Saturday, December 6, 2008

Understanding Chinese Military Strategy

This essay on Chinese military strategy first appeared in IDSA/ Routledge's Strategic Analysis (November 2008).

Chinese military modernization and its resulting aggressive posturing
have serious implications for Asian stability and Indian security. This
article is an attempt to understand the main security challenges from a
Chinese perspective; the kind of responses, especially military, that
China has undertaken; and the way Chinese military strategy has
evolved from Mao’s People’s War days to a modern hi-tech military force
today. In the short run Chinese military objectives appear focused on
finding ways to defeat the United States in the event of a conflict
between the two countries, possibly over Taiwan. But the long-term
consequences of Chinese strategy remain uncertain, at least partly
because the rise of China, on which that military power will depend, is
itself difficult to predict with certainty.



War is the continuation of politics.1

Introduction
Few will doubt the important role of the Chinese military and how it
affects Asian stability as well as India’s security.2 China’s military modernization
has generated considerable debate. China’s rapid rise as a major economic
power, coupled with its military expansion, has serious implications
for Asia and the world. For example, Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute (SIPRI) has reported that Chinese military expenditure,
Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Security Studies
(ISS), Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. She can be reached at
rajeswarirajagopalan@gmail.com.
This essay is a shortened version of a forthcoming monograph to be
published by Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.
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if calculated in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, is almost US$200 billion
every year.3 China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) test in January 2007 is another
indicator of its ambitions that go well beyond its borders. The most worrying
aspect is the pace of its military modernization and the secrecy that
shrouds it. Concern also stems from the fact that the military leadership in
China sometimes appears to have an independent agenda.
The first section of this article looks at security challenges from the
Chinese perspective. Specifically this concerns the following major issues:
the challenge of integrating Taiwan, balancing the United States, countering
other Asian powers such as India and Japan, and the possibility of a
resurgent Russia. The second section deals with Chinese responses to
these evolving issues. The concluding section focuses on how effective
Chinese military strategy is in dealing with them.
Chinese Security Environment
China does not face any serious security threat in general terms and
does not foresee a war breaking out in the near future. In fact, China
appears to be enjoying one of its most stable and peaceful periods. It is
seeking to follow a road of peaceful development, focusing on economic
and technological issues. China believes that construction of a harmonious
world remains a long-term goal, which needs concerted efforts from
people all over the world, rather than just from China alone.4
As Chinese strategic thinkers and leaders have pointed out from time
to time, the three most important national security concerns of China
relate to maintaining national unity, safeguarding stability, and maintaining
sovereignty.5 General Jijun argues, for example, that each nation
and its notion of war is conditioned by its own ‘cultural background’.6
As its defence white paper of 2006 notes, China seeks ‘a road of peaceful
development and a harmonious world, enduring peace and common
prosperity’.7
With this background China has identified the following critical
challenges:
• Taiwan;
• US foreign and militarily policies/strategies, particularly in Asia;
• a resurgent Japan;
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• Russian revival; and
• India’s growing political and military profile in Asia and beyond.
8
Taiwan Secessionist Threat
The most important security threat that China faces concerns Taiwan.
Calls for independence by the Taiwanese leadership will be a direct threat
to China’s basic concerns—unity, stability, and sovereignty.9 The defence
white paper of 2004 stated clearly that ‘the separatist activities of “Taiwan
independence” forces have increasingly become the biggest immediate
threat to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as peace and
stability on both sides of the Taiwan Straits and the Asia-Pacific region’.10
Taiwan on its own may not be a large threat but, combined with major
defence assistance from the United States, it is a worry for the Chinese
leadership.11 US assistance to Taiwan has gone up significantly after the
Chinese missile firings in 1995–1996 during the Taiwan Straits crisis.12
Taiwan’s military expenditure has generally been constant for the past
five years, being 241 billion new Taiwan dollars in 2006 (four new Taiwan
dollars equal one RMB yuan).13 Further, although the US missile defence
may not be of a totally offensive nature, the Chinese leadership will
continue to oppose it because its mobile, ship-based, upper-tier systems
can protect Taiwan against China’s short- and medium-range ballistic
missiles. A more potent threat for the Chinese will be the development of a
ship-based system by the United States along with Japan, because it could
raise the potential danger of Japanese naval involvement in a Taiwan crisis.14
In essence, an independent Taiwan continues to remind Beijing of the
Chinese suffering and even humiliation at the hands of imperialist forces,
and it is a perfect symbol of the ‘incompleteness in China’s sovereignty’,
especially after the peaceful ceding of Hong Kong and Macao to China.15
Further complicating Taiwan’s relations with China is the territorial dispute
over the South China Sea, specifically the Spratly Islands.16 The
Chinese Government has consistently reiterated its claims on Taiwan.
There have been two white papers on the Taiwan issue—one in 1993 and
the second in 2000—that clearly provide the ‘basis for one China, de facto
and de jure’.17 The defence white papers of 2004 and 2006 reiterated this
theme, as did Premier Wen Jiabao at the 10th National Party Congress,
and President Hu Jintao at the 17th National Party Congress.18
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China has tried to deal with these challenges through a range of measures.
19 Since the mid-1990s the Beijing leadership has recognized the
importance of military modernization in crushing the Taiwan threat.
However, given the huge political, economic, and even social cost of
using force against Taiwan, Beijing may not perceive this as a serious
policy option, but may use it as a deterrent against Taiwan.20 Any
Chinese attack on Taiwan will be a formula for disaster, and Chinese
leaders are aware of this.21 However, this does not mean that China will
sit by and watch the Taiwanese making moves towards independence,
as was evident in the statement made by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the
PRC State Council and the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee,
that ‘if Taiwan should provoke major incidents of “Taiwan
independence”, the Chinese people will crush their schemes firmly and
thoroughly at any cost.’22 The following are some of the major options
short of war that have been considered in recent scholarly literature on
the issue but may not necessarily be options that the Chinese leadership
might actually be considering.
Air and Missile Strikes:23 Short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) strikes
and precision strikes against vital installations in Taiwan would weaken
its leadership’s will to start a counter-attack. The attacks could target
Taiwan’s air defence systems, its air bases, radar sites, missiles, and command
and control facilities, in effect crippling all of Taiwan’s defences
against a Chinese attack.
Limited Military Campaign: An attack on Taiwan’s information and
computer networks, particularly in the country’s political, economic, and
military infrastructure, would be able to dilute the leadership’s capability
and will to undertake any counter-measures. As a Pentagon report noted,
the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Special Forces have in recent years
upgraded themselves from being an auxiliary and supplementary force to
a fully fledged ground combat force.24
Naval Blockade:25 Naval blockade is another option that Beijing could
consider. A complete submarine blockade of Taiwanese ports would pose
an enormous security threat to Taiwan.26 This may not even need China to
have a very advanced navy, in terms of power projection. Submarine use
as an effective coercive instrument in China’s naval warfare strategy has
been highlighted in several Chinese articles.27 Taiwan’s close location to
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the mainland also makes it an easy target for a blockade.28 Sea mining or a
sea-air blockade is another tactic that the Chinese could employ.
Amphibious Invasion:29 China has improved its amphibious capabilities
in recent years, with Beijing conducting more than a dozen such exercises
in the past decade or so.30 Although China has beefed up its
capabilities in this regard, given the logistics-intensive nature of these
operations and the need to have air and sea superiority, the probability of
the Chinese venturing into amphibious operations against Taiwan is
unlikely.
In any of the above-mentioned scenarios the United States and even
Japan might be involved, though China’s improving submarine capabilities
would increase the risk for US forces or vessels operating in the region.31
China’s improving air defence systems would also have an effect on US
forces. Although China’s air defences have traditionally been weak, they
have made significant progress in this area, setting up multilayered air
defence systems through Russian-origin surface-to-air missiles (SAMs)
and advanced Russian aircraft such as the SU-30.
Pre-eminence of the United States in Asia
China has viewed with caution the emerging international scenario as
well as some of the arms control regimes, which are spearheaded by the
United States. China has vacillated from an extreme viewpoint of ‘imminent
US hegemonic decline’ to a viewpoint that ‘US-dominated unipolarity’
will continue well into the 21st century.32 Additionally, there is not a single
major strategic issue in which the West and China are on the same side.33
In fact, the Chinese also believe that, after the end of the Cold War, the
nuclear balance has shifted in favour of the United States, which has led to
US hegemony over the rest of the international community.34
The Chinese continue to believe that the post-cold war phase of a USdominated
world is likely to be a transition period. They visualize a
multipolar world emerging after this transition period, with China, the
United States, Japan, Europe, and Asia emerging as the significant poles.35
In fact, Chinese scholar Li Zhongcheng wrote in 1997, that ‘the US will
strive for maintaining global unipolarity with its status as the sole superpower
intact’.36 Yao Youzhi of the Department of Strategic Research of the
Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, PLA, believes that the United States
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has undertaken several measures to incorporate and integrate certain powers
like Europe and Japan, or to try and contain other powers like Russia and
China, to stem the rise of any potential regional grouping opposing its
hegemonic power.37 Although China, in an effort to counter such unilateral
tendencies on the part of the United States, has started aligning itself with
major powers such as Russia, as well as strengthening bilateral and multilateral
ties within the region, it has not been able to shift the balance in its
favour or even to form a wider coalition of nations to counter Washington.
