USA — Report to Congress on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

DOD Press Brief­ing on the 2011 Annu­al Report to Con­gress: Mil­i­tary and Devel­op­ments Involv­ing the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na
MICHAEL SCHIFFER:� Good after­noon, every­body.  For those of you that I haven’t had a chance to intro­duce myself yet to, I’m Michael Schif­fer, the deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for East Asia. And I’m here this after­noon to talk to you all about the “Report to Con­gress on Mil­i­tary and Secu­ri­ty Devel­op­ments Involv­ing the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na” that we deliv­ered up to Capi­tol Hill today.

I’ll offer a few broad thoughts on the report, a cou­ple of — cou­ple of points about the administration’s over­all approach to Chi­na and then walk you through in some degree of detail — hope­ful­ly, not too painful — what’s in the report this year, and then we’ll have time for what­ev­er ques­tions you may have.

The report, as many of you know, is a report from the sec­re­tary of defense trans­mit­ted to Con­gress, but it is a report that we coor­di­nate broad­ly across the — across the inter­a­gency and across the entire U.S. Gov­ern­ment, so that even though it is a DOD report, it does reflect the views and per­spec­tives that are held broad­ly by the U.S. Gov­ern­ment.

We very much intend this report to be some­thing that is fac­tu­al, objec­tive and ana­lyt­i­cal to pro­vide inputs and infor­ma­tion for pol­i­cy­mak­ers both in the leg­isla­tive and the exec­u­tive branch to con­sid­er as they con­tem­plate the devel­op­ment of U.S. pol­i­cy and the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na.

This year’s report con­tains new infor­ma­tion on a num­ber of top­ics, includ­ing new sec­tions on China’s evolv­ing mar­itime strat­e­gy and its grow­ing mil­i­tary involve­ment and engage­ment with oth­er coun­tries.

Let me first, as I said, offer a cou­ple of gen­er­al com­ments on U.S.-China rela­tions and then the overview of the report itself.

As you know from state­ments that numer­ous senior U.S. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials have made, the Unit­ed States wel­comes a strong, pros­per­ous and suc­cess­ful Chi­na that con­tributes to inter­na­tion­al rules and norms and enhances secu­ri­ty and peace both in the Asia-Pacif­ic Region and around the globe. The Unit­ed States is pur­su­ing a pos­i­tive, coop­er­a­tive, and com­pre­hen­sive rela­tion­ship with Chi­na capa­ble of address­ing com­mon glob­al chal­lenges and advanc­ing our shared inter­ests.

China’s expand­ing mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties have enabled it to con­tribute to the deliv­ery of inter­na­tion­al pub­lic goods, from peace­keep­ing and counter-pira­cy to human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief.  How­ev­er, the pace and scope of China’s sus­tained mil­i­tary invest­ments have allowed Chi­na to pur­sue capa­bil­i­ties that we believe are poten­tial­ly desta­bi­liz­ing to region­al mil­i­tary bal­ances, increase the risk of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­cal­cu­la­tion, and may con­tribute to region­al ten­sions and anx­i­eties.

Such capa­bil­i­ties could increase Beijing’s options for using mil­i­tary force to gain diplo­mat­ic advan­tage, advance its inter­ests or resolve mil­i­tary dis­putes — resolve dis­putes in its — in its favor.

And this very much speaks to the — to the log­ic that we see for sus­tained and reli­able mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary dia­logue and mil­i­tary secu­ri­ty dia­logue between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na so that we are able to gain the sort of trans­paren­cy and strate­gic under­stand­ing that’s nec­es­sary to forge that pos­i­tive, coop­er­a­tive, and com­pre­hen­sive rela­tion­ship.

And in fact, in many ways I might sug­gest that the report can best be read not sim­ply as a piece of analy­sis but real­ly as the sets of ques­tions and issues that we would like to be able to engage in dia­logue and dis­cus­sion with our Chi­nese coun­ter­parts about.� These are the ques­tions and the issues that we think that it’s impor­tant for us to be able to under­stand; we know our Chi­nese friends have ques­tions for and about us; and that’s the sort of dia­logue and dis­cus­sion that we wel­come and that we think con­tributes to region­al and glob­al secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty.

