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The 2007 report on the Chinese military: the top 10 list of missing topics.


Congress requires that the Pentagon annually address the "probable development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and ... the military organizations and operational concepts" of the People's Liberation Army People's Liberation Army

Unified organization of China's land, sea, and air forces. It is one of the largest military forces in the world. The People's Liberation Army traces its roots to the 1927 Nanchang Uprising of the communists against the Nationalists.
 (PLA (Programmable Logic Array) A type of programmable logic chip (PLD) that contained arrays of programmable AND and OR gates. PLAs are no longer used. See PLD.

(language, music) Pla - A high-level music programming language, written in SAIL.
). (1) This broad guidance gives the Secretary of Defense latitude to discuss the entire scope of Chinese military The Chinese Military could refer to two things:
  • Military of the People's Republic of China
  • Military of the Republic of China
 modernization and suggests that Congress intended that such a comprehensive analysis be produced.

However, even after providing Congress with reports varying in format and content since 1997 (except for 2001, when no report was submitted), the authors of the current report seem uncertain how to provide a thorough analysis of PLA modernization. Should each report be an all-inclusive standalone document, or should reports build on information provided in previous years, thus assuming a degree of prior knowledge on the part of the reader? Since most readers do not compare one year's text to previous editions, it would seem logical that each report address all elements of the tasking. Yet many components of Chinese military strategy and organization were not discussed in this year's report, even when significant new or relevant information was available. At the same time, though not required by Congress, the authors of the report have taken it on themselves to address U.S. defense policy and, in particular, U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

Thankfully, the 2007 Military Power of the People's Republic of China Military Power of the People's Republic of China is a publication of the United States Department of Defense that provides an estimation of the military power and strategy of the People's Republic of China.  is considerably less politically charged than its immediate predecessor. (2) With the change of leadership at the Pentagon, it was no longer necessary to mimic former Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's rhetorical questions from Singapore in June 2005: "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?" Likewise, the six references in 2006 to China's "military expansion," which had been used inexactly in·ex·act  
1. Not strictly accurate or precise; not exact: an inexact quotation; an inexact description of what had taken place.

 and interchangeably with the term military modernization, were dropped completely. Curiously, the report did not repeat the statement from the National Security Strategy that the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  "seeks to encourage China to make the right strategic choices for its people, while we hedge against other possibilities." Instead, the current report retains only the general statement that the "lack of transparency in China's military affairs will naturally and understandably prompt international responses that hedge against the unknown [emphasis added]." This formulation suggests that the authors were trying to downplay an official U.S. hedging policy toward China.

This year's report, while an improvement over the 2006 effort, focuses primarily on elements of PLA modernization that Washington believes potentially threaten the United States itself, American forces in the region, or Taiwan. This is not a new phenomenon, and such a myopic my·o·pi·a  
1. A visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred because their images are focused in front of the retina rather than on it; nearsightedness. Also called short sight.

 focus supports the conclusion in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review
"QDR" redirects here. For the computer technology called QDR, see Quad Data Rate SRAM.

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is a report by the United States Department of Defense that analyzes strategic objectives and potential military
: "China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages." To be sure, these developments are essential factors in American security planning, but such an exercise in mirror-imaging about force projection The ability to project the military element of national power from the continental United States (CONUS) or another theater, in response to requirements for military operations. Force projection operations extend from mobilization and deployment of forces to redeployment to CONUS or home , missiles, advanced aircraft, aircraft carriers, and so forth reflects only a fraction of what is actually happening in the Chinese armed forces.

The Pentagon might have addressed some of the following 10 topics for a more balanced and complete evaluation of Chinese military modernization.

Force Structure

This year's report did not describe the structure of the Chinese armed forces, though previous reports have attempted to. Because the U.S. and Chinese militaries are so differently structured, it is important to define accurately the composition of the Chinese armed forces. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 the 1997 National Defense Law, the Chinese armed forces have three components: the active and reserve units of the PLA; the People's Armed Police The People's Armed Police Force (Abbreviation: PAP; Simplified Chinese: 人民武装警察部队; pinyin: Renmin wuzhuang jingcha budui  (PAP) force; and the people's militia. (3)

The PLA is organized into ground forces (the army), the PLA Navy, the PLA Air Force, and Second Artillery (strategic missile forces). The army makes up roughly two-thirds of the PLA's 2.3 million active duty end-strength, with about 11 percent in the navy, 17 percent in the air force, and 4 percent in the Second Artillery. (4) By the definition above, neither the PAP nor the militia is part of the PLA. Both meet the definition of paramilitary organizations. (5)

