China’s White Paper on National Military Strategy
At the global level China is concerned about the US which is carrying on its ‘rebalancing’ strategy and is enhancing its military presence and its military alliances in this region
At the global level China is concerned about the US which is carrying on its ‘rebalancing’ strategy and is enhancing its military presence and its military alliances in this region.
THE RISE OF CHINA as an economic superpower and its economic superiority over the West has impacted upon the world in different ways. The whole world is wondering how China will leverage its economic and political power in the future and this will be indeed one of the most important factors in determining the security dynamics of Asia in the 21st century. It is in this context that the China’s first White Paper on National Military Strategy in May 2015 is relevant and vital for a broader understanding of their aims and aspirations, and the thrust and direction of their military modernisation.
Some western observers seem to suggest that the paper reflects a new Chinese aggressiveness, especially in connection with tensions in the South China Sea. A detailed perusal, however, suggests that the document is not a response to current events, but rather it is a strategic plan which defines their future thrust areas for acquiring new military capabilities. A close reading of the paper reveals many remarkable aspects. Some of these aspects are explained in the succeeding paragraphs.
China readily accepts that its destiny is tied to the destiny of the whole world. This is obvious because its economy depends upon the markets all over the world moreover its inordinately high requirement of oil and gas is also dependent upon the energy rich nations of the world which requires a strong healthy political relationship with all concerned. Hence China feels that a prosperous and stable world would provide China with opportunities, while China’s peaceful development also offers an opportunity for the whole world.
At the global level China is concerned about the US which is carrying on its ‘rebalancing’ strategy and is enhancing its military presence and its military alliances in this region. It is also wary of Japan which is now overhauling its military structure and policies. It is critical of the countries which have maritime claims in South China Sea. It continues its claims on the reunification of Taiwan and what it calls as national rejuvenation.
At the regional level its possessive attitude and aggressiveness about the South China Sea is obvious from the statement: Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China.
China feels that with the growth of its national security it is more vulnerable to international and regional turmoil, terrorism, piracy, serious natural disasters and epidemics, and the security of overseas interests concerning energy and resources, strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs), as well as institutions, personnel and assets abroad, has become an imminent issue.
The White Paper focuses on the new revolution in military technology (RMA) involving long-range, precise, smart, stealthy and unmanned weapons and equipment, outer space and cyber space issues and the importance of information technology in future wars and therefore refers to the restructuring of military forces and the transformation required.
China has spelt out its national aim of a moderately prosperous society by 2021 and a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by 2049 when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) marks its centenary.
Tasks for Armed Forces
Towards the fulfilment of the aims given above it sees the following strategic tasks for the armed forces: To deal with a wide range of emergencies and military threats, and effectively safeguard the sovereignty and security of China’s territorial land, air and sea. To resolutely safeguard the unification of the motherland. To safeguard China’s security and interests in new domains. To safeguard the security of China’s overseas interests. To maintain strategic deterrence and carry out nuclear counterattack. To participate in regional and international security cooperation and maintain regional and world peace. To strengthen efforts in operations against infiltration, separatism and terrorism so as to maintain China’s political security and social stability. To perform such tasks as emergency rescue and disaster relief, rights and interests protection, guard duties, and support for national economic and social development.
As far as its strategic thought is concerned, it continues to advocate the strategic concept of active defence which it states is the essence of the CPC’s military strategic thought. It explains that from the long experience of the revolutionary wars the people’s armed forces have developed a complete set of strategic concepts of active defence, which essentially are: adherence to the unity of strategic defence and operational and tactical offense; adherence to the principles of defence, self-defence and post-emptive strike; and adherence to the stance that “We will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked.”
In 2004, the strategic guideline for active defence enumerated in 1993 was modified. PMS which means making preparation for military struggle was modified in 2004 to winning local wars under conditions of informationisation (their term for this era of information technology). China also seems to have accepted that the future wars will demand use of integrated combat forces to prevail in system-versus-system operations featuring information dominance, precision strikes and joint operations.
