China’s Mil­i­tary Mod­erni­sa­tion

Much of the PLA’S success over the next decade will be de­ter­mined by how ef­fec­tively it in­te­grates emerg­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and plat­forms into the force. Over the past decade, China has ben­e­fited from ro­bust in­vest­ment in mod­ern hard­ware and tech­nol­ogy, whic

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Dr Monika Chansoria

By most ac­counts, the PLA is on track to achieve its goal of build­ing a mod­ern, re­gion­ally-fo­cused mil­i­tary by 2020.

T HE RE­LENT­LESS DE­BATE SUR­ROUND­ING the mil­i­tary rise of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (PRC) only seems to get more vo­cif­er­ous with each pass­ing day. With ex­hi­bi­tion of con­sis­tently higher stages of eco­nomic growth, the mil­i­tary spend­ing power of China is only bound to in­crease, thereby im­ply­ing rapid and ex­pand­ing prow­ess and in­flu­ence within Asia and be­yond. The mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme ini­ti­ated for­mally by the Chi­nese lead­er­ship in De­cem­ber 1978 has en­tered its 34th year. The Chi­nese lead­er­ship is pri­ori­tis­ing on fos­ter­ing a pos­i­tive ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment to fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic growth by virtue of ex­pand­ing its diplo­matic in­flu­ence to gain greater ac­cess to mar­kets and re­sources, and si­mul­ta­ne­ously main­tain sta­bil­ity along its pe­riph­ery.

Ever since the reign of Mao Ze­dong, main­tain­ing the very ex­is­tence of PRC and be­ing led by the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP), has been the top ob­jec­tive of the na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy of China. Specif­i­cally, at that given point, the said strate­gic ob­jec­tive was that of the PRC be­ing able to sur­vive the coming war, ir­re­spec­tive of whether the war was con­ven­tional or nu­clear. China’s Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) chose mil­i­tary plan­ning pol­icy as its fo­cal ob­jec­tive from 1949 on­wards since ‘sur­vival’ was no longer the pri­mary press­ing con­cern.

For al­most half a cen­tury now, Asia’s tec­tonic plates of power shift have ac­cepted the pos­si­bil­ity of China re­turn­ing to its tra­di­tional role as the cen­tral ac­tor in Asia. To achieve this end, Bei­jing is dili­gently work­ing to­wards at­tain­ing ‘com­pre­hen­sive na­tional power’ ( zonghe guoli) and ac­cru­ing tra­di­tional at­tributes of power, re­sult­ing in per­pet­u­at­ing rule of the CCP, sus­tain­ing eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment, main­tain­ing domestic po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, de­fend­ing na­tional sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and se­cur­ing China’s sta­tus as a great power.

The most prover­bial com­po­nents of the Chi­nese way of war and di­plo­macy are bingy­izha li (war is based on de­cep­tion), chu-qi zhi-sheng (win through un­ex­pected moves), yin-di zhi-sheng (gain vic­tory by vary­ing one’s strat­egy and tac­tics ac­cord­ing to the en­emy’s sit­u­a­tion), hou-fazhi-ren (fight back and gain the up­per hand only af­ter the en­emy has ini­ti­ated fight­ing), sheng-dong ji-xi (make a feint to the east but at­tack in the west), in ad­di­tion to many more.

China’s cur­rent mil­i­tary strat­egy con­tin­ues to at­tach im­por­tance to the build­ing of the Army; how­ever, it has ac­corded pri­or­ity to the build­ing of the Navy, Air Force and Sec­ond Ar­tillery Force in or­der to achieve a balanced com­bat force struc­ture. This is aimed at strength­en­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties for win­ning both com­mand of the sea and com­mand of the air, as well as con­duct­ing strate­gic counter strikes.

A ma­jor com­po­nent of Mao Ze­dong’s mil­i­tary thought cen­tred on “ac­tive de­fence” ( jiji fangyu), is of­ten re­ferred to as China’s “mil­i­tary strat­egy” or “strate­gic guide­line”. The fun­da­men­tal rule of “ac­tive de­fence” as­serts that China will strike only af­ter the en­emy has struck. How­ever, the line be­tween ac­cept­ing the en­emy’s first strike and the use of pre-emp­tion to de­fend China from an im­me­di­ate at­tack crit­i­cally re­mains blurred.

