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Military Power of the People's Republic of China

Chapter One
Key Developments

""The world today is undergoing extensive and profound changes, and China today is undergoing extensive and profound transformations."
- President Hu Jintao

Several significant developments in China over the past year relate to the questions Congress posed in Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (P.L. 106-65).

Developments in China’s Grand Strategy, Security Strategy, and Military Strategy

    • The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convened the 17th Party Congress on October 15-21, 2007. At the Congress, President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao reaffirmed a long-term strategy of “opening and development,” which seeks to maintain domestic and regional stability while China develops its economic, military, scientific, and cultural power.

    • Immediately following the Congress, Shanghai Party Secretary Xi Jinping and Liaoning Party Secretary Li Keqiang were appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC), putting them in line for top leadership positions at the next Party Congress in 2012. Party leaders also endorsed inclusion of Hu’s ideological concept of “scientific development” (ensuring balance between economic growth and social and environmental needs) into the Party Constitution.

    • Prior to the Congress, three of the 11-member Central Military Commission (CMC) were replaced. The new CMC members are General Chang Wanquan, Director of the General Armament Department (GAD); General Xu Qiliang, PLA Air Force (PLAAF) Commander; and, Admiral Wu Shengli, PLA Navy Commander. Defense Minister General Cao Gangchuan retired as Vice Chairman of the CMC and as a member of the Politburo, and will retain the title of Defense Minister until probably March 2008.

    • Military leaders also appointed new commanders for five of seven military regions (MR) in the months leading up to the 17th Party Congress. These included Lieutenant General Fang Fenghui, Beijing MR; Lieutenant General Zhang Qinsheng, Guangzhou MR; Lieutenant General Zhao Keshi, Nanjing MR; Lieutenant General Wang Guosheng, Lanzhou MR; and Lieutenant General Zhang Youxia, Shenyang MR. These new commanders reflect the PLA’s modernization priorities and efforts to promote officers who are younger, better educated, and trained according to the PLA’s evolving professional military education guidelines.

    • Regarding Taiwan, President Hu’s 17th Party Congress speech did not emphasize military threats, but affirmed the importance of continuing China’s military modernization and urged the Party to “accelerate the revolution in military affairs with PLA characteristics [and] ensure preparations for military struggles….”

    • Hu’s speech also included an offer to hold consultations with Taiwan, based on Beijing’s One China principle, toward “reaching a peace agreement.” Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian rejected the offer.

    • In an August 2007 speech celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the PLA, President Hu called for accelerating the modernization of weapons and equipment, enhancing personnel training, and strengthening combat skills through “coordinated development between national defense building and economic construction.” China began to use this language in the late 1990s, reflecting the CCP’s strategy of balancing economic growth and military modernization, as opposed to privileging one over the other.

    • In December 2007, China announced the elevation of Hainan Province’s Xisha Islands office to a county-level office named “Sansha City,” which would hold administrative jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly island groups, and Macclesfield Bank – claims disputed by Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. A PRC spokesperson asserted that China has “indisputable sovereignty” and effective jurisdiction over the islands of the South China Sea “and the adjacent waterways.” In reaction to China’s declaration, hundreds of Vietnamese protesters demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi.

Developments in China’s Military Forces

China’s long-term, comprehensive transformation of its military forces is improving its capacity for force projection and anti-access/area denial. Consistent with a near-term focus on preparing for Taiwan Strait contingencies, China deploys many of its most advanced systems to the military regions opposite Taiwan.

China describes operating under “informatized” conditions and improving “integrated joint operations” capabilities as the primary objectives for the PLA’s build-up. Informatized conditions are operating environments characterized by communications jamming, electronic surveillance, and precision weaponry. “Integrated joint operations” is the PLA’s term for multi-service, combined arms operations.

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles. China has the most active ballistic missile program in the world. It is developing and testing offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading certain missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses.

    • By November 2007, the PLA had deployed between 990 and 1,070 CSS-6 and CSS-7 shortrange ballistic missiles (SRBM) to garrisons opposite Taiwan. It is increasing the size of this force at a rate of more than 100 missiles per year, including variants of these missiles with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads.