Capabilities that China Wants to Acquire
The capabilities that it wants to acquire service wise are given below:
In keeping with the strategic requirement of mobile operations and multi-dimensional offense and defence, the PLA Army (PLAA) is looking at trans-theater mobility. It will focus on building small, multifunctional and modular units, and will adapt itself to tasks in different regions, develop the capacity for different types of warfare including joint operations. PLA Navy (PLAN) is shifting its focus from ‘ offshore waters defence’ to the combination of ‘offshore waters defense’ with ‘open seas protection,’ and build a combined, multi-functional and efficient marine combat force structure. It is looking at enhancing its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack, maritime manoeuvres, joint operations at sea, comprehensive defence and comprehensive support, thus acquiring blue water capability. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) is shifting focus from territorial air defence to both defence and offense, and build an aerospace force structure that can meet the requirements of informationised operations. The PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) will strengthen its capabilities for strategic deterrence and nuclear counterattack, and medium- and long-range precision strikes. The Peoples Armed Police Force (PAPF) will enhance its capabilities for performing diversified tasks centering on guard duty and contingency response in informationised conditions.
Maritime Force: It is emphasising on the need to develop a modern maritime military force structure commensurate with its national security and development interests including overseas interests, thus it attempting to building itself into a maritime power.
Outer Space: It is also keeping itself abreast of the dynamics of outer space, deal with security threats and challenges in that domain, and secure its space assets to serve its national economic and social development, and maintain outer space security.
Cyber: It is expediting the development of a cyber force, and enhances its capabilities of cyberspace situation awareness, cyber defence to support the country’s endeavours in cyberspace.
Nuclear Force Structure: It is optimising its nuclear force structure, improving strategic early warning, command and control, missile penetration, rapid reaction, and survivability and protection, with a view to deterring other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China.
Logistic System: It is also attempting to build a logistics system that can provide support for fighting and winning modern wars, serve the modernisation of the armed forces, and transform towards informationisation.
Training: As far as training is concerned China wants to improve institutional education, unit training and military professional education, so as to pool more talented people and cultivate more personnel who can meet the demands of informationised warfare.
Advanced Military Theories: It is also focusing on developing theories so as to bring into place a system of advanced military theories commensurate with the requirement of winning future wars.
Preparedness/Readiness for War
In keeping with the complex strategic requirement China’s armed forces are looking at innovative ways of preparing for and achieving readiness for future wars which it calls PMS in both traditional (conventional) warfare and new in security domains (new challenges such as terrorism, space and cyber). Keeping these threats and challenges in mind, it is adapting itself to the upgrading of weapons and equipment as well as changes in organisational structures and doctrines.
While the stated position of China is of peaceful development but many countries are not prepared to accept this stated position. India is facing China’s increasing claims on its territory in which they now claim the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as a part of Southern Tibet. While China has resolved its boundary disputes (less maritime boundaries) with almost all its neighbours, there is little progress in the case of India, despite the upgradation of boundary talks to the political level. A distinct hardening of the Chinese position and aggressiveness on the borders with India is discernible. In this context, the rapid integration of Tibet with the mainland, and upgrading of strategic infrastructure in the region are a cause of concern.
In China, the current regime’s stability, focused leadership, and sustained economic growth and a double digit growth in their defence budgets for the past two decades so far gives positive indicators for their military modernisation and leads us to believe that they will achieve what they have set out in their White Paper. However, imponderables like social and economic imbalances within China, responses of global powers and players like US, Japan, EU and others and China’s armed forces ability to absorb state-ofthe-art technology will dictate the level of success of such modernisation in future.
PRC is dependent on latest acquisitions mainly from Russia and Israel and these account for approximately 60 to 70 per cent of modern weaponary as against 30 per cent indigenous production. In next two decades PRC would like to reverse this trend. China’s continued dependence on foreign military technology does not provide the assurance that the PLA will be able to threaten the global or even Asia-Pacific balance of power in the next two decades or so. However the hardware that China is buying, or seeking to buy, allows us to discern potential capabilities that cannot be ignored.
While we can debate regarding the extent of China’s military capabilities in the future, India’s capabilities are indeed at its lowest level currently. In every service and indeed in every department/ arm of every service there are glaring voids. Moreover most of the equipment held especially in the army has seen better days. Our political and bureaucratic leadership have failed to equip our forces to meet the future threats and challenges.