The PAP is tasked primarily with internal security functions and has a dual chain of command that extends to the Central Military Commission as well as to the State Council through the Ministry of Public Security. The 2006 Chinese White Chinese white: see zinc oxide.  Paper contained new information about PAP manpower strength, stating that it "has a total force of 660,000." (6) This number is much lower than most foreign estimates (including previous Pentagon reports), which counted up to 1.5 million personnel. The White Paper figure, however, may not have included another 230,000 PAP personnel who are considered "police officers in military service." These personnel are found in border security, firefighting, and personal security guard units and come under daily command of the Ministry of Public Security. (7) They would bring the PAP total up to about 890,000--still far smaller than previous estimates. The size, training, and equipment of the PAP are particularly relevant to the government's ability to maintain domestic stability as the number of protests and demonstrations increases.

PLA reserve unit personnel strength is estimated to be another 800,000. (8) Reserve units have an assigned cadre of active duty personnel but are manned mainly by civilians (some of whom, but not all, have previously served on active duty). Militia units are also composed of civilians and organized by local governments or in commercial enterprises. Reserve units fall under the command of provincial military district headquarters; militia units are commanded by grassroots People's Armed Forces The People's Armed Forces (Forces Armées Populaires or FAP) was a Chadian insurgent group composed of followers of Goukouni Oueddei after the schism with Hissène Habré in 1976.  Departments. (9)

As it did last year, this year's report states that approximately 400,000 ground force personnel are "deployed to the three military regions opposite Taiwan" and provides a count of group armies, infantry, armor, artillery, and marine units in the Taiwan Strait Taiwan Strait, Chinese Taiwan haixia, arm of the Pacific Ocean, between China's Fujian coast and Taiwan, linking the East and South China seas. It contains the Pescadores. It is also called the Formosa Strait.  area (but gives no unit strength figures). (10) That number is probably considerably short of all army personnel in those three military regions. In addition to personnel in the units identified above, army personnel account for most of the manpower in:

* headquarters and communications units for military regions, military districts, military subdistricts, and county-level People's Armed Forces Departments

* logistics subdepartments, including hospitals and supply/repair depots

* coastal and border defense units

* garrison units not included in the categories above

* a variety of army schools with thousands of staff, faculty, and students.

While many of these personnel would provide direct support to PLA operations, such as command and control, rear area security, and logistics assistance, most would not be part of China's expeditionary force An armed force organized to accomplish a specific objective in a foreign country.

expeditionary force ncuerpo expedicionario

expeditionary force ncorps m
, and a sizeable number are noncombat personnel.

PLA coastal and border defense units likely amount to 200,000 or more total personnel, all of whom are deployed in early warning and defensive positions along China's periphery and would not add to the PLA's offensive punch. Approximately another 100,000 PAP troops are assigned land and sea frontier defense missions throughout China, including duties similar to the U.S. Coast Guard. (11)

People's War

In a report specifically tasked to discuss China's military strategy, this year's omission of any examination of People's War is striking. Although the report discussed some elements of People's War, it did not integrate the separate factors into a discussion about this keystone of Chinese military thought.

A decade ago, some analysts, including myself, thought People's War would (or should) soon be discarded into the dustbin of history. However, since 1999, with the dissemination of updated doctrine for the PLA, People's War has been described consistently as a "strategic concept" or "a fundamental strategy ... still a way to win modern war." (12) Such references are found in authoritative works such as The Science of Campaigns and The Science of Military Strategy, as well as in all the Chinese White Papers on national defense. Granted, People's War has been modified greatly from its original form as practiced by the Red Army, but an understanding of its continuing relevance to Chinese military thinking is essential to a true analysis of PLA military strategy.

As a basis for China's declared military strategy, People's War is defensive but acknowledges the decisive nature of the offense. Chinese doctrine allows for preemptive pre·emp·tive or pre-emp·tive  
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of preemption.

