Modernizing China’s Military: Opportunities and Constraints
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Thus, one of the biggest challenges facing future Chinese military power is trying to come to grips with this reality: its principal military missions will likely be to its east and southeast, moving into a maritime battle space with which it has almost no serious experience. Shift in doctrine: Moving into this new battle space, China will need to significantly revise the way it conceptualizes warfare, meaning a shift in doctrine. On paper, Chinese strategists appear to recognize this.
Some analysts have shown that Chinese strategists based at their military academies now theorize about a Revolution in Military Affairs.
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However one looks at these doctrinal debates in China, and how they unfold in terms of force structure, they represent a significant and challenging shift for Chinese military power. Shift in technologies: The shift in battle space and in doctrine suggests China will also need to adopt itself to new technologies and tools of warfare.
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This raises a number of procurement problems for China as its own defense industry has largely failed to provide many of the kinds of advanced weapons and technologies called for by battle space and doctrinal shifts. This explains why China has so actively gone abroad over the past decade, seeking advanced weapons and technologies from Russia and Israel in particular.
New technologies and tools also demand improved training and dissemination methods. But this will not be easy in a military which has no non-commissioned officer corps, short, two-year enlistment periods, and teaching raw recruits from the Chinese countryside simply how to drive a truck is a major training accomplishment. Third: What overarching opportunities and motivations will drive China to confront these challenges? The PLA is also taking steps to become a more professional force, less burdened with political and Party-related baggage.
In addition, another powerful motivator will be a singularly strong political will under the current regime to reunify Taiwan.
That will, combined with increased economic, technological, and professional capacities over time will steadily improve Chinese military capabilities, but that progress will be painful and difficult. Chairman, no one is more painfully aware of the gap between mission requirements and desired capabilities than the Chinese themselves. Indeed, if it is true that we are in the midst of an RMA, that gap may be widening, not narrowing, for China. To deal with this problem, China has undertaken an increasingly rational approach to building its military capabilities in a comparatively focused, but gradual way, zeroing in on certain niche areas, especially with regard to missiles.
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Improved missile capabilities answer a number of questions for Chinese forces both with regard to a Taiwan scenario, and with regard to improving its nuclear weapons capabilities. I believe our priorities should focus on these developments—it is certainly where the Chinese will place their emphasis over the next five to ten years. In contemplating the Taiwan Strait, the most steadfast military reality is its width: 90 miles of open water.
In spite of that persistent tactical conundrum, China has never seriously invested in air or sea lift, amphibious assault capabilities, or credible air superiority assets, let alone the creation of a viable marine corps. It is clear that at this time China does not wish to go toe-to-toe with the U.
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Navy, or even attempt an all-out invasion of the island, which would both be politically and militarily disastrous. Under these conditions, stand-off, coercive weapons, such as cruise and ballistic missiles, make good sense for the Chinese military.
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In the most dire scenario, China would use its missiles to attack Taiwan in hopes of bringing about a rapid capitulation. However, history tells us that missiles alone usually cannot prove decisive, and need to be backed up by comprehensive and effective conventional forces—manpower, ships, planes—to complete the job. Nevertheless, the United States should continue to equip Taiwan to defend itself against potential Chinese coercion, especially with regard to possible missile attack.
Providing lower-tier, land-based missile defenses to Taiwan is consistent with U. Other, follow-on sales of more capable missile defenses should await further study of their diplomatic and military-technical implications. However, the local industry continues to struggle with critical technologies despite a sustained effort at bridging this gap.
This is most notable in the field of aircraft engines, as China is still seemingly unable to produce jet engines to a standard it deems satisfactory; the country still relies, to some extent, on imported Russian engines. This is exemplified by the single-engine J interceptor, J carrier-borne fighter and Y — all still operating with imported power plants despite Chinese equivalents already in service or in development. This is also true of the Chengdu J stealth fighter, which is slowly entering service, although recent evidence suggests some J prototypes are undergoing flight tests powered by indigenous engines with low-observable features.
That Chinese defense companies — like universities and research institutes that conduct defense-related research and development — are entirely state-owned entities has not stopped them from pursuing private ventures for the export market. However, the export successes have mostly been connected to developing nations, who were attracted by the lower price point and the few political strings attached to sales of Chinese weapon systems, compared to Western counterparts.
Attempts to move into more prestigious markets has so far proved unsuccessful, except in cases where buyers are unable to access Western systems such as Saudi Arabia turning to Chinese armed drones due to since-relaxed American restrictions on the export of such systems. One of the main stumbling blocks has been a negative perception on the quality of Chinese-made arms, a reputation partly fueled by China refusing to release its top-of-the line systems for export, with a notable example being the Shenyang J stealth fighter, which has been marketed overseas despite the Chinese military showing little interest.
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