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DOD Report China 2005
ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS
The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2005
Office of the Secretary of Defense
The Military Power of the People’s
Republic of China
A Report to Congress
Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act
Fiscal Year 2000
Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65, provides that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report "on the current and future military strategy of the People’s Republic of China. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development on the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts, through the next 20 years."
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The rapid rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a regional political and economic power with global aspirations is one of the principal elements in the emergence of East Asia, a region that has changed greatly over the past quarter of a century. China’s emergence has significant implications for the region and the world. The United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, one that becomes integrated as a constructive member of the international community. But, we see a China facing a strategic crossroads. Questions remain about the basic choices China’s leaders will make as China’s power and influence grow, particularly its military power.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is modernizing its forces, emphasizing preparations to fight and win short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along China’s periphery. PLA modernization has accelerated since the mid-to-late 1990s in response to central leadership demands to develop military options for Taiwan scenarios.
In the short term, the PRC appears focused on preventing Taiwan independence or trying to compel Taiwan to negotiate a settlement on Beijing’s terms. A second set of objectives includes building counters to third-party, including potential U.S., intervention in cross-Strait crises. PLA preparations, including an expanding force of ballistic missiles (long-range and short-range), cruise missiles, submarines, advanced aircraft, and other modern systems, come against the background of a policy toward Taiwan that espouses "peaceful reunification." China has not renounced the use of force, however. Over the long term, if current trends persist, PLA capabilities could pose a credible threat to other modern militaries operating in the region.
The PLA is working toward these goals by acquiring new foreign and domestic weapon systems and military technologies, promulgating new doctrine for modern warfare, reforming military institutions, personnel development and professionalization, and improving exercise and training standards. We assess that China’s ability to project conventional military power beyond its periphery remains limited.
This report outlines what we know of China’s national and military strategies, progress and trends in its military modernization, and their implications for regional security and stability. But, secrecy envelops most aspects of Chinese security affairs. The outside world has little knowledge of Chinese motivations and decision-making and of key capabilities supporting PLA modernization. Hence, the findings and conclusions are based on incomplete data. These gaps are, of necessity, bridged by informed judgment.
The PLA’s routine publication of a biannual Defense White Paper demonstrates some improvement in transparency. However, China’s leaders continue to guard closely basic information on the quantity and quality of the Chinese armed forces. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense still does not know the full size and composition of Chinese government expenditure on national defense. Estimates put it at two to three times the officially published figures.
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Table of Contents
Several significant developments in China’s national strategies and military capabilities
in the last two years relate to the questions posed by the Congress in Section 1202 of the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (P.L. 106-65). These
Grand Strategy, Security Strategy, and Military Strategy
•In December 2004, Beijing released China’s National Defense in 2004 (hereinafter,
Defense White Paper), the fourth such paper since 1998. The paper explains China’s
public views on security and provides information on military-related policies,
organization, and regulations. Although a modest improvement over previous years,
this newest Defense White Paper provides only limited transparency in military
•China continued its strategic focus on building "comprehensive national power," with
an emphasis on economic development. This year, China will complete its 10th Five
Year Plan and finalize preparations for the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-2010).
•State President and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Hu Jintao
replaced Jiang Zemin as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) in
September 2004. This transition is unlikely to produce significant change in China’s
strategy for military modernization, or in its approach to the United States, or Taiwan.
•The CMC expanded from eight to eleven members and added the commanders of the
PLA Air Force, Navy, and the Second Artillery (or Strategic Rocket Forces). Air
Force and Navy officers were also appointed Deputy Chiefs of the General Staff,
reflecting China’s emphasis on joint capabilities and inter-service coordination.
•In 2004, China began to express increased concern over a perceived technology gap
between modern Western forces and its own. The 2004 Defense White Paper
identifies the "technological gap resulting from the Revolution in Military Affairs" as
a development that will have a "major impact on China’s security." China’s
increased emphasis on asymmetric, non-linear, and "leap ahead" technologies
through the 1990s – and for the foreseeable future – will, in our judgment, help it to
close or mitigate this gap.
•Domestic protests, mainly directed at local policies and officials, have grown violent
over the past year, posing increasing challenges to China’s internal security forces.
The number of these incidents in 2004 reached an all-time high of at least 58,000,
according to official Chinese estimates. The rising number of protests reflects
growing popular dissatisfaction with official behavior related to property rights and
forced relocations, labor rights, pensions, corruption, and political reforms.
Trends in China’s Strategy in the Asia-Pacific and Other Regions of the World
In 2004, China became more active in the global arena, deploying its growing political
and economic weight to increase its influence not only regionally but globally. China’s
decision to deploy peacekeepers to Haiti and its growing engagement in Latin America
are emblematic of this effort. In the Asia-Pacific region, some of its diplomacy was
geared to regional institutions that would exclude the United States. Globally,
competition with Taiwan and constraining Taiwan’s international profile are important
elements of China’s foreign and diplomatic strategy, particularly among developing
•China introduced "peaceful rise," a new term to describe China’s emergence.
Although China’s leaders themselves spoke of "peaceful rise" when it first appeared,
they quickly withdrew the term – apparently reflecting unresolved internal debate
over whether or not the term itself was too unsettling to the region or, for some, too
soft. Elements of that debate continue to appear in the Chinese press and professional
journals. Nevertheless, China’s leaders continue to highlight peaceful themes to
describe its rise.
•China became the world’s second largest consumer and third largest importer of oil in
2003. As China’s energy and resource needs grow, Beijing has concluded that access
to these resources requires special economic or foreign policy relationships in the
Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, bringing China closer to problem countries
such as Iran, Sudan, and Venezuela. Resource concerns, among others, played a role
in increased Sino-Japanese tensions over the disputed East China Sea.
•Beijing continued to play its role as the chief organizer of the Six-Party Talks aimed
at resolving the North Korea nuclear issue. China continues to call publicly for a
"nuclear-free Korean Peninsula." China has unique potential, due to its historic ties
and geography, to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.
•China expanded upon the successful conclusion in 2003 of the China-ASEAN Joint
Declaration of a Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity – the first such
agreement China has ever concluded with a regional organization – and China’s 2003
accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation – the first non-ASEAN
country to do so – by signing in 2004 a memorandum of understanding with ASEAN
on Cooperation in the Field of Non-Traditional Security Issues and endorsing the
ASEAN Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. Meanwhile, China maintains
active diplomacy, including military relations, with most ASEAN member states to
promote positive views of China’s rise, gain access to resources, and isolate Taiwan.
•China continued to make progress on resolving its border dispute with India. In
Beijing, improved ties with New Delhi serve as a way to stabilize its periphery and
balance perceived improvements in U.S.-India relations. At the same time, Beijing is
encouraging New Delhi and Islamabad to reduce tensions while preserving China’s
historical strategic partnership with Pakistan.
•The PLA conducted joint maritime search and rescue drills for the first time with
British, Indian, and French naval forces in 2004. China and Russia announced plans
to hold a combined exercise in China sometime in 2005.
The Security Situation in the Taiwan Strait
•The 2004 Defense White Paper characterized the cross-Strait situation as "grim," and
elevated Taiwan and sovereignty concerns to top priority for China’s armed forces –
an intensification of rhetoric from the previous Defense White Paper (2002).
•China’s National People’s Congress passed an "anti-secession law" in March 2005 as
a means to pressure the Taiwan leadership, build a legal foundation to justify a use of
force, and form a rhetorical counter to the U.S. Taiwan Relations Act.
•China held two large-scale amphibious exercises in 2004 (division to group-army
level in size), one of which explicitly dealt with a Taiwan scenario, bringing the total
number of amphibious exercises to ten over the past five years.
Chinese Strategy Regarding Taiwan
•China used diplomatic pressures and verbal warnings to try (unsuccessfully) to derail
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian’s re-election in March 2004. Beijing sought to
preempt Chen’s May 20 inaugural address by issuing a statement on May 17 warning
of the consequences of Taiwan’s "pursuit of a separatist agenda."
•China continued to adhere to its policy of peaceful unification under the "one country,
two systems" framework that offers Taiwan limited autonomy in exchange for
Taiwan’s integration with the mainland.
•Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan and the People’s First Party Chairman James
Soong visited the mainland in the Spring of 2005. China did not change its policy of
no direct negotiations with the leadership of Taiwan’s democratically-elected
•Beijing continues to see the threat and possible use of force as integral to its policy of
dissuading Taiwan from pursuing independence and moving Taiwan ultimately to
unite with the mainland.
The Size, Location, and Capabilities of Chinese Forces facing Taiwan
China continued to deploy its most advanced systems to the military regions directly
opposite Taiwan. These new weapon systems represent significant improvements from
the older, less capable hardware that remains the bulk of China’s inventory. To realize
the potential in the technologically advanced equipment, China’s armed forces are
attempting to integrate the systems into the force structure, develop modern doctrine and
tactics, and improve training and exercises.
•Ballistic Missiles. China has deployed some 650-730 mobile CSS-6 and CSS-7
short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) to garrisons opposite Taiwan. Deployment of
these systems is increasing at a rate of about 100 missiles per year. Newer versions
of these missiles feature improved range and accuracy.
•China is exploring the use of ballistic missiles for anti-access/sea-denial missions.
•China is modernizing its longer-range ballistic missile force by replacing older
systems with newer, more survivable missiles. Over the next several years China will
begin to bring into service a new road-mobile, solid-propellant, intercontinental-range
ballistic missile (ICBM), the DF-31, an extended range DF-31A, and a new
submarine-launched ballistic missile, the JL-2.
•Air Power. China has more than 700 aircraft within un-refueled operational range of
Taiwan. Many of these are obsolescent or upgrades of older-generation aircraft.
However, China’s air forces continue to acquire advanced fighter aircraft from
Russia, including the Su-30MKK multirole and Su-30MK2 maritime strike aircraft.
New acquisitions augment previous deliveries of Su-27 fighter aircraft. China is also
producing its own version of the Su-27SK, the F-11, under a licensed co-production
agreement with Moscow. Last year, Beijing sought to renegotiate its agreement and
produce the multirole Su-27SMK for the remainder of the production run. These later
generations of aircraft make up a growing percentage of the PLA Air Force inventory.
•China’s indigenous 4th generation fighter, the F-10, completed development in 2004
and will begin fielding this year. Improvements to the FB-7 fighter program will
enable this older aircraft to perform nighttime maritime strike operations. China has
several programs underway to deploy new standoff escort jammers on bombers,
transports, tactical aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicle platforms.
•China is acquiring from abroad or developing advanced precision strike munitions,
including cruise missiles and air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-radiation munitions.
•The PLA appears interested in converting retired fighter aircraft into unmanned
combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). China has hundreds of older fighters in its
inventory that could be converted for this purpose.
•Naval Power. China’s naval forces include 64 major surface combatants, some 55
attack submarines, more than 40 medium and heavy amphibious lift vessels, and
approximately 50 coastal missile patrol craft. Two-thirds of these assets are located
in the East and South Sea fleets.
