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Chinese Revolution in Military Affairs and Lessons for India

Info: 5423 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 13th Dec 2019

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Tagged: HistoryInternational StudiesMilitary



"In Statecraft, There Are No Permanent Friends Or Enemies, Only Permanent Interests."- Lord Palmerton, echoed most recently by Gen Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan!

1. American combat effectiveness in the Gulf War amazed the observers all around the world. The Gulf war indicated the future where the USA military could strike anywhere with force, precision, confusing its enemy electronically with little of warfare's collateral destruction. It proved that information age technology combined with appropriate doctrine & training might allow small but advanced 21st century military to protect national interest with unprecedented efficiency.

2. The revolution in military affairs today is the biggest challenge to China as the countries which are most capable of bringing the concept of RMA into reality are China's potential adversaries. The United States, in particular, has started using its RMA to consolidate its military superiority over Asia – Pacific region. Understanding the gravity of situation to China's long term national security, the Chinese regime has shown much enthusiasm in learning, absorbing, & applying RMA as a part of its catch up with potential adversaries.

3. China's rapid rise as a regional political & economical power with growing global influence has significant implications for Asia – Pacific & the world. RMA has lead comprehensive transformation of People Liberation Army from a mass army designed to protracted war of attrition on its territory to one capable of fighting & winning short duration war , an approach China refers to as preparing for ' local war under condition of informatization.' The pace and scope of China's military transformation have increases in recent years, fuelled by RMA related activities such as acquisition of of advanced foreign weapons , high rate of investment in its domestic defense industries , organisational & doctrinal reform of armed forces. Though, China's ability to sustain military power is limited , its armed forces continue to exploit RMA such as Information warfare, cyber warfare, nuclear , space, which are changing regional military balances & have implications beyond Asia – Pacific regions.

4. Though, China publically asserts that China's military modernisation is purely defensive in nature, its strategic aim in exploiting RMA is still unclear.Over the past several years , China has begun several military missions for People Liberation Army which goes beyond China's immediate territorial interests & it has left the world community about purpose & objective of RMA. Morever China continues to promulgate incomplete defense expenditure & engage in actions that appear inconsistent with its declared policies. The limited transparency in China's military & security affairs possess risk to stability by creating uncertainity & increasing misunderstanding in its immediate neighbourhood well as to the world.

5. All this is of special significance to India, as hidden within the folds of the Chinese example are clues as to how we should approach the issue of a Revolution in Military Affairs. There are lessons we must urgently learn if we are not to lose this historic opportunity of leveraging ourselves to the big league. If we miss the bus this time, and find ourselves relegated to the shadows of the Dragon in the not-too-distant future, we will have only ourselves to blame.



Statement of the Problem

9. " The paper would seek to analyse the approach adapted by China to embrace the ongoing RMA & its implications on the world and india in particular.

Justification of the Study

10. The world is at the threshold of a massive leap forward in the ways we live and the ways we will fight. A Revolution in Military Affairs is prophesied as the way ahead for the future battlefield. Most of the literature on the subject emanates from the West, which treats the subject from a Western viewpoint. Referring and adhering to the Western prism will leave a country in a perpetual status of being a follower.

11. With a rich tradition of original strategic thought, China today provides a refreshing example of how the current day concepts of RMA are being remoulded to suit her handicaps of being a developing country with relatively backward armed forces.The Chinese initiative in redefining the Revolution in Military Affairs to suit her own circumstances is specially pertinent to India, which stands at a crucial crossroad in her history, and must intelligently apply precepts of the RMA as applicable to her unique situation if she has to find her rightful place in the world.

13. This study is spurred by an abiding interest to determine the unique approach of the Chinese towards the Revolution in Military Affairs, and its implications on the world & india in particular.


14. This study concentrates on the way the Chinese are moulding the Revolution in Military Affairs to suit their own circumstances, and emerging implications of Chinese revolution in military affairs to multipolar world and India in particular.

