TAIPEI, Taiwan — China released its first white paper on military strategy Tuesday, just two weeks after the release of the Pentagon’s annual report to the US Congress on China’s military and security developments.
Neither report appears to take blame for the rising tensions in the South China and East China seas. The Chinese report, “China’s Military Strategy,” indicates “some of its offshore neighbors” have taken “provocative actions” and reinforced their military presence on China’s reefs and islands “illegally.”
Without mentioning the US, it says, “some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China.”
No mention is made of the recent warning to a US reconnaissance aircraft flying near Chinese controlled areas of the South China Sea. China has not fully explained massive land reclamation efforts that will turn some reefs and islets into airbases and port facilities.
The Pentagon’s “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015” notes that officially China “seeks to ensure basic stability along its periphery and avoid direct confrontation with the United States in order to focus on domestic development and smooth China’s rise.” However, Chinese leaders in 2014 demonstrated “a willingness to tolerate a higher level of regional tension as China sought to advance its interests, such as in competing territorial claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea.”
Tolerating “higher levels of tension” includes the fact that “China’s military modernization has the potential to reduce core US military technological advantages.”
The Chinese government report does make it clear that the military is implementing strategic guidelines of “active defense” in new maritime scenarios.
“In line with the evolving form of war and national security situation, the basic point for PMS [preparation for military struggle] will be placed on winning informationized local wars, highlighting maritime military struggle and maritime PMS.”
The Chinese report states that the maritime environment is now a critical security domain. “The traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned,” it says. China will develop a “modern maritime military force structure commensurate with its national security and development interests, safeguard its national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, protect the security of strategic SLOCs [sea lines of communication] and overseas interests, and participate in international maritime cooperation, so as to provide strategic support for building itself into a maritime power.”
Taiwan appears doomed in both the Pentagon and Chinese report.
The Chinese report states that ” ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces and their activities are still the biggest threat to the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations … the root cause of instability has not yet been removed.”
The Pentagon report indicates that the primary driver of Chinese military modernization is a conflict over Taiwan. The self-ruled democratic island has resisted China’s threats since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949. The report indicates that Taiwan’s multiple military variables to deter Chinese aggression are eroding. In the past, these have included China’s inability to project sufficient power across the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwan military’s technological superiority and the inherent geographic rewards of island defense.
Pending Russian weapons sales to China such as the Su-35 fighter and the S-400 surface-to-air missile will further erode Taiwan’s defense.
The land-based Russian S-400, which has a range of 400 kilometers, will give China its first capability to command the skies over the entire island. At present, China’s Russian S-300 only allows it to reach the coastal regions of the island’s northwest.
The Chinese government report dedicates only one paragraph to its strategic missile and nuclear force. It states that it will press forward on independent innovations in weapons, enhance the effectiveness of missile systems, improve the force structure of both nuclear and conventional capabilities, and “strengthen its capabilities for strategic deterrence and nuclear counterattack, and medium- and long-range precision strikes.”
The Pentagon report is far more detailed and ominous. China is developing a robust anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) punch that includes short-, medium- and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), destroyers bristling with cruise missiles, and nuclear-armed submarines, according to the Pentagon report.
The report says the DF-21D ASBM would be capable of holding at risk an aircraft carrier within 900 nautical miles of the Chinese coastline.
This would keep US ships at a distance too far to be effective in a Taiwan scenario.
To supplement the road-mobile nuclear DF-31 ICBM, China also is developing the road-mobile nuclear DF-41, which will carry multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles.
Oddly, the Chinese report indicates the country is not involved in outer space weapon efforts.
“Space has become a commanding height in international strategic competition,” according to the Chinese report. In opposition to other “countries” developing their “space forces and instruments” for the weaponization of outer space, “China has all along advocated the peaceful use of outer space, opposed the weaponization of and arms race in outer space, and taken an active part in international space cooperation.”
The Chinese report makes no mention of a series of anti-satellite tests beginning in 2006, when US government officials reported China temporarily blinded a US observation satellite with a high-power laser.
Those tests include 2007, when China fired an SC-19 missile and destroyed an aging Fengyun weather satellite. In 2010, China fired an SC-19 missile that destroyed a moving target. And in 2013, China conducted a test launch of a Dong Neng-2 anti-satellite interceptor.
The Pentagon report makes a disturbing entry about an event that occurred in May 2013 and one that Beijing refuses to explain:
“China launched an object into space on a ballistic trajectory with a peak altitude above 30,000 km. This trajectory took it near geosynchronous orbit, where many nations maintain communications and earth-sensing satellites. Analysis of the launch determined that the booster was not on the appropriate trajectory to place objects in orbit and that no new satellites were released. The post-boost vehicle continued its ballistic trajectory and re-entered Earth orbit 9.5 hours after launch. The launch profile was not consistent with traditional space-launch vehicles, ballistic missiles or sounding rocket launches used for scientific research. It could, however, have been a test of technologies with a counterspace mission in geosynchronous orbit.”
According to the Chinese report, long-range, precise, smart, stealthy and unmanned weapons and equipment are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The Pentagon report appears to give a more alarming prediction of what the media often refers to as a coming “drone war” with the United States.
The report says acquisition and development of long-range UAVs will “increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations” and that “estimates indicate China plans to produce upwards of 41,800” UAVs between 2014 and 2023.
In 2013, according to the report, China began incorporating its UAVs into military exercises and conducted reconnaissance patrols over the East China Sea with the BZK-005 UAV. In 2013, China unveiled details of four UAVs under development — the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber and Lijian. The last three are designed to carry precision-strike weapons. The Lijian is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV.