launching intelligence satellites.

China’s cyber attack capabilities are a mystery, the report acknowledges.

“In 2009, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be the target of intrusions that appear to have originated within the [People’s Republic of China],” the report says, noting that the intrusions seek military and commercial information.

“The accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attack,” the report says.

Because no one outside China really knows where the Chinese military buildup will end, transparency in the goals of the transformation would go far in reassuring regional countries and global partners, the report says.

In addition, the report says, “The limited transparency in China’s military and security affairs enhances uncertainty and increases the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation.”

Obama has said he understands that China and the United States may sometimes have difficult relations, “but the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined.”

Sustained and reliable U.S.-China military-to-military relations reduce mistrust, enhance mutual understanding and broaden cooperation, the report says.

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