China Military Power Report 2019
With more than 5,000 years of civilized history, the Chinese nation created a brilliant Chinese civilization, made outstanding contributions to mankind, and became a great nation of the world.
—Chinese President Xi Jinping1
China’s history dates back nearly five millennia. Historians credit the armies of numerous dynasties throughout those many centuries with unifying the early warring states, building the Great Wall, send ing the fleets of early Ming Dynasty maritime explorer Zheng He to far-off foreign lands, and defending against foreign incursions. However, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has existed for less than a century. Initially referred to as the “Red Army” under Mao Zedong, the PLA is not a national institution but rather the military arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Established in 1927, the army spent much of its first two decades engaged in fighting the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek during the intermittent Chinese Civil War as well as fighting against the Japanese during World War II (which China refers to as the War of Resistance Against Japan).
Mao’s Red Army declared victory over the Nationalists in October 1949, even as combat continued. That same year, the PLA expanded to include the PLA Navy and the PLA Air Force. The PLA remained technologically inferior to Western militaries during its early decades, but China’s leaders readily employed PLA forces against the United States in Korea and Vietnam. Beijing’s willingness to rely on the PLA as a tool of foreign policy strengthened the PLA’s position in China. Even as Mao led China through the upheaval of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the PLA endured. Although the PLA emerged from the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1970s as one of the stronger pillars of CCP power, its com- bat power was not commensurate with that of other large states’ armed forces.
1978–Present: China’s Military Rise
Mao’s rule was brought home during the 1979 conflict between China and Vietnam, when the PLA’s performance exposed grave weaknesses in operational planning, tactics, command and control (C2), logistics, and weaponry. The persistent exchanges of fire with Vietnamese forces during the 1980s highlighted the need for changes even as large numbers of PLA ground troops from around the country were rotated to the border to gain combat expe- rience. Meanwhile, the PLA began to study contemporary foreign, particularly Western, military operations more closely, such as the Falklands War (1982) and the bombing of Libya (1986), for insights on how to modernize China’s combat forces.
In 1989, PLA units intervened with lethal force on behalf of the CCP to suppress political demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, which considerably damaged the PLA’s domestic and international image. World events in 1991 fur- ther shook CCP leaders’ confidence in the PLA. The U.S. military’s performance in the Per- sian Gulf War provided the PLA stark lessons regarding the lethal effectiveness of informa- tion-enabled weapons and forces, particularly mobility and precision-strike capabilities, that
After Deng Xiaoping’s assumption of power in 1978, the path to today’s PLA was set when national defense was included as the fourth of China’s four “modernizations” (the others being industry, science and technology, and agricul- ture). National defense was accorded the low- est priority, which carried implications for mil- itary funding and development. The failure to achieve comprehensive modernization during had become the standard for effectively waging war in the modern era. As a result, in the early 1990s Beijing altered its military doctrine, concluding that the most likely conflict that China would face would be a “local war under high-technology conditions” (later amended to “conditions of informatization,” referring to warfare in the digital age). This differed mark- edly from the Mao-era mindset that the PLA would need to be prepared to fight a war more akin to World War II. The PLA’s strategy also changed, moving away from the Maoist para- digm of luring an enemy into China to fight a “people’s war” with regular troops, irregular (guerrilla) forces, and the general populace. Instead, the PLA began to emphasize a more offensive version of the PLA’s historical strate- gic concept of “active defense”: take advantage of longer range, precision-guided munitions (primarily ballistic and cruise missiles) to keep a potential enemy as far as possible from the economically fast-developing Chinese coastal areas by fighting a “noncontact,” short, sharp conflict like the Persian Gulf War.
China’s changing strategic threat percep- tions also shaped military doctrine and the direction of PLA development. Although the Soviet Union had loomed large as a potential military opponent, the threat of a Soviet inva- sion diminished during the 1980s, shifting the focus away from preparing for a World War II– style conflict. Furthermore, the U.S. 7th Fleet aircraft carrier intervention during the 1996 China-Taiwan “missile crisis” and the acciden- tal NATO strike against China’s Embassy in Serbia in 1999 led Beijing to focus on building capabilities to counter U.S. forces in addition to capabilities to dissuade Taiwan from any political activity Beijing deemed unacceptable.
Entering the 21st century, China’s leaders recognized the confluence of several factors that led them to expand the scope and quicken the pace of PLA development: China’s growing global economic and political interests, rapid technology-driven changes in modern warfare, and perceptions of increased strategic-level external threats, including to China’s mari- time interests. At this time, Chinese leaders perceived a “period of strategic opportunity” wherein the country presumably would not be involved in a major military conflict before 2020, allowing time for economic and military development. As a result, throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, China’s leaders initi- ated several practical steps to modernize the PLA as a warfighting instrument.
To accelerate the PLA’s modernization and address capability shortfalls, Beijing increased the PLA’s budget by an average of 10 percent per year from 2000 to 2016. Beijing also estab- lished a PLA General Armaments Depart- ment in 1998 to rationalize equipment mod- ernization and acquisition processes, and instituted several broad scientific and tech- nical programs to improve the defense-in- dustrial base and decrease the PLA’s depen- dence on foreign weapon acquisitions. The PLA also revamped its training programs, with all services attempting to prepare more realistically for conflict by emphasizing mis- sion-focused exercises, multiservice opera- tions, mobility, better C2 and staff work, and enhanced logistic support, as well as achiev- ing battlefield advantage by applying “infor- matized” warfare (regional conflicts defined by real-time, data-networked C2) methods. [For more on “informatized” warfighting, please see Military Doctrine and Strategy, page 23].
Beijing also implemented personnel changes to professionalize the PLA. While Beijing was focused on economic development in the late 1970s, the PLA had been allowed to operate nonmilitary businesses to offset limited invest- ment and resources. This led to widespread cor- ruption and drew attention away from training for actual military operations. In 1998, Chi- nese leaders ordered the PLA to stop operat- ing nonmilitary businesses and focus solely on professional military tasks. As a result, the PLA divested from a number of business ven- tures but still remains to some extent involved in business schemes. The PLA developed a noncommissioned officer corps and began pro- grams to recruit more technically competent university graduates to operate its modern weapons. PLA political officers assigned to all levels of the military acquired broader person- nel management responsibilities in addition to their focus on keeping the PLA ideologically pure and loyal to the CCP.
In 2004, then-President Hu Jintao outlined for the PLA the “Historic Missions of the Armed Forces in the New Period of the New Century,” more commonly referred to as the “New Historic Missions of the PLA,” to aug- ment the PLA’s role as a diplomatic and mil- itary instrument and as a guardian of China’s global interests. These new missions included ensuring China’s sovereignty, territorial integ- rity, and domestic security; preserving the “period of strategic opportunity” for China’s development; safeguarding China’s expanding national interests; and helping ensure world peace. Hu’s endowment of the PLA with these missions, at a time when economic interests had become substantial drivers of Beijing’s foreign policy, signified a critical inflection point in the PLA’s assumption of a global role and transition away from a force bound only to defending China’s immediate territorial and sovereignty interests.
Subsequent PLA activities, such as counter- piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, international training and exercises, noncombatant evacuations in Libya and Yemen, and expanded peacekeeping opera- tions in Africa under UN auspices, have all been part of China’s increasingly ambitious vision for expanding PLA activities to support its growing global clout. China’s establishment of its first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017—overturning Beijing’s insistence from its first defense white paper issued in 1998 that China “does not station troops or set up military bases in any foreign country”—is only the latest development in this progression.
The PLA’s evolution since President Xi Jinping’s transition to power in 2012 has built on the Hu era but also marked a shift, with Xi concurrently taking the helm of the party, military, and state, enabling him to shape the direction of the PLA earlier during his tenure. Xi has focused on strengthening the PLA as a force, underscor- ing the themes of party rule over the military, improving military capabilities, and enhanc- ing the military’s professionalism.2 Xi has also expanded the scope and ambition of PLA mod- ernization, clearly affirming the PLA’s overseas role and providing the institutional framework to enable substantial military growth beyond the PLA’s traditional security threats.
China’s Military Strategy reflects Beijing’s drive to establish a coherent, unified approach to managing national security in a world where Beijing perceives that China’s expanding interests have made it more vulnerable at home and abroad. The following excerpt from the document illustrates Beijing’s perception of this security environment:
China’s Military Strategy is directed primarily at an internal audience. Thus, it is replete with party jargon, but it does contain the broad underpinnings of China’s military decision- making calculus. For example, Beijing sees both threats and opportunities emerging from the evolution of the international community beyond the U.S.-led unipolar framework toward a more integrated global environment shaped by major-power dynamics. Furthermore, China sees itself as an emerging major power that will be able to gain influence as long as it can main- tain a stable periphery. As it emerges, Beijing will use its growing power to shape the regional environment in the face of interconnected threats while trying to avoid conflict over core interests: sovereignty, development, and unification. More specifically, China believes it must plan to address the many threats to regional stability because they are individually complex and at the same time contain a potential for external actors, most importantly the United States, to become involved. Nevertheless, China must also look to safeguard its international interests as they multiply and incur additional threats. Finally, as new threats emerge and as other militaries adjust their acquisition, strategies, and structure, China knows the PLA must be prepared to fight in new realms and adapt to the modern, high-tech battlefield.
With a generally favorable external environment, China will remain in an important period of strategic opportunities for its development, a period in which much can be achieved. China’s comprehensive national strength, core competitiveness and risk-resistance capacity are notably increasing, and China enjoys growing international standing and influence. Domes- tically, the Chinese people’s standard of living has remarkably improved, and Chinese soci- ety remains stable. China, as a large developing country, still faces multiple and complex security threats, as well as increasing external impediments and challenges. Subsistence and development security concerns, as well as traditional and nontraditional security threats, are interwoven. Therefore, China has an arduous task to safeguard its national unification, territorial integrity and development interests.
As the world economic and strategic center of gravity is shifting ever more rapidly to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. carries on its ‘rebalancing’ strategy and enhances its military presence and its military alliances in this region. Japan is sparing no effort to dodge the postwar mechanism, overhauling its military and security policies. Such development has caused grave concerns among other countries in the region. On the issues concerning Chi- na’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some of its offshore neighbors take provocative actions and reinforce their military presence on China’s reefs and islands that they have illegally occupied. Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and recon- naissance against China. It is thus a longstanding task for China to safeguard its maritime rights and interests. Certain disputes over land territory are still smoldering. The Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia are shrouded in instability and uncertainty. Regional ter- rorism, separatism, and extremism are rampant. All these have a negative impact on the security and stability along China’s periphery.
The Taiwan issue bears on China’s reunification and long-term development, and reunifi- cation is an inevitable trend in the course of national rejuvenation. In recent years, cross– Taiwan Strait relations have sustained a sound momentum of peaceful development, but the root cause of instability has not yet been removed, and the ‘Taiwan independence’ sep- aratist forces and their activities are still the biggest threat to the peaceful development of cross-strait relations. Further, China faces a formidable task to maintain political security and social stability. Separatist forces for ‘East Turkistan independence’ and ‘Tibet indepen- dence’ have inflicted serious damage, particularly with escalating violent terrorist activities by East Turkistan independence forces. Besides, anti-China forces have never given up their attempt to instigate a ‘color revolution’ in this country. Consequently, China faces more chal- lenges in terms of national security and social stability. With the growth of China’s national interests, its national security is more vulnerable to international and regional turmoil, ter- rorism, piracy, serious natural disasters, and epidemics, and the security of overseas inter- ests concerning energy and resources, strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs), as well as institutions, personnel, and assets abroad, has become an imminent issue.
The world revolution in military affairs (RMA) is proceeding to a new stage. Long-range, precise, smart, stealthy, and unmanned weapons and equipment are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Outer space and cyberspace have become new commanding heights in strate- gic competition among all parties. The form of war is accelerating its evolution to informa- tization. World major powers are actively adjusting their national security strategies and defense policies and speeding up their military transformation and force restructuring. The aforementioned revolutionary changes in military technologies and the form of war have not only had a significant impact on the international political and military landscapes but also posed new and severe challenges to China’s military security.
—Excerpt from China’s Military Strategy, May 2015
China’s leaders see China as a country that is “moving closer to center stage” to achieve the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”11 This ambition permeates China’s national security strategy and the PLA’s role in sup- porting the party. Since the early 1980s, when China initiated its Reform and Opening pol- icy, China’s economy has grown rapidly. The CCP remained focused primarily on economic growth throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and in the early 2000s it identified the initial decades of the 21st century as a “period of strategic opportunity” in the international environment that would allow China to focus on building “comprehensive national power.” The CCP’s contemporary strategic objectives are to:
• Perpetuate CCP rule.
• Maintain domestic stability.
• Sustain economic growth and development.
• Defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
• Secure China’s status as a great power.
China has taken deliberate steps to modern- ize the CCP, its military, the government, and other institutions in an attempt to improve coherence. Before 2015, departments across
the government formulated separate security strategies, but in early 2015, China’s leaders adopted China’s first publicly released national security strategy outline, a framework to guide China’s approach to addressing both domes- tic and international security threats, and called for international engagement to address shared security problems.12
The strategy outlines Beijing’s aim to ensure security, promote modernization, as well as preserve China’s socialist system. In addition to the strategic objectives above, the document emphasized the necessity of contrib- uting to world peace and development and called for attention to promoting “rule of law” in support of national security.13 This led the National People’s Congress to pass a package of laws in 2015 and 2016 intended to address national security concerns, including harsher punishments for crimes involving terrorism and extremism, cybersecurity measures, and increased restrictions for foreign nongovernmental organizations.14,15
Although China’s national security strategy out- line contained both inward- and outward-look- ing elements, Beijing’s view of China’s role in the international community was further elab- orated in an article on Xi Jinping’s thoughts on diplomacy published in mid-2017 by one of
China’s top diplomats, Yang Jiechi. Yang paints a picture of Chinese diplomacy that focuses on China’s ambition for national rejuvenation and becoming a world power. Yang describes a confident China that is ready to “shoulder its responsibility as a major country” and build a global network of partnerships, but one that is resolved and uncompromising as it upholds its sovereignty and security interests.16
The PLA’s Role in National Security
China’s Military Strategy built on a series of biennial defense reviews that Beijing published beginning in 1998 to mitigate international con- cern about the lack of transparency of its mil- itary modernization. What differentiated the document from its predecessors was that it, for the first time, publicly clarified the PLA’s role in protecting China’s evolving national security interests and shed light on policies, such as the PLA’s commitment to nuclear deterrence. The report affirmed many of China’s longstanding defense policies but also signaled a shift toward emerging security domains, such as cyber and space, and also emphasized the need to focus on global maritime operations.
• Safeguard China’s interests in new domains, such as space and cyberspace.
• Safeguard China’s overseas interests.
• Maintain strategic deterrence.
• Participate in international security cooperation.
• Maintain China’s political security and social stability.
• Conduct emergency rescue, disaster relief, and “rights and interest protection” missions.
Beijing almost certainly views these missions as necessary national security tasks for China to claim great-power status. In 2017, Beijing emphasized several of these tasks in its “White Paper on China’s Policies on Asia Pacific Secu- rity Cooperation,” stressing the need for a PLA that is able to conduct expeditionary operations and other activities to defend and secure grow- ing Chinese national interests overseas from “destabilizing and uncertain factors.”18 The PLA coordinates with China’s law enforcement, Foreign Ministry, and other security entities as needed on military-related activities, particu- larly operations beyond China’s borders.
The report outlined eight “strategic tasks,”
or types of missions the PLA must be ready to execute:17
• Safeguard the sovereignty of China’s territory.
• Safeguard national unification.
China’s military leaders are influential in defense and foreign policy. As the CCP’s armed wing, the PLA is organizationally part of the party apparatus. Career military officers for the most part are party members, and units at the company level and above have political officers responsible for personnel decisions, pro- paganda, and counterintelligence. These polit- ical officers also are responsible for ensuring that party orders are carried out throughout the PLA. CCP committees, led by the political officers and military commanders, make major decisions in units at all levels.19
The CMC, the PLA’s highest decisionmaking body, is technically both a party organ subor- dinate to the CCP Central Committee and a governmental office appointed by the National People’s Congress, but it is staffed almost exclusively by military officers. The CMC chairman is a civilian who usually serves con- currently as the CCP general secretary and China’s president. During the past decade, the CMC’s membership has included two military vice chairmen who serve concurrently on the politburo; the minister of national defense, who serves as the face of the military for for- eign engagement; the service commanders; and the directors of the four general head- quarters departments. This framework occa- sionally shifts; it was revised during the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, at which point the service chiefs were removed from the body, leaving the chairman, vice chair- men, minister of national defense, Joint Staff Department chief, Political Work Department director, and Discipline Inspection Commission secretary.20,21 These changes align the military’s top body to its postreform structure and underscore key themes of jointness, party loyalty, and anticorruption.
The PLA has been a politicized “party army” since its inception and exists to guarantee the CCP regime’s survival above all else, serving the state as a secondary role, in contrast to most Western militaries, which are considered apolitical, professional forces that first and foremost serve the state.
Maintaining this party-military identity even as the PLA embarks on major structural reforms is the top priority for China’s leadership. PLA reforms include establishment of the Political Work Department, which appears to have assumed many responsibilities of the former General Political Department. The PLA’s political work system is the primary means through which the CCP “controls the gun” in accordance with Mao Zedong’s famous dictum that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Most PLA officers are party members, and in recent decades, PLA officers typically have constituted about 20 percent of the CCP’s Central Committee. Moreover, since 1997 the two uniformed vice chairmen of the CMC have served concurrently on the CCP Politburo.
