An unclassified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency says Beijing has made enormous military strides in recent years, thanks partly to domestic laws forcing foreign partners to divulge technical secrets in exchange for access to China's vast market.
As a result of "acquiring technology by any means available," China now is at the leading edge on a range of technologies, including with its naval designs, with medium- and intermediate-range missiles, and with hypersonic weapons -- where missiles can fly at many times the speed of sound and dodge missile-defense systems.
"The result of this multifaceted approach to technology acquisition is a PLA (People's Liberation Army) on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world," states the report, entitled "China Military Power."
"In some areas, it already leads the world."
Beijing has said it will not hesitate to use force if Taipei formally declares independence, or in the case of external intervention -- including by the United States, the island's most powerful unofficial ally.
"The biggest concern is that as a lot of these technologies mature... (China) will reach a point where internally within their decision-making they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent," the official said on condition of anonymity.