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China’s Defense Modernization:

Aspirations and Capabilities


Paul H.B. Godwin





            It is a daunting task to assess Beijing’s defense modernization programs in the midst of increasing apprehension over the growth of China’s military power. In the Cold War years, despite some concern over the long-term implications for the United States, assessments were viewed in the prism provided by China’s role in “containing” the USSR.  Improvements in Beijing’s military power, marginal though they were, were seen as serving U.S. interests by requiring Moscow to divert resources away from the NATO confrontation.  By the mid-1990s, this perspective had dissipated. Beijing’s aggressive, nationalistic approaches to territorial claims in the South China Sea and in its confrontation with Taiwan became viewed by many as indicators of the kinds of belligerent policies China will pursue as economic enrichment and improvements in indigenous science and technology capabilities enhanced its future military power. Beijing’s swelling defense budgets and military technology links with Russia, Israel and Europe became viewed as creating a potential capability destabilizing East Asia and challenging U.S. military preeminence.


            This changing perception was accompanied by an emerging divide among those who assessed Beijing’s progress in defense modernization.  Although the pattern and progress of China’s defense modernization programs had been followed in detail over the years since reforms were initiated in the late-1970s, the past few years have seen a basic difference emerge among those seeking to assess China’s progress. On one side stand those who view much of the writings out of China as demonstrating PLA aspirations.[1] Although recognizing the importance of the weapons and technologies being acquired, these analysts tend to be skeptical of the extent to which China is achieving the capabilities these aspirations identify. On the other side of the divide are those whose research demonstrates to them that major improvements in China’s military capabilities are closer at hand than the skeptics recognize.[2] This divide is created by two factors.  First is the changed perspective within which China’s defense modernization is now viewed.  Second are the differing estimates of the speed with which China can develop and produce weapons and technologies associated with the revolution in military affairs. Whatever the source of the divide, the issues dividing the skeptics and the optimists, [3] as I shall refer to them, are clear. The purpose of this essay, however, is not to resolve or bridge this divide. Rather, these differences will be identified to underscore the difficulties in assessing the progress China has made in two decades of defense modernization. 


The Debilitating Legacy of the Past


Despite differing assessments, there is agreement that the defense reforms and modernization programs undertaken since 1978 encompass far more than China’s armed forces. In the years following the termination of Soviet assistance in 1959-1960, China’s defense industrial base and research and development (R&D) infrastructure had eroded into obsolescence.  By the mid-1970s, with the possible exception of the nuclear weapons programs, the defense industries were only capable of producing weapons and equipment based on Soviet technologies from the 1950s. Defense R&D was equally harmed and incapable of developing arms meeting the demands of late 20th century warfare.


Extensive involvement in Mao’s radical domestic campaigns, especially the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” of 1966-1976, had done equal harm to China’s armed forces. As Deng Xiaoping critically observed in the summer of 1975, the PLA had degenerated into an aging, overstaffed, obsolescent, arrogant giant incapable of conducting modern warfare. [4] Deng’s critique was verified by the PLA’s poor performance against Vietnam’s forces in 1979.[5] The PLA may have been capable of conducting a 1930s-type-protracted war of attrition against a massive assault from the USSR designed to defeat and occupy China, but that was an improbable scenario.


            Even if Deng Xiaoping had placed highest priority on reforming and modernizing the defense establishment, overcoming the extensive constraints developed over the previous two decades would have been difficult.  Deng, however, placed  “modernization of national defense” last in his priorities.  Deng’s approach to defense modernization was long-term and part of a broader strategy to bring China into the ranks of the world’s strongest powers. Rebuilding the defense establishment was not to occur at the expense of Deng’s broader strategic objectives for China’s future.  Rebuilding the defense industries would take place in balance with the reform and modernization of civil industry and science and technology. A self-reliant defense industrial capability, to the extent that possible, was to be derived from the modernization of China’s civil industries and science and technology infrastructure.


It was equally necessary to reconstruct the armed forces themselves.  Before the PLA could absorb modern weaponry and equipment, extensive reforms were required. A new, younger officer corps capable of planning and conducting contemporary and future warfare had to be created. The armed forces’ organization and training had to be revised before they could integrate modern weaponry and equipment into strategy and concepts of operations. Logistics, sustainment and maintenance procedures had to be prepared for the complexity of more modern arms. In short, defense modernization was to be incremental and based on a long-term development process. There was clear recognition that no “quick fix” was capable of overcoming the two decades of neglect and deterioration that had eroded the PLA’s ability to conduct modern warfare. 


Defense Modernization and Threat Perception.

Changing threat perceptions in the first decade of reform added to the pre-existing constraints on building the PLA into a more capable defense force. In 1978, the national military strategy was one of continental defense against the USSR.  The military objective for this strategy was to defeat a major Soviet assault as close to China’s borders as possible. Before this objective was fully integrated into planning, concepts of operations, force deployments and training, Beijing’s threat perception changed.  In 1985, Deng Xiaoping concluded that a major, possibly nuclear war with the USSR was no longer probable.  Future wars were more likely to be limited, local wars on China’s periphery, including a potential military confrontation with the USSR.  PLA planners therefore shifted their focus to contingency planning for short, high intensive wars in which the adversary’s political objective would be limited and the combat confined to localized theaters of operations. [6]  


The Persian Gulf War of 1991 came as the PLA was getting more comfortable with the new national military strategy.  In many ways, this war was a model of the type of military conflict PLA researchers had been assessing since 1985.  It was a high intensity war fought for limited political objectives with a confined geographic area. Nonetheless, Operation Desert Storm stunned the PLA. Military analysts observed the effectiveness of high-technology weaponry and equipment implemented with joint service operations, and saw this war as demonstrating that a revolution in military affairs (RMA) was underway. China’s senior military leadership concluded that their armed forces were incapable of conducting military operations at this level of sophistication and intensity. China’s forces lacked more than just the weaponry and critical supporting systems so central to the coalition’s overwhelming military success; the PLA’s basic military doctrine and concepts of operations had not kept pace with late 20th century warfare.  This conclusion led to the modification of the guiding principle for PLA modernization from “local, limited war” to “limited war under high-tech conditions.”


Even as China pressed forward with two decades of reform and modernization of its defense establishment, Beijing found military technologies, doctrines and concepts of operations for contemporary and future warfare outpacing the progress the PLA was clearly making.  Confounding this problem, these two decades also saw the quasi-alliance that once linked China and the United States transformed into mutual suspicion and, in Beijing’s eyes, hostility.[7] This perception became evident in years following the American response to the Tiananmen slaughter of 1989.  The triumphalism that swept over the United States with the end of the Cold War, the brilliant military victory over Iraq, and the USSR’s disintegration led Beijing conclude that as the remaining “superpower” the United States was seeking to dominate the post-Cold War world.



