The Department of Defense (“DoD” or “the Department”) released its annual report to Congress on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) on May 2, 2019. This annual report details DoD’s assessment of Chinese security strategy and military strategy over the next 20 years, with a particular focus on China’s future course of military-technological developments. The Secretary of Defense sends both a classified and unclassified version of the report to Congress each year to fulfill the requirements of Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2000, as amended by Section 1260 of the NDAA for FY 2019. Notably, the 2019 amendments refined the scope of the reporting requirements to include elements regarding emerging efforts by the PRC on espionage, technology transfer, economic pressure, political coercion, information operations, and predatory lending under its Belt and Road initiative.
The report highlights significant strategic challenges presented by Chinese foreign and military policy. Its tone underscores sharp differences with several recent policy decisions and comments that take a more accommodating view of Chinese policy. The UK defense minister, for example, was recently ousted over a leak concerning Britain’s proposed decision to allow Huawei to participate in certain parts of its 5G network. The DoD report, by contrast, describes serious threats from China’s coercive military-civilian strategy. China is taking major steps to modernize its military capabilities and can force cooperation under its laws from all potential sources of innovation within its borders.
Industry leaders in the United States should take note of this approach. As they engage with U.S. government leaders and policy makers, it will be important to look for ways to continue building on key innovation efforts in the United States, and with allies and partners, to harness dual-use emerging technologies for future capabilities. The report also makes clear that cybersecurity and counter-espionage protocols will be key to thwarting efforts of the Chinese government – acting either through governmental agencies or through Chinese companies – to gain insight into the military and industrial capabilities of the United States.
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