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The PLA′s Evolving Warfighting Doctrine, Strategy and Tactics, 1985–1995: A Chinese Perspecti*

  • Nan Li


Defence doctrine is an important indicator of armed forces′ intentions and capabilities. Since the policy of defence modernization was introduced in China in 1973, the war-fighting doctrine and strategic principles of the People′s Liberation Army (PLA) have undergone two major changes. The first change came in the late 1970s. The Maoist doctrine of the “people′s war,” which had been prevalent in the late 1960s and 1970s, was replaced by a new doctrine of the “people′s war under modern conditions.”



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1. Defence is one of the “four modernizations” (the others being industry, agriculture, and science and technology), a programme first introduced by Premier Zhou Enlai in 1973 at the National People′s Congress.

2. This means that denial would be realized by surviving a nuclear attack and then defeating Soviet invasion through a “people′s war.” Specifically, China showed its determination to fight and survive a nuclear war. This might achieve the effect of deterrence since it might convince the Soviets that the cost of any attack was too high to risk it.

3. See Joffe, Ellis, The Chinese Army after Mao (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 7093; Godwin, Paul H. B., “People′s war revised: military doctrine, strategy, and operations,” in Charles Lovejoy, D., Jr. and WatsonBruce, W.. (eds.), China′s Military Reforms (Boulder: Westview Press, 1986), pp. 113; Ellis Joffe, “‘People′s war under modern conditions,’ a doctrine of modern war,” The China Quarterly, No. 112 (December 1987), pp. 555–571.

4. Georges Tan Eng Bok, “How does the PLA cope with ‘regional conflict’ and ‘local war’?” in Richard H. Yang (ed.), China′s Military: The PLA in 1990/1991 (Taipei: National Sun Yat-sen University, 1991), pp. 149–153.

5. David, Shambaugh, “Growing strong: China′s challenge to Asian security,” Survival, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Summer 1994), pp. 44–48; David Shambaugh, “China′s security policy in the post-Cold War era” Survival, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Summer 1992), pp. 89–91.

6. David Shambaugh, “The insecurity of security: the PLA′s evolving doctrine and threat perceptions towards 2000,” Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, Vol. XIII, No. 1 (Spring 1994), pp. 4–14; Shambaugh, “Growing strong,” pp. 48–52; Shambaugh, “China′s security policy,” pp. 91–99; Paul H. B. Godwin, “Chinese military strategy revised: local and limited war,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 519 (January 1992), pp. 192–93; Paul H. B. Godwin, “Chinese defense policy and military strategy in the 1990s,” China′s Economic Dilemmas in the 1990s (Joint Economic Committee, Congress of the United States, Vol. 2, April 1991), pp. 650–52.

7. Godwin, Paul H. B., “Changing concepts of doctrine, strategy and operations in the Chinese People′s Liberation Army, 1979–1987,” The China Quarterly, No. 112 (December 1987), pp. 572–76; Tan Eng Bok, “How does the PLA cope with ‘regional conflict’,” pp. 146–49.

8. Shambaugh, “Growing strong,” pp. 54–57; Shambaugh, “China′s security policy,” pp. 103–104; Godwin, “Chinese military strategy revised,” pp. 198–200.

9. David Shambaugh, “China′s military: real or paper tiger?” The Washington Quarterly (Spring 1996), pp. 19–36; Shambaugh, “The insecurity of security,” pp. 16–20; Shambaugh, “China′s security policy,” p. 104; Godwin, “Changing concepts,” pp. 580–81; Godwin, “Chinese defense policy,” pp. 656–57; Tan Eng Bok, “How does the PLA cope with ‘regional conflict’,” pp. 155–57.

10. Shambaugh, “The insecurity of security,” pp. 20–22; Godwin, “Changing concepts,” pp. 582–84; Godwin, “Chinese military strategy revised,” pp. 195–97; Godwin, “ Chinese defense policy,” pp. 655–56; Tan Eng Bok, “How does the PLA cope with ‘regional conflict,’ ” pp. 157–58.

11. Godwin, “Changing concepts,” pp. 584–87; Godwin, “Chinese military strategy revised,” pp. 197–98; Godwin, “Chinese defense policy,” pp. 660–62; Alastair I. Johnston, “China′s new ‘old thinking’: the concept of limited deterrence,” International Security, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Winter 1995/96).

12. The burden of doctrinal revision rested with researchers and faculties at the National Defence University, the Academy of Military Sciences and some staff members in the General Staff Department. Defence-related doctrinal, strategic and operational planning in China, as in the former Soviet Union, is monopolized by the military, with civilian policy and research institutions playing no role.

13. For discussion of the origins of the Sino-Soviet split and its international and strategic implications, see Donald Zagoria, The Sino-Soviet Split (New York: Atheneum, 1964); William Tow and Douglas Stuart (eds.), China, the Soviet Union and the West (Boulder: Westview Press, 1982).

