China is mounting a serious effort to challenge U.S. military superiority in air and space, forcing the Pentagon to seek new technologies and systems to stay ahead of its rapidly developing rival, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said Monday.
The Pentagon's chief operating officer told a group of military and civilian aerospace experts that China was "quickly closing the technological gaps," developing radar-evading aircraft, advanced reconnaissance planes, sophisticated missiles and top-notch electronic warfare equipment.
While hoping for a constructive relationship with China, the Pentagon "cannot overlook the competitive aspects of our relationship, especially in the realm of military capabilities, an area in which China continues to improve at a very impressive rate," he said.
China's state-run news agency Xinhua late on Monday cited Xu Qiliang, a vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, as saying China must innovate even more.
Work said U.S. and Chinese leaders both see the bilateral relationship as one in which there are "measures of cooperation and measures of competition."
"We're hoping over time that the cooperative aspects outweigh competitive aspects," Work added.
Citing a Harvard study on rising powers confronting established powers, Work said that interactions between the two often result in war.
As a result, the Defense Department must "hedge against this international competition turning more heated."
The United States has generally felt the best hedge is a strong nuclear and conventional deterrence capable of overmatching any rival, he added.
Work said the United States has relied on technological superiority for the past 25 years, but now "the margin of technological superiority upon which we have become so accustomed ... is steadily eroding."
To adjust, he said, the Pentagon is working to develop new technologies to maintain its edge and lower the cost of responding to attacks.