Chinese Missiles: Winning the Limited War

A.K. Sachdev, Research Fellow, IDSA



On the eve of China's fiftieth anniversary celebrations, "the Central Committee, State Council, and Central Military Commission decided to confer 'Two-Bomb, One-Satellite Merit Medals' on the scientists and technicians who made outstanding contributions to the development of the "two bombs and one satellite".1 The programmes to develop—independently—an atomic bomb, a hydrogen bomb and an artificial space satellite were launched in the 1950s by Mao Zedong and the award of these medals is the Chinese way of symbolising the triumph of the programmes. The Chinese conducted their first atomic bomb test in 1964 and their first hydrogen bomb test in 1967. These two events bracketed their first successful missile test in 1966. On the first day of July that year, the Second Artillery Corps was formed to deploy strategic missiles.

Today, the Corps is a large force under the PLA with 125,000 personnel and its role has been expanded to include the deployment of missiles with conventional warheads. Between July 21 and July 23, 1995, during a period of heightened China-Taiwan relations, the Chinese fired six SRBMs from Fujian province to a point in East China Sea 90 miles North of Taipei. Again, on the eve of Taiwan's first democratic presidential elections, China fired another four SRBMs between March 8 and March 13, 1996 into the sea close to Taiwan.2 The results of these "tests" are not relevant to this paper; what is important is the fact that power has a strong military component in the Chinese context and that missiles are a significant factor of that military component—currently undergoing a lumberous but unflagging modernisation process.

The military modernisation process in China can be roughly traced back to the late 70's; so can be some perceptible shifts in Chinese military doctrine. However, what is not often remembered is the fact that the Chinese missile programme dates back to the fifties and is the oldest in Asia. Ballistic Missile technology travels in tandem with space technology. The "two bombs and a satellite" vision was fully consummated when the first Chinese space satellite launch took place in 19703 followed by another 34 till 1995 (and a total of 44 so far). The Chinese space programme has not been one of unadulterated success; of the first ten launches from Xichang to achieve geosynchronous orbit, four were failures.4 However, the successful launch (under Project 921) of the unmanned Shenzhou (Sacred Vessel) module in November 1999 as a prelude to manned space flight5 is an indicator of the spectacular advances made by China in both these synergistically related fields. The fact that China's missile programmes have benefited immensely from a beg, borrow and steal philosophy does not detract from the fact that China now possesses a formidable array of missiles encompassing the entire classification types6 generally followed by most nations around the world.

This paper looks at the progression of Chinese missiles in relation to the military modernisation programmes and the evolution of Chinese military doctrine. It also looks at the relationship that Chinese missiles have with the air strategy that seems to guide PLAAF.

Chinese Air Strategy

A brief look at PLAAF's history is considered useful for understanding Chinese air strategy. The PLAAF, the principal instrument of Chinese air power besides the shore based Naval Air Force, was formally organised in late 1949. When the Peoples Republic of China came into existence, Mao Zedong, still smarting from the fact that all Chinese aircraft had been under the control of the Nationalists uptill 1945, specifically incorporated the creation of an air force into the constitution. In the words of Richard M. Bueschel, "Communist Chinese air power was thereby mated to the state as a permanent benchmark of China's progress. The fortunes of Communist China as a nation will forever be mirrored and magnified to the world by the strength or weakness of its air power."7 However, in its initial years, PLAAF was more or less an administrative and training structure as it had hardly any aircraft at all. Under the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance of 1950, China gained military support, weapons and technology. Soviet technicians and advisers were all over China and PLAAF units were reorganised and rationalised. There was apparently no thought of an independent Air Force and the PLAAF's first commander and political commissar were both appointed directly from the Army. In general, the Soviet pattern was taken as the model for the reorganisation of the Chinese military. For the first few years, the regional headquarters were essentially administrative organisations with hardly any forces under them. However, from 159 serviceable aircraft, 202 pilots and 2373 technicians in 1949, PLAAF progressed to more than 3000 aircraft, 5945 pilots and 24000 technicians by 1954.8 During the Tibet Campaign, PLAAF used transport aircraft to drop supplies over the plateau. It was the Korean War that led to rapid expansion of PLAAF in terms of aircraft and pilots. Claims and counterclaims have rather obfuscated the arithmetic of aircraft casualties but there is no doubt that PLAAF suffered heavy losses during the war. PLAAF underwent rapid reorganisation exercises in the post-Korean War period. During the unsuccessful attempts of the PLA to get the Nationalists to vacate Quemoy and Matsu in 1954, PLAAF did not play a major role and its first combined arms role was during the Yijiyangshan Campaign (1954-55) from which it gleaned several useful lessons. The Taiwan Straits crisis in 1958 saw PLAAF play a major role, gaining air superiority over Fujian and Guangdong provinces albeit at the cost of a final kill ratio of 8:1 against it. The rising friction between Beijing and Moscow led finally to a split and PLAAF faced the dire consequences thereof. The Cultural Revolution also took its toll and the 1960s saw PLAAF slide downhill; as a result PLAAF was unable to achieve much during the Vietnam War of 1966-69 with only the ground based air defence units being involved in active operations.

