BEIJING — China said Tuesday that it plans to extend its global military reach to safeguard its economic interests, while defending its territorial claims at sea against “provocative actions” by neighbors and “meddling” by the United States.
A policy document setting out China’s military strategy, issued by the State Council, or cabinet, underlined the dramatic growth of the country’s defense ambitions — especially its naval ambitions — in tandem with its rapid economic rise.
Beijing insisted in the document that its military is dedicated to “international security cooperation” and peaceful development. But it also said the navy will expand its focus from “offshore waters defense” to a greater emphasis on “open seas protection” as China aims to establish itself as a maritime power. The air force, meanwhile, will shift its focus from “territorial air defense to both defense and offense.”
Patrick Cronin, director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, called the white paper “a blueprint for achieving slow-motion regional hegemony.”
“It asserts a confidence backed by growing capability on land and increasingly at sea,” he said. “While it calls for balancing China’s territorial ‘rights’ with ‘stability,’ there should be little doubt on the part of its neighbors that China is building a maritime force to assert the former.”
China’s officially disclosed defense budget was expanded by just over 10 percent this year, to $141 billion, marking two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit growth. The navy is reportedly building a second aircraft carrier and has invested heavily in submarines and warships.
“China has made it a strategic goal to become a maritime power,” Senior Col. Wang Jin said at a news conference Tuesday. “Therefore, we need to build a strong navy.”
He added that the development of long-range precision weapons means that the battlefield at sea is widening. “Offshore-waters defense alone can no longer provide effective defense of the country’s maritime interests,” he said.