Oct. 2, 2018
China's Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era
In late 2015, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) initiated reforms that have brought dramatic changes to its structure, model of warfighting, and organizational culture, including the creation of a Strategic Support Force (SSF) that centralizes most PLA space, cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare capabilities. The reforms come at an inflection point as the PLA seeks to pivot from land-based territorial defense to extended power projection to protect Chinese interests in the “strategic frontiers” of space, cyberspace, and the far seas. Understanding the new strategic roles of the SSF is essential to understanding how the PLA plans to fight and win informationized wars and how it will conduct information operations.
Sept. 27, 2017
Chinese Perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative: Strategic Rationales, Risks, and Implications
Chinese officials have downplayed the security dimensions of Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative—the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). However, Chinese strategists have extensively analyzed three major issues: strategic benefits the BRI can provide for China, key security risks and challenges, and ways to reduce those risks. This study surveys their views and comments on implications for U.S. strategy.
July 17, 2017
Chinese Military Diplomacy, 2003–2016: Trends and Implications
China is placing increasing emphasis on military diplomacy to advance its foreign policy objectives and shape its security environment. Military diplomacy is part of broader Chinese foreign policy efforts to create a favorable international image, develop soft power, and shape international discourse. Other objectives include shaping China’s security environment, collecting intelligence, and learning from advanced militaries. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) seeks to forward strategic and operational goals through a variety of interactions with foreign military partners, including senior-level visits, security dialogues, nontraditional security cooperation, military exercises, functional exchanges, and port calls.
March 21, 2017
Chinese Military Reforms in the Age of Xi Jinping: Drivers, Challenges, and Implications
Chinese military modernization has made impressive strides in the past decade. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has achieved progress in key technological areas, ranging from precision-guided missiles to advanced surface ships and combat aircraft; PLA personnel are more highly trained and skilled, capable of carrying out increasingly complex operations near to and farther away from China’s shores; and Chinese military doctrine and strategy have been updated to emphasize modern, joint maneuver warfare on a high-tech battlefield. This progress has been supported by significant increases in Chinese defense spending every year since 1990. Taken together, these changes better enable the PLA to fight what the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) describes as “short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts.”
July 1, 2015
China Moves Out: Stepping Stones Toward a New Maritime Strategy
Over the last decade, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has increased the frequency, duration, complexity, and distance from the mainland of its operations. Not only does China maintain a permanent counterpiracy escort flotilla in the Indian Ocean, it also now routinely conducts naval exercises and operations beyond the first island chain throughout the year. This normalization of PLAN operations in the Western Pacific and beyond is an important step toward an emerging new maritime strategy that will incorporate far seas defense.
Jan. 1, 2015
Red China's "Capitalist Bomb": Inside the Chinese Neutron Bomb Program
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Red China’s “Capitalist Bomb”: Inside the Chinese Neutron Bomb Program
This paper examines why China developed an enhanced radiation weapon (ERW) but did not deploy it. ERWs, better known as “neutron bombs,” are specialized nuclear weapons with reduced blast effects and enhanced radiation, making them ideal tactical and antipersonnel weapons. Declassified U.S. intelligence and Chinese press reports indicate the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was interested in an ERW in 1977 and successfully tested a device on September 29, 1988. To date, however, these sources provide no evidence of deployment. This study exploits primary source documents to reconstruct the ERW program’s history, assesses drivers behind decisions throughout the program, and considers broader implications for PRC decisionmaking on weapons development. This case study suggests a model of a “technology reserve” in which China develops a weapons technology to match the capabilities of another state but defers deployment. This paper presents an analytic framework for examining how the technology reserve model might apply to China’s decisionmaking on ballistic missile defense (BMD), antisatellite (ASAT), and hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) systems.
Oct. 1, 2014
“Not an Idea We Have to Shun”: Chinese Overseas Basing Requirements in the 21st Century
China’s expanding international economic interests are likely to generate increasing demands for its navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), to operate out of area to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and sea lines of communication. The frequency, intensity, type, and location of such operations will determine the associated logistics support requirements, with distance from China, size and duration, and combat intensity being especially important drivers.
April 1, 2013
China’s Forbearance Has Limits: Chinese Threat and Retaliation Signaling and Its Implications for a Sino-American Military Confrontation
Since its founding in 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has employed military force in defense of China’s security and territorial integrity. In many such instances, Beijing implemented a calculus of threat and retaliation signals intended first to deter an adversary from taking actions contrary to Chinese interests by threatening the use of military force and, if deterrence failed, to explain and justify Beijing’s resort to military force.
Sept. 1, 2012
Managing Sino-U.S. Air and Naval Interactions: Cold War Lessons and New Avenues of Approach
The United States and China have a complex, multifaceted, and ambiguous relationship where substantial areas of cooperation coexist with ongoing strategic tensions and suspicions. One manifestation involves disputes and incidents when U.S. and Chinese military forces interact within China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Three high-profile incidents over the last decade have involved aggressive maneuvers by Chinese military and/or paramilitary forces operating in close proximity to deter U.S. surveillance and military survey platforms from conducting their missions. Why do these incidents continue to occur despite mechanisms designed to prevent such dangerous encounters? Could new or different procedures or policies help avoid future incidents?