01 June 2019

The Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region

The Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region (Arlington, VA: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1 June 2019).

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p. 8

The People’s Republic of China’s Military Modernization and Coercive Actions

As China continues its economic and military ascendance, it seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately global preeminence in the long-term. China is investing in a broad range of military programs and weapons, including those designed to improve power projection; modernize its nuclear forces; and conduct increasingly complex operations in domains such as cyberspace, space, and electronic warfare operations. China is also developing a wide array of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, which could be used to prevent countries from operating in areas near China’s periphery, including the maritime and air domains that are open to use by all countries.

In 2018, China’s placement of anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Spratly Islands violated a 2015 public pledge by the Chairman of the CCP Xi Jinping that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the Spratly Islands. China’s use of military presence in an attempt to exert de facto control over disputed areas is not limited to the South China Sea. In the East China Sea, China patrols near the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands with maritime law enforcement ships and aircraft. These actions endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability. Such activities are inconsistent with the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Simultaneously, China is engaged in a campaign of low-level coercion to assert control of disputed spaces in the region, particularly in the maritime domain. China is using a steady progression of small, incremental steps in the “gray zone” between peaceful relations and overt hostilities to secure its aims, while remaining below the threshold of armed conflict. Such activities can involve the coordination of multiple tools, including: political warfare, disinformation, use of A2/AD networks, subversion, and economic leverage.

During the last decade, China continued to emphasize capabilities for Taiwan contingencies. China has never renounced the use of military force against Taiwan, and continues to develop and deploy

p. 9

advanced military capabilities needed for a potential military campaign. PLA modernization is also strengthening its ability to operate farther from China’s borders. For example, the PLA is reorganizing to improve its capability to conduct complex joint operations, and is also improving its command and control, training, personnel, and logistics systems. Key weapon systems deployed or in development, include: cruise and ballistic missile systems, modern fighter and bomber aircraft, aircraft carriers, modern ships and submarines, amphibious assault ships, surface-to-air missile systems, electronic warfare systems, direct-ascent, hit-to-kill anti-satellite missiles, and autonomous systems. … … …