2017 – Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

The U.S. Department of Defense has released its annual report to Congress on the military power of China.
2017 – Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (PDF)

One major section is called Force Modernization for a Taiwan Contingency.


The PLA continues to develop and deploy military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan or to attempt an invasion, if necessary. These improvements pose major challenges to Taiwan’s security, which has historically been rooted in the PLA’s inability to project power across the 100 nm Taiwan Strait, the natural geographic advantages of island defense, Taiwan’s armed forces’ technological superiority, and the possibility of U.S. intervention.

China appears prepared to defer the use of force as long as it believes that unification over the long term remains possible and that the costs of conflict outweigh the benefits. China argues that the credible threat of force is essential to maintain the conditions for political progress and to prevent Taiwan from making moves toward de jure independence. China has refused for decades to renounce the use of force to resolve the Taiwan issue, despite simultaneously professing its desire for peaceful unification under the principle of “one country, two systems.”

The circumstances under which the mainland has historically warned that it would use force have evolved over time in response to the island’s declarations of its political status, changes in PLA capabilities, and China’s view of Taiwan’s relations with other countries. These circumstances have included:

  • formal declaration of Taiwan independence;
  • undefined moves toward Taiwan independence;
  • internal unrest on Taiwan;
  • Taiwan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons;
  • indefinite delays in the resumption of cross-Strait dialogue on unification;
  • foreign intervention in Taiwan’s internal affairs; and
  • foreign forces stationed on Taiwan.

Article 8 of China’s March 2005 Anti-Secession Law states that China may use “non-peaceful means” if “secessionist forces … cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China,” if “major incidents entailing Taiwan’s secession” occur, or if “possibilities for peaceful reunification” are exhausted. The ambiguity of these “redlines” preserves China’s flexibility.

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