China is flexing its military muscles, according to a Pentagon report that gets right to the troubling point: "Over the last three years, the PLA [People's Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets." While the Pentagon doesn't say exactly why China is undertaking these operations, per the BBC, the report posits that Beijing may try to demonstrate its ability to strike centers of American operations in the Pacific, including Guam. Beijing is also "likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with China by force," with any American intervention to be warded off with a "high-intensity, limited war of short duration."
China's military spending ballooned to $190 billion in 2017 and the assessment estimates it will grow even further to $240 billion over 10 years, reports Reuters. The US is trying to keep China in line with regular military flights over the South China Sea, but China's presence in the region has grown to landing bombers on small islands that are disputed territory with American allies. As Reuters notes, the report arrives during a tense time in US-China relations amid new tariffs imposed by the Trump administration and a burgeoning trade war. Meanwhile, as the White House plans a sixth branch of the military it has branded the "Space Force," the Pentagon report underscores the rapid growth of the Chinese space program. (Read more China stories.)