• The tiers of political work in the PLA are interlocking, reinforcing systems that allow the CCP to penetrate the military from top to bottom. These tiers comprise the political com- missar system, the party committee system, and the party discipline inspection system.
• Political commissars are responsible for personnel, education, security, discipline, and morale. The Political Work Department, the director of which serves on the CMC, manages the PLA’s political commissars and is the locus for day-to-day political work in the military.
• The party committee system is replicated in some fashion at each level of command. Party committees fall under the supervision of the CMC Political Work Department and are intended to ensure loyalty at all levels. They propagate the party positions, policies, and directives throughout the force.
• Party discipline inspection bodies monitor the performance of party members in the mil- itary and ensure “upright” behavior. The PLA Central Discipline Inspection Commis- sion (CDIC) was elevated to the CMC level during recent restructuring from its previous position as a subordinate office within the former General Political Department.24 These changes culminated with the CDIC head’s appointment as a member of the CMC during the 19th Party Congress. The CDIC has played a key role within the military in recent years, overseeing investigations to weed out graft and uproot politically powerful networks in the ranks as part of China’s ongoing anticorruption campaign. In November 2015, Xi also announced the creation of a new PLA Politics and Law Commission, mirroring a sim- ilar party organization that oversees legal and judicial issues in the state bureaucracy.25
We must do more to safeguard China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, and staunchly oppose all attempts to split China or undermine its eth- nic unity and social harmony and stability.
–Xi Jinping, speech at the 19th Party Congress
China’s leaders for decades have prioritized domestic stability and the continued rule of the CCP. Since the 1990s, however, China has confronted chronic social protest spurred by an often unresponsive and corrupt political and legal system, and a range of economic, social, and environmental problems. Under President
Xi Jinping, Beijing has responded to these chal- lenges with a mixture of increased repression and CCP-led efforts to address some of these underlying problems. Xi is using the CCP to assert control over all facets of the Chinese state, restricting the space for independent activity across social, political, and economic spheres.
This push includes a sweeping anticorruption campaign, a faithfully propagandistic media, a tightly constrained civil society, and an all-en- compassing concept of national security.26
In ethnic minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, the CCP has promulgated repres- sive regulations against alleged extremism by tightening limits on peaceful religious expres- sion and ethnic identity. Beginning in April 2017, Xinjiang authorities detained hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Muslims in the region ostensibly for antiextremism reeducation. As part of the Xinjiang campaign, security officials greatly expanded their use of high-tech and big-data surveillance systems, which they are expected to extend countrywide in an effort to curb social unrest.27
China’s armed forces support the CCP’s domestic ambitions without question. In 2015, top military guidance reaffirmed this role as one of the force’s main strategic tasks: “main- tain China’s political security and social sta- bility.”28 China’s military and paramilitary leaders are actively developing doctrine and forces to backstop local police, respond to riots and natural disasters, and stop terrorism.
The People’s Armed Police (PAP) is at the fore- front of this mission. The PAP is a paramili- tary force of more than 500,000 troops that for decades has focused on domestic security and economic development tasks under the shared command of the CMC and State Council. In 2018, Beijing moved the PAP entirely under CMC control and out of civilian channels, and announced additional reforms intended to modernize its force structure, streamline its command system, and increase its oper- ational effectiveness.29 Changes to the PAP also reflect a shift toward a more operational mindset, trading legacy site-security missions for rapid-deployment counterterrorism and maritime patrols.30
In recent years, Beijing’s longstanding suspi- cion that so-called “hostile foreign influences” constitute a significant threat to internal sta- bility and CCP rule has led it to step up efforts to pursue political security-related goals over- seas. In 2015, China passed a counterterror- ism law that included a provision authorizing PLA, PAP, police, and intelligence operations abroad—evidence that party leaders are con- sidering this possibility.31
The PLA engages with foreign militaries to demonstrate its growing capabilities; improve its tactics, techniques, and procedures; enhance China’s image and influence abroad, and further China’s diplomatic objectives. Bilateral and multilateral exercises provide political benefits to China and opportunities for the PLA to improve capabilities in areas such as counterterrorism, mobility operations, and logis- tics. Senior-level visits and exchanges provide China with opportunities to increase military officers’ international exposure, communicate China’s positions to foreign audiences, under- stand alternative worldviews, and advance foreign relations through interpersonal contacts and military assistance programs.
China advances its day-to-day overseas military diplomacy using PLA officers assigned as military attachés in at least 110 countries.32
China’s military attachés serve as military advisers to the ambassador, support Ministry of Foreign Affairs and PLA foreign policy objec- tives, and perform a variety of duties tied to PLA military and security cooperation, includ- ing counterpart exchanges with host nation and third-country personnel. Expanded PLA travel abroad enables PLA officers to observe and study foreign military command structures, unit formations, and operational training.33
As China’s regional and international inter- ests have grown, the PLA has substantially expanded its international engagement, especially in the areas of peacekeeping oper- ations (PKOs), counterpiracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), counterterrorism, and multinational combined exercises. For example, many Latin American and Caribbean countries send officers to the strategic-level College of Defense Studies at China’s National Defense University; some of these countries also send officers to other PLA schools. In addition to furthering PLA modernization, these engagements probably will remain focused on building China’s polit- ical ties, explaining China’s rise, and building China’s international influence, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.34
5-to 7 percent growth during the past 2 years. The official defense budget has remained at 1.2 to 1.4 percent of gross domestic product for the past decade, allowing for steady, sustainable expenditure growth and qualitative improve- ments throughout the PLA.
Estimaing actual military expenses is difficult because of China’s poor accounting transpar- ency and incomplete transition to a market economy. The formal defense budget process does not include funding for foreign weapons procurement, some research and development
China’s approach to funding security require- ments has been deliberate and substantial. China’s military spending increased by an aver- age of 10 percent (inflation adjusted) per year from 2000 to 2016 and has gradually slowed to (R&D), and certain personnel benefits. Other government ministries distribute defense funds in addition to extra budgetary funds that supplement personnel living subsidies, equipment maintenance, and other budgetary items.35,36
However, using 2018 prices and exchange rates as an example, China’s total military-related spending for 2018 probably exceeded
$200 billion, a threefold increase since 2002. Such spending has been on the rise since the 1990s, when China formally began to empha- size defense-related programs throughout the course of several “Five-Year Plans.”
Although the total dollar value of China’s defense budget remains significantly below that of the United States, China has benefited from “latecomer advantage.” In other words, China has not had to invest in costly R&D of new technologies to the same degree as the United States. Rather, China has routinely adopted the best and most effective platforms found in foreign militaries through direct pur- chase, retrofits, or theft of intellectual prop- erty. By doing so, China has been able to focus on expediting its military modernization at a small fraction of the original cost.
China’s military goal is to build a strong, combat-effective force capable of win- ning regional conflicts and employing integrated, real-time C2 networks.37 The doc- trine that supports this strategy is evolving with ongoing PLA reforms. For instance, in 2017 the PLA began to implement revised military training regulations that focused on real- istic training for modern warfare and preparations for joint combat operations.38
China characterizes its military strategy as one of “active defense,” a concept it describes
as strategically defensive but operationally offensive. The strategy is rooted in the con- cept that once Beijing has determined that an adversary has damaged or intends to damage China’s interests at the strategic level, Beijing will be justified in responding “defensively” at the operational or tactical level, even if the adversary has not yet conducted offensive military operations. Beijing interprets active defense to include mandates for deescalating a conflict and seizing the initiative during a con- flict, and has enshrined the concept in China’s major strategy documents.39 President Xi’s speech during the 90th anniversary parade of the PLA further highlighted that China would never conduct “invasion and expansion” but would never permit “any piece of Chinese territory” to separate from China.40
China’s approach to its dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands partially illustrates this concept: China has employed both mili- tary and law enforcement assets proactively to challenge Japan’s administration of the islands since Beijing determined that Japan’s purchase of the islands from a private owner in 2012 constituted a serious infringement on China’s sovereignty claims. Although the PLA has not yet carried out kinetic strikes on Jap- anese forces around the islands, China’s active defense concept could potentially justify such attacks if Beijing perceived Japan to have fur- ther escalated the dispute.
Perceptions of Modern Conflict
The PLA often uses the term “informatization” to describe the transformation process of becoming a modern military that can operate in the digi- tal age. The concept figures prominently in PLA writings and is roughly analogous to the U.S. mil- itary’s concept of net-centric capability: a force’s ability to use advanced information technology and communications systems to gain operational advantage over an adversary. The PLA uses the term “informatized warfare” to describe the process of acquiring, transmitting, processing, and using information to conduct joint military operations across the domains of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spec- trum during a conflict. PLA writings highlight the benefit of near-real-time shared awareness of the battlefield in enabling quick, unified effort to seize tactical opportunities.41
In 2015, China’s leaders adjusted guidance on the type of war the PLA should be prepared to fight by directing the PLA to be capable of fighting and winning “informatized local wars,” with an emphasis on “maritime military strug- gle.” Chinese military strategy documents also emphasize the growing importance of offensive air operations, long-distance mobility opera- tions, and space and cyber operations. In other words, China expects that its future wars mostly will be fought outside its borders and will involve conflict in the maritime domain. China promul- gated this through its most recent update to its “military strategic guidelines,” the top-level directives that China’s leaders use to define con- cepts, assess threats, and set priorities for plan- ning, force posture, and modernization.42
The PLA considers information the critical enabler for these maritime-focused digital-age operations, and as a result, China invests heavily in the development and proliferation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment, force structure, and a universal network that processes information across all of its operational domains. These domains include C2, comprehensive support, multidi- mensional protection, joint firepower strike, and battlefield maneuver.
A key driver of ongoing military reforms is Beijing’s desire to increase the PLA’s ability to carry out joint operations on a modern, high-tech battlefield.43 Prior to reforms, no permanent joint C2 mechanism existed. In fact, service head- quarters had operational authority over their own forces during peacetime, and the former Army-centric military regions were responsible for conducting joint operations during wartime, although this was never attempted. This con- struct was impractical because it would have forced the PLA to transition from a service-ori- ented peacetime construct to a war-ready joint construct on a moment’s notice. Senior leaders recognized this flaw, and President Xi remarked in 2013 that “establishing a joint C2 system should be given primary importance, and establishing a CMC and theater command joint C2 system should not be delayed.”44
Consequently, core elements of national- and regional-level military reforms since 2015 have focused on refining the PLA’s C2 structure, producing a joint operational command system with decisionmaking emanating from the CMC to theater commands and down to operational units.45,46 The reform plan aimed to establish two clear lines of authority under the CMC, giving the services authority over force management issues while empowering theater headquarters to command operations—a distinction that had been ambiguous.47 One aspect of the new struc- ture that is different from previous Chinese a war footing. Speaking on behalf of the PLA, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman said reforms sought to improve “leadership admin- istration and command of joint operations” so that the PLA would have a force structure able to fight and win modern conflicts.
Core Elements of Command and Control Reform
Theater Commands. The PLA transitioned from seven military regions to five “theaters of operations,” or joint commands.48 This struc- ture is aligned toward Beijing’s perceived “strategic directions,” geographic areas of stra- tegic importance along China’s periphery in which the PLA must be prepared to operate.
Joint Operations Command Centers. The cornerstone of the military’s new joint C2 sys- tem is the PLA’s national- and theater-level joint operations command centers (JOCCs), staffed by personnel drawn from all services. The national-level joint operations command center, also known as the CMC JOCC, coordi- nates the efforts of the five theater commands to achieve the PLA’s strategic objectives. The theater-level JOCCs are responsible for all tasks in their area of responsibility, including carrying out around-the-clock watch functions, maintaining situationa awareness, managing joint exercises, and providing a communica- tions hub linking theater commanders with service component commanders and forces.49
Theaters of Operation
According to China’s Ministry of National Defense, the Theater of Operations construct will enhance combat effectiveness.
Joint Staff Department. During PLA reforms, the CMC dissolved the former Gen- eral Staff Department, establishing a num- ber of CMC-subordinate departments from the former organization. According to the Ministry of National Defense, the Joint Staff
Department (JSD) is responsible for combat planning, C2 support, and formulating strat- egy and requirements.50 The formation of the CMC JSD is likely to result in more stream- lined and efficient operational planning because other former General Staff Department functions, such as mobilization, train- ing, and administration, have been assumed by separate departments. The JSD is pur- ported to have greater representation from across the PLA’s services, potentially enhancing joint operational planning and execution.51
Modernizing Joint Command and Control
China continues to place a high priority on modernizing the PLA’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, sur- veillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) sys- tem as a response to trends in modern war- fare that emphasize the importance of rapid decisionmaking and information sharing and processing. The PLA is seeking to improve its technological capabilities and organizational structure to command complex joint operations in near and distant battlefields with increasingly sophisticated weapons.52
Supporting the reforms with technological improvements to C4ISR systems is essential to improving the speed and effectiveness of decisionmaking while providing secure, reliable communications to fixed and mobile command posts. The PLA is fielding advanced automated command systems, such as its Integrated Command Platform, with units at lower echelons across the force. The adoption of the Integrated Command Platform enables multiservice communications necessary for joint operations.
New technologies which are being introduced into the PLA enable sharing of information— intelligence, battlefield information, logistic information, and weather reports—on robust, redundant communication networks to improve commanders’ situational awareness. In particular, the transmission of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data in near-real time to commanders in the field could facilitate the commanders’ decision making processes and make operations more efficient.53
As these technical improvements are brought on line, they greatly enhance the PLA’s flexibility and responsiveness. Informatized operations no longer require in-person meetings for command decision making or labor-intensive processes for execution. Commanders can issue orders to multiple units at the same time while on the move, and units can rapidly adjust their actions through the use of digital databases and command automation tools.
The nature of these reform and modernization efforts in part resembles a Western-style joint C2 structure in which operational command- ers develop force packages from units that are trained and equipped by the services. The cre- ation of a permanent joint C2 structure that places more emphasis on naval and aerospace forces, along with a dedicated Strategic Sup- port Force responsible for electronic warfare and operations in the space and cyberspace domains, reflects an emerging PLA capacity to more effectively execute joint operations.54
Even as PLA capabilities have improved and units have begun to operate farther from the Chinese mainland, Beijing has continued to emphasize what it perceives as a “period of stra- tegic opportunity” during which it can pursue development without a major military conflict. In line with this perception, Beijing has imple- mented an approach to external engagement that seeks to enhance China’s reach and power through activities calculated to fall below the threshold of alarming the international com- munity about China’s rise or provoking the United States, its allies and partners, or others in the Asia-Pacific region into military conflict or an anti-China coalition. This is particularly evident in China’s pursuit of its territorial and maritime sovereignty claims in the South and East China Seas. In the South China Sea, China primarily uses maritime law enforcement ships, with its Navy ships in protective positions, to pressure other claimants and limit access to Chinese-occupied features. China’s expansion of disputed features and construction in the Spratly Islands using large-scale land reclama- tion demonstrates China’s capacity—and a shift in willingness to exercise that capacity short of military conflict—to strengthen China’s control over disputed areas, enhance China’s presence, and challenge other claimants.55
China’s maritime emphasis and concern with protecting its overseas interests have increasingly drawn the PLA beyond Chi- na’s borders and immediate periphery. The evolving focus of the PLA Navy (PLAN)— from “offshore waters defense” to a mix of offshore waters defense and “open-seas pro- tection”—reflects China’s desire for a wider operational reach. Since 2009, the PLA has incrementally expanded its global opera- tions beyond the previously limited port calls and UN PKO missions. The PLAN has expanded the scope and frequency of extended-range naval deployments, military exercises, and engagements.
The establishment in Djibouti of the PLA’s first overseas military base with a deployed company of Marines and equipment, and probable fol- low-on bases at other locations, signals a turn- ing point in the expansion of PLA operations in the Indian Ocean region and beyond.56,57,58,59 These bases, and other improvements to the PLA’s ability to project power during the next decade, will increase China’s ability to deter by military force and sustain operations abroad.
Today’s PLA is still far from being able to deploy large numbers of conventional forces globally, but China has developed nuclear, space, cyberspace, and other capabilities that can reach potential adversaries across the globe.
The PLA has expanded and militarized China’s outposts in the South China Sea, and China’s Coast Guard, backed by the PLAN,
Beijing’s longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China’s military modernization. Beijing’s anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the PLA to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection. The implementation of Hu’s New Historic Missions in 2004 led to the incremental expansion of the military’s modernization priorities to develop a PLA capable of operating in new domains and at increasing distances from the mainland. During this modernization process, PLA ground, air, naval, and missile forces have become increasingly able to proj- ect power during peacetime and in the event of regional conflicts. Beijing almost certainly will use this growing ability to project power to bolster international perceptions of its role as a regional power and global stakeholder.
Although Beijing states that its intent is to serve as a stabilizing force regionally, in prac- tice the PLA’s actions frequently result in increased tensions. Since 2012, Beijing has routinely challenged Tokyo’s Senkaku Island claims in the East China Sea. China’s Coast Guard frequently conducts incursions into the contiguous zone surrounding the islands to further China’s claims, while its Navy operates around the claims to enforce administraships in the region.