China is also clear that its economic engagement with Washington is
beneficial and it will continue. Most importantly, China appears to believe
that a US strategic presence in Asia is still necessary for stability in the
region. While China believes that its economic interaction with the United
States is to its own benefit, it is clearly wishful thinking to imagine that
‘economic and institutional engagement with the US will automatically
bring about a democratic and peaceful China’.38
A serious conflict with the United States is possible only under two conditions:
(1) a Taiwanese call for independence and (2) a situation of Chinese
superiority sufficient to challenge the US superpower status directly, resulting
in yet another Cold War, in which case a US–Soviet style confrontation
will be a possibility. The United States, in its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR),
noted that a ‘military confrontation over the status of Taiwan’ could force
the United States to consider the use of nuclear weapons as well.39
Emergence of a Resurgent Japan
Although an economic superpower, Japan has never managed to
become a major geopolitical actor because of its pacifist military posture.
This posture is undergoing change, with Japan assuming larger security
responsibilities, as was evident in the deployment of Japanese troops in
Iraq and of its naval vessels in the Arabian Sea in support of US military
operations in Afghanistan.40
The resurgence of a militarily assertive Japan will pose serious challenges
for China. Although Beijing recognized the need to have better
relations with Tokyo, which resulted in a ‘new thinking’, followed by
then President Jiang Zemin’s visit to Japan in 1998, the anti-Japanese disturbances
in China in 2005 were a pointer to the difficulties that exist in
the bilateral relationship, carrying as it does heavy historical baggage.
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Visualizing a more aggressive Japan in the coming decades, China has
called for more dynamic political ties, while maintaining that Japan adopt
stances that are not offensive to Chinese sensitivities. These Chinese
efforts can also be construed as laying the foundation for a counter-US
grouping in East Asia.41
Issues that worry Beijing where Japan is concerned include its aggressiveness,
its participation in a US-led ballistic missile shield in the region,
recent Japanese naval exercise with the United States, India, Singapore, and
Australia, and its trilateral summit last year with the United States and
Australia. China is also seriously concerned by the possibility of Japan
adopting a more ‘manipulative role’42 in a Taiwan conflict as well as in
directing the shape of Taiwanese politics. This possibility, along with the
new security alliance between the United States and Japan, which encompasses
not just bilateral security issues but also those of Japan’s neighbours,
has become a serious worry for the Beijing leadership.43 But Beijing
appears resigned to the idea that a resurgent Japan is a reality.44
Bilateral tensions also revolve around various territorial issues such as
the East China Sea and the Senkaku Islands.45 Similarly claims by Tokyo
and Beijing over the gas-rich East China Sea continue to affect their
bilateral ties.46
Russian Revival47
Russia today exhibits a peculiar mix of weakness and strength, as was
illustrated in the 2003 Russian defence white paper, which stated that
Moscow might consider preventive strikes in case of dire threats to its
national security. It illustrated both the weakness of its conventional
military might and the continuing potency of its strategic forces.
Despite their mutual wariness, both Russia and China have utilized
opportunities after the fall of the Soviet Union to solidify relations, essentially
through trade and arms transfers.48 Relations were further strengthened
with the signing of the ‘Sino-Russian strategic partnership of
equality, trust and cooperation’, following which the two countries maintained
that their improved relations were not directed against any particular
country and did not have an anti-US agenda. More significant was
President Putin’s offer in 2000 of Russia’s ’direct military assistance to
China’ in the case of a Taiwan crisis.49
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Nonetheless, one of the major nuclear challenges that China may
face comes from Russia. Published in 2000, the National Security Concept
of the Russian Federation (2000 Concept) and the Military Doctrine made
bold statements about the use of nuclear weapons. These documents
are significant for two reasons: first, because they highlight the importance
of nuclear weapons in Russia’s military strategy and, second,
because they make a departure from the declared ‘no-first use’ policy,
widening the scope of the use of nuclear weapons.50 Further, Russia has
continued with its programme of modernizing its nuclear triad of
land-based strategic missiles (ICBMs), sea-based strategic weapons
(SLBMs and submarines), and air-delivered strategic weapons (heavy
bombers).51 And there are other statements emanating from the
Russian leadership which may be worrisome to the Chinese leadership.
52 While these may not necessarily be targeted against the Chinese,
Beijing is doubtless wary of Moscow’s willingness to have options that
include pre-emption.
Despite the existence of a tactical understanding between Russia and
China in shaping the international order and undermining the role of US
hegemony, there exist deep mutual suspicions between the two countries.
Despite a border agreement between the two countries, territorial
issues have not been entirely sorted out. Another issue, that of bilateral
economic ties, appears to be the weakest link in the wide spectrum of
Russia–China ties.53 The Chinese might also be interested in getting a
deeper foothold in Russia’s far east.54 Another serious Russian concern
centres on the issue of Chinese migration, both legal and illegal. Despite
the Russian law on regulation of migration (January 2007), the government
reported the registration of two million Chinese migrants in May
2007.55
Another aspect that worries Russia concerns the Chinese development
of intermediate range missiles. In the absence of long-range missiles that
can target US cities, it is quite clear that Russia and India remain China’s
potential targets.56 Even in military-to-military relations or arms transfers,57
while the general assumption is that all is well, there exist concerns. The
Chinese often complain that Russia has given the best technology to
India.58
The desire to dominate the Central Asian states is another issue
between China and Russia. Though disguised by diplomatic facades like
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the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), two recent military exercises
were essentially a Chinese display of modernization of its military
prowess. Despite their rivalry as two major powers, a technological gap
and the US and EU embargo on technology has forced China to rely on
Russian technology to get its arms industry going, while it is value-added
by stolen Western technology.
Besides their science and technology cooperation, for both China and
Russia, it is the anti-US sentiment that is critical in cementing bilateral
relations.59 However, whether Russia prefers to see itself as a rising Asian
power or as a Eurasian power remains to be seen.
India’s Growing Political and Military Profile in Asia and Beyond
Relations between India and China have vacillated from one end of
the spectrum to the other, with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s
‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai’ to the 1962 war and the rancorous ties after
India’s nuclear tests in 1998. Relations have smoothed out a great deal
thereafter and in fact today are at their best in decades. While it is never
easy to predict the future of this relationship, it is amply clear that Sino-
Indian ties will certainly be a factor in establishing a stable balance of
power in Asia. For China improving ties with India is not only an end in
itself, but a means to achieving its larger objective of emerging as a major
regional and global player. While China may not be interested in seeing
another giant in Asia, it does not want India to forge closer ties with the
US or other Asian powers as that may be detrimental to Beijing’s own
regional and global role.60 Finally, the way the issue of energy security
affects bilateral ties—whether it will foment and be manifested in a
cooperative partnership or result in a conflicting framework—remains to
be seen.
Despite recognizing their inevitable role in shaping the Asian security
order, the two countries differ on the kind of Asian layout they favour for
the future. India continues to look for an inclusive approach as opposed to
China’s exclusivist approach, which appears directed against India, the
United States and Japan. Beijing continues to believe that its peaceful rise
and emergence as a dominant power in Asia is only an assumption of its
rightful place in the region and, in fact, a return to the old, but natural
order. For its part, India may not be willing to see an Asia dominated by
any one power.
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China’s Response to the Emerging Threats and Challenges
Although Chinese policies in Asia and elsewhere in Africa today are
more defensive and economic in nature, they are meant to create a deeper
foothold in these areas. In the short run the Chinese military objectives
remain focused on finding ways to defeat the United States in the event of
a conflict between the two countries, possibly over Taiwan. But the longterm
consequences of Chinese strategy remain uncertain, at least partly
because the rise of China, on which that military power will depend, is
itself difficult to predict with certainty.
Specific Military Measures
One of the most effective deterrent measures that China has developed
in recent years is its missile capabilities, particularly a series of SRBMs.
PLA strategists, especially after the first Gulf War, recognized the importance
of precision strikes in modern warfare and hence the importance of
precision-guided weapons in their operations, particularly as they plan a
Taiwan contingency.61
Chinese attention to developing SRBM capabilities began in the early
1990s.62 During this time Beijing developed—specifically for export
purposes—the M-9 and M-11 solid-fuelled missiles (with a 300 km to 600 km
range) for sale to the Middle East and South Asia. After receiving serious
criticism from the US and other Western powers, China stopped exports of
these missiles and in 1994 inducted them in to the PLA’s Second Artillery,
under the new designations of Dongfeng-11 and Dongfeng-15, popularly
known as DF-11 and DF-15. These missiles were placed in the missile
brigades facing Taiwan.63 This also coincided with the period when the
role of the Second Artillery was evolving and expanding to include
several unconventional activities like blockading and deterrence.64
In addition, the Chinese continued to make improvements in their
capabilities by, first of all, increasing the number of missile launchers, making
a transition from liquid to solid-fuelled missiles and shifting from fixedlaunch
sites to mobile missiles, all of which increases the survivability of their
nuclear and conventional missile forces.65 The Defense Intelligence Agency
(DIA) estimates, cited in the Pentagon annual report to the US Congress on
China’s military power, suggest that there were roughly 900 SRBMs with the
PLA as of October 2006. Production was estimated to be at a rate of 100 units
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per year. Towards the end of 2003 the Taiwanese president, Chen Shui-bian,
put the figure at 496 units, deployed at bases in Jiangsi, Guangzhou, and
Fujian provinces.66 More than the numbers, this signifies a systematic development
pattern being followed by the Chinese in anticipation of a Taiwan
crisis or to create an effective deterrent to stop Taiwan from declaring independence.
It also illustrates the Chinese capability to undertake development
of these missiles and the willpower to withstand any international backlash.
Other missile capabilities developed by China include medium-range ballistic
missiles, with a range of between 1,000 and 3,000 km. These capabilities may
not be targeted against Taiwan, but can be used to conduct precision strikes,
particularly on naval ships operating far from China’s shores.67 Given that the
range of these missiles is insufficient to reach the shores of the United States,
it is clear that Russia, Japan, and India remain the main targets.
