Monday, December 27, 2010

Research Paper on China

Research Paper on China

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) has become the biggest challenge to China's economic development and military modernisation at the turn of the new millennium. To the Chinese political and military leaders RMA is not only a new military theory, it also promises a new type of war of mass destruction. The Chinese leadership has genuine reasons to be worried. The countries most vigorously advancing RMA and most capable of bringing the theory into reality are all China's potential opponents. The US is particularly using RMA to consolidate its military superiority in the decades to come. [1] Worse still, for a long time to come the PLA will have very limited capabilities to deal with the war of mass destruction brought about by RMA, nor will it be able to achieve breakthroughs in military technology necessary for applying RMA in its own defence modernisation. It is likely that China may be left further behind, as RMA helps the superpower achieve a new qualitative leap in its power projection in the new century. Exactly because of the gravity of the issue to China's long term national security the Chinese military has shown enormous enthusiasm learning, absorbing and applying RMA in its own catching up efforts. If China can successfully translate the RMA concepts into its strategic guideline, weapons program and force restructuring, given time the PLA will take on a new look and the whole Asia-Pacific region will feel the consequences.



Embracing the Revolution in Military Affairs
The Chinese military research learned the concept of RMA quite early when they noticed that the Soviet military circles started to discuss revolution in military technological affairs in the 1970s. At the time the US defence analysts also caught up with this Soviet term which made nervous. They thought that the USSR was sending out signals that it had obtained some superiority over the US due to its scientific and technological breakthroughs. Only later did the US discover that the Soviet research on revolution in military technological affairs was actually aimed at studying the innovations in US military thinking, which were stimulated by the great leap forward in hi-tech discoveries. The systematic study of the linkage between technology and military affairs in both superpowers resulted in a foresighted prediction that revolution in information technology would fundamentally transform the way the war was pursued. [2]

RMA has been brought to prominence only recently by the military actions in the 1990s, such as the Dessert Storm and the Kosovo War, which revealed the new dimensions of battle-field combat. However, as the first group of eager learners, the Chinese seriously studied the discussion of RMA in the US and USSR. Since the 1980s they have published a large number of articles on RMA, anticipating that something revolutionary may soon happen in military science and armed conflict. Immediately after the official adoption of Deng's “people's war under modern conditions” in the early 1980s, the CMC launched a nationwide campaign to study how the PLA would fight in the turn of the century. In 1987 a strategist in the PLA Academy of Military Science stated that a qualitative change in military science was in the making. This change was stimulated by the development of hi-tech conventional armory, such as laser and fixed energy weapons systems, whose effect was increasingly approaching that of nuclear weaponry. [3] In a keynote speech to the PLA's first all-services conference on the future war in 1986, General Zhang Zhen, the second in ranking in the PLA in the 1990s, said he believed that if the PLA could not foresee the developmental trend of military science, it would be further left behind. [4] Since the mid- 1990s the concept of RMA has attracted enormous interest in the rank of file of the PLA, which witnessed the prototype application of RMA ideas by the US in real wars. In a sense China is fortunate to have been exposed to such international events and technological revolution at a time when its leadership is under minimal ideological constraint. This unprecedented level of political relaxation has permitted PLA researchers to take a realistic approach to the study of new wars. Now it has actually become a vogue for PLA soldiers to talk about RMA. Andrew Marshall, Stephen Blank, Martin Libiki, and others have been quoted frequently.

Such a PLA zeal to learn RMA has surprised many western analysts. "Surprised" in a way that RMA is an invention by the advanced military powers but is now embraced so eagerly by China whose technological foundation can hardly sustain any real PLA attempts to put RMA into practice, let alone its traditional propensity against the West's ideological penetration. This has told a lot of the PLA today which is much more open and pragmatic. As pointed out by Michael Pillsbury, the PLA's elaboration of the RMA has shaken up western notions about the backwardness of the PLA's strategic planning. Indeed, the very fact that RMA is studied in China is an indication of the PLA's advance; besides the Chinese, only Americans and Russian wrote on the subject in the early 1990s. [5]

RMA and the Three Schools of Thought in the PLA
Within the PLA, however, it is quite clear that many influential PLA generals entertain reservations about RMA, as they insist that the concept is far away from the PLA's reality. Currently there are three schools of thoughts in the PLA, each debating with the other two over what should be the best strategic guidelines for China's future military modernisation. The first school of thought is that of "people's war", supporting either the Maoist original version or the Dengist revision. The people of this school of thought are remaining Long Marchers who still exert influence in the PLA and their close associates in active service. They believe that given the present backwardness of the country's military technology, the PLA has no choice but depend on people's power and its current equipment to frustrate any enemy's invasion. [6] The number of people in this school of thought is the smallest among the three. Yet their argument cannot be entirely dismissed: the US defeat in Vietnam and the Soviet disgrace in Afghanistan showed that the form of people's war is not without its logic in the defence of a continental country. The US is fearful of casualties. Therefore, the usefulness of people's war has not been exhausted against a land war threat of the superpower even in the hi-tech era. Certainly, the influence of Long Marchers is continuously dwindling because even people in this school have realised that what China may face in a future war is not an invasion on its land mass but either lightening air and missile surgical strikes or sustained air and missile bombardment, as seen in Kosovo in 1999.

At the present the majority of PLA generals still belong to the school of hi-tech warfare. Led by powerful military leaders such as Admiral Liu Huaqing, former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), (retired in 1997), these senior officers man the key PLA positions and run its daily affairs. This school of thought concludes that China has not yet entered information age and so it has not had a solid technological foundation for practising RMA. Their view is similar to the prediction of US analysts that RMA can happen in China only after the second decade of the next century. [7] In addition to timing, this school also differs the school of RMA in that the latter takes a more integrated view on the features of information warfare (IW). More importantly, people in this school do not envisage an urgent need for a fundamental overhaul of China's armed forces in the foreseeable future. They agree to some restructuring of the PLA, giving more emphasis on the development of the specialised services, such as the air force and navy. [8] Yet they dismiss the idea of establishing digital army divisions and constructing digitalised battle-field as relevant to China's military modernisation. For instance, they believe it is too early to think of preparation for replacing the current C3I system linking the CMC, seven military regions and a number of war zones with a new integrated five-dimensional C3I system (Land, sea, air, space, and electronic space) that removes the current functional divisions of command between geographical locations and different services. In other wards this school of thought stresses only individual aspects of IW, although it acknowledges the changing patterns, modes and processes of hi-tech wars. [9] China's current national defence strategy bears the name of this school of thought whose specific features are discussed in the later section.