 This perception of the United States was paralleled by the emergence of democracy in Taiwan and Taipei’s quest for greater international recognition.  As China’s image in the United States became ever more blemished, Taiwan’s grew ever more attractive to Americans. Growing suspicion that the United States was covertly committed to an “independent” Taiwan was made evident to Beijing by the sale of advanced military technologies to Taiwan, especially the sale of 150 F16s in 1992.   President Lee Teng-hui’s “private” visit to his alma mater Cornell University in 1995, served to enhance Beijing’s perception of a hostile, duplicitous United States. This hostility was confirmed in 1996, when the United States dispatched two aircraft carrier battle groups (CVBG) to the Taiwan area in response to China’s use of tactical ballistic missiles in “exercises” off Taiwan.  Beijing’s blatant use of coercive diplomacy focused both China and the United States on the distinct possibility that they could confront one another in a military conflict over Taiwan’s future. 


The United States as China’s Probable Adversary


Identifying the United States as China’s most dangerous potential opponent and focusing on the Taiwan Strait as the most likely arena for confrontation was to have a critical influence on Beijing’s defense modernization programs. Whereas the programs followed since 1985 promised to transform the PLA into a more capable and flexible defense force, a possible military confrontation with the United States raised more complex and difficult issues for the PLA to contemplate. Before the early 1990s, “local, limited war” was actually contingency planning.  There were a number of potential threats, but with the USSR’s implosion in 1991, none would likely require large-scale use of force. Identifying the United States as a potential adversary, however, demanded careful assessment of what was required to prevail against the world’s most advanced military power in a high intensity limited war.[8] 


Chinese military analysts’ focus on Taiwan and a potential conflict with the United States did not escape the attention of American observers. [9] Cold War terms began to enter the lexicon of American assessments as they began to ask when China would be come a peer competitor and develop sufficient force projection capabilities to threaten U.S. interests in East Asia.[10]  Thus, by the late 1990s, both the United States and China were viewing each other with increasing apprehension.  The exchange of summit meetings in 1997 and 1998 improved the climate of bilateral relations, but the potential for a military confrontation over Taiwan was recognized as presenting a continuing hazard to Sino-American relations. That such a confrontation would be between two nuclear powers only added to the underlying tension.

The Nuclear Dimension [11]


Allegations that China had acquired detailed specifications of U.S. nuclear weaponry, including warhead design and missile technology through espionage activities enhanced the mutual apprehension shared by Beijing and Washington. These allegations led some to believe such information could dramatically increase the accuracy, reliability, and lethality of China’s nuclear forces, thereby enhancing the threat they posed to the United States.[12]  Despite the Cox Committee’s conclusions, assessments of China’s nuclear forces and strategy among the coterie of those specializing in China’s defense modernization programs have not been subject to the skeptics-optimists divide.  There is consensus that until recently Beijing has sought the capability known in Western analyses as “minimum deterrence.”   Such a strategy relies on a small number of warheads capable of threatening what is hoped will be unacceptable damage in a second strike after receiving a nuclear first strike from an adversary.  It is generally accepted that beyond seeking the status held by being a nuclear power, the purpose behind China’s strategic forces is to prevent nuclear blackmail.  From Beijing’s point of view, if an adversary believes it will receive a punitive retaliatory strike, it will not seek to deter or threaten China with nuclear forces.


China’s inventory of weapons reflects this “minimum deterrence” logic. It contains some 20 DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) capable of striking targets across the United States.  This are joined by 20 DF-4 limited range ICBMs capable of striking targets in the U.S. northwest and the northern Pacific.  Being liquid-fueled, neither weapon can be maintained at high levels of readiness. Liquid fuel does not permit the rocket launchers to stay on extended alert, and the warheads are stored separately from the launchers. Loading the liquid fuels and warheads can take 2-4 hours.  This extended preparation time together with the inherent inaccuracy of the weapons limits their role to a retaliatory “city-busting” strike.  Beijing’s declared policy of “no first use” (NFU) probably reflects the deficiencies of its weapons as much as it does the intent behind their employment.


The second component of China’s nuclear forces consists of around 100 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) capable of striking targets in the central and western Pacific.  With the exception of the 48 DF-21A, these missiles are liquid-fueled and suffer from the same constraints as the DF-4/5.  Some suggest that China’s latest short-range ballistic missiles (DF-11/15) may be nuclear capable. The final missile component is formed by Beijing’s single nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) with 12 1,000-mile range missiles. Following a long and difficult development life, this ship entered service in the early 1980s. Because it rarely if ever goes on patrol, China’s SSBN is not considered operational.


Joining the missile forces are approximately 100 B-6 (Tu-16) and A-5 (modified MiG-19) nuclear-capable bombers. Although updated with a variety of more advanced imported and Chinese-developed improvements, these aircraft were originally designed and built with 1950s Soviet technologies.  Consequently, their ability to penetrate contemporary air defenses is minimal, limiting their utility as a regional and tactical nuclear bomber force.  


Although definitely a menacing capability, China confronts approximately 8,000 U.S. strategic weapons deployed on 575 ICBMs, 102 strategic bombers, and 17 SSBN.  A single Trident-armed U.S. SSBN carries 24 multiple-warhead missiles capable of delivering 144 extremely accurate weapons.  Thus, just one American SSBN can carry more than seven times the total number of warheads carried on all of China’s D-5 ICBMs -- and at a much higher degree of readiness.  Deterrence under these conditions would seem to be assured.


Future Chinese nuclear strategy and force structure may well change. The aging, slow reacting, inaccurate liquid-fueled weapons forming the bulk of China’s deterrent are to be replaced by systems that are far more capable. The DF-4 and DF-5 are to be replaced by the solid-fueled, tactically mobile, and presumably more accurate DF-31 and DF-41.  Solid fuel provides quicker and more reliable reaction time, and tactical mobility makes them less susceptible to the counter-force capability found in the extreme accuracy of U.S. and Russian weapons.  Of equal importance, the strategy guiding China’s nuclear deterrent may be under review.