14. For elaboration of the new military policy, see Jiang Siyi, “Guofang jianshe he jundui jianshe zhidao sixiang zhanluexing zhuanbian” (“The strategic transition of the guiding thought concerning defence building and army building”) in Jiang Siyi et al. (eds.), Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun dashidian, xiace (The Dictionary of the Major Events of the Chinese People′s Liberation Army, Vol. II) (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe, 1992), pp. 1887–88. Jiang Siyi is a deputy commandant of the Academy of Military Sciences. Some immediate changes as a result of the new policy included demobilizing a million men (keeping the PLA manpower at the level of three million); merging eleven military region headquarters into seven; eliminating 31 units at and above the army corps level and 4,054 units at and above the regimental level; replacing infantry corps formation with combined arms Group Army formation; introducing systems of non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and reserves; and restoring military ranks. See Liu Huinian and Chao Guoqiang, “Guofang xiandaihua jianshe chengguo zhuozhu” (“Defence modernization building has achieved outstanding results”), Liaowang (Outlook, overseas edition), 25 March 1991, p. 9

15. For three official justifications, see Qin Yaoqi et al. (eds.), Deng Xiaoping xinshiqi jundui jianshe sixiang gailun (An Overview of Deng Xiaoping′s Thinking on Army Building in the New Period) (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 1991), pp. 41–50, 160–61.

16. Deng Xiaoping′s speech at the CMC conference on 4 June 1985, summarized in Jiang Siyi et al., Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun dashidian, pp. 1887–1888.

17. Jiang Siyi, “Guofang jianshe he jundui jianshe zhidao sixiang zhanliiexing zhuanbian,” p. 1948.

18. Hu Guangzheng and Xiao Xianshe, Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming (Contention Affecting the 21st Century) (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 1989), p. 88.

19. Ibid.

20. Chinese analysts noted that the fourth Middle Eastern war which lasted 18 days cost $6 billion, and that a small war which lasted 45 days between England and Argentina over Malvinas Islands cost $5 billion. Therefore, “the cost of fighting a big war would increase by ten or a hundred fold. It is even unbearable for the United States and the Soviet Union.” Ibid. pp. 89–90.

21. Ibid. p. 90.

22. Ibid. pp. 90–91.

23. Cambodia and Afghanistan are particular examples. Chinese sources further stress that preserving a stable state regime, developing the national economy and improving the living standards of the people are essential in deterring local war. Ibid. pp. 91–92.

24. It is further pointed out that economic interdependence might prevent full scale war due to an intertwining of economic interests among states and blocs, which produces domestic checks on regimes to initiate war. Also, development towards multipolarity and multilateralism places checks on superpowers′ freedom to initiate global war. On the other hand, the centrifugal tendency of smaller states and the tendency of superpowers to maintain alliance discipline among members might cause minor armed conflicts. Economic competition can also be a source of limited war. Ibid. pp. 92–93, 101.

25. Xiong Guangkai, “Di erci shijie dazhan yilai zhanzheng xingtai de yanbian” (“Evolution of war patterns since the Second World War”), in Jubu zhanzheng yu jundui jianshe yanjiu (Local War and the Study of Army Building) (Beijing: Junshi yiwen chubanshe, 1988) pp. 14–16; Mi Zhenyu, “Jubu zhanzheng de tedian, fazhan qushi ji dui jundui jianshe zhufangmian de yingxiang ”(“Characteristics and developing trends of local war and their impacts on various aspects of army building”), in Jubu zhanzheng yu jundui jianshe yanjiu, pp. 46–49; Zhang Zhijian, “Yetan xiandai tiaojianxia de jubu zhanzheng” (“Another comment on local war under modern conditions”), Junshi xueshu (Military Science), No. 11 (1986), summarized in Strategic Research Department of the Academy of Military Science (ed.), Zhanzheng yu zhanliie lilun jicui (Essential Collections on War and Strategic Theory) (Beijing: Junshi kexue chubanshe, 1989), p. 414; Zhang Taiheng, “Jubu zhanzheng yu tezhong budui” (“Local war and specialized units”), Jiefangjun bao (Liberation Army Daily), 14 March 1986, summarized in Zhanzheng yu zhanliie lilun jicui, p. 416; Chen Huibang, “Jubu zhanzheng shi dangjin zhuyao de zhanzheng xingshi” (“Local war is the primary form of today′s war”), Junshi xueshu. No. 9 (1986), summarized in Zhanzheng yu zhanliie lilun jicui, p. 421. Mi Zhenyu is a deputy commandant of the Academy of Military Sciences.

