November 1, 2005  

Friend or foe?

China’s military rise is no longer an issue. The question is: How will Beijing use its power?

The remarkable economic growth of the People’s Republic of China during the past two decades, combined with its geopolitical clout and increasing military power, has made Beijing the rising great power of the 21st century. Chinese leaders insist this will be a “peaceful rise,” but the jury is out on the matter.

In 1999, Congress mandated an annual report on People’s Liberation Army capabilities and strategy. In the partisan atmosphere of the time, the initiative was lampooned as China-baiting and Clinton-bashing. But as Kurt Campbell, then deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia, admits now: “We underestimated, by a lot” the pace and purpose of Chinese military modernization.

In the following three reports, AFJ captures essential elements of the ongoing debate over the direction of China’s military rise. Laurent Murawiec, summarizes the work he has done for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment on China’s strategic culture; Rear Adm. (ret.) Eric McVadon sketches the status of PLA modernization; and Mary Fitzgerald discusses the growing Chinese attention to space as a realm of military competition and Beijing’s ambiguous military relationship with Russia.