Chinese military rapidly closing gap, Pentagon report says

January 15, 2019

China’s rapidly modernizing military is quickly closing the gap with the U.S. and other major powers, a stark new report from the Defense Department’s intelligence directorate concluded Tuesday.

The just-released 50-page report by the Defense Intelligence Agency contends that with its advances in both military capabilities and an increasingly internationally-focused defense strategy, China is rapidly entering “a period of strategic opportunity [toward] building comprehensive national power,” said Dan Taylor, a senior DIA intelligence analyst.

China’s end goal, according to U.S. analysts, is to “impose its will in the region and beyond,” he told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that Beijing “has demonstrated a willingness to use the [military] as an instrument of national power in the execution of what they call their ‘historic mission in the new century.’”

China’s military will “grow even more technologically advanced and proficient,” eventually putting Beijing on a par with “major modern militaries” including the United States, Mr. Taylor predicted.

U.S. military analysts say China’s growing military clout and confidence may be felt most immediately in the standoff over Taiwan, which Beijing sees as part of its sovereign territory.

The People’s Liberation Army may be approaching the point where Chinese leaders believe a military solution to the Taiwan question could be feasible, U.S. analysts said.

While Chinese advances in areas such as space, cyber warfare and next-generation aircraft have been well documented over the years, it is Beijing’s rapid progress “across all different domains, simultaneously” that has raised alarm bells in the Pentagon, an intelligence official briefing reporters on background at the Pentagon said Tuesday.

U.S. officials say China’s mid-to-intermediate range precision strike weapons, such as cruise missiles, are achieving near parity with American and western systems, the intelligence official said. “The Chinese have made great progress in developing very advanced capabilities for theater and regional strike capabilities,” the official said.

Last year, Beijing announced its latest intermediate-range missile, the Dong Feng-26, now had a nuclear capability a first for the Dong Feng-class of missile systems. Once fully operational, the DF-26 “would give China its first nuclear precision-strike capability” against targets in the Asia-Pacific region, the DIA report states.

In the field of hypersonic weapons, which can travel at five times the speed of sound, Beijing is “on the leading edge of technology” nearly surpassing the Pentagon’s latest efforts. China is said to be on the cusp of fielding a non-nuclear weapon capable of hitting any target around the world in an hour.

“From the Chinese perspective, they would hope that it would cause a great threat to U.S. warships,” in the Pacific and elsewhere, the intelligence official said regarding China’s advances in missile and hypersonic technologies. “It’s very concerning to see all the different areas they’re making progress,” he added.

Update hourly