26. Xiong Guangkai, “Di erci shijie dazhan yilai zhanzheng xingtai de yanbian;” Mi Zhenyu, “Jubu zhanzheng de tedian”.

27. Mi Zhenyu, “Jubu zhanzheng de tedian”; Zhang Zhijian, “Yetan xiandai tiaojiansha de jubu zhanzheng”; Zhang Taiheng, “Jubu zhanzheng yu tezhong budui”; Zhang Huican et al., “Fahui zhanliie lilun zai ‘zhanluexing zhuanbian’ zhong de xiandao zuoyong” (“Bring into play the guiding role of strategic theory in ‘strategic transition’ ”), in Lishixing zhuanbian (Historical Transition) (Beijing: Junshi kexue chubanshe, 1987), pp. 186–87.

28. Zhang Zhijian, “Yetan xiandai tiaojianxia de jubu zhanzheng”; Chen Huibang, “Jubu zhanzheng shi dangjin zhuyao de zhanzheng xingshi”; Zhang Huican et al., “Fahui zhanliie lilun zai ‘zhanliiexing zhuanbian’ zhong de xiandao zuoyong.”

29. Zhang Taiheng, “Jubu zhanzheng yu tezhong budui”; Chen Huibang, “Jubu zhanzheng shi dangjin zhuyao de zhanzheng xingshi”; Zhang Huican et al., “Fahui zhanliie lilun zai ‘zhanliiexing zhuanbian’ zhong de xiandao zuoyong.”

30. Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 106.

31. Zhang Zhijian, “Yetan xiandai tiaojianxia de jubu zhanzheng”; Chen Huibang, “Jubu zhanzheng shi dangjin zhuyao de zhanzheng xingshi”; Zhang Huican et al., “Fahui zhanliie lilun zai ‘zhanliiexing zhuanbian’ zhong de xiandao zuoyong.”

32. Small war is defined as armed conflict that requires mobilization of a portion of the PLA manpower in one war zone (zhanqu, which can be roughly understood as a military region that includes two to several administrative provinces). Medium war refers to local war that requires mobilization of PLA manpower of one to two war zones, and national support through partial national mobilization. Big war requires total national mobilization. Mi Zhenyu, “Dasheng xiaozhan, ezhi zhongzhan -woguo 2000 nian junshi zhanliie mubiao chuyi” (“Fight and win small war, contain medium war - a humble opinion on the objective of the military strategy of our country by 2000”), Junshi xueshu, No. 9 (1986), summarized in Hu Guangzheng et ai, Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, pp. 174–75.

33. Wang Jiayou, Xu Chuanzeng, “Xiaozhan you bawo, zhongzhan you tiaojian, dazhan you jichu” (“Gain mastery of winning small war, create condition for winning medium war, lay the basis for winning big war”), Junshi xueshu., No. 7 (1987), summarized in Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 175.

34. Hu Guangzheng, et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, pp. 99–100.

35. Ibid., pp. 104–105.

36. Article by Shang Zhonglin, Junshi kexue xinxi (Military Science Information), No. 3 (1987), summarized in Ibid, pp. 106–107. Shang Zhonglin is a staff member in the Anti-Chemical Department (fanghuabu), of the General Staff Department.

37. “Mini-war” refers to armed conflict that may involve small number of troops and lasts minutes or hours. This view is based on the assumption that the threat of any war towards China at and above the medium-scale level is decreasing with the normalization of relations with the Soviet Union and other neighbouring countries, and that the defence budget would continue to be limited. Article by Guo Zebo and Pan Hongtao, Jiefangjun bao, 10 October 1986, summarized in Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 176.

38. Article by Zhang Jian, Jiefangjun bao, 24 April 1987; and Qu Fangheng and Xiong Zhongming (both from the Military Training Department of the Jinan Military Region) Junshi xueshu, No. 1 (1987), both summarized in Ju Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, pp. 178–79. Zhang′s article is also quoted in Godwin, “Changing concept,” pp. 585–86.

39. For the most recent reiteration, see Liu Huaqing, “Jianding buyi di yanzhe jianshe Zhongguo tese xiandaihua jundui de daolu qianjin” (“March steadfastly along the road of building a modernized army with Chinese characteristics”), Qiushi (Seeking Truth), No. 15 (1993), p. 8. Liu Huaqing is a deputy CMC chairman.

40. Xu Guangyu, “Zhuiqiu heli de sanwei zhanliie bianjiang” (“Pursue a rational three-dimensional strategic frontier”), Jiefangjun bao, 13 April 1987, summarized in Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shift de zhengming, pp. 144, 146–47. See also Shambaugh, “The insecurity of security,” pp. 14–16.

41. Ibid., Also see Guo Shuohang, Deng Xiaoping guofang xiandaihua sixiang yanjiu (Study of Deng Xiaoping′s Thinking on Defence Modernization), (Beijing: Guofang daxue chubanshe, 1989). p. 14.

42. Cai Xiaobo et al., “Zhanliie jingzheng yijing shenxiang waicheng kongjian he haiyang” (“Strategic competition has extended to the outer space and the ocean”), Jiefangjun bao, (no date given) January 1987, summarized in Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 146.