Other measures adopted by Beijing include a variety of unconventional
means like political and psychological warfare, information and
electronic warfare, and even Shashaiojian weapons.68 The Chinese recognize
the increasing potential of communications and reconnaissance in
future warfare.69 Emphasizing this, Chang Mengxiong of the Committee
of Science, Technology, and Industry of the System Engineering Institute
said that gaining information superiority is more important than air and
naval superiority.70 The PLA is now believed to have built information
warfare units in the Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Jinan military regions, each
with about 500 specialists.71 The PLA is also believed to have conducted
exercises focusing on offensive and defensive computer network attack
operations.72
Recognizing the significance of electronic warfare at both the strategic
and tactical levels, the 4th Department of the General Staff was set up in
1990, focusing entirely on electronic warfare. Besides concentrating on the
defence of key military and state institutions in Beijing, this department
might also be developing the capability to jam other communication satellites,
radar satellites, and the US global positioning system (GPS).73 China’s
ASAT in January 2007 is an indicator of its evolving capabilities in this
regard.74 As well as jamming and other attacks on electronic/computer
networks, the PLA is also believed to have developed the means for soft
kill and hard kill options.75
However, recognizing its backwardness and inability to catch up with
the United States in terms of its command, control, communications,
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computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), the
Chinese have resorted to the use of asymmetric weapons, or what are
called ‘assassin’s mace’ weapons.76 Some media reports say that China has
developed lasers that can disable low-Earth orbiting satellites as well as a
range of miniature satellites.77 Such nano satellites can be launched in
batches on demand by road-mobile DF-21 or DF-31 booster rockets.78 US
capabilities or defence against such weapon systems are unknown.
The Chinese military has also learnt a great deal from US operations in
Iraq in terms of the use of special operations forces.79 US Department of
Defense reports have affirmed the Chinese capability to ‘adopt a decapitation
strategy, seeking to neutralize Taiwan’s political and military leadership
on the assumption that their successors would adopt policies more
favourable to Beijing’.80 Similar capability-building has been undertaken
with regard to airborne forces.81 Another effective method in the field of
asymmetric warfare that China is engaged in involves the capability to
disrupts opponents’ logistics. Shen Zhongchang of the Naval Research
Institute in Beijing details the vulnerability of superior naval forces like
those of the United States because of the significant amount of human and
material resources employed in these kinds of situations, whereby
‘logistics survival will face a greater challenge, [thereby] making logistics
security harder’.82
The Chinese use of submarines with new types of torpedoes is
another effective approach in the new warfare. China is believed to be
making systematic progress in this arena, as is evident from its agreement
with Russia in May 2002 to procure eight new Kilo-class diesel
submarines.83 In addition, China continues with its domestic production
of the new Song-class diesel submarine. China’s nuclear propulsion programme
is also estimated to be fielding its new second-generation vessels,
which will include both attack submarines and strategic missile boats.84
The Chinese are seriously pursuing their nuclear submarines project to
match other advanced navies. Production of the second-generation SSBN
(Type 094) appears to be underway. China might also be working to get
the more advanced SSBN (Type 095), which carries more capable ballistic
missiles.85 Simultaneously, the PLA Navy is seriously reworking its
weaponry, training, recruitment, and doctrine.86 The evolution of the PLA
Navy and its strengths was deliberately showcased by China when its
diesel submarine surfaced 25 miles off the southwest coast of Japan in
November 2003.87
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In this regard, Shen Zhongchang suggests that in this century, ‘the
most powerful weapon will be the submarine. In addition to submarines,
subsonic radiate weapons, high-energy electromagnetic wave weapons
and computer virus would be used to increase the power of weapons’.88
The Chinese have also paid great attention to the kind of weaponry that
will be employed, particularly in naval warfare. This includes nuclear
technology to be in wider use in naval propulsion systems as a means of
supporting the development of larger naval ships; growth of ‘stealth technology
with anti-visible light, anti-radar, anti-sonar, anti-infrared and
anti-electronic reconnaissance’;89 infrared technology; precision-guided
technology; satellite technology; development and employment of superconduction
technology that will enable ships to travel very fast without
noise, making a qualitative jump in naval combat capability; new materials
technology to make it possible for undersea weapons systems; and laser
technology to be used in anti-ship missile defence systems.90
Denial of air space may also be adopted as a tactic in the overall
Chinese military strategy. For instance, Taiwan considers it to be a
militarily provocative move for China to establish an Air Defense Identification
Zone (ADIZ) within the Taiwan Straits.91 Similar tactics were
adopted by China in the East China Sea area in September 2007.92
As a rising superpower China can be expected eventually to seek sufficient
capabilities for a sea control strategy, but clearly Beijing is decades
away from such capabilities. The continued significance of an aircraft
carrier in the PLA’s strategic thinking comes from its objective of sea
control,93 as does the recognition that air superiority is essential in future
combat for power projection purposes, as was evident when PLA officials
told visiting US commanders that ‘there is no more prominent and visible
signal of a nation’s resolve and might than an aircraft carrier coming
into port’.94
Nuclear Weapons in Chinese Thinking
What is the value of nuclear weapons in the Chinese strategic calculus?
Historically speaking, China had neglected the role of nuclear weapons in
its strategic thinking. Mao was famous for calling them ‘paper tigers’.95
However, this position changed in the late 1950s and 1960s. The nuclearization
of China was critical to Deng’s view of making China a great
power.96
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Even though the original intention of making nuclear weapons was a
forced one, over the years Beijing has begun to see greater potential for
nuclear weapons in its strategic thinking. The Chinese leadership has
begun to view nuclear weapons as its ‘only reliable assurance of military
supremacy’.97 Developing a nuclear capability is considered to be an
important element of its national defence strategy, which constantly
strives to improve the comprehensive fighting capability of the PLA. The
PLA leadership takes the view that China should ‘develop a limited
number of high quality strategic nuclear weapons that could be used effectively
to strike back against an enemy using nuclear weapons to attack us.
We should strive to build a small in number but effective strategic missile
corps with Chinese characteristics, and make further contributions to the
safeguarding of our country, world peace and the progress of mankind’.98
Beijing continues to assert that its nuclear weapons have a limited role in
the overall national security strategy, and it will adhere to the no-first-use
(NFU) principle, including on Taiwan.99 Beijing has reiterated from time to
time that it does not propose to use nuclear weapons on any of its smaller
neighbours; in fact the only probable situation where China will consider
the use of nuclear weapons is when the sole superpower threatens to destroy
it. Since border and territorial issues have been partially resolved, Beijing
does not foresee the use of nuclear weapons against Russia.100
The symbolic importance of the presence of nuclear weapons in China
and the asymmetry they create cannot be neglected. China’s possession of
nuclear weapons and of a triad of delivery mechanisms has tilted the
balance in its favour. Despite the existence of an NFU policy, it feels that it
can use nuclear weapons under extreme circumstances (Taiwan being one
case), ‘without fearing a large-scale retaliatory strike on its territory’.101
Conclusion
Essentially, China’s military strategy has evolved from the People’s
War direction of Mao to Deng Xiaoping’s people’s war under modern conditions
in the late 1970s. Deng further developed the local/limited war
concept in 1985, emphasizing that limited wars are the wars of the future,
similar to the one that China had with Vietnam in 1979. The adoption of this
doctrine brought about changes in force restructuring and modernization of
the PLA. Large-scale troop reductions took place, rapid reaction or
‘fist’ units were established and joint forces training initiated. It was
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emphasized that, in the new evolving warfare, the PLA should have the
capability to win quick victories, with concepts like active defence,
forward-positioning, pre-emptive strikes, in-depth strikes, and victory
through elite troops becoming pronounced. Further changes came about
after the 1991 Gulf War, where the PLA recognized the importance of
fighting a ‘modern war under high technology conditions’.102 Woodward
notes that even a limited war under high-tech conditions will require a ‘forward
defense posture’ rather than just an active one.103 Also highlighted is
the need to develop rapid information communication technology, stealth
capabilities, and long-range precision weapons, as well as the capability
for intercontinental and outer space combat. This will essentially mean the
development or procurement of precision-guided weapons, improvement
of command and control structures as well as of non-conventional methods
of warfare like electronic warfare, and use of ultra-sonic weapons,
laser weapons, stealth weapons, ultrahigh frequency weapons, and electromagnetic
guns. The PLA is also believed to be designing a three-tier
(land, sea, and air) defence system for ‘outer detection and implicit warning,
intermediate interception, and inner denial, including the lethal use of
force against intruders’.104
Economic compulsions sometimes determine a nation’s military
strategy, as is evident in the case of the Chinese Navy. With China’s huge
dependence on oil imports, concepts such as the protection of sea lanes of
communications (SLOCs) have emerged as a result of the aggravating shortage
of energy resources as well as of the vulnerability of transporting such
resources from one part of the world to the other.105 Sea denial and denial of
air space are also emerging as major features of the new military strategy.
