XINHUA/MAO PENGFEI VIA GETTY IMAGES
Annual Pentagon Report Confirms Notable Chinese Military Developments
BY: Andrew Harding
As the United States continues to keep a close eye on China’s military, the Pentagon released its annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments in November 2021. The report not only confirms that China is continuing its efforts to modernize its military, but it also reveals a notable change in strategy. Breaking from past posture, China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. The report notes that China may possess 700 warheads by 2027 and at least 1,000 by the end of the decade. While the US continues to maintain its numerical advantage of nuclear weapons — about 5,550 warheads compared to China’s 350 — China’s nuclear ambitions have grown significantly. China is also testing biological toxins for dual-use purposes in military medical institutions — a sign China is expanding its research into the potential use of chemical and biological weapons. Due to such research, the Pentagon report concludes that China may not be meeting obligations of the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). With COVID-19 serving as the latest reminder for how powerful, and uncontrollable, biological weapons could ultimately be designed to become, China’s testing of “biological activities with potential dual-use applications” alarms Washington. Furthermore, as China prepares for future warfare capabilities, the People’s Liberation Army’s Strategic Support Force (SSF) is quickly becoming one of the world’s most powerful military branches. Tasked with commanding China’s strategic space, cyber, electronic, information, and psychological warfare missions and capabilities, the report warns China’s anti-satellite and electronic weapons can challenge an adversary’s access to the space domain during a conflict. Given how reliant the world is on satellites and high-technology, the US will likely be closely observing any Chinese military developments above Earth’s surface. The report follows recent provocations from China, including its summer launch of a fractional orbital bombardment system, armed with a hypersonic glide missile, into space that can carry nuclear warheads, and harassing Taiwan by sending combat aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone. Last September, while patrolling along Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, the US Coast Guard confirmed that it “observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy” in the US exclusive economic zone.
Pentagon structure in Northern Virginia (AFP)
If uncertainty about China’s military advancements still exists, recent satellite images show that China is building mockups resembling US naval vessels for suspected target practice. Despite these potential concerns from the US, Chinese media has stressed that the US should not feel concerned by recent military actions and prioritize peaceful cooperation, rather than “pressuring” China into an arms race. Based on the Pentagon's assessment, China is working to not only match their “strong enemy” of the US, but even “fight and win wars” against the US military in future realms of warfare. As China’s military continues to strengthen, the US is under pressure to improve military readiness, modernize its equipment, and strengthen security alliances. With the current state of competition having no end in sight, military advancements from both states are likely to intensify.