Handy map (from 2012 Pentagon report) showing how the U.S. is within range of two of Beijing’s long-range missile types.

The Pentagon issued its annual China report to Congress on Friday, and as expected, the brunt of the focus is on China’s preparation for possible hostilities in the Taiwan Strait. That includes doing whatever necessary to keep the U.S. from intervening in the event of conflict with Taiwan.

China is pressing a long-range modernization of its military, part of a strategy aimed at maximizing its leverage over Taiwan, extending its influence farther abroad, but avoiding conflict around its borders or with the United States, the Pentagon said, according to the New York Times.

“Extending its influence farther abroad” entails pursuit of “new historic missions” that go beyond China’s traditional role of defending the homeland.

The Pentagon says these new missions include humanitarian aid, combatting piracy and counter-terrorism operations, noted the Washington Post, with the Pentagon citing as an example China’s evacuation last year of 36,000 Chinese nationals from Libya during the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.

Time provides perspective by correctly observing that we’ve heard about these very same “new historic missions” in previous Pentagon reports—dating back to 2004.

To be sure, China has increased its military budget every year for more than 20 years, with an 11.2 percent increase announced just two months ago. The country’s long term intentions, however, are up for debate.

Still, China isn’t necessarily a potential foe to fear as widespread corruption within the PLA’s ranks wreaks havoc on such things as force readiness and weaponry.

Download/read “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2012″ here. You might also be interested in the Pentagon’s 2011 report for comparison.

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Ray Kwong is senior advisor to the USC US-China Institute, a charter member of the Asian International Business Advisory Group, a Forbes contributing writer and columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He is currently facilitating talks between China and U.S. interests on such matters as clean energy economics, nanotechnology and commercial aerospace. While it sounds way cooler than it really is, he is also a member of the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Market Advisory Board and the McKinsey Quarterly Executive Panel. You can follow him on Twitter @raykwong. Eyeball Ray's posts from Forbes ChinaTalk.
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