Over the next decade from 2011 to 2020, we believe that there will be a num­ber of crit­i­cal ele­ments in play as we look at Chi­nese mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion as the PLA attempts to inte­grate a num­ber of new and com­plex plat­forms that they’ve devel­oped and to adopt mod­ern oper­a­tional con­cepts, includ­ing joint oper­a­tions and net­work-cen­tric war­fare. Indeed, as the report dis­cuss­es, there are a num­ber of new Chi­nese plat­forms and weapons sys­tems that have reached matu­ri­ty in recent years and oth­ers that we believe will soon become oper­a­tional.  And these are — these are new sys­tems that are on par with or exceed glob­al stan­dards.

But these efforts to inte­grate across sys­tems and plat­forms will be a key — a key mark­er in China’s con­tin­ued mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion efforts going for­ward.

We believe that the PLA con­tin­ues to be on track to achieve its goal of build­ing a mod­ern, region­al­ly focused mil­i­tary by 2020. How­ev­er, China’s abil­i­ty to sus­tain mil­i­tary pow­er at a dis­tance today remains lim­it­ed.

As many of you know, as many of you report­ed, on August 10th of this year, Chi­na com­menced sea tri­als with the Kuznetsov-class air­craft car­ri­er that it pur­chased from the Ukraine in 1998.   Our report, which was writ­ten and coor­di­nat­ed before this devel­op­ment, con­veyed our expec­ta­tion that sea tri­als would com­mence this year.

The air­craft car­ri­er could become oper­a­tional­ly avail­able to China’s navy by the end of 2012, we assess, but with­out air­craft.  It will take a num­ber of addi­tion­al years for an air group to achieve the sort of min­i­mal lev­el of com­bat capa­bil­i­ty aboard the car­ri­er that will be nec­es­sary for them to start to oper­ate from the car­ri­er itself.

Chi­na con­tin­ues to invest heav­i­ly in under­sea war­fare with a mix­ture of nuclear and con­ven­tion­al­ly pow­ered sub­marines. This is com­ple­ment­ed by China’s invest­ment in new sur­face com­bat­ants designed to improve the PLA navy’s capa­bil­i­ties for anti-sur­face and anti-air war­fare. The PLA has now com­plet­ed con­struc­tion of a major naval base on Hainan Island. And this base, we assess, is large enough to accom­mo­date a mix of bal­lis­tic mis­siles, sub­marines and large sur­face com­bat­ants, includ­ing air­craft car­ri­ers.

Chi­na also con­tin­ues to invest heav­i­ly in air capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing mod­ern air­craft and long-range advanced sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems. This past Jan­u­ary — again, as many of you report­ed — Chi­na con­duct­ed a flight test of the next-gen­er­a­tion fight­er pro­to­type, the J-20, which high­light­ed China’s ambi­tion to pro­duce a fight­er air­craft that incor­po­rates stealth attrib­ut­es, advanced avion­ics, and super­cruise-capa­ble engines.

China’s also invest­ing heav­i­ly in an array of space pro­grams. Chi­na con­duct­ed a nation­al record of 15 space launch­es in 2010, which includes both civil­ian and mil­i­tary sys­tems.

