China ‘on track to meet American military challenge’ in Indo-Pacific by 2035

  • PLA is already able to contest US ground, air, maritime and information operations in some strategic areas, report says
  • The report also warns that as Beijing’s confidence in its army grows, there is a danger that it ‘will use force as a regional hegemon’
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:49am

China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035 – if not before, according to a commission that advises the US Congress on the national security implications of the US-China trade and economic relationship.

In a report to be delivered to the US Congress on Wednesday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China could already contest US operations in the ground, air, maritime and information domains within the “second island chain”.

The second island chain is a strategic defence line for the United States formed by the Ogasawara Islands, Japan’s Volcano Islands, the Mariana Islands and Palau.

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That military capacity presented fundamental challenges to the US armed forces’ long-standing assumption of supremacy in these areas in the post-cold war era, the report said.

The conclusions were based on classified and unclassified hearings with witnesses from government, academia and the private sector, as well as research trips to Taiwan and Japan. Commission members were not granted visas to visit China to conduct research.

The report said that under the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China had significantly accelerated its military modernisation.

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“As military modernisation progresses and Beijing’s confidence in the People’s Liberation Army increases, the danger will grow that [US] deterrence will fail and China will use force as a regional hegemon,” it said.

The PLA’s Strategic Support Force, a unit established in late 2015, poses a fundamental challenge to the US ability to operate effectively in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the report.

And after years of development, China’s missiles also presented “serious strategic and operational challenges for the US and its allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific”, the report said.

China’s coastguard had also removed all civilian functions and helped Beijing advance its maritime interests, it said.

Beijing has ramped up development and upgrades weapons across all military services, from unmanned underwater vehicles and amphibious aircraft to laser guns and supersonic fighter jets.

In addition, China has built several artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, installing missiles and constructing airstrips in a challenge to the US presence in the region.

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China’s DF and HN series missiles have a range of up to 15,000km, putting the entire United States within their reach.

In late September, a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US warship in the disputed waters after making what the Americans described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvre in an attempt to warn it to leave the area.

And in late October, Xi ordered the military region responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan to assess the situation it faced and boost its capabilities so it could handle any emergency.