Methods of Data Collection

15. Data for the study has been culled mainly from the Internet. In addition, books and periodicals have been referred to for background information. Sources referred to are acknowledged at footnotes throughout the text, and a compendium of the same is appended in the form of a bibliography.

Organisation of the Dissertation

16. It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner: -

(a) China and Revolution in Military Affairs

. No study of present day advancement in the field of revolution in military affairs in China can have correct perspective without examining evolving grand strategy in China which compelled it to embrace Revolution in military affairs. A correct understanding of Chinese strategic thought with particular reference towards revolution in military affairs will point to the present day development and will also give likely implications of Chinese RMA to multipolar environment.

(b) Current Strategic Thought in China Towards Harnessing RMA.

A number of senior Chinese defence forces officials have aired their views on various aspects of the RMA. Though at many instances merely drawing lessons from the USA, there are efforts to modify the tenets of RMA to suit the Chinese condition. The following aspects merit attention: -

(i) Doctrine.

(ii) Land Operations.

(iii) Naval Warfare.

(iv) Air Warfare.

(v) Space Warfare.

(vi) Theatre missiles.

(vii) Stealth.

(viii) Information Warfare.

(c) Chinese RMA : The Future Ahead .

Chinese leaders have stated their intentions and allocated their resources to pursue broad based military transformation which encompasses force- wide professionalization, improved training , more robust , realistic joint exercises and accelerated acquisition and development of modern conventional weapon.

(d) Chinese RMA and its impact on the World Order .

China has always been one of the most important states in the international system primarily because of its large territory , vast resources and large population. Although, relatively weak power , rapid military modernisation through RMA has generated strong apprehension in the mind of other global powers. The chapter identifies and analyses the motivation behind Chinese Revolution in Military Affairs and how it might posess fundamental challenge regionally and globally.

(e) Implications on India. In the ultimate analysis , a pragmatic threat assessment must take into account adversary's capabilities and not intention because the latter would change according to nation's interest. To meet this Chinese challenge adequately , India should take a cue from Chinese RMA and adapt a clear vision about our role in world affairs in future.



"Mao Zedong enabled the Chinese to stand tall; Deng Xiaoping let the people get rich;

the third generation leadership, with Jiang Zemin at its core, will enable China to become a strong country." - Zhang Wannian (1997).[1]

17. Defining and describing RMA is an arduous task which has consumed the time and intellectual energy of numerous analysts . Every analysts have their own perception on ongoing RMA. Broadly sketching the apparent consensus worldwide on RMA, the following can be inferred about RMA :-

(a) RMAs are not simply technological in nature but concern significant process and changes in military related areas.

(b) RMA emerges from revolutionary changes of historic magnitude with in the broader social, economic, and political environment of national and global societies.

(c) RMA is the synergistic combination of several developments in military affairs and has the capability to alter the nature of warfare.

18. The study of the advancement made by China in the field of RMA will not have correct perspective without holistically examining the issue through the prism of her evolving strategic. A correct understanding of Chinese strategic thought, with particular reference towards a Revolution in Military Affairs, will point to the reasons of present day developments, as also give pointers for the future.

18. In the earliest days of recorded history , development in military strategy and technology were evolutionary and was measured in centuries. However, since mid century due to rapid technological driven environment , RMA is measured in decades or less and this rapid change in military affairs is likely to accelerate in the era of information age. As a result , since nineteenth century and throughout its process national building China has been playing " catch up" with increasing recurring revolution in military affairs.

19. Historically, China has had always kept itself isolated from the world affairs.. China's humiliating experience of colonialism in the nineteenth century resulted in reinforcing her views of herself as a 'middle kingdom', surrounded by nations keen to conquer her. China grew to regard her huge land mass and vast population as her best defence and relied heavily upon them for her protection.[3]

23. However , American combat effectiveness in Gulf war amazed the Chinese and forced them to revaluate their old military concepts. Therefore, after Gulf war, the revolution in military affairs has preoccupied the Chinese in same way as it preoccupied the major military powers. The preoccupation has led Chinese military to sponser many

RMA related conferences and publication of many RMA releted books in China.

