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The Chinese government has yet to give its official response, which is likely to be tersely dismissive, but the state-run Xinhua news agency made a starting shot.
Fueled by China's booming economy, the People's Liberation Army's weapons upgrades in the past decade have exceeded many earlier U.S. forecasts. China's aircraft carrier program, cyber warfare capabilities and anti-satellite missiles have unsettled neighbors and Washington.
"The allegation is an utterly cock-and-bull story about the Chinese military based on a wild guess and illogical reasoning," the English-language Xinhua commentary said.
"China, which has adhered to a defensive military policy, with its rising economic clout and sprawling commercial and strategic interests around the world, has every right to build a competent military," the commentary said.
Despite "large quantities of antiquated hardware and a lack of operational experience," the U.S. report said the People's Liberation Army is closing the technological gap with modern military forces
The Pentagon flagged concerns about Beijing's widening military edge over Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China calls an illegitimate breakaway province.
China cut off ties with the U.S. military for most of last year to protest at an American arms package for Taiwan, but officials in Taiwan have been outspoken about their continued need of U.S. weapons and fighter jets
Xinhua called the Pentagon's conclusions "much ado about nothing," and said Chinese people thought it "baffling" that the U.S. could criticize China when its own military spending was 40 percent of the world's total in 2010