• March 22, 2023

Pentagon aims to expand military spending by hyping progress in China’s capability of safeguarding core interests

By GT staff reporters Published: Nov 30, 2022 11:12 PM

The US Defense Department on Tuesday released its annual report on China’s military development, with what experts said is a “tougher tone” than previous years against a backdrop of complicated international situations and a degradation in China-US relations. In a deliberate move to hype China’s military strength, the report discussed China’s nuclear arsenal and played up China’s possible military actions to the island of Taiwan and the “Indo-Pacific region.”

Chinese military experts believe the reports is aimed at hyping the China threat theory and demonize China’s rightful military development, and serve the US’ goal of pulling regional countries to its side to contain China. However, they point out that the US, the biggest owner of nuclear warheads which is constantly stirring up conflicts in other regions, is the biggest threat to global peace.

Different from the US, China’s military development only serves to defend its core interests, such as preparing for any possible scenario that may happen in the Taiwan Straits. 

The annual report, compiled by the Pentagon for the US Congress, said that Beijing “probably accelerated” its nuclear expansion last year and was on track to have a stockpile of 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035.

The report looks at China’s military modernization and defense strategy, but also looks at elements of China’s economic policy and foreign policy, “and how these all kind of fit together with the military and defense modernization in pursuit of its regional and global ambitions,” a Pentagon official said. 

In response to US hype, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the  in recent years, the US has been hyping up various versions of the “China threat” narrative simply to find pretext for expanding its nuclear arsenal and perpetuating military predominance. The world knows well that this is a go-to tactic of the US.

He said China’s nuclear policy is consistent and clear. We follow a self-defensive nuclear strategy. We stick to the policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. We have exercised utmost restraint in developing nuclear capabilities. We have kept those capabilities at the minimum level required by national security. We are never part of any form of arms race.

The US has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world. It has in recent years kept upgrading its “nuclear triad,” and strengthening the role of nuclear weapons in its national security policies. To this day, the US still clings to a nuclear deterrence policy based on first use of nuclear weapons, and openly devises nuclear deterrence strategies against particular countries. The US is engaged in nuclear submarine cooperation with the UK and Australia, which violates the object and purposes of the NPT. Our suggestion is to go through the recent reports issued by the US itself to read for yourselves what it has done and will do next on the nuclear front, according to Zhao.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Wednesday that this year’s report used a tougher tone to hype China’s “military threat,” amid a more complicated international background such as the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the US’ constant provocation on the Taiwan question.

“It aims to tell countries, especially those in the Indo-Pacific region that China poses a bigger threat than ever, and to pull those countries together to contain China,” Song said.

Yet he pointed out that the US is the real saboteur in the region. Moreover, the US Department of Defense recently released its 2022 Nuclear Posture Review. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that as the US nuclear capability remains the “ultimate backstop” for strategic deterrence, the department plans to continue modernization efforts on the nuclear triad.

The US is the biggest nuclear threat in the world, as it owns 5,428 nuclear warheads as of January 2022, media reported.

China’s nuclear weapons are way behind the US in terms of quality and quantity, said experts. Huang Zhicheng, an aerospace expert, told the Global Times that China is the only country in the world that insists on not using nuclear weapons first, which the US has never said it would do, yet the report neglects this point. 

Even if China attains a nuclear arsenal of 1,500 warheads as the US alleges, it only accounts for one-third of the US’ stockpile. “The US has adopted constant nuclear intimidation since the Cold War, which makes many countries without nuclear weapons feel insecure. When the US is strengthening nuclear weapons’ role in its national security strategy, it lowers the threshold of using nuclear weapons, which constitutes a future nuclear threat,” Huang said. 

Song also defended China’s development of nuclear weapons, saying that although China commits to no first use of nuclear weapons, it is necessary to have those weapons in hand to defend the country’s interests. 

“Let me be frank. China’s policy on nuclear power is consistent. We use it for self-defense, we will not be the first to use nuclear power, and we develop nuclear capabilities with an ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. We develop nuclear capabilities to protect the peaceful hard work of the Chinese people and to protect our country from the scourge of war, particularly nuclear war,” State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe said in June.

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times that the Pentagon is hyping China’s rapid military technological development so it can get more funding, and it is attempting to ally the West to strategically compete with China, Li said.

The US will never accept China to surpass it as the leading global military power, so it will increase investment to ensure the US is leading by a large margin, or it will deliberately create conflict or even crises with China to disrupt China’s steady military development, Li said. “We should be alert to that and prepared for it,” Li said. 

Defend the red line

The US report devoted large parts to playing up the Chinese military actions around the island of Taiwan. The Pentagon said that even before Pelosi’s visit, China had in 2021 conducted increasingly frequent and realistic “island-seizure” exercises. 

Song said China’s actions are preparing for any scenario to solve the Taiwan question. “We will strive our best to solve it by peaceful means, but if any outside force tries to stir up trouble and Taiwan secessionists try to take any risk, then the Chinese army will solve this question by any means possible. By then, those trouble fanners and secessionists will be sinners of history,” Song said.

Resolving the Taiwan question has always been an important objective in the PLA’s development, and as was demonstrated in the “island encirclement” drills in August, the PLA is fully capable of locking down the island from external military interference, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times 

When meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last week, Wei emphasized that the Taiwan question is the core of China’s interests and the first insurmountable red line in China-US relations.

Wei said that Taiwan is China’s Taiwan, and the settlement of the Taiwan question is the Chinese people’s own affair and brooks no foreign interference.


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