•China deployed its first two Russian-made SOVREMENNYY-class guided missile
destroyers (DDG) to the East Sea Fleet. An additional two SOVREMENNYY DDGs
are under contract for delivery. The SOVREMENNYY DDGs are fitted with
advanced anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and ship-borne air defense systems.
•China’s SONG-class diesel electric submarine has entered serial production. The
SONG is designed to carry the YJ-82, an encapsulated ASCM capable of submerged
launch. Last year, China launched a new diesel submarine, the YUAN-class,
improving the capabilities of its submarine force. China’s next generation nuclear
attack submarine, the Type 093, is expected to enter service in 2005.
•China is acquiring eight additional KILO-class diesel electric submarines from Russia
to augment the four previously purchased units. The new KILOs will include the
advanced SS-N-27 ASCM, and wire-guided and wake-homing torpedoes.
•Air Defense. In August 2004, China received the final shipment from Russia of four
S-300PMU-1/SA-20 surface-to-air missile (SAM) battalions. China has also agreed
to purchase follow-on S-300PMU-2, the first battalion of which is expected to arrive
in 2006. With an advertised intercept range of 200 km, the S-300PMU-2 provides
increased lethality against tactical ballistic missiles and more effective electronic
•The PLA fielded a new self-propelled tactical SAM to its air defense brigades, the
FM-90 (CSA-7). The CSA-7 is an improved copy of the French Crotale system.
With a 15km range, the CSA-7 more than doubles the range of the man-portable air
defense SAMs the PLA previously relied upon.
•Ground Forces. China has 375,000 ground forces personnel deployed to the three
military regions opposite Taiwan. China has been upgrading these units with
amphibious armor and other vehicles, such as tanks and armored personnel carriers.
•The PLA is expected to complete another round of downsizing, by some 200,000, by
the end of 2005, bringing the size of the PLA to about 2.3 million, according to
official statistics. The inclusion of paramilitary People’s Armed Police and reserves
increases that figure to over 3.2 million. The 2004 Defense White Paper claims that
China can also draw upon more than 10 million organized militia members.
•China acquired more Mi-17/171 medium-lift helicopters from Russia in 2004 and is
developing its own attack helicopter, the Z-10, which may enter service in 2014.
Developments in Chinese Military Doctrine
•China’s latest Defense White Paper deployed authoritatively a new doctrinal term to
describe future wars the PLA must be prepared to fight: "local wars under conditions
of informationalization." This term acknowledges the PLA’s emphasis on
information technology as a force multiplier and reflects the PLA’s understanding of
the implications of the revolution in military affairs on the modern battlefield.
•The PLA continues to improve its potential for joint operations by developing a
modern, integrated command, control, communications, computers, intelligence,
surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) network and institutional changes.
•During 2004, the PLA began to integrate military and civilian suppliers in the
procurement system and outsourced a number of previously military jobs to civilian
industry. The PLA is placing greater emphasis on the mobilization of the economy,
both in peacetime and in war, to support national defense.
•The PLA fielded its first experimental "joint logistical unit" in July 2004.
•China is digesting lessons learned from coalition military operations in Afghanistan
and Iraq. China can be expected to incorporate these lessons into updated doctrine,
planning, and acquisition programs.
Technology Transfers and Acquisitions to Enhance Military Capability
•China will continue to press the European Union (EU) to lift its embargo on the sale
of arms to China, established in response to the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. A
decision by the EU to lift the embargo would allow China access to advanced
technologies that could add new weapons systems to its inventory and increase the
quality of, and production capabilities for, its current and future systems.
•In addition to deliveries and standing orders for the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2
multirole fighters, SOVREMENNYY-class DDGs, KILO-class submarines,
associated weapons, and advanced SAMs from Russia cited above, China may
acquire additional IL-76 transport planes and the IL-78/MIDAS air refueling aircraft
from Russia in 2005.
Assessment of Challenges to Taiwan’s Deterrent Forces
•The cross-Strait military balance appears to be shifting toward Beijing as a result of
China’s sustained economic growth, growing diplomatic leverage, and improvements
in the PLA’s military capabilities.
•Taiwan defense spending has steadily declined in real terms over the past decade,
even as Chinese air, naval, and missile force modernization has increased the need for
countermeasures that would enable Taiwan to avoid being quickly overwhelmed.
•A $15.3 billion Special Budget for the purchase of Patriot PAC-III air defense
systems, P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft, and diesel attack submarines, approved
by the United States for sale to Taiwan in 2001, is now before the Taiwan Legislative
UNDERSTANDING CHINA’S STRATEGY
"Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly;
hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile;
never claim leadership."
-- Deng Xiaoping1
Cooperative, Candid, and Constructive U.S.-China Relations
The EP-3 incident in April 2001 damaged U.S.-China relations. Thereafter, the United
States developed a cooperative and constructive relationship with China in which the
United States has stressed the values of candor and transparency.
•The United States and China have worked together to pursue the common
objective of a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula, to establish the Six-Party
Talks process, and to cooperate on counter-terrorism – including China's joining
the U.S. Container Security Initiative.
•Through the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and the Joint Economic
Committee, senior economic policy officials are trying to manage bilateral trade,
advance the goals established when China joined the World Trade Organization
(WTO), and deal with such issues as China's compliance with Intellectual
Property Rights standards.
•The United States and China have agreed to a new, periodic senior dialogue on
global issues of mutual concern that will begin this summer.
•In our military-to-military relationship, we have expanded exchanges, including
high-level visits and contacts between our military academies.
Nonetheless, questions remain about China’s future and the choices Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) leaders will make as China becomes a more powerful and influential
regional and global actor. These choices will have significant implications – not merely
for the United States, but for China, the Asia-Pacific region, and the world.
Images of China’s Future
China is developing on the world stage as a regional power, but its emergence also has
global implications. China faces a strategic crossroads. It can choose a pathway of
peaceful integration and benign competition. China can also choose, or find itself upon, a
pathway along which China would emerge to exert dominant influence in an expanding
sphere. Or, China could emerge less confident and focused inward on challenges to
1As cited in "Deng Puts Forward New 12-Character Guiding Principle for Internal and Foreign Policies,"
Ching Pao (Hong Kong), No. 172, pp. 84-86, 5 November 1991. FBIS HK0611100091.
national unity and the Chinese Communist Party’s claim to legitimacy. The future of a
rising China is not yet set immutably on one course or another.
United States policy welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China. However,
there are forces – some beyond the control of China’s military and national security
planners – that could divert China from a peaceful pathway. These include:
•nationalistic fervor bred by expanding economic power and political influence;
•structural economic weaknesses and inefficiencies that could undermine economic growth;
•an inability to accommodate the forces of an open, transparent market economy;
•a government that is still adapting to great power roles; and,
•an expanding military-industrial complex that proliferates advanced arms.
The interactions of these forces are difficult to predict, as are the implications of these
interactions on China’s strategic behavior and future strategic direction. Regarding the
possible courses set out below, we have not attempted to give weight to any one over
another, nor do we assert that any one is more likely than the others:
•More Assertive Foreign and Security Policies. Continued strong economic
performance, combined with rising nationalism and confidence, could lead China to
translate its economic gains into fielding an increasingly capable military. It could
use its economic weight, backed by military power, to attempt to dictate the terms of
foreign security and economic interactions with its trading partners and neighbors.
•Economic Stagnation. Economic stagnation – which could aggravate domestic
political problems for Communist Party leaders – could lead Beijing to reduce
military spending, or alternatively, to shift investments to the military in a bid to
sustain domestic support through nationalistic assertions abroad.
•Economic Downturn. An economic downturn might occur at some time in the
future, possibly as a result of the following factors: financial institutions are
vulnerable, the transition to a market economy is incomplete, demographic change is
placing stress on the social welfare system, and poor environmental practices have set
the conditions for regional ecological disasters. A major economic downturn could
have broad effects across regional economies, produce internal unrest, and generate
refugee flows that could challenge central government control.
•Internal Unrest. Party leaders have relaxed their grip on the economic sphere and
now allow greater public discourse on some issues, but continue to repress any
challenges to their monopoly on political power. As documented in the latest U.S.
Department of State report on human rights, independent trade and labor unions are
suppressed, ethnic-Tibetan and Uighur minorities are repressed, and religious groups
continue to face harassment. Since 1999, as many as 2,000 adherents of the spiritual
movement Falun Gong have died in prison from torture, abuse, or neglect. By
suppressing the sort of civil society that can provide stability in crises, the Party has
become less susceptible to small impacts but remains vulnerable to larger
•Territorial Disputes. China has made progress in recent years toward settling longstanding
territorial disputes with Russia, Vietnam, India, and Central Asia, but
continues to have overlapping territorial claims with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines,
Malaysia, Brunei, and India. China fought small wars and skirmishes with several of
these countries in the past. Conflicts to enforce China’s claims could erupt in the
future with wide regional repercussions, especially if tensions flare over exploration
or exploitation of resources.
Direct Insights into China’s Strategy are Few
Direct insights into China’s national strategies are difficult to acquire. To assess China’s
intent, analysis of official Chinese strategy documents and White Papers must be
augmented by examination of what China has accomplished in recent years and is
attempting to accomplish in the future.
Chinese military strategists define grand strategy as "the overall strategy of a nation or
alliance of nations in which they use overall national strength" to achieve political goals,
especially those related to national security and development. Put another way, Chinese
strategy, as they define it, is one of maintaining balance among competing priorities for
national economic development and maintaining the type of security environment within
which such development can occur.
Two concepts central to understanding how China would achieve this balance are
"comprehensive national power" (CNP) and the "strategic configuration of power," or
"shi." CNP is the concept by which China’s strategic planners evaluate and measure
China’s national standing in relation to other nations. It includes qualitative and
quantitative measures of territory, natural resources, economic power, diplomatic
influence, domestic government, military capability, and cultural influence.
The "strategic configuration of power," or "shi," is roughly equivalent to an "alignment
of forces," although there is not a direct western equivalent. Chinese linguists also
suggest that "shi" refers to the "propensity of things," or the "potential born of
disposition," that only a skilled strategist can exploit. Conversely, only a sophisticated
assessment by an adversary can recognize how "shi" can or will be exploited.
Resource Demands as a Driver of Strategy
As China’s economy grows, its desire for markets and natural resources (e.g., metals and fossil fuels) will influence China’s strategic behavior. The combined total of these imports accounted for just under 60 percent of all imports in 2003.
China still relies on coal for some two-thirds of its energy. The demand for coal – mostly from domestic sources – will increase as China’s economy expands. China’s demand for oil and gas is increasing rapidly. In 2003, China became the world’s second largest consumer and third largest importer of oil. China currently imports over 40 percent of its oil. By 2025, this figure could rise to 80 percent (9.5 – 15 million barrels per day). Nuclear power and natural gas account for smaller, but growing, portions of energy consumption. China plans to increase natural gas utilization from 3 percent to 8 percent of total consumption by 2010. Similarly, China plans to build some 30 1,000 megawatt nuclear power reactors by 2020.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, recognizing the rapid growth in Chinese oil and gas consumption, recently stated that the "shortage of oil and gas resources has become a restricting factor in our country’s economic and social development," and called upon China to "implement a strategy for sustainable development of our oil and natural gas resources."