43. Since the mid-1980s, China has claimed sovereignty over three million square kilometres of maritime territory (China′s land territory is 9.6 million square kilometres), which is codified in the Maritime Law passed by the National People′s Congress in 1992. This territory covers 320 kilometres of continental shelves and exclusive economic zones, and extends 1,600 kilometres to include the whole of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands. This space is allegedly indispensable to China because it contains, oil, minerals and protein to fuel China′s economy and feed its people; China needs to protect its trade routes (85% of China′s external trade is transported by 1,773 merchant ships totalling 12.34 million tons by 1988 (compared to 265 ships of six million tons in 1972) through 37 ocean-going routes); and China needs the defence in-depth to protect the security of its prosperous coastal regions under the condition of modern military technology. See Qin Yaoqi etai, Deng Xiaoping xinshiqijundui jianshe sixiang gailun, p. 106; Guo Shuohang, Deng Xiaoping guofang xiandaihua sixiang yanjiu, p. 14; Zhang Zhaozhong, Haiyan shiji de chongji (The Shock of the Ocean Century), (Beijing: Zhongxin chubanshe, 1990), pp. 203, 207; Li Shizhong, “Qianghua haiyang yishi sanyi” (‘Three comments on reinforcing the consciousness of maritime territory’), in Wong Shiping etal., (eds.), Lunjunxin ningju (On Cohesion of Military Morale), (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 1990), pp. 43^48; Jane′s Defense Weekly, 26 February 1994, p. 19. See also Alexander Chieh-cheng Huang, ”The Chinese navy′s offshore active defense strategy, conceptualization and implications,“ Naval War College Review, Vol. XLVII, No. 3 (Summer 1994), pp. 7–32.

44. Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 139.

45. Zhang Yong, Junshi xueshu, No. 5 (1988), quoted in Ibid., p. 140.

46. Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 141.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid., pp. 149–150. For a detailed Chinese discussion of psychological effects of deterrence, see Sun Mingwen and Cai Xiaohong, Dongdangzhong de guojia anquan (State Security in the Midst of Turbulence), (Beijing: Jiefangjun chubanshe, 1988), pp. 175–205. For the most comprehensive study of contemporary Chinese deterrence theory by a Western scholar see Alastair I. Johnston, ”China′s new ‘old thinking’: the concept of limited deterrence,“ International Security, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Winter 1995/96).

50. Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, pp. 111–12.

51. Ibid. pp. 112–13.

52. Ibid. p. 113. For the most recent argument for conditional superiority, see Wu Yuqian, ”Jidong zuozhan zaitan“ (”Re-investigate mobile operation“), Jiefangjun bao, 29 April 1994, p. 3.

53. Hu Guangzheng et ai, Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, p. 114.

54. Ibid. p. 112.

55. Ibid. p. 113.

56. Ibid.

57. For traditional definition, see Ibid., pp. 168–69.

58. For the most recent discussion of mobile concentration as opposed to the traditional aggregated concentration, see Wu Yuqian, ”Jidong zuozhan zaitan.“

59. During 1985–86,36 PLA infantry corps (jun), were reorganized and consolidated into 24 combined arms Group Armies (jituanjun). A, new Group Army constitutes: a ground attack component (armoured and infantry elements); a firepower support component (artillery, air defence and aviation elements); a combat support component (reconnaissance, communication, engineering, anti-chemical, meteorological and electronic warfare elements); and a logistics support component (transportation, maintenance, pipes and lines laying, hygiene, and equipment and supply elements). Armoured units constitute the major elements in ground combat. Also, artillery units form the biggest ”specialized branch“ in a new Group Army. For the first time in PLA history, the proportion of technically specialized units has surpassed that of infantry units. As a consequence, the PLA capabilities in firepower, protection, assault, mobility, and quick response have all been considerably enhanced. See Godwin, ”Changing concepts,“ p. 581; Jiang Siyi et al., Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun dashidian, pp. 1911, 1930, 1939–40; Guo Shuohang, Deng Xiaoping guofang xiandaihua sixiang yanjiu, p. 152.

60. For elaboration of ”in-depth strike,“ see Hu Guangzheng et al., Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, pp. 169–170.

61. This observation has been most thoroughly explicated by David Shambaugh. See Shambaugh, ‘The insecurity of security,’ pp. 18–19.

62. See Patrick J. Garrity, Why the Gulf War Still Matters: Foreign Perspectives on the War and the Future of International Security, (Los Alamos: Center for National Security Studies Los Alamos National Laboratory, Report No. 16, July 1993), p. 77.

63. Ibid., For the most recent reiteration of these characteristics, see Major General Lu Linzhi, “Zhuzhong xianji daji” (“Lay stress on pre-emptive strike”), Jiefangjun bao, 14 February 1995, p. 6.

