Reliable Security Information

Countering China's Military Modernization

Implications for the Region

China has been steadily building up its strategic and conventional capabilities since the 1990s. Eighteen years ago, experts say, China had a "bare-bones" military: basic capabilities, but nothing sophisticated or top-of-the-line. But two decades of double-digit spending increases have changed that picture. China currently spends two to three times more than the $61 billion publicly announced as its defense budget for 2008, the Pentagon estimates. All that spending has gone to building a sophisticated, modern military: a large, increasingly capable submarine fleet, an air force stocked with Russian warplanes, and technical strides which have improved China'sballistic missile arsenal, as well as satellite surveillance, radar, and interception capabilities.

China clearly complicates U.S. defense planning in Asia – Adam Segal.

China continues to stress that its military modernization is in line with its peaceful rise in the world. Its latest White Paper on national defense emphasizes it will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansionism. However, this has not alleviated concerns among its neighbors and regional rivals, say experts. A CFR Independent Task Force report (PDF) in 2007 on U.S.-China relations noted that many of China's neighbors and potential adversaries were making adjustments to their own defense plans and expenditures to balance China's growing military capabilities.

Japan: Japan and China compete over a host of issues, from regional security to international trade to access to energy. The two countries have a centuries-old history of conflict, including two Sino-Japanese wars that began in 1894 and 1931, and a bloody Japanese occupation of China during World War II. As this Backgrounder points out these animosities surface in recurring cycles, often involving Chinese anger over Japan's perceived lack of contrition for wartime crimes. But concrete territorial and economic issues also...

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