Turn­ing away from force devel­op­ment and to anoth­er issue that I know is of inter­est to you all, and that’s cross-strait rela­tions, as the report assess­es, in the polit­i­cal, diplo­mat­ic, eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al field, cross-strait rela­tions have con­tin­ued to improve over the past cou­ple of years. But despite this polit­i­cal warn­ing — warm­ing, China’s mil­i­tary shows no signs of slow­ing its effort to pre­pare for a cross-strait con­tin­gency. In addi­tion to plan­ning for Tai­wan con­tin­gen­cies, Chi­na places a high pri­or­i­ty on assert­ing and strength­en­ing its mar­itime ter­ri­to­r­i­al claims. An increased PLA naval pres­ence in the region, includ­ing sur­face, sub­sur­face and air­borne plat­forms and pos­si­bly one or more of China’s future air­craft car­ri­ers, would pro­vide the PLA with an enhanced extend­ed-range pow­er pro­jec­tion capa­bil­i­ty, with all the impli­ca­tions for region­al rival­ries and pow­er dynam­ics that that implies.

The PLA has also in recent years demon­strat­ed the capa­bil­i­ty to con­duct lim­it­ed peace­time deploy­ments of mod­ern forces out­side Asia. This includes mul­ti­ple coun­ter­pira­cy deploy­ments to the Gulf of Aden and increas­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an and dis­as­ter release — relief efforts. Invest­ments in large amphibi­ous ships, a new hos­pi­tal ship, long-range trans­port air­craft and improved logis­tics have made these sorts of mis­sions a prac­ti­cal real­i­ty.

These types of peace­time oper­a­tions pro­vide the PLA with a valu­able oper­a­tional expe­ri­ence and also serve PRC diplo­mat­ic objec­tives.

China’s com­pre­hen­sive mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion efforts are sup­port­ed by robust increas­es in gov­ern­ment fund­ing. On March 4th of this year Bei­jing announced a 12.7 per­cent increase in its mil­i­tary bud­get, and that con­tin­ues more than two decades of sus­tained bud­getary growth.

The PLA has also made some mod­est but incre­men­tal improve­ments in trans­paren­cy in recent years, but there are a num­ber of uncer­tain­ties that remain. We will con­tin­ue, and we do con­tin­ue, to encour­age Chi­na to improve trans­paren­cy and open­ness, to act in ways that sup­port and strength­en com­mon polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and diplo­mat­ic inter­ests of the — of the region and of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.

The com­plex­i­ty of the glob­al secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment as well as the advances in China’s mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties and its expand­ing mil­i­tary oper­a­tions and mis­sions calls for con­tin­u­ous mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary dia­logue between our two defense and secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ments. This is a dia­logue that we believe can help us to expand prac­ti­cal coop­er­a­tion where our nation­al inter­ests con­verge and also pro­vide us the abil­i­ty and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss can­did­ly those areas where we may have dis­agree­ments. Such dia­logue, such engage­ments we believe is espe­cial­ly impor­tant dur­ing peri­ods of fric­tion and tur­bu­lence in the — in the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship.

Dur­ing their Jan­u­ary 2011 sum­mit, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and PRC Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao joint­ly affirmed that a healthy, sta­ble, and reli­able mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship is an essen­tial part of the shared vision for a pos­i­tive, coop­er­a­tive, and com­pre­hen­sive U.S.-China rela­tion­ship. We believe — and we will con­tin­ue to use mil­i­tary engage­ment with Chi­na as one of sev­er­al means to demon­strate U.S. com­mit­ment to the secu­ri­ty of the Asia-Pacif­ic region, to encour­age Chi­na to play a con­struc­tive role in the region and to press Chi­na to part­ner with the Unit­ed States and our Asian allies and part­ners in address­ing com­mon secu­ri­ty chal­lenges.

So let me just wrap up by offer­ing that we hope that the report, which we think has a lot of very inter­est­ing and use­ful — we hope has a lot of very inter­est­ing and use­ful infor­ma­tion and analy­sis in it, will con­tribute in a respon­si­ble fash­ion to the many debates that are ongo­ing with respect to the mil­i­tary dimen­sion of China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion.

And with that, let me turn to your — turn to your ques­tions.

Q: You said at the begin­ning that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary buildup was desta­bi­liz­ing, and then you went through a whole long list of what the Chi­nese have done. Can you specif­i­cal­ly say which part of that buildup is — you con­sid­er desta­bi­liz­ing, which aspects that you referred to?