Examples of incremental improvements to PLA power projection in the region are readily found in annual military exercises and opera- tions.60 For instance, in 2015 the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) carried out four exercise training mis- sions past the first island chain through the Bashi Channel, the northernmost passage of the Luzon Strait, and through the Miyako Strait closer to Japan. The Miyako Strait flights were 1,500 kilometers from Guam, within range of the PLAAF’s CJ-20 air-launched land-attack cruise missile (LACM).61 Also in 2015, the PLAAF began flying the H-6K medium-range bomber, the PLAAF’s first aircraft capable of conducting strikes on Guam (with air-launched LACMs like the CJ-20), past the first island chain into the western Pacific.
China is also developing new capabilities that will enhance Beijing’s ability to project power. In September 2016, then-PLAAF Commander Gen Ma Xiaotian confirmed for the first time that the PLAAF was developing a new long-range bomber that would undoubtedly exceed the range and capabilities of the H-6K. Although the H-6K recently began flying with LACMs, this Chinese-built airframe is the 10th design variant of the Soviet Tu-16, which began flying in 1952.62 In 2016, China and Ukraine agreed to restart production of the world’s largest transport aircraft, the An-225, which is capable of carrying a world-record payload of nearly 254 tons. China expects the first An-225 to be delivered and operational by 2019.63 If used by the military, this capability would facilitate the PLA’s global reach.
In addition to land-based aircraft, China is currently building its first domestically designed and produced aircraft carrier.64 The primary purpose of this first domestic aircraft carrier will be to serve a regional defense mis- sion. Beijing probably also will use the carrier to project power throughout the South China Sea and possibly into the Indian Ocean.65 The carrier conducted initial sea trials in May 2018 and is expected to enter into service by 2019.66 [For more information on China’s aircraft carrier program, please see Appendix B.]
Other areas that reflect China’s growing mil- itary presence abroad include China’s partici- pation in UN peacekeeping operations.67 Sep- arately, China routinely employs its modern hospital ship, Peace Ark, to support HADR missions worldwide. In 2015, the PLA con- ducted its first permissive noncombatant evacuation operation, to extricate Chinese and other civilians from Yemen supported by Yemeni security forces.
China’s efforts to enhance its presence abroad, such as establishing its first foreign military base in Djibouti and boosting economic con- nectivity by reinvigorating the New Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Road under the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), could enable the PLA to project power
at even greater distances from the Chinese mainland.68,69,70 In 2017, China’s leaders said that the BRI, which at first included economic initiatives in Asia, South Asia, Africa, and Europe, now encompasses all regions of the world, including the Arctic and Latin America, demonstrating the scope of Beijing’s ambition.
Growing PLA mission areas and enhanced presence abroad may lead to an increase in demand for the PLA to protect China’s over- seas interests and provide support to Chinese personnel. China’s increased presence also introduces the possibility that the PLA could play a more prominent role in delivering global public goods in the future.
Separately, China’s modern naval platforms include advanced missile and technological capa- bilities that will strengthen the force’s core war- fighting competencies and enable credible com- bat operations beyond the reaches of land-based defenses. The expansion of naval operations beyond China’s immediate vicinity will provide China with a diverse set of capabilities for strik- ing targets across the Pacific and Indian Ocean conducting offensive missions, such as blockades and sovereignty enforcement, as well as defensive operations farther from China’s shores. China also focuses on enhancing the PLA’s ISR capabilities, which will enable improved targeting and timely responses to perceived threats. Abilities such as exercising control of SLOCs. Improving bluewater capabilities will extend China’s maritime security buffer to protect China’s near- and far-seas interests more effectively.
China’s current aircraft carrier and planned follow-on carriers will extend air defense umbrellas beyond the range of coastal systems and help enable task group operations in far seas. Sea-based land attack probably is an emerging requirement for the PLAN. Chinese military experts argue that to pursue a defensive strategy in far seas, the PLAN must improve its ability to control land from the sea through development of a long-range LACM.71
The PLA’s land-based missile and air forces enable other military assets to focus on con-
China invests considerable resources to main- tain a limited, survivable nuclear force that can guarantee a damaging retaliatory strike.72
73 As part of this, China has long maintained a “no first use” (NFU) policy, stating it would use nuclear forces only in response to a nuclear strike against China.74,75,76 There is some ambiguity, however, over the conditions under which China’s NFU policy would apply. Some PLA officers have written publicly of the need to spell out conditions under which China might need to use nuclear weapons first; for example, if an enemy’s conventional attack threatened the survival of China’s nuclear force or of the regime itself.77 Nevertheless, there has been no indication that national leaders are willing to attach such nuances and caveats to China’s NFU doctrine.
China is developing a new generation of mobile missiles, with warheads consisting of multi- ple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and penetration aids, intended to ensure the viability of its strategic deterrent in the face of continued advances in U.S. and, to a lesser extent, Russian strategic ISR, preci- sion strike, and missile defense capabilities.78 China is enhancing peacetime readiness levels for these nuclear forces to ensure responsive- ness. China maintains nuclear-capable deliv- ery systems in its Rocket Force and Navy. As of 2017, the Air Force had been reassigned a nuclear mission, probably with a developmen- tal strategic bomber.79,80,81,82,83 The bomber’s deployment would provide China with its first credible nuclear triad of delivery systems dis- persed across land, sea, and air—a posture considered since the Cold War to improve sur- vivability and strategic deterrence.
PLA writings express the value of a “launch on warning” nuclear posture, an approach to deterrence that uses heightened readiness, improved surveillance, and streamlined deci- sionmaking processes to enable a more rapid response to enemy attack. These writings highlight the posture’s consistency with Chi- na’s NFU policy. China is working to develop a space-based early warning capability that could support this posture in the future.84
The PLA is developing a range of technologies to counter U.S. and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems, including maneu- verable reentry vehicles (MARVs), MIRVs, decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and hypersonic glide vehicles.85,86,87 In addition, the PLA is likely to continue deploying more sophisticated C2 systems and refining C2 pro- cesses as growing numbers of mobile intercon- tinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and future nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) deterrence patrols require the PLA to safeguard the integrity of nuclear release authority for a larger, more dispersed force.
China maintains a stockpile of nuclear war- heads and continues research on and develop- ment and production of new nuclear weapons.88 The PLA probably has multiple nuclear war- head designs that are decades old and require routine observation, maintenance, or refur- bishment to maintain effectiveness.89 China’s nuclear weapon design and production orga- nization—the China Academy of Engineering Physics—is the key organization in developing and maintaining China’s nuclear force.90 It employs tens of thousands of personnel, and its scientists are capable of conducting all aspects of nuclear weapon design research, including nuclear physics, materials science, electronics, explosives, and computer modeling.91,92
China’s nuclear weapons program has been supported by a number of facilities that include production, processing, research and development, and testing.
China has the required industrial capacity to enrich uranium and produce plutonium for mil- itary needs. The China National Nuclear Cor- poration operates several uranium enrichment facilities organized under three plants.93 China probably intends the bulk of its enrichment capacity to support its burgeoning nuclear power industry but could devote some enrich- ment capacity to support military needs.94 Chi- na’s plutonium production reactors probably ceased operation in the 1980s.95 However, Chi- na’s reprocessing facilities can extract pluto- nium from spent reactor fuel.96
Biological and Chemical Warfare
China has declared that it once operated a small chemical weapons program for offensive purposes; however, Beijing has consistently maintained that the program was dismantled
China has consistently claimed that it has never researched, produced, or possessed bio- logical weapons and would never do so.97 Bei- jing says China has researched only defensive biological technology necessary for China’s defense.98 China acceded to the Biological Weap- ons Convention (BWC) in 1984.99 It declared the Academy of Military Science’s Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology in Beijing as a biodefense research facility.100 China regularly and voluntarily submits to confidence-building measures under the BWC.101 Although China is not a member of the Australia Group, Chi- na’s export control regulations have been in line with Australia Group guidelines and con- trol lists since 2002.102, 103 China’s biotechnology infrastructure is sufficient to produce some bio- logical agents or toxins on a large scale.104,105,106 and all agents and munitions were used before China ratified the Chemical Weapons Conven- tion (CWC) in 1997.107 Beijing also has declared two historical chemical warfare production facilities that may have produced mustard gas, phosgene, and lewisite.108,109 In 1998, Beijing published chemical export control regulations consistent with Organization for the Prohibi- tion of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) standards. It also has consistently updated its chemical control list to reflect changes made to the Aus- tralia Group chemical control list. China contin- ues to reaffirm its compliance with the CWC as well as its support for the activities conducted by the OPCW.110,111,112 Since acceding to the CWC, China has declared hundreds of dual- use facilities and has hosted hundreds of facil- ity inspections and OPCW-led seminars.113,114
China probably has the technical expertise to weaponize chemical and biological war- fare (CBW) agents, and China’s robust arma-ments industry and numerous conventional weapon systems, including missiles, rockets, and artillery, probably could be adapted to deliver CBW agents.116 China has the technical expertise, military units, and equipment necessary to detect CBW agents and to defend against a CBW attack.117
Entities and individuals in China continue to supply countries of concern with technologies, components, and raw materials applicable to weapons of mass destruction and missile pro- grams. Such material and technology transfers could assist countries in developing their own production capabilities.118
The PLA historically has managed China’s space program and continues to invest in improving China’s capabilities in space-based ISR, satellite communication, satellite naviga- tion, and meteorology, as well as human space- flight and robotic space exploration.119 China uses its on-orbit and ground-based assets to support national civil, economic, political, and military goals and objectives. Strategists in the PLA regard the ability to use space-based sys- tems and deny them to adversaries as central to enabling modern informatized warfare. As a result, the PLA continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the militarization of space. Space operations probably will form an integral compo- nent of other PLA campaigns and serve a key role in enabling actions to counter third-party intervention during military conflicts.
China continues to develop a variety of counter- space capabilities designed to limit or prevent an adversary’s use of space-based assets during crisis or conflict. In addition to the research and possible development of satellite jammers and directed-energy weapons, China has probably made progress on kinetic energy weapons, including the anti-satellite missile system tested in July 2014.120 China is employing more sophisticated satellite operations and probably is testing on-orbit dual-use technologies that could be applied to counterspace missions.
The PLA’s Strategic Support Force (SSF), established in December 2015, has an import- ant role in the management of China’s aero- space warfare capabilities.121 Consolidating the PLA’s space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities into the SSF enables cross-domain synergy in “strategic frontiers.” The SSF may also be responsible for research, development, testing, and fielding of certain “new concept” weapons, such as directed energy and kinetic energy weapons. The SSF’s space function is primarily focused on satellite launch and oper- ation to support PLA reconnaissance, nav- igation, and communication requirements. [For more on the SSF, please see Appendix E.]
Space and counterspace capabilities—like mis- sile forces, advanced air and seapower, and cyber capabilities—are critical for China to fight and win modern military engagements. To support various requirements, China has built a vast ground and maritime infrastructure enabling spacecraft and space launch vehicle (SLV) man- ufacture, launch, C2, and data downlink.
China employs a robust space-based ISR capa- bility designed to enhance its worldwide situ- ational awareness. Used for civil and military remote sensing and mapping, terrestrial and maritime surveillance, and military intelligence collection, China’s ISR satellites are capable of providing electro-optical (EO) and synthetic aperture radar imagery, as well as electronic intelligence and signals intelligence data.122
China pursues parallel programs for military and commercial communications satellites (COMSATs), and owns and operates about 30 COMSATs used for civil, commercial, and military satellite communications. The PLA operates a small number of dedicated military COMSATs.123 China’s civil COMSATs incorpo- rate turnkey off-the-shelf commercially manu- factured components, and China produces its military-dedicated satellites domestically.124 China continues to launch new COMSATs to replace its aging satellites and increase its overall satellite communications bandwidth, capacity, availability, and reliability.
China uses its domestically produced Dong- fanghong-4 (DFH-4) satellite bus—the struc- ture that contains the components of the sat- ellite—for its military COMSATs.125 Even though early satellites suffered mission-ending or mission-degrading failures, the DFH-4 has become a reliable satellite bus. The PLA and government continue to vigorously support the program and have signed numerous contracts with domestic and international customers for future DFH-4 COMSATs. The DFH-4 bus has also allowed China to position itself as a competitor in the international COMSAT market, orchestrating many contracts with foreign countries to supply on-orbit satellites, ground-control systems, and training.
In 2008, China launched the first Tianlian data-relay satellite of its China Tracking and Data Relay Satellite constellation. As of December 2017, China had four Tianlian data-relay satellites on orbit, allowing China to relay commands and data to and from its satellites even when those satellites were not over Chinese territory.
In 2000, China launched its first Beidou satellites to test the development of a regional satellite navigation system. By 2012, China had established a regional satellite navigation constellation consisting of 10 Beidou satellites and had initiated testing of a global constellation similar to the U.S. Global Positioning System
(GPS).126 As Beidou satellites continue to be placed in orbit, by 2020 China will complete its global constellation of 27 Beidou satellites while maintaining a separate regional constellation providing redundant coverage over Asia.127
China owns and operates 10 domestically produced Fengyun and Yunhai meteorolog- ical satellites.128 The China Meteorological Administration supports civilian and mili- tary customers with the delivery of meteoro- logical data and detailed weather forecasts. The newer satellites house almost a dozen all-weather sensors concerning atmospheric conditions as well as maritime terrain data for military and civilian customers. China’s membership in the World Meteorological Organization grants it free access to global meteorological data from the international organization’s 191 members.129
The PLA is acquiring a range of technologies to improve China’s counterspace capabilities. China is developing antisatellite capabilities, including research and possible development of directed-energy weapons and satellite jam- mers, and probably has made progress on the antisatellite missile system that it tested in July 2014. China is employing more sophisti- cated satellite operations and probably is test- ing dual-use technologies that could be applied to counterspace missions.130
China has not publicly acknowledged the exis- tence of any new programs since it confirmed it used an antisatellite missile to destroy a weather satellite in 2007. PLA writings emphasize the necessity of “destroying, dam- aging, and interfering with the enemy’s recon- naissance…and communications satellites,” suggesting that such systems, as well as nav- igation and early warning satellites, could be among the targets of attacks designed to “blind and deafen the enemy.”131,132
Human Spaceflight and Space-Exploration Probes
China became the third country to achieve independent human spaceflight in 2003, when it successfully orbited the crewed Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, followed by space laboratory Tian- gong-1 and -2 launches in 2011 and 2016, respectively. China intends to assemble and operate a permanently inhabited, modular space station capable of hosting foreign payloads and astronauts by 2022.133
China is the third country to have soft-landed a rover on the Moon, deploying the rover Yutu as part of the Chang’e-3 mission in 2013. China’s Lunar Exploration Program plans to launch the first mission to land a rover on the lunar far side in 2018 (Chang’e-4), followed by its first lunar sample-return mission in 2019 (Chang’e-5).134,135,136
China has a robust fleet of launch vehicles to support its requirements. The Chang Zheng, or Long March, and Kuaizhou SLVs can launch Chinese spacecraft to any orbit.
China operates four space launch sites: Jiuquan, Taiyuan, Xichang, and Wenchang.
System Propellant Generation Outlook
LM-2, LM-3, LM-4 series Liquid Legacy Phase out by 2025
LM-5 series Liquid Next Heavy-lift for the proposed space station and other payloads
LM-6 Liquid Next Light-lift for low Earth and sun-synchronous orbit
LM-7 Liquid Next Medium-lift for human spacefight and resupply to the future space station
LM-11 and Kuaizhou series Solid Next Lift for emergency response
Authoritative PLA writings identify con- trolling the “information domain”—sometimes referred to as “information dominance”—as a prerequisite for achieving victory in a modern war and as essential for countering outside intervention in a conflict.140 The PLA’s broader concept of the information domain and of infor- mation operations encompasses the network, electromagnetic, psychological, and intelli- gence domains, with the “network domain” and corresponding “network warfare” roughly analogous to the current U.S. concept of the cyber domain and cyberwarfare.141
The PLA Strategic Support Force (SSF) may be the first step in the development of a cyber-force by combining cyber reconnaissance, cyberattack, and cyberdefense capabilities into one organization to reduce bureaucratic hur- dles and centralize command and control of PLA cyber units. Official pronouncements offer limited details on the organization’s makeup or mission. President Xi simply said during the SSF founding ceremony on 31 December 2015 that the SSF is a “new-type combat force to maintain national security and [is] an import- ant growth point for the PLA’s combat capa- bilities.”142 The SSF probably was formed to consolidate cyber elements of the former PLA General Staff Third (Technical Reconnais- sance) and Fourth network-based C2, C4ISR, logistics, and com- mercial activities. Third, cyberwarfare capabili- ties can serve as a force multiplier when coupled with conventional capabilities during a conflict.
PLA military writings detail the effectiveness of information operations and cyberwarfare in modern conflicts, and advocate targeting an adversary’s C2 and logistics networks to affect the adversary’s ability to operate during the early stages of conflict. One authoritative source identifies an adversary’s C2 system as “the heart of information collection, control, and application on the battlefield. It is also the nerve center of the entire battlefield.”145 Chi- na’s cyberwarfare could also focus on targeting links and nodes in an adversary’s mobility sys- tem and identifying operational vulnerabilities in the mobilization and deployment phase.
The PLA could use its cyberwarfare capabili- ties to support military operations in three key areas. First, cyber reconnaissance allows the PLA to collect technical and operational data for intelligence and potential operational planning for cyberattacks because the accesses and tac- tics, techniques, and procedures for cyber recon-
The PLA also plays a role in cyber theft. In May 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted five PLA officers on charges of hacking into the networks of U.S. companies for commercial gain. Beijing maintains that the Chinese gov- ernment and military do not engage in cyberes- pionage and that the United States fabricated the charges.146,147 naissance translate into those also necessary to conduct cyberattacks. Second, the PLA could employ its cyberattack capabilities to establish information dominance in the early stages of a conflict to constrain an adversary’s actions or slow mobilization and deployment by targeting.
