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Military and Security Developments : Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020


Military and Security Developments : Involving the People’s Republic of China 2020
Annual Report to Congress
A Report to Congress Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 2000, as Amended


UNDERSTANDING CHINA’S STRATEGY
China’s National Strategy

> The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) strategy aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the 
Chinese nation” by 2049. China’s strategy can be characterized as a determined pursuit of political 
and social modernity that includes far-ranging efforts to expand China’s national power, perfect 
its governance systems, and revise the international order.
> The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) frames this strategy as an effort to realize long-held 
nationalist aspirations to “return” China to a position of strength, prosperity, and leadership on 
the world stage.
> The CCP’s leadership has long viewed China as embroiled in a major international strategic 
competition with other states, including, and in particular, the United States.
> In 2019, China intensified its efforts to advance its overall development including steadying its 
economic growth, strengthening its armed forces, and taking a more active role in global affairs.
Foreign Policy
> The PRC’s foreign policy seeks to revise aspects of the international order on the Party’s terms 
and in accordance with ideas and principles it views as essential to forging an external environment 
conducive to China’s national rejuvenation.
> In 2019, the PRC recognized that its armed forces should take a more active role in advancing its 
foreign policy, highlighting the increasingly global character that Beijing ascribes to its military 
power.
Economic Policy
> The CCP prioritizes economic development as the “central task” and the force that drives China’s 
modernization across all areas, including its armed forces.
> China’s economic development supports its military modernization not only by providing the 
means for larger defense budgets, but through deliberate Party-led initiatives such as OBOR and 
Made in China 2025, as well as the systemic benefits of China’s growing national industrial and 
technological base.
Military-Civil Fusion (MCF) Development Strategy
> The PRC pursues its MCF Development Strategy to “fuse” its economic and social development 
strategies with its security strategies to build an integrated national strategic system and capabilities 
in support of China’s national rejuvenation goals.