PLAAF emerged into the 1970s as a caricature of itself as it had been at the beginning of the 1960s. The period from 1972 to 1985 was one of regeneration; the passing away of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai and the steady rise of Deng Xiaoping were accompanied by initial steps of reform within the PLAAF. Deng Xiaoping's return to full power in 1978 saw the reforms process gather momentum in full earnest. However, at the outbreak of the Vietnam War of 1979, PLAAF was still unfit for meaningful operations; fifteen years of degeneration had taken their toll and the reforms process was yet to produce results. Not a single sortie was flown in direct support of the ground troops and the war served to alert PLAAF to the need for an awakening. The 1980s saw China opening up to the West; consequently, the PLA (and the PLAAF) too built up relations with foreign military establishments including the US one.

The military modernisation process and the evolution of military doctrine towards active defence were provided fresh impetus in the 1990s with the renewal of Russian military technological assistance after a break of three decades. During this period Chinese aviation industry had embarked on wide ranging aircraft design and development programmes with foreign help where possible. While the honeymoon period of the 1950s lasted, the Soviet Union had provided China with a large number of aircraft—the important ones being MiG-15, Mig-17, MiG-19, MiG-21, Tu-16, Tu-2, Tu-4, IL-10, An-2, Mi-4 and Yak-18. Of these, the production rights were given to the Chinese only for the first six types but without the technical material or the machinery for independent production. Nonetheless, Chinese aviation industry had reverse engineered most of them by the mid-60s. The Cultural Revolution, however, considerably delayed the fruits of these labours from exerting influence on Chinese air strategy. Even otherwise, it is only in recent years that any air strategy seems to be evident at all in the Chinese context.

Chinese air strategy needs to be located within the framework of Chinese military doctrinal thinking. Generations of military strategists in China have been influenced by the writings of Sun Zi and the strand seems to run on into the present day. Modern China's military doctrine may be viewed as three different phases roughly corresponding to the three generations of Chinese leadership since the 1930s. The first period was dominated by Mao who, in addition to being the leader of the revolution, was a creative military strategist himself. The doctrine of People's War dominated during the 30s, the 40s and the 50s, with a shift thereafter to People's War under Modern Conditions. During this period ideology dominated Chinese foreign policy as well as military doctrine which asked for a "combination of millet and rifles".9 With the change in leadership after 1978, there was a change to Local War under Deng Xiaoping with its emphasis on Active Defence. Local War Under Modern (High Tech) Conditions has been the next evolutionary phase in Chinese thinking in the 1990s. Incidently the terms doctrine and strategy—varyingly defined worldwide—are understood quite differently in China in contrast to most other nations. Jiang Zemin, for example, exhorted the PLA to "implement a strategy of active defence"10 (emphasis added) while delivering his political report in 1997. Active Defence, as understood by most military and academic thinkers, is the quintessence of Chinese military doctrine as it stands today but Jiang Zemin referred to it as a "strategy". Definitional obfuscation apart, Active Defence seems to have been strongly influenced by two factors; the first one was the realisation (manifest in Chinese writing and articulation since 1985) that a nuclear world war was unlikely in the foreseeable future and that a nuclear attack on China itself was even more remote a possibility. The second one was the Chinese rendering of the lessons that the Gulf War proferred. The consequent quest for offensive capabilities in addition to defensive ones has been the notable manifestation of doctrine.