China began the process of constructing a strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) in 2004. By 2015, Beijing plans to build the SPR to the International Energy Agency standard of 90 days’ supply. Poor logistics and transportation networks suggest this may still prove inadequate. For the foreseeable future, China will rely on overseas sources for oil and other strategic resources, meaning China will remain reliant upon maritime transportation to meet its energy demands.
This dependence on overseas resources and energy supplies, especially oil and natural gas, is playing a role in shaping China’s strategy and policy. Such concerns factor heavily in Beijing’s relations with Angola, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East (including Iran), Russia, Sudan, and Venezuela – to pursue long-term supply agreements – as well as its relations with countries that sit astride key geostrategic chokepoints – to secure passage. Beijing’s belief that it requires such special relationships in order to assure its energy access could shape its defense strategy and force planning in the future. Indicators of such a shift would include increased investment in a blue-water capable fleet and, potentially, a more activist military presence abroad.
Figure 1. China’s Energy Consumption.
Hydro 7% Coal 67% Oil 23% Nuclear 1% Gas 3%Note: At left, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates China will consume 12.8 million barrels per day of oil by 2025. Some industry projections place this figure between 16 20 million barrels per day. Production figuresare estimates. At right, based on 2003 data, China relied on coal for approximately two-thirds of its energy
Since the early 1980s, as former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping pressed forward with
China’s "reform and opening up," Chinese leaders have described their national
development strategy as a quest to increase China’s CNP. As China’s leaders pursue
national development, they must constantly assess the broader security environment, or
"strategic configuration of power," for potential challenges and threats – as well as
opportunities – that might prompt an adjustment in national strategy.
The "24 Character" Strategy
In the early 1990s, former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (d. 1997) gave guidance to China’s foreign and security policy apparatus that, collectively, has come to be known as the "24 character" strategy: "observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership."
Later, the phrase, "make some contributions (you suo zuo wei)" was added.
This strategy is often quoted by senior Chinese national security officials, especially as it relates
to China’s diplomacy. Although certain aspects of this strategy have been debated in recent years within China’s security establishment – namely the relative emphasis placed upon "never claim leadership" or "make some contributions" – taken as a whole, the strategy suggests both a short term desire to downplay China’s ambitions and a long-term strategy to build up China’s power to maximize options for the future.
The prospect of large-scale conflict, such as a war between China and Taiwan that
included direct U.S. involvement, would likely prompt China’s leaders to place the
reestablishment of a favorable "strategic configuration of power" ahead of national
development. Both Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin indicated that in these
circumstances, one of China’s war aims would be to terminate the conflict on favorable
terms as quickly as possible to refocus national resources on developing CNP. There is
no evidence that China’s new leaders’ views on this point are any different.
In peacetime, we can expect China to pursue economic progress as part of its strategy to
build comprehensive national power. It has established a goal of doubling by 2010 the
size of its economy in 2000 and raising GDP per capita ($1,250 in 2004) to the levels of
an "intermediate developed country" (roughly $3,400) by 2049. Chinese leaders value
such progress for its own sake, as well as for the enhancements to military forces and
national power this progress will allow. Moreover, in contrast to a "development first
model," evidence suggests they seek to integrate the two to obviate, or at least minimize,
traditional "guns vs. butter" trade-offs.
In May 2003, President Hu Jintao stated that: "it is necessary . . . to establish a
mechanism of mutual promotion and coordinated development between national defense
building and economic development." China’s modernization indicates a buildup of
armaments that reinforces this notion of coordinated, integrated civilian and military
Military Modernization . . . Beyond Taiwan
The Chinese military forms an important, and growing, part of Beijing’s overall national
strategy. China’s leaders believe that control and use of the armed forces and other
instruments of power are essential to ensure that the Party remains dominant, and that
China can secure its borders, defend its territorial claims, and shape its security
environment in a way that allows its continued economic growth and development. As
China’s economy expands, so too will its interests and the perceived need to build an
armed force capable of protecting them. In its latest Defense White Paper, China notes
that, "the military factor plays a greater role in . . . national security," and, "the role
played by military power in safeguarding national security is assuming greater
Consequently, although the principal focus of China’s military modernization in the near
term appears to be preparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, some of China’s
military planners are surveying the strategic landscape beyond Taiwan. Some Chinese
military analysts have expressed the view that control of Taiwan would enable the PLA
Navy to move its maritime defensive perimeter further seaward and improve Beijing’s
ability to influence regional sea lines of communication. Conversely, some of these
analysts believe, the political status quo with Taiwan constrains China’s ability to project
power. General Wen Zongren, Political Commissar of the elite PLA Academy of
Military Science, stated in a recent interview that resolving the Taiwan issue is of "far
reaching significance to breaking international forces’ blockade against China’s maritime
security. . . . Only when we break this blockade shall we be able to talk about China’s
rise. . . . To rise suddenly, China must pass through oceans and go out of the oceans in
its future development."
Analysis of Chinese military acquisitions also suggests the PLA is generating military
capabilities that go beyond a Taiwan scenario. All of China’s SRBMs, although
garrisoned opposite Taiwan, are mobile and can deploy throughout the country to take up
firing positions in support of a variety of regional contingencies. China is also
developing new medium-range systems that will improve its regional targeting capability.
There are corresponding improvements in intercontinental-range missiles capable of
striking targets across the globe, including in the United States.
Similarly, China’s air and naval force improvements – both complete and in the pipeline
– are scoped for operations beyond the geography around Taiwan. Airborne early
warning and control and aerial refueling programs for the PLA Air Force will extend the
operational range for its fighter and strike aircraft, permitting extended operations into
the South China Sea, for example. Naval acquisitions, such as advanced destroyers and
submarines, reflect Beijing’s pursuit of an "active offshore defense," to protect and
advance its maritime interests, including territorial claims, economic interests, and
critical sea lines of communication. Over the long-term, improvements in China’s
command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and
reconnaissance (C4ISR) capability, including space-based and over-the-horizon
platforms, could enable Beijing to identify, target, and track foreign military activities
deep into the western Pacific and provide, potentially, hemispheric coverage.
Figure 2.Short, Medium and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles
Note:China currently is capable of deploying ballistic missile forces to support a variety of regional contingencies.
Chinese forces have increased operations beyond China’s borders and home waters, most
notably the highly publicized intrusion of a HAN-class nuclear submarine last year in
Japanese territorial waters during operations far into the western Pacific Ocean. After
completing its first around-the-world cruise in July 2002, China continues to send its fleet
abroad to show the flag and gain familiarity with open-ocean operations. Finally, China
has increased participation in global peace operations. China now has some 1,000
peacekeepers abroad, including 500 attached to the UN Observer Mission in Liberia
(UNOMIL), 230 with the UN Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(MONUC), and 125 as part of the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
China does not now face a direct threat from another nation. Yet, it continues to invest
heavily in its military, particularly in programs designed to improve power projection.
The pace and scope of China’s military build-up are, already, such as to put regional
military balances at risk. Current trends in China’s military modernization could provide
China with a force capable of prosecuting a range of military operations in Asia – well
beyond Taiwan – potentially posing a credible threat to modern militaries operating in the
region. China could accelerate its military development by using more of its civil
production capacity for military hardware (industrial facilities for China’s commercial
ship-building – which now occupy about 10% of the global market in terms of dead
weight ton production – are co-located with military shipyards, for example) or by
increasing purchases of advanced military hardware and technology from abroad.
Beijing has described its long-term political goals of developing comprehensive national
power and of ensuring a favorable strategic configuration of power in peaceful terms.
Themes include an emphasis on peace and development, the non-use of force in settling
disputes, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, the defensive nature of
China’s military strategy, a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons, and support for
nuclear weapons-free zones.
Nevertheless, China’s military modernization remains ambitious. In the recent past,
moreover, military responses in support of Chinese claims to disputed territory or
resource rights have produced crises and conflicts with China’s neighbors, including
India, Japan, the Philippines, the then-Soviet Union, and Vietnam. In the future, as
China’s military power grows, China’s leaders may be tempted to resort to force or
coercion more quickly to press diplomatic advantage, advance security interests, or
CHINA’S MILITARY STRATEGY AND DOCTRINE
"You fight your way and I fight my way."
-- Mao Zedong
It is clear that China’s leaders view the military instrument as playing a central role in
support of national goals and objectives. China’s strategy for the employment of the
military to support these goals, or the conditions under which China’s leaders would
select military over non-military methods in problem-solving, however, are less clear.
China does not have a public document directly equivalent to the U.S. National Military
Strategy.Outside observers, therefore, have few direct insights into central leadership
thinking on the use of force. Based on analysis of authoritative documents, speeches, and
writings, we can discern that China uses the term "active defense" to describe its national
military strategy. "Active defense" posits a defensive military strategy and asserts that
China does not initiate wars or fight wars of aggression, but engages in war only to
defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity and attacks only after being attacked.
Beijing’s definition of an attack against its territory, or what constitutes an initial attack,
is left vague, however. In instances where Beijing’s use of force involves core interests,
such as Taiwan, it could claim, as it has in the past, that preemptive uses of force are
strategically "defensive" in nature, such as the 1979 "counter-attack in self defense"
against Vietnam. Consequently, the term "active defense" indicates little about when or
how China would initiate hostilities. Once Beijing determines that hostilities have begun,
evidence suggests the characteristics of "active defense" are distinctly offensive. The
PLA text,The Study of Campaigns (Zhanyi Xue), published in 2000, explains:
While strategically the guideline is active defense, in military campaigns, though, the
emphasis is placed on taking the initiative in active offense. Only in this way, the
strategic objective of active defense can be realized.
"Active defense" calls for forces to be postured to defend against perceived security
threats. China’s forces also seek to shape their security environment and prevent
adversaries from engaging in actions contrary to China’s national interests. Returning to
the 1979 conflict with Vietnam, Beijing launched that invasion as a punitive measure to
"teach Hanoi a lesson" following its incursion into Cambodia. China used military
coercion short of war when it launched missiles into closure areas off Taiwan in 1995 and
1996 to pressure Taipei.
Assessments indicate that Beijing’s capability for limited and relatively precise uses of
force is growing. Since the 1990s, PLA strategists have discussed in professional
journals the efficiency of limited applications of force to accomplish limited political
goals. Advances in military technology provide Beijing with an expanded set of limited
force options. Chinese operational-level military doctrine defines these options as "nonwar"
uses of force – an extension of political coercion and not an act of war.