MR. SCHIFFER:� I think I said that it was poten­tial­ly desta­bi­liz­ing. And that speaks, again, to the impor­tance of being able to have, not just between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na but between Chi­na and the oth­er coun­tries of the region, deep, sus­tained, con­tin­u­ous and reli­able dis­cus­sions and engage­ment between our mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ments so that we can bet­ter under­stand China’s inten­tions, China’s think­ing and approach, and so that they can bet­ter under­stand ours.

I think absent that, and giv­en the lack of trans­paren­cy that — even with the improve­ments that I cit­ed, that still per­sists, that’s where you have the poten­tial to run into sit­u­a­tions where there may be mis­un­der­stand­ings or mis­cal­cu­la­tions, where you would have the poten­tial for anx­i­ety dri­ving a desta­bi­liz­ing dynam­ic.

Q: So just — so it’s not the actu­al buildup of the stealth fight­er or the air­craft car­ri­er, it’s the fact that the Chi­nese — the poten­tial­ly desta­bi­liz­ing aspect of this is the Chi­nese are not trans­par­ent enough and talk­ing enough.

(Off mic.)

MR. SCHIFFER: Well, I think it’s a — it’s a — it’s a com­bi­na­tion of that lack of — the lack of under­stand­ing that’s com­ing out — that has been cre­at­ed by the opac­i­ty of their sys­tem.

But I mean, it is also because there are very real ques­tions, giv­en the over­all trends and tra­jec­to­ry in the scope and the scale of China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion efforts. I wouldn’t put — I wouldn’t put it on any one par­tic­u­lar plat­form or any one par­tic­u­lar sys­tem. There’s noth­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly mag­i­cal about any one par­tic­u­lar item. But when you put togeth­er the entire­ty of what we’ve wit­nessed over the past sev­er­al decades and, you know, we see these trend lines con­tin­u­ing off into the future, that rais­es — that rais­es ques­tions. And as I said, again, that’s why we think that it’s impor­tant to be able to have the sorts of dia­logues and dis­cus­sions that will allow us to under­stand each oth­er bet­ter and will help to con­tribute to region­al sta­bil­i­ty.

Q: I mean, for years the report has addressed the same trend in the Tai­wan Strait, that the mil­i­tary bal­ance has shift­ed to China’s favor.In this report, is there, you know, a tip­ping point that we are antic­i­pat­ing, like in 2020 Tai­wan will lose its supe­ri­or­i­ty or the, you know, qual­i­ty advan­tage?

And the sec­ond ques­tion is that when Gen­er­al Chen Bingde is here — was here in Wash­ing­ton, he men­tioned that there was no mis­sile point­ing at Chi­na across — accord­ing to Tai­wan, across the strait. I don’t know from this report, you know, what’s U.S. — you know, esti­mate or eval­u­a­tion.

MR. SCHIFFER: I would offer that I don’t think there is a — there’s not a par­tic­u­lar tip­ping point, which I know may come as some­thing of a dis­ap­point­ment as one thinks about how to con­struct the per­fect news­pa­per head­line.

But there are trends, as the report points to, that con­tin­ue to be — you know, that con­tin­ue to point to a very chal­leng­ing mil­i­tary and secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment across the strait. That is a set of issues that we’re com­mit­ted to work­ing with — work­ing with Tai­wan to address, com­mit­ted to meet­ing our com­mit­ments under the — under the Tai­wan Rela­tions Act, in the con­text of the one-Chi­na pol­i­cy and the three joint communiqu�to assure that Tai­wan has the self-defense capa­bil­i­ties that it needs. And that is some­thing that obvi­ous­ly con­tin­ues to be a con­cern of the — of the Depart­ment of Defense and, indeed, the entire U.S. Gov­ern­ment.

I will let Gen­er­al Chen try to clar­i­fy or char­ac­ter­ize his own com­ments and what he intend­ed and what he meant.