In contrast, the RMA school of thought theoretically tends to aggregate all the features of IW and analyses these features in a forward leaning manner. The number of true believers of RMA in the PLA is small and clearly many of them are simply copying the minds of their US colleagues without a real grasp of the nature of the concept. These enthusiastic supporters of RMA are those war planners in the headquarters of PLA specialised services and the academic staff in PLA education and research institutions. It is they who have spearheaded the study of advanced western military ideas and convinced PLA top brass that times have changed. They are young, well read, visionary, and anxious to create a new PLA that is more professional than revolutionary. They favour China's modernisation but reject its wholesale westernisation. They entertain strong nationalist feelings but oppose closed-doorism. More interestingly, they see communism as irrelevant to China's goal of self-strengthening but accept the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the vehicle for the realisation of that national goal. Painfully conscious of their country's present state of military backwardness, they seem to harbor a suppressed ambition which may explode in hawkish rhetorics concerning China's sovereignty disputes. [10] Looking into the future they will wield increasingly more influence within the PLA and even over national politics as a whole. Partly this is because they are strategically positioned in PLA headquarters at various levels with a promising upward career ahead. In PLA tertiary institutions they are teaching the future PLA leaders and forging useful personal networks with them. More importantly, their views on RAM are based on their understanding of technological development in the new century and this has won them firm support of the Chinese leader Jiang Zemin who, as a foresighted technocrat himself, is very enthusiastic about RMA. This has been the fundamental reason for RMA to become so popular in the PLA, as those RMA advocates get better chances of promotion with Jiang's blessing. It is safe to predict that when these people are in senior commanding posts in the new millennium the future development of the PLA will be guided more visibly by the ideas of RMA.

The significance of the debate among the three schools of thoughts is that before technocrats took over the leadership in the CCP and military, technology was only one of the changing variables in the formulation of national defence strategy. The generalists-dominated leadership had a natural tendency of belittling the role of technology, as reflected by Mao who eyed nuclear bombs as paper tigers. Now the technocrats have a real grasp of the technological revolution and consciously direct the military decision-making process based on the current and future technological innovations. This has eventually resulted in the Party's new political line of transforming the PLA from a quantitative to qualitative military, formally discarding a long PLA tradition that identified strength with large numbers of infantry soldiers. As one senior PLA theorist commented: It is inevitable that a military has to evolve from drawing physical strength from numbers (tineng) to relying on technological hardware (jineng) to becoming eventually a military of intelligence (zhineng). [11]

However, what should be mentioned here is that it is a mistake to believe that the three schools of thought have created deep cleavages in the PLA. The PLA has a general consensus that information age has arrived, and the technological breakthroughs in the world have profoundly altered the way of fighting. All PLA personnel agree that China needs to catch up with this change. At the same time they take useful elements of each school to fit in the changed time. The idea of people's war is regarded as still valid in some circumstances, e.g. in a territorial conventional war against an invading enemy. The hi-tech strategy school of thought is designed to deal with limited regional hi-tech wars, the main type of action China is preparing for. In a war as such the PLA will rely on its hi-tech capable elite units, especially the specialised services to carry out war plans. At the moment this is probably all the PLA can do with its limited amount of hi-tech hardware. In the future when China has achieved solid technological foundation and the PLA has overcome its current equipment vacuum, it will be better able to implement the ideas of RMA, utilising advanced military satellites, miniatured super computers and long-range precision weapons to digitalise its armed forces. So the RMA school of thought is for now rather a philosophical blueprint than a practical roadmap for China's defence. It is only growth in China's comprehensive national strength that can make RMA a real guide for the PLA's war preparation and thus unify the thinking of its high command.

Understanding and Sinifying RMA
For the time being the PLA has worked hard to understand the effects of RMA on the military establishments. In 1998 the PLA National Defence University convened a major workshop on RMA. The participants tried to work out a definition of RMA. They agreed that RMA was made up of five revolutions: military thinking of the officers, military technology, military equipment, strategic theory and force structure. They also agreed that the core of RMA was fast development of information technology which spearheads RMA. [12] In a way the workship has played an important role to systemise the PLA's effort of learning RMA. Indeed, the PLA's effort in this regard has caught attention of an American professor at the Armed Forces Staff College who commented: "the Chinese defence analysts appear to be at the cutting edge of the implications of information war for traditional institutions such as the military." [13] What exactly has the PLA learned from RMA? Major General Chen Youyuan, director of the Officers Training Bureau in the General Staff Department, summarises the key features of the RMA, as understood by the PLA.

According to him, RMA is profoundly altering the world military in the following areas:
* RMA is changing the components of the armed forces, especially for the campaign formation between different services;
* RMA is introducing new combat means;
* RMA is generating much larger combat space;
* RMA is creating new modes of operations;
* RMA is inventing new methods of combat engagement.

