13 November 2021

Interviewed by ANI News: “Pentagon Report Issues ‘Clarion Call’ Over Chinese Military Ambitions”

Pentagon Report Issues ‘Clarion Call’ Over Chinese Military Ambitions,” ANI News, 8 November 2021.

… The CMPR [China Military Power Report] only covers developments till the end of 2020, the better part of a year ago. For that reason, it did not mention the test of a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) several months ago. A FOBS is an alternative means of delivering a nuclear warhead compared to the more common intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This CMPR makes sober reading, warning early on, “The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen China’s ability to ‘fight and win wars’ against a ‘strong enemy’ (a likely euphemism for the United States), coerce Taiwan and rival claimants in territorial disputes, counter an intervention by a third party in a conflict along China’s periphery, and project power globally.”

Andrew Erickson, Professor of Strategy at the US Naval War College, told ANI: “Over the past two decades, the PLA has achieved a rapid hardware build-out in quantity and increasing quality, together with sweeping reforms to address ongoing weaknesses in organization, coordination, sophistication and training. China has already arrived as a great power. It has the world’s second largest economy and defense budget, and the world’s largest standing ground force. Its three sea forces [navy, coast guard and maritime militia] are each the world’s largest by number of ships. It has the Indo-Pacific’s largest air force, the world’s largest sub-strategic missile force, and arguably the world’s largest and most sophisticated surface-to-air missile force.” …

… Professor Erickson’s conclusion was that the 2021 report is the best one yet, concurring that its “most explosive revelations” were in the nuclear realm. He concluded, “China has clearly arrived as a top-tier nuclear-weapons state across the board. Its deterrence relations with the United States will reach new levels of difficulty and complexity in coming years.” …

… Erickson explained, “PLA missiles and other ‘counter-intervention’ weapons are part of a comprehensive pattern: we can see Beijing preparing to attempt to deter or defeat American defense of Taiwan in coming years by claiming a potent weapons-based capability for every possible scenario contingency and escalation.” …

… Erickson observed, “If realized, the PLA’s 2027 modernization goals could provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency … Clearly, the recent focus by Admiral Davidson and other US officials on PLA threats to Taiwan peaking by around 2027 is not based solely on close hold information – although that undoubtedly factors in.”

How should this report be read? Erickson responded, “Most fundamentally, as a clarion call to meet China’s challenge before regional security, US alliances and the rules-based international order suffer grave, irreversible damage.”

“The Pentagon’s new China report must inform key decision-makers as well as the general public to marshal the necessary efforts to safeguard peace and security amid Beijing’s mounting challenges to both. The bottom line: Washington and its allies and partners must hold the line through 2035. Starting now! There is no time left to waste,” Erickson summarized. (ANI)