Within the PLAAF, writings appear to address campaign strategy and campaign tactics rather than the larger issues of local or limited war under high tech conditions. Public domain iterations from within the PLAAF do not seem to indicate an autonomous strategic thought (as indeed may be expected, given the subservience PLAAF owes to the PLA) but a strategic vision does seem to be extant. Some Western scholars feel that even when a strategic vision is identifiable in PLAAF writings or statements, the path to that vision (in terms of plans and policies) is rarely evident therefrom. PLAAF commander, Liu Shunyao, indicated in 1997 (around the time that Taiwan received its first batch of F-16s) that the force had plans to build up state-of-the-art weapon systems by early this century; these included AEW, EW aircraft and SAMs. For some years now, Chinese air strategy seems inclined to counter external threat from the air through a defensive strike capability against targets outside its own space. In the late eighties, PLAAF had formed the "Blue Army"—an aggressor unit composed of top-notch aircrew and high-end equipment and aircraft. During 1996, the Blue Army engaged PLAAF units in a two-day "offensive-defensive" exercise over Gobi Desert. The crucial point underlying all these indicators seems to be that the Chinese air strategy now looks at strategic frontiers beyond China's geographical boundaries.

The doctrine of People's War was not completely bereft of the element of active defence; however, Local War has a more offensive form of active defence and even foresees attack before being attacked. A strategic airlift capability represented by two airborne divisions under the PLAAF is one of the displays of this offensive arm of active defence; another one is the formation of a Rapid Reaction Force. China's recent and ongoing procurement plans include the Su-27, the Su-30 (both multi-role fighter/ground attack aircraft), the IL-76 heavy/strategic airlift aircraft, the AS-50 AWACS, the H-6/Y-8 tanker, the S-300, SA-15 and the FT-2000 (the last three are air defence missile systems). Yet another notable point is the interest China has been evincing in the high speed, long range, Russian interceptor MiG-31 since 1992.11 In addition, the aviation industry of China is trying to develop at least three modern combat aircraft for domestic and foreign use. There is considerable scepticism in the West about whether the PLAAF can afford aircraft with sizeable foreign avionics content. As an example, the F-10 is expected to be tagged at $20 million while the combined cost of the first 40 Su-27s contracted for from Russia by China was $450 million. The peculiar relationship between the Aviation Ministry and the PLA does not assure that the proceeds of aircraft sales to a foreign buyer would be utilised for developing or producing aircraft for the PLAAF. Therefore the matter of modern Chinese-built aircraft with significant foreign content being available to PLAAF is one of conjecture. One estimate puts the figure for Chinese Fighter aircraft in the year 2010 as 480 F-7 IIIs, 240 F-8 Iis, 128 Su-27s and 30 F-10s.12

The Chinese military, according to the Pentagon, is "decades away from possessing a comprehensive capability to engage and defeat a modern adversary beyond China's boundaries".13 Several Western scholars have given opinions roughly conforming to the above stated assessment. Nonetheless, what is evident from the foregoing is that Chinese air strategy is moving towards power projection through strategic airlift, offensive capability beyond Chinese borders and strong tactical presence in terms of modern fighter aircraft.