64. Garrity, Why the Gulf War Still Matters, pp. 77, 79. Besides establishing fixed elite forces, emphasis has also been placed on organizing ad hoc, task force type campaign groupings according to the specific objective of each operation, either immediately prior to or at the initial stage of operation. These groupings are supposed to be based on the “optimal combination” (youhua zuhe), of elite forces with technical reconnaissance, electronic warfare, long-range artillery, aviation, and logistical and technical maintenance forces. See Lin Zunlong, “Linzhan zhunbei liuyao” (“Six essentials in preparing for war”), Jiefangjun bao, 30 December 1994, p. 3; Feng Yujun et al., “Xuqiu qianyin, quanju gaohuo” (“ Guided by demand, the overall situation is invigorated”), Jiefanjun bao, 17 January 1995, p. 6.

65. PLA strategists attribute the swift takeover of Kuwait by Iraqi forces to the former′s lack of pre-emptive measures and the latter′s mastery of strategic initiative in launching a decisive first strike. Similarly, they attribute the Iraqi defeat by the Allied forces to the former′s inaction during the prelude immediately prior to the Allied offensive. They suggest that the course of the war could have been changed if the Iraqis has struck first in the prelude, utilizing Scud missiles and other means to attack Saudi airports where Allied forces and arms were concentrated. Based on this assessment, they assume that in future wars, the adversary is likely to deploy forces rapidly and then launch a massive air campaign. This early stationing stage, according to the PLA strategists, provides a “window of opportunity,” since it renders the adversary vulnerable as its comprehensive strike capabilities have yet to be constituted. Therefore, it is crucial at this stage to “concentrate absolutely superior forces and launch a pre-emptive strike.” The central objective is to “]prevent^ the formation of enemy high-tech superiority and to sabotage enemy preparation for an offensive.” See Lu Linzhi, “Zhuzhong xianji daji”; Fen Yujun, “Xuqiu qianyin, quanju gaohuo”; Ding Zhaoqian, “Liqiu dacheng chuzhan turan xing” (“Strive to achieve surprise at the early stage of war”), Jiefangjun bao, 30 December 1994, p. 3.

66. Garrity, Why the Gulf War Still Matters, pp. 78–79; Lin Zunlong, “Linzhan zhunbei liuyao.”

67. See Ding Zhaoqian, “Liqiu dacheng chuzhan turan xing”; Lu Linzhi, “Zhuzhong xianji daji”; Garrity, Why the Gulf War Still Matters, p. 77.

68. Major General Tang Liehui, for instance, demonstrates how the U.S.-led coalition deployed only limited forces to pin down the Iraqi forces at the front, but “concentrated the U.S. 18th Airborne Division and the 7th Army on the right flank of the Iraqi forces pushed into the deep interior of Iraqi defence at one stroke, gained control of Route 38, cut off the Iraqi forces from their rear, dealt a heavy blow to the Republican Guards, and then expanded swiftly from inside out, converging on the Iraqi frontline defence with the Allied frontal forces.” He then argues that in high-tech local war, “the traditional linear, ladder-shaped force deployment pattern is to be replaced by the dispersed, highly mobile and streamlined combat groupings”; that “clear battleline will no longer exist, but rather be replaced by the jigsaw, ‘chaotic’ pattern of warfare”; and that frontal competition may no longer be as significant, but that decisive strike may take the directions “from the enemy rear to the front, from inside out, and from far to near.” Major General Tang Liehui, “Ba zuozhan zhongxin tuixiang di zongshen” (“Push the centre of operation to the enemy in-depth”), Jiefangjun bao, 10 January 1995, p. 6.

69. The PLA strategists, for instance, argue that in conducting in-depth strike, it is absolutely necessary “not to get entangled with the enemy at the forward position,” but rather to “avoid the hard shell of the enemy” and to “dispense swiftly superior operational energy to the enemy in-depth” through “camouflaged infiltration, forced penetration, air projection, flanking intrusion, and rear entry,” and to “strike the vital parts and disintegrate the system.” Since in-depth strike entails “high risks, adverse environment, and complex situation” involving possible “severe hindrance or even loss of command, communication and co-ordination,” it is necessary to combine “centralized style” command with the “delegating style” (yveituo shi), to “give full play to the initiative, flexibility and creativity of lower commanders.” For force structure, it is necessary to “reinforce manpower and arms downward” and “organize highly capable, multifunctional, independent force groupings” to operate flexibly in the “chaotic stalemate,” and to “strike vital targets such as enemy command and communication centres, high-tech weapon systems, and supply systems.” Tang Liehui, “Ba zuozhan zhongxin tuixiang di zongshen”; Jia Xiaowei, “Shandi zongshen gongji” (“In-depth attack in mountainous terrains”), Jiefangjun bao, 28 February 1995, p. 6.