Please.

Q: You men­tioned — from Reuters — you men­tioned air­craft car­ri­ers in your spo­ken pre­sen­ta­tion as well. And it’s touched on in the report. There have been reports since the peri­od (of the com­pi­la­tion that Chi­na has indeed begun build­ing its own indige­nous car­ri­ers. Can you com­ment on those reports at all?

MR. SCHIFFER: We do think that Chi­na is under­tak­ing an effort to build its own indige­nous air­craft car­ri­ers. And our expec­ta­tions — and again, this is addressed in the report — are that we will see Chi­nese indige­nous air­craft car­ri­ers. I won’t spec­u­late on the num­ber, but like­ly more than one being devel­oped in the — in the future.

Yes.

Q: Did you share this report with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment or embassy?  And if so, what was your mes­sage to them?

And did the Pak­ista­nis show the heli­copter tail that was left behind dur­ing the bin Laden raid to the Chi­nese?  Did they — were they able to obtain any infor­ma­tion about stealth tech­nol­o­gy from that?

MR. SCHIFFER:  So far the report has been briefed to Con­gress, and now, of course, our sec­ond-most — pos­si­bly most impor­tant audi­ence, which is you all. We have a num­ber of engage­ments with a range of peo­ple in the diplo­mat­ic com­mu­ni­ty both here in the Unit­ed States and over­seas planned over the next sev­er­al days to pro­vide brief­in­gs on the report. You’ll excuse me if I will take a pass on going into any details on any of the mes­sages that we’ll be deliv­er­ing in any of those — in any of those dis­cus­sions.

I will also take a pass because — for all the rea­sons that you know and not com­ment on the Pak­istan issue and the heli­copter tail.

Yeah, Tony.

Q: On the F-16s — you know, it’s a hot-but­ton issue — is there any­thing in this report that you feel, as a pro­fes­sion­al polit­i­cal-mil­i­tary stu­dent of Chi­nese capa­bil­i­ty, but­tress­es the case for addi­tion­al non-stealthy F-16s to Tai­wan?

MR. SCHIFFER: Luck­i­ly, I’m not a pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary stu­dent of Chi­nese capa­bil­i­ties, so, you know, that gives me a pass on your ques­tion.

Q: (Off mic.)

MR. SCHIFFER: (Chuck­les.) Look, you know, there’s no ques­tion — I don’t think it’s a secret to any­body — that it is a very chal­leng­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment across the strait. But I would point out that it is a very chal­leng­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment across the strait — and the report dis­cus­es this in some lev­el of detail — across a num­ber of dif­fer­ent dimen­sions. And we are work­ing very, very close­ly with Tai­wan, as we have for many, many years now across admin­is­tra­tions of both polit­i­cal par­ties, to make sure that they have the self-defense capa­bil­i­ties that they need. And we will con­tin­ue to do so.

Q: Can I ask you one quick one? Has the Pen­ta­gon reject­ed a new sale of F-16s? Have they — have you rec­om­mend­ed reject­ing a sale of new F-16s? There’s been reports out of the region to that effect.

MR. SCHIFFER: I know that there have been reports out of the region to that effect, yes.

Q:� Can you answer the — whether — the sta­tus of the issue? Have you made a rec­om­men­da­tion to the White House say­ing, we don’t — we don’t rec­om­mend a new sale?

MR. SCHIFFER: I will sim­ply offer that there have been no deci­sions that have been made on arms sales to Tai­wan. But as I said before, I mean, this is an issue that we con­tin­ue to work — in my office, we work with this ques­tion on a dai­ly basis. And con­sis­tent with our oblig­a­tions under the Tai­wan Rela­tions Act, the Unit­ed States will pro­vide to Tai­wan the self-defense capa­bil­i­ties that it requires.

