Research Report


Mark A. Stokes
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 1999
Pages: 230
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. v-vi)

    Conventional wisdom portrays the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as a backward continental force that will not pose a military challenge to its neighbors or to the United States well into the 21st century. PLA writings that demonstrate interest in exploiting the revolution in military affairs (RMA) are dismissed by a large segment of the PLA-watching community as wistful fantasies.

    Major Mark A. Stokes, assistant air attaché in Beijing from 1992-1995, offers an alternative perspective. In this study, funded by the United States Air Force Institute for National Security Studies, he outlines emerging PLA operational concepts...

  2. (pp. 1-4)

    Over the course of the last decade, the Chinese defense-industrial complex has initiated a focused strategic modernization program to meet the requirements of 21st century warfare. Chinese leaders, faced with numerous perceived national security challenges, have called for a readjustment of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) doctrine requiring the modernization of its space, information, long-range precision strike, and other strategic dimensions of warfare.

    This study offers an alternative analytical approach to understanding PLA modernization. Ground force analysts, who tend to dominate the PLA studies field, naturally view the PLA mostly in terms of field equipment such as tanks, artillery, basic...

  3. (pp. 5-23)

    This chapter begins with an introduction of the key players within China’s defense industrial complex, driving forces behind the strategic modernization program, and an overview of China’s defense R&D strategy. An analysis of emerging PLA capabilities must begin with the technological base found within the defense industries. The defense industries operate through a mixture of bottom-up initiative from individual research institutes, and top-down direction from the Central Military Commission (CMC) and State Council. Emerging PLA doctrine, various threat perceptions, and bureaucratic competition are major driving forces for R&D of new weapon systems. Understanding approaches to R&D strategy, to include various...

  4. (pp. 25-77)

    Beijing’s highest priority for strategic modernization is in the realm of information. Competition for information is not a new concept in China. A review of Sun Tzu’s Art of War reflects the Middle Kingdom’s traditional emphasis on information dominance. For centuries, Chinese leaders have been masters at collecting, controlling, and manipulating information. Building upon this traditional core competency, Beijing is aggressively absorbing technologies associated with the on-going information revolution. In fact, the international business community views the China market as the largest in world and is devoting considerable attention to meeting the Chinese demand for technology. China’s unparalleled revolution in...

  5. (pp. 79-108)

    With a solid base of information, PLA planners hope someday to be able to mate sensors and strike assets into a real-time strategic reconnaissance/strike complex. The PLA hopes to develop a range of strike assets with which to exploit adversarial vulnerabilities on the ground, on the ocean, in space, and within the electromagnetic spectrum. Chinese strategists and planners have priority programs to develop a new generation of lethal, highly accurate, and survivable ballistic and cruise missiles, able to penetrate any theater or national missile defense system. Since 1991, the PLA and the space and missile industry have made conventionally armed...

  6. (pp. 109-134)

    China’s quest for information dominance and growing competency in long-range precision strike is intimately related to its overall aerospace defense modernization effort. The PLA has long suffered from an antiquated air defense intelligence network, command and control, and capable air defense weapon systems. Specifically, the PLAAF has lacked decent early warning radars, early warning satellites, and automated intelligence handling and transmission facilities.¹ However, since the Gulf War, Chinese policymakers have placed a high priority on upgrading their overall air defense capability in order to protect strategically critical points. With China’s space and missile industry leading the way, a comprehensive air...

  7. (pp. 135-146)

    China’s military industrial complex—driven by an evolving doctrine which emphasizes information dominance, preemptive, long-range precision strikes against critical nodes, and a highly capable air defense—is conducting preliminary and applied R&D into a dizzying array of technologies and weapons systems. China’s success, however, in achieving technological breakthroughs and fielding the kind of reconnaissance/strike complex discussed in this monograph is not assured. Yet even modest breakthroughs could advance the PLA’s ability to achieve its national security objectives, including forceful integration of Taiwan into the PRC, and deny the United States an ability to intervene.

    There are a number of obstacles...