The following were the strategy adapted by China in embracing RMA :-

(a) Operation Iraqui Freedom was studied to incorporate new ideas including rethinking assumptions about value of long range precision strikes independent of ground forces and integration of psychological operations with air and ground forces thereby improving the joint operations.

(b) China realised that its isolation approach in world order is denying its reach to latest developments in the world. Therefore, it has increased its cooperation and interaction with foreign political as well as military leaders.

(c) China's state owned defense and defense related companies have undergone broad based transformation. China is also emphasising on integration of defense and non defense sector to leverage the latest dual use technologies and output from China's expanding science and technology base. Augmented by direct acquisition of foreign weapons and technology these reforms have enabled China to develop and produce advance weapon system such as missiles, fighter aircrafts and warship.

(d) China has also given its research and development programme a top priority. According to the organisation of Economical cooperational development , China's research and development spending has increased at an annual rate of nineteen percent since 1995 to reach 30 billion dollar in 2005, the sixth highest in the world..[4]


24. According to China , RMA is a technology in the military field and human society. It is mainly driven by the development of a technology. These technological developments then combine with broader human innovations to bring changes to military doctrine , organisations and structures culminating inti revolution in military affairs. To the Chinese military , Revolution in military affairs also reflects a larger and deeper revolution in China's social and economic developments. Chinese military strategists fully realise that China's greatest test will be its ability to continue to reform its political , social and economic development to a level at which Chinese society can sustain RMA. In PLA'S view innovative application of new technology to military operations and militar6y organisation will affect the conduct of war and countries with superior information technology will easily overwhelm those witout. . Therefore, Chinese military realises the importance of technological , economic and social factor as an important tool in achieving RMA. The limitations imposed by technological , economic, and social factor has forced China to pursue RMA with a Chinese charecteristics.which emphasises asymmetry by which an inferior Chinese force can prevail over a superior US adversary. The Chinese model involves simultaneous mechanization and informatization.

25. Deng Xiaoping's Strategic Thought.[5] Deng Xiaoping imparted a discernable shift to China's strategic thought in 1985, with his vision of the future of China and the world. Deng's thoughts laid the foundation for modernization and latter day efforts towards RMA, a brief insight into his ideas is relevant: -

(a) In light of the ending of the Cold War, Deng determined that there would be no world wars, and that peace and development were the two big strategic priorities in the new era.

(b) Deng held national interest to be supreme, and that China should unswervingly pursue an independent foreign policy, opposing hegemonism and power politics.

(c) Deng articulated the idea of comprehensive national strength, which implied that defence development be subordinated to the needs of national economic development

(d) Armed Forces. Deng stressed on the need to have the combination of a small but highly trained standing army with strong, large reserves. He envisioned a reduction in the numerical strength of the armed forces, along with a concurrent improvement in the quality, including overall qualifications of officers and soldiers. He further envisaged a raise in the level of defence equipment, and an appropriate force structure to improve the fighting capability of the armed forces, so that they could meet the requirements of modern warfare.

The Concept of Modern Local Wars

26. In consonance with the developmental strategy chalked out for China in the Deng era, China began to approach the issues of security through the prism of modern local war. The basic tenets of active defence as espoused by Mao remained. However, the area where wars were considered likely was not at world level, but around China's borders, due to the following contingencies [6]: -

Military conflict with neighbouring countries in a limited region.

Military conflict in territorial waters.

Undeclared air attacks by enemy countries.

Territorial defence in a limited military operation.

Punitive offensive with a minor incursion into a neighbouring country.

Four Futures

28. Considerable interest has been generated in China in high technology being used in wars, after the Falklands War and more recently, the Gulf War. Under the present day dispensation of Jiang Zemin, there is considerable debate as to how to approach the issue of RMA, particularly in light of limited resources. Different threat scenarios favour different thinking inside the PLA. There are four schools of thought [7] on how a future war is to be fought: -

(a) People's War. The People's War traditionalists would prefer to cast future threats in terms of confrontations with major powers, such as India, Japan or the United States, which would aggressively impact China's territory. To them, a large standing force and the ability to sustain protracted conflict is a necessary condition to support their views. The operational concept envisions crushing of any high tech limited war by 'conducting comprehensive resistance, prolonging operational space and time to wear the enemy down, through human resource oriented deep operations'[8]. Though the strength in human resource is played up, the concept in no way detracts from the importance, rather abject necessity, to develop technology.