The PLA uses military deception to reduce the effectiveness of adversaries’ reconnaissance and to deceive adversaries about the PLA’s warfighting intentions, actions, or major tar- gets.148 PLA tradition emphasizes deception and psychological manipulation to create asymmetric advantages and enable surprise. The PLA has a longstanding doctrine for
Logistics and Defense- Industrial Modernization deception, and claims that it regularly practices deception during training. PLA sources describe military deception as a form of com- bat support, on par with ISR, meteorological support, missile calculation, engineering, and logistic support.
Denial and deception activities include: 149
• Concealing and camouflaging.
• Blending false or misleading military movements with actual deployments and war preparations.
• Employing counterreconnaissance: understanding and evading, jamming, or destroying the whole spectrum of enemy reconnaissance activities against PLA units and facilities.
• Using deceptive maneuvers, psycholog- ical ploys, and unorthodox schemes to deceive, confuse, or otherwise manipulate an adversary into a militarily disadvanta- geous position.150
Skillfully employed, deception can paralyze an enemy force and achieve decisive results. Options range from no-warning strikes, vio- lent multiaxis strikes, and envelopment to a less ambitious attempt to confuse the adver- sary regarding the exact timing, nature, direc- tion, or scope of a PLA operation.151,152
The PLA’s increased focus on developing the capabilities required to conduct joint oper- ations under “informatized” conditions that began in the 1990s has spurred efforts during the past two decades to develop the PLA’s capacity to supply and sustain its operations. Along these lines, the PLA has taken steps to modernize its defense-industrial base to ensure that the PLA is developing capabil- ities to meet future mission requirements. Key areas of focus have included civil-military integration, support to joint combat operations, and high-tech weapons development.
According to various military officials, the PLA’s logistics system historically has been plagued with inefficiencies that degrade com- bat readiness and restrict its ability to support and sustain modern joint combat opera- tions.153,154,155 Since the late 1990s, the PLA has invested in the modernization of its logistics system, force structure, and supporting infra- structure to enable a transition from a rigid command-directed and manpower-dependent system, rife with corruption. The overarching objective of these reforms is to build a preci- sion logistic support system that is capable of comprehensive, timely, and accurate logistic support to PLA joint operations.156,157 This transformation is dependent on building high-efficiency transportation and warehouse infrastructure, fielding new combat support equipment, integrating comprehensive infor- mation systems, and developing a new breed of officer capable of leveraging these capabilities to support rapid mobilization and high-tempo combat operations.158,159 For China, logistics modernization also is heavily dependent on the PLA’s ability to leverage the full potential of China’s comprehensive national power to max- imize combat capabilities, ensure peacetime efficiencies, and guarantee a constant state of combat readiness.160
The PLA has made great progress in logistics reform by improving logistics resources and procedures during the past two decades, and enhancing the PLA’s ability to mobilize rap- idly and project support along internal lines of communication for large operations (mostly disaster responses and exercises).161,162,163,164 Since 2016, the PLA has implemented struc- tural reforms to improve command and con- trol, procedural reforms to improve civil-military integration, and oversight mechanisms to eliminate waste and inefficiencies that stem from longstanding corrupt practices within the logistics sector. The successful implementation of these measures remains to be seen, given the substantial cultural challenges of execut- ing joint operations and reducing corruption.165 The extent to which the PLA will be able to sustain external military force projection oper- ations effectively also remains in question because the PLA’s experience is still nascent. Efforts to support the PLA’s first overseas mili- tary base, in Djibouti, may provide insight into these capabilities. [Please see Appendix G for more information on PLA logistics.]
China’s defense-industrial complex comprises both a military and a state sector governed by the CMC and State Council, respectively, under oversight of the Chinese Commu- nist Party Central Committee.166 The CMC’s Equipment Development Department over- sees weapons planning, research, develop- ment, and acquisition (RDA) in conjunction with the military service armament organi- zations for China’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force, Strategic Support Force, Armed Police, and Coast Guard.
The State Council’s State Administration for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND) is the key organ respon- sible for overseeing China’s state-owned defense-industrial corporations and enter- prises.167,168 Twelve SASTIND-subordinate defense-industrial enterprises conduct RDA and production in six distinct scientific, engi- neering, and technological domains:
• Ground systems/ordnance
During a speech at an equipment-quality work conference in 2015, CMC Vice Chairman Gen- eral Xu Qiliang stressed the need to build a strong defense-industrial base to support mil- itary development. Xu emphasized themes of quality, innovation, technology, and improving combat readiness, but also said it would be necessary to strengthen laws, regulations, and accountability within the defense industry to increase quality standards.169
The PLA initiated defense-industrial reforms in 2016 that aimed to reduce bureaucracy, develop a more structured RDA and produc- tion decisionmaking apparatus, streamline developmental timelines, promote innovation, and institutionalize civil-military integration. Within an industrial context, the latter entails establishing a formal relationship between
China’s defense and civilian industrial bases to develop a technologically advanced, domes- tically reliant, and internationally relevant defense-industrial complex.170 Key components of the initiative include the establishment of widely distributed “science cities,” industrial parks, and high-tech zones—most near China’s defense-industrial corporations and commer- cial industrial centers, large cities, and pro- vincial capitals harboring significant RDA and manufacturing capabilities to facilitate effi- cient logistics and supply.171,172 These reforms are expected to be implemented by 2020.
A key emphasis of defense-industrial reforms is developing an innovative military indus- trial complex capable of delivering cutting-edge technologies to meet future PLA requirements. China’s research and development apparatus is designed to both identify and maximize the utility of emerging and potentially disruptive science and technology for military use. Scien- tific and technological disciplines with military applications targeted for development include hypersonics; nanotechnology; high-performance computing; quantum communications; space systems; autonomous systems; artificial intel- ligence; robotics; high-performance turbofan engine design; new, more efficient and power- ful forms of propulsion; advanced manufac- turing processes (including additive manufac- turing/3-D printing); and advanced aerospace quality materials, just to name a few.173
The use of underground facilities for warfighting protection and concealment enhances China’s military capacity, with particular emphasis on protecting C4I functions and missile assets. The PLA maintains a robust, technologically advanced underground facility (UGF) program. Given its NFU nuclear policy, China assumes it might have to absorb an initial nuclear strike while ensuring that leadership and strategic assets survive.
China determined in the mid-to-late 1980s that it needed to update and expand its military UGF program. This modernization effort took on a renewed urgency after China observed U.S. and coalition air operations during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and in the Balkans in 1999. The resul- tant emphasis on “winning high-tech battles” precipitated research into advanced tunneling and construction methods. These military cam- paigns convinced China it needed to build more survivable, deeply buried facilities, resulting in the widespread UGF construction effort we have detected throughout China for the past decade.
Missions Other Than War
China has broadened its participation in UN PKOs since 2008 to support foreign policy and military objectives by improving China’s inter- national image, providing the PLA with oper- ational experience, and opening avenues for intelligence collection. China provides civilian police, military observers, engineers, logistic support specialists, and medical personnel to missions. In 2016, China had more than 3,000 peacekeepers deployed in support of 10 UN missions around the globe—the largest contin- gent of any permanent member nation of the UN Security Council—and separately com- mitted to establish an additional 8,000-mem- ber peacekeeping standby force. China has rained about 500 foreign peacekeepers and
The PLA views “nonwar” missions as a compo- nent of its readiness preparations, broader mil- itary modernization efforts, and military diplo- macy. These operations also reflect the PLA’s increasing role beyond China’s borders.174 In practice, the military shares many of these mis- sions with the People’s Armed Police, China’s largely domestically oriented paramilitary force. has pledged to increase this number to 2,500 in the near future. In August 2017, Beijing announced that China’s first helicopter unit to be deployed to a UN mission area had arrived in Sudan to support the United Nations Afri- can Union Mission in Darfur.175 As of 2018, China has more than 2,500 troops, police, and military observers committed to UN missions.
Beijing’s increased participation in UN PKO missions, particularly in terms of securing Chi- na’s international image, has not come without costs. For instance, in 2016, after three Chinese peacekeepers were killed in action and six were wounded in two high-profile attacks in Mali and South Sudan, some international media reports accused Chinese peacekeepers of failing to interdict attacks on civilian foreign aid workers. These reports implicitly questioned China’s ability to perform as a responsible global actor.
In 2017, China sustained its contributions to counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden through the deployment of its 28th naval escort task force to the region since 2008. During the same period, the PLAN continued to use sup- port for counterpiracy to justify Chinese sub- marine patrols to the Indian Ocean. In 2016, a nuclear-powered attack submarine conducted a port call in Karachi, Pakistan, during an official visit by the PLAN commander, marking Chi- na’s first port call in South Asia by a nuclear submarine. In 2017, Chinese attack submarines conducted port calls in Seppangar, Malaysia, and Karachi, but Sri Lanka denied a port call request in Colombo.176 These submarine patrols demonstrate the PLAN’s emerging capability to protect China’s SLOCs and to increase China’s power projection into the Indian Ocean.
China continues to use humanitarian and disas- ter relief and counterterrorism cooperation as low-threat avenues to advance military engage- ment with many of its foreign partners. In March 2016, Beijing also proposed the creation of a mar- itime joint search and rescue hotline with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, probably in part as a means of assuaging regional concerns over Chinese activities in the South China Sea.
China’s military modernization efforts have followed the broader growth and development of China as a whole. The PLA has made efforts toward reducing corruption, professionalizing train- ing and education, developing a science and technology base for research and develop- ment, and organizing the force for effective C2. With its economic and security interests reaching around the globe, Beijing perceives further modernization of the PLA as an imper- ative for continued stability and security of its growing interests.
During the past decade alone, from counter- piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden to an expanded military presence in the East and South China Seas, China has demonstrated a willingness to use the PLA as an instrument of national power in the execution of “historic missions” in the new century. Improvements in PLA equipment and capabilities that have focused on generating combat power across the PLA services present Beijing with additional response options as China faces increasing global security concerns. Expected advances in areas such as nuclear deterrence, power projection, cyberspace, space, and electromagnetic spectrum operations will continue to be critical components of the PLA’s developing capabilities. China also continues to develop capabilities for “nonwar” missions, such as HADR and counterpiracy.
In the coming years, the PLA is likely to grow even more technologically advanced, with equipment comparable to that of other mod- ern militaries. The PLA will acquire advanced fighter aircraft, naval vessels, missile systems, and space and cyberspace assets as it organizes and trains to address 21st century threats far- ther from China’s shores.
The world today is undergoing unprecedented changes, and China is at a critical stage of reform and development. In their endeavor to realize the Chinese Dream of great national rejuvenation, the Chinese people aspire to join hands with the rest of the world to maintain peace, pursue development, and share prosperity.
China’s destiny is vitally interrelated with that of the world as a whole. A prosperous and stable world would provide China with opportunities, while China’s peaceful development also offers an opportunity for the whole world. China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, oppose hegemonism and power politics in all forms, and will never seek hegemony or expansion. China’s armed forces will remain a staunch force in maintaining world peace.
Building a strong national defense and powerful armed forces is a strategic task of China’s modernization drive and a security guarantee for China’s peaceful development. Subordi- nate to and serving the national strategic goal, China’s military strategy is an overarching guidance for blueprinting and directing the building and employment of the country’s armed forces. At this new historical starting point, China’s armed forces will adapt themselves to new changes in the national security environment, firmly follow the goal of the Communist Party of China to build a strong military for the new situation, implement the military strategic guideline of active defense in the new situation, accelerate the modernization of national defense and armed forces, resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and provide a strong guarantee for achieving the national strategic goal of the ‘two centenaries’ and for realizing the Chinese Dream of achieving the great reju- venation of the Chinese nation.
—Excerpt from China’s Military Strategy, May 2015
Note: The “two centenaries” is a reference to the 2021 centenary of the CCP as well as the 2049 centenary of the People’s Republic of China.
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The PLA Army (PLAA) is the world’s largest standing ground force, with approximately 915,000 active-duty personnel in combat units.177 China’s military reforms since 2015 have included creating a separate PLAA head- quarters for the first time in the PLA’s his- tory. In April 2017, the PLA announced the reduction of 5 of the PLAA’s 18 group armies (corps-sized units), and the restructuring to a corps-brigade-battalion force structure. This new design implemented more mobile, modular units and integrated maneuver elements into combined-arms brigades.178 The PLAA is also modernizing C4I systems to enhance its forces’ interoperability.
Roles and Missions
The PLAA’s role is to serve as the primary ground fighting force for the PLA. Accordingly, the PLAA’s mission falls into five areas with eight supporting capabilities.
Roles and Missions
PLAA Strategic Purpose
1 Respond to emergencies and military threats
2 Safeguard the sovereignty and security of China’s territory, China’s security interests in new domains, and overseas interests
3 Participate in security cooperation and maintain regional and world peace
4 Maintain China’s political security and social stability
5 Perform emergency rescue and disaster relief
Required Tactical and Operational Capabilities
1 Remote maneuver actions 5 Occupation and control actions
2 Information countermeasures 6 Regional guard actions
3 Firepower strike options 7 Special operations actions
4 Mobile assault actions 8 All-dimension defensive actions
PLAA-produced publications consistently discuss “new-type operations,” which are operations that emphasize an effects-based application of combat power to neutralize key nodes, diminish the enemy’s capability to effectively fight (systems confrontation), and achieve operational objectives quickly. At the tactical level, PLAA battalion training most likely includes use of precise, long-range fire to maximize protection and surprise; dispersion of formations of weapon platforms while relying on advanced communications technologies; and increasingly lethal munitions to enable PLAA commanders to produce mass effects on an enemy.
The PLAA is the world’s largest army.
The development of the PLAA’s “new-type” operational forces reflects China’s desire to plan and construct a force that is multifaceted, with capabilities for operations ranging from high-in- tensity conflict to security-stability operations. These forces stress the importance of ISR and leveraging information to enable future com- bat; they can conduct three-dimensional operations (Army aviation, air mobility, and airborne forces) and can operate in a severely degraded communications environment.
Operations emphasize engaging the enemy from much longer distances, place greater importance on protection and survivability, and emphasize the employment of cyberoperations. Future PLAA units will be smaller, more modular, and less dependent on headquarters for resources.
This new construct envisions generating com- bat power and effectiveness across warfighting functions, from smaller, more flexible units.179
Armor and Infantry. The majority of the PLAA’s armored and infantry units are orga- nized as combined-arms brigades, but the PLAA maintains a few maneuver units organized into divisions. The combined-arms brigades vary in size and composition, containing up to 5,000 troops. Infantry units include motorized infan- try (those equipped with trucks for transpor- tation) as well as mechanized infantry units, which can be equipped with either wheeled or tracked armored infantry fighting vehicles. Equipment in PLAA infantry units varies and may include a mix of obsolete platforms from the 1960s up to some of the region’s most mod- ernized and capable platforms. PLAA armored units similarly comprise a wide range of legacy tanks and modernized third-generation main battle tanks.182 Artillery. Artillery is the key component of the PLAA’s strike capability.183 Its primary function is supporting ground assault mis- sions, and artillery accounts for more than one-third of the Army’s operational unit strength.184 The current family of modernized systems emphasizes long-range deployment, firepower operations, and mobile warfare— the key attributes that the PLAA requires in its newest artillery systems.185 Air Defense. PLAA air defense units comprise active-duty forces and reserve forces. Active- duty units provide air defense for the mobile forces. These units are equipped with a mix of tactical antiaircraft missiles, antiaircraft artil- lery, antiaircraft gun and missile systems, and man-portable antiaircraft missile systems. An extensive reserve antiaircraft artillery force, comprising divisions and separate brigades, provides primarily area antiaircraft artillery protection for China’s urban areas and critical economic areas.186,187 Electronic Countermeasures. Electronic countermeasure (ECM) units are equipped with a range of modern ground-based elec- tronic warfare systems capable of targeting large portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. PLAA ECM units use HF/VHF/UHF, radar, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-borne jamming systems to support maneuver forces.
Special Operations Forces. Consistent with the PLAA’s recent emphasis on infor- mation- and intelligence-driven operations, the PLAA’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) have undergone substantial expansion. Accord- ing to PLAA doctrine, SOF missions include “carrying out special reconnaissance, special sabotage, [and] harassment attacks; seizing and controlling key targets; guiding precision attacks; conducting rescues behind enemy lines; and dealing with border armed con- flicts and unexpected events.”188 PLAA SOF appears to focus primarily on special recon- naissance and direct-action missions.189 Army Aviation. PLA Army Aviation comprises 13 brigades. These units are subordinate to corps-level units in the five theater commands. The PLA considers PLA Army Aviation a “new- type” operational force and a priority for mod- ernization. Since 2010, PLA Army Aviation has transformed from an auxiliary transport role to that of a main combat force and has increased its regiments to brigade echelon. Newly fielded and forthcoming helicopters combined with structural and operational changes under way in the PLAA indicate a pattern of development designed to mold a three-dimensional, new- type Army Aviation force with all-weather day- or-night capability.190 and aircraft), and facilities (ports, docks, and hospitals) during large-scale training exercises.