In the March 2009 speech to mil­i­tary del­e­gates of China’s Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPC), Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao urged the mil­i­tary to con­cen­trate not only in build­ing core mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but also the abil­ity to carry out mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions other than war ( fei

zhanzheng jun­shi xing­dong). China’s long-term, com­pre­hen­sive mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion is aimed at im­prov­ing the PLA’s ca­pac­ity to con­duct high-in­ten­sity, re­gional mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions—anti-ac­cess and area de­nial (A2AD) op­er­a­tions. The PLA is giv­ing pri­or­ity to the devel­op­ment of tac­ti­cal mis­siles, sur­face-toair mis­siles and spe­cial op­er­a­tions forces, to in­crease its ca­pa­bil­i­ties for land-air in­te­grated op­er­a­tions, long-dis­tance ma­noeu­vres, rapid as­sault and spe­cial op­er­a­tions.

The grow­ing ex­panse of China’s mil­i­tary reach has firmly been demon­strated in 2011 with the suc­cess­ful test­ing of two weapon sys­tems/fa­cil­i­ta­tors in the realm of mil­i­tary hard­ware — the fifth gen­er­a­tion J-20 radar-evad­ing stealth fighter rolled out in Jan­uary 2011, fol­lowed by Bei­jing’s first air­craft car­rier, the Varyag, of Ukrainian ori­gin in Au­gust 2011. Fur­ther­ing this ref­er­ence, the mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties be­ing ac­cen­tu­ated in­clude ad­vance­ment of cruise mis­siles in­clud­ing the ground­launched CJ-10 land-at­tack cruise mis­sile (LACM), and the ground- and ship-launched YJ-62 anti-ship cruise mis­sile (ASCM). Be­sides, the fo­cus on short- and medi­um­range con­ven­tional bal­lis­tic mis­siles (SRBMs and MRBMs), con­tin­ues un­abated, and this can be read in cor­re­la­tion to cre­at­ing mil­i­tary pres­sure against re­gional play­ers, in­clud­ing In­dia. The vari­ants of China’s DF-21 (CSS-5) MRBM with a range of more than 1,750 km hold a po­ten­tial to tar­get In­dia. Be­sides, China has also con­firmed de­vel­op­ing an anti-ship bal­lis­tic mis­sile (ASBM) based on a vari­ant of the DF-21 MRBM.

China’s Sec­ond Ar­tillery Corps—the strate­gic mis­sile force which con­trols both nu­clear bal­lis­tic and con­ven­tional mis­siles—is mod­ernising the SRBMs by field­ing ad­vanced vari­ants with im­proved ranges and pay­loads. The Pen­tagon has as­serted that the PLA is field­ing greater num­bers of con­ven­tional MRBMs to con­duct pre­ci­sion strikes against wider ranges on land tar­gets, naval ships and air­craft car­ri­ers op­er­at­ing from be­yond China’s first is­land chain. This chain is an in­vis­i­ble line stretch­ing from the Ja­panese Ar­chi­pel­ago, Ryukyu Is­lands, Tai­wan, and the Philip­pines; stretch­ing till the South China Sea. China’s em­pha­sis on its mis­sile force ca­pa­ble of launch­ing stand­off pre­ci­sion strikes will get strength­ened by 2015, when the PLA is ex­pected to field ad­di­tional road-mo­bile DF-31A in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles (ICBMs) and en­hanced silo-based DF-5 (CSS-4) ICBMs. China’s nu­clear ar­se­nal cur­rently con­sists of about 50-75 silo-based, liq­uid-fu­elled and road-mo­bile, solid-fu­elled ICBMs.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est 2012 report submitted by the US De­part­ment of De­fense to the US Congress, China is ex­pected to dis­play and press for a con­tin­u­ing pat­tern of mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion. The Pen­tagon’s report delves into assess­ing the cur­rent and po­ten­tial fu­ture course of tech­no­log­i­cal mil­i­tary ad­vance­ment of the PLA. Terming the de­clas­si­fied report re­leased by the Pen­tagon as a “Cold-war style prac­tice”, China’s of­fi­cial Xin­hua news agency re­buffed the find­ings by terming them as “spec­u­la­tive de­scrip­tions”. How­ever, as a mat­ter of fact, amidst wide spec­u­la­tion that in­her­ent eco­nomic pres­sures could be­come a pri­mary driver for a

