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PLA likely training for strikes against U.S., according to Defense Department report

PLA likely training for strikes against U.S., according to Defense Department report


The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has developed overwater bomber operations capable of engaging targets as far away from China as possible, which could include strikes against the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Defense annual report to Congress.

“Over the last three years, the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets,” said the 2018 “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.”

The “critical maritime areas” include the South China Sea, a disputed waterway where the PRC continues to construct outposts despite competing claims to the territory. (Pictured: Navy personnel of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy take part in a military display in the South China Sea in April 2018.)

Chinese military documents highlight a strategy for the PLA to secure Chinese national interests overseas, including an emphasis on dominating maritime and information domains, offensive air operations and long-distance mobility operations, including space and cyber, according to the annual report.

The Defense Department report addresses the current and probable future course of military-technological development of the PLA and the tenets and probable development of Chinese security strategy and military strategy. It also evaluates the military organizations and operational concepts supporting such development during the next 20 years and analyzes United States-China engagement and cooperation on security matters, including through United States-China military-to-military contacts and the United States strategy for such engagement and cooperation in the future.

“China’s push for leadership in global S&T [science and technology] development comes at a time in which dual-use technology advances, applicable for both commercial and military purposes, increasingly occur in the commercial sector,” the report said. “This means that efforts by China to cultivate a broad base of S&T talent, particularly given its stated focus on dual-use sectors, will be relevant to China’s military power in coming decades.”

Specific examples include advanced computing, essential for weapons design and testing; industrial robotics, potentially useful for improving weapons manufacturing; and new materials and electric power equipment, which could contribute to improved weapon systems, the report said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the PLA in 2017 to step up efforts, saying China needed a military ready to “fight and win” wars, according to The Straits Times newspaper. The Defense Depart report called the PLA’s force restructuring the “most comprehensive” in its history.

Xi and other Chinese leaders have characterized the first two decades of the 21st century as a period of strategic opportunity. The Chinese Communist Party’s vision of a powerful and prosperous China continues to evolve under the leadership of Xi. All the while, the United States and others monitor and document such developments while implementing efforts to engage China and encourage Xi to responsibly respect international laws.