Main Battle Tanks. The PLAA armored corps comprises a mix of older, obsolete tanks and a variety of more modern tanks. The PLAA is mod- ernizing its armored units by fielding third-gen- eration tanks with updated armor packages, larger-caliber cannons, improved fire-control systems, and advanced electronics and commu- nications. The most capable of these tanks are the Type 96A and Type 99 main battle tank.194 Logistics and Support. PLAA logistics and equipment support elements exist in active and reserve units. They provide field forces with all classes of supply and maintenance support as well as medical and technical support. These forces normally form support groups under logistics and equipment command posts.191
A ZTZ99 (Type 99) main battle tank conducting training.
The PLAA also relies heavily on civil-military integration to supplement services provided by military logistics units. Official publications note the importance of integrating civilian and military production during mobilizations, and the PLAA regularly uses a combination of mil- itary and civilian materiel (rations and fuel), equipment (civilian transport vehicles, vessels,
Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles (AIFVs) and Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs). The PLAA has a large variety of wheeled and tracked AIFVs and APCs. Highlighted below are two of the PLAA’s most modern AIFVs.
• ZBD-04A. The ZBD-04A is one of China’s newest tracked AIFVs. It is well armed with a 100-mm gun, a coaxial 30-mm can-non, and a 7.62-mm machinegun. It has a traditional layout, with the engine in the front right and the driver in the front left. The turret is in the middle, with the troop compartment in the rear. The ZBD-04A has a licensed copy of the Russian BMP 3 turret. It has a three-member crew and room for seven passengers. This IFV weighs about 21 tons and has improved armor.
• ZBL-09. The ZBL-09, often referred to as a “wheeled light tank,” is the PLA’s newest wheeled armored vehicle. It has an 8×8 con- figuration, a 105-mm gun, a 7.62-mm coax- ial machinegun, a 12.7-mm machinegun on the right side of the turret, and six 76-mm grenade launchers on each side of the turret. The driver is in the front, the turret is in the middle, the power pack is in the rear, and passive armor is fitted to the hull and turret.
Artillery and Rockets. China continues to produce modern artillery systems aimed at advancing the mechanization of PLAA artil- lery while integrating information systems to increase lethality and precision. The primary systems are the PHL03 300-mm self-propelled (SP) multiple rocket launcher, the PLZ05 155- mm SP gun/howitzer, and two tracked and two wheeled 122-mm artillery systems. These new systems are likely to replace almost all towed artillery. The exception to this modernization trend is PLAA coastal defense artillery, which will continue using towed Type 59-1 130-mm guns and Type 66 152-mm howitzers.
Air Defense. China has been fielding medi- um-range HQ-16 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) with select air defense units in the PLAA as part of a comprehensive upgrade of its air defense capabilities. China manufactures its own variant of Russia’s SA-15 and is fielding the system with PLAA air defense units sup- porting tracked armored forces.
China also manufactures a domestically designed variant of the French Crotale tacti- cal SAM system. This wheeled SAM is being fielded with PLAA air defense units sup- porting primarily wheeled fighting forces. China’s tactical SAMs have been replacing outdated large-caliber antiaircraft artillery in air defense units defending operational and large tactical-level units.
China is fielding a modern domestically pro- duced SP antiaircraft gun system with select PLAA air defense units protecting larger maneuver units. The PGZ-07 will provide highly mobile coverage for headquarters areas, troop concentrations, and key logistic support areas.
China’s domestically designed and produced PGZ-04 integrated missile-gun antiaircraft system is an upgraded version of the PGZ-95, equipped with more effective short-range SAMs. The system is fielded with many PLAA armored and mechanized units for close-range air defense protection of combat maneuver elements.
In 2015, PLA leaders directed changes to ground forces training.195 These changes included a call for increased emphasis on problem solving, inno- vation, and realistic combat training, replacing previously scripted training methods. Leaders stressed the performance of key tasks—such as conducting joint training, training in nighttime combat, and training under adverse weather and geographical conditions—as essential to winning wars. The PLAA makes use of a num- ber of training locations available for its ground forces and maintains at least one sizable train- ing area in each of China’s military theaters. These training areas offer a variety of terrain, from coastal and flat areas to moderately hilly, to high plateau and mountainous terrains. The major training bases provide units with venues featuring large areas for field maneuvers, artillery fires, and force-on-force confrontations.
Professionalization. Since at least 2012, PLAA units (“red forces”) rotating through com- bined-arms training centers have trained against a permanently established “blue force,” also known as an opposition force.196 The construction of a blue force was undertaken to ensure that the PLAA would become more sophisticated in con- ducting realistic training scenarios. Increasingly, PLAA training emphasizes the need to empower lower-level leaders to conduct target-based, oppor- tunistic, initiative-driven combat. The PLAA has decreased the emphasis on “saving face,” shifting toward a culture of understanding that commanders and subordinates should be allowed—and expected—to make mistakes in training.
Recruitment and Professional Military Education. Military service probably will remain a less attractive career option if Chi- na’s economy stays healthy. Although Chinese youth remain interested in the career field, interest is not widespread.197 The PLAA relies on a 2-year conscription period along with a mix of volunteers (the ratio of conscripts to volunteers is unclear). Recruitment challenges notwithstanding, the PLA continues to pursue efforts to “cultivate new-type military person- nel” to retain talent and develop personnel who can meet the data demands of modern war- fare.198 The Army also has changed military recruitment schedules and age limits in an effort to better attract educated and talented people.199 Basic training, where students learn fundamental military skills and receive political indoctrination, continues to serve as the foundation for both conscripted and volunteer personnel entering the service. After complet- ing the initial curriculum, trainees are sent to their respective units for additional on-the-job training. Some new soldiers will go on to different locations for technical training outside their assigned units.200
PLA cadets receive political instruction.
The PLA Navy (PLAN) is Asia’s largest navy, with an inventory of more than 300 surface combatants, submarines, amphibious ships, patrol craft, and specialized units.201 The PLAN is rapidly replacing obsolescent, gen- erally single-purpose ships in favor of larger, multirole combatants with advanced antiship, antiair, and antisubmarine weapons and sen- sors. This modernization aligns with China’s growing emphasis on the maritime domain, with increasing demands on the PLAN to con- duct operational tasks at increasing distances from the Chinese mainland using multimis- sion, long-range, sustainable naval platforms with robust self-defense capabilities.202,203
In the 1980s, China’s threat perceptions and growing economic interests drove a major shift in the strategic orientation and utility of naval forces. In particular, Chinese naval strategists sought to expand the bounds of their maritime capabilities beyond coastal defense. By 1987, PLAN Commander Adm Liu Huaqing had established a strategy referred to as “offshore defense.”204
Although Liu characterized offshore areas as east of Taiwan and the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, stretching beyond the first island chain, offshore defense was often associated with operations in the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea—China’s “near seas.” Development of offshore defense paralleled the CMC’s adoption of a new military strategy that focused on local wars on China’s periphery rather than a major confrontation with the Soviet Union, and it focused on achieving regional goals and deterring a modern adversary from intervening in a regional conflict.
Former President Hu and President Xi have repeatedly emphasized the importance of maritime power. In 2004, former President Hu’s out- line of the PLA’s New Historic Missions encom- passed new expectations for the PLAN. In his report to the 18th Party Congress in 2012, Hu declared, “We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safe- guard China’s maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power.” Hu’s public emphasis on maritime power and the need to “resolutely safeguard” China’s maritime rights and interests reflect a growing consensus in China that maritime power is essential to advancing China’s interests. This trajectory was carried forward under Xi and is explicit in China’s 2015 military strategy:
In 2015, Beijing formally introduced a new naval strategy, known as Offshore Defense and Open Seas Protection. The new strategy contains the primary elements of offshore defense but extends China’s maritime sphere of operations beyond the first and second island chains and into the high seas in support of China’s growing international interests and maritime missions. China relies heavily on maritime trade, access to overseas energy resources, and overseas employment of Chinese citizens to propel its domestic economy, spurring Beijing’s concern for ensuring that the PLAN is capable of pursuing open-seas protection missions. The PLAN’s acquisition patterns demonstrate a growing emphasis on ships that are multi mission capable and large enough to sustain these types of operations.
Roles and Missions
Given China’s heavy reliance on maritime commerce, Beijing now has a vested interest in ensuring the security of international trade. Beijing also faces growing pressure to contrib- ute to international security missions. As an increasingly modern and flexible force, the PLAN is at the forefront of addressing a num- ber of enduring Chinese security challenges, from reunification with Taiwan to asserting China’s maritime claims in the East and South China Seas. Today the PLAN’s primary opera- tional, training, and planning focus remains in the near seas, where China faces sovereignty disputes over various islands, maritime fea- tures, territorial waters, and associated maritime rights. The growth of China’s diversified “nonwar” missions, including HADR, SLOC protection, and PKOs, has been a major driver of—and justification for—China’s expanded naval strategy and operations in the far seas. The following subsections highlight a few of these missions.
Countering Third-Party Intervention. Since the mid-1990s, Chinese planners and strategists have understood that the PLAN’s development of capabilities to deter, delay, and if necessary degrade third-party forces’ inter- vention in a time of conflict is essential. Nearly two decades later, China has closed many of the gaps in key warfare areas, such as air defense and long-range strike, that would support coun- tering third-party forces in regional campaigns. China has built or acquired a wide array of advanced platforms, including submarines,
major surface combatants, missile patrol craft, maritime strike aircraft, and land-based sys- tems that employ new, sophisticated antiship cruise missiles and SAMs. China also has devel- oped the world’s first roadmobile, antiship bal- listic missile, a system specifically designed to attack enemy aircraft carriers. China’s leaders hope that possessing these military capabilities will deter proindependence moves by Taiwan or, should deterrence fail, will permit a range of tailored military options against Taiwan and potential third-party military intervention.
Protecting Maritime Sovereignty. A key role for the PLAN is protecting China’s maritime sov- ereignty. In the East and South China Seas, Bei- jing faces longstanding disputes with its neigh- bors regarding maritime boundaries, economic rights, and sovereignty over various geographic features. During the past few years, maritime disputes between China and rival claimants, including Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, have periodically intensified.
China’s Navy, Coast Guard, and Maritime Militia are increasingly visible throughout the region, and Beijing has employed increasingly coercive tactics to advance its regional inter- ests. As China’s naval capabilities have grown, Beijing has taken steps to consolidate its mar- itime forces and improve its ability to respond flexibly to contingencies, while avoiding esca- lation to military conflict and maintaining a veneer of advancing peaceful global interests. China’s land reclamation and outpost expan- sion in the Paracel and Spratly Islands include port facilities from which it can surge PLAN,
China Coast Guard (CCG), and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) ships to better enforce maritime sovereignty claims, as well as airbases to support reconnaissance, fighter, and strike aircraft.
Under Chinese law, maritime sovereignty is a domestic law enforcement issue under the pur- view of the CCG. Beijing also prefers to use CCG ships for assertive actions in disputed waters to reduce the risk of escalation and to portray itself more benignly to an international audi- ence. For situations that Beijing perceives carry a heightened risk of escalation, it often deploys PLAN combatants in close proximity for rapid intervention if necessary. China also relies on the PAFMM – a paramilitary force of fishing boats – for sovereignty enforcement actions.
Sea Lane Protection. China increasingly sees a need for the PLAN to help protect its economic investments and political interests around the world. The security of oil import routes from the Middle East and Africa that pass through the Indian Ocean is particularly vital to China. Large portions of China’s crit- ical mineral imports and trade in manufac- tured products and components also use these routes. Since any disruption of China’s trade could undermine China’s economy, the PLAN is placing growing importance on developing long-range SLOC protection and general naval presence capabilities. For example, SLOC pro- tection and naval presence missions are among the main drivers in China’s establishment of a naval logistics support base in Djibouti as well as Beijing’s pursuit of additional logis- tics-port-access agreements. In addition, the PLAN’s participation in counterpiracy oper- ations in the Gulf of Aden demonstrates Bei- jing’s intention to protect important SLOCs.
Naval Diplomacy. Another growing PLAN mission is naval diplomacy. Since PLAN task groups began supporting counterpiracy opera- tions in the Gulf of Aden in 2008, the returning units have often followed the deployment with port visits across the Indian Ocean and other regions. In 2017, the PLAN completed its lon- gest goodwill deployment in October, visiting 20 countries in 7 months, including several port calls in Europe. The PLAN also employs its hos- pital ship, Peace Ark, to support HADR missions worldwide. These visits advance the Navy’s international profile, provide opportunities for bilateral cooperation, and build the PLAN’s experience in areas farther from China’s coast.
Nontraditional Missions. In 2004, the PLAN was tasked with safeguarding China’s national development and playing an important role in ensuring world peace. This represented a sub- stantial adjustment to China’s national defense strategy and broadened its definition of security to include new geographic and functional areas beyond the PLA’s traditional territorial security missions. Missions such as naval escort in the Gulf of Aden support China’s economic interests while enhancing China’s international image.
The PLAN controls all of China’s naval and naval aviation forces as well as seven marine brigades and has deployed naval forces in three of Chi- na’s five geographically oriented theaters that conduct day-to-day operations. The deputy com- mander of each fleet commands its respective aviation force. The 2015 PLA-wide structural reforms formally separated operational control of the Navy from force-building aspects admin- istered by PLAN headquarters, and additional changes to the PLAN’s structure, particularly at the fleet level and below, are expected in 2018.
North Sea Fleet. Headquartered in Qingdao, the North Sea Fleet is responsible for the Bo Hai, Yellow Sea, and northern portion of the East China Sea. It falls under the PLA North- ern Theater Command’s area of operations.
East Sea Fleet. Headquartered in Ningbo, the East Sea Fleet covers the majority of the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. It falls under the PLA Eastern Theater Command’s area of operations.
South Sea Fleet. Headquartered in Zhanji- ang, the South Sea Fleet is responsible for the South China Sea. It falls under the PLA South- ern Theater Command’s area of operations.
During the past 15 years, China’s naval mod- ernization has produced a technologically advanced, flexible force structure. The PLAN has more than 300 surface combatants, sub- marines, amphibious ships, and missile-armed patrol craft. Although the overall inventory has remained relatively constant, the PLAN is rapidly retiring older, single-mission warships in favor of larger, multimission ships equipped with advanced antiship, antiair, and antisub- marine weapons and sensors and C2 facilities.
In the initial stages of its modernization, the PLAN successfully concentrated resources on improving its antisurface warfare (ASUW) capabilities, both in surface ship and submarine development. Subsequent efforts have focused on improving antiair warfare capabilities and providing modest improvements in antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capabilities.
Every major PLAN surface combatant under construction is capable of embarking a helicopter to support over-the-horizon targeting, ASW, and search and rescue. Meanwhile, the PLAN’s submarine force remains largely con- centrated on ASUW, with Jin class SSBNs poised to contribute to China’s nuclear deter- rent once they begin strategic patrols in the near future. Naval aviation is expanding its mission set by incorporating modern multirole combat aircraft along with modern special mis- sion aircraft, carrier aviation, and UAVs. As a whole, the PLAN is becoming a force able to execute a wide variety of missions near home and far away.
Surface Force. In the late 1990s to early 2000s, the PLAN transitioned from a “green- water” (coastal) force to one capable of operating offshore with increasing regularity. During this period, China imported several major combatants, weapon systems, and sensors from Russia while concurrently producing and developing its own designs and modernizing older ships to employ advanced weapons. By the second decade of the 2000s, the PLAN was using Chinese designs for surface ships primarily equipped with Chinese weapons and sensors (although some engineering com- ponents and subsystems remained imported or license-produced in country at the time). Furthermore, the era of past designs has given way to production of modern multimis- sion destroyer, frigate, and corvette classes as China’s technological advancement in naval design has begun to approach a level commen- surate with, and in some cases exceeding, that of other modern navies. Once operational, the new Renhai class (Type 055) guided-missile cruiser, of which several are currently under construction, will be one of the most advanced and powerful ships in the world, boasting a large array of advanced-capability weapons and sensors developed domestically.205
Shipboard air defense and antisurface war- fare capabilities are arguably the most notable areas of improvement on PLAN surface ships. China has retired several older destroyers and frigates that had at most a point air defense capability and a range of just several nauti- cal miles. Newer ships entering the force are equipped with medium- to long-range area air defense missiles, including the Renhai, which has 112 vertical-launch cells for mixed muni- tions. The PLAN received a total of six Luyang II (Type 052C) class guided-missile destroyers with the HHQ-9 SAM (55-NM range) and YJ-62 antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs) (150-NM range), and six Luyang III (Type 052D) class guided-missile destroyers are now operational, with several more under construction. The Luyang III carries an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 SAM and YJ-18 ASCM (290-NM range). In addition, more than 25 Jiangkai II (Type 054A) class guided-missile frigates are now operational, with the vertically launched HHQ-16 (20- to 40-NM range), and more are under construction.206
These newer ships use modern combat man- agement systems and air surveillance sen- sors, such as the Sea Eagle and Dragon Eye phased-array radars. These new units allow the PLAN surface force to operate outside shore-based air defense systems because one or two ships are equipped to provide air defense for the entire task group.
China’s amphibious ship force has slowly grown since a modernization program began in the early 2000s. Since 2005, China has built six large Yuzhao (Type 071) class amphibious transport docks, signaling China’s develop- ment of an expeditionary warfare and over- the-horizon amphibious assault capability as well as inherent HADR and counterpiracy capabilities. The Yuzhao can carry up to four of the new Yuyi air-cushion utility landing craft (similar to the U.S. landing craft air cushion, LCAC) as well as four or more helicopters, armored vehicles, and troops on long-distance deployments. Additional Yuzhao construction is expected in the near term, as is a follow-on amphibious assault ship (landing helicopter assault, LHA, which Chinese sources term the
“Type 075”) that not only is larger but incorpo- rates a full flight deck for helicopters. Production on the LHA is expected to begin soon, if it has not already begun.