All this in turn propels the military to make theoretical breakthroughs so as to accommodate these new developments in technology and combat operations. In his view the PLA has, together with other major military powers, entered an existing era of new military thinking, new military ideas and new military concepts. Thus whoever fails to follow RMA will be beaten in the further. [14]

In studying RMA PLA thinkers have indeed come up with a number of new ideas that they want to incorporate into their planning for the long term modernisation of the Chinese armed forces. Among other things the following are some of their findings:

* Strike from long distance. New sophisticated terminal guidance systems and precision weapons have made possible for the beyond vision attack. This will minimise human engagement and greatly reduce casualties. PLA researchers have noticed the US's new concepts of combat such as "disengagement and indirect assault", and "concentrated firepower but dispersed manpower". They accept the claims by US military experts that in the distant future tank battles, aircraft "dog-fight" and exchange of fires by warships' big guns will become history. [15]

*Small-sized battle formation without compromising the strength and outcome. Crack force structure and simple-layer C3I systems are more suitable for IW which is more characterised by combat between hardware/software than between men. Digitalised and precision ammunition have multiplied the fire power of campaign units. Therefore, a small hi-tech force can overpower an army ten times more numerous. Digitalisation is particular a key indicator of a military of the future. It provides a high level of battle-field transparency to the side which has the means of multi-dimensional intellegence acquisition.

* Linkage between superiority in information and victory of an operation. Information technology has not only become an indispensable means for better command and communication, it has also constituted an effective weapon to be used to kill the enemies directly. Combat between opposing militaries is first of all between their capabilities to gather, process, analyse information. So combat engagement begins long before solders shoot at each other and it may have become physically invisible. That is to say attacks at the enemy's defence nerve centres can be achieved without using aircraft, warships and missiles. They can be carried out simply through computer virus and software bombs to paralyse its C3I systems. Superiority in information technology amounts to superiority in combat operation. [16]

On the other hand, the Chinese are not only learning RMA. They are trying to sinify it according to their own tradition, current practice and future needs. In other words they are injecting Chinese characteristics into RMA. [17] By the definition of Professor Zhu Guangya, China's top defence scientist, RMA is the product of socio-economic and technological development. It is the organic and timely combination of advanced weapons systems, new military theoretical guideline and suitable force structure. This combination can generate qualitative change in the employment of military power. [18] The key to sinifying RMA is the PLA's understanding that it will be doomed to failure if the inferior military mechanically copys the RMA-induced new force structure and combat patterns of the advanced opponent. It should have its own RMA ideas and practice that suits its situation as a strategically defensive force with inferior weaponry. In other words to many PLA strategists RMA should not simply be a technological priviledge emdowed only to a superpower. [19]

The Chinese believe that RMA is still in its formative years with its initial phase extended to 2030. [20] Therefore, it is difficult to see its full potential in releasing powerful energy embodied in the combination of the new technology and force structure. To the PLA, however, it is easier to talk about catching up than really to do it. One precondition for the success of catching up is to have a correct understanding of what RMA means, especially, of what it means to the Chinese military modernisation. Even with a proper understanding achieved, the Chinese leadership still confronts a tremendous task in research on how to apply the understanding in the policy making process. Political consensus does not mean automatic removal of the bureaucratic barriers, existing vested interests and budgetary limitations in restructuring force components, re-sequencing weapons R & D and equipping priorities, and re-formulating specific war plans.

In order to meet the challenge of RMA the Chinese armed forces have worked out a number of principles of learning RMA. First, the PLA is instructed by the CCP leadership to further emancipate the minds of its officers and men and constantly upgrade its war-fighting theories. Major General Chen Youyuan argued that although RMA is driven by the revolution in military technology, new technology itself will not automatically produce theoretical guideline for the PLA's war preparation. Without new combat theory technology cannot win the war by itself. Moreover, new theory will not be invented without a fundamental change in the mentality of PLA senior officers. [21] In fact, RMA is seen not only bringing pressure to bear on the PLA, but also opening up new opportunities for it: RMA provides a best stimulant for the PLA to shake off its historical burdens rooted in the revolutionary ideology and old military strategies.

Secondly, the PLA makes it an urgent task to broaden it horizon and follow closely the major military powers regarding their new theories and practice. The PLA now believes that the recent limited hi-tech wars have provided good cases of study for China to understand the logic, operation features and combat patterns of its potential adversaries. These should serve as the useful reference for the PLA to work out counter-measures. At the same time the PLA should use these cases as a guide to develop its own combat theories and principles.

Thirdly, the PLA believes it should study IW carefully in order to learn its merits and, simultaneously, find its points of weakness. This is crucial for the PLA which will for a long time rely inferior weapons to fight powerful enemies. One important learning mission the PLA has set up for its research institutions is to study thoroughly the Kosovo war. They have analysed how the NATO air attack was hampered by the bad weather and difficult terrain; why the Yugoslavia's integrated air defence system could not shoot down a significant number of invading aircraft and why the NATO forces failed to inflict a high level of casaulites onto Yugoslavis; and what lessons the PLA could draw from this one-sided warfare which may just mirror a similar situation in which the PLA had to struggle to survive in the future. In the final analysis, to most PLA generals RMA is no longer a theoretical concept but a type of warfare China has few countermeasures to handle. Yet this predicament even further highlights the need for the PLA to study the ideas related with RMA.

The Nexus of RMA and Humanitarian Military Intervention
For China it is theoretically not too late to catch up with this crucial developmental trend but time is running short. If the Kosovo war proves anything, it is the West's trigger happy interventionism in world affairs. This new interventionsim is dependent on its superior weaponry which makes it possible for RMA concepts to be implemented, as indicated by the unprecedented zero combat casualty. [22] The Kosovo War can be a watershed event in contemporary world history. In a way it was just the first in a long list of similar cases where such intervention may be repeated again and again. Indeed, global interventionism is an inevitable brainchild of the end of history metality. It takes a whole decade to be in form and may become a historical trend in the future. As a philosophical notion it is crystallised in Tony Blair's thesis of the Third Way that gives major powers natural rights to intervene in other countries' internal affairs, if there is a humanitarian disaster there. [23]

To the Chinese the connection between political intervention and military intervention is dangerous for its national security. The RMA has become the actual mechanism to put this theoretical concept into practice in the real world politics. The logic is quite clear in this connection: if the West has set an ultimate political goal for the mankind based on the realisation of democracy, it cannot achieve this goal without a level of military intervention because many countries do not accept this goal automatically. Economic intervention in the form of sanctions is not powerful enough for the endeavour. The West believes that to some countries only through military intervention can the goal of democratisation be accomplished.

