It's déjà vu all over again for the Pentagon's latest annual "China power report" released on Monday, in which Defense Department policy bosses have determined that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is continuing to expand, modernize, and buy more and weaponry and capabilities mostly designed to keep outside powers like the United States out of its immediate territory.
"China's military buildup shows no signs of slowing," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Helvey, at the Pentagon.
What worries Helvey most is that despite increased transparency from China, the United States feels that Beijing continues to keep its plans and intentions for the PLA far too close to the vest and "many uncertainties remain" about the PLA budget.
"There's a lot yet that remains to be said," Helvey said. "This report poses a number of questions -- questions to which we don't have answers."
According to the report, China's military is focused on acquiring more missiles, counter-space weapons, and cyberwarfare technology. In fact, in just about every corner of the military toolbox, the PLA is increasing stocks: "nuclear deterrence and long-range conventional strike; advanced fighter aircraft; limited regional power projection, with the commissioning of China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning; integrated air defenses; undersea warfare; improved command and control; and more sophisticated training and exercises across China's air, naval, and land forces."
China's Second Artillery unit, which controls its nuclear arsenal, has been particularly active. "It is developing and testing several new classes and variants of offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, upgrading older missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses," the report claims.
One quick note: while the world saw China's first aircraft carrier come online last year, the Pentagon expects it will not have an operational air wing until 2015. The Pentagon seems more concerned about the next decade, as the PLA has announced its intention to build its own carriers. The Pentagon expects the first home-built Chinese carrier by the end of this decade, according to the report.
Helvey claimed the administration has achieved "positive" momentum in U.S.-China military-to-military relations, citing a number of high-level visits between Beijing and Washington in 2012. He would not comment further on reports of China's cyber espionage and theft of military secrets. But the true extend of trust in that relationship was bluntly in view during last months' nuclear standoff with North Korea, when Pentagon and Joint Staff officials conceded there was little interaction between top U.S. and Chinese commanders.