2. Having or granted by the right of preemption.

 action at the tactical and operational levels: "If any country or organization violates the other country's sovereignty and territorial integrity Territorial integrity is the principle under international law that nation-states should not attempt to promote secessionist movements or to promote border changes in other nation-states. Conversely it states that border changes imposed by force are acts of aggression. , the other side will have the right to 'fire the first shot' on the plane of tactics." (13)

People's War is not a mystery, and many of its principles are not unique to China. The Science of Military Strategy describes 10 strategic principles for People's War that illustrate its traditions and commonalities with other countries' military thinking:

* knowing ourselves and the enemy

* preserving ourselves and destroying the enemy

* striving for the initiative and avoiding the passive

* employing military forces and tactics flexibly

* closely combining the three battle forms of mobile war, positional war, and guerrilla war

* concentrating superior forces and destroying the enemy one by one

* fighting no battle unprepared, fighting no battle you are not sure of winning

* being prudent in fighting the initial battle

* unifying command

* closely coordinating military and nonmilitary struggles. (14)


Clearly, People's War is not just guerrilla war.

Though the PLA generally perceives itself as the weaker force against most opponents,

People's War is a form of organization of war, and its role has nothing to do with the level of military technology. The concept of People's War is not confined to the war of low technology only.... The great power of the People's War is released through comprehensive national power, the combination of peace time and war time, the combination of the military and the civilian, and the combination of war actions and non-war actions. (15)

Chinese military planners seek to incorporate traditional People's War concepts of speed, mobility, deception, and use of camouflage and stratagem STRATAGEM. A deception either by words or actions, in times of war, in order to obtain an advantage over an enemy.
     2. Such stratagems, though contrary to morality, have been justified, unless they have been accompanied by perfidy, injurious to the rights of
 into their battle plans.

Today, People's War principles are seen in the many elements of mobilization practiced by the Chinese armed forces and civilian populace, including political, economic, science and technology, and personnel mobilization. People's War also reveals itself in the extensive practice of "socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.

" of many logistics functions to the civilian sector (also know as "outsourcing"). The roles and missions of the Chinese reserve force are central to People's War. Since 1998, PLA reserve units and the militia have been reorganized and modernized in parallel with the PLA. Much of their work focuses on providing rear area security, especially air defense, for PLA active duty units as well as the civilian population, logistics support, and repair of infrastructure damaged from long-range strikes on China. The reserve force also has a role in information war. This mostly civilian support will enable the PLA to fight its battles with less attention to its rear area.

As People's War continues to evolve, the Pentagon report would be an appropriate venue to explore its contemporary meaning. For example, what did the 2006 Chinese White Paper mean by: "The Navy is enhancing research into the theory of naval operations and exploring the strategy and tactics of maritime People's War under modern conditions"? (16) But People's War is not the only strategic concept overlooked in this year's report.


Calculus of Deterrence

The Pentagon report addresses how China itself is deterred from taking military action against Taiwan. In fact, readers might be surprised by the number of times official Chinese military writings begin their discussion of PLA missions and strategy with references to preventing war or deterring certain events from occurring. The Pentagon report does mention nuclear deterrence Noun 1. nuclear deterrence - the military doctrine that an enemy will be deterred from using nuclear weapons as long as he can be destroyed as a consequence; "when two nations both resort to nuclear deterrence the consequence could be mutual destruction"  and, as will be described later, actually describes China's deterrence posture toward Taiwan (without using the word itself). However, it does not include a comprehensive discussion of the role of deterrence in China's military strategy.

The Science of Military Strategy devotes an entire chapter to the subject, which provides insights into many actions the PLA has taken in recent years:

Strategic deterrence is a major means for attaining the objective of military strategy, and its risks and costs are less than strategic operations. ... Warfighting is generally used only when deterrence fails and there is no alternative. ... Strategic deterrence is also a means for attaining the political objective. (17)

Since "strategic deterrence is based on warfighting ... the more powerful the warfighting capability, the more effective the deterrence." The first "basic condition" for strategic deterrence is a capable force. Next, a country must show determination to use that force and ensure that the parties to be deterred understand those capabilities and determination. (18) Specifically, large-scale military parades, joint military exercises, and military visits are methods to demonstrate strength and will. The January 2007 antisatellite an·ti·sat·el·lite  
Directed against enemy satellites: antisatellite weapons.

Adj. 1. antisatellite
 test and increased military training can thus be interpreted as part of China's deterrence posture.

In 2001, The Science of Military Strategy defined Beijing's deterrence capabilities:

China currently has a limited but effective nuclear deterrence and a relatively powerful capability of conventional deterrence and a massive capacity of deterrence of People's War. By combining these means of deterrence, an integrated strategic deterrence is formed, with comprehensive national power as the basis, conventional force as the mainstay, nuclear force as the backup power An additional power source that can be used in the event of power failure. See UPS and backup.

