Unimpressed by COVID-19, China is rapidly building its nuclear arsenal and armed forces, according to the Pentagon

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The latest Defense Ministry report on Chinese military might paints a picture of a country largely untouched by 2020’s biggest problem – the COVID-19 pandemic – and aggressively building its nuclear stocks as it trains its armed forces.

“Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has continued efforts to advance its overall development, including stabilizing its economic growth, strengthening its armed forces and taking a more confident role in global affairs,” the nearly 200-page report said. Published Wednesday.

The annual report is required by law and has been submitted to Congress since 2000.

The pandemic that first emerged as Frequency of infection in China and brought much of the world to a standstill, also became “a driving force behind it” [China’s] foreign policy efforts, ”the report says. “Beijing tried to turn all blame for the virus and its initial spread and to capitalize on its narrative of domestic success and foreign aid.”

The DoD noted that the Chinese military used the pandemic to deploy overseas and forge closer ties with overseas militaries through COVID-19-related assistance.

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In the meantime, despite the pandemic and clashes in India, the Chinese army has managed to accelerate training and equipment installation “from the already high pace of recent years”.

As a result, the Pentagon believes that China’s leaders “are always ready to face the United States,” which they see as “increasingly determined” to contain it.

The report reflects the concerns of high-level US military leaders about the pace of China’s development.

The report says China plans to upgrade its armed forces to make them the best in the world by 2049.

Aside from military predictions, the report also sheds more light on how U.S. officials treated their Chinese counterparts in 2020. In particular, it provides more details on the circumstances behind the calls made by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, to his Chinese counterpart in the tumultuous finale of months of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The report states that two calls were made “at the direction of then-US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” and that Milley in his call was “widespread speculation in [Chinese] Media that the United States was deliberately starting a conflict … in the South China Sea. “

Milley’s call followed a call made 10 days earlier by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China.

Pentagon officials also highlighted the results of the report on China’s nuclear arsenal, which “is exceeding the pace and size of the DoD for 2020”.

The document states that China could have “up to 700 available nuclear warheads” by 2027 and will shoot “at least 1,000 warheads” by 2030.

At present, China’s nuclear arsenal estimated by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute at 320 warheads, while the United States and Russia have about 6,000 each.

In the last few months private satellite images has revealed major expansions to missile silos, the external experts called an “unprecedented nuclear armament”.

The latest DoD report confirms that China is “building hundreds of new ICBM silos and is on the cusp of large-scale silo-based ICBM expansion comparable to other major powers.”

Ultimately, the DoD’s 21st Report on China’s Military Power paints the picture of a rapidly modernizing and growing armed force, far removed from the “large, but mostly archaic, military that works for [China’s] long-term ambitions “described in the first report to Congress in 2000.

– Konstantin Toropin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: Pentagon shaken by Chinese military advance on multiple fronts

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