Humanitarian military intervention is a particular content of this political objective: restricting dictators' freedom of military choices and deploying peace-making and peace-keeping forces on the ground of war-torn countries. This political employment of the arms requires a different type of warfare: long-range and pinpoint attack at the enemy's military targets, total control of the air, and suffocation of the opponent's military capabilities, and so on. The key to success of RMA type of intervetion is to minimise the western personnel casualties and losses of civilian lives of the opposite side. If the civilian losses are heavy, then the just nature of the humanitarian interventionism becomes difficult to justify. RMA makes it possible to achieve a human rights objective without waging an all-out war on the ground and thus makes it possible to wage an interventionist warfare relatively easily on the part of the West. In other words because in the past there was not a proper type of warfare against the authoritarian regimes, all the West could do was either conducting a massive war or just watching helplessly.

Therefore, international interventionism is based on technological superiority and military dominance in hardware. Politically speaking the larger the gap in the balance of power, the easier is the process of an interventionist war. However, it is risky to indulge in a mentality of using the RMA type of warfare to resolve human rights problems. Such a mentality causes tensions to regional security, as trigger-happy interventionist actions are not based on the fully developed RMA superority that can be employed politically to achieve the desired effects, as seen from the Kosova war. A lot of people get killed in such an intervention. "Everything is under control" is just a wishful thinking.

China and most regional countries are opposed to the concept that human rights is above national sovereignty and they believe that the Third Way can be disruptive for the regional security order. So they responded to the Kosovo War with criticisms: it was viewed as the testing ground for the Third Way thesis to be translated into power play by the West. Then international relations will be defined and served by might. [24] Indeed, China's reaction to the Kosovo War had much to do with the leadership's concern over China's own ethnic tensions. Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan all have potential to experience what happened in Yugoslavia and invoke outside interference. Anti-China forces in the three places all enjoy external support. Stability in Tibet is maintained largely by force. Taiwan's future with China is particularly uncertain. China does not want to fight a war with western powers in these areas. Therefore, outside involvement of the Kosovo type there would be a nightmare for the Chinese people.

The reality is that the superpower has political obligation to assist Taiwan under the TRA and it has actually worked out concrete military contingency plans to intervene in case of an armed conflict in the Strait. [25] In recent years the US arms sales have a distinctive purpose of intervention: to keep Taiwan's military technology more advanced than the PLA's in order to prevent Taiwan from yielding to the PRC's pressure. This trend has been deepened with the humanitarianist zeal. The new challenge to China's military security posed by the US in a possible Taiwan war is that the intervention is to be more operationalised. For instance, if the US coordinates the combat activities of the Taiwanese armed force through its advanced C4ISR systems in the Pacific, the PLA will suffer greater human and material losses. If Taiwan is admitted into the TMD network, China's missiles will have to be further improved to achieve the same level of effect. More dangerously for the PLA is the possibility of the US imposing various direct military measures to restrict China's likely actions in the Strait. These may include blackout of the PLA's C3IRS networks, and disruption of its commupter systems. When the conflict escalates, the US may blockade the movement of the Chinese warships in the international waters. It may also impose no-fly zone in the Taiwan Strait to prevent China from launching air raids on Taiwan's military facilitates. The US may even select some PLA command and controls hubs as the targets for surgical strikes. Watching how the Chinese ambassy was bombed, this could not be excluded altogether. These are the worst case scenarios but the pressure is real. The use of force and the prospect of being attacked have both loomed large in the second half of the 1990s.

Injecting RMA into the Hi-tech Defence Strategy
The PLA's embracing of RMA has provided a timely guideline for it to improve its new national defence strategy, both in theory and in practice. This is a major attempt to sinify RMA according to its own defence requirements. Now PLA generals have been convinced more than ever before that winning a hi-tech war relies on hardware superiority, sound tactics and a suitable force structure. They have also realised that Deng's "people's war under modern conditions" fomented confusion regarding the basic direction of the PLA's development. Conceptually, it has become self-contradictory, conflating two very different strategies of relying on population power (luring the enemy into the heartland and engaging it in a protracted people's war) on the one hand and on firepower (modern conditions, namely withholding the enemy in key war directions by the professional armed forces) on the other. The doctrine of active defence, the concrete form of Deng's strategy, which was designed at the beginning of the 1980s to withhold a Soviet land attack through positional warfare, seemed to have been out of step with the evolution of international affairs. [26] Then the strategy of fighting a limited regional war, formulated in the second half of the 1980s in dealing with China's border disputes, was regarded as providing no long term guide for the PLA to address its security concerns and practical needs for weapons systems. That is to say that China as a major world power cannot base its military modernisation simply on considerations of the potential conflicts in the South China Sea or along its borders with Asian states. [27]

So for some time at the turn of the 1990s, China was experiencing a vacuum in national defence strategy. Fortunately for the PLA, the Gulf War erupted and supplied the Chinese a concrete image of what the future war would be like, and more importantly, what the future war the PLA had to fight. Jiang Zemin summarised his grasp of the future military affairs during his inspection tour to the PLA National University of Science and Technology in 1991 that any future war would be a war of hi-tech, a war of multi-dimensions, a war of electronics, and a war of missiles. The PLA had to be ready for such a reality. [28] Since then Jiang has worked very hard to build a consensus within the top civilian and military leadership on China's national defence strategy in the information age. In 1992 the CMC approved such a new strategy, tentatively defined as fighting a future war under hi-tech conditions, which, while remidying the traditional doctrinal defects, laid the groundwork for force restructuring, general training and formulation of updated "war game" plans to countermeasure China's potential threats.