For the past decade, some of China’s military strategists have been questioning the future viability of a minimum deterrence strategy. [13] The incentive to revise its core nuclear strategy stems from a variety of conditions Beijing views as threatening the credibility of its deterrent posture. First, with ballistic missile defenses on the horizon, the size of China’s strategic forces becomes an issue.  Should the United States deploy even a “thin” NMD, then the current number of ICBMs would not satisfy Beijing’s requirement for an assured second strike.  China is therefore under considerable pressure to increase the number of deployed weapons.  India’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests add to the pressure for increased deployments.   Although one cannot be confident of the outcome, a sizeable increase could well occur.


Ensuring survivability may result in China’s current SSBN program coming to fruition.  A missile to fill its launch tubes has already been derived from the DF-31.  Although tactically mobile ground-launched missiles could well ease the apprehension over the survivability of its deterrent force, building several SSBNs may add to Beijing’s confidence that China’s deterrent force is viewed as credible.


The final issue influencing the future of China’s nuclear forces is whether minimum deterrence will be replaced by what Beijing’s strategists refer to as “limited deterrence” (you xian hewei she). Relying on a single countervalue punitive strike to deter a nuclear adversary is seen by some of China’s strategists as passive and incapable of fulfilling what they see as a future requirement for a more flexible nuclear response. As it is conceived by China’s strategists, a strategy of limited deterrence would significantly increase the number of weapons available in order to provide Beijing with the ability to respond to any level of attack, from tactical to strategic.  Increasing the number of weapons would permit some degree of escalation control because China could retain sufficient forces for extended exchanges.


These same analysts, however, also recognize that China lacks much of the supporting infrastructure required for such a strategy.   For example, China does not have the required space-based reconnaissance and early warning systems required to determine in near real-time the size and origin of the attack.  China’s strategists are well of this and a number of other deficiencies constraining the implementation of a limited deterrence strategy.  Thus, although they are very expensive and complex to build, it would be prudent to assume that programs are underway to correct these constraints over time.


Despite some disagreement over the extent to which China will increase its nuclear forces,[14] prudence will likely lead the United States to assume that over the next two decades the size and capabilities of China’s missile forces will increase. The number of ICBMs capable of targeting the United States could substantially increase, together with the number of IRBMs capable of targeting U.S. territories and bases in the Pacific. Some of these weapons will likely be armed with multiple independently targetable vehicles (MIRV) to ensure that their warheads penetrate ballistic missile defenses.[15] The number of conventional and nuclear-armed SRBMs will also increase as Beijing anticipates the introduction of TMD.


Without a major change in their mutual suspicion and the dynamic driving the military strategies and objectives of both Beijing and Washington, the next two decades will likely see China’s increase the number of deployed weapons and possibly the strategy directing their use. At the very least, the number of weapons will be increased to offset anticipated theater and national missile defenses.



            As the PLA’s concerns focused more directly on the United States, China’s defense modernization programs have been observed and analyzed in detail, including the growing arms and military technology linkage with Russia and Israel.[16]  Indeed, since the mid-1970s, Beijing’s efforts to bring its defense establishment into the late 20th century have been continuously scrutinized, including the acquisition of foreign arms and military technology from multiple sources.[17]  China’s defense industrial base has received particular attention. [18]  With very few exceptions, these two decades of assessments provide the skeptics with their judgment questioning whether the aspirations so clearly seen in Chinese military journals can be achieved in the next decade or even further into the future.


The skeptics conclusion is based upon a number of variables encompassing factors beyond the acquisition of arms and military technology. They do not question that at least within the PLA’s preeminent research center, the Academy of Military Science, there is now clear recognition of the demands of twenty-first century warfare.  Nor do they disagree with the proposition that since the Gulf War PLA researchers have analyzed at great length a combat environment where information technologies allow space, air, sea and land to be integrated into a single operational environment.  The RMA has made this battlespace increasingly transparent, allowing extremely accurate targeting for OTH (over-the-horizon), land, air and sea-launched precision-strike munitions.  Information technologies not only guide the ordnance but are equally valuable for near real-time command, control and intelligence allowing dispersed forces and weapons to exploit battlefield opportunities.  Because information technologies are critical for the prosecution of contemporary and future military operations, these analysts have concluded that the initiative will be held by those forces that achieve electromagnetic dominance. Forces losing this aspect of modern warfare will be rendered “deaf” and “blind.” Consequently, the “hard” damage inflicted by munitions is intensified by the “soft” damage made possible by information warfare.


 Doctrine and Operations


            Chinese assessments of future warfare have created a basic pattern in the doctrinal and operational aspirations filling the pages of China’s military journals.  First, gaining battlespace initiative is viewed as essential in defeating an adversary distinctly superior in the arms and technologies of warfare. That adversary is clearly the United States – “our new rivals.” [19]  Such operations will require offensive and possibly preemptive operations.  This approach to military operations fits the PLA’s traditions and experience.  Mao Zedong placed the highest emphasis on gaining battlefield initiative, directing his field commanders to set this as a primary military objective.  In particular, his commanders were to win the first battle of an operation, for this gave them great flexibility.  Flexibility in employing his forces was seen by Mao as the clearest indicator of a commander’s dominance of the battlefield.[20]


            These operational analyses have folded information warfare (IW) into their focus on offensive/preemptive operations. Assessing U.S. military doctrine and operations, current PLA analyses identify the growing dependence of advanced technology forces on information technologies as a potential critical weakness. In this assessment, dependence on information technologies has led to “nodes” linking together systems acquiring, processing, and disseminating information.  Offensive or preemptive operations attacking command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) nodes are seen as eroding if not disrupting U.S. “hard” attack and joint operational capabilities.  Attacking these critical information nodes is seen as a force multiplier, for reducing an opponents ability to conduct operations effectively increases the PLA’s offensive strength. [21]   


            Weapons of choice for the “hard” attack component of offensive/preemptive operations are standoff, precision-guided munitions (PGM).  Such munitions are air, land and sea-launched and directed to their targets with a variety of means, including terminal guidance, satellite guidance and other information-based technologies.  Of critical importance, these munitions can be launched outside the adversary’s defenses.  The range and accuracy of cruise missiles has

convinced many Chinese analysts that offensive operations can now be initiated at any time and

in any weather, granting distinct advantage and quite possibly battlespace initiative to the forces

that attack first.


