By Li Xiaokun
Which country has the largest and best-equipped military? Which country has the most nuclear weapons and the world's biggest military budget? And which country is involved in the most wars at present?
Those were the questions posed by a think tank, the China Strategy Culture Promotion Association, in a report assessing the power of the US military in 2011. The report, published in tandem with an assessment of the capabilities of the Japan Self Defense Force, was the first on the topic to be published by a non-governmental body in China.
"The US and Japan have often used their military policy documents to criticize and exaggerate China's military development," said Luo Yuan, a retired major general and deputy executive of the association, at a news conference held on Tuesday to launch the report.
"Although Chinese Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry spokespeople have repeatedly refuted the documents, the US and Japan have persisted. To ensure a correct understanding of the facts, our association will this year begin publishing civil reports on US and Japanese military power," said Luo, an influential figure in Chinese military studies.
The authors of the reports insisted that they were not aimed at fomenting hawkish emotions inside China, but an attempt to remind all three sides of their wide-ranging mutual interests and help them face future challenges together.
"Our aim is to let US and Japanese officials and people understand how much China knows about their military strength and how the Chinese view their military development and strategies. Let them be the judge of whether it is objective," said Fu Liqun, a retired general and one of the authors of the report. "We don't claim to express the views of all the Chinese people, but we are confident that we reflect the opinions of many of them," he said.
Distrust and containment
According to the report, distrust and containment are two of the key words in Washington's military strategy toward China, as reflected in a paper entitled the National Military Strategy (of the United States), issued by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in February 2011, which defined the country's military strategy.
Ahead of his visit to Asia this month, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that his trip to Vietnam, Singapore and India was aimed at promoting a "vigilant" response to China's growing military power. "China's military is growing and modernizing. We must be vigilant. We must be strong. We must be prepared to confront any challenge," said Panetta, addressing graduates of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
A US combat theory called AirSea Battle, launched in 2009 and aimed at combining the naval and air response to hostile military action specifically targets China, according to CSCPA report. "The theory works on the premise that the Chinese military has become a new and serious challenge to the US forces. It believes that the Chinese armed forces have long been trying to establish an exclusion zone along the so-called Second Island Chain, a strategic group of islands extending from Japan to Indonesia, and that if the US does not take action now it will always hold an inferior position strategically in the western Pacific region," said Luo.
The report also claimed that among the several hundred military exercises the US undertakes around the globe every year, a series arranged in the waters to the north, east and south of China were aimed at "putting pressure on China and containing its rapid rise".
"We should pay special attention to its military exercises in east Asia and the western Pacific in association with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines," said the report.
"And we want to ask the US, which country arranges the greatest number of combined military exercises around the world? Who perceives China as an enemy? Who is the target of the US' strategic pivotal shift to the East? And who is rocking the boat in terms of Sino-US military cooperation?" said Luo.
According to the CSCPA report, the US military is more than 3 million strong, the biggest on the planet. By contrast, Chinese military personnel number 2.3 million. It also notes that the US holds the greatest number of nuclear weapons, with 1,790 warheads.
However, the report also said that US National Military Strategy has stressed the importance of military ties with Beijing: "We note that the US also expects to deepen military exchanges with China to lessen misunderstandings and avoid errors of judgment. It also wants to strengthen cooperation with China on a number of issues, including nuclear nonproliferation and the fight against piracy."
The report urged the Chinese authorities to remain alert to the US strategic pivotal shift, and other moves such as providing backing for countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but also to examine Beijing's reciprocal interests with the US, in the field of economics, world peace and prosperity.
"For the US to regain China's trust, it has to stop moves such as military exercises that focus on China and arms sales to Taiwan," said Luo.