Missiles of the surface to surface kind share the medium of the air with manned aircraft, perform roles that complement or replicate those of manned aircraft and possess some advantages and some disadvantages vis a vis manned aircraft. Through this simplistic analogy, they may be seen as contributing to the air strategy of active defence: the next section addresses the interactive relationship between Chinese air strategy and Chinese missiles.

Chinese Missiles

The PLAAF has the all important role of air defence including the employment of ground based air defence units. Of the current PLAAF strength of 470,000, nearly half (i.e. 220,000) are air defence personnel.14 The PLA air defence force was integrated into the PLAAF during 1957; a year later all SAMs were also handed over to PLAAF. However, ground based strategic missiles with nuclear warheads were never placed under PLAAF and instead were the mission of a fourth independent service referred to as the Second Artillery. According to RAND scholars, this terminology had its roots in the PLAAF which routinely refers to its anti-aircraft artillery as the "first artillery" and its SAM units as the "second artillery".15 The first strategic rocket forces unit of the Second Artillery was raised on July 1, 1966;16 the importance of these forces in the Chinese perception can be gauged from the fact that they were placed under the PLA (and not its subservient service—the PLAAF) and were directly under the control of the Ministry of Defence. The strategic forces continue to be under the PLA.

Cynics scoff at the "indigenous" texture of the Chinese missile programme, a counter argument insists that the employment of illegal means to acquire technology does not detract from the programme's indigenous nature. Soviet technological assistance in the initial years of the programme was crucial to its subsequent successes. In addition, Qian Xuesen, a Chinese born scientist who migrated to the US during the Japanese occupation, worked on advanced US missile programmes including the Titan ICBM and was forced to leave the US in 1955 under suspicion of spying, returned to become the "father of the Chinese ballistic missile force". The PRC received its first ballistic missiles in 1956 in the form of two Soviet R-1 missiles, copies of the German liquid-propellant V-2 missiles used in World War II. The PRC quickly acquired more advanced missiles in the form of the R-2 in 1957. The R-2 had considerable technical improvements over the R-1, including a greater range and a larger payload, as well as the use of storable liquid propellants.17 The first operational Chinese ballistic missile, the liquid fuelled DF-2 (CSS-1)18 was reverse engineered from two Soviet SS-3 IRBMs delivered in 1958.19 Similarly, the CSS-8 is a modified Soviet SA-2 SAM; the Soviet SAMs were stolen from a consignment destined for North Vietnam via the Chinese rail network in 1966 and then used for the Chinese missile programme.

Qian Xuesen became the leading figure in the PRC's ballistic missile effort. He became the chief project manager in all of the PRC's ballistic missile programmes, and was the lead designer of the CSS-4 intercontinental ballistic missile (The Chinese ICBM programme was a late starter inasmuch as it lagged behind the Soviet one by about two decades and the first Chinese ICBM was operational only in 1981). Qian was also the first director of the PRC's Fifth Academy, which was responsible for aeronautics and missile development research. Later, the Fifth Academy came to be known as the China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) and still later as China Aerospace Industries Corporation. Recently, it split into the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC) and the China Aerospace Machinery and Electronics Corporation; the former has the responsibility of developing and testing new ballistic missile systems.20 The recent tests of the DF-31 ICBM have been conducted by CASTC.

