Pentagon issues detailed report on China. From nuclear woes to defence plans, here are key points

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, released on Wednesday its comprehensive report on China, in which it detailed a host of things – including the missions and tasks with which Beijing is equipping armed forces in the “new era” and all-inclusive data on China’s defense contracts, its resources and technology for modernisation, and the Dragon’s growing global influence under president Xi Jinping. It also contains a host of elaborate data on the Taiwan crisis, the India-China border standoff, as well as the underlying pattern in the multilateral exercises conducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) last year.

China sought to prevent India from deepening ties with US

The Pentagon said in its report that despite ongoing diplomatic and military dialogues to reduce border tensions, China has continued “taking incremental and tactical actions” to press its claims at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India and has unsuccessfully sought to prevent New Delhi from deepening its relationship with the United States.

The Pentagon regularly reports to the Congress on the Indo-Chinese military standoff in eastern Ladakh. The Department of Defense has categorically said China is indulging in aggressive and coercive behaviour with its neighbours, India in particular. In addition, a substantial reserve force from the Tibet and Xinjiang Military Districts were deployed to the interior of Western China to provide a rapid response to the border situation, the report said.

Border standoff: China reluctant to back off from LAC

The Pentagon confirmed that in 2020, China built a large 100-home civilian village in a piece of “disputed territory” between the Chinese Tibet Autonomous Region and India’s Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC.

At the height of the border standoff between China and India in 2020, the Chinese Army even installed a fiber-optic network in the remote areas of the western Himalayas to provide faster communications and increased protection from foreign interception, the report said. It added that the PLA field commanders view near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and situational data as well as redundant and reliable communications as essential to streamlining decision-making processes and shortening response timelines.

Meanwhile, China’s state-controlled media continues to forcefully assert Beijing’s intent to refuse any territorial concessions demanded by India. It has continued to blame India for provoking the standoff through India’s increased infrastructure development near the LAC and using this as justification, China refused to withdraw forces till India’s forces have withdrawn behind the Chinese version of the LAC and ceased infrastructure improvements in the area.

China boosting its nuclear arsenal much faster than expected

China is expanding its nuclear arsenal much more quickly than anticipated, narrowing the gap with the United States, the Pentagon said in its latest report, pointing out that Beijing could have as many as 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027, and could top 1,000 by 2030 – an arsenal two-and-a-half times the size of what the Pentagon predicted only a year ago.

The report said that China is actively investing in, and expanding its land, sea, and air-based means to deploy nuclear weapons, building the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces, not unlike the other two leading nuclear powers – the United States and Russia.

The Pentagon, however, said that it is unlikely that China is seeking a capability to launch an unprovoked nuclear strike on a nuclear-armed adversary – primarily the United States – but this current expansion is aimed at deterring attacks from others by maintaining a credible threat of nuclear retaliation.

Potential customers of Chinese weapons consider PRC arms to be of lower quality

Potential customers consider arms made by China to be of lower quality and reliability, however, some countries still buy them as they are less expensive, the Pentagon said in its recent report.

Arms transfers are a key component in China’s foreign policy, used in conjunction with other types of assistance to complement initiatives undertaken as part of China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy.

Beijing sells major systems such as UAVs, submarines, and fighter aircraft to customers like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Pakistan. The PRC has supplied its strike-capable Caihong or Wing Loongfamilies of armed Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to at least Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Algeria, Serbia, and Kazakhstan.

Beijing also supplies naval vessels, highlighted by Pakistan’s purchase of eight Yuan-class submarines for more than $3 billion, according to the report.

China conducts ‘influence operations’ to target media and cultural institutions in other countries

China conducts influence operations, which target cultural institutions, media organisations, business, academic, and policy communities in the US, other countries, and international institutions, to achieve outcomes favourable to its strategic objectives, the Pentagon said.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to condition domestic, foreign, and multilateral political establishments and public opinion to accept Beijing’s narratives and remove obstacles preventing the attainment of goals. CCP leaders probably consider open democracies, including the US, as more susceptible to influence operations than other types of governments.

The PLA has emphasised the development of its “Three Warfares” concept – comprised of psychological warfare, public opinion warfare, and legal warfare – in its operational planning since at least 2003, the US Defence Department said. The PLA will also likely continue to develop its digital influence capabilities by incorporating advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the quality and deniability of its messaging.

(With inputs from agencies)

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