A Half Minute of Backup
This roomful of lead acid batteries stands ready to drain itself entirely in less than a minute.
 and reserve force as the support. (19)

In summary, the PLA's own vision of deterrence is much more extensive than that described by the Pentagon report.

Carriers and Gators

Two weeks before this year's report was released, the new commander of U.S Pacific forces visited China and specifically discussed the "will and resolve" that an operational aircraft carrier demonstrates. He concluded, "I do not have any better idea as to China's intentions to develop, or not, a carrier program, but we had a very pleasant and candid exchange about the larger issues attendant to a carrier program." (20)

The bulk of the report's discussion about PLA aircraft carrier developments repeated last year's discussion about the ex-Varyag from Russia. While the report noted that the ship was only "70 percent complete," it nonetheless postulated three options for its eventual use: an operational aircraft carrier, a training or transitional platform, or a floating theme park. Like last year, however, the report did not mention that the Varyag has no engines--a minor detail that, until rectified, would preclude options 1 and 2.

Last year, the report noted some 50 medium and heavy amphibious ships in the PLA Navy, "an increase of over 14 percent from last year," suggesting a concerted effort to increase amphibious lift The total capacity of assault shipping utilized in an amphibious operation, expressed in terms of personnel, vehicles, and measurement or weight tons of supplies.  capacity. This year, the number of these ships did not change (was the 14 percent increase an anomaly?), but strangely, the report did not mention the launch of a landing platform dock class ship last December, an event well documented on the Internet. This type of oversight was not unique to the discussion of the PLA Navy.

PLA Civilians

In addition to civilians in reserve units and the militia, at least four other categories of civilian personnel support the PLA. First, an unknown number of uniformed civilian cadre are included on PLA active duty rolls. These personnel have distinct insignia on their PLA uniforms and perform a variety of specialist and technical functions, particularly in the medical and educational fields. Their analogue in the U.S. military is the workforce of approximately 700,000 Department of Defense civilians who are not considered as active duty and do not wear uniforms.

Another unknown number of civilian workers and staff perform administrative and custodial duties at PLA facilities. They are paid out of the defense budget but are not considered on active rolls and do not wear uniforms. In the past, when the PLA managed a network of factories, presumably pre·sum·a·ble  
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster.
 workers at those factories were included in this category.

In 2006, a new category of civilians who work for the PLA on contract was created. According to the 2006 White Paper, some "20,000 posts formerly taken by [noncommissioned officers] are now filled with contract civilians." (21) These contract workers are not counted as active duty but do wear PLA uniforms, apparently without insignia. Though some of them may go to the field, they mostly hold administrative jobs, including medical and maintenance work.

The 2006 White Paper also revealed for the first time another category of civilians who support the PLA: "The grass-roots People's Armed Forces Departments established by the state at the level of township (town) or sub-district are non-active-duty organizations. They are manned by full-time staff that are under the dual leadership of the local Party committees and governments at the same level and military organs at higher levels [emphasis added]." (22) Among their many responsibilities are conscription conscription, compulsory enrollment of personnel for service in the armed forces. Obligatory service in the armed forces has existed since ancient times in many cultures, including the samurai in Japan, warriors in the Aztec Empire, citizen militiamen in ancient  work, national defense education, and direct command of militia units. Local governments pay the salaries for these grassroots personnel, who are not part of the active duty PLA but do wear PLA-like uniforms with distinctive insignia (different from the uniformed civilian cadre described above).

Training emphasis

The Pentagon report provides glimpses into PLA training that support Washington's focus on force projection and preemption preemption

U.S. policy that allowed the first settlers, or squatters, on public land to buy the land they had improved. Since improved land, coveted by speculators, was often priced too high for squatters to buy at auction, temporary preemptive laws allowed them to acquire
. Indeed, many aspects of more realistic training, along with increased operations tempo, add to the PLA's potential to perform these missions. But the report does not provide a complete examination of training for all the missions the PLA is preparing to undertake.