Finally, China’s military expenditure figures illustrate which way the
PLA is going. Although there is a huge discrepancy in the Chinese defence
budget figures, these still remain an important indicator of its national
defence priorities, strategies, and capabilities. The discrepancies have varied
from the current Chinese official estimates of US$45 billion to the DIA estimate
of US$115 billion.106 China is the world’s fourth largest military spending power
after the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, but in PPP terms
(which is more relevant), China stands second at US$188.2 billion after the
United States (see Appendix A). According to Chinese official sources, its military
budget for 2007 is 350.92 billion yuan or roughly US$44.94 billion, which
is a 17.8 per cent increase over the previous year (see Appendix B on Chinese
defence expenditure). The Chinese argue that this growth is primarily caused
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1028 Strategic Analysis
by the sharp increases in the wages, living expenses, and pensions of
2.3million PLA officers, civilian personnel, soldiers, and army retirees.107
The Chinese budget comes under sharper criticism because it does not
cover several critical areas. These include: military-related research and
development costs,108 arms imports, and expenses for the People’s Armed
Police and reserve forces, while the financial support for China’s militaryindustrial
complex comes from the State under a different head.109 Several
of the PLA-run businesses110 also provide large amounts of revenue to the
government, which are being diverted for modernization purposes. It is
also revealed that the defence budget covers only 70 per cent of PLA
expenditure, with the balance of 30 per cent having to be generated from
elsewhere.111As the country reaches the higher stages of economic growth,
its military spending is only bound to increase, hence one can visualize
higher per capita military spending as well.112
The final question is whether China matters, as Gerald Segal put it in
an article in Foreign Affairs. In economic and political terms China has
managed to create a space for itself, highly interlinked with the international
community, more so in economic terms. How China is progressing
in military terms is still a debatable issue. While it has come a long way
from its People’s War orientation and tried to adapt itself as a modern
force, whether the PLA take on the major powers or even assume the same
position as the USSR during the cold war years is doubtful.113
Notes
1 Mao, ‘On Protracted War’, Selected Works, Vol. II, May 1938.
2 See Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard H. Yang (eds.), In China’s Shadow: Regional
Perspectives on Chinese Foreign Policy and Military Development, RAND Corporation,
Santa Monica, CA, 1998; Bang Quan Zheng, ‘A Rising China: Catalysts for
Chinese Military Modernisation’, in Sujian Guo (ed.), China’s Peaceful Rise in the 21st
Century: Domestic and International Conditions, Ashgate Publishing House,
Hampshire, 2006, pp. 183–210. Ka Po Ng, Interpreting China’s Military Power: Doctrine
Makes Readiness, Frank Cass, New York, 2005; Mark Burles and Abram N. Shulsky,
Patterns in China’s Use of Force: Evidence from History and Doctrinal Writings, Project
AIR FORCE, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 2000; and Rommel
C. Banlaoi, ‘Southeast Asian Perspectives on the Rise of China: Regional Security
after 9/11’, Parameters, Summer 2003, pp. 98–107.
3 Petter Stalenheim, Catalina Perdomo, and Elisabeth Skons, ‘Military Expenditure’,
SIPRI Yearbook 2007, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, p. 270.
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1029
4 Yu Xintian, ‘Harmonious World and China’s Path for Peaceful Development’, International
Review, 45, 2006, p. 6, at http://www.siis.org.cn/ (Accessed August 5, 2008).
5 ‘PLA Threat Perceptions and Force Planning’, in Keith Crane, Roger Cliff, Evan
S. Medeiros, James C. Mulvenon, and William H. Overholt, Modernising China’s Military:
Opportunities and Constraints, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 2005, p. 192.
6 Li Jijun added that, for a country that has been the victim of repeated aggression
and pillage and which suffered a great deal of war and turmoil, peace, and unity
are very critical in the national thinking. See Li Jijun, ‘Traditional Military Thinking
and the Defensive Strategy of China’, address at the United States War College,
Letort Paper No. 1, August 29, 1997, at http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.
army.mil/pdffiles/PUB82.pdf (Accessed July 21, 2007).
7 The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, China’s
National Defence in 2006, Beijing, December 2006, at http://www.chinadaily.
com.cn/china/2006-12/29/content_771191.htm (Accessed August 5, 2008).
8 Although India has not been identified as a threat by China in any of the white
papers or other documents, it might be useful from an Indian point of view to
analyse Chinese perspectives on the country and its role in the emerging Asian
security architecture.
9 A Taiwan seeking independence could also give rise to new separatist movements
in Xinjiang and Tibet. The move is also seen as an exercise that would provide
the United States with a much better manoeuvring space, as well as the
ability to shape the Chinese security environment to its advantage.
10 The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, China’s
National Defense in 2004, ch. I, ’The Security Situation’, at http://www.fas.org/
nuke/guide/china/doctrine/natdef2004.html (Accessed July 4, 2007).
11 The United States, bound to protect Taiwan under the US–Taiwan Relations Act of
1979, is authorized to supply it with weapons of a defensive nature. See Shirley
A. Kan, ‘China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from
Washington, Beijing and Taipei’, CRS Report for Congress, updated December 13,
2007, at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL30341.pdf (Accessed January 7, 2008).
12 During 2002–2006, Taiwan was the 12th largest recipient of major conventional
weapons, at an aggregate value of US$2.1 billion (at constant 1990 prices).
‘Appendix 10A: The suppliers and recipients of major conventional weapons’,
SIPRI Yearbook 2007, n. 3, pp. 418–421.
13 ‘Table 8A.2: Military Expenditure by Country, in Local Currency, 1997–2006’, SIPRI
Yearbook 2007, n. 3, pp. 303–309. In June 2007, Taiwan’s legislature passed the
national defence budget, which allotted funds for the purchase of P-3 Orion antisubmarine
reconnaissance, the upgrading of the Patriot missile defence batteries,
and to provide for the purchase of additional F-16 C/D fighters. In September 2007,
the Pentagon announced the total weapons sales at a value of US$2.2 billion, which
additionally included 12 surplus Orion P3-C maritime patrol craft and 144 SM-2
Block 3A Standard anti-aircraft missiles. Kerry Dumbaugh, ‘Taiwan: Recent
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1030 Strategic Analysis
Developments and US Policy Options’, CRS Report for Congress, updated November
9, 2007, at http://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33510.pdf (Accessed January 7, 2008).
14 In March 2005, the United States and Japan designated Taiwan as a common strategic
objective. If the United States decides to transfer such a system to Taiwan,
Beijing would construe that move as the restoration of a quasi-alliance. See
Thomas J. Christensen, ‘The Contemporary Security Dilemma: Deterring a
Taiwan Conflict’, The Washington Quarterly, 25(4), 2002, pp. 13–14.
15 See Jing Huang, ‘Economic and Political Costs’, in Steve Tsang (ed.), If China Attacks
Taiwan: Military Strategy, Politics and Economics, Routledge, New York, 2006, p. 201.
16 The economic significance arises out of the large volume of trade shipments that
pass through the region. More importantly, from China’s point of view, about 75
per cent of Japan’s oil is transported through the South China Sea. There is also a
great potential for oil and gas exploration in this region, which complicates the
issue further. See David G. Wieneck, ‘South China Sea Flashpoint’, China Brief,
July 24, 2001, at http://www.jamestown.org/china_brief/article.php?articleid=
2372974 (Accessed September 5, 2007).
17 Taiwan Affairs Office and the Information Office of the State Council, The One-
China Principle and the Taiwan Issue, February 21, 2000, at http://jm.chinaembassy.
org/eng/zt/zgtwwt/wp/t211261.htm (Accessed September 10, 2007).
18 The 2004 defence white paper stated that ‘It is the sacred responsibility of the Chinese
armed forces to stop the “Taiwan independence” forces from splitting the country.’
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, n. 2, ‘National
Defense Policy’, at http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/doctrine/natdef2004.
html (Accessed July 3, 2007). For Hu Jintao’s statement, see Hu Jintao, ‘Hold High the
Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories
in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in all’, Report to the Seventeenth
National Congress of the Communist Party of China, October 15, 2007, at http://
www1.china.org.cn/english/congress/229611.htm#1 (Accessed November 16, 2007).
19 The anti-secessionist law brought out by Beijing in March 2005, was one such
measure. See text of the translation of the explanations on the draft Anti-Secession
Law, made by Wang Zhaoguo, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the
National People’s Congress (NPC), at the NPC session Tuesday, March 8, 2005, at
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-03/08/content_422875.htm
(Accessed August 5, 2007). The law brought to the fore Beijing’s intention to use
‘non-peaceful means’ to crush any Taiwanese independence movement.
20 Michael O’Hanlon, ‘Why China Cannot Conquer Taiwan’, International Security,
25(2), 2000, especially p. 53; and David A. Shlapak, David T. Orletsky, and Barry
A. Wilson, Dire Strait? Military Aspects of the China–Taiwan Confrontation and
Options for US Policy, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, 2000, cited in
Michael A. Glosny, ‘Strangulation from the Sea: A PRC Submarine Blockade of
Taiwan’, International Security, 28(4), 2004, p. 126.
21 Specifically it would isolate Beijing from its important economic partners—the United
States, European Union, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia—as well as constituting
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1031
a blunder of sorts from a military point of view. For detailed analysis of the economic
costs of attacking Taiwan, see Jing Huang (ed.), ‘Economic and Political Costs’, in
Steve Tsang, n. 6, pp. 193–206. The economic impact would be felt in bilateral and
multilateral trade as well as in the huge loss of foreign direct investment (FDI). In
December 2003, Major General Peng Guangqian and Colonel Luo Yuan listed loss of
the 2008 Olympics, loss of foreign investment, deterioration in foreign relations, economic
slowdown or recession, and ‘necessary’ casualties in the army as the costs
China would have to bear to reunify the mainland by use of military force. Joseph
Kahn, ‘Chinese Officers Warn that Taiwan Referendum Could Lead to War’,
New York Times, December 3, 2003, at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/03/international/
asia/03CND-CHIN.html?ei=5070&en=9ab78294dca72de0&ex=1201064400&
pagewanted=print&position= (Accessed August 5, 2007).