Rationalising the figures available from various open sources, the total Chinese missile might could be summarised as follows: In the ICBM category lies the liquid-fuelled DF-5/5A (CSS-4) missile with a range of 13,000 km; the total inventory is at least 20 and at the most 26. The missile was originally designed with mainland US as the target. Currently being developed ICBMs are the DF-31 (range 8,000 km) and the DF-41 (range 12,000 km); both missiles are based on Chinese Chang Zhen (Long March) series of Space Launch Vehicles and are three stage, solid fuel types. The DF-31 programme runs concurrently with the JL-2 one for an SLBM and is based on either the W-88 Trident sub-missile warhead design stolen from the US21 or the older W-70 warhead.22 The IRBM class of missiles include the DF-3/3A (CSS-2) with a range of 2,800 km and the DF-4 (CSS-3) with a range of 4750 km (some US sources place this missile in the ICBM class but distinguish it from other ICBMs as one that cannot reach US mainland). The DF-3 missile gained notoriety on account of the sale by China to Saudi Arabia of 36 of these (with conventional warheads); the missile is being phased out by 2002 and will be replaced by the DF-21 (discussed later). Another IRBM missile type, the DF-25 was reported to be under development for carrying conventional warheads but the programme seems to have been terminated now. The DF-21/21A (CSS-5) is an MRBM with a range of 1700 km, reports indicate that the missile, normally configured for the carriage of nuclear warheads, is being modified for the conventional role, perhaps as a result of lessons learnt from the Gulf War; the implications of this reconfiguration are discussed later. The DF-11 (CSS-7 or CSS-X-7), the DF-15 (CSS-6) and the CSS-8 are the three SRBMs. The DF-11 has a range of 1000 km but its export version (transferred to Pakistan) had a range of only 300 km to circumvent the MTCR regulation. The DF-15 bears the export designation of M-9 while the CSS-8 is exported (to Iran) as M-7. The DF-11 and the DF-15 were used in the firings in the Taiwan Strait during 1995/96. Chinese SLBMs include the JL-123 (sea going counterpart of the DF-21 missile) with a range of 1700 km and the JL-2 (under development in tandem with the DF-31. A Chinese nuclear submarine is said to be under development to carry 16 of the JL-2 class of SLBMs; it is expected to be ready by around 2010. Three may be produced eventually and, if the programme goes as planned, it may be possible for China to target mainland US from operating areas near the Chinese coast. China already has the wherewithal to MIRV its ballistic missiles, having demonstrated it in 1981 by launching three satellites with one carrier rocket.24

The largely tentative tone of the last paragraph is on account of the fact that details on Chinese missiles are rarely provided through officially authenticated sources from China; tests are carried out secretly and without prior notice, press notifications or handouts are rare and the official statements not entirely accurate. US and Taiwanese sources provided ample data but there is reason to doubt their veracity on account of hidden agendas. Then there is the matter of further obfuscation due to the reporting of the number of missiles as contrasted to the number of launchers. Some sources point out that China's "strategic nuclear arsenal is 300 times as small as that of the US".25 However, the fact that strategic rocket forces have long received a high priority in the PLA budget is worthy of note. Another issue to ponder over is that while the US and Russia are seized with the problem of downsizing their nuclear holdings, China is steadily increasing its nuclear and missile inventories.

The ICBMs in China's inventory are in small numbers but they (along with the two new ICBMs under development) represent China's desire to possess a nuclear deterrent that is global in its reach. That is not to say that they symbolise "active defence" as a strategic concept i.e. they are not intended to be used to attack before being attacked or to carry the war to strategic frontiers. Instead they are designed to provide for an overall shield of nuclear deterrence under which a conventional local/limited war can be fought without being subjected to nuclear blackmail.

The shift in thinking represented by the plans to provide for conventional warheads for the DF-21 IRBM is yet another indication of the Chinese perception of missiles as war fighting weapons.

China's short range missiles, in the words of Eric A. McVadon, Director of Asia Pacific Studies with National Security Planning Associates (Washington), are "good and they are getting better"26—an indication of their rising importance in "active defence".

