News

CHINA: U.S. OBSTACLE TO SUPERPOWER STATUS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 1997
CONTACT: Maureen Cragin Ryan Vaart (202) 225-2539

U.S. Representative Floyd D. Spence (R-SC), Chairman of the House National
Security Committee, today welcomed the release of a report, “Selected
Military Capabilities of the People’s Republic of China,” as the clearest
official acknowledgment to date that China views the United States as the
greatest obstacle to its ambition to become a great power and that China is
developing the military capabilities needed to achieve its goal.
“Chinese leaders have said that we are the enemy and stand as the major
roadblock checking their desire to dominate East Asia,” said Spence. “This
report, though couched in careful bureaucratic language, admits as much. It
also reveals that the Chinese understand the need to create forces to
offset the military advantages that the United States now enjoys. By early
in the next century – about the time when the size of the Chinese economy
is projected to surpass our own – China will have developed large and
capable military forces.”
The unclassified version of the report, approved by Defense Secretary
William Cohen on April 2, stated, “China’s long-term goal is to become one
of the world’s great powers. Its leaders envision that, at some point
during the first half of the twenty-first century, China will be securely
established as the leading…political power in East Asia.”
According to Spence, “China has learned from the defeat of the Soviet Union
in the Cold War that any challenge to America requires patience and
strength over the long run. The strategic problems posed by an emerging and
well armed China may test us more than the Soviet Union ever did.”
The report concludes that “as an emerging great power, China will probably
build its military power to the point where it can engage and defeat any
potential enemy within the region with its conventional forces and can
deter any global strategic threat to China’s national security.” According
to the Defense Department report, China’s efforts will include developments
in seven areas of military capability: advanced intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance capabilities; highly accurate and stealthy ballistic and
cruise missiles; enhanced commandand control networks; unmanned aerial
vehicles; increased abilities for precision targeting and strikes; the
growing ability to deny the sea control that is the key to the U.S. Navy’s
military presence in East Asia; and the gradual development of
rapid-deployment forces capable of following up strikes.
In particular, the report noted that “China has a large, well-established
infrastructure for the develop-ment and production of ballistic missiles,”
and “has received technology related to missile program from Russia in
recent years.” The report concludes that China will have the industrial
capacity “to produce as many as a thousand new [ballistic] missiles within
the next decade” and is developing additional land-attack cruise missiles
as a “high priority” for “theater warfighting and strategic attack.”
Spence expressed particular concern over the emphasis placed by the Chinese
on the rapid develop-ment of missile technology. “A missile fleet of this
size could overwhelm any theater missile defense capability planned for
this vital region and fundamentally alter regional calculations of the
balance of power,” said Spence. “Coupled with improved targeting and
command and control networks, it is clear the Chinese are working to
develop the ability not only to saturate the air defenses of Taiwan or
other nations, but the fleet air defenses of the U.S. Navy. If we wish to
preserve our role in East Asia and ensure the region’s security, the United
States and our allies had better start taking the missile theater more
seriously.”
The report was conducted by the Department of Defense as directed by the
Fiscal Year 1997 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-201) under a
provision authored by Spence (Section 1305).
Members of the press interested in obtaining copies of the unclassified
version of the report may call the National Security Committee press
office, 202-225-2539. All other inquiries should be directed to the
committee policy office, 202-225-4151.
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