(b) Power Projection. The power projection advocates take a more pragmatic view. Minor conflicts are likely to occur along the peripheral areas of China, which are China's economic centres, and also with Taiwan, they say. A power projection strategy with provision of credible intimidation in support of foreign policy, coupled with prudent defence acquisition, greater professionalism and modernization is the best course of action to support China's national security strategy.

(c) RMA Enthusiasts. Military revolutionists see dramatic changes coming in the future, around 2030 or so, and argue that China needs to prepare now to take full advantage of the technological advances of the on-going revolution in military affairs (RMA).

(d) Unrestricted Warfare. Unrestricted warfare advocates constitute a recently emerged fourth group. They argue that the scope of war should be expanded by any means available, including hacker attacks against financial institutions, and using information operations to corrupt or disable the cognitive ability of an opponent. In unrestricted war "there are no rules, with nothing forbidden."

29. In summary, China has continuously evolved its military strategy to keep pace with changing world scenario. Simultaneously , it has felt need of producing RMA related weapons and equipment indigenously to strengthen its evolving military strategy. China at present is at cross road of developing RMA. While positive elements of facilitating RMA with Chinese charecteristics are abundant, there are certain factors mostly socio political system which may impede China's RMA effort. It will be indeed a daunting task for China to completely transform China's defence industry with an indigenous capability which will make China a true RMA driven country.



30. Military specialists in China have understood the impact of emerging RMA in future battlefield . In particular, PLA observers witnessed how quickly the force equipped with high technology weapon defeated the Iraqui force that resembled PLA in many ways. The force and capability displayed by coalition during the conflict prompted PLA theorists to alter their perception of future wars highlighting the importanc3e of air and air defence operations, elect6ronic and information warfare and long range precision strikes .

China military thinker5sw are working to incorporate the concept of modern warfare attributed to the revolutionary in military affairs and have placed a priority on developing the technologies and tactics necessary to conduct rapid tempo and high technology warfare in Asia. PLA military strategists are of the opinion that current RMA hold the potential for producing new form of warfare , enhanced info warfare and digitized combat forces. At the same time based on observations and lessons learnt from Gulf War and Op Allied Force , PLA military strategists perceives certain weaknesses in the US overreliance on advances offered by RMA. Consequently, PLA military strategists besides pursuing RMA advances are also exploiting its weaknesses. and history, developments in modern technology, and the study of foreign army experiences.[9]

Military Doctrine

45. Traditionally China followed the concept of people's war which aimed at compensating its technological inferiority by abundance of its manpower , spact and time. The decline and final end of cold war has denied China to fight manpower based protracted war. Therefore, since 1985, there has been strategic transition in PLA from concept of total war to localand limited technology driven war.

46. War Zone Campaign

To enable PLA's [11]. The doctrine is a comprehensive document seeking to bring to fruition the following trends in the PLA: -

(a) Reduction in the active duty strength of the PLA, with an emphasis on technological quality and training.

(b) Increase in the size of Reserves and People's Armed Police, to fulfill the role of militias.

(c) The PLA will retain many existing weapons and attempt to develop new tactics and techniques to defeat a high-tech enemy.

(d) The PLA can only afford to supply limited elite formations with latest equipments and weapons procured from abroad. The indigenous Chinese defence industry will continue to be the source of the majority of modern weapons.

(e) Capabilities will emphasize rapid response and joint operations, focusing on precision attack, joint air, naval, special and, information warfare.

(f) Command and control organizations will be reorganized to streamline the C3I process.

(g) The PLA is going to cut 100,000 personnel per year through much of this decade. By 2010, the total members of the PLA in all services will be less than two million. Volunteers will make up the bulk if not all of the forces.