As PLA analysts now view a possible confrontation with the United States, the operational preference seen in their analyses in clear.  First, the PLA’s core operational doctrine from the 1930s remains central to their assessments: defeating a superior adversary requires gaining the initiative in the opening phase of a campaign.  Second, because technology has greatly enhanced the speed, accuracy and lethality of military operations, gaining the initiative in current and future battlespace requires offensive and possibly preemptive operations. Hence, PLA planners must consider “gaining the initiative by striking first” (xianfa zhiren).[22]


Fulfilling the Vision


The skeptics and optimists begin to diverge when they assess when and if the PLA will achieve the capabilities required to fulfill its vision. Most observers agree on the doctrinal and operational focus found in China’s military journals. They do not all agree on whether or when China’s defense industrial and R&D capabilities can fulfill the vision, even when imported technologies and technical assistance is included in their assessments.[23]  The skeptics are equal doubtful that the PLA can develop the joint operational skills required to implement the vision any time in the foreseeable future.   The optimists argue that the skeptics focus too closely on the more conventional means of warfare. They agree with the skeptics that “conventional PLA ground, air and naval forces are woefully inadequate, and it is difficult to believe that they will be able to overcome these shortcomings in the short to mid-term.” [24] The optimists insist, however, that the skeptics’ myopic focus on the conventional forces leads them to overlook what may well prove to be the most significant aspect of China’s defense modernization programs: The quest to achieve “information dominance” (zhixinxiquan). They argue [25] that information dominance forms the core of the PLA’s emerging doctrine. [26] 


The optimists therefore focus their attention on new and emerging aspects of China’s military R&D priorities.  They see these priorities as set on developing the spectrum of capabilities required to provide the PLA with the ability to locate and destroy critical targets ranging from satellites to military bases and aircraft carrier battle groups.  Beijing’s defense R&D and industries are therefore focused developing ground, air and space based sensors to grant the PLA information dominance around China’s periphery.  Information collection is paralleled by research and development focused on information attack targeting command and control nodes, computers, and air and space assets. “Hard” attack programs are focused on developing a long-range precision attack capability.  Both cruise and ballistic missiles are being developed with the ability to penetrate theater and national missile defense systems, allowing no critical target to avoid attack.


These programs are joined by development projects seeking to defend China’s information infrastructure. Stokes details the extensive research and development underway to defend China’s critical assets against low visibility (stealth) aircraft and cruise missiles.  One of the lessons China learned from the opening phase of the Gulf War was the U.S. military objective of destroying or degrading Iraq’s air defenses and command and control centers.  Accordingly, countering air and missile attacks with an integrated air defense system has extremely high priority in China’s R&D programs.  Ideally, however, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would seek to destroy the adversary’s weapons before they are launched from the ground, ships or aircraft carrier decks. Counter-space and ballistic missile defenses form yet another priority.


The great value in Stokes’ is work is the detailed listing of China’s defense R&D projects and the particular institutions holding priority and joint responsibility for these programs. Further, that each program is designed to counter a specific capability employed primarily by the United States. Nonetheless, Stokes himself notes that with such a diverse and demanding set of research and development programs, success is far from certain.  He cautions, however that even modest success in a relatively few areas over the next decade or two “could significantly hamper U.S. operations in the region.”[27]  


Wendy Frieman [28] joins Stokes in suggesting that specific high priority sectors of China’s science and technology are more advanced and capable than the skeptics have assessed. She emphasizes that over the past fifteen years, China has undergone a technological revolution.  Frieman recognizes there is little evidence that this revolution has thus far had a major effect on China’s defense industries, but suggests the capability is present, especially in those areas closely associated with the RMA.  “Spectacular progress” has been made in such areas as “computer sciences and artificial intelligence,, electrical engineering, telecommunications, physics, and certain branches of mathematics.”[29] 


Citing Western analysts, Frieman maintains that the essential discriminators of future battlefields “involve the ‘soft’ side of military capability: the telecommunications, sensors, and the entire information technology infrastructure available to the military forces in question.” [30]  Under these conditions, size and capability of ships and aircraft will be far less significant than they are today. The ability to destroy or inflict serious damage to an adversary’s information infrastructure could well be more important than holding an overwhelming advantage in firepower.  Further, Frieman suggests that the important technological innovations associated with the RMA are not derived from deliberately focused defense R&D, as were Cold War innovations, but from commercial research and development.[31] Thus, Frieman argues, it would be unwise to overlook China’s potential for placing these achievements at the service of the defense R&D and industries.


The skeptics’ differences with the optimists are partly found in interpretations of the force structure sought by China’s military leadership.  Although not disagreeing with the RMA focus found in China’s military journals, the skeptics perceive Beijing over the long-term (20-40 years) seeking a multidimensional force structure capable of conducting joint military operations across a battlespace spectrum embracing the electromagnetic, space, atmospheric, land, and sea environments.  This therefore requires them to assess China’s defense R&D and industrial capabilities within a broader view. They assess the wide range of Beijing’s weapons and technology imports as demonstrating that China’s defense industrial base and R&D infrastructure is unable to provide such a force structure. Beijing has had to import not only major combatants such as ships, submarines and aircraft, but also the weapons, target acquisition suites and power plants that make these ”platforms” effective combat systems. China’s indigenous programs for major conventional weapons programs are equally dependent on technology imports, with the domestic content largely derived from reverse engineering.[32] Some skeptics are particularly doubtful that China can achieve its objectives in such critical technology areas as space systems, sensors, lasers, guidance, navigation and vehicle control, and information system technologies.[33]  Thus, the skeptics insist that with the single exception of China’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, the PLA’s most advanced military capabilities either have been purchases or originate in imported technologies.


Given the divergence between the optimists and skeptics, how should one approach the question of assessing China’s military capabilities in the next decade?  The skeptics and optimists agree that Beijing does not anticipate transforming the entire PLA into a 21st century defense force any time in the foreseeable future. Nor is Beijing is seeking to replicate the U.S. armed forces, especially the force projection capabilities that drive so much of the American force structure.  Skeptics and optimists agree that Beijing’s concerns are focused on China’s periphery and maritime claims.  Of greater concern to both is the distinct possibility that selected advanced technology programs and air, naval, ground and missile force units have been given priority based upon potential near-term needs.