Missing is discussion about the extensive efforts directed at basic tasks, such as new equipment, logistics, and staff training, that all PLA units must undertake before they advance to more complex training evolutions. While advanced air defense systems are discussed, the number of less sophisticated air defense exercises that take place throughout the country might surprise some readers. Likewise, antiterrorism an·ti·ter·ror·ist  
Intended to prevent or counteract terrorism; counterterror: antiterrorist measures.

 and nuclear, biological, and chemical defense Defensive measures that enable friendly forces to survive, fight, and win against enemy use of nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons and agents. US forces apply NBC defensive measures before and during integrated warfare.  training is much more widespread than suggested by the report. No mention is made about reserve and militia training or integration of civilian support, including joint civil-military command arrangements, that are fundamental to PLA doctrine.


Without a doubt, PLA capabilities have increased significantly over the past decade. The Chinese media contain many examples of force improvements and illustrations of new capabilities; nonetheless, Chinese military literature also has many reports and editorials that identify shortfalls and actions taken to overcome them.

This year's report makes multiple references to the possibility that Beijing might make miscalculations that could lead to crisis or war. The propensity for national-level misjudgment mis·judge  
v. mis·judged, mis·judg·ing, mis·judg·es
To judge wrongly.

To be wrong in judging.
 is not unique to China, however. In fact, The Science of Military Strategy is quite specific about using prudence in the decision to go to war:

The essence of strategic judgment is to reveal from the numerous and complicated phenomena the essentials and internal relations of the war so as to achieve a correct understanding of the overall war situation.... Avoid substituting 'preconception' ... so as not to base the strategic judgment on one's own wishful thinking wishful thinking Psychology Dereitic thought that a thing or event should have a specified outcome . (23)

Moreover, "imprudent im·pru·dent  
Unwise or indiscreet; not prudent.

im·prudent·ly adv.
 decision to use force is never permitted. Being prudent towards war is not being afraid of war, but 'before launching a war making sure to win' as Sun Zi said." (24)

The Pentagon did not mention any of dozens of self-assessments the PLA has made about its own situation in its internal media. For example, in summer 2006, the official army newspaper carried a series of special commentator articles on the state of military, political, logistics, and armaments development. Each one not only praised progress, but also identified shortfalls in personnel, training, equipment, and funding. For example, "there is a gap between the current level of modernization in our military and the requirement that must be met in order to win regional informatized wars" (25) and "money is needed in many aspects ... the contradiction between the needs of military modernization construction and the short supply of funds will exist for the long run." (26) Regional and service military newspapers highlight and expand on these same themes. Without evaluating these writings, other countries could also misjudge mis·judge  
v. mis·judged, mis·judg·ing, mis·judg·es
To judge wrongly.

To be wrong in judging.
 PLA capabilities.

Extra-budgetary Funding

Since 2002, the Pentagon has attempted to apply a multiplication factor to the announced Chinese defense budget to approximate actual defense spending. While foreign observers agree that the announced budget does not include all funds available to the armed forces, the amount of information the Pentagon provides to justify its multiplication factor varies from year to year. In 2002, the factor was "some four times larger." In 2004, without explanation, the factor was reduced to two to three times the announced number, where it has continued to hover. This year the report acknowledged great variation in the range of estimates made by various institutions for defense spending but provided no details as to how it concluded that the $45 billion announced figure for 2007 "could be as much as $85 billion to $125 billion."

After reading all the Pentagon reports, a number of extra-budgetary factors can be discerned, yet actual monetary sums are provided occasionally only for a few factors (mostly foreign weapons purchases). The significant problems of exchange rate conversion or estimating purchasing power parity Purchasing power parity

The notion that the ratio between domestic and foreign price levels should equal the equilibrium exchange rate between domestic and foreign currencies.
 are never discussed in detail. Many factors that the Pentagon has identified over the years, plus several new elements, are included in a recent analysis by the United States-China Policy Foundation, which summarized the three major sources of extra-budgetary funding as:

Central government

* foreign equipment purchases

* some military research and development from the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense The Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense or COSTIND is a civilian ministry within the State Council of the People's Republic of China, responsible for setting policy for defense procurement.  or Ministry of Science and Technology

* some demobilization de·mo·bil·ize  
tr.v. de·mo·bil·ized, de·mo·bil·iz·ing, de·mo·bil·iz·es
1. To discharge from military service or use.

2. To disband (troops).
 expenses from the Ministry of Civil Affairs Designated Active and Reserve component forces and units organized, trained, and equipped specifically to conduct civil affairs activities and to support civil-military operations. Also called CA. See also civil affairs activities; civil-military operations.  