    • The PLA is acquiring large numbers of highly accurate cruise missiles, such as the domestically produced ground-launched DH-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM); the Russian SS-N-22/SUNBURN supersonic anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) outfitted on China’s two SOVREMENNYY and two SOVREMENNYY II-class guided missile destroyers (DDG), also acquired from Russia; and, the SS-N-27B/ SIZZLER supersonic ASCM, outfitted on the last eight of twelve total Russian-built KILO-class diesel electric submarines China has acquired.

    • China is developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) based on a variant of the CSS-5 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) as a component of its anti-access strategy. The missile has a range in excess of 1,500 km and, when incorporated into a sophisticated command and control system, is a key component of China’s anti-access strategy to provide the PLA the capability to attack ships at sea, including aircraft carriers, from great distances.

    • China is modernizing its longer-range ballistic missile force by adding more survivable systems. Most notably, the DF-31 and longerrange DF-31A are now being deployed to units within the Second Artillery Corps.

    • China is also working on a new submarinelaunched ballistic missile, the JL-2, for deployment aboard new JIN-class (Type 094) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). The JL-2 is expected to reach initial operational capability (IOC) between 2009-2010.

Space and Counterspace. China is developing a multi-dimensional program to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by its potential adversaries during times of crisis or conflict. Although China’s commercial space program certainly has utility for non-military research, it demonstrates space launch and control capabilities that have direct military application.

    • In January 2007, China successfully tested a direct ascent, anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, destroying a defunct PRC weather satellite. The unannounced test demonstrated the PLA’s ability to attack satellites operating in low-Earth orbit. The test raised concern among many nations, and the resulting debris cloud put at risk the assets of all space faring nations, and posed a danger to human space flight.

    • China launched its first lunar orbiter on October 24, 2007. The Chang’e 1 orbiter reached lunar orbit on November 5, 2007. Successful completion of this mission demonstrated China’s ability to conduct complicated space maneuvers – a capability which has broad implications for military counterspace operations. The Chang’e 1 mission completed the first of a three-stage plan for lunar exploration which includes China’s desire to launch an unmanned lunar rover mission in 2012 and a manned lunar landing by 2020.

    • In October 2007, China launched the fifth in a class of Space Event Support Ships (SESS), the Yuanwang 5, an ocean-going space tracking and survey vessel intended to support China’s growing space program, including its expanding space launch activities.

    • China launched its 100th Long March series rocket in 2007, and continues to put a more sophisticated and diverse set of satellites into orbit. China is developing the Long March 5, an improved heavy-lift rocket that will be able to lift larger reconnaissance satellites into low-earth orbit or communications satellites into geosynchronous orbits by 2012, and is constructing a new satellite launch complex on Hainan Island. China expects to replace all foreign-produced satellites in its inventory with indigenously produced sun-synchronous and geo-stationary models by 2010, with life expectancies of 5 and 15 years, respectively.

    • China announced plans to launch 15 rockets and 17 satellites in 2008. Additionally, China announced its intention to launch a third manned space mission, Shenzhou VII, in October 2008 on the heels of the Beijing Olympics, underscoring space development as an important symbol of national pride. The majority of the technology used in China’s manned space program is derived from Russian equipment, and China receives significant help from Russia with specific satellite payloads and applications.

    • China’s leaders remain silent about the military applications of China’s space programs and counterspace activities.

Cyberwarfare Capabilities. In the past year, numerous computer networks around the world, including those owned by the U.S. Government, were subject to intrusions that appear to have originated within the PRC. These intrusions require many of the skills and capabilities that would also be required for computer network attack. Although it is unclear if these intrusions were conducted by, or with the endorsement of, the PLA or other elements of the PRC government, developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with authoritative PLA writings on this subject.

    • In 2007, the Department of Defense, other U.S. Government agencies and departments, and defense-related think tanks and contractors experienced multiple computer network intrusions, many of which appeared to originate in the PRC.

    • Hans Elmar Remberg, Vice President of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Germany’s domestic intelligence agency), publicly accused China of sponsoring computer network intrusions “almost daily.” Remberg stated, “across the world the PRC is intensively gathering political, military, corporate-strategic and scientific information in order to bridge their [sic] technological gaps as quickly as possible.” Referring to reports of PRC infiltration of computer networks of the German government, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “we must together respect a set of game rules.” Similarly, in September 2007, French Secretary-General of National Defense Francis Delon confirmed that government information systems had been the target of attacks from the PRC.