What is the relationship between Deng Xiaoping's doctrine of fighting a people's war under modern conditions and the post-Deng strategy of fighting a future war under hi-tech conditions? The latter has clearly evolved from the former but brought it much closer to the political and security reality of the information age. Both envisage active defence to hold an enemy's invasion at bay rather than luring it into the heartland. Both prefer advanced military hardware to manpower and call for building a high-quality standing army. Both highlight the need of launching combined military operations in contemporary warfare, emphasising the decisive role of the specialised services, especialy the air force.

Yet drawing on the crucial elements of RMA theory, the hi-tech strategy differs Deng's strategy in several important respects. First, the former calls for establishing a linkage between active defence and forward defence, which may mean power projection beyond the country's land borders. This is a radical departure from Deng's active defence, which was confined basically to territorial defence in a form of positional warfare around major cities. Deng's defence is "active" only compared to Mao's passive people's war. Forward defence is the key to the new strategy, as it recognises that in a hi-tech war the enemy can strike from a long distance, a key content of RMA. For instance, the PLA repeatedly quotes the example that the advancement of military technology in the 1970s, as seen from the development of long range precision weapons, allowed NATO to attack the Soviet second and third echelon formations from afar, thus denying its initiative of launching a large scale conventional war. Previously NATO could only plan for a war of attrition against the preponderant Soviet ground force. The PLA has noticed that with RMA unfolding the defining line dividing the front and rear has become more and more academic. This has forced the PLA to enlarge greatly its strategic depth, which, according to PLA war planners, should not be restricted to within Chinese borders. For example, air and missile defence should be stretched even beyond the enemy's first line air base. [29] To the PLA expanding defence depth may not prevent the enemy's long range attack, like what happened in Kosovo. Yet if the enemy can be effectively engaged in the outer defence line of the country, the PLA may at least pose greater threat to the enemy, secure precious early warning moments and thus reduce the personnel and material losses on the defensive side. Moreover, in geo-political terms this forward defence can take the form of forward deployment in areas subject to overlapping territorial disputes. As an expression of sovereignty claims, this entails the permanent stationing of PLA units in, and regular military exercises around, these areas. In some extreme cases, this even entails a demonstration of war brinkmanship to protect China's vital national interests such as its sovereignty integrity.

Secondly, the hi-tech defence strategy is largely an offensive oriented strategy reflecting the PLA's shifting emphasis towards the “active” versus the “defensive” side of war preparation. In a way this is a reverse of Deng's doctrine. the PLA was quick to learn immediately after the Gulf War that hi-tech wars will not be fought along fixed defence lines. The line between battleground frontier and its depth will become very thin. Trench warfare will be rare to see. According to this change, some PLA strategists argue that China's post-Cold War military guideline should be changed from Deng's yifang weizhu fangfan jiehe, or "defence as overall posture, offence as the supplement", to linghuo fanying gong fang jiehe, or "adroit response based on a combination of offensive and defensive capabilities". Offence is now understood as capturing the nature of information warfare: the evolving hi-tech hardware is highly biased toward a fast offensive strike because technological innovation has increasingly blurred the boundaries between offensive and defensive weaponry. Indeed, RMA is about how to maximise the offensive effects. Digitalised battle-field, electronic soft kill, and pinpoint elimination of the enemy's key targets all indicate that it is the offensive side that can seize the first initiative of the war and has the best chance of success. The offensive posture and pre-emptive strike are especially crucial for a weak military at the beginning of a hi-tech war. [30]

In practice the post-Cold war uncertainties have required the PLA to enhance rapid reaction capabilities to cope with new sets of events, expected or unexpected. Under some circumstances active defence can mean pre-emptive offensive campaigns to neutralise an imminent threat. [31] PLA strategists argue that a country's need to protect its territorial integrity dictates a forward posture. Take Taiwan as an example. Here the Chinese are politically and diplomatically reactive to the efforts of the independence movement in the Island. Militarily, however, the PLA has to develop the capability powerful enough to deter any such attempt by the Taiwan authorities. If this fails, it has to launch an offensive operation. Inevitably the PLA has to formulate its detailed invasion plans based on available offensive weaponry. More importantly, this propensity to employ military forces is closely linked to the concept of military deterrence at various levels of possible armed conflict. A strategy of deterrence against foreign invasion differs from that of safeguarding national sovereignty. Generally, a defensive oriented military strategy cannot make the latter credible. This is especially true when the political forces for splitism have the support of a hi-tech military. [32]

Third, as RMA envisages changing forms of action in the not too distant future, China's post-Deng defence strategy also leaves large space for adjustment in absorbing new technologically induced innovations in military modernisation. Politically, the strategy is forward-leaning as well. Its hi-tech focus aims mainly at defence against strategic concerns, namely the major military powers. At the same time the strategy is flexible in principle, catering to different scenarios, from major hi-tech wars to small-scale border conflicts. This is the response of China's armed forces to the country's changing security environment in the post-Cold War era. Militarily, China's post-Deng defence strategy is not just a change in doctrine. It is forward-looking, as it is geared to preparation for action in the new century. Therefore, it prescribes concrete measures for weapons programs, force organisation, campaign tactics, and research priorities, which do not aim at equipping the PLA in the next few years but at the frontiers of hi-tech breakthroughs some decades from now. [33]

What is the significance of this new military thinking ahead of the present time? To RMA advocates establishing a right direction of development may be more important than immediate availability of advanced hardware for the PLA's future. They point out that the importance of RMA does not lie in how to develop hi-tech equipment but in how to utilise it. Without a sound strategic theoretical framework, even if the PLA acquires sophisticated weaponry in the new century, it cannot not be used scientifically to realise its full potential. They illustrate one example to prove their point: in the 1930s France and Germeny had similar number of tanks. While tanks were scattered in French army, they were concentrated in the elite army divisions in Germany, making them unstoppable in ground battles. The different deployment methods produced vastly different effects in the war, giving birth to a new revolution in military affairs. [34] This examples has convinced the PLA that national defence strategy, weapons development and force strucutre are the trinity of one entity to make the armed forces powerful. Without either its modernisation will be led atray.

