You are here

US Department of Defense, Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2005

This is the Department of Defense’s annual report to Congress.

May 15, 2005

View reports from other years:

2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |
2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002

Executive Summary

The rapid rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a regional political and economic power with global aspirations is one of the principal elements in the emergence of East Asia, a region that has changed greatly over the past quarter of a century. China’s emergence has significant implications for the region and the world. The United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, one that becomes integrated as a constructive member of the international community. But, we see a China facing a strategic crossroads. Questions remain about the basic choices China’s leaders will make as China’s power and influence grow, particularly its military power.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is modernizing its forces, emphasizing preparations to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along China’s periphery. PLA modernization has accelerated since the mid-to-late 1990s in response to central leadership demands to develop military options for Taiwan scenarios.

In the short term, the PRC appears focused on preventing Taiwan independence or trying to compel Taiwan to negotiate a settlement on Beijing’s terms. A second set of objectives includes building counters to third-party, including potential U.S., intervention in cross-Strait crises. PLA preparations, including an expanding force of ballistic missiles (long-range and short-range), cruise missiles, submarines, advanced aircraft, and other modern systems, come against the background of a policy toward Taiwan that espouses “peaceful reunification.” China has not renounced the use of force, however. Over the long term, if current trends persist, PLA capabilities could pose a credible threat to other modern militaries operating in the region.

The PLA is working toward these goals by acquiring new foreign and domestic weapon systems and military technologies, promulgating new doctrine for modern warfare, reforming military institutions, personnel development and professionalization, and improving exercise and training standards. We assess that China’s ability to project conventional military power beyond its periphery remains limited.

This report outlines what we know of China’s national and military strategies, progress and trends in its military modernization, and their implications for regional security and stability. But, secrecy envelops most aspects of Chinese security affairs. The outside world has little knowledge of Chinese motivations and decision-making and of key capabilities supporting PLA modernization. Hence, the findings and conclusions are based on incomplete data. These gaps are, of necessity, bridged by informed judgment.

The PLA’s routine publication of a biannual Defense White Paper demonstrates some improvement in transparency. However, China’s leaders continue to guard closely basic information on the quantity and quality of the Chinese armed forces. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense still does not know the full size and composition of Chinese government expenditure on national defense. Estimates put it at two to three times the officially published figures.

Click here to read the full report.