Thursday, May 28, 2015

China's Military Ambitions Part 1

In recent days, China has made it quite clear about the direction it will be taking in the future with its military and the role that it wishes to play on the world stage.  In this two part posting, I will first look at the two recent statements from China and follow it with a second posting that looks at the actions that China has taken to implement its stance.

China's Information Office of the State Council, the chief administrative body of the Chinese government, recently published a white paper on China's military strategy.  This is particularly interesting given that a recent editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily newspaper, stated the following:

"Experts on Sunday warned of a potential military conflict over heightened US surveillance in the South China Sea and cautioned that both sides should try their best to avoid miscalculation in the world's most important bilateral relations.

Analysts believe that recent US military activity is another example of how the US is struggling to maintain the status quo while coping with the rise of China as a global power. They urge the US to face up to the reality that China is becoming a maritime power and that China's determination to protect its sovereignty should not be underestimated.

"The South China Sea issue makes up a small portion of Sino-US ties," wrote Cen Shaoyu, an international relations commentator. "Leaders from both countries should understand that the future of China and the US, as well as the future of Asia, are far beyond just that."

China electronically jammed Global Hawk long-range surveillance drones spying on China's Nansha Islands, a possible attempt to capture a Global Hawk by causing one to crash in shallow waters, or to snatch one in flight using a manned aircraft, The Washington Free Beacon reported on Friday. 

Disclosure of the jamming came as a US P-8A anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft flew over waters off China's Nansha Islands for reconnaissance activities on Wednesday.

It is the US that travelled thousands of miles to China's doorstep to force China to safeguard national territorial sovereignty and maritime interests, Peng Guangqian, a specialist in military strategy at the PLA Academy of Military Science, told the Global Times.

"China's responses were justified acts of self-defense when the US flights approached China's territory and were in accordance with international practice," Tao Wenzhao, a research fellow with the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

China will very likely strike back if the US comes within 12 miles of the islands, Peng said, adding that the US was deliberately provoking China.

"The US provocation has boosted the chance of military confrontation between Beijing and Washington," Zhu Feng, director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies under Nanjing University, told the Global Times.

Once China dispatches aircraft to drive away the US fighters, both sides are likely to exchange fire due to high flight speed, Zhu said.

"The reconnaissance conducted by the US military aircraft poses a potential threat to the security of China's maritime features, and is highly likely to cause miscalculation, or even untoward maritime and aerial incidents," Hong Lei, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a regular press conference on Friday.

The presence of the US military in the South China Sea also encouraged countries neighboring the waters to increase military build-up, making the region more unstable and deterring peaceful settlement through dialogue, said Jin Canrong, vice director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China." (my bold)

The recently released white paper mentioned above pays particular attention to the potential for conflict in the disputed Spratly and Parcel Islands as shown on this map:

Some of these "islands" are little more than low relief reefs with many being fully submerged.  In total, six nations including Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all have competing claims based on historical reasoning and the principles of proximity and continental shelf.  Obviously, from a global strategic standpoint, China's claim is the most threatening to U.S. global hegemony.

Now, let's look at a quote from the white paper that give us a sense of China's military agenda:

"As the world economic and strategic center of gravity is shifting ever more rapidly to the Asia-Pacific region, the US carries on its "rebalancing" strategy and enhances its military presence and its military alliances in this region. Japan is sparing no effort to dodge the post-war mechanism, overhauling its military and security policies. Such development has caused grave concerns among other countries in the region. On the issues concerning China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some of its offshore neighbors take provocative actions and reinforce their military presence on China's reefs and islands that they have illegally occupied. 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. It is thus a long-standing task for China to safeguard its maritime rights and interests. Certain disputes over land territory are still smoldering. The Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia are shrouded in instability and uncertainty. Regional terrorism, separatism and extremism are rampant. All these have a negative impact on the security and stability along China's periphery"

Obviously, like the Soviet Union in the post-World War II era, China is feeling threatened along its margins.

Here is another quote:

"China's national strategic goal is to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2021 when the CPC celebrates its centenary; and the building of a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious by 2049 when the People's Republic of China (PRC) marks its centenary. It is a Chinese Dream of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Chinese Dream is to make the country strong. China's armed forces take their dream of making the military strong as part of the Chinese Dream. Without a strong military, a country can be neither safe nor strong. In the new historical period, aiming at the CPC's goal of building a strong military in the new situation, China's armed forces will unswervingly adhere to the principle of the CPC's absolute leadership, uphold combat effectiveness as the sole and fundamental standard, carry on their glorious traditions, and work to build themselves into a people's military that follows the CPC's commands, can fight and win, and boasts a fine style of work...To implement the military strategic guideline of active defense in the new situation, China's armed forces will adjust the basic point for PMS (preparation for military struggle). In line with the evolving form of war and national security situation, the basic point for PMS will be placed on winning informationized local wars, highlighting maritime military struggle and maritime PMS. The armed forces will work to effectively control major crises, properly handle possible chain reactions, and firmly safeguard the country's territorial sovereignty, integrity and security." (my bold)

In part two of this posting, we will take a closer look at how busy China has been in the South China Sea and what efforts are being made to solidify its claim on the region.  In any case, at the very least, the region is taking on the appearance of becoming the world's next "hot spot", particularly in light of China's recent comments on its military and the role that it wishes to play on the world stage.


  1. Very nice post, impressive. its quite different from other posts. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. More of these, please. Why china thinks it has any claim to the South China Sea is beyond me. Proximity is the only relevant factor, is it not? 12 mile and 200 mile limits? Someone needs to tell China to GFY. Japan went to war over them, I expect China will too.