70. Quoted in Hu Guangzheng et al, Yingxiangdao ershiyi shift de zhengming, p. 202.

71. Article by Liu Zhongzin, Jiefangjun bao, 22 February 1985; article by Liu Mingjiang et al, Jiefangjun bao, 5 April 1985; and Yi Qingchuan et al, Jiefangjun bao, 28 June 1985, all summarized in Hu Guangzheng et al, Yingxiangdao ershiyi shiji de zhengming, pp. 202–204. See also Qin Yaoqi et al., Deng Xiaoping xinshiqi jianshe sixiang gailun, pp. 107–109.

72. For the most recent assessment of doctrine-driven impact on command and control, force structure, combined arms training, and equipment standardization, see Feng Yujun et al., “Xuqiu qianyin, quanju gaohuo.” Feng′s article, which is based on an evaluation of a combined arms campaign exercise in Jinan Military Region conducted in 1994, has allegedly “aroused strong response” from various PLA units. For a selection of articles (as evidence of this response) on doctrine-guided training, simulation, technical and logistical maintenance and sustainment, C3I development, and army building in general, and on further doctrinal innovation with an eye on “fighting and winning the next war,” see Jiefangjun bao, 21 March 1995, p. 6.

73. The reconfiguration involves Dongfeng-21 type IRBMs deployed in sduth-western and north-western China, which covers northern India, Vietnam, South-East Asia and Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. Jane′s Defense Weekly, 29 January 1994, p. 1.

74. China′s nuclear test which broke the international moratorium on nuclear testing on 15 October 1993 reportedly involved the explosion of three tactical nuclear devices, each equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT. Zhengming, (Hong Kong), October 1993, pp. 26–27.

75. This refers to the deployment of the new RF-61A low and medium altitude surface-to-air missiles, which are supplemented by the newly acquired Russian S-300 high altitude missile air defence system. Jane′s Defense Weekly, 26 February 1994, p. 21.

76. This involves the deployment of newly acquired Russian Mi-17 ground attack helicopters; and modification of newly acquired Russian Su-27s for a ground attack role to supplement the standard PLA ground attack aircraft. For Mi-17, see Tansuo (Quest Magazine, U.S.), August 1993,60–61. For Su-27 modification, see Jane′s Defense Weekly, 19 February 1994, p. 26.

77. This refers to the acquisition of Russian 11–76 and 11–96 heavy transport aircraft. The PLA reportedly used two 11–96 planes in April 1992 to airlift 370 engineering troops to Cambodia for peace-keeping purposes, setting a PLA record for airlifting troops beyond China′s border. It is further predicted that with the deployment of these planes, the number of troops per airlift to emergency spots would be raised from company and battalion sizes to regimental size. Tansuo, August 1993, pp. 60–61; China Times Weekly, (in Chinese, U.S.), 16–22 January 1994, p. 36; Jane′s Defense Weekly, 19 February 1994, p. 27.

78. A five-year experiment, for instance, is being conducted using Chengdu-based China Southwest Airlines to ferry PLA troops in and out of Tibet. Jane′s Defense Weekly, 19 February 1994, p. 27.

79. Naval upgrading includes the deployment of 4,500-ton Luhu, class destroyers and the 2,250-ton Jiangwei, class frigates, with Luhu, equipped with satellite navigational system, anti-submarine towed array sonar system and more powerful engine, and both equipped with helicopter deck and hanger and more extensive range of armaments, a marked improvement over the current fleet of Luda, destroyers and Jianghu, frigates developed in the early 1970s; deployment of the improved Ming, class attack submarines and acquisition of Russian Kilo-class attack submarines; and doubling the size of PLA Navy′s logistics support fleet in the past decade. Air arms upgrading includes deployment of Su-27 long-range fighters, J-7 III and J-8II interceptors, JH-7 fighter-bombers; acquisition of air-refuelling capabilities; and modifications of newly acquired 11–76 transports into Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. Jane′s Defense Weekly, 19 February 1994, pp. 26–27; Jane′s Defense Weekly, 25 February 1995, p. 3; Li, Sa. and Yi, Ai.,Zhongguo sanjun xiandaihua zoushi (The Modernizing Trend of the Three Service Branches of the Chinese Army), (Chengdu: Sichuan wenyi chubanshe, 1992), pp. 102106; Tansuo, May 1993, p. 49, August 1993, p. 61; China Times, 16 April, 1995, p. 18.

80. These include six divisions (out of 24 combined arms group armies) composed mainly of light infantry elements, each designated for a strategic region and direction and supported by helicopter groups equipped with the heavier Zhi-8 (the Chinese licensed production version of French Super Frelon) and the lighter Zhi-9 (the Chinese version of French Dolphin II). For force, see Jane′s Defense Weekly, 19 February 1994, p. 27. For helicopters, see Sa Li et al., Zhongguo sanjun xiandaihua zoushi, pp. 170–74.

