NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 21, 2004

China will have the most powerful military in Asia in 10 to 15 years, creating the potential for regional conflict in Asia, according to a Pentagon report.

While the United States is busy with Iraq and Al Qaeda, China is quietly boosting its military capabilities, with the short-term goal of reunifying Taiwan and the long-term goal of replacing the United States as the predominant military power in Asia.

The Pentagon's "Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China" reveals:

  • China's military budget for 2004 is expected to grow by 11.6 percent, and when including the cost of weapons and research, will become the third largest defense budget in the world.
  • China is increasing its importation of weapons, having purchased nearly $20 billion in arms from Russia last year; the nation is further pressuring the European Union to lift its 1989 ban on weapons imports.
  • China has over 500 short-range ballistic missiles, with that number growing by an estimated 75 missiles per year; most of them are aimed at Taiwan.

Moreover, China is looking to its space program to develop reconnaissance satellites and anti-satellite lasers capable of knocking out communications.

Countries in the area will need to change the way they respond to China, says the Pentagon. Japan, for example, is currently considering modifying its "peace constitution" which has limited their military options. The United States will need to affirm to the People's Republic that it is committed to Taiwan's future through peaceful means (as required by U.S. law), and the European Union should continue its ban on the sale of arms to China.

Source: "Report to Congress on PRC Military Power," FY04 Report, United States Department of Defense, May 29, 2004.

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