Deception in Military Strategy
Over the past several decades, there has been a resurgence in the study of ancient Chinese
statecraft within the PLA. Whole departments of military academies teach the precepts
of moulue, or strategic deception, derived from Chinese experience through the millennia,
particularly military aspects surrounding the dynastic cycle. Modern China also has a
track record of successfully deceiving opponents. Through effective use of deception
from the strategic to the tactical levels, China’s intervention in the Korean War caught
the United States by surprise. Similarly, India, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam, as well as
many outside observers, did not anticipate Chinese incursions into the territories of those
One might expect some secrecy in technological and weapon system development and
tactical deception about the location of units. China’s practice encompasses this and
more. In recent years, for example, China rolled out several new weapon systems whose
development was not previously known in the West.
Strategic Direction of PLA Modernization
PLA reform and reorganization started in the early 1980s, accelerated in the latter half of
the 1990s, and will continue for the foreseeable future. The PLA is transforming from a
mass army designed to fight a protracted war of attrition within its territory to a smaller,
modern, professional force capable of fighting high-intensity, local wars of short duration
against high-tech adversaries. PLA theorists and planners believe future campaigns will
be conducted simultaneously on land, at sea, in the air, in space, and within the electronic
sphere. The PLA characterizes these conflicts as "local wars under conditions of
Local Wars Under the Conditions of Informationalization
In its December 2004 Defense White Paper, China authoritatively used a new term to describe the
type of war the PLA must be prepared to fight and win: "local wars under the conditions of
informationalization." By introducing this new term, the PLA effectively discarded "local wars
under high-tech conditions," the concept that guided force structure developments for the better
part of the last decade.
This new concept sums up China’s experiences and assessments of the implications of the
revolution in military affairs – primarily the impact of information technology and knowledgebased
warfare on the battlefield. While appearing to reinforce many of the trends in China’s
force modernization that prevailed under "local wars under high-tech conditions," the
implications of this new concept are not yet known.
The PLA desires to project joint conventional military power rapidly into its geographic
frontier to meet the enemy at or beyond Chinese territory. It is modernizing in all
services and at all levels to build a force capable of meeting the requirements of future
war, primarily through the improvement of the PLA’s joint operational capabilities.
The PLA’s ambition to conduct joint operations can be traced to lessons learned from
U.S. and allied operations since the Persian Gulf War. Although the PLA has devoted
considerable effort to develop joint capabilities, it faces a persistent lack of inter-service
cooperation and a lack of actual experience in joint operations. The PLA hopes
eventually to fuse service-level capabilities with an integrated C4ISR network, a new
command structure, and a joint logistics system. The inclusion of service commanders
on the Central Military Commission last year is an example of how China is
strengthening inter-service cooperation to develop joint capabilities. The lack of
experience in joint operations is a subset of the overall lack of operational experience in
the Chinese force.
The PLA’s future joint force has been influenced by U.S. capabilities and concepts and
by Soviet/Marxist-derived characteristics of warfare, but will unlikely mirror either. For
example, it appears that the PLA’s concept of joint operations provides for coordination
at or above the operational level of war. Since 2000, it has conducted some 14
multiservice exercises with "joint" characteristics and/or "joint" command and control,
improving PLA experience levels, and yielding some insights into its future direction.
These insights will become clearer as more advanced weapons, sensors, and platforms
enter the inventory and training begins to reflect true multiservice operations. For a
combination of technical and doctrinal reasons, the PLA has not demonstrated a
capability to conduct U.S.-style joint operations, nor is it likely to do so in the near future.
Perceptions of Modern Warfare and U.S. Defense Transformation
China observes closely foreign military campaigns and defense modernization initiatives.
The United States factors heavily in these observations as a model of how a modern
military engages in modern warfare. China draws from U.S. military operations by
adopting or emulating lessons in some areas, and in others, by identifying exploitable
vulnerabilities in potential high-tech adversaries. In addition, U.S. defense
transformation, as demonstrated by recent U.S. operations, has highlighted to China the
expanding technological gap between modern military forces and those of developing
countries. The 2004 Defense White Paper identifies the "technological gap resulting
from the revolution in military affairs" as having a "major impact on China’s security."
These concerns have prompted China’s leaders, including President Hu Jintao, to order
the PLA to pursue "leap ahead" technologies and "informationalized" capabilities to
increase the mobility, firepower, and precision of PLA weapons and equipment.
Operation DESERT STORM (1991) was a primary motivator behind China’s efforts to
prepare for future warfare. The PLA noted that the rapid defeat of Iraqi forces revealed
how vulnerable China would be in a modern war. The Gulf War drove the PLA to update
doctrine for joint and combined operations to reflect modern warfare and to accelerate
reform and modernization. The Gulf War also spurred PLA debates on the implications
of the revolution in military affairs, and led China to seek modern C4ISR and to develop
new information warfare, air defense, precision strike, and logistics capabilities.
Operation ALLIED FORCE (1999) had a similar impact on PLA thinking, although more
as a validation of earlier assessments of the requirements of modern warfare than as a
catalyst for change. NATO’s air operations over Serbia provided the PLA insights into
how a technologically inferior force could defend against a superior opponent. PLA
observers noted how low-tech counter-reconnaissance and tactical deception measures,
such as camouflage, decoys, dispersion, and frequent movement of forces could deny an
adversary situational awareness and precision-strike capabilities. The air campaign
reinforced the PLA’s focus on passive defense measures such as hardening or burying
high-value targets, shifting to fiber-optic communications, and concealing supply depots.
The PLA applied the most significant lessons from Operation ALLIED FORCE in a
revised air defense training regime referred to as "Three Attacks, Three Defenses" (attack
stealth aircraft, cruise missiles, and helicopters; defend against precision strikes,
electronic warfare, and enemy reconnaissance). PLA theorists also began to conclude
that airpower and long-range strike diminished the role of ground forces. These
observations led to discussion of the value of precision air and missile strikes against
leadership and command and control targets to isolate and "decapitate" the enemy, and
thereby force a rapid capitulation with a minimum commitment of ground forces. These
observations most likely led to accelerated development and deployment of more capable
ballistic and cruise missiles and to acquisition of newer multi-role fighter aircraft to
support an evolving doctrine for independent, strategic air operations.
The PLA is digesting coalition operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to gain a better
understanding of the implications of modern war. At a minimum, it appears to have
drawn new lessons on the application of UAVs for reconnaissance and strike operations,
special forces for precision targeting, and the integration of psychological operations with
air and ground operations to target leadership and communication nodes. PLA observers
were impressed with weapon system integration and interoperability, and flexible logistic
support to mobile operations.
In contrast to conclusions drawn from previous conflicts, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
appears to have prompted the PLA to rethink the notion that airpower and precisionstrike
technology alone are sufficient to prevail in a conflict. In June 2003, for example,
Jiang Zemin noted: "the Iraq war has once again proven that under high-tech conditions,
the factor determining the outcome of war is still human quality."
Observations of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM
In May 2003, PLA Deputy Chief of the General Staff Xiong Guangkai authored an article
assessing the broad implications of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM for Chinese assessments of
modern war. Some of his more salient observations follow:
--On gleaning lessons from coalition operations: ". . . the trend of new military changes is
developing rapidly in the world, and the recent Iraq war has reflected this trend.We should not only profoundly research and analyze this trend but also actively push forward military changes with Chinese characteristics according to our country’s actual conditions."
--On precision strike: ". . . the Iraq war reflected the tendency toward the development of
informationalized weapons and equipment . . . more precision-guided munitions were used . . .
military aerospace strength played an ever more important role [and there were] new
developments in guided missiles. U.S. troops used as many as 90 military satellites, which
provided continuous intelligence information and played a most important role in directing the
war, especially in launching accurate attacks."
--On mobility: "Either driving straight in along the south route or adopting air-mobility tactics
along the north route reflected the fact that through more than 10 years of readjusting their
establishment and system, the U.S. armed forces are ever smaller in number but ever more highly trained, are of a lighter type, and have an ever higher mobility."
--On integrated operations: "The U.S. and British allied forces gave full expression to the joint warfare theory [and] had all their arms and services to do everything possible to coordinate their actions in all directions and at all times to achieve rapid dominance on the battlefield, and their actions included air strikes, ground attacks, sea-based missile launches, satellites and information warfare."
--On non-contact warfare: "Under the conditions in which high-tech weapons and equipment have been continuously developing, the effect and importance of non-contact fighting have become increasingly clear, but contact fighting is not to be ignored."
--On implications for the PLA: "While studying this war, we should . . . pay attention to
viewing issues from an overall view of development; we should note the general trend of new
military changes in the world with information technology as the leading factor and not negate
the role played by people only because the role of high-tech weapons is becoming increasingly
--Conclusion: "We should push forward the military reform with Chinese characteristics, which means that we should study and draw on the experiences and lessons of various countries in making military changes, including all the local wars fought under high-tech conditions, [but] we should not mechanically copy other countries’ pattern of military changes."
RESOURCES FOR FORCE MODERNIZATION
"The PLA learns from and draws on the valuable experience of foreign
armed forces, and introduces, on a selective basis, technologically
advanced equipment and better management expertise from abroad to
advance the modernization of the Chinese armed forces."
-- China’s National Defense in 2004
Continued economic growth and reform are essential to PLA modernization. In absolute
terms, this translates into increased funding available for defense. Broad-based growth
and modernization also expands China’s economic capacities in industry, technology, and
human resources, enabling its leaders to accelerate military modernization in relative
terms, as well. If China is able to sustain past growth rates – a challenge due to projected
demographic changes, maturation of the industrial and technology base, and persistent
financial inefficiencies – its economy could expand to almost $6.4 trillion by 2025. For
comparison purposes, in 2025 Russia’s GDP is projected to be $1.5 trillion, Japan’s $6.3
trillion, and the U.S., $22.3 trillion. Based on past patterns, China’s defense sector will
probably benefit from continued overall economic performance.
Figure 3.China’s Projected GDP Through 2025 (Constant 2005 Prices)
***CHART NOT AVAILABLE***
Source:Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and Global Insight.
Note:Projections, in constant 2005 dollars, place China’s GDP at $2.6 trillion in 2010, $3.5 trillion in 2015, $4.8 trillion in 2020, and $6.4 trillion in 2025.
Defense Budget Trends
Tracking defense budgets is critical to understanding trends in China’s military
modernization as the budget reflects China’s capability to generate military power from
its economic base. Since the early 1990s, China has steadily increased resources for the
defense sector. On March 4, 2005, a spokesperson for China’s National People’s
Congress announced that China would increase its publicly disclosed defense budget in
2005 by 12.6 percent, to approximately $29.9 billion – double the figure for 2000. This
year’s increases continue trends that have prevailed for the past fifteen years of doubledigit
annual increases in China’s published figures. When adjusted for inflation, the
nominal increases have produced double-digit actual increases in China’s official defense
budget every year since the mid-1990s. However, the officially published figures
substantially underreport actual expenditures for national defense.