Focused Acquisitions and Development Programs


            The most problematic contingency anticipated by the PLA is a potential confrontation with the United States over Taiwan.   In this scenario, the entire range of technological disadvantages faced by the PLA comes into force. In addition to opposing the world’s most advanced conventional and strategic forces, China’s military planners have to integrate the consequences of future U.S. theater and national missile defenses into their planning.   Furthermore, whereas Yugoslavia’s ability to withstand NATO’s PGMs may give some comfort to planners assessing China’s defensive capabilities, it also indicates that Taiwan’s ability to resist air and missile attack. is greater than  Beijing would hope. [34]


If the single most dangerous potential military confrontation is with United States over Taiwan, second priority is given to China's maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea.  Nevertheless, China’s naval and air power deficiencies would only come into play should the PLA confront the either the combined forces of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) states or those of the United States. Although there is no resolution in sight, ASEAN’s participation in seeking to minimize the likelihood of a major clash, suggests this probability is extremely low.  A third priority would be China’s Inner Asian borders.   Because Beijing continues to work diplomatically to minimize the potential for large-scale conflict on these borders, the prospect for major confrontations is very small.  Should a conflict break out, these borders can defended with the current force structure. Assuming the PLA did not contemplate force projection beyond 50 miles, and applied appropriate strategy and operational concepts, the kinds of reforms and limited modernization of weapons and equipment implemented and underway since the mid-1980s are sufficient for a defensive land war. Under these conditions, quantity can compensate for any qualitative advantages the PLA may face.


Taiwan: The Troubling Scenario


Conflict across the Taiwan Strait is the most disturbing potential scenario. Although agreeing that Taiwan has top priority in PLA contingency planning, skeptics and optimists diverge in their assessments of PLA capability to conduct the strategy and military operations implied in China’s military journals and supported by its operational traditions.  The greatest obstacle to Beijing subduing Taiwan by military force is the almost certain participation of the United States in the island’s defense.  Certainly, PLA contingency planning has to assume a decision by the United States to intervene militarily. 


Planning for a probable U.S. involvement appears to drive the PLA’s quest for a quick, decisive neutralization of Taiwan’s ability to defend itself before the United States can intervene.  Blockades, low-level harassment of Taiwan’s shipping lanes and frequent crossing of the Taiwan Strait’s imaginary center-line with air and naval combatants would alert the United States to possible escalation and provide time for a build-up of deployed forces and concentrated intelligence collection. Such low-intensity military activities would provide strategic warning to both Taiwan and the United States.


A military strategy designed to present the United States with a fait accompli has a specific political objective. Assuming the strategy was successful, rather than assisting in Taiwan’s defense the United States would be required to roll back the military success China had already achieved.  This would almost certainly require the United States to attack PLA command and control centers, missile sites, air defenses, air bases, and naval faculties.  Such actions present the possibility of a wider war than would a military confrontation confined to the defense of Taiwan. If the United States did not take military action, Beijing could well anticipate Taipei’s capitulation. Seeking rapid suppression of Taiwan’s defenses would therefore in part be designed to deter the United States by raising the political and military cost of intervention.

A Potential Scenario for 2010


The Department of Defense (DOD) has already assessed the dimensions of a potential

 PLA campaign.[35] DOD’s appraisal of security in the Taiwan Strait declares that over the next decade China’s short-range ballistic missile force (SRBM) is expected to “grow substantially” and that land attack cruise missiles (LACM) will enter the PLA inventory. Although expressing doubt that the PLA could coordinate missile attacks with concurrent military operations, the DOD report states that these weapons would be most effective when used in “high-volume, precision strikes against priority military and political targets, including air defense facilities, airfields, Taiwan’s C2 infrastructure and naval facilities.”  Furthermore, it assesses that missile defenses “will not sufficiently offset the overwhelming advantage in offensive missiles which Beijing is projected to possess in 2005.”[36] 


DOD’s assessment, however, raises a more complex problem for the PLA to counter. Although China’s SRBM and future LACM forces will play a central role in quickly subduing Taiwan’s defenses, their function is to open the way for follow-on operations. Accomplishing the Beijing’s military objective depends upon the ability of these operations to exploit the suppression of Taiwan’s defensive capabilities.  Consequently, the campaign’s success is ultimately dependent on the cumulative result of sequential military operations. 


With so much depending on missile to suppress Taiwan’s defenses in the critical opening phase of a campaign, three issues become central.  First is target acquisition, second is the accuracy of the missiles, and third is the PLA’s ability to coordinate missile attack with other concurrent military operations.  A fourth issue to be addressed is the potential role to be played by information warfare.


Target Acquisition [37]


            Detection and tracking sensors are high among PLA priorities.  Space-based and airborne sensors are being developed, with Beijing working on reconnaissance satellites and long-range drones. Airborne early warning  (AEW) capabilities are entering the PLAAF with the acquisition of the Israeli Phalcon AEW system mounted on Russian Il-76 aircraft.  The Navy is acquiring British Skymaster radars for surface surveillance. These emerging capabilities must be joined with China’s access to commercial satellite imagery with resolution down to 2.5 meters.  Taken collectively, the PLA will soon be able to detect and track targets, and to develop digital maps for mission planning, target identification and missile guidance.


Missile Accuracy.


            China has sought to improve the accuracy of its strategic, theater, tactical and cruise missiles for many years.  Presumably, the PLA is hoping to achieve a CEP [38] of 50 meters or less for its tactical and cruise missiles. The degree of its accuracy significantly effects a missile’s mission.  Extremely accurate missiles can be used to cut runways and damage specific port facilities, air defense radars, surface-to-air missile sites, etc.  The less accurate the warhead, the more missiles will have to be assigned to the target, thereby significantly increasing the numbers of weapons required for the operation.  Less accuracy also increases potential collateral damage, which Beijing may wish to avoid for political reasons.


Joint Military Operations, Logistics and Sustainability


            Reports in Chinese military journals reflect the difficulties the PLA is facing as it attempts to prepare for joint operations.  Updating and reorganizing logistics to sustain joint warfare has proven equally difficult. [39] Nonetheless, it is significant that the PLA does consider joint operations and logistics to be a requirement for current and future warfare. It is plausible that units assigned to the Taiwan contingency would receive priority in terms of weapons, equipment, training, logistics and sustainability in preparation for a possible military confrontation.  Further, the DOD Report notes that the PLA is considering implementing a joint command structure at the theater level exercising operational command over all forces assigned to the theater.[40]  This concept has been discussed since the late 1980s, thus it would be prudent to assume that the theatre responsible for Taiwan (Nanjing Military Region) would be the most likely location for setting up and exercising a joint command.


Information Operations


            Over the past decade, China’s military researchers have spent considerable effort investigating the various facets of information warfare. Indeed, speculating on information warfare has developed into a veritable cottage industry in PLA research centers, especially the Academy of Military Science. [41] In the process, Chinese publications have directly incorporated the principles found in U.S. concepts for the role information operations in future warfare. Consequently, much of the language and terminology used by Chinese analysts reflects the influence of American concepts. Grasping the fundamental principles that could be used to implement information operations (IO) does not equate with capabilities. Nonetheless, China is investigating both defensive and offensive information operations.