China’s cur­rent mil­i­tary strat­egy con­tin­ues to at­tach im­por­tance to the build­ing of the Army. How­ever, it has also ac­corded pri­or­ity to the build­ing of the Navy, Air Force and Sec­ond Ar­tillery Force in or­der to achieve a balanced com­bat force struc­ture.

slow­down of the PLA’s mod­erni­sa­tion cam­paign, China chose to sig­nal its in­tent to the world by an­nounc­ing a plan to boost de­fence spend­ing to 11.2 per cent in 2012. This im­plies that mil­i­tary spend­ing shall cross the $100 bil­lion mark of­fi­cially for the first time to ap­prox­i­mately 670 bil­lion yuan ($106.4 bil­lion). At this rate, it is es­ti­mated that China’s de­fence bud­getary in­vest­ments will race ahead at 18.75 per cent and is likely to touch $238.2 bil­lion by 2015.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, the cen­tral premise in Chi­nese mil­i­tary think­ing is that if the coun­try ever has to de­fend it­self, it should be pre­pared to con­duct “war­fare be­yond all bound­aries and lim­i­ta­tions”. Per­haps the most cru­cial among the ‘be­yond rules’ cri­te­ria is man­i­fested in the form of Bei­jing’s at­tempts to sharpen its cam­paign of ‘in­for­ma­tion­i­sa­tion’, and asym­met­ric ca­pa­bil­i­ties are vis­i­ble as it has un­leashed its cy­ber war and space po­ten­tial.

China’s re­solve to “fight and win lo­cal wars on its bor­ders” poses a chal­lenge to re­gional sta­bil­ity. China’s con­ven­tional and strate­gic forces cou­pled with ef­forts at joint op­er­a­tional train­ing and im­prove­ments in lo­gis­tics are likely to con­tinue, thus re­sult­ing in the en­hance­ment of the mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties of China. An in­stance of Bei­jing’s long-term ob­jec­tive re­gard­ing the fu­ture of Ti­bet, which is read in cor­re­la­tion to the larger con­cept of Chi­nese na­tional in­te­gra­tion, can be seen in the rapid buildup of mil­i­tary in­fra­struc­ture in the Ti­bet Au­tonomous Re­gion. Af­ter con­duct­ing its first live mil­i­tary ex­er­cise in Ti­bet in 2010, the PLA re­cently re­hearsed cap­ture of moun­tain passes at heights be­yond 5,000 me­tres, while con­ced­ing that “con­duct of mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions on plateau with an el­e­va­tion of more than 4,500 me­tres is an ex­treme chal­lenge”. By means of an of­fi­cial report from the Chi­nese De­fence Min­istry, the ex­er­cise was de­scribed as the “first joint ac­tual-troop drill of the PLA air and ground troops un­der in­for­ma­tion-based con­di­tions in frigid area with a high al­ti­tude,” the joint drill in­volved the Chi­nese Air Force, ground troops, ar­moured col­umns and a range of sup­port en­ti­ties. PLA plan­ning from thereon as­sumed that fu­ture mil­i­tary con­tin­gen­cies could erupt with­out much warn­ing. There­fore, rapid re­ac­tion forces had to be ready at a moment’s no­tice.

Much of the PLA’s success over the next decade will be de­ter­mined by how ef­fec­tively it in­te­grates emerg­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and plat­forms into the force. Over the past decade, China has ben­e­fited from ro­bust in­vest­ment in mod­ern hard­ware and tech­nol­ogy, which makes the decade from 2011 through 2020 even more cru­cial. By most ac­counts, the PLA is on track to achieve its goal of build­ing a mod­ern, re­gion­ally-fo­cused mil­i­tary by 2020. Asia’s geostrate­gic par­a­digm would con­tinue to get eclipsed by se­cu­rity dilem­mas flow­ing out of lack of trans­parency and lim­ited dis­sem­i­na­tion of mil­i­tary in­for­ma­tion by China. In light of the in­creased fo­cus and in­vest­ments in mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties by the PLA, in­ter­pre­ta­tions of power pro­jec­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties that could de­pose any/all re­gional and global strate­gic cal­cu­la­tions re­main ga­lore.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: Wikipedia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.