An expanded set of missions farther into the western Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, such as counter piracy deployments, HADR missions, survey voyages, and goodwill port vis- its, has increased demands on and broadened the experience of the PLAN’s fleet of ocean- going replenishment and service vessels. The PLAN recently launched two new Fuyi class fast combat support ships, intended to sup- port aircraft carrier battle groups, as well as the smaller Fuchi class replenishment oilers, which support surface action groups and long-distance deployments. These ships constantly rotate in support of China’s Gulf of Aden counter piracy deployments and regularly accompany surface groups operating beyond the first island chain. At present, China has at least 10 fleet replenishment ships operational, with more under construction.
PLAN ships conducting replenishment at sea.
In addition, China has added a variety of oceangoing auxiliary ships in recent years, including submarine rescue ships, hospital ships, salvage and rescue ships, survey ships, intelligence collection ships, and various large transport ships.
The Yuan SSP is China’s most modern conven- tionally powered submarine. Seventeen are in service, with possibly three more slated for production. The Yuan SSP’s combat capabil- ity is comparable to that of the Song; both can launch Chinese-built antiship cruise missiles, but the Yuan has the added benefit of an air-in- dependent propulsion (AIP) system and may have incorporated quieting technology from the Russian-designed Kilo SS. The AIP system provides a submarine a source of power other than battery or diesel engines while still sub- merged, increasing its underwater endurance and reducing its vulnerability to detection.
PLAN sailors conduct VBSS training.
The remainder of the conventional submarine force is a mix of Song, Ming, and Russian-built Kilo SSs. Of these, only the Ming and four of the older Kilos lack an ability to launch ASCMs. Eight of China’s 12 Kilos are equipped with the SS-N-27 ASCM, which provides a
Submarine Force. China’s modernizing force includes several types of submarines. For its diesel-electric force alone, between 2000 and 2005 China constructed Ming diesel attack sub- marines (SSs) and Song SSs and the first Yuan air-independent attack submarine (SSP), and purchased eight Kilo SSs from Russia. Although all of these classes remain in service, only the Yuan SSP is in production. Over time, reducing the number of classes in service helps stream- line maintenance, training, and interoperabil- ity. The submarine force comprises 6 nuclear attack submarines, 4 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and 50 diesel attack sub- marines. By 2020 the submarine force probably will increase to about 70 submarines.
long-range ASUW capability out to about 120 nautical miles. China’s newest domestic sub- marine-launched ASCM, the CH-SS-N-13, extends a similar capability to the Song, Yuan, and Shang classes.
China also continues to modernize its nucle- ar-powered attack submarine force, although these make up a small percentage of the total number of submarines. Two Shang nucle- ar-powered attack submarines (SSNs) have been launched, one each in 2002 and 2003. After nearly 10 years, China is continuing produc- tion with four additional hulls of an improved Shang variant. These six submarines will replace the aging Han SSN on a nearly one-for-one basis during the next several years. After the completion of the improved Shang SSN, the PLAN is expected to begin production on another modified variant of the Shang SSN class, the Type 093B.207 Thereafter, the PLAN probably will progress to the Type 095 nucle- ar-powered cruise missile submarine (SSGN). This class of submarine may provide a gener- ational improvement in many areas, such as quieting and weapons capacity.
The PLA Navy’s Jin class nuclear powered bal- listic missile submarines, armed with the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile, provide China its first viable sea-based nuclear deter- rent and credible second-strike nuclear capa- bility. The JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) has nearly three times the range of the Xia SSBN’s JL-1 SLBM, which was able to reach targets only in China’s immediate vicinity. The JL-2 SLBM underwent successful testing in 2012. The Jin/JL-2 weapon system will provide China with a capability to strike targets in the continental United States from some patrol areas. To maintain a continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent, the PLAN probably would require a minimum of five Jin SSBNs; four are in service.
Aviation. The role of PLAN aviation has evolved during the past decade. PLAN com- batants can now reach farther from shore and are more capable of providing their own air defense. This has allowed the PLAN to con- centrate on an expanded array of aerial mis- sions, particularly maritime strike, as well as maritime patrol, ASW, airborne early warn-
The JL-2/CSS-NX-14 SLBM in mid launching (AEW), and logistics. China’s first aircraft carrier signaled a new age for PLAN aviation, which is now evolving from an almost exclu- sively land-based force to one with a sea- based component.
Fixed-Wing Aircraft. During the past two decades, the PLAN has replaced antiquated fixed-wing aircraft, such as the Q-5 Fantan and the H-5 Beagle, with an array of high-qual- ity aircraft. The force is now equipped for a wide range of missions, including offshore air defense, maritime strike, maritime patrol/ ASW, and carrier-based operations. Just a decade ago, this air modernization relied very heavily on Russian imports. Following in the PLAAF’s footsteps, the PLAN is now benefiting from domestic combat aircraft production. Today, the PLAN is taking deliveries of modern, domestically produced fourth-generation fighter aircraft, such as the J-10A Vigorous Dragon and the domestically produced J-11B Flanker. Equipped with modern radars and glass cockpits and armed with PL-8 and PL-12 air-to-air missiles, PLAN J-10As and J-11Bs are among the most modern aircraft in China’s inventory and are capable of extended fighter patrols beyond China’s coastal areas.
For maritime strike, the PLAN has relied on vari- ants of the H-6 Badger bomber for decades. The H-6 is a licensed copy of the ex-Soviet Tu-16 Bad- ger medium jet bomber, and maritime versions employ advanced ASCMs against surface targets. Despite the age of their design, the H-6s continue to receive electronics and payload upgrades, keeping the aircraft viable as a long-range strike platform. As many as 30 aircraft remain in ser- vice. Noted improvements for the upgraded Bad- ger include the ability to carry a maximum of four ASCMs (instead of the two previously seen on earlier H-6D variants). The PLAN also has modi- fied a few H-6s to serve as tankers, increasing the range of PLAN fighter aircraft.
With at least five regiments fielded across the three fleets, the JH-7 Flounder augments the H-6 as the workhorse of the PLAN’s airborne maritime strike force. The JH-7 is a domesti- cally produced tandem-seat fighter-bomber developed as a replacement for obsolete Q-5 Fantan light attack aircraft and H-5 Beagle bombers. Updated versions of the JH-7 feature a more capable radar and additional weapons
capacity, enhancing its maritime strike capa- bilities. The JH-7 can carry up to four ASCMs and two PL-5 or PL-8 short-range air-to-air missiles, providing considerable payload for maritime strike missions, or the JH-7 can sac- rifice two ASCMs for underwing fuel tanks, increasing the platform’s range.
In addition to combat aircraft, the PLAN is expanding its inventory of fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft, AEW, and surveillance aircraft. China has achieved significant new capabilities by modifying several existing airframes. The Y-8, a Chinese license-produced version of the ex-Soviet An-12 Cub, forms the basic airframe for several PLAN special-mission variants. All of these aircraft play a key role in providing a clear picture of surface and air contacts in the maritime environment. As the PLAN pushes farther from the coast, long-range aircraft capable of extended on station times to act as the fleet’s eyes and ears become increasingly important.
The PLAN has also developed a Y-9 ASW variant. The new aircraft is equipped with a magnetic anomaly detector boom, similar to that of the U.S. Navy’s P-3. This Y-9 ASW variant is equipped with surface-search radar mounted under the nose as well as multiple-blade antennas on the fuselage, probably for electronic surveillance. A small EO/ infrared turret is located just behind the nose wheel, and this variant is equipped with an internal weapons bay in front of the main landing gear. Recent pictures of the Y-9 ASW variant suggest at least some aircraft have entered operational service.
In December 2017, the Aviation Industry Cor-
The Aircraft Carrier Liaoning
of the AG-600 Kunlong, the world’s largest seaplane.208 The aircraft is still under development, but once operational, the AG-600 probably will be used for both civilian and military roles, such as search and rescue operations or defense needs in the South China Sea. Chinese advertising depicts the aircraft as having an endurance of 12 hours and the capacity to res- cue 50 people during a single flight.209
Aircraft Carrier Program. In September 2012, China commissioned the Liaoning, join- ing the small group of countries that have an aircraft carrier. Beijing acquired the Soviet ship, formerly the Varyag, from Ukraine in 2002.210,211 Since that time, the PLAN has fol- lowed the long and difficult path of learning to operate fixed-wing aircraft from a carrier. The first launches and recoveries of J-15 fighter aircraft occurred in November 2012, with additional testing and training in early July 2013. With the first landing complete, China became only the fifth country in the world to have conventional takeoff and landing fighters aboard an aircraft carrier. In 2017, the Lia- oning concluded its second deployment to the South China Sea for training—its first with embarked J-15 fighters—and conducted its first port visit to Hong Kong.212,213,214
The Liaoning’s ski-jump configuration restricts aircraft takeoff weight, limiting maximum ordnance loads and overall combat power. The ski-jump design also means it cannot operate large, specialized support aircraft, such as an AEW aircraft.
China’s first carrier air regiment will com- prise the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark. The J-15 is externally similar to the Russian Su-33 Flanker D but has many of the domestic avion- ics and armament capabilities of the Chinese J-11B Flanker. The J-15 has folding wings, strengthened landing gear, a tailhook under a shortened tail stinger, two-piece slotted flaps, canards, and a retractable inflight-refueling probe on the left side of the nose.
China’s aircraft carrier program also includes efforts to develop domestic carriers. In 2017, China launched its first domestic aircraft car- rier, which was a modified version of the Lia- oning and is expected to enter into service by 2019.215,216 Like the Liaoning, the ship lacks cat- apult capabilities and has a smaller flight deck than U.S. carriers.217 The PLAN is expected to begin construction in 2018 on its first cat- apult-capable carrier, which will enable addi- tional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations.218
Helicopters. The PLAN operates three main helicopter variants: the domestically produced Z-9 and Z-8/Z-18 and the Russian-built Helix. The primary helicopter operated by the PLAN is the Z-9C. In the early 1980s, China obtained a license from France’s Aerospatiale (now Air-
Chinese Marines attend an international fleet review.
(bus Helicopter) to produce the AS 365N Dau- phin II helicopter and its engine. The AS 365s produced in China were labeled as the Z-9, with the naval variant designated Z-9C. The Z-9C is capable of operating from any helicop- ter-capable PLAN combatant. The Z-9C can be fitted with the KLC-1 search radar and dip- ping sonar and is usually observed with a sin- gle lightweight torpedo. A new roof-mounted EO turret, unguided rockets, and 12.7-mm machinegun pods have been seen on several Z-9Cs during counterpiracy deployments. An upgraded naval version, designated the Z-9D, has been observed carrying small ASCMs.
The Z-8 is also a Chinese-produced helicopter based on a French design. In the late 1970s, the PLAN took delivery of the SA 321 Super Frelon. A reverse-engineered version was des- ignated the Z-8, which reached initial opera- tional capability by 1989. Low-rate production continued through the 1990s and into the early 2000s. The Z-8’s size provides a greater cargo
In 2010, China purchased nine Ka-31 AEW helicopters and its E-801 radar system. The Z-18J and Ka-31 provide the PLAN a service- able sea-based AEW capability to help fill that critical gap until newer catapult-equipped air- craft carriers capable of operating fixed-wing AEW aircraft enter service.
PLAN Z-9 helicopter.
During the past decade, the scope and frequency of naval training have gradually expanded, reflecting the growing capabilities of China’s
capacity compared with other PLAN helicop- ters but limits its ability to deploy from most PLAN combatants.
A new PLAN helicopter labeled the Z-18 has operated with the Liaoning. The Z-18 comes in three variants: transport, antisubmarine (Z-18F), and AEW (Z-18J). As with the Z-8, the Z-18’s size limits its deployment options.
Variants of the Helix are the only imported helicopters operated by the PLAN. In 1999, the PLAN took delivery of an initial batch of eight Russian-built Helix helicopters. Five were Ka-28 Helix As, and three were Helix Ds. An additional 9 Helix As have been delivered, and all 18 Helix are operational. As with the Russian Ka-27s, the exported Ka-28s can per- form several mission sets but are usually used for ASW, and the Ka-27PSs are optimized for SAR and logistic support missions. The Ka-28 is fitted with search radar and dipping sonar and can employ sonobuoys, torpedoes, depth charges, or mines.
navy. The PLAN conducts year-round multimis- sion training, including robust antisurface and antiair warfare training.219 The PLAN now also participates in training exercises farther from China’s coasts, in areas such as the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
In 2015, China’s Military Strategy called for the PLA to enhance realistic military train- ing, particularly in complex electromagnetic environments, diverse terrains, and adverse weather conditions.220 The same year, the PLAN Headquarters Military Training Department directed the PLAN to enhance the complexity of training and exercises by:
• Making training more realistic.
• Strengthening command authority and relationships through realistic opposing force training.
• Deepening tactical innovation.
• Improving training in the actual use of weapons in an electromagnetic environment.
• Continuing “far seas” training.
• Improving training methods by avoiding formalism and scripting in exercises.
• Improving joint campaign-level training.221
PLAN participation in missions such as the antipiracy task groups in the Gulf of Aden pro- vide opportunities to train in real-world situ- ations to refine operational capabilities. The Navy also makes use of shore-based simulators and vessel training centers to help maintain year-round readiness levels.222
China Coast Guard. The CCG is responsi- ble for a wide range of missions, including the enforcement of China’s sovereignty claims, antismuggling, surveillance, protection of fish- eries resources, and general law enforcement. Maritime law enforcement responsibilities before 2013 were scattered across a number of organizations but have since been consoli- dated to establish more effective command and control. CCG ships are subordinate to the Peo- ple’s Armed Police and take part in Bejing’s whole-of-govenrment approach to maritime disputes. China primarily uses civilian mar- itime law enforcement agencies in maritime disputes, employing the PLAN in a protective capacity in case of escalation.223
The CCG has rapidly increased and modern- ized its forces, improving China’s ability to enforce its maritime claims. Since 2010, the CCG’s large patrol ship fleet (more than 1,000tons) has more than doubled in size from about 60 to more than 130 ships, making it by far the largest coast guard force in the world and increasing its capacity to conduct extended off- shore operations in a number of disputed areas simultaneously. Furthermore, the newer ships are substantially larger and more capable than the older ships, and the majority are equipped with helicopter facilities, high-capacity water cannons, and guns ranging from 30-mm to 76-mm. Among these ships, a number are capable of long-distance, long-endurance out- of-area operations. In addition, the CCG oper- ates more than 70 fast patrol combatants (more than 500 tons), which can be used for limited offshore operations, and more than 400 coastal patrol craft (as well as about 1,000 inshore and riverine patrol boats). By the end of the decade, the CCG is expected to add up to 30 patrol ships and patrol combatants before the construction program levels off.224
Haixun class cutter conducting port visit to Honolulu, Hawaii – September 2012.
People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia. The PAFMM is a subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties. Militia units organize around towns, villages, urban subdistricts, and enter- prises, and they vary widely from one loca- tion to another. The composition and mission of each unit reflects local conditions and per- sonnel skills. In the South China Sea, the PAFMM plays a major role in coercive activ- ities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader Chinese military doc- trine that states that confrontational opera- tions short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.225
A large number of PAFMM vessels train with and support the PLA and CCG in tasks such as safeguarding maritime claims, protecting fisheries, and providing logistic support, search and rescue (SAR), and surveillance and recon- naissance. The Chinese government subsidizes local and provincial commercial organiza- tions to operate militia ships to perform “offi- cial” missions on an ad hoc basis outside their regular commercial roles. The PAFMM has played a noteworthy role in a number of mili- tary campaigns and coercive incidents over the years, including the harassment of Vietnam- ese survey ships in 2011, a standoff with the Philippines at Scarborough Reef in 2012, and a standoff involving a Chinese oil rig in 2014. In the past, the PAFMM rented fishing boats from companies or individual fisherman, but it appears that China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the
South China Sea. Hainan Province, adjacent to the South China Sea, ordered the construction of 84 large militia fishing boats with reinforced hulls and ammunition storage for Sansha City, and the militia took delivery by the end of 2016.226
The PLAN Marine Corps (PLANMC) is the PLAN’s land combat arm. Its primary mission is to conduct offensive and defensive amphibi- ous assault in the South China Sea, including the Paracel Island and Spratly Island chains, and potentially the Senkaku Islands.227 The PLANMC is tasked with seizing and consol- idating beachheads, destroying an opposing force at the beachhead and adjacent areas, organizing landing areas, and supporting landings by the PLAA. Other missions include conducting amphibious raids; seizing and occupying enemy naval bases, seaports, and islands; building beachhead protective zones; and covering the PLAA as it advances inland from the coast.228
Roles and Missions. The PLANMC’s mission appears to be evolving beyond amphibious operations and toward a more expeditionary mission beyond China’s borders. This is in line with the PLA’s evolving strategy as outlined in China’s Military Strategy 229,230 For the PLAN, the New Historic Missions mean an increased focus on “diversified missions” or noncombat missions. Many of the tasks assigned to the armed forces in the white paper are ideally suited to the PLANMC, including ensuring Chinese sovereignty claims, safeguarding Chi- na’s security and interests “in new domains,” safeguarding the security of China’s interests overseas, and performing such tasks as emer- gency rescue and disaster relief, rights and interest protection, and guard duty.231 The PLANMC already is designated a rapid-re- action force for the PLA and has deployed on numerous occasions in response to natural disasters in China, including floods and earth- quakes.232 The PLANMC is the natural land- based force of choice for HADR efforts over- seas. In 2017, the PLA also chose to deploy PLANMC troops to the PLA’s first overseas base, in Djibouti, reflecting the Marine Corps’ growing role in China’s military.