Putting RMA Ideas into Practice
Although the Chinese leadership has no illusions of how far the country is away from realising its RMA dream, it does not give up trying. Indeed, it has made small steps in following the direction of RMA in its drive of defence modernisation. At the moment what the PLA can do is not much but it believes it is important to lay a solid foundation, both in theoretical and material terms, for the day when the country is finally capable of translating its RMA blueprint into reality. Below are few initiatives of what the Chinese are doing in putting RMA ideas into practice.

Asymmetry Warfare: the Missile Threat
The PLA sees missile attack a very useful weapon of asymmetary warfare with which a weak military deals with a strong one. The efforts to increase conventional missiles of China's Strategic Missile Force (SMF) has thus been a top priority in the PLA's preparation for a RMA type of war. Maintaining a relatively high level of missile threat is regarded as the only feasible means to compensate China's inferior offensive capabilities. As the PLA's other punches by the navy and air force are weak and short, employment of conventional missiles becomes one of its few deterrents against a major power. [35] For instance, at the initial stage of a war across the Taiwan Strait, the PLA will unlikely engage the opponent in an airial dog of war or a naval sea battle. This may not just be due to the PLA's shortage of the fourth generation aircraft and modern warships. Launching pinpoint missiles is less threatening politically and strategically than direct personnel engagement. At the same time it reduces the human losses for the PLA, it creates a higher level of psephological effect. Moreover, missile launches are more manageable, as they can be stopped promptly. This is advantageous for the mainland in that it can scale down the escalation of war and save China from direct confrontation with the superpower. Yet concentrated use of missiles can paralyse the carefully selected military targets of the enemy.. [36]

Accordingly, the SMF has in the past few years made serious efforts to formulate a new set of guidelines and concepts for future missile warfare. This includes research on improving the terminal accuracy and on countering the tactics and style of a potential enemy's attack. The importance of these efforts is elaborated in a research report of the PLA National Defence University:

The PLA's conventional missiles will be used exclusively against the enemy's key military targets which the weapons of other services cannot reach. These targets include the communications hubs, weapons delivery platforms, and most practically the aircraft carrier battle groups. Since these systems are under heavy protection, the demand for the conventional missiles is thus very high. Moreover, how to use these missiles is a matter of military art involving the optimum timing and smart selection of targets. [37]

Secondly, the use of conventional missile units of the SMF has been highlighted by the PLA's emphasis on united warfare. Traditionally, however, the SMF has largely confined its war doctrines and training programs to itself, given the nature of nuclear weapons and warfare. United campaigns involving the SMF with other services have never been a priority in the PLA's war preparation. Technological improvement of conventional missiles has made the SMF a useful tactical offensive force and thus made it possible for it to join other services in likely war scenarios. For instance, the missile attack against enemy's C4IRS centres and airfields is seen to be conducive to the air force's efforts to achieve air superiority. Since training for united campaigns is currently prioritized for the joint exercises of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the SMF has been ordered by the CMC to formulate protocols for its participation. In effect the officers from the SMF are required to join the headquarters of united campaigns in each war zone, a departure from past practice. Now the SMF's coordination in such war efforts is seen as crucial to whether a war can be won.

The missile firing by the conventional missile units of the SMF in the March 1996 military demonstration against Taiwan, codenamed "Strait 96 Number One", was the first known case of the SMF's active participation in a large united campaign exercise at the level of army groups with a participation of 60,000 soldiers, including those of the Air Force, the Navy and the SMF. The early timing of missile firing in relations to other services in the exercise seems to indicate that ballistic missiles would be used in the initial stage of a conflict in preparation for air strikes and amphibious landings. Moreover, during the exercise the missiles were fired from at least two widely dispersed units. This may be a deliberate design by the SMF to test its command, control and communication effectiveness. [38]

Parallel to the PLA's efforts to enhnace its missile attack capabilities is China's own TMD program. To China TMD is a grave threat to its military security in that it is a weapons system that may potentially neutralise part of China's strategic deterrence. The TMD system is regarded as an integral component of the RMA type of war of mass destruction. Politically, TMD is, like SDI, a symbol of the extension of Cold War. It signals a redefined power relationship in the Far East. An effective TMD cannot leave any geographic holes in its network. [39]

Psychologically, TMD further worsens the traditional security dilemma. A workable TMD certainly widens the gap of military balance in favour of the US-led alliances. When one side in the race is losing its strategic deterrent capabilities, it will easily get into panic. Its impulsive reaction will be to increase its arsenal of attack missiles in a hope that even if some of its missiles are neutralised by the enemy's TMD shield, at least a decent number of missiles can still penetrate through the network. Thus the TMD initiative serves as a trigger to uplift the arms race in both qualitative and quantitative terms.

TMD stimulates the PLA missile development in several aspects. Firstly, it requires the PLA to increase its missile stock substantially in order for it to launch a saturate attack. One important step in this regard is the quickened pace of developing cruise missiles that are better capable of penetrating the enemy's missile defence. Secondly, it galvanises the PLA to lift general level of missile technology so as to evade the TMD interception. This requires a number of key technologies: enhanced electronic warfare capability, e.g. installation of sophisticated guidance systems such as IR/laser imaging guidance and active/passive guidance systems, and ECCM and on board jammers; stealthy features; advanced solid fuelled motors and composite ramjet engines. [40] Thirdly, TMD forces the PLA to increase the speed of its missiles and develop more supersonic missiles in order to outpace the interceptors. From the military point of view the PLA is in fact not too much concerned about a TMD network because at the current technological level, it is a lot more expensive and demanding to develop a workable missile defence system than simply to add the number of missiles. PLA analysts put the ratio to be 5 to 1 and come to some a conclusion that China is capable of sweeping any missile defence systems in the Far East with its concentrated launches. [41] This is especially true in a situation in the Taiwan Strait. The short geographic distance can give the armed forces in Taiwan only a few minutes of early warning time against incoming cruise missiles, causing people to ask a serious question of whether TMD is reliable. The decision of the Korean government not to join the US-Japan TMD R&D presents a practical example of this tyranny of distance for missile defence.