The DOD Report states that China’s primary effort is focused on defensive measures, including electronic countermeasures.  China’s own technological capabilities joined with the procurement of Western technology imply that offensive operations are plausible in the future. These operations include computer warfare, electronic warfare and anti-satellite (ASAT) programs.  Ground-based stations can be used to jam and interfere with satellite communications, and China now has the ability to track satellites with accuracy sufficient for targeting.  Damaging a satellite can be achieved by a nuclear-armed ballistic missile, but China is also researching lasers as an ASAT weapon.  The Report suggests that China may even now have the capability to damage a satellite’s optical sensor. [42] These developments strongly indicate that by 2010, the PLA’s ability to conduct information warfare as a component of a cross-strait scenario may well be quite robust.


A 2005-2010 Taiwan Scenario


When focused on future PLA capabilities, the elements of a possible Chinese strategy become ominously evident.  Although missiles form the central core of the strategy, the follow-on military operations provide the strategy with its potency.  The most dangerous scenario can be outlined as follows: [43]


·        An opening phase where cruise and ballistic missile attacks are coordinated with information operations seeking to quickly degrade Taiwan’s command and control capabilities, air defenses, and early warning radars.  These attacks would be paralleled by missile strikes on air bases and naval facilities.  If successful, this phase would temporarily paralyze Taiwan’s air force, significantly degrade ground-based air defenses, and damage naval vessels in port.

·        The second phase would exploit the paralyzed air defenses using aircraft to strike the same and additional targets using conventional munitions and PGMs.  Special operations forces (SOF) could be employed to strike at specific targets, especially command and control centers, radar sites, and other facilities essential for a coordinated defense of the island but which missile attacks could not neutralize.  This second set of attacks would make it very difficult for Taiwan’s air and naval forces to sustain the operations required to achieve and maintain air superiority and sea control of the Taiwan Strait.  Without air superiority, Taiwan’s naval forces would be dangerously exposed to standoff anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), and their entrance and exit from port facilities threatened by airdropped mines.  When these dangers are joined with aggressive operations by China’s sizeable submarine force, the ability of Taiwan’s navy to control the seas adjacent to the island would be significantly eroded.    

·        Assuming China gains air superiority and sea control, Taiwan is open to ever increasing attack, including the insertion of airborne forces. If the “shock effect” of the previous two phases were effective enough, the airborne assault forces would not face a coordinated defense.  Further, if the PLAAF had gained air superiority, then the inserted forces would have the distinct advantage provided by close air support and battlefield interdiction strikes. The lack of effective command and control together with the inability to defend against air attack would counteract Taiwan’s ground forces manpower advantage.


Assessing the Scenario


Evaluating the probability of success in such a complex scenario is problematic. Even though he recognizes the difficulties involved in such a intricate campaign, Stokes believes that China’s military R&D programs and the PLA’s concepts of operations are sufficiently mature that they could “decisively tip the cross-Strait military balance in Beijing’s favor.” [44] Three years ago, Harlan Jencks speculated on a similar scenario (among others) and suggested that although very unlikely to succeed, it is “’so crazy it just might work.’” [45]  The simple reality is restricted to unclassified information it is impossible to judge whether in ten years the PLA will have the capability to conduct a campaign so dependent on both initial success and the follow on sequential operations.  Beyond the issues of the arms and military technologies required for success, there are questions of training, command and control, logistics and all the other non-hardware facets of military operations required to transform concepts of operations into a successful campaign. 


Equally important is the extent to which Taiwan’s forces will have adjusted to the capabilities represented by improvements in the PLA, including the deployment of an effective missile defense system, Ten years is a long time to forecast, and it would be an error of major proportions to conjecture a decade ahead based upon principles that apply today.


Similar questions surround American participation in the defense of Taiwan. Certainly, this is a focus of Beijing’s concerns. R&D programs underway are almost certainly conceived as preparation for a possible confrontation involving the United States.  U.S. dependence on overseas basing and carrier battle groups for force projection constitutes specific targets for PLA planners.  Space-based sensors capable of tracking U.S. naval forces joined with long-range precision strike munitions are a definite PLA priority and present an emerging threat to American operations in the West Pacific.  Looking ahead a decade, if these programs are coupled with improvements in the PLA’s air and naval forces, as they almost certainly will be, then operating several hundreds of miles off China’s coast could become far more hazardous than it is today.  U.S. base facilities would be equally under threat. 


This same decade, however, will see significant improvements in U.S. defensive and offensive capabilities.  TMD and NMD should be likened to the tip of a technology-driven iceberg.  Given the American technological and industrial advantage, defensive and offensive information operations could be many times more robust than they are today. China’s search for “information dominance” may well run into an impenetrable American electronic wall even as the PLA’s information defenses become easier to penetrate and degrade. U.S. strategic and tactical reconnaissance/strike capabilities will be far more advanced than demonstrated in the Gulf War and after.  China’s naval and air forces could well be dangerously exposed from distances far greater than is the norm for today.


Nevertheless, a decade hence is just too far for accurate prediction.  Rather, when focused on specific scenarios such prognostications should be viewed as potentially valuable speculations. Here the optimists have performed a significant service by requiring the skeptics to think more carefully about China’s future capabilities, especially the implications of research and development in those areas of technology and warfare associated with the RMA.


Prospects and Implications


The optimists have performed a valuable service by focusing their research on China’s high technology programs, especially those that could be used to exploit what Beijing’s strategists interpret as U.S. weaknesses. Nonetheless, what must be kept uppermost when assessing China’s military capabilities is the distinction between long-term trends and current or near-term capabilities. There is a vast gap between the vision of a future PLA seen in many of the essays found in its journals and the capability of China’s defense industries and armed forces to bridge that gap. The record of China’s defense industries in development and innovation supports the skeptics assessment that bridging the aspirations-capabilities gap will be difficult. Nevertheless, when looking a decade or two into the future, advances in the civil sector of the economy together with extensive foreign military technology assistance have the potential for reversing this dismal history. Such potential must be taken into account in assessing the future of China’s defense programs.


Although not even attempting to transform the bulk of the PLA into a late 20th century defense force, Chinese planners are definitely striving to bring selected units up to a higher level of competence and readiness. Acquisitions, indigenous production and development programs demonstrate the objective is to build a multi-dimensional force capable of conducting joint operations integrating air, sea and land forces.  The current focus is on a Taiwan contingency, but the emerging force structure could be employed in the South China Sea and elsewhere on China’s maritime periphery. 