The opacity of the PLA budgeting system precludes significant outside analysis. A
further complication in the analysis of China’s defense spending trends is the wide
variation in methodologies (e.g., calculations based on market exchange rates, purchasing
power parity, or a mixture of the two, and in varying proportions).
Figure 4. China’s Projected Defense Expenditures to 2025
***CHART NOT AVAILABLE***
Source: Defense Intelligence Agency.
Note: Projections, in constant 2005 dollars, show low, medium, and high-end
estimates of China’s future defense spending.
According to some estimates, the official budget does not include foreign weapons
procurement (up to $3.0 billion annually from Russia alone), expenses for the
paramilitary People’s Armed Police, funding to support nuclear weapon stockpiles and
the Second Artillery, subsidies to defense industries, some defense-related research
development, and local, provincial, or regional contributions to the armed forces.
Combined, these additional monies could increase actual defense expenditures by two to
three times the publicly available figure, suggesting the defense sector in China could
receive up to $90.0 billion in 2005, making China the third largest defense spender in the
world after the United States and Russia, and the largest in Asia.
Projecting out defense spending over a long period is problematic for the reasons cited
above. Assuming that China’s defense burden (proportion of defense expenditure as a
percentage of GDP) remains constant, China’s defense budget could rise three-fold or
greater by 2025.
Defense Industry Trends
According to intelligence community estimates, China’s defense industries are inefficient
and dependent on foreign suppliers for key technologies. Exceptions are few, such as
ballistic missile research, development, and production. China is reorganizing defense
industry, modernizing industrial facilities, and acquiring foreign technology to develop
and produce advanced weapons systems to support PLA modernization.
An important aspect of China’s overall modernization strategy is civil-military integration.
According to a recent RAND report, "China’s leaders remain convinced that the integration
of civilian and military production is the key to developing an advanced military. Although
in the early 1980s the primary hope was that China’s defense manufacturers would be able
to use their technological capabilities to generate profits on civilian markets, today the
principal hope seems to be that, through participation in commercial production, China’s
defense manufacturers will acquire dual-use technological capabilities." Civil-military
integration, as noted in the 2004 Defense White Paper, "will adhere to the strategic
guideline of combining military needs with civilian needs, reserving military potential
within civilian capability…." Civil-military integration will exploit civil technological
development for military application and maintain a pool of resources (people, material,
facilities) to support modernization in peacetime and necessity in wartime.
Reorganization and Modernization. China is changing industrial organizations and
business practices to encourage cooperation and collaboration among companies. These
changes have implications across the domestic industrial base, but, significantly,
indications are that they have enabled it to modernize and expand its defense industry
across all sectors since the late 1990s to increase production capacity, develop and
produce new or upgraded weapons, and modernize production processes. These
infrastructure improvements could enable China to produce higher-quality equipment
more rapidly and efficiently.
China’s space launch vehicle industry is expanding to support the national emphasis on
satellite launch capability and the manned space program. Aircraft manufacturing plants
and naval shipyards have increased production floor space to support new military
programs and accommodate additional work from commercial contracts and joint
ventures. China continues to expand its research, development and testing capabilities,
particularly at universities and research institutes.
China is also modernizing key basic industries, such as strategic metals, by building new
facilities and equipping them with advanced manufacturing technologies, often purchased
for civil purposes. This has enabled Chinese firms to produce specialty metals and alloys
used in a variety of defense and commercial industries. Joint ventures in China now
manufacture semiconductors and integrated circuits used in military computers, missile
guidance systems, communications and electronic warfare equipment, and radar systems.
Beijing’s approach to technology acquisition is called the "Three-Ways Policy": 1) foreign
import, 2) joint development (China plus a foreign entity), and 3) domestic development.
Beijing would prefer to produce systems indigenously, but is not yet capable and must rely
heavily on foreign sources. Priorities for technology acquisition – microelectronics,
nanotechnology, space systems, innovative materials, propulsion systems, missile systems,
computer-aided manufacturing and design, and information technologies – mirror those
identified in the outline documents for China’s current five-year plan (2001-2005).
Importing Solutions from Russia and the West. Over the past decade, Russia and Israel
have been China’s primary foreign sources of weapon systems and military technology.
Russia has supplied over 85% of all of China’s arms imports since the early 1990s and
has been a significant enabler of China’s military modernization. According to the
Defense Intelligence Agency, Russian conventional weapon technology transfers,
including better aircraft, quieter submarines, and more advanced munitions, have
advanced the lethality of every major category of weapon system under development in
As China’s defense industries continue to mature, Beijing is purchasing from abroad
systems to meet near-term requirements. For example, China received deliveries of Su-
30MK2 multi-role FLANKER aircraft in 2004 to fill a gap until the F-10 or a license produced multi-role FLANKER could be deployed. China is also purchasing the Russian
AL-31FN aero-engine for the F-10 fighter, while working on an indigenously produced
turbofan engine. China received advanced Russian SA-10 and SA-20 SAM systems as
interim air defense solutions while it develops its own. The purchase of KILO-class
diesel electric submarines and SOVREMENNYY-class destroyers from Russia helped
equip the PLA Navy with modern systems while China produces its own SONG-class
diesel electric submarine and LUYANG-class destroyers. China will likely acquire
additional Su-30MK2, IL-76 transport planes, and IL-78 MIDAS air refueling aircraft
from Russia during 2005.
China also cooperates with Russia on licensed production and technical advice. To
acquire a modern, fourth generation fighter, China contracted with Russia to licenseproduce
the Su-27SK/F-11 FLANKER. In 2004, China requested to renegotiate the last
half of this contract to build a multi-role version of the FLANKER, the Su-27SMK.
Russia and China reportedly are cooperating on the seeker, rudder control actuation
system design, and inertial navigation system for the PL-12 air-to-air missile, which
continued testing in 2004. In 2004, China launched a new class of submarine, which
appears to incorporate Russian design characteristics, including possible air independent
propulsion, greatly increasing submerged endurance. China received help from Russia
on a turret for a new infantry fighting vehicle. Russian design features also appear in a
new multiple launch rocket system, the A-100.
Although Israel began the process of canceling the PHALCON program with China in
2000, Beijing continues to pursue an AWACs variant built on an IL-76 airframe. The
Israelis transferred HARPY UAVs to China in 2001 and conducted maintenance on
HARPY parts during 2003-2004.
China receives assistance from other nations too. For example, in 2001, China bought
British Spey Mk202 engines to install on the FB-7 fighter-bomber until a licenseproduced
version could be manufactured. Italy and France may be assisting China with a
new medium-lift helicopter. Over the last thirty years, China also has benefited from the
sale of munitions and dual-use use technologies from France, Germany, Italy, and the
Strengths and Weaknesses:China has invested in its human resources. Improved
technical education – including Western education – is providing positive feedback to
China’s defense industrial sector. On the other hand, quality and innovation remain
weaknesses. Chinese industry is still learning the importance of reliability and
repeatability. China has not yet demonstrated the ability or innovation to go through a
research, development, and acquisition process for a sophisticated weapon system
without foreign assistance. Also, many of the new and upgraded facilities are hampered
by inadequate electrical power generation and distribution systems. Raw materials are
backlogged by inadequate road, rail, and port services. Finally, China’s strategic metals
industry relies on imported raw materials and foreign mining and production facilities.
Implications of Lifting the EU Arms Embargo
The effort by the European Union in 2004 to lift its arms embargo on China – in place
since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown – followed intense lobbying by China to
remove the ban, which it refers to as a "relic of the Cold War." The consequences of an
EU arms embargo lift would be serious and numerous. Although the EU stated that any
lifting of the embargo would produce no qualitative or quantitative increases in China’s
military capabilities, the EU’s tools to enforce such a commitment remain inadequate.
Lifting the embargo could allow China access to military and dual-use technologies that
would help China to improve current weapon systems and to improve indigenous
industrial capabilities for production of future advanced weapons systems. Ending the
embargo could also remove implicit limits on Chinese military interaction with European
militaries, giving China’s armed forces broad access to critical military "software" such
as modern military management practices, operational doctrine and training, and logistics
If the embargo is lifted, China’s strategy will likely center on establishing joint ventures
with EU companies as a means to acquire access to expertise and technology. China can
be expected to move slowly to avoid undermining its position that the embargo was
merely symbolic. Even if China were to move quickly, its defense industries would
require time to integrate new technologies, processes, and know-how into weapons
manufacturing or retro-fits. In the medium to long term, however, the acquisition of
European defense technology would significantly improve PLA capabilities. China is
most likely interested in acquiring advanced space technology, radar systems, earlywarning
aircraft, submarine technology, and advanced electronic components for
precision-guided weapons systems.
Lifting the EU embargo would also lead to greater foreign competition to sell arms to the
PLA, giving Beijing leverage over Russia, Israel, and other foreign suppliers to relax
limits on military sales to China. Potential competition from EU countries already may
have prompted Russia to expand the range of systems it is willing to market to China. In
2004, Russia provided a new version of the FLANKER, the Su-30MK2, to China and
signed a contract to sell S-300PMU2 SAM systems. The Su-30 aircraft features an
enhanced radar system and is equipped with long-range R-77 and R-27 missiles,
enhancing the capability of China’s air forces to conduct over-the-horizon and beyondvisual-
range attacks. Russia is also discussing the sale of advanced conventional
submarine co-production rights to China in anticipation of competition from the EU.
Such an acceleration of China’s military modernization would have direct implications
for stability in the Taiwan Strait and the safety of U.S. personnel; it would also accelerate
a shift in the regional balance of power, affecting the security of many countries.
Finally, Beijing’s track record in transfers of conventional arms and military technologies
suggests EU or other third-party sales to China could lead to improvements in the
systems that Chinese companies market abroad, including to countries of concern, such
as Iran. Of note, some of China’s major recipients of military assistance – Burma, Sudan,
and Zimbabwe – all are subject to EU arms embargoes.
FORCE MODERNIZATION GOALS AND TRENDS
"We should draw on the experiences in new military changes of the world
and seize the opportunities to achieve leapfrog development in national
defense and army modernization."
-- President Hu Jintao, May 2003.
"We should achieve developments by leaps and bounds in the
modernization of weaponry in our armed forces."
-- Gen Li Jinai, then-Director, PLA General Armaments
Department, August 2004.
China has stated its intentions and allocated resources to pursue force-wide
professionalization, improve training, conduct more robust, realistic joint exercises, and
accelerate acquisition of modern weapons. The U.S. Intelligence Community estimates
that China will require until the end of this decade or later for its military modernization
program to produce a modern force, capable of defeating a moderate-size adversary.
Meanwhile, China’s leaders appear to recognize the PLA’s deficiencies relative to
potential adversaries in the region and may have concluded that the PLA is presently
unable to compete directly with other modern military powers. We assess that this
conclusion might have given rise to a priority emphasis on asymmetric programs and
systems to leverage China’s advantages while exploiting the perceived vulnerabilities of
potential opponents – so-called Assassin’s Mace (sha shou jian) programs.
