Chinese hacking capabilities are particularly worrisome because U.S. officials fear that Beijing could use them as an offensive tactic.
“The access and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks,” the report says.
The Chinese government has denied orchestrating or condoning hacking operations against U.S. government and corporate networks.
The Pentagon added that China is also stepping up its conventional weapons and aerospace systems, saying China is transforming an armed force that two decades ago was regarded as “a poorly equipped, ground forces-centric military.”
Significantly, China rolled out last year its first aircraft carrier and invested heavily in short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
David F. Helvey, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, told reporters Monday that the U.S. government would like greater insight into China’s military policy and defense goals.
“What concerns me is the extent to which China’s military modernization occurs in the absence of the kind of openness and transparency that others are certainly asking of China,” he said.
The Pentagon report said one of Beijing’s most pressing defense priorities is the future status of Taiwan, the economic powerhouse island that China claims as part of its territory. The Chinese government, the report said, “is capable of increasingly sophisticated military action against Taiwan.”
China has watched warily as the United States has bolstered its military presence in Asia, part of an Obama administration plan to “pivot to Asia” as it winds down the war in Afghanistan. As part of that shift, the United States hopes to build a more robust partnership with Beijing as they confront common problems, the report said.
“The complexity of the security environment both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally calls for a continuous dialogue between the armed forces of the United States and China,” the report concluded.