Elements of the PLANMC are consistently deployed as part of the PLAN’s counterpiracy task groups operating in the Gulf of Aden.233 The size of the embarked force is no larger than a platoon. These Marines may be regular infantry troops but more likely come from an amphibi- ous reconnaissance group subordinate to the amphibious reconnaissance battalion. They are highly trained in the tactics, techniques, and
PLA marines conduct helicopter entry/exit training.
procedures required for a counterpiracy mission, including VBSS, hostage rescue, and small-team assault. VBSS tactics include fast-roping or rap- pelling from PLAN helicopters.234 Units. The PLANMC is subordinate to the PLAN and consists of seven brigades.235 Marine brigades are located in each of the North, East, and South Sea Fleets’ areas of respon- sibility.236,237 Recent PLA reforms included the establishment of a PLANMC headquar- ters, probably to oversee the administrative man, train, and equip functions of the growing Marine Corps, and also included the appoint- ment of the PLANMC’s first commander.238,239 Each brigade has a headquarters element, an armored regiment, at least two infantry bat- talions, a howitzer battalion, a missile battal- ion, a communications and guard battalion, an engineer and chemical defense battalion, a maintenance battalion, and an amphibi- ous reconnaissance battalion (special oper- ations).240 Estimates of the PLANMC’s troop strength differ widely and have been reported as high as 35,000, but the actual number is
PLANMC units conduct an amphibious assault during a training exercise.
PLANMC Capabilities and Equipment
ZBD-05 AIFV ZLT-05 AAG PLZ-07B SP Howitzer
Weight 26.5 tons 28 tons 24.5 tons
Crew 3 + 8 infantry 4 5
Speed (in water) ~20 kn ~20 kn UNK
Speed (on land) +40 mph +40 mph +40 mph
Main armament 30-mm cannon (4-km max range) 105-mm gun 122-mm cannon (18-km max range)
probably between 28,000 and 35,000, evenly divided among the 7 brigades.241,242,243 The PLAN provides the PLANMC with both mar- itime and air (helicopter) transport, a force enabler for PLANMC amphibious warfare operations.244 The PLANMC does not have an organic air assault element and probably would rely on PLAN ground-attack fixed-wing aircraft or PLAA helicopters in a close air sup- port role. The PLANMC also has a limited logistics capability.
Equipment. The PLANMC is a fully amphib- ious force capable of conducting amphibious assault operations using combined-arms tac- tics and multiple avenues of approach. It is the most capable amphibious force of any South China Sea claimant. The PLANMC can simultaneously seize multiple islands in the Spratlys. It also is capable of rapidly rein- forcing China’s outposts in the Paracels. The
PLANMC still faces challenges and limitations in close air support/air assault and logistics sustainment for large-scale amphibious oper- ations. The PLANMC is incapable of defeating near-peer or peer countries such as the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Russia in amphibious or ground warfare.
The PLANMC’s primary fighting vehicles are based on a single chassis and include the ZBD- 05 AIFV and the ZLT-05 amphibious assault gun.245,246 Noncombatant amphibious variants of the ZBD chassis include an armored recov- ery vehicle and an armored ambulance.247 Addi- tional combat equipment includes man-porta- ble air defense systems, antipersonnel mortars, antitank rocket launchers, and flamethrowers. The PLANMC is also equipped with amphibi- ous combat engineering equipment for obstacle removal, beach improvement, and construction of defenses once ashore.248
APPENDIX C: PLA Air Force
The PLAAF is the largest air force in the region and the third largest in the world, with more than 2,500 total aircraft (not including UAVs or trainers) and 1,700 combat aircraft (including fighters, strategic bombers, tactical bombers, and multimission tactical and attack aircraft). The PLAAF is closing the gap with Western air forces across a broad spectrum of capabilities, such as aircraft performance, C2, and electronic warfare.
In 2017, the PLAAF reorganized its force struc- ture as part of broader PLA reforms. Changes included establishing at least six new airbases and restructuring the force’s previously subordi- nate regiments into brigades under these newly established bases by disbanding fighter and fighter-bomber divisions. The PLAAF also relo- cated or resubordinated some units to different theater commands and redesignated the 15th Airborne Corps as the PLA Airborne Corps. 249
Roles and Missions
The PLAAF’s role is to serve as a comprehen- sive strategic air force capable of long-range airpower projection:250
The above excerpt illustrates the expanding roles and missions of the PLAAF. Whereas in the mid-1990s, the PLAAF’s primary responsi- bilities were to protect China’s airfields, urban centers, transportation systems, and military facilities, the PLAAF is enhancing its ability to conduct both offensive and defensive air opera- tions farther from China’s borders.251
Major Air Units
Bombers. China’s bomber force comprises variants of the H-6 Badger bomber, and the PLAAF has worked to maintain and enhance the operational effectiveness of these aircraft. The H-6K variant, which China is fielding in greater numbers, integrates standoff weapons and features more efficient turbofan engines in redesigned wing roots.252 This extended-range aircraft can carry six LACMs, providing the PLA a long-range, standoff, precision-strike capability that can reach Guam.
PLAAF AEW&C aircraft also incorporate state- of-the-art radar technology, such as active electronically scanned array radars that offer instantaneous target updates, electronic beam steering, advanced/specialized radar modes, very large search volumes, and the ability to stare at a target or track thousands of targets simultaneously. These features combine to provide faster target acquisition time, more accurate target position data, and increased ability to detect low-observable targets.
The PLAAF is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets. Stealth technology contin- ues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025. These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades com- pared with current operational bomber fleets,
PLAAF J-11BS multirole fighter aircraft.
Early Warning. Airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, such as China’s KJ-2000 Mainring, KJ-200 Moth, and KJ-500, are force multipliers, amplifying the capa- bilities to detect, track, and target threats. These aircraft extend the range of a coun- try’s integrated air defense system network. In particular, these systems are better suited to detecting low-altitude targets at greater standoff distances.
Fighters. Although the PLAAF still operates a large number of older second- and third-gen- eration fighters, it will probably become a majority fourth-generation force within the next several years. The PLAAF has fielded at least 600 fourth-generation fighters and is already developing fifth-generation fighters. [Note: what the U.S. and Western militaries refer to as fourth-generation fighters, China refers to as third-generation. This is because the PLA never had first-generation fighters—its first fighter aircraft were second-generation fighters acquired from Russia.]
Fourth-generation ftghter aircraft*—which include the Chinese J-10B/C, J-11B, and J-16—are generally characterized by the following:
• Electronically or mechanically scanned multimode radars, passive infrared search and track systems.
• “Glass” cockpits with multifunction displays (MFDs), improved heads-up display (HUD), and helmet-mounted sight (HMS).
• High-bandwidth communications and datalinks and identification, friend or foe (IFF).
• Advanced electronic warfare (EW) avionics, including digital jamming system, radar warning receiver, chaff/flare dispensers, and adaptive countermeasures.
• Engines with increased thrust and service life; advanced weapons, including long- range air-to-air missiles (AAMs), off-boresight short-range AAMs, LACMs, ASCMs, and precision-guided munitions (PGMs).
• Passive electronically scanned array or active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. These radars provide long-range radar detection and electronically scanned radar beams that enable automatic target acquisition, tracking of multiple targets, and highly accurate targeting data for air-to-air and precision air-to-ground engagements.
• Digital radiofrequency memory (DRFM) jammers enabling instantaneous smart jam- ming responses by automatically selecting jamming waveforms to counter a specific radar threat—significantly improving fighter aircraft survivability.
Fifth-generation fighter aircraft*, including the developmental Chinese J-20 and FC-31/J-31, are commonly defined by the following state-of-the-art technologies:
• Stealthy aircraft designs with significantly reduced radar and infrared signatures.
• AESA radars.
• Long-range, multiband EO targeting systems.
• Sensor fusion.
• Advanced glass cockpits with large MFDs and HMSs.
• Advanced datalinks fusing data from air and ground networks.
• Internal carriage of off-boresight and long-range AAMs, LACMs, ASCMs, and PGMs.
• Sophisticated EW suites with advanced DRFM jammers and EO defensive systems.
• Super maneuverability and/or super cruise capability (ability to fly above Mach 1 with- out use of afterburner).
• Designed with network-centric warfare technology; will have potent air-to-air lethality and standoff attack capabilities in sensor-to-shooter operations.
*U.S.- defined fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft in China.
PLAAF KJ-2000 airborne early warning and control system aircraft.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. During the past 2 years, the PLA has improved its UAV capabilities, unveiled new aircraft that com- bine strike capability with aerial reconnais- sance, and deployed select platforms to new areas, such as the South China Sea. Examples include China’s first turbine-powered armed reconnaissance UAV, the Yunying (Cloud Shadow), and the armed ISR UAV Gongji 1. China also has sold armed UAVs to customers such as Iraq. Marketing material for China’s armed UAVs cites speeds of 170 mph, endur- ance of 20 hours, and payloads of two or more air-to-surface guided munitions.
Surface-to-Air Missiles. The PLAAF has one of the largest forces of advanced long- range SAM systems in the world, made up of a combination of Russian-sourced SA-20 (S-300PMU1/2) battalions and domestically produced CSA-9 (HQ-9) battalions. In early
2018, Russia began delivering to China the S-400/Triumf SAM system, which Beijing will use to improve its strategic air defense systems as a follow-on to the SA-20.253 The PLAAF may simultaneously develop its domestically pro- duced CSA-X-19 (HQ-19) to provide the basis for a ballistic missile defense capability.
Transport. China’s aviation industry contin- ues to test its Y-20 large transport aircraft for introduction into the PLA’s operational inven- tory to supplement and eventually replace China’s small fleet of strategic airlift assets, which includes a limited number of Rus- sian-made Il-76 aircraft. The Y-20 conducted its maiden flight in early 2013 and reportedly uses the same Russian engines as the Il-76. The large transports are intended to support airborne C2, logistics, paradrop, aerial refuel- ing, and strategic reconnaissance operations as well as HADR.
Effective use of information is critical to strength- ening the PLAAF, and development and acqui- sition of systems and platforms are trending in this direction. Information demand will necessi- tate a tight synchronization of C4ISR with oper- ations. By 2020, the PLAAF probably hopes to develop an ISR capability to effectively support traditional air missions, including ground sup- port and air superiority, along with the PLA’s emerging military capabilities in space. From the PLAAF’s perspective, this essentially means seamlessly melding all of its air and space capa- bilities, a significant challenge.
Two J-10 fighters refueling with an H-6U tanker.
Airborne Corps. As part of ongoing military reforms, in 2017 the PLAAF reorganized its airborne units into a new corps—the PLA Airborne Corps—consisting of six airborne brigades, a special operations brigade, an avi- ation brigade, and a support brigade. Previ- ously, airborne forces fell under the PLAAF 15th Airborne Corps and were organized into three airborne divisions, supported by a special operations group, with both fixed- and rotary-wing assets.254 The PLA Airborne Corps’ main purpose is to carry out operations including parachute, aircraft landing, and mixed parachute and aircraft landing. Accord- ing to PLAA doctrine, the main advantage of airborne operations is to “cut across ground defense lines and topographical obstacles to unfold attacks directly inside the enemy dis- position.”255 These operations are designed to support main-force operational efforts, seize and hold key targets and areas in the enemy’s depth (such as airfields and bridges), block an enemy’s retreat, block reinforcement by enemy reserve forces, and conduct raids on key targets in the enemy’s depth.256
Training and Exercises
Numerous professional articles and speeches by high-ranking Chinese officers indicate the PLAAF does not believe that its past training practices prepared its pilots and other personnel for actual combat. Unrealistic training manifested itself in multiple ways that hindered the PLA’s air combat capabilities. The PLA recognizes that a gap exists between the skills of its pilots and those in “the air forces of powerful nations.” To address training weak- nesses, the former PLAAF commander said that when the PLAAF trains, it must “train for battle” instead of “doing things for show…[or] going through the motions.”
During the past few years, the PLAAF has revamped its training program and now seeks to replicate real-world combat environments as closely as possible. Through its four “name- brand exercises”—RED SWORD, GOLDEN HELMET, GOLDEN DART, and BLUE
SHIELD—the PLAAF is making incremental improvements to its training regimen. The PLAAF continues to seek engagement with foreign air forces, such as by participating in the Russian-sponsored Aviadarts air-to-ground competition and the FALCON STRIKE exercise with the Royal Thai Air Force, to gain exposure to foreign operational concepts and tactics.
The effect of these training initiatives on oper- ational capabilities remains to be seen; how- ever, the PLAAF is beginning to codify funda- mental changes to the training philosophy that are expected to improve the PLA’s air capabilities during the coming years. A key factor in this development is the PLAAF’s use of advanced air combat maneuvering instrumentation (ACMI) systems, which enable the force to train with more realism and learn more from each event while meeting safety require- ments. The ACMI system allows the PLAAF to monitor air combat training in real time and to adjudicate interactions such as aircraft maneuvering, weapons employment, jamming, and use of chaff and flares. Coupled with for- eign engagements, the use of ACMI in training offers the PLAAF the opportunity to accelerate its progress in training.
The PLAAF has also made advances in joint training. Traditionally Army-only exercises now incorporate PLAAF participation, and large-scale joint exercises have given the PLA opportunities to test its forces’ progress toward being able to operate in a true joint environment. Although more recent exercises suggest improvement and increased sophisti- cation, systemic shortfalls identified in several PLA training events—difficulty in coordina- tion, obstacles to information sharing, limited realism, and a continued reliance on script- ing—persist as problems for PLA and PLAAF leaders, hampering key functions, such as air defense, targeting, battle damage assessment, and air support to ground forces.
Two fighter jets during a military drill over the South China Sea.
APPENDIX D: PLA Rocket Force
As part of military reforms initiated in late 2015, the PLA Second Artillery Force was renamed the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF), and for the first time the force was elevated to a full service on equal footing with the PLA Army, Navy, and Air Force. PLARF weapons systems include dozens of ICBMs and hundreds of theater-range mis- siles for precision strike against major adver- sary military and civilian infrastructure.257
Roles and Missions
The PLARF operates China’s strategic land- based nuclear and conventional missiles and is a critical component of China’s deterrence strat- egy and efforts to counter third-party interven- tion in regional conflicts. The PLARF also is charged with developing and testing several new classes and variants of long-range missiles, forming additional missile units, upgrading older missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses.
Principal Weapon Systems
The PLARF has about 1,200 short-range bal- listic missiles (SRBMs), and China is increas- ing the lethality of its conventional missile force by fielding the CSS-11/DF-16 ballistic missile, with a range of 800 to 1,000 kilome- ters. The CSS-11/DF-16, coupled with the already deployed conventional land-attack and antiship variants of the CSS-5/DF-21
medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), will improve China’s ability to strike not only Tai- wan but other regional targets.
The Rocket Force is fielding conventional MRBMs to increase the range at which it can conduct precision strikes against land targets and naval ships (including aircraft carriers) operating from China’s shores out to the first island chain—the islands running from the Kurils, through Taiwan, to Borneo, roughly encompassing the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. The CSS-5 Mod-5/ DF-21D has a range exceeding 1,500 kilome- ters and has a maneuverable warhead. During the PLA’s 90th anniversary parade in 2017, China displayed a new MRBM designated the DF-16G, which China claims features high accuracy, short preparation time, and an improved maneuverable terminal stage that can better infiltrate missile defense systems.258
China unveiled the DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) during its September 2015 military parade in Beijing. The DF-26 is capable of conducting precision strikes against ground targets and contributes to China’s counterintervention posture in the Asia-Pa- cific region. During the parade, official public statements also referenced a nuclear version of the DF-26, which, if it has the same guid- ance capabilities, would give China its first nuclear precision-strike capability against theater targets.
A CSS-5 Mod 5/DF-21D antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) system on parade.
The PLARF also continues to enhance its nuclear deterrent, maintaining silo-based nuclear ICBMs and adding more survivable, mobile nuclear delivery systems. China cur- rently has 75 to 100 ICBMs, including the silo- based CSS-4 Mod 2/DF-5A and MIRV-equipped CSS-4 Mod 3/DF-5B; the solid-fueled, road-mo- bile CSS-10 Mod 1/DF-31 and CSS-10 Mod 2/ DF-31A; and the shorter range CSS-3/DF-4. The CSS-10 Mod 2/DF-31A has a range of more than 11,200 kilometers and can reach most locations within the continental United States. China also is developing a new MIRV-capable road-mobile ICBM, the CSS-X-10/DF-41.
The CJ-10 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) has a range in excess of 1,500 kilo- meters and offers flight profiles different from ballistic missiles, enhancing targeting options. Because of overlap in the kinds of targets China is likely to engage with either ballistic missiles or cruise missiles, GLCMs and air- launched land-attack cruise missiles provide key operational and planning flexibility. These weapons are likely to reduce the burden on ballistic missile forces as well as create some- what safer strike opportunities for Chinese aircrews, allowing them to engage from much greater distances and from more advantageous locations. This will complicate an adversary’s air and missile defense problem.