Consequently, as PLA modernization progresses, there are twin misperceptions that may
lead to miscalculation or crisis. First, other countries may underestimate the extent to
which Chinese forces have improved. Second, China’s leaders may overestimate the
proficiency of their forces by assuming that new systems are fully operational, adeptly
operated, adequately supplied and maintained, and well integrated with existing or other
The following sections explore advances in Chinese military modernization in the areas
of: nuclear deterrence, precision strike, expeditionary operations, air defense, antiaccess,
lines of communication protection, joint logistics, space and counter-space, and
computer network operations.
China’s Armed Forces at a Glance
China has the largest military in the world. China’s military comprises four services: ground
forces (PLA), naval forces (PLAN, includes marines and aviation components), air forces
(PLAAF, includes airborne forces), and strategic missile forces (Second Artillery). Following
downsizing this year, the active force will total some 2.3 million personnel. A fifth element
consists of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) and reserves. The combined total,
distributed across seven military regions, exceeds 3.2 million. China also has some 10
million organized militia members throughout the country.
Figure 5. China’s Military Regions
China is qualitatively and quantitatively improving its strategic missile force. This could
provide a credible, survivable nuclear deterrent and counterstrike capability. It is fielding
more survivable missiles capable of targeting India, Russia, virtually all of the United
States, and the Asia-Pacific theater as far south as Australia and New Zealand. Beijing
maintains a small strategic arsenal. Its stated nuclear weapons doctrine remains one of
"no first use."
Figure 6. Medium and Intercontinental Range Ballistic Missiles
Note: China currently is capable of targeting its nuclear forces throughout the region and
most of the world, including the continental United States. Newer systems, such as the
DF-31 and DF-31A, will give China a more survivable nuclear force.
China’s future strategic force will likely comprise enhanced silo-based CSS-4 ICBMs
(currently deployed), solid-fueled, road-mobile DF-31 (initial operational capability
2005-06) and DF-31A ICBMs (IOC 2007-09), and sea-based JL-2 SLBMs (IOC 2008-
10). China will also maintain a force of nuclear-armed CSS-5 MRBMs for regional
China currently deploys approximately twenty silo-based, liquid-propellant CSS-4
ICBMs, which constitute its primary nuclear deterrent. The Second Artillery also
maintains approximately twenty liquid-fueled, more limited-range CSS-3 ICBMs to
sustain its regional nuclear deterrent. The Second Artillery will likely keep this older
missile in service until it is replaced by the more survivable, road-mobile DF-31. China
supplements the aged CSS-2s with solid-propellant, road-mobile CSS-5 MRBMs.
The introduction of the road-mobile DF-31-series ICBMs will supplement China’s silobased
strategic force. The mobility of the new DF-31-class missiles will enable these
systems to operate over a larger area, making them more difficult to locate and neutralize.
The introduction of a new generation of SLBMs on China’s new ballistic-missile
submarine will provide an additional survivable nuclear option. Finally, replacement of
the older, silo-based CSS-4 Mod 1 with the longer range CSS-4 Mod 2, coupled with the
ongoing migration to mobile, solid-fueled systems will enhance the operational
capabilities and survivability of China’s strategic missile force.
The PLA envisions the use of precision strike to hold at risk such targets as Western
Pacific airbases, ports, surface combatants, land-based C4ISR and integrated air defense
systems, and command facilities. Most of the PLA units associated with precision strike
are rapid reaction units and/or those that would likely lead any contingency operation
around the mainland periphery.
• Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) (conventionally armed). China’s SRBM
force constitutes the bulk of its precision strike capability. Its first-generation
SRBMs do not possess true "precision strike" capability, but later generations have
greater ranges and improved accuracy. According to DIA estimates, China’s SRBM
force totals some 650-730 missiles, increasing at a rate of 75 to 120 missiles per year.
• Land-Attack Cruise Missiles (LACMs) (conventionally armed). China is developing
LACMs to achieve greater precision than historically available from ballistic missiles
for hard target strikes, and increased standoff. A first- and second-generation LACM
remain under development. There are no technological bars to placing on these
systems a nuclear payload, once developed.
• Air-to-Surface Missiles (ASMs). China is believed to have a small number of tactical
ASMs. China is pursuing foreign and domestic acquisitions to improve airborne antishipcapabilities.
• Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs). The PLA Navy and Naval Air Force have or are
acquiring nearly a dozen varieties of ASCMs, from the 1950s-era CSS-N-2/STYX to
the modern Russian-made SS-N-22/SUNBURN and SS-N-27/SIZZLER. The pace of
indigenous ASCM research, development, and production – and of foreign
procurement – has accelerated over the past decade. Objectives for current and future
ASCMs include improving closure speed (e.g., ramjet propulsion, such as with the
SS-N-22), standoff distance (e.g., longer-range assets, such as the C-802), and
stealthier launch platforms (e.g., submarines). SS-N-22 missiles may be fitted on
smaller platforms in the future (e.g., the Russian Molniya patrol boat, which
originated as a joint effort with China, or on the new stealth fast attack patrol boat).
Figure 7. Maximum Ranges for China’s Conventional SRBM Force
Note: China’s conventionally armed SRBM missiles opposite Taiwan are
mobile and can be redeployed to support a variety of regional conflict scenarios.
• Anti-Radiation Weapons (ARMs). The size and scope of China’s anti-radiation
weapons inventory remains unknown. The PLA has imported both the Israeli-made
HARPY UAV and Russian-made anti-radiation missiles. China’s doctrine calls for
seizing "electromagnetic superiority" early in a conflict. Acquiring anti-radiation
weapons – designed to acquire targets based on the targets’ own radar emissions –
supports this doctrine and is consistent with Chinese theories on "informationalized"
PLA expeditionary forces include three airborne divisions, two amphibious infantry
divisions, two marine brigades, about seven special operations groups, and one
regimental-size reconnaissance element in the Second Artillery.
The PLA is focusing modernization for these units on procuring more equipment,
improving unit-level tactics, and coordination of joint operations. PLA ground forces in
the Nanjing and Guangzhou Military Regions have received upgraded amphibious armor
and other vehicles, such as tanks and APCs, and may add armored assault vehicles and
air-cushioned troop vehicles to improve lethality and speed for seaborne assaults.
Airborne forces will likely acquire more modern transport aircraft like the Russian
IL-76/CANDID and modern airmobile light weight vehicles. The PLA recently
increased amphibious ship production to address its lift deficiencies – although the
intelligence community believes these increases will be inadequate to meet requirements
– and is organizing its civilian merchant fleet and militia, which, given adequate
notification, could augment the PLA’s organic lift in amphibious operations.
Notional missions for these forces include: special operations forces to facilitate
amphibious operations and to disrupt critical communication nodes, air defense
capabilities, and critical lines of communication; airborne to seize airfields to facilitate
the flow of follow-on infantry forces; and, Second Artillery reconnaissance elements to
provide targeting information and battle damage assessments.
Combined training for all these units is seldom conducted in a major amphibious assault
exercise. Units tend to train for their missions in garrisons, local areas and regional
training facilities. China’s ability to integrate individual unit actions – or simulate
integration – to assess accurately operational capability, is not known.
Trends in Ground Forces Modernization
Following planned force reductions and reorganizations, mechanized infantry, armored,
and army aviation units will make up a much larger percentage of the ground force.
China is also increasing the capabilities of reserve and militia units, and exploring ways to
outsource some combat service support functions and use civilian assets, such as ships
and aircraft, to support military operations. The fielding of new equipment for the ground
forces has been limited, compared to the other services which are more technology
intensive. Even with downsizing and the consolidation of ground forces into fewer units,
the army remains too large to effect rapid modernization throughout its force structure.
The PLA has shifted from point defense of key military, industrial, and political targets to
a new Joint Anti-Air Raid Campaign doctrine based on a modern, integrated air defense
system capable of effective offensive counter-air (OCA) and defensive counter-air
(DCA). Under this doctrine, the PLA will use aircraft, surface-to-surface missiles, longrange
artillery, special operations forces, naval forces, and guerrilla units to destroy an
enemy’s ability to conduct offensive air operations and provide comprehensive defense
of Chinese airspace.
Beijing has been acquiring foreign and domestic fourth generation tactical aircraft (e.g.,
Su-27 and Su-30 FLANKER variants, and the PLA’s indigenous F-10, which will begin
to enter service in 2005). The PLA has also acquired advanced air-to-surface missiles
that will allow its air forces to attack surface targets, afloat and ashore, from greater
distance and with more precision. Newer aircraft are also being equipped with advanced
air-to-air missiles and electronic warfare technology that give these aircraft technological
parity with or superiority over most potential adversaries.
Trends in Air Force Modernization
The PLA Air Force is replacing older fighters with 3rd and 4th generation aircraft outfitted
with long-range, precision strike weapons for land attack and anti-ship missions and, in
some of these aircraft, in-flight refueling capabilities, which when fully operational, will
extend operating limits. Acquisition and production of AWACS aircraft and the purchase
of additional refueling aircraft will significantly extend the ranges of the modern air fleet.
China is still developing the FB-7, an all-weather, supersonic, medium-range fighterbomber
to have an anti-ship mission. Improvements to the FB-7 most likely will include
a better radar, night-attack avionics, and advanced weapons. China is improving the
capabilities of its special-mission aircraft, with a focus on electronic warfare, C4ISR, and
aerial refueling. China reportedly modified several of its larger aircraft for jamming
missions, and likely has several programs for new standoff and escort jammers using
bombers, transports, tactical aircraft, and UAVs. In addition, China is pursuing domestic
upgrades to its F-8II fighters, and has nearly completed development and testing of an
upgraded FBC-1 long-range fighter/attack aircraft.
The type and number of modern SAMs in Beijing’s inventory is increasing with the
acquisition of Russian-made strategic SA-10 and SA-20 systems. China is reverseengineering
its own version of the SA-10, the HQ-9, which has yet to enter the inventory.
China will likely acquire the extended range S-300PMU2 system in 2006. Acquisition
and deployment of the S-300PMU2 would allow China’s air defenses to engage aircraft
Figure 8. Surface-to-Air Missile Coverage Over the Taiwan Strait
Note: This map depicts notional coverage provided by China’s
SA-10, SA-20 SAM systems, as well as the soon-to-be acquired
S-300PMU2. Actual coverage would be non-contiguous and
dependent upon precise deployment sites.
Preventing foreign military intervention, particularly along China’s coast, has been a goal
for Beijing throughout history, reinforcing the geostrategic value of Taiwan for China’s
security planners. As the Soviet threat ebbed in the late 1980s, China’s concern about its
9,000 mile coastline rose. China’s concept of sea denial in the Western Pacific
subsequently broadened beyond the independent use of naval assets to multi-dimensional
defense using air, surface, and subsurface elements. Reflecting the emphasis China
appears to be placing on anti-access strategies, most of the capabilities believed to fall
under the Assassin’s Mace program are designed to blunt adversaries’ military
advantages or deny entry into the theater of operations.