Setting the national goal for hi-tech research
RMA has become a driving force for the development of science and technology for China. The Chinese leadership rightly concludes that without sound technological foundation there is no point of talking about RMA. China's hi-tech base is currentlt quite thin. Only in limited technological areas has China reached world level, such as its space industries. The market reform has created opportunities for gradually strengthening this weak foundation, as China's rapid economic growth makes the research for hi-tech weapons more affordable than before. However, the Chinese recognise the fact that it is too early to seriously contemplate the narrowing of technological gap with the West. This is the reason why China feels vulnerable with the RMA type of warfare. On the other hand, China's technocrats-turned leadership has made it a state policy to enter the hi-tech race with the major powers, although the policy does not put gun above butter. [42] They have not failed to notice that the US technological race with the USSR helped it to achieve a superior position in the post-Cold War world economic competition. The new understanding is that defence related hi-tech has always led scientific and technological revolutions. The applications of military information technology can be wide-ranging and profitable.

Since the beginning of the Cold Peace era, China has confronted new challenges to its military and economic security, now seen as built upon a scientific and technological competitive edge. Therefore, the civilian and military leaders share the same policy objective in placing hi-tech development as the top national priority. This determination has been further hardened by NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia in May 1999 and has won wide public support. In concrete steps, it has been decided that in the next few decades concentrated national efforts will be made in boosting China's defence technology as quickly as possible. As a result R & D and weapons programs have increasingly focused towards research of military space network, fixed-energy and laser equipment, electronic weapons and super computer. Logically, this demands a continuing and sizeable increase in military budget, for hi-tech driven military modernisation is bound to be expensive. Indeed, more funds will be allocated in the R & D of hi-tech weapons, including new generation of nuclear and convention missiles, aircraft and naval vessels.

Making military research closer to new war scenarios
One logical outcome of China's embracing of RMA is a major resequencing of the PLA's theoretical and applicable research priorities. In the past PLA researchers were inclined to study the PLA's war history. For instance, a large proportion of the research projects in the PLA Academy of Military Science were devoted to continuous evaluations of the PLA's successful campaigns between 1927 and 1953. In 1993 Jiang Zemin instructed the PLA research bodies to shift their research focus from the past to the present. More concretely, he decided that over 60 per cent of research projects had to serve the PLA's immediate needs (e.g. restructuring and weapons programs), practical war plans (e.g. specific force redeployment and employment against specific enemies), and likely military operations in the future (e.g. detailed theatre campaign objectives and protocols). He emphasised the importance of research on the way in which men and weapons are related in the information age, especially in a situation where the PLA has to used low-tech hardware against some particular hi-tech opponents. [43]

Consequently, the PLA's research on major practical issues (zhongda xianshi wenti) and its theoretical exploration of the RMA have been combined together under the post-Deng hi-tech military strategy. In recent years the CMC has ordered the PLA to employ advanced means to improve its research on RMA. One important effort is to use computer simulation systems to reconstruct major hi-tech operations of the major powers in their recent limited wars. One specific research project is to study how to employ asymmetry warfare against an overwhelmingly powerful enemy, such as concentrated use of conventional missiles against the aircraft battle groups. To make research and training closer to hi-tech warfare, textbooks in the military institutions have been completely rewritten in the last few years and since 1993 a comprehensive training reform has been carried out to drill soldiers not only to learn hi-tech wars but also to learn how to fight specific hi-tech enemies.

Initiating qualitative force restructuring
There is no doubt that by now both Chinese civilian and military leaders have firmly accepted the central theme of RMA that in the information age victory of a war is predominantly dependent on the quality of technology rather than quantity of men in uniform. With this consensus the PLA has speeded up its efforts to build a qualitative military by initiating large scales of force reductions. The Army was ordered to let go 500,000 men in 1997. Already its size is the smallest since the founding of the PRC but further cuts are likely to follow beyond this round. Sooner rather than later its total strength will drop below two million. Meanwhile the specialised services continue to enjoy priority for modernisation. Enormous efforts have been made to strengthen the second strike nuclear deterrence capability, create offensive air power and develop a blue water navy. [44]

Concrete restructuring progress has been made to match the PLA with the world trend of RMA, although the progress is slow, to the point of annoying party leader Jiang Zemin. So far the most visible change in the top command structure is the establishment of a General Equipment Department (GED) immediately under the CMC in 1998, with the same ranking with the GSD. This department has taken over the functions of weapons R & D, testing, acquisition, allocation and related matters formerly assumed by the various top agencies in the PLA headquarters. For instance, it incorporated the Department of Equipment in the GSD, administrative and operational missions of the State Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND) under the State Council, including all military R & D projectsand procurement agencies in the General Logistical Department.

The significance of the creation of this GED can be seen from the following two angles. Firstly, it constitutes an effective measure to substantiate the hi-tech defence strategy. Without a sufficient amount of sophisticated hi-tech weaponry, the strategy will remain an empty shell. The new GED reflects the determination of the CMC to concentrate all resources it can to advance the weapons R & D and to quicken the process of equipping combat units with the best hardware. Secondly, the department is also a concrete step to translate the theory of RMA into practical application. For isntance, the GED will facilitate the weapons R & D and acquisition in accordance with the requirements of united warfare. One precondition for this is to rectify the current state of affairs in weapons development by different services, which can be summarized as uncoordinated with an effect of weakening united campaign capabilities of the PLA. The GED will have power to oversee weapons programs of all services in order to make them serve the purpose of united warfare.

