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U.S. Dept. Of Defense, Military And Security Developments Involving The People's Republic Of China 2022, November 29, 2022

The U.S. Defense Department was mandated by Congress to prepare an annual report on the military capabilities of the People's Republic of China. USCI maintains a web collection of these materials as well as those from the Chinese government.
November 29, 2022

Below is the preface and executive summary of the report. The full pdf of the report is below. Links to earlier reports are at USCI's Military Affairs resource page.

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The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only competitor with the intent and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order. The Department of Defense (DoD) annual report on military and security developments involving the PRC charts the current course of the PRC’s national, economic, and military strategy and offers Congress insight on the tenets of Beijing’s ambitions and intentions. The PRC’s strategy entails a determined effort to amass and harness all elements of its national power to place the PRC in a “leading position” in an enduring competition between systems. As expressed in the 2022 National Defense Strategy, the PRC presents the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system.


In this decisive decade, it is important to understand the contours of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) way of war, survey its current activities and capabilities, and assess its future military modernization goals. In 2021, the PRC increasingly turned to the PLA as an instrument of statecraft as it adopted more coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. Having purportedly achieved its 2020 modernization goal, the PLA now sets its sights to 2027 with a goal to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces. If realized, this 2027 objective could give the PLA capabilities to be a more credible military tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to wield as it pursues Taiwan unification.


In addition to the development of the PLA’s conventional capabilities, the PRC has continued to accelerate the modernization, diversification, and expansion of its nuclear forces. The PRC has stated its ambition to strengthen its “strategic deterrent,” while being reluctant to discuss the PLA’s developing nuclear, space, and cyberspace capabilities, negatively impacting global strategic stability—an area of increasing global concern.


As the PRC seeks to achieve “national rejuvenation” by its centenary in 2049, this report highlights Beijing’s ambition to reform the prevailing international rules-based system. This objective requires an external environment supportive of the PRC’s strategic goals defined under the concept of a “community of common destiny,” led by Xi Jinping’s initiatives such as the Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative.


This report illustrates how the CCP increasingly turns to the PLA in support of its global ambitions, and the importance of meeting the pacing challenge presented by the PRC’s increasingly capable military.


Report Scope: This report covers security and military developments involving the PRC until the end of 2021.

Executive Summary: 



China’s National Strategy

  The PRC’s national strategy aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049. The strategy is a determined pursuit of political, social, and military modernity to expand the PRC’s national power, perfect its governance, and revise the international order in support of Beijing’s system of governance and national interests. The PRC increasingly views the United States as deploying a whole-of-government effort meant to contain the PRC’s rise, which presents obstacles to its national strategy.

  The PRC has characterized its view of strategic competition in terms of a rivalry among powerful nation states, as well as a clash of opposing ideological systems. PRC leaders believe that structural changes in the international system and an increasingly confrontational United States are the root causes of intensifying strategic competition between the PRC and the United States.

  The PRC’s strategy entails deliberate and determined efforts to amass, improve, and harness the internal and external elements of national power that will place the PRC in a “leading position” in an enduring competition between systems.

  The PRC’s 20th National Congress of the CCP holds important military and security implications for the PLA’s 2027 centenary objectives. The 20th Party Congress report focused on intensifying and accelerating the PLA’s modernization goals over the next five years, including strengthening its “system of strategic deterrence.” Xi Jinping retained his chairmanship of the seven-person Central Military Commission (CMC) and selected members that offer political continuity, technical expertise on military modernization and space issues, and Taiwan-focused operational experience.


Foreign Policy

The PRC’s foreign policy seeks to build a “community of common destiny” that supports its strategy to realize “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Beijing’s revisionist ambition for the international order derives from the objectives of its national strategy and the CCP’s political and governing systems.

  In 2021, the PRC employed multiple diplomatic tools in an attempt to erode U.S. and partner influence, such as highlighting the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and criticizing U.S.-backed security partnerships including the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) and Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership (AUKUS).

  The COVID-19 pandemic also continued to be a driving force behind the PRC’s foreign policy efforts in 2021, as Beijing sought to deflect blame for its initial response to the pandemic and continued its use of foreign medical assistance, including vaccine donations, to bolster its bilateral ties and advance its responsible great power narrative.

Economic Policy

  The PRC’s military modernization objectives are commensurate with and part of China’s broader national development aspirations. The CCP’s economic, political, social, and security development efforts are mutually reinforcing and support Beijing’s strategy of national rejuvenation.

