China does not seem to be pursuing the amphibious lift capacity that would be necessary for a large-scale invasion of Taiwan, a report presented to US Congress said.
At the same time, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ground forces continue to prepare for a Taiwan-related contingency, the report said.
Prepared by the Congressional Research Service and titled The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress, the report was written by Asian affairs analyst Ian Rinehart and released this week.
It said that PLA ground forces have armed attack helicopters and other modern platforms, improved networks that enable real-time data transmission.
It is also continuing to improve its advanced air defense systems and practicing more realistic training exercises, including amphibious landing training, the report said.
“On the other hand, PLA weaknesses in areas like logistics and amphibious lift could render the PLA unable to carry out assigned missions, in particular an invasion of Taiwan,” it said.
“Both air lift and sea lift capacity remain major shortcomings for the PLA, constraining significantly its ability to carry out large-scale power projection operations,” it added.
The report said that over the past two decades, the main focus of the PLA’s military planning and short-term operational readiness has been a potential conflict over Taiwan.
Such planning might also be designed to deter Taiwan from declaring independence, the report said.
According to the report, an invasion of Taiwan would be a “daunting undertaking” for China.
“The potential intervention of the US to defend Taiwan would present enormous challenges for the PLA,” it said.
Rinehart said that China is building a modern and regionally powerful military with a limited, but growing capability for conducting operations away from China’s immediate periphery.
“The question of how the US should respond to China’s military modernization effort is a central issue in US defense planning and foreign policy,” he said.
Rinehart said that many American China-watchers assert that China’s main reason for strengthening the PLA is to ensure the status of Taiwan is resolved on terms favorable to Beijing.
He said that Pentagon and other analysts argue that China’s military modernization was explicitly designed to keep the US military from sending reinforcements to a conflict by controlling access to naval approach routes through a variety of stand-off attacks.
“The PRC does not consider its desire to unify with Taiwan and to consolidate control over islands in the South China Sea as strategically offensive, whereas many in the US and other countries see such ambitions as inherently offensive,” Rinehart said.
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