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Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the Peoples Republic of China 2012 - Cover

Annual Report to Congress:
Military and Security Developments Involving the Peoples Republic of China 2012

Chapter 1: Chinese Military Strategy And Doctrine


China’s leaders view the !rst two decades of the 21st century as a “period of strategic opportunity” for China’s growth and development. They assess that this period will include a generally favorable external environment, characterized by interdependence, cooperation, and a low threat of major power war. They believe this provides China a unique opportunity to focus on internal development while avoiding direct confrontation with the United States and other great powers. China’s leaders do not expect this period to be free of tension or competition (as evidenced by periodic flare-ups with neighbors over territorial disputes in the South China Sea) or to last inde!nitely.

China’s foreign and security policies remain aimed largely at taking advantage of and prolonging this window of opportunity. To do this, Beijing seeks to emphasize positive relations with neighbors and constructive engagement in international affairs, key components of what Beijing calls its “peaceful development path.” In a December 2010 essay on China’s foreign policy strategy, PRC State Councilor Dai Bingguo characterized peaceful development as China’s “basic state policy and strategic choice” and claimed that China’s “biggest strategic intention” is to improve the lives of its people.

China’s Strategic Objectives

Within this context, China pursues a set of overriding strategic objectives that have remained fairly consistent over the past decade. These objectives include preserving Communist Party rule, sustaining economic growth and development, defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity, achieving national uni!cation, maintaining internal stability, and securing China’s status as a great power.

With its growing power and international status, China periodically acts more assertively in pursuit of its strategic priorities, while also seeking to take advantage of a favorable external environment to pursue economic and military modernization goals.

Beijing is finding it increasingly di'cult to balance these interests, particularly when the pursuit of one conflicts with the pursuit of another. For example, although defending territorial claims allows China to display firmness on sovereigntyrelated issues, Beijing must balance such behavior against the need to avoid a backlash among neighboring countries that could undermine the stable external environment on which Beijing depends for domestic development.

China’s Military Strategy

To advance its broader strategic objectives and self-proclaimed “core interests,” China is pursuing a robust and systematic military modernization program. In 2011, Taiwan remained the PLA’s most critical potential mission, and the PLA continued to build the capabilities and develop the doctrine necessary to deter the island from asserting its sovereignty; deter, disrupt, or deny effective third-party (including U.S.) intervention in a potential cross-Strait conflict; and defeat Taiwan forces in the event of hostilities.

The PLA’s modernization efforts focus primarily on building a force capable of fighting and winning “local wars under conditions of informatization” — conditions in which modern military forces use advanced computer systems, information technology, and communication networks to gain operational advantage over an opponent. The character used for “local war” can also be translated as “regional war.” There is a debate over which translation is more accurate. In the course of developing, re!ning, and assimilating these technologies, the basic tenets of China’s military strategy and war!ghting doctrine have displayed strong continuity. The PLA in turn has ensured that its information technologies have been developed, re!ned, and integrated to ensure continuity with China’s military strategy.

China’s “Military Strategic Guidelines for the New Period,” completed in 1993 and revised as recently as 2004, contains the overarching strategic and operational guidance that directs the training, development, and employment of China’s armed forces. The key operational component of these guidelines is known as “active defense,” which serves as the highest-level operational guidance to all PLA services on how to fight and win wars. The war!ghting principles embedded in active defense emphasize using precise and well-timed offensive operations, gaining and retaining the initiative, attacking only under favorable conditions, and exploiting an opponent’s most vulnerable weaknesses.

Territorial Disuptes

China’s actions in 2011 with respect to ongoing land and maritime territorial disputes with neighbors reflected a mix of contentment with the status quo, renewed efforts to reassure wary neighbors, and continued willingness (particularly through the use of paramilitary maritime law enforcement assets) to assert Chinese claims. China notably took steps to ease relations with Japan and dampen suspicion among rival South China Sea claimants after China’s assertive posture in 2010 increased regional tensions. These steps included high-level engagement with Tokyo and con!dence-building measures with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), even as Chinese maritime law enforcement assets continued to defend Chinese claims in disputed areas (Appendix IV, Figure 1).

The New Historic Missions

The PLA is expanding its participation in military operations other than war, consistent with President and Central Military Commission Chairman Hu Jintao’s Christmas Eve 2004 statement to the armed forces, where he outlined a set of “new historic missions” for the PLA. This mission statement calls on the PLA to protect China’s expanding national interests and adopt a larger role in promoting international peace and security. The “non-war” operations associated with these missions include counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), UN peacekeeping, sea lanes protection, and securing space-based assets.

In 2011, the PLA participated in various nonwar operations. Among them, in February- March 2011, China evacuated approximately 36,000 Chinese nationals from Libya during the uprisings against Muammar Gaddafi. Though the majority of evacuees were moved via commercial aircraft, ships, and buses, the guided missile frigate Xuzhou and four IL-76 transport aircraft were also involved.

In April 2011, the first PLA officer (a major general) to be appointed as military leader of a UN Peacekeeping Force completed a three-andone- half-year assignment with the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. In February 2011, the second PLA officer to assume such a position commanded the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. As of December 2011, China had more than 1,850 military personnel and observers deployed to 10 of the UN’s 15 peacekeeping missions.

From late October through November 2011, the PLA Navy’s ANWEI-class Peace Ark hospital ship conducted a medical exchange and service mission, including stops in Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica.

In November 2011, China’s Ministry of National Defense co-chaired (with Vietnam) the !rst ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM+) Experts Working Group meeting on HA/DR - one of five topics selected for enhanced regional collaboration by defense ministers at the (ADMM+) in October 2010.

In December 2011, the PLA Navy deployed its tenth task force to the Gulf of Aden in support of ongoing international counter-piracy efforts.

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