* some retirement expenses for soldiers from the Ministry of Civil Affairs

* some advanced education expenses for officers from the Ministry of Education

* some military-related infrastructure construction

* some reimbursement for disaster relief efforts

* People's Armed Police expenses

Local governments (provinces, cities, counties)

* operational/training funding for PLA reserve units and militia (some support also comes from enterprises in which militia units are organized)

* some demobilization expenses

* some military-related infrastructure construction

* salaries for "local civilian cadre" at village and township level who man grassroots People's Armed Forces Departments

* subsidies for electricity, water, and coal supplied to PLA barracks

* some reimbursement for disaster relief efforts

PLA units

* value of food produced and consumed by PLA units

* value of food produced by PLA units and sold by units on the local market for extra income

* value of excess land authorized to be sold by PLA units. (27)

Complicating the issue further is that the amounts for each element above would vary from year to year. Additionally, as the official budget has increased, some elements that previously were off-budget probably have now been brought into the official budget. This study concludes that not enough information is available to quantify each factor, nor is a reliable methodology agreed on to account for exchange rate differences "to make a reasonable estimate of the total amount of 'defense-related spending.'" Thus, a simple multiplication factor applied annually to China's announced military budget does not appear to be a trustworthy method to estimate total defense spending.

While the Pentagon reasonably calls for greater transparency on budget issues, the Chinese themselves do not admit to any significant sources of extra-budgetary funding. Moreover, because of the many potential sources of funding, the central government would likely have difficulty quantifying each of the elements listed above.


As in previous years, "lack of transparency" was a major theme in this year's report. Unfortunately, the report addressed only in the shallowest way the actual contact between PLA and foreign forces. In a major policy change from previous decades, the PLA has made significant efforts to open itself to outsiders:

Since 2002, China has held 16 joint military exercises with 11 countries. In August 2005, China and Russia conducted the "Peace Mission-2005" joint military exercise.... In November and December 2005, the PLA Navy held joint maritime search and rescue exercises with its Pakistani, Indian and Thai counterparts, respectively. In September 2006, China and Tajikistan conducted the "Cooperation-2006" joint counter-terrorism military exercise. In September and November 2006, the Chinese Navy Two modern navies have been known in English as the Chinese Navy:
  • People's Liberation Army Navy
  • Republic of China Navy
For Chinese navies before 1912, see:
  • Imperial Chinese Navy
  • Naval history of China
 and the U.S. Navy conducted joint maritime search and rescue exercises in the offshore waters of San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay.  and in the South China Sea. In December 2006, China and Pakistan held the "Friendship-2006" joint counter-terrorism military exercise.... In September 2005, the PLA invited 41 military observers and military attaches from 24 countries to attend the "North Sword-2005" maneuvers organized by the Beijing Military [Region]. (28)


Though the Pentagon report mentions the joint naval search and rescue training, it did not provide any insights into lessons learned about the PLA from this exercise--just as no previous report has provided any information derived from observation or participation in exercises or other forms of official military-to-military contact. In particular, the Defense Department has made no comment about what its observers saw at North Sword 2005, which included participation of elements of two armored divisions supported by airborne troops, nor has it provided information about the first North Sword exercise in 2003 that U.S. observers also attended. These exercises were described extensively in the Chinese media and appeared to be much more realistic than the demonstrations U.S. military personnel often see on routine visits. In May 2006, the commander of U.S forces in the Pacific visited a PLA Air Force base and sat in the cockpit of one of China's newest indigenously manufactured aircraft, the JH-7 Flying Leopard. (29) In March 2007, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was given access to Su-27 aircraft and Type 99 tanks at "advanced" units of the PLA.

The report identifies many areas about which the United States has questions--budget issues, force structure, and intentions--but the constant repetition of the "lack of transparency" theme causes one to ask: what exactly has been discussed during the senior-level dialogue over the past years? While many important issues remain unresolved and the PLA's window is certainly not fully open to foreign observers, this year's report did not address most Chinese efforts at transparency or any insights gained from military-to-military contact.

America as Threat

The governments of neither the United States nor China officially call the other an enemy, though both acknowledge the potential for military conflict. Military headquarters in both countries undoubtedly plan and prepare for a variety of such contingencies; this is prudent military planning. But military contingency plans do not necessarily reflect national strategic intentions.