Q: Would you — would you see a pos­si­ble con­tra­dic­tion should the — your depart­ment or the U.S. Gov­ern­ment decide lat­er on that F- 16C/Ds would not be sold to Tai­wan on one hand; on the oth­er hand, the report has — you know, it’s fea­tured in the report that the mil­i­tary bal­ance across the Tai­wan Strait is, you know, con­tin­u­ing to move in — to the advan­tage of China?� Do you see a poten­tial con­tra­dic­tion there? Are you con­cerned?

MR. SCHIFFER: As I said ear­li­er, there — this is a chal­leng­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment. It’s a chal­leng­ing secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment across a num­ber of dif­fer­ent dimen­sions, not just one and not just a secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment where — to take the tip­ping point ques­tion and turn it around, where there is some, you know, sil­ver bul­let that will all of a sud­den change every­thing. We are com­mit­ted to work­ing, con­sis­tent with the Tai­wan Rela­tions Act, with Tai­wan, and con­sis­tent with the one-Chi­na pol­i­cy and the three joint communiqu� to make sure that Tai­wan has the self-defense capa­bil­i­ties that it needs across a range of — a range of dimen­sions.

Kevin, I can —

Q: Mike, can you — can you detail, beyond the vis­its by Gates and Mullen, any mil­i­tary exchanges going on between the U.S. and Chi­na in the inter­est of trans­paren­cy? And in the case of the air­craft car­ri­er sea tri­als, will — was there any type of noti­fi­ca­tion or action between the two — your two sides for that, you know, first high-pro­file event since these big vis­its have, you know, made those pledges to be more trans­par­ent?

MR. SCHIFFER:� We — I mean, we’ve engaged with the PLA in a num­ber of work­ing-lev­el dis­cus­sions and meet­ings over the — over the course of the year, and I’d be hap­py to make sure that we can pro­vide you or any­body else that’s inter­est­ed with the full list. But since Sec­re­tary Gates went in Jan­u­ary of this year, we had defense pol­i­cy coor­di­na­tion talks, which are held at my lev­el. We’ve had a work­ing group meet­ing of the Mil­i­tary Mar­itime Con­sul­ta­tive Agree­ment. Just last week there were a num­ber of peo­ple from my team here in the Pen­ta­gon and the Joint Staff that were in Bei­jing hav­ing work­ing-lev­el dis­cus­sions about trans­paren­cy and a num­ber of oth­er relat­ed issues. So there has been a fair amount of stuff that’s been — that’s been going on at the — at the work­ing lev­el even as we’ve also had these senior-lev­el con­tacts.

The one oth­er thing that I would point to is that, as many of you may know, we had estab­lished at the Strate­gic and Eco­nom­ic Dia­logue this year a new joint civ­il-mil­i­tary dia­logue, some­thing that Sec­re­tary Gates had called for when he was in Chi­na in Jan­u­ary, to allow us to dis­cuss sen­si­tive secu­ri­ty issues, those things that might be most trou­bling for sta­bil­i­ty in the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship in a set­ting that brings togeth­er both civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers on both sides at a — at a fair­ly senior lev­el.

That’s not strict­ly a mil-mil engage­ment, but that does speak to our efforts to insti­tu­tion­al­ize and reg­u­lar­ize and deep­en these sorts of dia­logues and dis­cus­sions with the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na.

Yeah.

Q: Where does cyber capa­bil­i­ty fit into the matrix of China’s devel­op­ing capa­bil­i­ties that you call poten­tial­ly desta­bi­liz­ing?

MR. SCHIFFER: We have some analy­sis of where we think the Chi­nese are going in the cyber realm and — in the report, and I guess I should do the com­mer­cial here that says that, you know, this is real­ly a report — and I say this with all sin­cer­i­ty — that we real­ly do like to allow to speak for itself, because there’s a lot of — a lot of very good stuff in here. And so, I’d rec­om­mend that you sort of dive into the report to pull out some of that analy­sis.

