Home Politics Does the Pentagon report on China’s military correctly judge the threat?

Does the Pentagon report on China’s military correctly judge the threat?


By Michael E. O'Hanlon

This week, the Pentagon released its annual report on Chinese military and security developments over the past year. That capped a busy season for the Government Printing Office: the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, Nuclear Posture Review, and Missile Defense Strategy all came out publicly last month.

All the documents, not just this most recent one, emphasize China. Although it is Russian President Vladimir Putin who is raining down death and destruction on Ukraine, issuing nuclear threats to the West, and distorting energy as well as food markets worldwide, China gets pride of place as security challenge number one — even though China has not employed large-scale military force against an adversary since its 1979 war with Vietnam. Given Beijing’s capacities, the Pentagon is convincing when it describes China as its “pacing challenge.” But we Americans have demonstrated before the veracity of the slogan that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing — and we are tending towards overhyping the China threat in a way that could raise the risks of war.

To be sure, Beijing deserves most of the blame for today’s unsettled Indo-Pacific region, with its big…

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