China’s Military Ambitions Growing, Pentagon Report Finds

China is looking beyond its decades- old territorial dispute with Taiwan as it modernizes its military, according to the U.S. Defense Department’s annual report on military developments in the Asian nation.

Members of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) walk past the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg
Members of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) walk past the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

“As China’s interests have grown and as it has gained greater influence in the international system, its military modernization has also become increasingly focused on investments in military capabilities to conduct a wider range of missions beyond its immediate territorial concerns,” the Pentagon said yesterday in the report to Congress titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013.”

While preparing for a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait appears to remain China’s principal focus, China is seeking to expand its influence to conduct counter-piracy and humanitarian assistance missions as well as regional military operations, the Pentagon found.

The People’s Liberation Army’s engagement with the militaries of other nations “continues to grow significantly,” the Pentagon said. Such interaction helps China share and gain insight into doctrines, strategies, tactics and techniques, according to the report.

China has begun deploying its DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, the Pentagon said in the report.

“China is fielding a limited but growing number of conventionally armed, medium-range ballistic missiles,” according to the report. Among them is the DF-21D, which is described as having the “capability to attack large ships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific Ocean.” The anti-ship missile has a range of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles), the Pentagon said.

‘Great Distance’
It’s unclear how many missiles China has deployed or where they are located, said David Helvey, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.

“We are concerned about the ability of China to develop missiles that can project its military power with precision at great distances from China,” Helvey said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday on the report. In combination with other weapons systems, China is gaining the capability to deny the U.S. a military presence in the western Pacific, he said.

The Obama administration’s strategy calls for a “pivot” to the Asia Pacific, bolstering U.S. naval and other resources in the region. The administration has said China shouldn’t view the change as an effort to contain its growing presence and assertiveness.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at


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