22 Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America,
‘Taiwan Affairs Office Issues Statement on Current Cross-Straits Relations’, May
17, 2004, at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/xw/t111117.htm (Accessed
August 5, 2007).
23 Many books written by PLA officers have suggested possible use of SRBMs and
submarines as effective methods of coercion against Taiwan. See Wang Houqing
and Zhang Xingye (eds.), Zhanyi Xue (The science of campaigns), National
Defense University Press, Beijing, May 2000, pp. 320–324, 407–421; Li Mingliang,
Fengsuo yu Fan Fengsuo Zuozhan (Blockade and anti-blockade warfare), Military
Sciences Press, Beijing, 2001; and Hu Wenlong (chief ed.), Lianhe Fengsuo Zuozhan
Yanjiu (Research on joint blockade operations), Military Sciences Press, Beijing,
1999, all cited in Michael A. Glosny, n. 20, p. 127.
24 Report to Congress Pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act,
Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2007, p. 32.
25 The PLA Navy may not actually have to destroy very many merchant ships in
Taiwanese waters to create a major economic problem for Taiwan. Once there was
a serious threat, ships would be deterred from entering the waters, while Taiwan’s
potential competitors would exaggerate the threat in an effort to divert the shipping
traffic to them. This would all be a recipe for disaster for Taiwan’s economy.
26 The Beijing leadership is apparently of the view that this option is less likely to
provoke outside intervention than others. US Department of Defense, Annual
Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2003; US Department of
Defense, ‘The Security Situation in the Taiwan Strait’, February 1999, at http://
www.fas.org/news/taiwan/1999/twstrait_02261999.htm (Accessed August 7,
2007); Michael O’Hanlon, Budget Options for the Bush Administration, Brookings,
Washington, DC, 2001, p. 225; and China Post, cited in Michael A. Glosny, n. 20,
p. 127.
27 See, for example, Tang Fuquan, Huang Jinsheng, and Zhang Yonggang, ‘Shin
Shiji Haiyang Zhanlue Xingshi Zhanwang’ (Prospects for a maritime strategy in
the twenty-first century), Junshi Kexue (Military Science), 15(1), 2002, pp. 88–97;
Hou Songling and Chi Diantang, ‘Zhongguo Zhoubian Haiyu de Zhanlue Diwei
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1032 Strategic Analysis
he Dilu Zhanlue Jiazhi Chutan’ (China’s near seas: strategic position and geostrategic
importance’, Dangdai Yazhou (Contemporary Asia-Pacific Studies), 10, 2003,
pp. 47–52, cited in Lyle Goldstein and William Murray, ‘Undersea Dragons:
China’s Maturing Submarine Force’, International Security, 28(4), 2004, p. 162; and
Captain Shen Zhongchang, Lieutenant Commander Zhang Haiyin, and Lieutenant
Zhou Xinsheng, ‘The Military Revolution in Naval Warfare’, in Michael Pillsbury
(ed.), Chinese Views of Future Warfare, National Defense University Press,
Washington, DC, 1997, at http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/china/doctrine/
pills2/index.html (Accessed June 10, 2007). In May 2003, China reported that 70 of
its navy’s submariners had died in an undersea accident, which was revealing of
its capabilities. However, it should be borne in mind that even the most advanced
submarines are not immune from accidents. Following the accident Hu Jintao
changed the top leadership and Admiral Shi Yunsheng, who had been the Navy
leader since 1996, was relieved of his command and replaced by Adm. Zhang
Dingfa. See John Pomfret, cited in Lyle Goldstein and William Murray, n. 27, p. 165.
28 These ports handle about 90 per cent of shipping entering and exiting Taiwan,
including most of Taiwan’s imported items like food and oil, increasing the
potential for a blockade. Further, the shallow waters of these ports make it difficult
for Taiwan to operationalize its anti-submarine warfare operations. Michael
A. Glosny, n. 20, p. 130. These three ports together manage traffic of about 30,000
merchant vessels every six months.
29 Some China scholars are of the view that Beijing may not actually carry out an
amphibious invasion before 2010 and may instead take recourse to employing
coercive strategies. See Michael A. Glosny, n. 20, p. 126.
30 One of the two exercises conducted in 2004 dealt purely with a Taiwan
scenario.
31 Lyle Goldstein and William Murray, n. 27, p. 183. There have been debates on the
Chinese capability in this regard, particularly in the West and views are divided,
with one group suggesting that US anti-submarine warfare capabilities have
withered after the end of the Cold War. The Taiwanese capabilities are also estimated
to be poor.
32 Yong Deng, ‘Hegemon on the Offensive: Chinese Perspectives on US Global
Strategy’, Political Science Quarterly, 116(3), 2001, pp. 343–344.
33 Gerald Segal, ‘Does China Matter?’, Foreign Affairs, September/October 1999,
at http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/reg.burma/archives/199909/msg00848.html
(Accessed September 10, 2007). Although in the post-9/11 era the United States
and China have agreed to cooperate in the war against terror, the Chinese role has
been minimal. Despite the Chinese wariness of the US presence in Asia, in some
ways it views its favourably as a factor for regional stability. China otherwise
believes that new potential powers could emerge, and even a nuclear Japan.
34 Wang Zhongchun, ‘Nuclear Challenges and China’s Choices’, China Security,
Winter 2007, pp. 53–54. On a similar note, speaking on rules of the game in
international relations, the two colonels—Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui—who
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1033
authored Unrestricted Warfare say that small nations use rules to protect their own
interests, whereas large nations employ rules to control other nations. Qiao Liang
and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, PLA Literature and Publishing House,
Beijing, February 1999, p. 131.
35 See Michael Pillsbury, China Debates the Future Security Environment, National
Defense University Press, Washington, DC, 2000, at http://www.fas.org/nuke/
guide/china/doctrine/pills2/index.html (Accessed June 10, 2007). These five
poles would by then have more or less equal Comprehensive National Power
(CNP). CNP, an important concept in Chinese contemporary political thought,
refers to the general power of a nation-state. Chinese political thinkers believe
that CNP can be calculated numerically and there is a number of formulae which
combine various quantitative indices to create a single number which purports to
measure the power of a nation-state. These indices take into account both military
factors (hard power) and economic and cultural factors (soft power). In fact, the
concept comes out of the ancient Chinese notion of shi which when translated
means ‘strategic configuration of power’, although this still does not fully capture
the sense of the word.
36 Li Zhongcheng, ‘World Politics’, Contemporary International Relations, 7(1), 1997,
p. 1, cited in Michael Pillsbury, n. 35.
37 See Deng, n. 32, p. 347.
38 Ibid., p. 344.
39 Further, the NPR adds that ‘due to the combination of China’s still developing
strategic objectives and its ongoing modernization of its nuclear and non nuclear
forces, China is a country that could be involved in an immediate or potential contingency’.
Nuclear Posture Review (Excerpts), January 8, 2002, at http://www.globalsecurity.
org/wmd/library/policy/dod/npr.htm (Accessed December 15,
2007).
40 The rise of a more independent and assertive Japan in the coming years is a reality
that China, Russia, and the United States will have to deal with: the change of
nomenclature from Japanese Defence ‘Agency’ to ‘Ministry’ appears to indicate
this new reality. Japan’s 2005 White Paper saw a shift from its earlier reports in
the sense that, unlike the 2004 report, Chapter II of the 2005 Report included the
new National Defense Programme Guidelines, which will determine the form of
Japan’s defence capability from now on, and the whole report has been compiled
in accordance with these guidelines. Some of the main threats and challenges
identified in the report include nuclear developments, missile tests conducted by
North Korea and the rise of China. The report also emphasized Japan’s need to
deal effectively with ballistic missile and guerrilla attacks, while maintaining the
ability to respond to invasions of Japanese islands and intrusions into Japan’s
airspace and territorial waters.
41 The feasibility of such a grouping is seriously questionable given the historical
baggage that both nations have. Meanwhile, several Chinese security analysts
have begun to identify cracks in the US–Japanese security alliance, as a result of
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1034 Strategic Analysis
which Japan has begun to assume assertive roles in the military/security sphere,
possibly leading to a nuclear Japan sometime in the near future. For instance,
Feng Zhaokui of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) states that Japan’s
nuclear ambitions will distance it from the United States and ‘will very likely damage
the 50-year old US–Japan security relationship’. See Feng Zhaokui, ‘Lengzhan
jiexu dui Ri-Mei keji guanxi de xiangying’ (The impact of the end of the Cold War
on US–Japan relations in science and technology), Heping yu fazhan (Peace and
Development), 48(2), 1994, pp. 5–13, cited in Michael Pillsbury, n. 35. Others
believe that the United States itself has become wary of the changes taking place in
Japan and of it becoming a more ‘normal’ nation and assuming a more independent
and aggressive military role. See Zhao Jieqi, ‘The Present Status and Prospect of
Japan–US Military Relations’, International Strategic Studies [English], 4, 1989, pp.
12–15. See also Ge Gengfu, ‘Changes in the Development of Japan’s Defense Policy
and Defense Capabilities’, International Studies [English], January 13, 1989,
cited in Michael Pillsbury, n. 35.
42 Michael Pillsbury, n. 35.
43 For instance, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said: ‘The Taiwan question is China’s
internal affair and should by no means be deliberated in the framework of the
security alliance between the United States and Japan.’ See Hu Xiao, ‘Japan and
US Told: Hands off Taiwan’, China Daily, March 7, 2005, at http://www.chinadaily.
com.cn/english/doc/2005-03/07/content_422393.htm (Accessed October 25,
2007).