China is developing capabilities to achieve local sea denial, including naval mines,
submarines, cruise missiles, and special operations forces. Beijing is in serial production
of the domestic SONG-class submarine, acquiring more Russian KILO-class submarines,
developing a new YUAN-class conventional submarine, and developing the Type-093
nuclear attack submarine for missions requiring greater at-sea endurance. China is also
researching the possibility of using ballistic missiles and special operations forces to
strike ships or their ashore support infrastructure. Finally, China is developing or
improving counter-reconnaissance and counterspace capabilities using a range of
solutions from low-tech denial and deception based on camouflage, cover and
concealment, to high-tech lasers and space-tracking devices.
China does not appear to have broadened its concept of operations for anti-access and sea
denial to encompass sea control in waters beyond Taiwan and its immediate periphery. If
China were to shift to a broader "sea control" strategy, the primary indicators would
include: development of an aircraft carrier, development of robust anti-submarine warfare
capabilities, development of a true area anti-air warfare capability, acquisition of large
numbers of nuclear attack submarines, development of effective maritime C4ISR, and
increased open water training.
Protecting Vital Lines of Communication
China’s expanding international presence reflects a growing interest in export markets
and imports of key resources, especially energy. As China’s economy grows, it will
become increasingly concerned with securing resource flows along key lines of
communication. For example, 80 percent of China’s oil imports pass through the Strait
of Malacca. In late 2003, President Hu referred to China’s need to secure its lines of
communication as the "Malacca Dilemma."
With its present force structure, according to the Intelligence Community, Chinese
surface combatants would have difficulty projecting power into the Strait of Malacca,
especially if it were conducting simultaneous blockade or invasion operations elsewhere.
Similarly, although the PLA Navy occasionally patrols as far as the Spratly Islands, its
limited organic air defense capability leaves surface ships vulnerable to attack from
hostile air and naval forces. The PLA Navy Air Force and PLA Air Force currently lack
the operational range to support PLA Navy operations. In recent years, however, the
PLA Navy’s South Sea Fleet, which has operational responsibility over the South China
Sea, has been assigned more capable surface combatants and submarines, including two
destroyers (one LUDA IV class and one LUHAI class) that provide it with its first shortrange
area air-defense capability, the HHQ-7C surface-to-air missile systems.
Figure 9. China’s Critical Sea Lines of Communication
Note: In 2004, over 80 percent of Chinese crude oil imports transited the Straits of Malacca, with less than 2 percent transiting the Straits of Lombok.
China’s logistics reform features the integration of the civil sector with the military
procurement system as a modern adaptation of "people’s war." Under this concept, the
PLA will acquire common and dual-use items on the market. Increasing numbers of
logistics functions will be outsourced, especially when civilian industry can perform
similar functions at lower costs. In addition, the PLA is placing greater emphasis on the
mobilization of the civilian economy, both in peacetime and in war, to support national
defense in industry, agriculture, communication and transport, science and technology,
medical care and health, urban construction, commerce and trade, and finance.
Since 2000, China has improved the structure, material coordination, and efficiency of its
joint logistics system. However, the command system is still not compatible with the
support system, and organization and planning is incompatible with supply management.
The first experimental joint logistics unit was created only in July 2004.
Space and Counterspace
Beijing has focused on building the infrastructure to develop advanced space-based
C4ISR and targeting capabilities. Building a modern ISR architecture is likely one of the
primary drivers behind Beijing’s space endeavors and a critical component of its overall
C4ISR modernization efforts. Beijing’s ongoing space-based programs with potential
military applications include:
• China launched its first manned spacecraft into Earth orbit on October 15, 2003.
Chinese press reports indicate that it will send up a two-person crew on a five-day
mission in September 2005.
• China has two remote-sensing satellite programs known as Ziyuan-1 (ZY-1), also
known as the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite, and ZY-2. China launched the
ZY-1B in October 2003. A third ZY-2 satellite was launched in October 2004. ZY-2
payloads probably are digital imagery reconnaissance satellites and have worldwide
coverage. Beijing also tested new film-based imagery satellites and small digital
imagery satellites in 2003 and 2004.
• China is interested in electronic intelligence (ELINT) or signals intelligence
(SIGINT) reconnaissance satellites. Although these digital data systems probably
will be able to transmit directly to ground sites, China may be developing a system of
data relay satellites to support global coverage. Furthermore, Beijing has acquired
mobile data reception equipment that could support more rapid data transmission to
deployed military forces and units.
• China is studying and seeking foreign assistance on small satellites. It has launched a
number of them, including an oceanographic research satellite, Haiyang (HY)-1, in
2002 with at least two more satellites in this series, HY-2 and -3, expected. Beijing
launched four small satellites during 2004; two of these probably have imagery
missions and the other two possibly are conducting space environmental research.
Other missions for satellites of this class include Earth observation, communications,
• China is developing microsatellites – weighing less than 100 kilograms – for remote
sensing and networks of electro-optical and radar satellites. In April 2004 Beijing
launched a microsatellite with a probable imagery mission.
• A joint venture between China's Tsinghua University and the UK’s University of
Surrey is building a constellation of seven minisatellites – a class of satellites
weighing between 101 and 500 kilograms – with 50-meter-resolution remote-sensing
payloads. Later satellites in the series probably will have improved resolution.
Trends in Space Modernization
China seeks to become a world leader in space development and maintain a leading role
in space launch activity. Beijing’s goal is to place a satellite into orbit "within hours
upon request." The Long March series of rockets can support that requirement as long
as adequate satellites remain in reserve. With ever-better satellites, China is becoming a
peer in quality to the world’s leading producers. In manned space, after the two-person
mission scheduled for this fall, China hopes to conduct space walks and docking
missions with a space lab by 2010, followed by a full space station by 2020.
In 2004, China placed 10 satellites into orbit, the most of any year, and has a similar
schedule through 2006. It hopes to have more than 100 satellites in orbit by 2010, and
launch an additional 100 satellites by 2020. In the next decade, Beijing most likely will
field radar, ocean surveillance, and improved film-based photo-reconnaissance satellites.
China will eventually deploy advanced imagery, reconnaissance, and Earth resource
systems with military applications. In the interim, China probably will supplement
existing coverage with commercial SPOT, LANDSAT, RADARSAT, Ikonos, and
Russian satellite imagery systems.
Anti-Satellite Weapons (ASATs). China is working on, and plans to field, ASAT
systems. Beijing has and will continue to enhance its satellite tracking and identification
network – the first step in establishing a credible ASAT capability. China can currently
destroy or disable satellites only by launching a ballistic missile or space-launch vehicle
armed with a nuclear weapon. However, there are many risks associated with this
method, and consequences from use of nuclear weapons. China is also conducting
research to develop ground-based laser ASAT weapons. Based on the level of Chinese
interest in this field, the Defense Intelligence Agency believes Beijing eventually could
develop a laser weapon capable of damaging or destroying satellites. At lower power
thresholds, Chinese researchers may believe that low-energy lasers can "blind" sensors
on low-Earth-orbiting satellites; whether Beijing has tested such a capability is unclear.
Computer Network Operations
China’s computer network operations (CNO) include computer network attack, computer
network defense, and computer network exploitation. The PLA sees CNO as critical to
seize the initiative and "electromagnetic dominance" early in a conflict, and as a force
multiplier. Although there is no evidence of a formal Chinese CNO doctrine, Chinese
theorists have coined the term "Integrated Network Electronic Warfare" to describe the
Chinese approach. This concept outlines the integrated use of electronic warfare, CNO,
and limited kinetic strikes against key C4 nodes to disrupt the enemy’s battlefield
network information systems. The PLA has likely established information warfare units
to develop viruses to attack enemy computer systems and networks, and tactics to protect
friendly computer systems and networks. The PLA has increased the role of CNO in its
military exercises. Although initial training efforts focused on increasing the PLA's
proficiency in defensive measures, recent exercises have incorporated offensive
operations, primarily as first strikes against enemy networks.
PRC FORCE MODERNIZATION AND SECURITY IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT
"Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt
that constitutes a major incident of ‘Taiwan independence,’ the Chinese
people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any
-- China’s National Defense in 2004
The cross-Strait balance of power is shifting toward Beijing as a result of China’s
economic growth, growing diplomatic leverage, and improvements in the PLA’s military
capabilities, including those that provide Beijing options short of full-scale invasion.
Chinese air, naval, and missile force modernization is increasing demands on Taiwan to
develop countermeasures that would enable it to avoid being quickly overwhelmed.
In contrast, Taiwan defense spending has steadily declined in real terms over the past
decade. Taiwan has traditionally acquired capabilities, some asymmetric, to deter an
attack by making it too costly, while buying time for international intervention. Taipei is
continuing to acquire such capabilities, but the growth of PLA capabilities is outpacing
The U.S. Government has made clear that it supports negotiation of a peaceful resolution
and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo. Yet, Beijing’s sustained military buildup
in the area of the Taiwan Strait affects the status quo. As a result, consistent with the
provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act (P.L. 96-8 (1979)), President Bush in April 2001
approved the sale of key systems to correct growing imbalances in critical areas such as
missile and air defense and anti-submarine warfare. A $15.3 billion Special Budget for
the purchase of Patriot PAC-III air defense systems, P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft,
and diesel attack submarines is now before the Taiwan Legislative Yuan.
China’s Strategy in the Taiwan Strait
Beijing views unification as a long-term goal. Its immediate strategy is focused on
deterring Taiwan from moving toward de jure "independence." Its approach to
preventing Taiwan independence is multi-faceted, integrating political, economic,
cultural, and military instruments to coerce and shape Taiwan’s behavior. Beijing insists
that Taipei accept the "one-China" principle, i.e., that there is but one China and Taiwan
is a part of it, as a precondition to any cross-Strait dialogue.
On March 14, 2005, China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, passed the "anti secession law." The law’s passage followed months of speculation by outside observers over
its contents and a simultaneous lobbying effort on the part of Chinese officials to cast the law
in benign terms, while closely guarding the draft of the text. The law itself is broken into ten
articles that codify, or render as legal instruments, policies and statements applied by the
Chinese government to the Taiwan question. Key elements are described below.
Article Oneestablishes that the law was formulated for the purpose of "opposing and
checking Taiwan’s secession from China."
Article Tworestates Beijing’s "One China" definition – Taiwan is part of China – and that
China "shall never allow" Taiwan to secede from China "under any name or by any means."
Article Threeasserts that the Taiwan matter is part of China’s internal affairs and is subject
to "no interference by outside forces."
Article Fourstates that China’s reunification is the "sacred duty" of "all Chinese people,"
including "Taiwan compatriots."
Article Fivereiterates China’s position that acceptance of "One China" is a necessary precondition for peaceful resolution. It does not refer to the "one country, two systems" model, but claims Taiwan would "practice systems different from those on the mainland."