> MCF encompasses six interrelated efforts: (1) fusing the China’s defense industrial base and its 
civilian technology and industrial base; (2) integrating and leveraging science and technology 
innovations across military and civilian sectors; (3) cultivating talent and blending military and 
civilian expertise and knowledge; (4) building military requirements into civilian infrastructure and 
leveraging civilian construction for military purposes; (5) leveraging civilian service and logistics 
capabilities for military purposes; and, (6) expanding and deepening China’s national defense 
mobilization system to include all relevant aspects of its society and economy for use in 
competition and war.
> While MCF has broader purposes than acquiring foreign technology, in practice, MCF means 
there is not a clear line between the PRC’s civilian and military economies, raising due diligence 
costs for U.S. and global entities that do not desire to contribute to the PRC’s military 
modernization.
Defense Policy & Military Strategy
> The PRC has stated its defense policy aims to safeguard its sovereignty, security, and development 
interests. China’s military strategy remains based on the concept of “active defense.”
> In 2019, the PLA remained primarily oriented towards longstanding regional threats while 
emphasizing a greater global role for itself in accordance with China’s defense policy and military 
strategy.
> China’s leaders stress the imperative of meeting key military transformation markers set in 2020 
and 2035. These milestones seek to align the PLA’s transformation with China’s overall national 
modernization so that by the end of 2049, China will field a “world-class” military.
> The CCP has not defined what it means by its ambition to have a “world-class” military. Within 
the context of China’s national strategy, however, it is likely that China will aim to develop a 
military by mid-century that is equal to—or in some cases superior to—the U.S. military, or that 
of any other great power that China views as a threat to its sovereignty, security, and development 
interests.
MISSIONS, TASKS, & MODERNIZATION OF CHINA’S ARMED FORCES IN 
THE “NEW ERA”
> The PRC’s strategy includes advancing a comprehensive military modernization program that aims 
to “basically” complete military modernization by 2035 and transform the PLA into a “world-
class” military by the end of 2049.
> The PLA’s evolving capabilities and concepts continue to strengthen the PRC’s ability to counter 
an intervention by an adversary in the Indo-Pacific region and project power globally.
> In 2019, the PLA continued to make progress implementing major structural reforms, fielding 
modern indigenous systems, building readiness, and strengthening its competency to conduct joint 
operations.
> China has already achieved parity with—or even exceeded—the United States in several military 
modernization areas, including:
– Shipbuilding: The PRC has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of 
approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants. In 
comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020. China 
is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage and is increasing its shipbuilding 
capacity and capability for all naval classes.
– Land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles: The PRC has developed its 
conventional missile forces unrestrained by any international agreements. The PRC has more 
than 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles 
(GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The United States currently fields 
one type of conventional GLBM with a range of 70 to 300 kilometers and no GLCMs.
– Integrated air defense systems: The PRC has one of the world’s largest forces of advanced 
long-range surface-to-air systems—including Russian-built S-400s, S-300s, and domestically 
produced systems—that constitute part of its robust and redundant integrated air defense 
system (IADS) architecture.
Developments in the PLA’s Modernization and Reform
> The People’s Liberation Army Army (PLAA) is the largest standing ground force in the world. 
In 2019, the PLAA continued to transition into a modern, mobile, and lethal ground force by 
fielding upgraded combat systems and communications equipment and enhancing its ability to 
conduct and manage complex combined-arms and joint operations.
> The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)—the largest navy in the world—is an 
increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing previous generations of 
platforms with limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants. As of 2019, 
the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-
air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.
– Naval Shipbuilding and Modernization: The PLAN remains engaged in a robust 
shipbuilding and modernization program that includes submarines, surface combatants, 
amphibious warfare ships, aircraft carriers, and auxiliary ships as well as developing and 
fielding advanced weapons, sensors, and command and control capabilities.
> The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and PLAN Aviation together constitute 
the largest aviation forces in the region and the third largest in the world, with over 2,500 total 
aircraft and approximately 2,000 combat aircraft. The PLAAF is rapidly catching up to Western 
air forces across a broad range of capabilities and competencies.
> The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) is responsible for the PRC’s strategic 
land-based nuclear and conventional missile forces. The PLARF develops and fields a wide variety 
of conventional mobile ground-launched ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The PRC is 
developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that will significantly improve its 
nuclear-capable missile forces. The number of warheads on the PRC’s land-based ICBMs capable 
of threatening the United States is expected to grow to roughly 200 in the next five years.
– The PRC is expanding its inventory of the multi-role DF-26, a mobile, ground-launched 
intermediate-range ballistic missile system capable of rapidly swapping conventional and 
nuclear warheads.
– The PRC’s robust ground-based conventional missile forces compliment the growing 
size and capabilities of its air- and sea-based precision strike capabilities.
> The PLA Strategic Support Force (SSF) is a theater command-level organization established 
to centralize the PLA’s strategic space, cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare missions and 
capabilities. The SSF Network Systems Department is responsible for cyberwarfare, technical 
reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and psychological warfare. Its current major target is the 
United States. 
– The PRC’s Space Enterprise. The PRC’s space enterprise continues to mature rapidly. 
Beijing has devoted significant resources to growing all aspects of its space program, from 
military space applications to civil applications such as profit-generating launches, 
scientific endeavors, and space exploration.
– The PLA has historically managed the PRC’s space program. The SSF Space Systems 
Department is responsible for nearly all PLA space operations.
– In 2019, the PRC described space as a “critical domain in international strategic 
competition” and stated the security of space provided strategic assurance to the country’s 
national and social development.
> Military Readiness: In recent years, CCP leaders have directed the PLA to improve its combat 
readiness. This guidance is increasingly evident in the intensity of the PLA’s training and the 
complexity and scale of its exercises.
Capabilities for Counter Intervention and Power Projection
> The PLA is developing capabilities to provide options for the PRC to dissuade, deter, or, if 
ordered, defeat third-party intervention during a large-scale, theater campaign such as a Taiwan 
contingency.
> The PLA’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities are currently the most robust within the 
First Island Chain, although the PRC aims to strengthen its capabilities to reach farther into the 
Pacific Ocean.
> The PRC also continues to increase its military capabilities to achieve regional and global security 
objectives beyond a Taiwan contingency.
> The PLA is developing the capabilities and operational concepts to conduct offensive operations 
within the Second Island Chain, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in some cases, globally. In 
addition to strike, air and missile defense, anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities 
improvements, China is focusing on information, cyber, and space and counterspace operations.
Nuclear Deterrence 
> China’s strategic ambitions, evolving view of the security landscape, and concerns over 
survivability are driving significant changes to the size, capabilities, and readiness of its nuclear 
forces. 
> China’s nuclear forces will significantly evolve over the next decade as it modernizes, diversifies, 
and increases the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms. 
> Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile—currently estimated to be in the low-
200s—is projected to at least double in size as China expands and modernizes its nuclear forces.
> China is pursuing a “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic 
missile (ALBM) and improving its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities. 
> New developments in 2019 further suggest that China intends to increase the peacetime readiness 
of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-
based force.
THE PLA’S GROWING GLOBAL PRESENCE
> CCP leaders believe that the PRC’s global activities, including the PLA’s growing global presence, 
are necessary to create a “favorable” international environment for China’s national rejuvenation.
> The CCP has tasked the PLA to develop the capability to project power outside China’s borders 
and immediate periphery to secure the PRC’s growing overseas interests and advance its foreign 
policy goals.

U.S.-CHINA DEFENSE CONTACTS AND EXCHANGES IN 2019
> U.S. defense contacts and exchanges conducted in 2019 supported overall U.S. policy and strategy 
toward China, were focused on reducing risk and preventing misunderstanding in times of crisis, 
and were conducted in accordance with the statutory limitations of the National Defense 
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, as amended.
> Pursuit of a constructive results-oriented relationship with China is an important part of U.S. 
strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. The 2018 National Defense Strategy seeks areas of cooperation 
with China from positions of U.S. strength, with a long-term aim to set the military-to military 
relationship on a path of strategic transparency and non-aggression, and to encourage China to 
act in a manner consistent with the free and open international order.

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