China’s acquisitions and development programs provide ample evidence of Beijing’s intent. Although currently few in number, procurement and construction of fourth generation fighter aircraft, aerial refueling, AWACS aircraft, and advanced surface and subsurface naval combatants demonstrate the PLA’s priorities. China’s emphasis on cruise and tactical ballistic missiles, including a long-range reconnaissance strike capability, is part of this overall package. These programs are linked with projects to strengthen capabilities in information warfare, electronic warfare, imagery reconnaissance, early warning, command and control, surveillance, and sensors for detection and targeting. Enhancing the means to conduct war is accompanied by a concentration on “software” deficiencies.  Exercises designed to advance joint operational capabilities together with revisions to its logistics and sustainment management demonstrates that the PLA is seeking to correct these critical defects.


Focused efforts to improve the effectiveness of the PLA’s conventional general-purpose forces are complemented by China’s longstanding commitment to building a more robust strategic deterrent.  Tactically mobile strategic weapons in greater numbers, some armed with multiple warheads, will constitute a more viable deterrent than China currently possesses.

A decade hence will not see the PLA metamorphosed into a military superpower capable of global power projection. This is not the purpose of the defense modernization programs pursued since the late 1970s.  Their objective is to be capable of operating much more effectively on China’s periphery, and this requires a multi-dimensional force structure.  Assuming current trends continue and the diverse advanced technology programs underway have reasonable success, Beijing’s armed forces will be approaching such a capability – and under the shield of a more credible strategic deterrent.


Given the current state of Sino-American relations, China’s improving military capabilities are troubling. Beijing continues its efforts to intimidate Taipei with the threat of military force. PLA publications continue to assess ways to exploit the weaknesses they see when U.S. forces are engaged in military operations far from home and dependent on foreign basing rights.  For the time being, this stance reflects more a deterrent strategy than a war plan.  A decade ahead, will such a conclusion be viable? 


Even if the Taiwan dilemma is somehow resolved, Beijing will sustain its defense modernization programs. The quest for international status and the requirement to defend China’s interests around its extensive maritime periphery require powerful, flexible forces.  When China’s Inner Asian borders are added to this pattern, strong ground forces are also required.  Whether these developments will be for good or ill is beyond the scope of this paper.  It does seem evident, however, that if the current hostility and suspicion marking Sino-American relations continues, the future is covered by an ominous shadow.



Return to Agenda









[1][1] I am grateful to Bates Gill for introducing the “aspirations versus capabilities” concept in his “Chinese Military-Technical Development: The record of Western Assessments, 1979-1999,” delivered at the 1999 CAPS/RAND Conference, State of the PLA on the Eve of the Millennium: A Retrospective of the Last Twenty Years, Raddison-Barcelo Hotel, Washington, D.C., July 8-11, 1999.

[2] See, for example, Michael Pillsbury, “PLA Capabilities in the 21st Century: How Does China Assess Its Future Security Needs,” in Larry Worzel (ed.), The Chinese Armed Forces in the 21st Century (Carlisle, PA.: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, December 1999), p.93.

[3] This term is used by John Culver  “Session 5: Defense Policy and Posture II,” in Hans Binnendijk and Ronald Montaperto, Strategic Trends in China (Washington, D.C.: Institute for National Security Studies, National Defense University, 1998), p.69.

[4] Deng Xiaoping, “Speech at an Enlarged Meeting of the of the Military Commission of the Party Central Committee” (July 14, 1975), in Deng Xiaoping Wenxuan [Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping] (Beijing, July 1, 1983, in Joint Publications Research Service, China Report (hereafter JPRS-China), October 31, 1983, p. 19.

[5]  See Harlan W. Jencks, “China’s ‘Punitive’ War on Vietnam: A Military Assessment,” Asian Survey, Vol. XIX, No. 8 (August 1979), pp. 801-815.

[6]  See Paul H.B. Godwin, “China’s Military Strategy Revised: Local and Limited War,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 519 (January 1992), pp. 191-201, for an analysis of the logic behind this shift and the consequences for PLA doctrine and concepts of operations.

[7] For a current assessment of PLA views of the United States, see David Shambaugh, “China’s Military Views the World: Ambivalent Security,” International Security, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Winter 1999-2000), pp. 62-67.

[8]  For a recent discussion of the United States as a military adversary, see Yao Youzhi and Zhao Dexi (both from the PLA Academy of Military Science) “How Will China Handle War in the 21st Century,” Liaowang, No 2 (January 10, 2000), in FBIS-China, February 14, 2000.

[9]  See James R. Lilley and Chuck Downs (eds.), Crisis in the Taiwan Strait (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1997) for assessments of 1995-1996 confrontation.

[10] Culver, p. 71.

[11]  For a recent appraisal, see Paul H.B. Godwin, “China’s Nuclear Forces: An Assessment,” Current History, Vol. 98, No. 629 (Summer 1999), pp. 26-265.

[12]  United States House of Representatives, Select Committee on United States National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China, The Cox Report on Chinese Espionage. Report prepared by Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA) (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, May 1999) [hereafter cited as the Cox Committee Report].

[13] For an illuminating analysis of the ways in which Chinese strategists are approaching the issue of a revised strategy for their nuclear forces, see Alastair Iain Johnston, “China’s New ‘Old Thinking’: The Concept of Limited Deterrence,” International Security, Vol. 20. No.3 (Winter 1995-1996), pp. 5-42.  Much of the discussion below is drawn from this essay.

[14] See, for example, Tom Woodrow  “Session 6: Nuclear Issues” in Binnendijk and Montaperto, Strategic Trends in China, p. 87.

[15]  Although China has had the capability to develop multiple reentry vehicles for some years, it has not yet done so. Deploying MIRVs for mobile missiles is seen as many years into the future.  Jeremiah Commission, The Intelligence Community Damage Assessment on the Implications of China Acquisition of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Information on the Development of Future Chinese Weapons, Key Findings, April 21, 1999.