But you know, it’s no secret, again, that, you know, cyber is a realm where deep­er engage­ment between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na, so that we can work on com­mon rules of the road and a com­mon way for­ward, is nec­es­sary. You know, we have — we have some con­cerns about some of the things that we’ve seen, and we want to be able to work through that with Chi­na.

Yeah.

Q: (Inaudi­ble) — this is a report that’s sub­ject to a lengthy inter­a­gency review, but it was also due in March. Could you give us any more insight as to why it took so many months to actu­al­ly pro­duce this? Were there any stick­ing points in the inter­nal dis­cus­sions about this?

MR. SCHIFFER: There were no — you know, I real­ize a good con­spir­a­cy is, you know, a lot more fun than just sort the sim­ple banal truth of bureau­cra­cies grind­ing away on a — on a dai­ly basis. You know, this is a very, very com­plex and impor­tant set of issues, as I — as I know you all appreciate.ï

To turn out a good prod­uct, and to turn out a good prod­uct that we were able to coor­di­nate across the U.S. Gov­ern­ment, because we think that it ben­e­fits great­ly from that sort of coor­di­na­tion, sim­ply — sim­ply took time. I, you know, wish that it didn’t, wish we had been able to turn it out — to turn it out quick­er, but I think the results, when you have the chance to read through the report, speak to — speak to the ben­e­fits of tak­ing that time to real­ly — to real­ly turn out a prod­uct that — that I think — and I don’t just say this because I’m paid to say it — but that I think real­ly has a lot of very, very good, cogent con­tent and analy­sis.

In the back.

Q: I didn’t see any dis­cus­sion of China’s hold­ing of Amer­i­can debt. And I’m curi­ous how you see these fis­cal issues play into the larg­er secu­ri­ty pic­ture between the U.S. and Chi­na.

MR. SCHIFFER: That — those sorts of issues aren’t includ­ed in this report because that is, at least as our cur­rent con­gres­sion­al man­date — reads a lit­tle bit out­side the scope of the report and, frankly, out­side the scope or the exper­tise of the Depart­ment of Defense.� I mean, I’ll sim­ply say that this is obvi­ous­ly an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly com­plex eco­nom­ic rela­tion­ship that — that we have with Chi­na and an extra­or­di­nar­i­ly com­plex rela­tion­ship that — that cre­ates chal­lenges on both sides. And I know that that’s receiv­ing a lot of extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high-lev­el atten­tion from both our lead­er­ship, includ­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Biden on his — on his trip the oth­er week, and from China’s lead­er­ship.

Q:� You men­tioned some of the human­i­tar­i­an and dis­as­ter-relief kind of work the Chi­nese navy is engaged in.

How great of an empha­sis do you see them plac­ing on those sort of oper­a­tions? Do you see it as a — as almost as great of an empha­sis as the U.S. has placed on it, or do you see it just kind of stay­ing as a side mis­sion for them?

MR. SCHIFFER: China’s still, you know, in the rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly stages of engag­ing ful­ly in the region and with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty as a provider of those sorts of goods and ser­vices. But as I said, I mean, this is some­thing that we view as a — as a pos­i­tive devel­op­ment. And we want to encour­age Chi­na to join with — to join with the Unit­ed States and our oth­er allies and part­ners in the region and around the globe in pro­vid­ing those sorts of capa­bil­i­ties and those sorts of assets. I mean, a Chi­na that helps to respond to the threats of pira­cy, a Chi­na that helps to respond to human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief needs, and that is play­ing that sort of pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive role in glob­al affairs. I mean, that’s — that’s a very good thing for the Unit­ed States, that’s a very good thing for the region, that’s a very good thing for the world.

Q: And to fol­low up, is — are they inter­est­ed in kind of the same regions that the U.S. are? Is there some diver­gence there?