  Beijing’s “dual circulation” policy aims to forge domestic resilience by reducing China’s reliance on foreign supply chains that have proven to be economic chokepoints. In addition, the policy aims to boost domestic production and consumption to fuel growth and decrease the economy’s reliance on exports moving forward.

China’s economic development supports its military modernization by providing the means for larger defense budgets. Additionally, the PRC’s growing national industrial and technological base, as well as deliberate Party-led initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Made in China 2025, offers systemic military benefits to the PRC.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

  The PRC uses BRI to support its strategy of national rejuvenation by seeking to expand global transportation and trade linkages to support its development and deepen its economic integration with nations along its periphery and beyond.

  In 2021, the PRC significantly increased engagement with African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern countries and began prioritizing public health, digital infrastructure, and green energy opportunities.

  Overseas development and security interests under BRI will drive the PRC towards expanding its overseas security footprint to protect those interests.

Military-Civil Fusion Development Strategy

  The PRC pursues its Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) development strategy to “fuse” its security and development strategies to build an integrated National Strategic System and Capabilities in support of the PRC’s national rejuvenation goals.

  Beijing’s MCF development strategy includes objectives to develop and acquire advanced dual-use technology for military purposes and to deepen reform of the national defense science and technology industries, and serves a broader purpose to strengthen all of the PRC’s instruments of national power.

  The PRC’s MCF development strategy encompasses six interrelated efforts: (1) fusing China’s defense industrial base and its civilian technology and industrial base; (2) integrating and leveraging science and technology innovations across military and civilian sectors; (3) cultivating talent and blending military and civilian expertise and knowledge; (4) building military requirements into civilian infrastructure and leveraging civilian construction for military purposes; (5) leveraging civilian service and logistics capabilities for military purposes; and (6) expanding and deepening China’s national defense mobilization system to include all relevant aspects of its society and economy for use in competition and war.

Defense Policy and Military Strategy

  In 2021, the PRC’s stated defense policy aims remained oriented toward safeguarding its sovereignty, security, and development interests, while emphasizing a greater global role for itself. The PRC’s military strategy remains based on the concept of “active defense.”

  PRC leaders stress the imperative of strengthening the PLA into a “world-class” military by the end of 2049 as an essential element of its strategy to rejuvenate the PRC into a “great modern socialist country.”

  In 2020, the PLA added a new milestone for modernization in 2027, to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces, which if realized could give the PLA capabilities to be a more credible military tool for the CCP to wield as it pursues Taiwan unification.

  In 2021, the PLA began discussing a new “core operational concept,” called “Multi-Domain Precision Warfare (MDPW).”MDPW is intended to leverage a C4ISR network, which the PLA calls the “network information system-of-systems that incorporates advances in big data and artificial intelligence to rapidly identify key vulnerabilities in the U.S. operational system and then combine joint forces across domains to launch precision strikes against those vulnerabilities.



China’s Forces, Capabilities, and Power Projection

  The PLA seeks to modernize its capabilities and improve its proficiencies across all warfare domains so that, as a joint force, it can conduct the full range of land, air, and maritime, as well as nuclear, space, counterspace, electronic warfare (EW), and cyberspace operations.

  The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen the PRC’s ability to “fight and win wars” against a “strong enemy” (a euphemism likely for the United States), counter an intervention by a third party in a conflict along the PRC’s periphery, and project power globally.

  In 2021, the PLA continued to make progress implementing major structural reforms, fielding modern indigenous systems, building readiness, and strengthening its competency to conduct joint operations.

  People's Liberation Army Army (PLAA). The PLAA has approximately 975,000 active-duty personnel in combat units and is the primary ground fighting force in the PLA. In 2021, the PLAA emphasized realistic training scenarios and standardization of training methods during the exercise STRIDE-2021 and throughout extensive joint amphibious training that utilized both People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and civilian roll-on-roll-off (RORO) vessels. PLAA and Russian Army units participated in ZAPAD/INTERACTION-2021, a large-scale joint exercise to expand cooperation between the two militaries, which was conducted on PRC soil for the first time.

