Since yesterday, the People's Daily has continued to defend China's international image in the face of the Pentagon report critical of its military capabilities. Running an article from a subsidiary publication, the newspaper suggested a mentality existed in Washington which could end up with a war being “forced” on China.
It is clear that Beijing is not going to let the snub go readily. Although talk of war is rather sensationalising the issue, recent events have revealed China's continuing antagonism over America's selling of military equipment to Taiwan. Wary of being drawn into an unwanted conflict and keen to avoid another Taiwan Straits Crisis, in recent years the United States has significantly reduced its commitment to Taiwan. However, much to Beijing's annoyance, the Taiwan Relations Act remains on the US statute book, and the Pentagon's findings make this likely to remain the status quo for the coming years.
Nevertheless, there is nothing to make China's reaction to this year's report exceptional. Since 2000, the Pentagon has issued such analyses of China's military technologies and intentions each year, and a look at the People's Daily's reaction to the publication of the Pentagon's verdict in 2009 gives a striking sense of deja vu. Last year, as with 2010, America was accused of distorting facts and making vague or groundless claims. The mutual distrust between Washington and Beijing is nothing new, but as the years go by it is not encouraging to see criticisms and counter-criticisms being repeated. It will take a dramatic change in cross-strait and Sino-American relations for this pattern not to continue in 2011.