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Chinese media attack Pentagon report, 2007

The newspaper of China's ruling Communist party has condemned last week's report from the U.S. Defense Department highlighting the growing strength of Chinese military forces as "slanderous" and "exaggerated."
May 27, 2007

By Mure Dickie in Beijing

Published: May 27 2007 17:12 | Last updated: May 27 2007 17:12

The newspaper of China's ruling Communist party has condemned last week's report from the US defence department highlighting the growing strength of Chinese military forces as "slanderous" and "exaggerated".

The Pentagon's latest annual report to the US Congress on Chinese military development – released on Friday – cited, in particular, Beijing's introduction of more powerful and survivable nuclear forces and its development of anti-satellite weapons. It called for greater transparency over China's military planning.

Officials in Beijing did not immediately respond to the 42-page report, but the official media moved quickly to dismiss it as ill-informed and one-sided.

The report, like previous versions, contained "absurd" commentary and constituted an attack on China's defence modernisation, said the People's Daily newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Communist party.

"The 2007 report again seeks to mislead international opinion with its erroneous point of view, and this clearly goes against the current mainstream of developing ties between these two countries and their militaries," the newspaper said in a signed commentary.

"In ignoring the facts and deliberately playing up the so-called China military threat, the report absolutely does not have a leg to stand on," it said.

The Pentagon report has become an annual window both into developments in the highly secretive Chinese military and into the attitudes and concerns of US defence planners, who see Beijing as a potent potential future adversary.

The 2007 report said China was seeking a "long-term comprehensive transformation" of its military forces and that its "actions in certain areas increasingly appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies". The People's Daily commentary did not address in detail the report's discussion of Chinese capabilities – stressing instead the right of any nation to maintain an "appropriate" military force.

It highlighted China's commitment to peace, while noting the military's goal of protecting the country's territory – a mission Beijing sees as including any action needed to uphold its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, which the mainland government regards as a renegade province.

However, while the Pentagon's report said Taiwan remained the "near-term focus" of Chinese military preparations, Beijing also seemed to be developing forces capable of intervening in "other regional contingencies, such as conflict over resources or territory".

It said: "The outside world has limited knowledge of the motivations, decision-making and key capabilities supporting China's military modernisation. This lack of transparency in China's military affairs will naturally and understandably prompt international responses that hedge against the unknown."

Chinese analysts have said that their country's military secrecy is understandable, given the huge gap in technological capabilities between its forces and those of the US.

"Everybody knows that the US is the world's top military power," said the People's Daily. "Even so, the US continues to strive for absolute military superiority as it pushes forward its military transformation in a blaze of publicity."

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007