  People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The PLAN is numerically the largest navy in the world with an overall battle force of approximately 340 ships and submarines, including approximately 125 major surface combatants. As of 2021, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-mission ships and submarines. In 2021, the PLAN’s overall battle force shrank due to the transfer of 22 early flight JIANGDAO class corvettes to the China Coast Guard (CCG). The PLAN commissioned its fourth RENHAI class cruiser in late 2021 and resumed series construction of the JIANGKAI II class frigate. The PLAN commissioned two YUSHEN class amphibious assault ships, one each in April 2021 and April 2022. The PLAN launched a third hull in the YUSHEN class in January 2021, which is currently undergoing sea trials prior to commissioning.

  People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and PLAN Aviation. The PLAAF and PLAN Aviation together constitute the largest aviation force in the region and the third largest in the world, with over 2,800 total aircraft (not including trainer variants or uncrewed aerial systems (UAS)) of which approximately 2,250 are combat aircraft (including fighters, strategic bombers, tactical bombers, multi-mission tactical, and attack aircraft). The PLAAF is rapidly catching up to Western air forces and continues to modernize with the delivery of domestically built aircraft and a wide range of UAVs. In October 2019, the PLAAF publicly revealed the H-6N as its first nuclear- capable air-to-air refuelable bomber, signaling the airborne leg of its nuclear triad.

People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF). The PLARF organizes, mans, trains, and equips the PRC’s strategic land-based nuclear and conventional missile forces, associated support forces, and missile bases. The PLARF is advancing its long- term modernization plans to enhance its strategic deterrence capabilities. In 2021, the PLARF launched approximately 135 ballistic missiles for testing and training. This was more than the rest of the world combined, excluding ballistic missile employment in conflict zones. In 2021, the PRC continued building three solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silo fields, which will cumulatively contain at least 300 new ICBM silos.

Strategic Support Force (SSF). The SSF is a theater command-level organization established to centralize the PLA’s strategic space, cyberspace, electronic, information, communications, and psychological warfare missions and capabilities. The SSF’s Network Systems Department is responsible for information warfare with an integrated mission set that includes cyberspace warfare, technical reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and psychological warfare.

  The PLA views space superiority, the ability to control the space-enabled information sphere and to deny adversaries their own space-based information gathering and communication capabilities, as critical components in conducting modern “informatized warfare.”

  The PLA continues to invest in improving its capabilities in space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), satellite communication, satellite navigation, and meteorology, as well as human spaceflight and robotic space exploration.

Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF). The JLSF provides integrated joint logistics support for the PLA. The JLSF is concentrating its efforts on improving joint strategic and campaign-level logistic efficiencies through training and on integrating civilian products and services. The JLSF also had an active role in coordinating with civilian entities to provide logistic support in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Joint Capabilities in Development

  The PLA is aggressively developing capabilities to provide options for the PRC to dissuade, deter, or, if ordered, defeat third-party intervention in the Indo-Pacific region.

The PLA is also developing the capabilities to conduct military operations deeper into the Indo-Pacific region, and in some cases, globally.

  Although the PLA has undertaken important structural reforms to promote joint operations, its capability to carry out joint operations in support of counter- intervention or joint campaigns outside the First Island Chain remains in its infancy.

Capabilities for Counter-intervention and Power Projection

The PRC’s counter-intervention strategy aims to restrict the United States from having a presence in China’s immediate periphery and limit U.S. access in the broader Indo- Pacific region. The PLA’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities are, to date, the most robust within the First Island Chain, although the PLA is increasingly able to project power into the Philippine Sea and the PRC seeks to strengthen its capabilities to reach farther into the Pacific Ocean.

  Long-Range Precision Strike and Supporting ISR. PLA doctrinal writings state that precision attack in all warfare domains is critical in modern war. PLA writings state that precision weapons are not only force multipliers, but also a means of “war control” to prevent escalation.

  Integrated Air Defense System (IADS). The PRC has a robust and redundant IADS architecture over land areas and within 300 nautical miles (mm) (556 kilometers (km)) of its coast that relies on an extensive early warning radar network, fighter aircraft, and a variety of Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) systems. The PRC has also placed radars and air defense weapons on outposts in the South China Sea, further extending the range of its IADS. It also employs point defenses, primarily to defend strategic targets against adversary long-range cruise missiles and airborne strike platforms.

  Hypersonic Weapons. China’s deployment of the DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV)-armed Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) will continue to transform the PLA’s missile force. The system, fielded in 2020, is possibly intended to replace some older Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) units, according to PRC media, and is designed to strike foreign military bases and fleets in the Western Pacific, according to a PRC-based military expert.