81. The three airborne brigades, for instance, are being upgraded into divisions. The light and medium transport planes are also supplemented by the newly acquired 11–76 and 11–96. Jane′s Defense Weekly, 19 February 1994, p. 27; Tansuo, August 1993, p. 61. For recent discussion of issues associated with fast deployment of airborne forces, see Jing Xueqin, “Kongjiangbing kuaishu yingbian santi” (“Three issues concerning quick response of airborne forces”), Jiefangjun bao, 10 January 1995, p. 6.

82. The first PLA mountain infantry brigade, for instance, was established in August 1985 in south-western China, which covers the mountainous south-western provinces that connect the South-East Asian countries and India. Military History Research Department of the Academy of Military Sciences (ed.), Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun liushinian dashiji (A Chronicle of Major Events in the Sixty Years of the Chinese People′s Liberation Army), (Beijing: Junshfkexue chubanshe, 1988), p. 766.

83. The first PLA marines division was established in 1953, but was reorganized into other units in 1957. In 1979, the PLA Marines First Brigade was established on Hainan Island. The marines were formally introduced as a branch of the navy in the 1985–86 reorganization. The PLA marines are composed of infantry, artillery, armour, engineering, communication, anti-chemical and amphibious scouts units armed with amphibious tanks and armoured personal carriers, light self-propelled guns, anti-tank missiles, armed helicopters, landing crafts, amphibious assault ships, submarines and hovercraft. Sa Li et al., Zhongguo sanjun xiandaihua zoushi, pp. 131–34; Editorial Department of the PRC Year Book (ed.), PRC Year Book 1991–1992, (Beijing: PRC Year Book Ltd., 1992), p. 279; Li Junting et al., (eds.), Zhongguo wuzhuang liliang tonglan 1949–89 (An Overview of the Chinese Armed Forces 1949–89), (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1990), pp. 26–27.

84. The National Defence University (NDU), for instance, is developing a “new generation of strategic decision-makers for local war.” Similarly, beginning in 1986, military regions have established “air and ground training co-ordination zones” to co-ordinate the combined arms training of air force aviation units, and ground force mechanized and motorized infantry units for fighting local war. Also, joint operation experimental units have been established within each service branch since 1994 to train commanding and operational personnel for joint operation of three services. On the NDU, see Liaowang, (overseas edition), 12 December 1992, p. 16. On military region reform, see Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun liushinian dashiji, pp. 776–77. For joint operation, see Jiefangjun bao, 24 March 1995, p. 1.

85. The field command system that combines the functions of global positioning, battlefield surveillance, command co-ordination and communication, picture and text facsimile, information processing, and data storage has reportedly been deployed to a division of the Guangzhou MR designated as an experimental unit of the PLA training reform. This has in turn decreased divisional command staff members by 40% and enabled the inclusion of new programmes such as training on counter-electronic interference and on high-tech arms for destroying enemy electronic warfare units. Similarly, a division in the Shenyang MR reportedly has deployed the “high-tech, modern command system” that incorporates functions of “tactical simulation, computer graphics, multimedia and battlefield surveillance.” It has then further developed the “micro-computer regional and long-range network,” improvised the surveillance system to the extent that “everything from single-soldier performance to tactical training within 100 square kilometres can be clearly observed from the command centre” and “fundamentally” resolved the problem of confidential transmission. Moreover, experimental programmes are being conducted to enhance the survivability of the C3I by reconstituting it from a centralized system to a “dispersed” one and by replacing mono-channel to multiple-channel information transmission. Both are intended to prevent partial damage from affecting the whole system. For Guangzhou MR, see Jiefangjun bao, 17 April 1994, p. 1. For Shenyang MR, see Jiefangjun bao, 2 March 1995, p. 3. For C3I survivability, see Feng Yujun et al., “Xuqiu qianyin, quanju gaohuo.”

86. Ground force aviation units, for instance, regularly practise “air mobility” which “can airlift troops to the forward position in ten minutes that would take three hours by motorized means,” and fire support for ground manoeuvres; and assist forces in conducting “vertical encirclement” and “breaking out of encirclement.” See Yi Jianru and Li Xucheng, “Zhongguo jundui de wangpaijun” (“The elite corps of the Chinese army”), Liaowang, (overseas edition), 12 October 1992, p. 14; Editorial Department of the PRC Year Book (ed.), PRC Year Book 1989, (Beijing: PRC Year Book Ltd., 1990), p. 240.

87. These include exercises conducted by the Lanzhou MR to “defend China′s western frontier,” and exercises conducted by the Guangzhou MR to “restore and defend China′s maritime tenitories in the South China Sea.” Jiang Siyi et al., Zhongguo renmin jiefangjun dashidian, p. 2014; PRC Year Book 1989, p. 233. Also see references in n. 10.