46. The War Zone Campaign (WZC) envisages three phases: -

(a) Elite Forces and Sharp Arms ( Jingbing Liqi). Use of a Special operation force to find information of the enemy, dominate him, and make a political statement, forcing him to withdraw.

(b) Gaining Initiative by Striking First ( Xianji Zhidi ). This involves pre-emptive strikes against the enemy's critical targets, convincing him to desist without having to defeat his armed forces.

(c) Fighting a Quick Battle to Force a Quick Resolution (Suzhan Sujue). Involves use of mobile formations such as armour and mechanized infantry for a quick kill, to force a political resolution.

47. Active Defence. The active defense component of nthe doctrine indicates defensive military strategy in Which China does not initiate wars but engages in war only to defend national soverneigty and territorial integrity . The essence of active defence is to take initiative and annhiliate the enemy through RMA related weapons.

48. Local War Under Informatization. The concept of informatization emphasizes the effect of information technologyon military decision and weapon employment .The PlA formerly institutionalized this concept in 2004. Since then , information warfare has been accorded highest priority in China's RMA.

49. Information Plus Fire Power Model. Drawing lessons from RMA led US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan , the PLA has developed a new ground force combat model. A new model using information plusfirepower considers ground forces as integrated with in a joint force focused onrapid occupation of key strategic targets and stablisation of battle field.

Land Operations

49. The transformation of the PLA away from its historical concept of mass formations geared to fight people's war to smaller forces with more mobile , long range capability has been accorded highest priority. Since early 1980, manpower reduction has been greatest in land forces. According to Chinese strategists Characteristics of future land operations [12] are considered to encompass the following concepts: -

(a) Future Land Battle will be Multi Dimensional and Multi Directional. Battles will be fought in the far as well as near distances. The battlespace will not be fixed, and operations will be fought on land, on water, in the air, under water and in space.

(b) Time and Space will have New Meaning. Time on the battlefield has been shortened, and modern weapons and high-speed mobile transport will make operational activities faster..

(c) Power and Accuracy to Strike. The primary objective of the battle will mainly be the destruction of enemy command, control, and weapons systems. Smart weapons will make small-scale operational activities highly efficient. The concept of achieving high efficiency at a relatively low cost has become the basic goal of modern warfare and will be even more so in 21st-century land operations.

(d) Inform ation Superiority will Be Key to success . The wide application of electronic information technology in the military sphere will integrate information with firepower. It wqill be a tool to defeat superior enemy..

(a) Joint operations will be the norm, for integration and synergy.

50. Current Progress by China towards RMA in Land Operations. In consonancewith the new doctrine China has put tremendous effort toward implementing RMA into its ground forces.. Open source literature [13] indicates the following to be the current status: -

(a) Reduction in PLA's Strength. The main purpose of RMA in Chinese ground forces is to create smaller more technological advanced forcecapable of participating in PLA'S deterrence warfighting and non traditional security missions.Since 1997, ground forces structure has been modified by deactivating, transforming and restructuring of numerous army units. China is continuously reducing strength of its ground forces to make it a leaner and highly mobile force. In addition the nu of ground forces has been reduced from 100 manoevre divisions and 20 manoevre brigades to about 35 manoevre divisions and 41 brigades

(b) Rapid Reaction Forces (RRF). To impart strategic mobility with the aim of fighting a successful `people's war under modern conditions, China has increased the scale of its Rapid Reaction Forces in all its Group Armies. Each Group Army now consists of a tank Division, with a tank transport regiment for added mobility. The RRFs will achieve the objective of regional `mobile defence' through mutual rapid support to any affected Military Region (MR).

(c) Mechanization and Informatization. Mechanization includes transformation ofs motorized infantry to mechanized units equipped with wheel or tracked armoured unit and self propelled artillery. Informatization includes upgrading existing equipment and introduction of new advanced system, training of peronnels and maintain these system and operational aspects of information and electronic warfare.