Advancing Toward an Informatized Military

  The PLA considers information operations (IO) as a means of achieving information dominance early in a conflict and continues to expand the scope and frequency of IO in military exercises.

  The PRC presents a significant, persistent threat of cyber-enabled espionage and attack on an adversary’s military and critical infrastructure systems.

  The PLA is pursuing next-generation combat capabilities based on its vision of future conflict, which it calls “intelligentized warfare,” defined by the expanded use of artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies at every level of warfare.

Space and Counterspace Capabilities

  The PLA continues to acquire and develop a range of counterspace capabilities and related technologies, including kinetic-kill missiles, ground-based lasers, and orbiting space robots, as well as expanding space surveillance capabilities, which can monitor objects in space within their field of view and enable counterspace actions.

  The PLA views space operations as a means to deter and counter third-party intervention during a regional military conflict. Moreover, PRC defense academics suggest that reconnaissance, communication, navigation, and early warning satellites could be among the target of attacks designed to “blind and deafen the enemy.”

Nuclear Capabilities

  Over the next decade, the PRC aims to modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces. Compared to the PLA’s nuclear modernization efforts a decade ago, current efforts exceed previous modernization attempts in both scale and complexity.

  The PRC is investing in and expanding the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces. The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.

  In 2021, Beijing probably accelerated its nuclear expansion. The Department of Defense estimates that the PRC’s operational nuclear warheads stockpile has surpassed 400.

  The PLA plans to "basically complete modernization" of its national defense and armed forces by 2035. If China continues the pace of its nuclear expansion, it will likely field a stockpile of about 1500 warheads by its 2035 timeline.



Chemical and Biological Research

  The PRC’s chemical and biotechnology infrastructures are sufficient to research, develop, and produce some chemical and biological agents or toxins on a large scale.

  China probably has the technical expertise to weaponize chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents, and its robust armaments industry and numerous conventional weapon systems, including missiles, rockets, and artillery, probably could be adapted to deliver CBW agents.

  The PRC continues to engage in biological activities with dual-use applications, which raise concerns regarding its compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. Such PRC biological activities include studies at PRC military medical institutions on potent toxins with dual-use applications.

  The United States cannot certify that the PRC has met its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention due to concerns regarding the PRC’s research on pharmaceutical-based agents and toxins with potential dual-use applications.

Operational Structure and Activities on China's Periphery

  The PRC continues to refine military reforms associated with the establishment of the Eastern, Southern, Western, Northern, and Central Theater Commands, which are organized based on the Beijing’s perception of peripheral threats.

  Under the direction of the Central Military Commission (CMC), each Theater Command has operational authority over the PLA conventional forces within the theater.

Developments in the Security Situation in the Taiwan Strait

  The PRC intensified diplomatic, economic, political, and military pressure against Taiwan in 2021.

  Throughout 2021, the PLA increased provocative and destabilizing actions in and around the Taiwan Strait, to include increased flights into Taiwan’s self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and conducting island seizure exercises.

  Although the PRC publicly advocates for peaceful unification with Taiwan, the PRC has never renounced the use of military force. The circumstances under which the PRC has historically indicated it would consider using force remain ambiguous and have evolved over time.

  The PRC could conduct a range of options for military campaigns against Taiwan, with varying degrees of feasibility and associated risks. These options may range from an air and/or maritime blockade to a full-scale amphibious invasion to seize and occupy some of its offshore islands or all of Taiwan.



The PLA's Growing Global Presence

  CCP leaders view the PLA’s growing global presence as an essential part of the PRC’s international activities to create an external environment conducive to China’s national rejuvenation.

  The CCP has tasked the PLA to develop the capability to project power outside the PRC’s borders and immediate periphery to secure Beijing’s growing overseas interests and advance its foreign policy goals.

The PLA’s Evolving Missions & Tasks

  The PLAN’s evolving focus from “near seas defense” to “far seas protection” reflects the PLAN’s interest in a wider operational reach.

  The PLAAF’s missions and tasks have similarly evolved towards conducting operations beyond China and its immediate periphery and supporting the PRC’s interests by becoming a “strategic” air force.

  The PLA has embraced its concept of non-war military activities (NWMA) as an effective way to support and safeguard the PRC’s development, expand the PRC’s global interests, and gain valuable operational experience.

PRC Influence Operations

  The PLA views controlling the information spectrum in the modern battlespace as a critical enabler and means of achieving information dominance early in a conflict.

  The PRC conducts influence operations that target media organizations, business, academic, cultural institutions, and policy communities of the United States, other countries, and international organizations to shape public discourse and achieve outcomes favorable to its strategic and military objectives.

  PRC influence operations are coordinated at the high level and executed by a range of actors, such as the PLA Political Work Department, United Front Work Department (UFWD), International Liaison Department, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), and the PLA Strategic Support Force (SSF).

  The CCP seeks to condition international institutions and public opinion to accept the PRC’s narrative surrounding its priorities such as Beijing’s “one China principle” on Taiwan unification, the Belt and Road Initiative, political control over Hong Kong, and territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

PLA Overseas Basing and Access

  The PRC is seeking to expand its overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances.

  A global PLA military logistics network could disrupt U.S. military operations as the PRC’s global military objectives evolve.

  Beyond the PLA support base in Djibouti, the PRC is likely already considering and planning for additional military logistics facilities to support naval, air, and ground forces projection.

  The PRC has likely considered Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan, among other places, as locations for PLA military logistics facilities.

Resources and Technology for Force Modernization

  The PRC’s long-term goal is to create an entirely self-reliant defense-industrial sector—fused with a strong civilian industrial and technology sector—that can meet the PLA’s needs for modern military capabilities.

  The PRC has mobilized vast resources in support of its defense modernization, including through its Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) Development Strategy, as well as espionage activities to acquire sensitive, dual-use, and military-grade equipment. The PRC has substantially reorganized its defense-industrial sector to improve weapon system research, development, acquisition, testing, evaluation, and production.

  In 2021, the PRC announced its annual military budget would increase by 6.8 percent, continuing more than 20 years of annual defense spending increases and sustaining its position as the second-largest military spender in the world. As the PRC’s published military budget omits several major categories of expenditures, its actual military- related spending is likely significantly higher than what it states in its official budget.

Developments in the PRC Defense Industry

Most of China’s missile systems, including its ballistic and cruise missile systems, are comparable in quality to systems of other international top-tier producers. China conducted a test of a new hypersonic weapon system in 2021, building on previous progress in hypersonic weapon development.

  China’s decades-long efforts to improve domestic aircraft engine production are starting to produce results with the J-10 and J-20 fighters switching to domestically produced WS-10 engines by the end of 2021. China’s first domestically produced high-bypass turbofan, the WS-20, has also entered flight-testing on the Y-20 heavy transport and probably will replace imported Russian engines by the end of 2022.

  As the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage, the PRC is increasing its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all naval classes: submarines, warships, and auxiliary and amphibious ships. China also has developed underwater systems, publicly revealing a long-range system in 2019.

Espionage Activities Supporting China’s Military Modernization

  The PRC presents a sophisticated, persistent threat of cyber-enabled espionage and attack to military and critical infrastructure systems through its efforts to develop, acquire, or gain access to information and advanced technologies.

  Sensitive, dual-use, or military-grade equipment that the PRC have attempted to acquire include radiation hardened integrated circuits, monolithic microwave integrated circuits, accelerometers, gyroscopes, naval and marine technologies, syntactic foam trade secrets, space communications, military communication jamming equipment, dynamic random access memory, aviation technologies, and anti- submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities.

  The PRC seeks to create destructive effects to shape decision-making and disrupt military operations at the initial stages and throughout a conflict. The PRC believes these capabilities are even more effective against militarily superior adversaries that depend on information technologies.

The PLA and China’s Talent Recruitment Programs. The CCP operates more than 200 talent-recruitment programs that are overseen by central bodies, including the Central Coordination Group on Talent Work and the Overseas High- level Talent Recruitment Work Group. Although the PRC government administers China’s talent recruitment programs, the PLA uses China’s network of recruitment programs, such as the Thousand Talents Plan, to recruit overseas talent for military purposes.



U.S.-PRC Defense Contacts and Exchanges

DoD’s defense contacts and exchanges with the PRC in 2021 emphasized responsibly managing competition and establishing commonsense guardrails to ensure competition does not veer into conflict.

2021 defense contacts and exchanges with the PRC prioritized open channels of communication and the advancement of DoD priorities on managing crisis communications and strategic risk management.