Among other things, the exhaustive 196-page report on “Military and Security Developments involving China” noted that Beijing sought to downplay the severity of the border crisis with India, emphasizing its intent to prevent the standoff from harming other areas of its bilateral relationship with India.
“(China) seeks to prevent border tensions from causing India to partner more closely with the United States. PRC officials have warned U.S. officials to not interfere with its relationship with India,” the report said. It did not say when and in what form the warning was delivered or the US response to it.
The report observed that in 2021, China employed multiple diplomatic tools in an attempt to erode American and “partner influence,” such as highlighting the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and criticizing U.S.-backed security partnerships including the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) and Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership (AUKUS).
In a section on the China-India border standoff, the report said throughout 2021, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) sustained the deployment of forces and continued infrastructure build-up along the LAC. Talks between the two sides made minimal progress as both sides resist losing perceived advantages on the border, it added.
The report also examined China’s military build-up in areas far beyond its immediate sphere of influence, including in the Indian Ocean, noting that Beijing is seeking to” expand its overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances.”
It specifically highlighted China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti, noting Beijing growing capacity and ambitions in the Indian Ocean, even though it resents foreign presence in it own sphere of influence.
“In late March 2022, a FUCHI II class (Type 903A) supply ship Luomahu docked at the 450-metre pier for resupply; the first such reported PLA Navy port call to the Djibouti support base, indicating that the pier is now operational,” says report said about China’s operations in Djibouti, which India looks at with concern. “The pier likely is able to accommodate the PLA Navy’s aircraft carriers, other large combatants, and submarines,” it added.
Among other observations the report made in this regard
- A global PLA military logistics network could disrupt U.S. military operations as the PRC’s global military objectives evolve.
- Beyond the PLA support base in Djibouti, the PRC is likely already considering and planning for additional military logistics facilities to support naval, air, and ground forces projection.
- The PRC has likely considered Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan, among other places, as locations for PLA military logistics facilities.
The Pentagon assessment also showed China’s official 2021 military budget of $209 billion was more than the combined defense budgets of India, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, but less than a third of that of the United States