44 Therefore Beijing wants to see how a positive spin could be given to its relations
with this resurgent Japan and to find a way of bringing it under its influence. See
Lu Lei, Wu Youchang, and Hu Ruoqing, Riben fu guo zhi mi (The riddle of Japan,
the wealthy country), Jiefangjun wen yi chubanshe, Beijing, 1994, cited in Michael
Pillsbury, n. 35.
45 The Senkaku Islands or Diaoyutai Islands are a group of disputed uninhabited
islands currently under the control of Japan, but claimed by both China and
Taiwan. When the United States was to hand over the disputed islands to Japan,
the PRC, and ROC governments protested and reiterated their sovereignty over
the islands.The ROC made an official announcement on June 11, 1971, followed
by the PRC on December 30. Despite the Chinese protest, the United States
handed over the disputed islands to Japan in 1972.
46 Tokyo proposed the joint development of four gas fields, including Shirakaba
and Asunaro (known by the Chinese as Chunxiao and Longjing, respectively),
which straddle the median line that it claims divides the two countries’ overlapping
exclusive economic zones. Beijing does not recognize this border and
insists on joint development only on what Japan claims to be its side of the
line. See Yasuhiro Goto, ‘East China Sea Dispute: Learn from the Australians
and East Timorese’, AJISS-Commentary, December 7, 2007, at http://
www.jiia.or.jp/en_commentary/200712/07-1.html (Accessed December 15,
2007).
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1035
47 This section has benefited immensely from my discussions with Nandan
Unnikrishnan; however, I take responsibility for any shortcomings that still
remain.
48 By the mid-1990s, the two countries were equal partners, principally thanks to the
economic advantage that Beijing enjoyed. In April 1996, Moscow undertook a
major troop readjustment, moving forces away from the 2,500-mile border with
China. For its part China shifted its troops—at least 200,000 soldiers and a
substantial amount of heavy weaponry—from the Russian and Kazakh borders to
the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea coast. See Alexandr Nemets, ‘Russia
and China: The Mechanics of an Anti-American Alliance’, Journal of International
Security Affairs, 11, 2006, at http://www.securityaffairs.org/issues/2006/11/
nemets.php (Accessed December 12, 2007).
49 However, what was more significant in that agreement was article 5, Russia’s
opposition to Taiwan’s independence. It was reported that, after his meeting with
Chinese President Jiang Zemin, President Putin instructed his military that, in the
case of a US intervention in the Taiwan crisis, ‘Russia would dispatch its Pacific
Fleet to cut off the route of the US fleet in order to keep the latter far away from
the Taiwan Strait.’ See Sing Tao Jih Pao (Hong Kong), internet edition [Chinese],
July 8, 2000, cited in Yu Bin, ‘In Search for a Normal Relationship: China and Russia
Into the 21st Century’, China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, 5(4), November 2007,
p. 66. It should be borne in mind that the security scenario has undergone major
changes since 2000, when the agreement was signed. Whether Russia will extend
direct military assistance in the changed scenario is doubtful, given the emerging
strains in the Russia–China bilateral relationship.
50 Chinese concerns also arise from the fact that the 2000 Concept document did not
shy away from threatening the use of nuclear weapons to deter small-scale wars
that do not necessarily threaten Russia’s security or territorial integrity. See Wang
Zhongchun, ‘Nuclear Challenges and China’s Choices’, China Security, Winter
2007, pp. 53–54, at http://www.wsichina.org/cs5_4.pdf (Accessed January 10,
2008).
51 Nikolai Sokov, ‘Modernization of Strategic Nuclear Weapons in Russia: The
Emerging New Posture’, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), May 1998, at http://
www.nti.org/db/nisprofs/over/modern.htm (Accessed December 15, 2007).
52 While speaking at a scientific conference in Moscow, Chief of General Staff Yuri
Baluyevsky said, ‘We are not planning to attack anyone. But our partners should
clearly understand … that the armed forces will be used if necessary to protect the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation and its allies,
including on a preventative basis, including with the use of nuclear weapons.’
‘Top Brass Defends Russia’s Right to Preemptive Strike’, Moscow News, January
24, 2008, at http://mnweekly.rian.ru/news/20080124/55305669.html (Accessed
December 10, 2007).
53 Russia is wary of the Chinese capability to dominate the Russia/Central Asia
region economically. What Russia calls ‘too much’ relates to the large quantities of
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1036 Strategic Analysis
cheap poor-quality Chinese products dumped in the Russian market, as well as to
the huge number of Chinese migrants in Russia’s far east and in Moscow. See
Yu Bin, n. 49, p. 72.
54 The far east isan area that is abundantly rich in resources of all kinds, whose territory
remains predominantly unoccupied. The Chinese might be tempted to
extend their hold all the way up to the far east, to gain a firmer grip of the region.
55 Celeste A. Wallander, ‘Russia: The Domestic Sources of a Less-than-Grand
Strategy’, in Ashley Tellis and Michael Wills (eds.), Strategic Asia 2007–08,
National Bureau of Asian Research, Washington, DC, 2007, p. 168.
56 Alexander Hrmchin, head of the Analytical Division of the Institute for Political
and Military Analyses, suggested an interesting arrangement among all the
nations that possess intermediate-range missiles with a range of 500–5,000 km. As
of now the majority of these missiles are in China. Hrmchin suggested that India,
China, Iran, and other West Asian countries join and form a comprehensive
agreement on such missiles. He added that, if China, for instance, does not join
(China is certainly not going to join), it would become very clear who China is targeting.
Alexander Hrmchin, ‘Without Panic and Hysteria’, Nezavisamaya Gazeta
(Independent Newspaper), March 30, 2007. I thank Nandan Unnikrishnan for
bringing this source to my attention.
57 The arms trade between Russia and China began on a contradictory note, contradicting
Russia’s strategic interests. In the immediate post-cold war period, Russia
was in dire need of hard currency and China was looking for a major supplier of
arms. Hence, the Sino-Russian arms trade was imposed on Russia rather than
chosen, keeping in mind its long-term strategic interests. Russia was faced with
the choice of accepting China as an arms buyer or facing economic and social
instability in Russia. See Nicklas Norling, ‘China and Russia: Partners with
Tensions’, Policy Perspectives, p. 42, at www.silkroadstudies.org/new/docs/
publications/2007/Norling_China_and_Russia.pdf (Accessed January 12, 2008).
58 Since 2006 there have been no new major contracts from China to Russia. The
causes of this are (1) Russia’s postponement of the delivery of 40 IL transport planes
and 10 oil tankers, worth US$1.5 billion; (2) the near saturation of China’s market
with Russian fighter planes or naval vessels; and (3) the lack of a breakthrough in
getting any major technology transfers from Russia to China. Yu Bin, n. 49, p. 79.
59 At the beginning of 2000, after the signing of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership
agreement (during President Boris Yeltsin’s visit to China) both Russia and
China were enamoured of each other, and hailed the agreement as historic for a new
type of inter-state relations. However, officials of both countries were keen to highlight
that neither the treaty nor their relations were based on ‘anti-Americanism’ or
any other hidden agenda. Ibid., p. 66.
60 Beijing is also wary of India’s ‘Look East’ policy, and of the strengthening of New
Delhi’s ties with Japan, Vietnam, and several other ASEAN countries. Beijing feels
that India’s diplomacy in Southeast Asia could potentially hamper China–
ASEAN ties as well as reduce Beijing’s manoeuvring space in Asia.
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1037
61 Zheng Shenxia and Zhang Changzhi, ‘The Military Revolution in Air Power’, in
Michael Pillsbury, n. 27. Zheng Shenxia and Zhang Changzhi of the Air Force
Command College highlighted the need to develop precision-guided weapons,
automatic command and control systems, and a combination of air defence,
aviation, and space defence weapons.
62 This was following the suspension of military-to-military interactions
between China and the United States, the sale of 150 F-16 fighter aircraft to
Taiwan and the pro-independent moves in Taiwan after Lee Teng-hui became
president.
63 These missiles were used by the PLA in the Taiwan Straits crisis in 1995–1996.
Mark A. Stokes, ‘Chinese Ballistic Missile Forces in the Age of Global Missile
Defense: Challenges and Responses’, in Andrew Scobell and Larry M. Wortzel
(eds.), Chinese Growing Military Power: Perspectives on Security, Ballistic Missiles and
Conventional Capabilities, US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute,
Carlisle, PA, September 2002, p. 114.
64 Ka Po Ng, n. 2, p. 124.
65 Bates Gill, James Mulvenon, and Mark Stokes,‘The Chinese Second Artillery
Corps: Transition to Credible Deterrence’, in James C. Mulvenon and Andrew
N.D. Yang (eds.), The People’s Liberation Army as Organization, Reference Volume,
v1.0, RAND Corporation, CF-182-NSRD, Santa Monica, CA, 2002, pp. 510–586;
and Kenneth Allen and Maryanne Kivlehan, ‘Implementing PLA Second Artillery
Doctrinal reforms’, paper delivered at the Center for Naval Analyses–RAND Conference
on PLA Affairs, December 2002, cited in Jonathan D. Pollack, ‘Short-range
Ballistic Missile Capabilities’, in Steve Tsang, n. 15, pp. 60–61.
66 Taipei Times, cited in Jonathan D. Pollack, n. 65, p. 61.
67 ‘Chapter Four: Force Modernization Goals and Trends’, Report to Congress
Pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act, Annual Report on the
Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2007.
68 For a detailed analysis of these measures, see Richard D. Fisher, Jr., ‘Unconventional
Warfare Options’, in Steve Tsang, n. 15, p. 72.