Professional military students and planners in the PLA carefully study U.S. military capabilities, doctrine, and experience. For them, preparing tactically and operationally to confront the capabilities of the most advanced and combat-experienced military in the world is rational and to be expected. It represents preparing for the worst-case scenario worst-case scenario nSchlimmstfallszenario nt  and is evident in a large percentage of reports about PLA training. But like military contingency plans, these preparations do not necessarily reflect national strategic intentions.

Former Secretary Rumsfeld's disingenuous assertion that "no nation threatens China" is inconsistent with the reality of American global military capabilities. Chinese civilian and military leaders have long understood that U.S. military deployments and capabilities have the potential to threaten their country. This point was made specifically by Colonel Larry Wortzel, USA (Ret.), in a recent monograph published by the U.S. Army War College: "China's leaders and military thinkers see the United States as a major potential threat to the PLA and China's interests primarily because of American military capabilities, but also because of U.S. security relationships in Asia." (30)

Wortzel bases his conclusion on information that was available long before Rumsfeld's speech in 2005. The U.S. Government would categorize America's potential to use military force as part of its overall deterrence posture. This year's report illustrated the continuing relevance of U.S. deterrence in a textbox entitled "Factors of Deterrence," which begins: "China is deterred on multiple levels from taking military action against Taiwan. First, China does not yet possess the military capability to accomplish with confidence its political objectives on the island, particularly when confronted with the prospect of U.S. intervention [emphasis added]."

At the same time, the Pentagon report actually describes a parallel approach by China toward Taiwan, but without using the word deterrence:

Beijing appears prepared to defer unification as long as it believes trends are advancing toward that goal and that the costs of conflict outweigh the benefits. In the near term, Beijing's focus is likely one of preventing Taiwan from moving toward de jure [Latin, In law.] Legitimate; lawful, as a Matter of Law. Having complied with all the requirements imposed by law.

De jure is commonly paired with de facto, which means "in fact.
 independence while continuing to hold out terms for peaceful resolution under a "one country, two systems" framework that would provide Taiwan a degree of autonomy in exchange for its unification with the mainland [emphasis added].

Instead, the report categorizes the PLA's "sustained military threat to Taiwan" as part of an "overall campaign of persuasion and coercion." By China's own definition, deterrence includes the threat of force through demonstration of actual military capabilities, which is exactly what has been observed over the past decade--and U.S. deterrence theory Deterrence theory is a military strategy developed after and used throughout the Cold War and current times. It is especially relevant with regard to the use of nuclear weapons, and figures prominently on current United States foreign policy regarding the development of nuclear  would not disagree. From Beijing's perspective, however, this threat does not contradict its official preference for peaceful reunification re·u·ni·fy  
tr.v. re·u·ni·fied, re·u·ni·fy·ing, re·u·ni·fies
To cause (a group, party, state, or sect) to become unified again after being divided.

Military professionals can operate in an environment of deterrence and potential threats, seeking to lower the possibility for conflict while preparing for the worst. The Pentagon report does not characterize the United States as a potential threat to China, but there is no doubt the potential is well understood in Beijing.

The modernization of the Chinese armed forces is a topic of utmost importance to the United States, its allies, and Asia. The U.S. Congress and public deserve a reliable, comprehensive evaluation that can be used as the basis for informed discussion about a subject that will be critical to the course of history in Asia for the 21st century. While this year's report was an improvement over previous efforts, the Pentagon can do much better. JFQ JFQ Joint Force Quarterly  


(1) The requirements for the report are found in Section 1202 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 (Public Law 106-65), October 5, 1999, available at <>.

(2) Department of Defense, Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2007, Annual Report to Congress (Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is part of the United States Department of Defense and includes the entire staff of the Secretary of Defense. It is the principal staff element of the Secretary of Defense in the exercise of policy development, planning, resource , 2007), available at <>.

(3) "PRC Law on National Defense," Beijing Xinhua Domestic Service, March 18, 1997, trans. Open Source Center (OSC O.S.C. n. short for Order to Show Cause. (See: Order to Show Cause) ).

(4) Percentages are based on estimates found in the International Institute for Strategic Studies The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is a British research institute (or think tank) in the area of international affairs. It describes itself as "the world’s leading authority on political-military conflict". , The Military Balance 2006 (London: Routledge, 2006), 264. The PLA does not control the Chinese civilian defense industrial complex, which is overseen by the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

(5) The PAP and militia have no direct equivalents in the U.S. Armed Forces. The PAP is similar to the French Gendarmerie gen·dar·me·rie  
1. A body of French gendarmes.