Winning Local Wars Under High Tech Conditions

For years, the Chinese defence policy was seen by the West to be maintaining "a balance, at times uneasy, between the two concepts of nuclear deterrence and People's War".27 While the former was seen as being aimed at deterring strategic attack, the latter appeared to be designed to deter or repel conventional land invasion by mass mobilisation of the population. The 80s and the 90s have been years of rapid doctrinal evolution (rapid in comparison to the extremely slow and ponderous manner in which Chinese strategic thought shuffles forward). As discussed earlier, since the 30s, there seem to have been three generations of doctrinal thought. However, it would be incorrect to assume that each successive thought process took a different tack in complete discontinuity from the preceding one. As late as March 5, 1999, Premier Zhu Rongji, in his government work report to the Second Session of the Ninth National Peoples Congress, asked the nation to "persistently use Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought and particularly Deng Xiaoping Theory to educate students so as to instil in them firm socialist ideals and belief and to improve the overall quality of the new generation"28 (emphasis added). There is thus a tuft of strands that runs from the Maoist era wherein Marxism-Leninism was grafted on to the Chinese political landscape, through the Deng period during which, in 1985 a significant change in Chinese military doctrine was visible in the CMC's formal announcement that a world war or a nuclear war was unlikely and that PLA should prepare itself for fighting local, border or limited wars. The continuum runs to the present day with the perceptible change that the emphasis is now on winning a limited war under high tech conditions.

The modernisation programme in China has always encouraged a feeble debate amongst China watchers as to whether the military modernisation programme had the same priority as the other modernisations or not. Deng Xiaoping's list of "four modernisation" listed military modernisation last; perhaps the underlying philosophy was that unless the nation's economy was firmly on the road to progress, military modernisation could not be expected to make much headway. Events and the budgetary figures through the 80s showed that, despite manpower cuts, efficiency campaigns and involvement of the PLA in profit-making industrial enterprise, "allocations to the PLA were far from adequate for its daily requirements, let alone for weapons upgrading".29 The restraint in the first 10 to 12 years on military spending after the modernisation process had been announced ensured that military modernisation did not proceed satisfactorily till the beginning of the 90s. The improved fund flows roughly coincided with the Sino-Russian rapprochement, the result was vigorous Chinese investment in Russian military technology. Clandestine endeavour—spread over decades—has further given the Chinese a technological benefit in the direction of modernisation of its military.

Meanwhile there has been a conscious effort to reduce the size of the PLA. In September 1997, it was announced by Jiang Zemin in the 15th Party Congress that about 500,000 troops would be demobilised in three years.30 The aim was to reduce the total regular forces strength to 2.3 million by 2000; the reduction has not been as brisk as should have been though the downward trend is definitely visible.

So what do these trends portend? One visualisation of the schools in PLA's doctrinal development depicts the Chinese force structure as a pyramid wherein the base, consisting of about 80 per cent of the PLA, is equipped and suited to fighting only a People's War. The second tier—about 15 per cent of the PLA—represents the Local War school, with its nuances of force projection beyond China's borders but only in the regional context. The sharp top of the pyramid is the RMA school which includes, among others, some of the units of the Second Artillery.31

Chinese articulations seem to outline the need for a quantitatively smaller but technologically superior force in the future. The changes in the texture of the Chinese missile holdings display two significant trends; the first one is to resolutely perpetuate a nuclear capability that theoretically has a global reach and thus provides a nuclear deterrent (this is notwithstanding the formal acknowledgement that a nuclear attack on China is unlikely). The second one is the endowment of at least some of the missiles with conventional capability. Some of the driving forces that may have affected these trends are:

l The possibility of using missiles against Taiwan; nuclear warheads would be ruled out altogether for a variety of reasons but conventional ballistic missiles may have a salutary effect without the attendant risk of escalation.

l The need to have a capability to threaten mainland US, including Washington DC, so as to prevent US getting fully committed to a showdown over Taiwan.

l The need to project force without having to renege on its "no first use" policy (a possible target adversary could be India with whom the territorial issue still remains unresolved).

l The commercial value of missile sales (US intelligence claims that "China is the world's worst proliferator of equipment and technology associated with weapons of mass destruction").32

Notwithstanding the motivations therefore, it is apparent from the discussion so far that the Chinese missiles seem to fit snugly into a doctrinal framework of providing nuclear deterrence while preparing to win local/limited wars under high tech conditions.

