May 31, 2007 A new report from the US department of defense has raised concerns about China's growing military power, particularly in regard to cyber-warfare preparations and an expanding counterspace program. The report to congress entitled "Military Power of the People’s Republic of China" asserts that whilst Beijing continues to focus its military preparedness on the Taiwan Straits, it appears to be shifting its attention to arenas that may pose a greater threat to the rest of the world.
China's much publicized (and successful) anti-satellite weapons test conducted against one of its own weather satellites in January this year is seen to "pose dangers to human space flight and puts at risk the assets of all space faring nations." Furthermore, "China’s continued pursuit of area denial and anti-access strategies is expanding from the traditional land, air, and sea dimensions of the modern battlefield to include space and cyber-space". Although there is "no evidence of a formal Chinese CNO (Computer Network Operations) doctrine", concerns about electronic warfare are made very clear in the report. China’s CNO concepts are said to include computer network attack, defense and exploitation which are seen as crucial in achieving “electromagnetic dominance”. In effect this could be interpreted a a simple admission China is aware of the importance of controlling data and information networks in modern warfare just as the U.S certainly is.
Another of the central concerns cited by the report is the vagueness of China's overall military strategy, although the report does concede an improvement in transparency over the past year with the release of China's fifth white paper on defense since 1998. For those of us in other parts of the globe however, the report also raises concerns through what it implies about the United States' own tendency towards secrecy and consolidation of its position as the world's only super-power. As some commentators have noted, the US report tends to ignore its own strategy of maintaining a military presence far beyond its own borders as shown by the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thus the worry for global security is not only in the lack of Chinese transparency highlighted in this report, but also in the prospect of a U.S. build-up in response to this perceived threat. The U.S. is concerned about "disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages”, and makes it clear that "the lack of transparency in China’s military affairs will naturally and understandably prompt international responses that hedge against the unknown". Undoubtedly it would be better for the the global community as a whole if everyone put their cards on the table. No-one is holding their breath.