69 From the early 1990s, soon after the Gulf War, China started devoting considerable
resources to developing doctrine, infrastructure, and the means to conduct
information warfare, attacking the computer network of enemy forces. Major
General Wang Pufeng, the former Director of the Strategy Department of the
Academy of Military Sciences highlighted the importance of information warfare
when he stated that, ‘in the near future, information warfare will control the form
and future of war. We recognize … it as a driving force in the modernization of
China’s military and combat readiness. This trend will be highly critical to achieving
victory in future wars.’ Major General Wang Pufeng, ‘The Challenge of Information
Warfare’, in Michael Pillsbury, n. 27.
70 Chang Mengxiong, ‘The Revolution in Military Affairs: Weapons of the 21st
Century’, in Michael Pillsbury, n. 27.
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1038 Strategic Analysis
71 Estimate by Andrew Yang of Taiwan’s Council of Advanced Policy Studies
(CAPS), cited in Richard D. Fisher, Jr., n. 68, p. 79.
72 These exercises could potentially come in handy to the Chinese in the case of a
Taiwan crisis where the heavily networked US and Japanese forces were employed
on a large scale. Significant cyber counter-attack operations could include: jamming
as well as changing network data of the opponents or enemy forces, destroying
computer systems through an infusion of computer viruses, releasing of cloned
information, formation of network spy work stations, and so on. Zhang Haiping
and Zhou Meng, ‘Nanjing Military Region’s Information Warfare Drill was Splendid
but received Scattering of Applause, which was Worrying’, Jiefangjun Bao, August 9,
2000, cited in Richard D. Fisher, Jr., n. 68, p. 79.
73 The PLA is also said to be developing the capabilities to jam US airborne radar
and modern communication networks like the Joint Tactical Information Distribution
System (JTIDS). Taiwan is believed to have procured one of these versions.
Mark Stokes, China’s Strategic Modernization: Implications for the United
States, US Army War College, Carlisle, PA, 1999, p. 53, cited in Richard D. Fisher,
Jr., n. 68, p. 81.
74 Certain media reports also point to another anti-satellite weapon in the works,
which is a land-based laser that blinds the sensitive sensors of satellites or even
destroys them completely. Victor N. Corpus, ‘America’s Acupuncture Points: Part
2—The Assassin’s Mace’, Asia Times, at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/
HJ20Ad01.html (Accessed February 10, 2008).
75 Soft kill options could include defensive jammers, use of electromagnetic bombs
or high-power microwave weapons that disable electronic circuitry. Hard kill
options are the use of surface-to-air missiles, and close-in weapon systems,
designed for attacking electronic hardware. Anti-radiation missiles could potentially
target Taiwan’s fixed early warning radar, Patriot missile radar, and the
E-2T Hawkeye airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). Use of microwave
weapons to ‘destroy the opponents’ is a considered option in any future
warfare that China might be engaged in. See Chang Mengxiong, n. 70. China has
strengthened its capabilities in anti-radiation missiles too, through its collaboration
with Russia and Israel. See Richard D. Fisher, Jr., n. 68, p. 82.
76 The phrase ‘assassin’s mace’ is the English translation of ‘Shashoujian’, a term of
ancient Chinese strategy. This essentially applies to any weapon that will incapacitate
the enemy, suddenly and totally, instead of fighting him according to ‘the
rules’, which the two colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, in their work
Unrestricted Warfare, characterize as Western nonsense.
77 They are apparently experimenting with ‘parasitic microsatellites’, which could possibly
latch onto US satellites and disable them or even hijack information that they
have gathered. See ‘The Assassin’s Mace: China’s Growing Military Might’, The New
Atlantis, Summer 2004, p. 109, at http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/6/soa/
TNA06-State%20Of%20The%20Art-Assassins%20Mace.pdf (Accessed September 23,
2007).
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1039
78 Victor N. Corpus, n. 74. Other more traditional weapons, some of which have an
asymmetric capability, might include supersonic cruise missiles that can defeat
and sink US aircraft carriers; and medium- and short-range ballistic missiles with
independently targetable warheads. Ibid. See also Alastair Iain Johnston,
‘Towards Contextualizing the Concept of a Shashoujian (Assassin’s Mace)’,
August 2002, at http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~johnston/shashoujian.pdf
(Accessed September 23, 2007).
79 These forces are not just support forces of the regular army units; they can have
an independent impact.
80 Report to Congress Pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act,
Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2002, p. 47.
81 According to a 2001 Taiwanese assessment, the capabilities of airborne forces
have been strenghtened to a significant level, much beyond the role of ‘an auxiliary,
supporting arm’ particularly as they relate to a Taiwan scenario. These kinds
of exercises, along with simultaneous air and missile attacks, could hamper
Taipei’s capability to counter-attack, even if some of its vital installations are
intact. Although China is relatively new in these areas, it has improved and constantly
updated its skills by studying the Soviet operations in Hungary, US operations
in Iraq and other such cases. Lin Chu-chin, ‘PLA Special Operations
Exclusive—PLA Airborne Operations’, Chun Shih Chia (Defense International),
May 2001, pp. 24–39, cited in Richard D. Fisher, Jr., n. 68, p. 85.
82 Shen Zhongchang, ‘21st Century Naval Warfare’, in Michael Pillsbury, n. 27.
83 The new Kilo-class submarines ordered from Russia, and expected to be delivered
in five years (but currently delayed) are likely to be more advanced, with superior
batteries, an enhanced digital sonar system, and quieter main engines. In addition,
they are expected to be equipped with a better and more potent Klub weaponcontrol
system that will allow them to fire their 3M-54E anti-ship cruise missiles
(ASCMs). It is suspected that these new submarines will deploy the supercavitating
Shkval torpedo. See Lyle Goldstein and William Murray, n. 27, p. 166.
84 Ibid., p. 162.
85 Ibid., p. 172.
86 Ibid., p. 166.
87 The recent confrontation between the Chinese attack submarine and destroyers
and the USS Kitty Hawk and its battle group (January 2008) is another indicator of
the PLA Navy’s increasing capabilities in this regard. In yet another instance
Taiwan’s Vice Minister for Defence, Ko Chen-heng, in an interview with the
Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, reported that Chinese warships had
expanded their naval activities ‘along the first island chain with five to six
recorded incursions in the past two years.’ These incursions, Taiwan claims,
demonstrate the Chinese intentions to make the Taiwan Strait an ‘internal sea of
China’. See China Times, January 24, 2008, cited in Russell Hsiao, ‘China’s Expanding
Naval Presence Troubles Neighbors’, China Brief, January 31, 2008,
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1040 Strategic Analysis
at www.jamestown.org/china_brief/article.php?articleid=2373935 (Accessed
February 11, 2008).
88 Shen Zhongchang, ‘21st Century Naval Warfare’, in Michael Pillsbury, n. 27.
89 Ibid.
90 Ibid.
91 Liberty Times, December 6, 2007, cited in Russell Hsiao, ‘“China Plans Air Defense
Identification Zone (ADIZ) Within Taiwan Straits’, China Brief, January 4, 2008, at
http://www.jamestown.org/china_brief/article.php?articleid=2373912 (Accessed
February 11, 2008). Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian added that China has plans
to submit the proposal to the International Civil Aviation Organization and meanwhile
plans to inaugurate a new air route some 4.2 nautical miles (7.8 km) west of the
centre line. This move would constrain or even deny access to foreign aircraft in the
area. See Taipei Times, December 20, 2007, cited in Russell Hsiao, n. 91
92 This route is jointly covered by the Taiwan Straits Air Defense Identification Zone
and the Japan Air Defense Identification Zone. It was reported that Chinese Hong-6
bombers from the Huanining air force base flew 20 sorties on September 11 and 23,
following which the Japanese F4 fighter jets flew a total of 12 sorties along these
routes. Such moves could be construed as militarily provocative and could spiral into
a limited conflict. Russell Hsiao, n. 91. A Japanese expert, Kensuke Ebata believes that
Hong-6 bombers, a copy of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16, can carry long-range air-to-sea
missiles and that this was a possible training exercise for a scenario of blocking the
arrival of US aircraft carriers in Taiwan. The H-6 bombers have remained the backbone
of the PLA’s long-range strike fleet for more than three decades.
93 There were media reports towards the middle of 2007 that China had given contracts
to a few Chinese companies for the development of systems and components
for the aircraft carrier. Further, towards the end of the year, there was another
media report, citing Xu Guangyu, an analyst and director of the governmentbacked
China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, saying that it has almost
been decided that the Chinese navy will build aircraft carriers. See Tim Johnson,
‘Aircraft Carriers on Horizon for China?’, San Diego Union Tribune, November 11,
2007, at http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20071111/news_1n11chinashp.
html (Accessed August 5, 2008). Earlier, in 1997, Hong Kong media had reported
Chinese plans to acquire a smaller aircraft carrier, rather than a fixed-wing carrier.
In 1999, the media reported that the Chinese leadership had essentially sanctioned
Y250 million for two carriers, estimated to be completed by 2009, with a displacement
of 48,000 tons and the ability to carry 24 Su-27Ks. However, it appears that these were
speculations made on the basis of the arrival of a partially finished ex-Soviet carrier,
the Varyag at a Dalian shipyard. See Sibapada Rath, ‘China’s Tryst with Aircraft
Carrier’, Naval Despatch, December 2005, p. 37, at http://indiannavy.gov.in/
NavDespatch05/Chapter%207.pdf (Accessed August 5, 2008).
94 Tim Johnson, ‘Aircraft Carriers on Horizon for China?’, November 11, 2007, at
http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20071111/news_1n11chinashp.html
(Accessed November 14, 2007).