Implications For India

The unease that has been characteristic of the India-China relationship for the past five decades or so was quite evident in the first ever security dialogue held between the two in Beijing during March 2000. Only an incurable romantic or a compulsive optimist could term the first round as a productive one. The principal issue of the region's security environment (and, within that envelope, India's nuclear programme and Chinese assistance to Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes) was the subject of expected conflict. The only point of agreement seemed to be the need for the dialogue to go on in the future.

On the same day that the dialogue was initiated, the Chinese Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng announced his budget to the Chinese legislature; a 12.7 per cent hike in the defence expenditure was one of its features.33 The officially announced figure of $14.5 billion may be only a third of the actual expenditure on defence if the criteria used by the Chinese in computing that figure are rejected in favour of the ones commonly used by other nations of the world. So what are the implications for India?

Chinese writings since the 80s have pointed out that the new weapon technologies in fields like target acquisition, precision, lethality, stealth and the force projection potential they represent make "limited wars" more, and not less, likely in the future.34 Chinese doctrine—as translated into missile programmes—reflects and underscores this postulate. China's air strategy along with its missile strategy seems to be aimed at preventing a nuclear or a world war (the chances of which are seen as remote) while preparing for winning local wars. It is unlikely that China will embark on a local or limited war with India with the present state of PLAAF but another few years will change the readiness state of PLAAF (and the PLA) considerably. The prognosis for the troubled state of the Sino-Indian relationship is not too good. The causes and the symptoms thereof are not the subject of this paper but there are at least two scenarios in which China could indulge in a limited war with India. The first one lies 5 to 10 years from now when China has attained a potent conventional capability to project itself under a nuclear deterrence umbrella and decides to flex its muscles in order to seek a solution to its claims in Arunachal Pradesh. The second one is if the Party feels threatened and, to divert attention from domestic politics, decides to "teach India a lesson". For China to find a reason would not be a difficult task; one plausible excuse could be the blame China attaches to India for provoking a nuclear arms race in South Asia.35 There are also discernible some disturbing trends of growing Chinese nationalism which may exacerbate these limited war-making dispositions.


For the time being, the centre stage of Chinese strategic aspirations seems to be occupied by economic considerations but once the economy has peaked out, military might will again regain its rightful importance. Sustained economic growth will provide the backdrop for modernisation and restructuring of the military during the next decade. The ongoing strategic encirclement of India by China (via Pakistan and Myanmar)36 could then be the launch pad for more precipitate military action.

It would be apt to quote Sun Zi here thus: "The good fighters of old, first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy".37 By ensuring a credible nuclear deterrent—capable of a worldwide reach—China has placed itself beyond the "possibility of defeat" and is now preparing to "defeat the enemy" through "active defence". In both these endeavours, Chinese missiles play a predominant part.



1. Internet, Document Number: FBIS-CHI-1999-1101 dated September 18, 1999, Source: Beijing Xinhua Domestic Service.

2. Internet, Original Source: CDISS National Briefings Site.

3. For a more detailed commentary on China's space programme, see Wen-Rui Hu (ed.)Space Science in China, (Amsterdam: Overseas Publishers Association, 1997), pp. 1-28.

4. Craig Covalt, "Chinese Long March Faces Crucial Return to Flight," Aviation Week and Space Technology, March 26, 1997.

5. Henry Chu, "China Gets Ready for Taikonauts," The Times of India, March 1, 2000.

6. The generally followed classification for ballistic missiles is as given in the table below; the variations used by the US DoD are give in the last column:

Type Range in Km Range in Km (US DoD)

BSRBM 0-150 —

SRBM 150-800 0-1100

MRBM 800-2400 1100-2750

IRBM 2400-5500 2750-5500

ICBM 5500 and above 5500 and above

7. Richard M. Bueschel, Communist Chinese Air Power, Frederick A. Praeger, (New York: 1968), p. 104.

8. Ibid., p. 39.

9. Giri Deshingkar, "A Defensive Strategy," Frontline, October 22, 1999, p. 19.

10. The Political Report delivered by CCP General Secretary, Summary of World Broadcasts, September 13, 1997 (as quoted in M.V. Rappai, "Changes in Chinese Military Doctrine and Their Implications," Strategic Analysis, vol. XXIII, no. 4, July 1999).