    • In addition to governments, apparent PRCorigin network intrusions targeted businesses. In November 2007, Jonathan Evans, Director- General of the British intelligence service, MI 5, alerted 300 financial institution officials that they were the target of state-sponsored computer network exploitation from the PRC.

Naval Power. China’s naval forces include 74 principal combatants, 57 attack submarines, 55 medium and heavy amphibious ships, and 49 coastal missile patrol craft.

    • China has an active aircraft carrier research and design program. If the leadership were to so choose, the PRC shipbuilding industry could start construction of an indigenous platform by the end of this decade.

    • The PLA Navy is improving its over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting capability with Sky Wave and Surface Wave OTH radars, and is developing missiles with improved range and accuracy.

    • Two new SHANG-class (Type 093) nuclearpowered attack submarines (SSN) and one JIN-class (Type 094) SSBN may soon enter service alongside four older HAN-class SSNs and China’s single XIA-class SSBN.

    • China has an estimated ten SONG-class (Type 039) diesel-electric attack submarines (SS) in its inventory. The SONG-class SS is designed to carry the YJ-82 (CSS-N-8) ASCM. The YUANclass SS is now assessed to be in full production and will be ready for service by 2010.

    • The PLA Navy has received seven new domestically produced surface combatants in the past two years, including two LUYANG II-class (Type 052C) DDGs fitted with the indigenous HHQ-9 long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM); two LUZHOU-class (Type 051C) DDGs equipped with the Russian SA-N-20 long-range SAM, and three JIANGKAI II-class (Type 054A) guided missile frigates (FFG) to be fitted with the medium-range HHQ-16 vertically launch naval SAM currently under development. These ships reflect leadership’s priority on advanced anti-air warfare capabilities for China’s naval forces, which has historically been a weakness of the fleet.

    • China is continuing construction of its new Type 022 catamaran-style missile patrol craft, which likely will be armed with ASCMs.

Air and Air Defense. China bases 490 combat aircraft within un-refueled operational range of Taiwan, and has the airfield capacity to expand that number by hundreds. Many of these aircraft are upgrades of older models; however, newer, and more advanced, aircraft make up a growing percentage of the inventory.

    • The modernized FB-7A fighter-bomber will augment other multi-role and strike aircraft, such as the F-10 and Su-30MKK, already deployed with China’s air forces.

    • China is upgrading its B-6 bomber fleet (originally adapted from the Russian Tu-16) with a new variant which, when operational, will be armed with a new long-range cruise missile.

    • The PLAAF received four battalions of upgraded Russian SA-20 PMU-2 long-range (200km) SAM systems in July 2007. Another four battalions are expected to be delivered in 2008. The SA-20 system reportedly provides limited ballistic and cruise missile defense capabilities.

    • China’s aviation industry is developing several types of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. This includes the KJ-200, based on the Y-8 transport, for AEW&C as well as intelligence collection and maritime surveillance, and the KJ-2000, based on the Russian A-50 airframe.

Ground Forces. The PLA has about 1.25 million ground forces personnel, with approximately 400,000 based in the three MRs opposite Taiwan. China is upgrading these units with modern tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery. Among the new capabilities acquired by PLA ground forces are the approximately 200 Type 98 and Type 99 main battle tanks now deployed to units in the Beijing and Shenyang MRs.

Developments in PLA Military Doctrine

    • In January 2007, the PLA General Staff Department (GSD) released its yearly guidance on military training. For the first time, the guidance focuses on training under “informatized” conditions.

    • The PLA is compiling and validating a new Outline for Military Training and Evaluation (OMTE) to align its military training with its vision for transformation for warfare under “informatized conditions.” The new OMTE will emphasize realistic training conditions, training in electromagnetic and joint operations environments, and integrating new and high technologies into the force structure.

    • China’s militia forces are shifting from a ground forces-oriented support element to a multiservice force supporting the ground, naval, aviation, and missile forces. The PLA is also integrating militia forces with active duty units in training for future combat operations. China’s militia forces number 10-15 million; fully integrating this force will be a challenge.

International Military Exchanges, Exercises, and Interaction

    • In March 2007, two PLA Navy guided missile frigates participated in the Pakistan-hosted multinational naval exercise, AMAN 07, in the North Arabian Sea. Naval forces from the United States and seven other countries participated in the exercise, which focused on maritime counter-terrorism.

