China Wants to Outpace U.S. By 2049 Says U.S. Department of Defence

Article by Shantanu K. Bansal

The article highlights key highlights from China Military Power Report, 2021. This report covers security and military developments involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC) until the end of 2020.

It says, “the PRC has long viewed the United States as a competitor and has characterized its view of strategic competition in terms of a rivalry among powerful nation states, as well as a clash of opposing systems.” It further refers China as the only competitor capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system which clearly denotes China as the only major contender to US in the comity of nations.

It’s says PRC’s strategy aims to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049 to match or surpass U.S. global influence and power, displace U.S. alliances and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, and revise the international order to be more advantageous to Beijing’s national interests. It calls China having authoritarian system of governance.

It outlines that the PRC’s national strategy to achieve “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049 is deeply integrated with its ambitions to strengthen the PLA. In 2017, General Secretary Xi Jinping laid out two PLA modernization goals during his speech to the 19th Party Congress: to “basically complete” PLA modernization by 2035 and to transform the PLA into a “world class” military by 2049.

Covid-19 Hadn’t Deterred China From Continuing With It’s Ambitious Plans

Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing continued its efforts to advance its overall development including steadying its economic growth, strengthening its armed forces, and taking a more assertive role in global affairs. In response to both long and short-term economic trends, the CCP unveiled a new economic strategic task, or a new “development pattern,” called “dual circulation.”

It says that China will likely wield significant influence within the RCEP pact given the China’s economic weight and India’s withdrawal from RCEP negotiations in late 2019.

As per the report, in 2019, the PRC recognized that its armed forces should take a more active role in advancing its foreign policy, highlighting the increasingly global character that Beijing ascribes to its military power. In 2020, the PLA continued to normalize its presence overseas and build closer ties to foreign militaries, primarily through COVID-19 related aid.

Quoting miscellaneous Party officials, the report says that the overall goal of the PRC’s foreign policy is to build a “community of common destiny” that seeks to shift the international system towards an architecture based on the CCP’s principles for how nations should interact.

Seeking to Dominate the Tech. Race

It says that “the PLA has sought to modernize its capabilities and improve its proficiencies across all warfare domains so that as a joint force it can conduct the range of land, air, and maritime operations as well as space, counterspace, electronic warfare (EW), and cyber operations.”

Calling that China has continued its aggressive, top-level push to master advanced technologies and become a global innovation superpower. The PRC seeks to dominate technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution; this push directly supports the PLA’s ambitious modernization efforts and its goal of becoming a “world-class” military capable of “intelligentized” warfare. The 14th Five-Year Plan maintains the China focus on technological independence and indigenous innovation in fields associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Report says that the PLA will likely continue to develop its digital influence capabilities by incorporating advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the quality and deniability of its messaging.

It also maintains that the PRC uses imports, foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, and industrial and technical espionage to help achieve its military modernization goals. These technologies blur the line demarcating commercial versus military use.

Focus on Navy and Air Force

It says China having the largest Navy in the world with an overall battle force of approximately 355 ships and submarines, including approximately more than 145 major surface combatants. PLA Air Force including Naval Air Arm together constitute the largest aviation force in the region and the third largest in the world, with over 2,800 total aircraft (not including trainer variants or UAVs) of which approximately 2,250 are combat aircraft (including fighters, strategic bombers, tactical bombers, multi-mission tactical, and attack aircraft).

It says that China has accelerated training of its Army (PLAA) after the border stand-off with India in which reportedly 20 Indian soldiers and 4 PLAA soldiers died, reportedly. These tensions likely provided the PLAA with valuable real-world operational and tactical experience, the report said.

Bio-Chemical Warfare

It categorically outlines that the PRC has engaged in biological activities with potential dual-use applications, which raise concerns regarding its compliance with the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Studies conducted at PRC military medical institutions discussed identifying, testing, and characterizing diverse families of potent toxins with dual-use applications.

Influence Operations

The PRC conducts influence operations, which target cultural institutions, media organizations, business, academic, and policy communities in the United States, other countries, and international institutions, to achieve outcomes favorable to its strategic objectives. The main target are the democracies including that of US. The PLA has emphasized the development of its “Three Warfares” concept— comprised of psychological warfare, public opinion warfare, and legal warfare—in its operational planning since at least 2003.

Quadrupled Nuclear Force

It says that China might have already achieved nuclear triad. A key revelation in the report is about China’s advancements in its nuclear capability, it says that the accelerated pace of their nuclear expansion may enable China to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027 and China likely intends to have at least 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030 — exceeding the pace and the size that 2020 China Military Power report suggested, says the DoD website.


  • Shantanu K. Bansal

    Founder of IADN. He has more than 10 years of experience in research and analysis. An award winning researcher, he writes for the leading defence and security journals, think-tanks and in-service publications. He is a senior consultant at the Indian Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Shimla. Contact him at:

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