Key point: The U.S. military can no longer take its advantages for granted.
Western media seized on a new Pentagon report that Chinese bombers are training to strike deep into the Western Pacific, including Guam, the Philippines and Japan.
But China's military is improving in numerous other ways, according to "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2018," a report that the Pentagon is required to deliver to Congress each year.
China's army is becoming more flexible:
Forget the Cold War stereotype of Chinese human waves. The world's largest army is moving from a clumsy big-unit doctrine of corps-sized operations to a more Western (and now Russian) model of maneuver by brigades and battalions waging combined arms warfare. "Each group army now consists of multiple combined arms brigades, an artillery brigade, an air defense brigade, a SOF [special operations forces] brigade, an army aviation brigade, an engineer and chemical defense brigade, and a service support brigade," the report notes. "The subordinate service support brigades provide group armies an integrated ability to set up a command network and organize battlefield transportation and equipment repair for their tactical units."
China's army is using high-tech force multipliers:
The People's Liberation Army is embracing all those capabilities that make an army more deadly than mere numbers suggest. 2017 "saw increases and improvements in air defense, artillery, sustainment support, engineers, and chemical defense systems at all echelon levels. This selective modernization enables the shift to the brigade and battalion as the main operational echelons by giving their commanders critical organic force protection, firepower strike, reconnaissance, and sustainment capabilities."
China's military is becoming a joint force:
While the U.S. military is accustomed to joint land-air-sea operations, China's military has traditionally been centered on the army, with the air force and navy as supporting players. But China is revamping its armed force into a joint force capable of combined operations. Joint exercises have become more common, and new communications networks facilitate inter-service cooperation.