2. Slang A group of police officers.

[French, from Old French, calvary, from gent d'armes, gendarme,
 or the Italian Carabinieri.

(6) Information Office of the State Council The Information Office of the State Council is an administrative office under the State Council, the chief administrative body of the People's Republic of China. It appears to be the chief information office of the Chinese government. External links
  • http://www.
 of the People's Republic of China, China's National Defense in 2006, December 29, 2006.

(7) Xinhua News Agency “Xinhua” redirects here. For other uses, see Xinhua (disambiguation).

The Xinhua News Agency (Simplified Chinese: 新华社; Traditional Chinese:
, "CMC (Common Messaging Calls) A programming interface specified by the XAPIA as the standard messaging API for X.400 and other messaging systems. CMC is intended to provide a common API for applications that want to become mail enabled.

 Promotes 28 Armed Police Officers to Major General 28 Aug," Beijing Xinhua in English, August 29, 2006, trans. OSC (CPP cpp - C preprocessor. 20060829057005).

(8) The Military Balance 2006, 264.

(9) PLA reserve units and militia are known collectively as China's "reserve force." PLA reserve units most closely resemble state-based U.S. National Guard units and, to a lesser extent, U.S. Reserve units, though U.S. Reserve forces are much more interchangeable with Active duty units than are their PLA counterparts.

(10) The PLA marine force is part of the navy and consists of two brigades. Technically, these marines are not part of the ground force. The army, on the other hand, has two amphibious mechanized infantry Mechanized infantry are infantry equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs), or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for transport and combat (see also mechanized force).  divisions, which add up to at least twice the size of the marine force.

(11) "Introduction to Gong'an Frontier Defense Units," Ministry of Public Security Web site, July 18, 2006, available at < jsp/common/article.jsp?infoid=ABC00000000000033760>.

(12) People's War is called a "strategic concept" in the 2006 White Paper and "a fundamental strategy" in The Science of Military Strategy, ed. Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi, English ed. (Beijing: Military Science Publishing House, 2005), 117. All quotations from The Science of Military Strategy are from the English edition.

(13) Science of Military Strategy, 426.

(14) Ibid., 230-231.

(15) Ibid., 454-455.

(16) China's National Defense in 2006.

(17) Science of Military Strategy, 224.

(18) Ibid., 213-215, 228.

(19) Ibid., 222. The book's use of the term limited nuclear deterrence would probably be more accurately described as "a credible nuclear deterrent force" as stated in the 2006 White Paper.

(20) Al Pessin, "U.S. Commander Calls Chinese Interest CHINESE INTEREST. Interest for money charged in China. In a case where a note was given in China, payable eighteen mouths after date, without, any stipulation respecting interest, the court allowed the Chinese interest of one per cent. per month, from the expiration of the eighteen months.  in Aircraft Carriers 'Understandable,'" Voice of America, May 12, 2007, accessed at <>.

(21) China's National Defense in 2006.

(22) Ibid.

(23) Science of Military Strategy, 258.

(24) Ibid., 468.

(25) "JFJB: Promote Innovation in Military Work Using Scientific Development Concept," Jiefangjun Bao (Beijing), August 6, 2006, 1, trans. OSC (CPP20060811720002).

(26) "JFJB: Scientific Development Concept as Guidance for Building Modern Logistics," Jiefangjun Bao (Beijing), August 6, 2006, 1, trans. OSC (CPP20060814715022).

(27) The United States-China Policy Foundation, "Defense-Related Spending in China: A Preliminary Analysis and Comparison with American Equivalents," May 2007, 30.

(28) China's National Defense in 2006.

(29) Edward Cody, "U.S. Aims to Improve Military Ties with China," The Washington Post, May 16, 2006, A14, available at < dyn/content/article/2006/05/15/AR2006051500413_pf.html>.

(30) Larry M. Wortzel, China's Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control, and Campaign Planning (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, May 2007), vii.

Lieutenant Colonel Dennis J. Blasko, USA (Ret.), served 23 years as a Military Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer specializing in China. He also served as Defense Attache ATTACHE. Connected with, attached to. This word is used to signify those persons who are attached to a foreign legation. An attache is a public minister within the meaning of the Act of April 30, 1790, s. 37, 1 Story's L. U. S.  in Beijing and is the author of The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century (Routledge, 2006).
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Author:Blasko, Dennis J.
Publication:Joint Force Quarterly
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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