88. PLA long distance mobility training in 1993 reportedly increased 43% from the previous year. Similarly, the Shenyang MR conducted “unprecedented” mobility training involving 60% of its forces in 1994. Key programmes include ground, sea and air mobility of reinforced motorized infantry regiment experimental exercises; equipment camouflage; air defence in mobility; counter-electronic interference in mobility; command, communication and co-ordination in mobility; and night mobility. By early 1995, the Shenyang MR has completed the construction of ten comprehensive military transportation training sites, utilizing both real and simulated facilities and equipment. It has also worked with civilian authorities to modify and construct harbours, highways, railway stations and airports to accommodate military equipment based on the principle of “unity of peacetime and wartime” (pingzhanjiehe)., The newly built Shen(yang)-Da(lian) Turnpike, for instance, can reportedly accommodate the take-off and landing of military aircraft, the first of its kind in China. Moreover, the concept of “force projection” has been carefully analysed and disseminated. For 1993 figure, see Jiefangjun, too, 4 January 1994, p. 1. For assessment of mobility training of the Shenyang MR, see Han Shaolin et al., “Baishan heishui da jidong” (“Great mobility in the white mountain and on the black water”), Jiefangjun bao, 9 January 1995, p. 3. For “force protection”, see Xu Weidi et al., “Meijun bingli tousong touxi” (“A thorough analysis of the ‘force projection’ theory of the U.S. military”), Jiefangjun bao, 28 February 1995, p. 6.

89. A division of the Beijing MR, for instance, has reportedly developed more than 30 methods to neutralize enemy night vision devices based on an analysis of more than ten types of “advanced” night vision equipment of foreign militaries. Similarly, night training of a division on Hainan Island has reportedly focused on: fighting advanced night vision devices by creating a blind angle through terrains and objects, camouflaging equipment, deploying false targets, and regularly shifting positions to produce ambivalent effects; and commanding and operational methods in conducting mobility and firepower strike and in fighting enemy airborne troops in the dark. A destroyer detachment (zhidui), designated as an experimental unit of the PLA night training reform, reportedly began a night training programme in February 1995, with an eye towards “sychronizing” training with the recent deployment of advanced radar and night vision equipment. Some key items of the night training programme include: single-ship missile and gun attack, “concealed” radar operation and electronic warfare, and air/ship co-ordination; ship formation movement, pursuit, attack and withdrawal; entry into and exit from harbour under the conditions of heavy fog and dense aggregation of fishing vessels, and navigation through reefs and narrow passways; developing individual technical skills such as operating equipment through feeling and hearing; enhancing the operational capability of self-preservation coupled with plotting to defeat the enemy under the conditions of “air attack,” “mine blockade,” “fire blockade,” and other multi-spatial (underwater, surface, air and electromagnetic field) enemy challenges; and exploring warfares such as long-range attack, pre-emptive strike, and beyond-radar-range missile attack guided by ships or aircraft. For division of the Beijing MR, see Jiefangjun bao, 30 March 1995, p. 2, For the division in Hainan, see Jiefangjun bao, 9 March 1995, p. 2. For destroyer detachment, see “ ‘Yelaohu’ yangwei haijiang” (“ ‘Night tige’ demonstrates its power over the maritime territory”), Jiefangjun bao, 3 March 1995, p. 2.

90. Paratroopers, for instance, practice survival skills on western China′s high plateau and deserts, and in northern China′s cold weather. “The better trained units can in emergency take off and reach any spot along the country′s border in a dozen hours or so to carry out operation.” PRC Year Book 1989, p. 240; Sa Li et at., Zhongguo sanjun xiandaihua zuoshi, pp. 161–69.

91. In the first ten months of 1988 alone, navy ocean-going training expeditions dispatched to the West and South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Nansha Islands were reportedly equivalent to the total of past nine years. PRC Year Book 1989, p. 239.

92. The PLA combined arms exercise that began in July 1993 in the Guangdong port city of Zhanjiang, for instance, was reportedly timed to coincide with the Sino-Vietnamese talks on resolving border issues to be held in August; while exercises near Taiwan since 1993 have been meant to extend political pressure on Taiwan authorities. Also, the PLA has reportedly redeployed M-9 surface-to-surface missiles from Jiangxi province to Fujian province (adjacent to Taiwan) as Beijing invited Taiwanese leaders to travel to Beijing for talks. For exercise, see Far Eastern Economic Review, 2, September 1993, p. 20. For missile redeployment, see Jane′s Defense Weekly, 4 March 1995, p. 4.

93. For changing security environment in Asia where China′s defence programme has played a role, see Desmond Ball, “Arms and affluence: military acquisitions in the Asian- Pacific Region,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Winter 1993/1994), pp. 78–112.

* I am grateful to Alastair Iain Johnston, David Shambaugh and Michael D. S waine for their critiques and editing of earlier drafts of this article.


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