China has lodged a diplomatic protest in response to the latest Pentagon annual assessment on "China's Military Threat" delivered to Congress and made public late Thursday evening, saying it "firmly opposes" the report as a gross misinterpretation of its true military aims and intent, and is indicative of a false "Cold War mentality" on the part of US leadership.
The Chinese Ministry of National Defense posted a statement to its website on Friday rebutting the idea that its strategic interpretations are expansionist or that China constitutes a threat to the United States.
The statement noted that the Pentagon assessment harms the "mutual trust" and shared interests between the two countries.
The statement said further:
We call on the US to abandon its Cold War mentality, regard China's defense and military construction in an objective and rational way. We also request that the US stops releasing the related reports and safeguards the stable development of the two countries' military with real actions.
The Pentagon report, released under the full title of Military and Security Developments Involving The People's Republic of China 2018, hyped the People's Liberation Army (PLA) expansionist intent and trajectory as it is "undergoing the most comprehensive restructure in its history".
A key line in the report that received a lot of attention in international press throughout Friday is as follows: “Over the last three years, the PLA has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against U.S. and allied targets.”
In the Defense Ministry statement which quickly followed, Beijing charged that the U.S. is the real threat to regional stability.
The Pentagon report also mentioned that the PLA has the "capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam."
Responding to sections of the report that note China is investing in building up its cyberspace defense capability, China's Defense Ministry said "it is proper and reasonable" that it would develop such defensive weapons, according to a Bloomberg report on the statement.
The US report had highlighted China's growing space program "despite its public stance against the militarization of space" — something which likely factored into President Trump's mid-June announcement that he would "immediately" establish a "space force" as an independent service branch of the Department of Defense.
The report also addressed the contentious Taiwan issue, saying that China "is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with China by force".
And the Pentagon assessment further spelled out that China is ready to go to war to protect its claim over the island: "Should the United States intervene, China would try to delay effective intervention and seek victory in a high-intensity, limited war of short duration."
The report was issued amidst heightened trade tensions and concerns that China is attempting to gobble up territory in international waters through its militarizing artificial islands in the South China Sea.
China's defense ministry statement also responded to this latter issue specifically, saying it has rights to “peaceful construction activities" on islands and reefs in South China Sea.
Meanwhile, the Chinese daily Global Times quoted a military analyst for the PLA's Naval Military Studies Research Institute: "It aims to treat China as an imaginary enemy and creates a confrontation between China and the US. Actually, China's defense policies are defensive in nature," Zhang Junshe, a senior military research fellow said.
And another Chinese state-associated researcher further noted the report's "anti-China sentiment" and said it dangerously "adds fuel to the fire," according to the Global Times.