Article Sixenumerates the steps Beijing is willing to take to realize peaceful unification, such
as expanding cross-Strait exchanges, including cultural, economic, educational, science and
technology, health, and sports exchanges. It also refers to "other activities" conducive to
peace and stability, but does not offer details.
Article Sevenspecifies the range of issues that would be subject to negotiation during cross-
Strait consultations. The article states such negotiations would be on an "equal footing."
Article Eightstates the State Council and CMC "shall decide on and execute" non-peaceful
means to "protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity" if "secessionist forces . . .
cause the fact of Taiwan’s secession from China," if "major incidents entailing Taiwan’s
secession" occur, or if "possibilities for peaceful reunification" are exhausted.
Article Nineprovides that during conflict, China will "exert its utmost" to protect lives,
property, and rights of Taiwan civilians and foreign nationals on Taiwan, and the rights of
Taiwan citizens in other parts of China.
Article Ten specifies that the law comes into force on the day of its proclamation.
China continues to declare a policy of peaceful resolution under the "one country, two
systems" framework that offers Taiwan limited autonomy in exchange for Taiwan’s
integration with the mainland. China sees the potential use of force as an integral part of
its policy of dissuading Taiwan from pursuing independence and encouraging it to unite
ultimately with the mainland. Beijing has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan.
The threat of force against Taiwan is now codified in the "anti-secession law," enacted by
the National People’s Congress in March 2005.
The circumstances in which Beijing has historically claimed it would use force against
the island include: a formal declaration of independence by Taipei, foreign intervention
in Taiwan's internal affairs, indefinite delays in the resumption of cross-Strait dialogue,
Taiwan's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and internal unrest on Taiwan. These
circumstances are not fixed and have evolved over the last decade in response to Taiwan
actions and changes in China’s own military capabilities. They are, moreover,
deliberately general, allowing Beijing to determine the timing and form of its response.
Beijing’s Courses of Action against Taiwan
Although the costs of the use of force against Taiwan would be high, Beijing leaders
might use force if they believed they had no other way to prevent Taiwan independence
or, as implied in its "anti-secession law," to guarantee reunification over the long term.
The Chinese Communist Party came to power on its credentials as a defender of Chinese
sovereignty; its leaders appear to see progress – or perhaps, the absence of failure – on
the Taiwan issue as affecting the legitimacy of their rule.
Beijing is developing military capabilities that will enable it to pursue several courses of
action against Taiwan, allowing Chinese leaders more flexibility to apply pressure against
the island and minimize the risks of a military confrontation with the United States. The
PLA is simultaneously developing the capability to deter and/or slow a potential U.S., or
U.S.-led, response to defend Taiwan.
Persuasion and Coercion. China’s current approach to preventing Taiwan independence
combines diplomatic, economic, legal, psychological, and military instruments to
convince Taipei that the price of declaring independence is too high. This strategy
combines the credible threat to use military force with the economic and cultural tools
that China has at its disposal. China uses its growing economic links with Taiwan to
influence political behavior on the island. Beijing seeks to attract more Taiwan
investment in China, while emphasizing that peace in the Strait will bring prosperity.
Beijing is increasing its pressure on Taiwan businessmen operating in China to refrain
from supporting "pro-independence" parties or individuals on Taiwan. Beijing
emphasizes historic, ethnic, and cultural links between Taiwan and the mainland, and
unofficial diplomacy with "Taiwan compatriots" to generate domestic propaganda in
Taiwan in favor of reunification.
Beijing has also intensified its competition with Taiwan in the developing world for
diplomatic recognition. This effort has focused on eroding Taiwan’s diplomatic support
among the 26 remaining countries that recognize Taipei. Simultaneously, using
diplomatic and commercial levers, China has increased pressure on other states to limit
their relationships with and to restrain Taiwan.
Portraying a military threat to Taiwan backstops the overall campaign to isolate Taiwan
diplomatically and pressure Taiwan leaders. Exercises, deployments, and press
operations all contribute to Beijing’s policy of pressure.
Limited Force Options. Beijing could use limited strikes, employing information
operations, special operations forces on Taiwan, and SRBM or air strikes at key military
or political sites, to try to break the will of Taiwan’s leadership and population. Although
Beijing might view these as a complement to non-military coercion and as less than a full
use of force, others may view such actions differently. Such a Chinese miscalculation
could lead to a full-fledged conflict.
Nuclear Weapon/High-Altitude EMP Option.
Some PLA theorists are aware of the electromagnetic effects of using a high-altitude nuclear
burst to generate high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP), and might consider using
HEMP as an unconventional attack, believing the United States and other nations would not
interpret it as a use of force and as crossing the nuclear threshold. This capability would most
likely be used as part of a larger campaign to intimidate, if not decapitate, the Taiwan
leadership. HEMP causes a substantial change in the ionization of the upper atmosphere,
including the ionosphere and magnetosphere. These effects likely would result in the
degradation of important war fighting capabilities, such as key communication links, radar
transmissions, and the full spectrum of electro-optic sensors. Additional effects could include
severe disruptions to civil electric/power and transportation. These effects cannot easily be
localized to Taiwan and would likely affect the mainland, Japan, the Philippines, and
commercial shipping and air routes in the region.
Such a campaign could include computer network attacks against Taiwan’s political,
military, and economic infrastructure to undermine the Taiwan population’s confidence
in its leadership. Simultaneously, PLA special operations forces infiltrated into Taiwan
could conduct acts of economic, political, and military sabotage.
The PLA could also use limited, coordinated SRBM, special operations forces, and air
strikes against air fields, radars, and communications facilities on Taiwan. Beijing could
use the shock of rapid, accurate, and coordinated strikes and their effects on Taiwan’s key
C4ISR nodes to try to push the Taiwan leadership towards accommodation. At the same
time, an information operations campaign on multiple levels could be launched to gain
legitimacy for Beijing’s claims on Taiwan and to reinforce the theme that military
operations were limited to key military infrastructure, not the Taiwan people.
Air and Missile Campaign. Surprise SRBM attacks and precision air strikes could
support a campaign designed to degrade Taiwan defenses, decapitate its military and
political leadership, and break its will to fight rapidly before the United States and other
nations could intervene. To attempt these effects, China could employ SRBMs to
saturate Taiwan’s air defense system, including air bases, radar sites, missiles, and
Beijing sees Washington and, increasingly, Tokyo as the principal hurdles to any attempt to use military force to coerce or capture Taiwan. Beijing might coerce or target other critical
countries to deny or delay their willingness to provide support, basing, overflight rights, or
transit authority to U.S. forces operating in the theater. Deterring, defeating, or delaying foreign intervention ahead of Taiwan’s capitulation is integral to Beijing’s strategy. To that end,
Beijing will pursue political and diplomatic efforts to keep the United States and Japan from
taking action to support Taiwan. The U.S. Intelligence Community also believes China will
consider a sea-denial strategy to attempt to hold at risk U.S. naval forces, including aircraft
carriers and logistic forces, approaching the Taiwan Strait.
Blockade. Beijing could threaten or deploy a naval blockade either as a "non-war"
pressure tactic in the pre-hostility phase or as a transition to active conflict. On one end
of the spectrum, Beijing could declare that ships en route to Taiwan ports must stop in
mainland ports for inspections prior to transiting on to Taiwan. Alternatively, China
could attempt the equivalent of a blockade of Taiwan ports by declaring exercise or
missile closure areas in approaches and roadsteads to ports to divert merchant traffic.
Chinese doctrine also includes activities such as an air blockade, missile attacks, and
mining or otherwise obstructing harbors and approaches.
More traditional methods of blockade would increase the impact on Taiwan, but also
would tax PLA Navy capabilities and raise the potential for direct military confrontation,
particularly with U.S. naval assets. Although sea lanes closer to China (i.e., the South
and East China Seas) could be interdicted, any attempt at a close-in blockade or
operations on the east side of Taiwan would strain the PLA Navy, which lacks significant
replenishment and open ocean surveillance capabilities. More restrictive blockades
increase the likelihood of international intervention. Although any blockade would have
an immediate economic impact, it would take time to realize decisive political results. It
would also increase the opportunity for countervailing U.S. and international pressure
and could lead to the protracted campaign Beijing seeks to avoid.
Amphibious Invasion. An invasion of Taiwan would be a complex and difficult
operation relying upon timing and pre-conditions set by many subordinate campaigns.
Publicly available Chinese writings on amphibious campaigns offer different strategies
for an amphibious invasion of Taiwan. The most prominent of these is the Joint Island
Landing Campaign. The objective of this campaign is to break through or circumvent the
shore defense, establish and build a beachhead, and then launch an attack to split, seize
and occupy the entire island or important targets on the island. To achieve the final
objective of the Joint Island Landing Campaign, a series of sub-campaigns, such as
electronic warfare, naval, and air campaigns, must be executed, including the underlying
Amphibious operations are logistics-intensive and rely for success upon the rapid buildup
of supplies and sustainment ashore and an uninterrupted flow of support thereafter.
This particular amphibious operation would tax the lift capacities of China’s armed forces
needed to provide sustainment for this campaign. Add to these strains the combat
attrition of China’s forces, and an amphibious invasion of Taiwan would be a significant
political and military risk for China’s civilian and military leaders.
The PLA's prospects in an invasion of Taiwan would hinge on: availability of
amphibious and air lift, attrition rates, interoperability of PLA forces, the ability of
China's logistic system to support the necessarily high tempo of operations, Taiwan’s will
to resist, and the speed and scale of third-party intervention.
Factors of Deterrence
China is deterred from taking military action against Taiwan on two levels. It does not yet
possess the military capability to accomplish with confidence its political objectives on the
island, particularly when confronted with outside intervention. Beijing is also deterred by the
potential repercussions of any use of force against Taiwan. According to the Defense
Intelligence Agency, China’s leaders recognize that a war could severely retard economic
development. Taiwan is China’s single largest source of foreign direct investment. An
extended campaign would wreck Taiwan’s economic infrastructure, leading to high
reconstruction costs. International sanctions against Beijing, either by individual states or by
groups of states, could severely damage Beijing’s economic development.
Conflict with Taiwan could also lead to instability on the mainland. Maintaining internal
security in wartime appears to be an important consideration in PLA planning – reflecting
leadership concerns about political stability. Failure would almost certainly result in severe
repercussions for those in the leadership who had advocated such a course of action. A conflict also would severely hurt the image China has sought to project regionally and globally in recent years. If Beijing chose to use force against Taiwan prior to the 2008 Olympics, China would almost certainly face a boycott or loss of the games. Finally, Beijing must calculate the probability of U.S. intervention in any conflict in the Taiwan Strait. It views the United States as having advantages over China in many scenarios involving the use of military force. China’s leaders also calculate a conflict over Taiwan involving the United States would give rise to a long-term hostile relationship between the two nations – a result that would not be in China’s interests.
CHINA AND TAIWAN FORCES DATA