11. Edmond Dantes, "The PLA Air Force Build-Up: An Appraisal," Asian Defence Journal 11/92, p. 43.

12. James C. Mulvenon, Richard H. Yang, "The People's Liberation Army in the Information Age" (Proceedings of a Conference on PLA's modernisation held in California in July 1998 and jointly sponsored by RAND Center for Asia-Pacific Policy and Taiwan-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies), p. 272. The figures are attributed to Kenneth W. Allen.

13. Frank Gibney Jr, "Birth of a Superpower," Time, June 7, 1999, p. 26.

14. The Military Balance 1998/99, International Institute for Strategic Studies, (London: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 180.

15. Kenneth W. Allen, Glenn Krumel and Jonathan D. Pollack, China's Air Force Enters the 21st Century, (Santa Monica: RAND, 1995), p. 104.

16. The Military Balance 1996/97, International Institute for Strategic Studies, (London: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 171.

17. Internet, Original Source: Cox Report, Chapter 4.

18. 'DF' stands for Dong Feng (East Wind), varyingly abbreviated to 'T' (Tungfeng). 'CSS' may be roughly translated to Chinese Surface to Surface (Missile).

19. Internet, Original Source: CDISS National Briefings Site.

20. Internet, Document Number: FBIS-CHI-1999-0809, Original Source: Beijing Zhongguo Xinwen She in Chinese 1409 GMT August 7, 1999.

21. Johanna McGeary, "The New Cold War," Time, June 7, 1999, p. 20.

22. "China to Test New ICBM Built With Stolen US Secrets," Times of India, July 1, 1999 (News Item datelined Washington).

23. 'JL' stands for JU Long or Great Wave. In older Western literature, the JL-1 has been varyingly referred to as the J-1, CSS-N-3, and the HY-2.

24. Chen Qimao, Papers of Shanghai Institute for International Studies, Shanghai Institute for International Studies, (Shanghai: English Edition, 1981) p. 99.

25. Frank Gibney Jr. Ibid.

26. Eric A. McVadon, "The Future of the PLA," Free China Review, vol. 48, no. 10, October 1998, p. 49.

27. The Military Balance 1982/83, International Institute for Strategic Studies, (London: Oxford University Press, 1983) p. 78.

28. Live broadcast on Chinese Central TV on March 5, 1999; transcript as reported in Strategic Digest, vol. XXIX, no. 7, July 1999, p. 1062.

29. James C. Mulvenon, Richard H. Yang, "The People's Liberation Army in the Information Age (Proceedings of a Conference on PLA's modernisation held in California in July 1998 and jointly sponsored by RAND Center for Asia-Pacific Policy and Taiwan-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies), p. 27.

30. Srikanth Kondapalli, "China's Military: The PLA in Transition," (New Delhi: Knowledge World, 1999), p. 57.

31. James C. Mulvenon, Richard H. Yang, "The People's Liberation Army in the Information Age" (Proceedings of a Conference on PLA's modernisation held in California in July 1998 and jointly sponsored by RAND Center for Asia-Pacific Policy and Taiwan-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies), pp. 260-262.

32. Paul Mann, "China Alleged Top Trafficker in Mass Destruction Weapons," Aviation Week and Space Technology, August 4, 1997, p. 42.

33. "China Hikes Military Spending By 12 pc," The Times of India, March 7, 2000.

34. Swaran Singh, "China's Changing National Security Doctrine," USI Journal, July-September 1999, p. 394.

35. Internet, Original Source: Beijing Xinhua, July 27, 1998.

36. Malcolm R. Davis, "China's Security Aspirations for the 21st Century and Challenges for East Asia," Asia Pacific Defence Reporter, August/September 1999, p. 23.

37. Brigadier General Thomas R. Philips ed., Roots of Strategy, (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1985), p. 28.