MR. SCHIFFER: There — I mean, this is a ques­tion, frankly, that, you know, you should address to — you know, address to folks on the Chi­nese side to get a bet­ter sense of their cur­rent thinking.But they’re — you know, they’re still, as I said, in the rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly stages of devel­op­ing their own think­ing as to how they’re going out into the world and con­duct these oper­a­tions. Although, I would point out that I think they have some­thing like close to 18,000 folks that have par­tic­i­pat­ed in peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions, you know, in recent years, which is a size­able con­tri­bu­tion and that’s — you know, and a num­ber of dif­fer­ent peace­keep­ing mis­sions.

Yeah, in the very back row there.

Q: The air­craft car­ri­er, just com­ing back to that: How big a deal is that? And can that devel­op­ment be seen in a pos­i­tive light — (inaudi­ble)?

MR. SCHIFFER: You know, I think this is some­thing that as I — as I said, doesn’t come as any sur­prise to us.

I mean, this was a devel­op­ment that the Chi­nese have been — have been work­ing on for — for a num­ber of years, and it’s not at all, you know, out of char­ac­ter or, you know, out of — out of the norm of the sorts of devel­op­ment giv­en — you know, giv­en the tra­jec­to­ry of China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion efforts over the past — over the past cou­ple decades.�

Whether or not this proves to be a — you know, a net plus for the region or for the globe or proves to be some­thing that has desta­bi­liz­ing effects and rais­es blood pres­sure in var­i­ous region­al cap­i­tals I think remains to be seen; and again, not to sound like a bro­ken record, but under­scores the impor­tance of being able to have those dia­logues that allow us to reach greater strate­gic under­stand­ing and aim for a — for a degree of strate­gic trust, not just between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na, but Chi­na and its oth­er neigh­bors as well.

COL LAPAN: (Off mic) We have time for one or two more.

MR. SCHIFFER: OK.

Q: You’ve been — there’s been a lot of dis­cus­sion of the car­ri­er, but the report also talks a great deal about the oth­er naval capa­bil­i­ties the Chi­nese have been devel­op­ing. What kind of capa­bil­i­ties in here do you find most note­wor­thy or most trou­bling or most of con­cern?

MR. SCHIFFER: Again, you know, there’s no sin­gle capa­bil­i­ty that I find to be, you know, either most note­wor­thy or most trou­bling or most of con­cern. It is the over­all tra­jec­to­ry of China’s mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion efforts and the fact that they are, you know, work­ing across a num­ber of dif­fer­ent dimen­sions of pow­er in the mar­itime domain that is — that is some­thing that I think we need to keep an eye on, need to assure that we in turn have the — have the capa­bil­i­ties in place to safe­guard our nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests, need to work with our allies and part­ners on their — on their capac­i­ties and their capa­bil­i­ties and, again, need to engage with Chi­na so that we can have a bet­ter and deep­er under­stand­ing of how we’re both — how we’re each approach­ing issues in the naval and in the mar­itime domain.

We can have one last ques­tion.

Q: If past years are any guide, Chi­na will gen­er­al­ly react angri­ly to the release of this report. It seems like they resent the enter­prise itself, let alone the con­tents. Is Chi­na mis­tak­en in think­ing of this report as a hos­tile act towards Chi­na? And in your own mil-mil deal­ings, have you ever received more nuanced feed­back from Chi­nese coun­ter­parts on this report?

MR. SCHIFFER: My expec­ta­tions, like yours, is that, you know, our Chi­nese friends will very like­ly have some crit­i­cal com­ments to say about the issuance of this report. As we’ve tried to explain to them in our mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary engage­ments, I mean, the report can be read, and I hope that they do look at it as, an encap­su­la­tion of the sorts of ques­tions and the sorts of issues that we have ques­tions about, that we would like to be able to engage in dis­cus­sion and dia­logue with them on; and that it’s our sense that if we are able to have that sort of robust, reli­able, con­tin­u­ous mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary dia­logue, that that will lead to a more pos­i­tive rela­tion­ship between the Unit­ed States and Chi­na and will help con­tribute to region­al sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty.

So thank you all very much. I hope that was — hope that was help­ful.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)