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1041
95 ‘Talks with Marshal Montgomery on the Three Principles and the Question of
Nuclear Weapons (September 1961)’, Selected Military Works of Mao Zedong, at
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-09/28/content_6143129.htm (Accessed
January 12, 2008). However, this appears to have been more of a propaganda
exercise by the Chinese leadership, making a virtue out of necessity. This is evident
from a statement made by Mao in 1955 on the need to develop nuclear weapons
on a priority basis. He said, ‘During the past years we have been busy doing
other things, and there was not enough time for us to pay attention to this matter
[of nuclear weapons]. Sooner or later, we would have had to pay attention to it.
Now, it is time for us to pay attention to it. We can achieve success provided we
put it on the order of the day. Now, the Soviet Union is giving us assistance, we
must achieve success! We can also achieve success even if we do this ourselves.’
See Atomic Forum, ‘China’s Nuclear Weapons Programme’, at http://
www.atomicforum.org/china/china.html (Accessed January 12, 2008).
96 Deng Xiaoping said, ‘If China does not have atomic and hydrogen bombs and has
not launched satellites since the 1960s, it is not worthy of being called a big and
influential country and will not have its present international prestige’. See Federation
of American Scientists, China Doctrine Overview, at www.fas.org/nuke/
guide/china/doctrine/overview.htm (Accessed January 12, 2008).
97 Thomas M. Kane, ‘Dragon or Dinosaur? Nuclear Weapons in Modernizing
China’, Parameters, Winter 2003–2004, p. 98, at http://carlisle-www.army.mil/
usawc/Parameters/03winter/kane.htm (Accessed July 26, 2007). As Major General
Yang Huan noted, ‘to oppose nuclear war, smash nuclear blackmail, safeguard
national security and sovereignty, and keep peace throughout the world,
China needed a powerful national defense and its own strategic nuclear weapons’.
See Major General Yang Huan, ‘China’s Strategic Nuclear Weapons’,
excerpted from Defense Industry of China, 1949–1989, National Defense Industry
Press, Beijing, 1989, in Michael Pillsbury, n. 27.
98 Major General Yang Huan, n. 97.
99 Nuclear Threat Initiatives, ‘China’s Nuclear Doctrine’, at www.nti.org/db/
china/doctrine.htm (Accessed September 15, 2007). Recently there have been
some debates on China’s NFU policy, particularly its application to Taiwan.
100 This is again debatable given the fact that, despite the so-called border agreement,
the territorial issues are not entirely sorted out. Hence, if a war breaks out in the
future, use of nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out.
101 Sujit Dutta, ‘China’s Emerging Power and Military Role: Implications for South
Asia’, in Jonathan D. Pollack and Richard H. Yang, In China’s Shadow: Regional Perspectives
on Chinese Foreign Policy and Military Development, RAND Corporation,
Santa Monica, CA, 1998, p. 97.
102 Y. Ji, ‘The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Evolution of China’s Strategic
Thinking’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 21(3), December 1999, p. 353, cited in
Dennis Woodward, ‘The People’s Liberation Army: A Threat to India?’, Contemporary
South Asia, 12(2), June 2003, p. 231.
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1042 Strategic Analysis
103 Dennis Woodward, n. 102, p. 231.
104 Kenneth Lieberthal, ‘How Domestic Forces Shape the PRC’s Grand Strategy and
International Impact’, in Ashley J. Tellis and Michael Wills, n. 55, p. 61.
105 Beijing has serious fears that this could become a reality at a time of crisis, as
China still lacks the naval power necessary for the protection of SLOCs. It is in
this context that Japan and China attach significant importance to the Malacca
Straits. The Malacca Strait is a narrow and congested waterway separating Indonesia
and Malaysia, with Singapore located at its southern tip. As the shortest
route between the Indian and Pacific oceans the Malacca Strait is one of the
world’s most important waterways. See Ian Storey, ‘China’s “Malacca
Dilemma”’, China Brief, April 12, 2006, at http://www.jamestown.org/
publications_details.php?volume_id=415&issue_id=3686&article_id=2370974
(Accessed October 15, 2007).
106 Chinese military expenditure grew at the fast rate of 12 per cent in 2006.
107 It is to be noted that there was a pay rise in the latter half of 2006.
108 Interestingly the Chinese defence budget does not cover costs relating to research
and development for new weapons and equipment. In the Chinese usage there are
two classifications: military research and defence research. Military research, covered
under the official defence budget, covers research in military science, including
medical research for military purposes, and testing and evaluation of weapons
and equipment currently used by the PLA. This research is done exclusively in
PLA research institutes. However, defence research covering all kinds of defencerelated
research, done by research institutes belonging to other government agencies,
is not covered by the official defence budget. The allocation of military R&D
sometimes comes under money earmarked for the Commission on Science, Technology
and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND), which is the main body
responsible for co-ordinating military R&D as well as for the production of weapons.
COSTIND is responsible to the Ministry of Finance for budget preparation on
military R&D. See Shaoguang Wang, ‘Estimating China’s Defence Expenditure:
Some Evidence from Chinese Sources’, China Quarterly, 147, 1996, pp. 892, 896.
109 Richard A. Bitzinger, ‘Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Challenge of Analysing and
Assessing Chinese Military Expenditures’, China Quarterly, 173, 2003, pp. 169–170.
110 According to a Chinese scholar, profits from PLA-run business have ranged
between US$600 million and US$3 billion. See Wang Shaoguang, ‘The Military
Expenditure of China, 1989–98’, at http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/gpa/wang_files/
Milex.pdf (Accessed December 14, 2007).
111 Earnings from foreign arms sales are believed to be a major source of the PLA’s
extra-budgetary revenue. Shaoguang Wang, ‘Estimating China’s Defence
Expenditure: Some Evidence from Chinese Sources’, China Quarterly, 147, 1996,
pp. 893, 907.
112 The same point was brought out by President Hu Jintao when he said, ‘We will
gradually increase input in national defense as the economy grows, and continue
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1043
to modernize national defense and the armed forces in a way that serves the interests
of our national security and development.’ See ‘President Hu: PLA budget to
rise with the economy’, China Daily, August 2, 2007, at http://www.chinadaily.
com.cn/china/2007-08/02/content_5447330.htm (Accessed September 10,
2007).
113 This is so despite China maintaining the pace of its modernization, in tune with
global changes taking place in defence science and technology, and weaponry.
President Hu Jintao reiterated that China must build a ‘slim but strong’ armed
forces by striking a sound balance between speed, quality, and efficiency in the
modernization drive of the country’s 2.3 million troops. Ibid.
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1044 Strategic Analysis
Appendix A: Top 15 Countries with the Highest Military Expenditure in 2006 in Market Exchange Rates and
PPP Terms
Table A1 Top 15 Countries with the highest military expenditure in 2006
Military Expenditure in MER Dollar Terms
Military Expenditure in PPP
Dollar Terms
Rank Country
Spending
($ Bn)
Spending
Per
Capita ($)
World Share (%)
Spending Population Rank Country
Spending
($ Bn)
1 USA 528.7 1756 46 5 1 USA 528.7
2 UK 59.2 990 5 1 2 China [188.2]
3 France 53.1 875 5 1 3 India 114.3
4 China [49.5] [37] [4] 20 4 Russia [82.8]
5 Japan 43.7 341 4 2 5 UK 51.4
Sub-total top 5 734.2 63 29 Sub-total top 5 965.5
6 Germany 37.0 447 3 1 6 France 46.6
7 Russia [34.7] [244] [3] 2 7 Saudi Arabia 36.4
8 Italy 29.9 514 3 1 8 Japan 35.2
9 Saudi Arabia 29.0 1152 3 – 9 Brazil 32.0
10 India 23.9 21 2 17 10 Germany 31.2
Sub-total top 10 888.7 77 50 Sub-total top 10 1147.0
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Understanding China’s Military Strategy 1045
11 South Korea 21.9 455 2 1 11 South Korea 30.1
12 Australia 13.8 676 1 – 12 Iran 28.6
13 Canada 13.5 414 1 – 13 Italy 28.6
14 Brazil 13.4 71 1 3 14 Turkey 20.2
15 Spain 12.3 284 1 1 15 Pakistan 15.6
Sub-total top 15 963.7 83 56 Sub-total top 15 1270.2
World 1,158 177 100 100
Notes: MER, market exchange rate; PPP, Purchasing Power Parity. The estimated figures are in square brackets. Spending figures are
in US$, at constant (2005) prices and exchange rates.
Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2007 Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2007, p. 270.
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1046 Strategic Analysis
Appendix B: Chinese Defense Budget (1991–2007)
Table B1 Budget of national defense
Budget Year
RMB Yuan
(Billion)
=$USD
(Billion)
% of Total
National
Expense
% Increase
over Last
Year
1991 32.50 3.92
1992 37.00 4.46 13.8
1993 42.70 5.14 15.4
1994 55.00 6.63 28.8
1995 63.00 7.59 14.5
1996
1997
1998 93.47 11.26 8.66
1999 107.67 12.97 8.20 15.2
2000 121.29 14.61 8.29 12.6
2001 141.04 17.00 8.30 16.2
2002 166.00 20.00 17.6
2003
2004 200.00 24.00 7.7
2005 7.3
2006 297.93 7.4
2007 350.92 44.94 7.5 17.8
Notes: Unit: billion yuan RMB/billion yuan US$, and the exchange rate between USD
and RMB is about 1:8.3.
Sources: White Paper on National Defense issued by Chinese Government and other
government publications.
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