Another indicator has been the renewed discussion of abolishing the seven military regions in the recent months. The PLA high command invited debate among top brass in the early 1980s about whether to replace all military regions with strategic front armies. For instance, the Shenyang Military Region would be restructured into the Northeast Front Army. The difference between the two was that the former was at once a level of administrative agency and operational command. This made the leadership structure unwieldy. Instructions from the CMC had to go through several layers to reach the units they should go to. In comparison the Northeast Front Army were merely a level of operational command. It was directly placed under the CMC administratively. Another advantage of the reform was to uproot the too intimate connection between PLA regional command and local government. However, the debate did not bring any concrete results due to the resistance of military regions. Later on the CMC abolished the attempted reform simply saying that the conditions were not ripe. [45]

Since 1997 a new round of discussion of the same theme has been carried out among PLA leading agencies. This time the "conditions" may seem to have been ripe to many PLA analysts. One senior PLA researcher has this to say: "The revolution in information technology changes with each passing day the battleground structure, operation modes and concepts of time and space, which dictates overhaul of the traditional "centralized" and "tier-by-tier" administrative/command structure. It has also been proposed that the current seven military regions be substituted by five strategic war zones. There are several merits in this reform. We have already mentioned the simplified command structure between the central military authority and the basic campaign units (group armies or divisions). Political need is even more pressing. However, the motivation is also rooted in the need to initiate a thorough overhaul of PLA command structure in order to suit it better in IW. For instance, the war zone concept will guide the integration of all services in joint operations under a united command. It is very interesting to watch the outcome of this reform. [46]

Implementing new campaign tactics
Closely linked to the PLA's adaptation of a RMA related national defence strategy is a new effort to implement new campaign tactics deprived from the study of the likely forms of future wars. Lieut. General Hu Changfa, deputy president of the PLA National Defence University made the following summary at an all-armed-forces conference on campaign theory in late 1996:

The changes in the international strategic environment and the wide application of hi-tech in the military realm have posed an enormous challenge to the PLA. Now we are facing new forms of warfare, new opponents in future wars, new campaign tactics and new patterns of engagement in campaigns. How to win the next war under hi-tech conditions is our primary task of study. [47]

To tackle this task the PLA has first identified the new forms of its most likely forms of engagement in a hi-tech campaign. According to General Hu, there are two basic forms. The first is mobile operations and the second is united operations. [48] Mobile operation dictates a fundamental revision of the PLA's operational doctrine centred on the positional warfare and promotes a kind of non-line defence warfare. The PLA has realized that line defence belongs to the era of rifles, guns and tanks, the short range engagement. Non-line defence represents future, requiring long-range mobility and stifling attacks at the enemy's rear with precision missiles and electronic bombardment. Inevitably the campaign operations have to be supported by satellite guidance and multi-dimensional strike capabilities. [49]

Therefore the essence of mobile operation is offensive oriented operation (gongshi zuozhan) which will be the main form of the PLA campaign engagement with its opponents. [50] To PLA theoreticians, mobile operation is seen as key component of a campaign in information age. Hi-tech limited wars are characterized by non-fixed campaign battle fields, fast change in operation formats, and little distinction between the front line and the defence depth. Only through mobile operations will the PLA take the initiative of the war. Mobile operations are also required by China's strategic landscape. In the future campaigns the PLA may be confronted with the mission of operating in multiple strategic directions and over a vast space of war zones. It has to move very rapidly in order to establish regional superiority in terms of manpower and hardware.

Another dimension of the PLA's new campaign tactics is joint operation. Joint operation is now seen as reflecting the nature of IW. This is a major departure from the PLA's long time emphasis on combined operation, which was regarded as its basic campaign typology designed to be centred around the ground force combat. "Combined" refers to employment of different arms of services (junzhong) within the Army: units of tank, artillery, anti-chemical warfare, engineering, telecommunications, and others are brought together executing a ground campaign. Specialized services such as the navy, the air force and the missile force were, however, are given only a minor role. This campaign form is in agreement with the level of China's overall military technology: the specialized services are left far behind in hardware development. After all the Chinese armed forces grew from the Ground Force and are dominated by it. Now the PLA high command believes that time has come for the rectification of the flaws both in campaign theory and typology. The special services have made progress in both theoretical guidance and hardware upgrading, making them more capable of supporting joint operations. In IW the status of specialized services has at least risen to parallel the ground force. More importantly, fighting with potential opponents requires a more crucial participation of the specialized services. According to Lieut. General Hu, in China's future strategic war direction landing operation of some scales will be the PLA's primary task. Landing operation has to be united operation which makes the basic form of theatre campaign under hi-tech conditions. [51]

There is no doubt that RMA has inspired the PLA to formulate its long term modernisation guideline according to a new set of rules of the game. To the PLA RMA is the world standard and development trend for a powerful military that it cannot afford to ignore. Indeed, it is the very fact that China has little capability to cope with the RMA type of war that stimulates the PLA to study RMA and to apply, where it can, its principles in practice. To the Chinese leadership the danger of RMA as applied against China does not lie in its effect of mass destruction in military terms but its political consequence in distabilising the country's social stability and government. This is where the CCP is very much worried and has taken measures of self-protection. In the next few decades PLA watchers will see continuing reforms within the Chinese armed forces along the line of RMA. The PLA's C3I systems will gradually be streamlined and digitalised. Its force size will be significantly trimmed and force components restructured to allow more space for new specialised arms of services to emerge. Military R&D programs will give great emphasis to the development of new concept weapons. National defence strategy, campaign tactices and combat principles of different services will be under constant review to guide the PLA to follow the latest innovations of the major military powers. In short the PLA will gradually become more open, flexible and forward leaning. As a result, it will become more professional and hi-tech oriented.

To the PLA rectifying doctrinal defects is more important than immediate possession of modern combat hardware in its long-term modernisation. Embracing RMA and trying to put it into practice may have set the PLA in the right direction. However, adopting a correct strategic guideline does not guarentee the PLA to succeed in transforming itself eventually into a world class fighting force. People may question: yes, the Chinese can copy American thoughts but whether they can also materialize RMA is not at all obvious. [52] If the Soviet failure in its technological race with the US tells us anything, it is that the closed socio-political system may stifle the imagination of the scientists and doom the long-term potential of the nation. Therefore, the biggest challenge to China's search of a major power status may not be the current backwardness of its technology but the rigidness of its governing process.

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