CHINA THREAT REFLECTED IN DOD’S ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
On June 6, the US Department of Defense (DOD) released its annual report on China to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017. Analyzing each of the four areas of potential confrontation—sea, outer space, nuclear, and cyberspace—the 97-page report is a pointed warning of China’s intention to continue on its course to becoming the world’s mightiest military power.
Defining China’s goal as undermining the present framework of American supremacy through aggressive military modernization, the report is a surprisingly candid indictment of Beijing’s ambitions. It declares: “To support this modernization, China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including cyber theft, targeted foreign direct investment, and exploitation of the access of private Chinese nationals to such technologies.”
There are some interesting statistics regarding this matter. The Chinese government has over the years promoted a policy emphasizing technological innovation as a means of supporting its economic development program. To that end, it has formulated several five-year plans since 2001 aimed at increasing its research and development budget to 2.5% of GDP by 2020.
However, this goal has yet to be made—not even once. The reason is believed to be that a culture to establish its own research and development has failed to take root, as the Chinese have apparently succeeded in stealing the necessary intellectual property from other countries.
Aside from what measures the Chinese have employed to obtain their badly needed technologies, however, there is no question China has been building up extraordinary military strength. For instance, China is the first nation in the world to create an air force space command. In reviewing the worldwide threat assessment of the US intelligence community in May this year, Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, noted that Russia and China will make the development of a weapon system targeting American satellites their prime space age strategy. He asserted: “Russia and China perceive a need to offset any US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems, and are increasingly considering attacks against satellite systems as part of their future warfare doctrine.”
Towards the end of 2015, China also created a strategic support force in the People’s Liberation Army, which is seen as a unit designed to achieve military superiority over the US in both outer space and cyberspace.
The report also refers to the successful launch in August 2016 of a Chinese quantum satellite, which could possibly boost China to a position of ruling over the whole universe.
China’s Dream: Creating a Great 21 Century Empire
Last year, China launched 22 space rockets, 21 of them successfully. One of these rockets was the quantum satellite launched in what the Chinese referred to as the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS). Quantum communication guarantees extremely secure communication, making wire-tapping and code-breaking impossible.
The Internet Sankei News explained in its September 3, 2016 edition: “If anyone attempts to wiretap or rewrite the content of quantum communication, it will fall apart instantly. It is impossible to hack quantum communication.”
The successful launch of the quantum satellite has made it theoretically possible for China to communicate freely in the vast expanse of space without any fear of being wiretapped.
In 2007, China destroyed one of its own aging weather satellites via an anti-satellite missile test at an altitude of 865 kilometers (537 miles), demonstrating formidable new offensive capabilities. The purpose of these new weapons is to make its adversaries “blind and deaf.” If China, which through illicit hacking has over the decades stolen pertinent technologies the world over, is to obtain, of all things, the quantum communication technology which absolutely defies hacking, the danger of Beijing controlling the world would become that much more real.
China is currently building its own space station, planning to launch the main module sometime next year. The space station is expected to be completed in 2022, two years after the Olympics in Tokyo. China further plans to establish a moon base, its completion expected around 2027. President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” is said to establish a world order controlled by China within this century. Is Xi genuinely serious about creating a great Chinese empire which will expand its territory to outer space?
Annexing Taiwan is clearly one of China’s first steps towards realizing its grand ambition. The DOD report devotes many pages to a detailed analysis of the island nation claimed by Beijing. The chapter title—Force Modernization for a Taiwan Contingency— is significant enough to deserve closer attention. A three-page appendix comparing Chinese and Taiwanese forces is attached.
The military might of China and Taiwan is hardly comparable. China’s supremacy is clear, and there is no cause for optimism for Taiwan in the future. Taiwan, which at present has 215,000 troops, is aiming to create an armed forces made up solely of 175,000 volunteers by 2019.
Even reaching the numbers of this reduced force will be difficult due to a shortage of volunteers, whereas China already has 190,000 soldiers deployed to the Taiwan Strait alone as part of its 2.3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
With Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the East China Sea obviously in mind, China has been endeavoring to reinforce its fighting power in the non-military arena, specifically as regards the China Coast Guard (CCG) and the maritime militia.
Since 2010, the CCG has expanded its fleet of large vessels of 1,000–plus tons from 60 to 130. Every new vessel the CCG has added since has been large, some even exceeding 10,000 tons. These vessels, equipped with 30mm to 76mm cannons and capable of carrying helicopters on board, have functions on a par with regular battleships and can withstand prolonged deployment at sea.
The report points out that China is the only country with a coast guard boasting a fleet of 130 vessels of more than 1,000 tons. The CCG has already become a navy in its own right.
China’s “Low-Tech” Maritime Militias
Apart from the CCG, China’s maritime militias have also been expanding their size and capabilities. Maritime militias occupy territorial waters and islands, demonstrating efficiency similar to the PLA’s.
Coordinating with the PLA, Chinese maritime militias frequently intimidate the Philippines and Vietnam. In the summer of 2016, they closed in on the peripheral waters of the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The DOD report points out that the Chinese maritime militias are also undergoing a significant change.
Previously, Chinese maritime militias leased vessels from shipping companies. But now, Hainan Province in the South China Sea has ordered the building of 84 large vessels for use by the militias, who now have ships of their own.
Chinese maritime militias have since moved beyond the South China Sea, making their way into the waters off the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and the Ogasawara Islands, as well as various other areas of the Pacific Ocean.
Boasting the Space Command and a quantum satellite on the one hand and maritime militias on the other, China is staring down on the world with an odd combination of high and low technologies. In a cyber era, the side that takes the offensive first is guaranteed victory 100%. How can Japan protect itself with its exclusively defensive security policy under such circumstances?
The need for burden-sharing has been stressed in order to enhance the alliance between the US and Japan. Fumio Ota of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a privately financed think tank in Tokyo that I head, formerly served as head of the Defense Intelligence Headquarters of the Ministry of Defense. He asks:
“Suppose the Trump administration says America will cope with the high-tech threats associated with space and cyberspace, while requesting Japan to deal with the low-tech threats from the Chinese maritime militias. How do you think Japan will react?”
A contingency such as this could very well happen in the not too distant future. We must remind ourselves that, unless Japan has the ability to defend itself on its own, it cannot in the end guarantee the safety of its people or the sovereignty of its lands and seas.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaking as president of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party, has recently once more sought to bring to the fore the national debate on constitutional reform. We must seize this opportunity to transform Japan into a real democracy that can deal properly with any crisis.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 758 in the June 22, 2019 issue of The Weekly Shincho)