China has delivered a stern warning to the United States over recent military maneuvers in the Asia-Pacific, accusing Washington of “inciting the risk of war on a global scale”. The ominous message comes in response to the Pentagon’s annual report detailing China’s growing military capabilities and aggression in the region, particularly around Taiwan.
The rebuke appeared in an editorial published by China’s state-run Global Times newspaper on Friday. The nationalist tabloid, which often expresses more hawkish views, slammed the Pentagon report as “malicious speculations and smears” intended to portray China as a “terrifying threat”.
The Global Times dismissed the assessments of China’s military buildup and activities as an attempt by the US to “fabricate a terrifying image of China” in order to “maintain its hegemony”. It claimed instead that America’s own actions in Asia have escalated tensions and posed the real danger to stability.
The scathing editorial follows the release on Thursday of the Pentagon’s 2022 report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China”. Spanning over 150 pages, the document highlights China’s efforts to modernize its armed forces and expand its global influence.
Some of the key points include:
- China fields the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of around 355 ships and submarines. This represents a 60% increase in just two decades.
- China has continued rapidly developing and testing hypersonic weapons, fielding its first hypersonic glide vehicle system in 2019. Their DF-17 medium-range ballistic missile can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads.
- China now has more than 1,500 ground-launched ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. This is more than the rest of the world combined.
- The PLA Rocket Force has expanded both its conventional and nuclear precision strike capabilities, allowing China to deter regional powers and counter third-party intervention in a regional conflict.
- China aims to modernize, professionalize, and expand its armed forces in order to transform them into a “world-class” military by 2049. It seeks to rival US military power globally.
The report also highlighted China’s coercion and provocative actions around Taiwan. This includes frequent military flights into Taiwan’s air defense zone, ballistic missile tests, and large-scale military exercises simulating an attack on the island.
In light of China’s assertive posture, the Pentagon has budgeted over $9 billion for its Pacific Deterrence Initiative. This aims to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The US continues to send its most advanced weapons systems into the area.
Admiral Harry Harris, former head of US Indo-Pacific Command, recently warned that China could try invading Taiwan this decade. However, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that “peace with China is the only option”.
Rather than directly rebutting the Pentagon’s assessments, the Global Times editorial argued that US military moves are the real threat. It accused Washington of making “excessive interventions” globally and claimed the US is the one “inciting the risk of war”.
The Global Times warned the “danger facing the US does not actually stem from its imagined challenge to its position of leadership by China”. It continued, “Rather, it arises from its excessive interventions and the blowback resulting from creating tension and inciting the risk of war on a global scale”.
While not an official government mouthpiece, the Global Times often reflects nationalist sentiments within the Chinese Communist Party. The unequivocal warning to the US indicates hawkish voices are gaining ground in Beijing.
As strategic competition heats up, some experts fear direct conflict may become more likely between the rival superpowers. However, China’s approach remains unclear as its media and officials continue issuing mixed messages.
Despite the Global Times’ fiery rhetoric, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was far more measured on Friday. He stated China has “no intention to challenge or replace the United States” and is “ready to work with the United States” to ensure healthy competition.
Yet Chinese President Xi Jinping has also made bold statements about China’s goal of military supremacy, vowing the PLA will become a “world-class” force by 2049. The latest reports reveal Xi is already asserting greater personal control over the military.
With Xi expected to secure an unprecedented third term next month, his vision for transforming China into a dominant global power is coming into sharper focus. But as China grows more powerful, so too does the backlash from the US and its allies.
The deepening great power rivalry will likely see more clashes and brinkmanship ahead. Yet open conflict remains the worst outcome for all. Leaders in Washington and Beijing must work urgently to stabilize relations before tensions boil over.
Compromise and cooperation remain the only viable path forward. Both sides should take steps to build trust, improve communication, and prevent miscalculations. The catastrophic human and economic costs of actual war between nuclear powers make de-escalation an imperative.
While the US and China have profound differences in values, interests and ambitions, they also share many common challenges. From climate change to global health, non-proliferation to counter-terrorism, they must partner where possible for the greater good of humanity. Trade, student exchanges, and other people-to-people ties can also help bridge divides.
There is no denying China’s military rise and its aims to re-shape the global order, as the Pentagon report lays bare. Yet America gains little through exaggeration and hype. Responsible statesmanship requires dealing realistically with change while avoiding provocation. The wise path forward is one of peaceful, principled competition that avoids open conflict.
Leaders must chart this course. The well-being of billions depends on US-China cooperation, not confrontation. However daunting the differences, peace remains imperative — and possible. But it can only be achieved through vision, courage and compromise on both sides. The world is watching and waiting.
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