China’s Conventional and Nuclear Strike Range
PLARF participation in joint force training has increased during the past few years, and all PLA joint training events probably now include at least some level of PLARF involvement, such as PLARF field operations in support of the exercise. This development indicates an increased emphasis on joint firepower operations.
The PLARF is moving away from a dependence on conscripted personnel and is developing a technically qualified enlisted force. In addition, the force is modifying its annual training cycle to incorporate more complicated training earlier in the year, enabling PLARF units to better pre- pare to participate in PLA joint training in the fall. The force also reportedly has implemented a rating system for unit training as well as accred- itation criteria for personnel at critical posts.
The PLARF now regularly conducts train- ing under extreme weather and geographical conditions and in complex electromagnetic and nuclear, biological, and chemical envi- ronments. The PLARF’s goal is to train under actual combat conditions, which include con- tending with enemy special forces, satellite reconnaissance, electromagnetic jamming, and air attacks. To that end, the PLARF has worked to improve its training against a mod- ern (informatized) “blue force” that portrays a superior adversary.
PLARF training includes annual live missile launches that allow the missile brigades to practice all required procedures. Much like the increase in complexity for other PLA training events, recent Rocket Force guidance has called for the participating missile units to increase the difficulty and intensity of live launches.
APPENDIX E: PLA Strategic Support Force viding more centralized command and con- trol of China’s cyber, space, and electronic warfare capabilities. Before the 2015 struc- tural reforms, for example, responsibility for space, cyber, and electronic warfare missions rested with offices across the former General Armaments Department and the General Staff Department (GSD), including the GSD Technical Department and GSD Electronic Countermeasures and Radar Department.
Strategic Support Force Insignia
The SSF constitutes the first steps in the devel- opment of a cyberforce by combining cyber reconnaissance, cyberattack, and cyberde- fense capabilities into one organization to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and centralize
In December 2015, Beijing established the Strategic Support Force (SSF) to provide the PLA with cyber, aerospace, and electronic war- fare capabilities.259 The SSF forms the core of China’s information warfare force, supports the entire PLA, and reports directly to the CMC. The force’s formation appears to be the outcome of debate in the PLA since the 1980s regarding PLA needs in a potential conflict with peer nations. According to a Ministry of National Defense spokesman, “The SSF will integrate reconnaissance, early warning, com- munications, command, control, [and] naviga- tion … and will provide strong support for joint operations for each military service branch.”260
A key aspect of the SSF is that the new body unites previously dispersed elements, pro-command and control. The SSF also appears to be in line with PLA efforts to support and execute modern informatized warfare.
The PLA’s 90th anniversary parade in July 2017 included the participation of an SSF electronic reconnaissance formation, which reportedly provides highly mobile, integrated, flexible, multidomain information warfare capabilities. The unit’s mission reportedly is seizing and maintaining battlefield informa- tion control. This focus on the SSF and one of its premier units suggests that the PLA is increasing the priority and prominence of the SSF and its assigned missions to tackle the military’s deficiencies in controlling complex electromagnetic environments.261
APPENDIX F: Chinese Intelligence Services
In June 2017, China passed a National Intel- ligence Law specifying that “state intelligence work” would fall under the “central national security leadership body,” and military intel- ligence work would fall under the Central Military Commission.262 The central national security leadership body may refer to an intel- ligence committee structure subordinate to China’s Central National Security Commis- sion.263 The PLA’s national-level intelligence system is still undergoing changes as part of broader military reform efforts.
Civilian Intelligence. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is China’s main civil- ian intelligence and counterintelligence ser- vice.264 MSS missions include protecting Chi- na’s national security, securing political and social stability, implementing the updated State Security Law and related laws and regulations, protecting state secrets, and conducting counterintelligence.265
Domestic Security. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is China’s principal domestic security agency and is responsible for over- seeing the country’s domestic policing and public security activities. Although the MPS is not directly involved in domestic intelli- gence gathering, it has domestic intelligence functions, including investigating corruption cases, countering threats to political and social stability, countering terrorism, and policing the Internet.266,267
Political Work. The General Political Depart- ment Liaison Department, which probably was renamed the Political Work Department Liai- son Bureau (PWD/LB) during recent reforms, is the PLA’s principal organization responsible for political warfare and for collecting and analyzing intelligence information regarding senior-level officers from the United States, Taiwan, Japan, and other defense establishments of interest.268
269 The PWD/LB functions as an interlocking directorate that operates at the nexus of politics, finance, military operations, and intelligence. The PWD/LB has few analogous counterparts in modern democratic societies. 270
Military Intelligence. The former PLA Sec- ond Department (2PLA) was a subdepart- ment of the GSD. Postreform, the 2PLA has been identified as the Intelligence Bureau of the Joint Staff Department under the Cen- tral Military Commission.271 This bureau carries out the military’s overt reporting and clandestine human intelligence collection operations, provides indications and warning and other analysis to the CMC leadership, runs the defense attaché network, and man- ages intelligence produced by dedicated PLA reconnaissance assets.272,273,274
Signals Intelligence. The former PLA Third Department (3PLA) was one of the GSD’s subdepartments but postreform has proba- bly been renamed and subordinated under the SSF. This element controls a vast signals intelligence (SIGINT) and computer network operations infrastructure. The PLA’s SIGINT and cyber assets target foreign satellite, line of sight, and over-the-horizon communications, as well as computer networks.275,276
Electronic Intelligence. The former PLA Fourth Department (4PLA) was a sub-department of the GSD, but postreform has probably been renamed and subordinated to the SSF. This element is primarily respon- sible for offensive electronic warfare, but it is generally believed to maintain electronic intelligence capabilities.277,278
APPENDIX G: Military Resources, Infrastructure, and Logistics
The PLA’s centralized control supply sys- tem uses a push-pull process for replenishment. This means that supplies are pushed to the troops based on standard demand and use; individual units pull supplies when they require additional materiel. Shortfalls in logistic support to PLA operations, even going back to China’s military conflict with Vietnam in the late 1970s, when troops were ill equipped and encountered replenishment problems, have prompted the PLA to modernize its logistic support to match the modern requirements of its forces.279 This incremental transformation began in 2002 but also has been a major focus of the PLA’s ongoing reform efforts.
The PLA has gradually integrated its military and civilian sectors by drawing on private (or civilian) companies to supplement its logistics resources. Before reforms, the PLA’s supply system was controlled at multiple levels. The former General Logistics Department (GLD) provided general purpose supplies, such as food, shelter, and fuel. Specific branches of each service maintained special materiel unique to the PLAN and PLAAF. Redundant service and joint supply processes created inefficiencies within the logistics system. Cor- ruption, bribery, and misuse of funds further reduced the effectiveness of strategic logistic support. Reforms to the PLA logistics system combined with vigorous anticorruption mea- sures are intended to both improve the effi- ciency of logistic support and reduce waste within the system.280,281
As part of the 2015 reorganization, the CMC eliminated the GLD, replacing the organization with the Logistic Support Department (LSD). The new LSD’s strategic and administrative roles include establishing logistic policies and conducting inspections.282 The LSD also provides oversight for the general purpose supply chain, military facility construction, and equipment management. The head of the LSD does not have a seat on the CMC, unlike his predecessor in the GLD, probably in part to reduce corruption and streamline PLA command and control.
Separately, the PLA established the Joint Logistic Support Force (JLSF) in September 2016, charged with planning and executing integrated joint logistic support for strategic campaign operations.283,284 The JLSF oversees theater wide supply operations, while ser- vice branches retain service-specific supply responsibilities.285 The force is headquartered at a joint logistic support base in Wuhan and commands five subordinate support centers.286 The reorganization centralizes logistics operations under one chain of command to more efficiently support theater and strategic logistics operations.
Much like structural changes that separated operational control of the PLA from force-building efforts among the PLA’s services, the establishment of the LSD and JLSF separated logistics management from logistic support to combat operations and probably was intended to shorten resource replenishment timelines across the PLA. These logistic reforms require testing to determine whether they will be effective in helping China overcome some of its combat inefficiencies and successfully support regional and national military operations.
The PLA also has continued its efforts to improve civil-military integration as a core function of logistic support to military operations under the LSD and JLSF constructs. This entails leveraging civilian sector capabilities and technologies to support military logistics to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
The PLA continues to increase its use of civilian-controlled assets in military operations and exercises, most notably civilian ground transportation and ships supporting joint exercises and civilian firms providing supplies to mitigate logistic shortfalls.287,288,289
China has a robust transportation infrastruc- ture and is enlarging its transportation network to keep up with the country’s economic growth and increasing military demand. Although most of China’s rail lines, roads, and seaports are sufficient to support military transporta- tion and mobilization, the variability of infra- structure throughout the country is an ongoing challenge. For example, western China’s trans- portation network is more limited than that of eastern China.290,291,292 Beijing is addressing this problem by initiating infrastructure proj- ects and targeted funding allocations. Future transportation network improvements will bolster the PLA’s ability to mobilize by mov- ing higher numbers of units more expediently across greater spans of the country.
The PLA primarily relies on rail transport to move large numbers of ground troops and large amounts of equipment.293 The Chinese rail network comprises about 100,000 kilome- ters of rail, 10,000 kilometers of which is high- speed track supporting trains running at up to 250 kilometers per hour.294 The PLA also relies on the road network to transport troops and military equipment. Traffic congestion, tolls, and bottlenecks limit the capacity of eastern
China’s expressways in major cities.295 Road conditions vary from good to poorly main- tained in rural areas, restricting capacity and increasing travel times.296,297 China expects to build about 1.3 million kilometers of roads and 26,000 kilometers of expressways by 2020.298
China also is improving its existing domestic airfields to handle heavier payloads, construct- ing airfields on islands and outposts in the South China Sea, and restructuring airfields to support military and civilian use.299 As of June 2016, about one-third of China’s airports supported military and civilian use.300 The PLA exercises control of China’s airspace, filling a role similar to that which the Federal Aviation Administration plays in controlling airspace in the United States. Although the Civil Avia- tion Administration of China administers Chi- nese civil aviation, PLA authority takes pre- cedence over the airspace. Consequently, the PLA regularly adjusts civil aviation schedules and flightpaths to avoid PLA activities, such as exercises and other operations.
In mid-2016, China allocated $600 billion as part of a 3-year plan (2016-2018) to continue improving its transportation network and, later the same year, passed the Defense Trans- portation Law (DTL) authorizing the manage- ment, development, and production of dual-use facilities and equipment to support national and regional PLA operations.301 The DTL also regulates the planning, construction, manage- ment, and use of transportation resources for national defense.302 Governments above the county level are required to include national defense transportation development in their
socioeconomic development plan and to give the military basic information about civil transpor- tation tools.303 The DTL grants the PLA author- ity over civil transportation systems during wartime. Structuring the transportation infra- structure and facilities as a dual-use system avoids the additional costs of building separate airports, railways, ports, and roads for the mil- itary. The PLA’s efforts to obtain access to com- mercial ports in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia would align with its future over- seas logistic needs and meet its evolving naval requirements. The PLAN is likely to use com- mercial ports and civilian ships to support its international and domestic logistic operations, resupply, replenishment, and maintenance.
China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea are driving major logistic developments in the Spratly and Paracel Islands. China’s reclaimed territory in the South China Sea is equipped with harbors and berthing areas that are capable of accommodating large naval ships, increasing the PLAN’s ability to exercise control of critical SLOCs.304
China is expanding its access to foreign ports, such as in Gwadar, Pakistan, to pre-position the logistic framework necessary to support the PLA’s growing presence abroad, includ- ing normalizing and sustaining deployments into and beyond the Indian Ocean. China’s announcement in 2015 of its intention to build military facilities in Djibouti cited aims “to help the Navy and Army further participate in UN peacekeeping operations, carry out escort mis- sions in the waters near Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, and provide humanitarian assistance.”
China’s Outposts in the Spratly Islands
China’s claims in the Spratly Islands require constant resupply from the mainland.
Transportation is also at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which consists of establishing roads, railways, and ports to connect to countries from Asia to Africa and Europe. Although the BRI is marketed as pri- marily an effort to increase trade and development, China’s improved domestic transporta- tion infrastructure and access to transportation infrastructure abroad also would benefit the PLA by enhancing PLA access to transporta- tion hubs and road systems.305,306,307
APPENDIX H: Defense Industry
Defense Industry Reform
China’s defense-industrial complex contin- ues to adapt and reorganize in an effort to improve weapon system research, devel- opment, and production to compensate for an estimated lag of one to two generations behind its main competitors in the global arms industry. Over the past 2 years, China has undertaken organizational and policy measures to reenergize the military’s work on defense research and innovation through cooperation with the market sector.
• In 2016, the CMC established the Science and Technology Commission, a high-level defense research body, as an independent organization under the high command. It also emphasized the importance of “civ-
il-military integration,” a phrase used in part to refer to the leveraging of dual-use technologies, policies, and organizations for military benefit.
• In March 2016, President Xi underscored this message by emphasizing defense innovation during a visit with the PLA’s delegation to the National People’s Con- gress. He urged “great attention to the development of strategic, cutting-edge technologies” for the military, among other subjects.
China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) includes the establishment of focus areas for research, development, and innovation. Several of these have defense implications: aerospace engines—including turbofan tech- nology—and gas turbines; quantum communi- cations and computing; innovative electronics and software; automation and robotics; special materials and applications; nanotechnology; neuroscience, neural research, and artificial intelligence; and deep-space exploration and on-orbit servicing and maintenance systems. Other areas where China is concentrating sig- nificant R&D resources include nuclear fusion, hypersonic technology, and the deployment and “hardening” of an expanding constellation of multipurpose satellites. China’s drive to expand civil-military integration and interna- tional economic activity supports these goals.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the China Academy of Sciences, and the Ministry of Science and Technology fund and promote basic and applied research, scientific innovation, and high-technology inte- gration throughout China’s scientific, engineer- ing, and civil-military industrial complex. The China Academy of Sciences, working closely with the NSFC, is the highest academic institu- tion for comprehensive R&D in the natural and applied sciences in China and reports directly to the State Council in an advisory capacity, with much of its work ultimately funding disciplines and contributing to products for military use.
Major Production-Sector Snapshots
Missile and Space. China’s missile programs, including its ballistic and cruise missile sys- tems, are comparable to those of other inter- national top-tier producers. China’s production of a wide range of ballistic, cruise, air-to-air, and surface-to-air missiles for the PLA and for export has probably been enhanced by upgrades to primary assembly and solid rocket motor production facilities. China has also purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense system and received its first delivery in April 2018.308 China’s space launch vehicle industry is expanding to support commercial and rapid satellite launch services and the manned space program.
Naval/Shipbuilding. China is the top ship-producing nation in the world and has increased its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all types of naval projects, including submarines, surface combatants, naval aviation, sealift, and amphibious assets. China’s two largest state-owned shipbuilders—the China State Shipbuilding Corporation and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation— collaborate in shared ship designs and con- struction information to increase shipbuilding efficiency. China continues to invest in foreign suppliers for some propulsion units but is becoming increasingly self-sufficient.
Armaments. China’s production capacity continues to advance in almost every area of PLAA systems, including new versions of main battle tanks and new light tanks, armored personnel carriers, assault vehicles, air defense artillery systems, and artillery pieces.309 China is capable of producing ground weapon systems at or near world- class standards; however, quality deficiencies persist with some export equipment.
Aviation. China’s aviation industry has advanced to produce a developmental large transport aircraft, modern fourth- to fifth-gen- eration fighters incorporating low-observable technologies, modern reconnaissance and attack UAVs, and attack helicopters. China’s commercial aircraft industry has invested in high-precision and technologically advanced machine tooling and production processes, avionics, and other components applicable to the production of military aircraft; however, China’s aircraft industry remains reliant on foreign-sourced components for dependable, proven, high-performance aircraft engines. China’s infrastructure and experience related to the production of commercial and military aircraft are improving because of the country’s ongoing C919 commercial airliner and Y-20 large transport programs.
China’s domestically produced WS-10 family of military turbofan engines, which power the J11-B, carrier-based J-15, and J-16 fighters.
APPENDIX I: Arms Sales
From 2012 to 2016, China’s arms sales totaled about $20 billion, placing China among the world’s top five global arms suppliers.310 China primarily conducts arms sales in conjunction with economic aid and development assistance to support its broader foreign policy goals, such as securing access to natural resources and export markets, promoting its political influ- ence among host country elites, and building support in international forums. To a lesser extent, arms sales also reflect the profit-seeking activities of individual arms trading companies in China and efforts to offset China’s defense-re- lated research and development costs.
From the perspective of China’s arms custom- ers, most of which are developing countries, Chi- nese arms are less expensive than those offered by other top international arms suppliers. They also are generally considered to be of lower qual- ity and reliability, but many still have advanced capabilities. Chinese arms also come with fewer political strings attached compared with alter- native sources, which is attractive to customers who may not have access to other sources of arms for political or economic reasons.
The bulk of China’s sales from 2012 to 2016 were to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, primarily Pakistan. China’s arms sales and defense-industrial cooperation with Paki- stan include selling LY-80 SAMs, naval ships, main battle tanks, air-to-air missiles, and fighter aircraft.311,312,313 In 2015, China signed an agreement with Pakistan for the sale of eight submarines. Under the terms of this multibillion-dollar contract, the first four will be built in China and the remaining four in Pakistan.314,315
China is a niche supplier of armed UAVs and has sold these systems to several countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. China faces little competition for sale of such systems because most countries that produce them are restricted from selling the technology as signatories of the Missile Technology Control Regime and or the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.316