(e) C4I Modernisation. The PLA has embarked on a well-financed effort to modernise its C4I infrastructure. The modernised C4I system is composed of at least four major networks: a military telephone network, a confidential telephone network, a data communications network and a "comprehensive communication system for field operations." One important development has been the laying of fibre optic lines, which now form the core of China's long-distance networks and trunk lines. This fibre optic backbone will pose problems to any future adversary's efforts to gain intelligence through SIGINT.[14]

(f) Equipment. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, China has selectively equipped only a portion of the ground forces with new weapons, while leaving the remainder to make do with existing equipment.[15] Among new capabilities acquired by PLA ground forces are approximately 200 Type 98 and Type 99 third generation main battle tank. Ground forces have also acquired a new generation assault amphibious vehicle , a 130 km range 12 tubes 200 mm multiple launch rocket system and 6 tube 400mm multiple launch rocket system with the range of 2oo km. Since 1999, PLA ground forces have received a variety of new Chinese-made weapons and equipment, includ­ing main battle tanks, amphibious tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, tactical SAM and AAA systems, and small arms. A number of new support vehicles and items have also been deployed (forklifts, maintenance vans, fuel tankers, field kitchens, and ambulances). Of significance is that Chinese electronics and aviation industries have provided computers, satellite and microwave communications, optical fiber links, night-vision goggles, frequency-hopping radios, battlefield surveillance equipment, and unmanned aerial ve­hicles.

(h) In summary, the PLA ground forces are on their way to becoming leaner, more rapidly deployable, and are being gradually equipped with weapons that increase the range from which they can strike the enemy. If pursued with deliberate commitment, the transformation of the ground forces in their ability to undertake missions in the 21st century will increase manifold.

Naval Warfare

51. It was around nineties that China realised the importance of exploitation of sea for exploitation of energy , the strategic importance of island in South China Sea and consequently the need to ensure security of sea routes played an important role in shaping China's maritime strategy. The chief architect of the PLAN modernization drive , Admiral Liu Hua Quing , put forward " active green water defence strategy as :

(a) Long range manoeuverability of naval fleet.

(b) Achieving ultimate deterrence against big powers.

(c) Extending PLAN power projection caqpability.

(d) The active green water defence strategy was a stepping stone which significantly changed prioritizationbetween three services. The PLAN previously the least important was now given the highest priority.

53. Technology Likely to Revolutionise Naval Warfare. Chinese RMA enthusiasts[16] feel that certain cutting edge technologies are first likely to be employed in naval warfare. These are likely to be: -

Nuclear technology for propulsion systems.

Microelectronic technology to make ships and weapon systems smarter.

Stealth technology for ships and missiles to be stealth capable.

Infra Red technology for target acquisition and intelligence.

Precision guidance technology for weapon accuracy.

Satellite technology for navigation, monitoring and warning systems.

Super conduction technology will allow ships to travel faster without noise.

New materials technology for developing under sea weapon systems.

54. Along with new technology, it is foreseen that the following concepts will dominate naval warfare in the future: -

(a) Information. The new military revolution will accelerate the digitisation of the naval battlefield. The side controlling information will be able to manipulate the war, attack the enemy with advanced information weapons to paralyse him and destroy important targets with precise firepower.

(b) Concentration of firepower will replace concentration of force, due to the combination of an information intensive battlefield and precision weapons. This will result in remote attack becoming a major combat concept.

(c) The Rise of the Submarine. Submarines will be relatively impervious to the battlefield transparency on the sea resulting from the extensive application of information technology. As a result, their value in attacking land, sea as well as air targets will be greatly enhanced.

(d) Emphasis on Joint Actions. With interchangeable weapon systems and seamless information systems, joint actions will be possible. Any single service will not be able to mount a campaign level operation.

56. The PLA Navy's Current Standing. The reform era brought a breath of fresh air to the Chinese navy. Another personality who brought significant modernisation in terms of doctrines, structure, training, up gradation in bases, organisation was General Liu Huaqing. PLAN's modernisation proceeded along three paths – indigenous construction, foreign purc

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