What The Pentagon’s New Report On China Means For US Strategy

Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews troops stationed in Hong Kong on June 30. (Photo by Nozomu Ogawa)

Michael E. O’Hanlon, Brookings: What the Pentagon’s new report on China means for US strategy — including on TaiwanThe Department of Defense has just released its latest annual report, continuing a two-decade tradition, on China’s military and its role in China’s broader foreign policy. It is a serious read; I commend Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his team for a thorough, dispassionate, and timely piece of work. The report also builds on Esper’s summertime assessment of where things stand with implementation of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS), which he inherited from former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That NDS placed primary emphasis on great-power competition, with particular focus on China, and has been been Esper’s main focus since becoming secretary in mid-2019.

Overall, the new report is very good, but I would offer several comments on specifics. Relatedly, a new
Foreign Affairs article by Richard Haass and David Sacks of the Council on Foreign Relations — arguing that the United States should be clear that it would respond to any Chinese attack on Taiwan with a resolute reply, even though the latter is not a formal U.S. ally — prompts me to caution that improvements in Chinese military power may mean that indirect defense of Taiwan could be better in some contingencies.


WNU Editor: A must read for China watchers. What’s my take on the Brookings report? The author (Michael O’Hanlon) paints a more optimistic view when it comes China’s military and its ability to project its power. He is looking at the present moment, prefering not to dwell on where China will be in ten or twenty years. Fair enough. But I know the Chinese look at things from a five, ten, twenty year of point of view. And my Chinese friends are very optimistic that they will meet the military goals by 2049.

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