    • PRC Premier Wen Jiabao paid his first official visit to Japan in April 2007. During the visit, Wen and Japan’s then-Prime Minister Abe agreed to expand economic ties and discuss military exchanges and mechanisms for peace in the East China Sea, an area where China and Japan hold competing sovereignty claims. PRC Minister of Defense General Cao Gangchuan followed Wen to Japan in June 2007 for the first senior-level defense visit in ten years. In November 2007, the PLA Navy LUHAI-class destroyer Shenzhen conducted the PRC’s first port visit to Japan.

    • In August 2007, China conducted a first time transnational deployment of 1,600 troops and equipment to Russia to participate with Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member-states in a highly-scripted exercise, PEACE MISSION 2007.

    • Despite a tradition of allowing U.S. naval vessels to make port calls in Hong Kong, in November 2007, Beijing at the last minute denied entry into Hong Kong of the USS PATRIOT and USS GUARDIAN, two small mine sweepers, seeking refueling and weather avoidance – a decision that is inconsistent with international custom regarding safe harbor. The following day, Beijing denied the USS KITTY HAWK carrier strike group entry to Hong Kong harbor on the day it was scheduled to arrive for the Thanksgiving holiday. The PRC’s subsequent reversal of this decision following U.S. demarches came too late to be accepted by the ships of the strike group.

    • The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations named Major General Zhao Jingmin as the first PRC commander of a UN peace operation, the UN Mission on Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). As of December 2007, China was engaged in 13 UN peace missions with 1,800 troops deployed globally.

    • In November 2007, China deployed 135 military engineers (of an eventual 315-person force) to Darfur as the first non-African Union troop contingent for the “hybrid force.”

    • In December 2007, China and India staged “HAND-IN-HAND 2007,” a week long counterterrorism exercise in China that involved 100 troops from each country. Earlier, in April 2007, the PLA and Indian navies held a combined force exercise in the South China Sea. These events stand in contrast to the PRC’s November 2007 destruction of an abandoned Indian bunker near the tri-border area in Bhutan, ignoring Indian protests.

Efforts to Acquire Advanced Technologies to Enhance China’s Military Capabilities

    • Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) have identified China as running an aggressive and wide-ranging effort aimed at acquiring advanced technologies from the United States. Similarly, officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have referred to China as the leading espionage threat to the United States. Between 2000 and May 2006, ICE initiated more than 400 investigations involving the illicit export of U.S. arms and technologies to China.

    • In December 2007, a California resident was sentenced to two years in prison and fined for his role in a scheme to export night vision technology illegally to the PRC.

    • The former director of a research institute associated with Russia’s space agency was sentenced to eleven and one-half years in prison for passing classified technology to China. According to a Russian spokesperson, the information could be used to create missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Taiwan’s Defense Capabilities and Cross-Strait Stability

There were no armed incidents in the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait in 2007 and the overall situation remains stable, as it did in 2006. However, China’s military build-up and the deployment of advanced capabilities opposite the island have not eased.

For its part, Taiwan recently reversed the trend of the past several years of declining defense expenditures; it is also modernizing select capabilities and improving its overall contingency training. But the balance of forces continues to shift in the mainland’s favor.

    • In 2005, Taiwan leaders announced plans to increase defense spending to three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2008. In June 2007, the Taiwan legislature passed a long-delayed defense budget totaling some $8.9 billion, or 2.65 percent of GDP, which included funding for P-3C Orion aircraft and PAC-II upgrades – systems the United States first made available to Taiwan in 2001.

    • For 2008, the Taiwan Legislature in December 2007 passed a $10.5 billion budget, a twelve percent increase, which included funding for three sets of PAC-III missile defense batteries and a study of the feasibility of purchasing U.S.-made diesel submarines.

    • Taiwan also continues to bolster its defense by strengthening its crisis management structure, instituting military personnel reforms, improving its joint capabilities, and modernizing its equipment.

    • During its annual Han Kuang exercise in April 2007, Taiwan announced for the first time that it had successfully developed a LACM known as the Hsiung-Feng IIE (HF-IIE). The Ministry of National Defense (MND), which refers to the HF-IIE as a Tactical Shore-Based Missile for Fire Suppression, claims it is a defensive system to be used against a specific set of military targets only after a PRC first strike.

    • Consistent with the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, Public Law 96-8 (1979), the United States continues to make available defense articles, services, and training assistance to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.

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Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'