[16] For recent analyses see, John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai, China’s Strategic Seapower: The Politics of Force Modernization in the Nuclear Age (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Kenneth W. Allen, Glenn Krumel and Jonathan D. Pollack, China’s Air Force Enters the 21st Century (Santa Monica: RAND, 1995); Bates Gill and Taeho Kim, China’s Arms Acquisitions From Abroad: A Quest for ‘Superb and Secret Weapons’ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); Lilley and Downs (eds.), Crisis in the Taiwan Strait;  David S. Shambaugh and Richard Yang (eds.), China’s Military in Transition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997);  AndrewJ. Nathan and Robert S. Ross, The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress: China’s Search for Security New York:  W.W. Norton & Co., 1997); James R. Lilley and David Shambaugh (eds.), China’s Military Faces the Future (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1999); James C. Mulvenon and Richard H. Yang (eds.) The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age (Santa Monica, CA.: RAND 1999); Srikanth Kondapalli, China’s Military: The PLA in Transition (New Delhi: Knowledge World in association with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, 1999); and Larry M. Worzel (ed.) The Chinese Armed Forces in the 21st Century (Carlisle, PA.: The Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 1999).

[17]  See, for example, Paul H.B. Godwin, Doctrine Strategy, and Ethic: The Modernization of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL.: The Air University Press, 1977); Harlan W. Jencks, From Muskets to Missiles: Politics and Professionalism in the Chinese Army, 1945-1981 (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1982); David G. Muller, China as a Maritime Power (Boulder. CO.: Westview Press,  1983),   Paul H. B. Godwin (ed.), The Chinese Defense Establishment: Continuity and Change in the 1980s (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1983); and Ellis Joffe, The Chinese Army After Mao (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987)

[18] In addition to individual chapters in the works cited above, see Paul Humes Folta, From Swords To Plowshares? Defense Industry Reform in the PRC  (Boulder, CO. Westview Press, 1992); and Jorn Brommelhorster and John Frankenstein (eds.), Mixed Motives, Uncertain Outcomes: Defense Conversion in China (Boulder, CO.: Lynne Reinner Publishers, 1997).

[19]  See, for example, Senior Colonel Huang Xiang, “Holding the Initiative in Our Hands in Conducting Operations, Giving Full Play to Our Advantages To Defeat Our Enemy – A Study of the Core Idea of the Operational Doctrine of Our Army,” Zhongguo Junshi  Kexue, No. 4 (November 20, 1996), FBIS-China, November 20, 1996.

[20]  Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), “On Protracted War, (May 1938), in Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse-tung (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1972) [hereafter Selected Military Writings], esp. pp. 228-254. 

[21]  See, for example, an article (no title) presented by Professor Liu Kejun at the September 15, 1997, Defense Modernization Symposium organized by the Chinese Electronics Society, Beijing Yuguangtong S&T Development Center, and Zhongguo Dianzi Bao held at the PLA General Staff Department Research Institute 61, reported in Zhongguo Dianzi Bao, October 24, 1997, in FBIS-China, January 14, 1998. For an assessment of PLA information warfare developments, see James Mulvenon, “The PLA and Information Warfare,” in Mulvenon and Yang, The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age, pp. 175-186.

[22]  See Lu Linzhi, “Preemptive Strikes Crucial in Limited High Tech Wars,” Jiefangjun Bao, February 14, 1996 in FBIS-China, February 14, 1996.

[23]  For a detailed analysis of this question, see Bates Gill, “Chinese Military-Technical Development: The Record  for Western Assessments,” presented at the 1999 CAPS-RAND PLA Conference, “the State of the PLA on the Eve of the Millennium: A Retrospective of the Last Twenty Years,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, Washington, D.C., July 8-11, 1999.

[24]  Mark A. Stokes, China’s Strategic Modernization: Implications for the United States, (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, September 1999), p. 5.

[25]  Michael Pillsbury (ed.), Chinese Views of Future Warfare (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 1997).

[26] Stokes, China’s Strategic Modernization, p. 9.

[27] Ibid., p.140.

[28]  Wendy Frieman, “The Understated Revolution in Chinese Science and Technology: Implications for the PLA in the Twenty-First Century,” in Lilley and Shambaugh, China’s Military Faces the Future, pp. 247-267.  Frieman has consistently been among the optimists in assessing the development of China’s defense industries.  See, for example, her “Foreign Technology and Chinese Modernization,” in Charles D. Lovejoy, Jr., and Bruce W. Watson (eds.), Chinese Military Reforms: International and Domestic Implications (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 1986).

[29] Ibid.

[30]  Ibid., p. 248.

[31] Ibid.

[32]  For a recent analysis of these issues, see John Frankenstein, “China’s Defense Industries: A New Course?” and Rear Admiral Eric A. McVadon, USN (retired), “Systems Integration in China’s People’s Liberation Army,” both in Mulvenon and Yang (eds.), The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age; and Richard A. Bitzinger, “Going Places or Running in Place: China’s Efforts to Leverage Advanced Technologies for Military Use,” presented at the Conference on the People’s Liberation Army, September 10-12, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

[33]  Bernard D. Cole and Paul H.B. Godwin, “Advanced Military Technologies and the PLA: Priorities and Capabilities for the 21st Century,” in Worzel, (ed.), The Chinese Armed Forces in the 21st Century, esp. pp. 176-184.

[34] For an interesting assessment that includes but goes beyond the military issues involved, see Arthur Waldron, “The Kosovo War: Implications for Taiwan,” presented at the Conference on the People’s Liberation Army, September 10-12, 1999, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

[35] U.S. Department of Defense, Report to Congress Pursuant to the FY99 Appropriations Bill: The Security Situation in the Taiwan Strait (Defense Link, February 26, 1999). [Hereafter, Report. Page numbers refer to the download from Defense Link.]

[36] Ibid. p. 18.

[37] Ibid. pp. 11-12.

[38] Circle error probability is the radius of a circle within which 50 percent of the warheads fired will impact.

[39]  See, for example, Tai Ming Cheung, “Reforming the Dragon’s Tail: Chinese Military Logistics in the Era of High-Technology Warfare and Market Economics,” in Lilley and Shambaugh, China’s Military Faces The Future, pp. 228-246.

[40] Report, p. 15.

[41] For a thorough analysis on PLA work on information warfare, see James Mulvenon, “The PLA and Information

Warfare,” in Mulvenon and Yang (eds.), The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age, pp. 175-186.

[42]  Report, p. 11.

[43]  This scenario outline draws from Report, p. 18; Harlan W. Jencks, “Wild Speculations on the Military Balance in the Taiwan Strait,” in Lilley and Downs, Crisis in the Taiwan Strait, pp. 131-165, and Stokes, China’s Strategic Modernization, pp. 136-140.

[44] Stokes, China’s Strategic Modernization, p. 140.

[45] Jencks, “Wild Speculations, “ p. 160.  Jencks discusses additional scenarios in his interesting speculation.