CHINA’S EVOLVING MILITARY DOCTRINE

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CHINA’S EVOLVINGMILITARY DOCTRINEAFTER THE COLD WARBEKİR İLHANANALYSISJANUARY. 2020 NO.59

CHINA’S EVOLVINGMILITARY DOCTRINEAFTER THE COLD WARBEKİR İLHAN

COPYRIGHT 2020 by SETAAll rights reserved.No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced orutilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or othermeans, without permission in writing from the publishers.ISBN: 978-625-7040-19-8Layout: Erkan SöğütProofreading: Dr. Eva Stamoulou OralSETA SİYASET, EKONOMİ VE TOPLUM ARAŞTIRMALARI VAKFIFOUNDATION FOR POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCHNenehatun Cd. No: 66 GOP Çankaya 06700 Ankara TÜRKİYETel: 90 312 551 21 00 Faks: 90 312 551 21 90www.setav.org info@setav.org @setavakfiSETA IstanbulDefterdar Mh. Savaklar Cd. Ayvansaray Kavşağı No: 41-43Eyüpsultan İstanbul TÜRKİYETel: 90 212 395 11 00 Faks: 90 212 395 11 11SETA Washington D.C.1025 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 410Washington D.C., 20036 USATel: 202-223-9885 Faks: 202-223-6099www.setadc.org info@setadc.org @setadcSETA Cairo21 Fahmi Street Bab al Luq Abdeen Flat No: 19 Cairo EGYPTTel: 00202 279 56866 00202 279 56985 @setakahireSETA BerlinFranzösische Straße 12, 10117 Berlin GERMANYTel: 49 30 20188466SETA BrusselsAvenue des Arts 27, 1000 Brussels BELGIUMTel: 3226520486

CHINA’S EVOLVING MILITARY DOCTRINE AFTER THE COLD WARCONTENTSABSTRACT7INTRODUCTION8MILITARY DOCTRINE9CHINA’S MILITARY: THE PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY10CHINA’S EVOLVING CONVENTIONAL MILITARY DOCTRINE12THE 1993 DOCTRINE: WINNING LOCAL WARS UNDER HIGH-TECHNOLOGY CONDITIONS13THE 2004 DOCTRINE: WINNING LOCAL WARS UNDER INFORMATIONIZED CONDITIONS14THE 2014 DOCTRINE: WINNING INFORMATIONIZED LOCAL WARS15CONCLUSIONs e ta v. o rg175

ANALYSISABOUT THE AUTHORBekir İlhanBekir İlhan is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Cincinnati inOhio, USA. His research interests are international relations theory, security, war,military doctrine, and deterrence.6s e ta v. o rg

CHINA’S EVOLVING MILITARY DOCTRINE AFTER THE COLD WARABSTRACTThis analysis examines China’s conventional militarydoctrine and its evolution after the Cold War.This study examines China’s conventional military doctrine and its evolutionafter the Cold War. If its current economic rise continues, China’s strategicposture and approach to war will be one of the key variables of internationalpolitics. To make sense of China’s current foreign policy stance and potentialfuture behavior regarding war, the following questions need to be answered:What military means, if necessary, would China employ in case of a war?Where is a military threat to China likely to come from? What are the strategically important battle spaces for China? How does China plan to usemilitary means in those domains?Military doctrines stand as reliable and useful sources to answer thesequestions. Regarding China’s military doctrine, this study proposes twointerrelated arguments. First, as its power has increased, the evolution ofChina’s military doctrine proves that China has adopted a more assertive andactive stance on issues and regions. The Chinese military’s doctrinal innovation keeps up with China’s diversifying interests and growing capacity. Second, though China is a major power in North and Southeast Asia, the timeis not yet ripe for it to be a global military power that can project its militarycapability beyond the nearby seas. China’s most recent military doctrines aredesigned to deal with local challenges. This implies that the Chinese militarystill does not feel that the country is likely to fight a global maritime or territorial war in the near future.s e ta v. o rg7

ANALYSISINTRODUCTIONThis study examines China’s conventional military doctrine and its evolution after the ColdWar. Military doctrines are significant for thequality of international political life since theyprovide some degree of information about intentions and capabilities of states in the system. If itscurrent economic rise continues, China’s strategic posture and approach to war will be one of thekey variables of international politics. To makesense of China’s current foreign policy stance1and potential future behavior regarding war, thefollowing questions need to be answered: What1. For studies on China’s current and future foreign policy see AveryGoldstein, “An Emerging China’s Emerging Grand Strategy: A NeoBismarckian Turn”, International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific(2003): 57-106; Alastair Iain Johnston, “Is China a Status Quo Power?”International Security, vol. 27, no. 4, (2003): 5-56; Jeffrey W. Legro,“What China Will Want: The Future Intentions of a Rising Power”, Perspectives on Politics, vol. 5, no. 3, (2007): 515-534; Aaron L. Friedberg,“The Future of US-China Relations: Is Conflict Inevitable?” InternationalSecurity, vol. 30, no. 2, (2005): 7-45.8military means, if necessary, would China employ in case of a war? Where is a military threatto China likely to come from? What are the strategically important battle spaces for China? Howdoes China plan to use military means in thosedomains? Apart from the civilian and militaryelites’ discourses, military doctrines stand as reliable and useful sources to answer these questionssince these elites may have incentives to manipulate international and domestic audiences andpropagate their policies.This study proposes two interrelated arguments. First, as its power has increased, the evolution of China’s military doctrine proves thatChina has adopted a more assertive and activestance on issues and regions. China adopted defensive military doctrines that envisaged totalwar during the Cold War. This trend has startedto change as China has become more powerfulsince the end of the Cold War. The Chinese military’s doctrinal innovation keeps up with China’sdiversifying interests and growing capacity. Inthe imagination of the Chinese military, the central theater of war has significantly moved fromChina’s mainland (i.e. territorial domain) toChina’s periphery (more emphasis on the maritime domain). Since the end of the Cold War,China has also abandoned its decades-old totalwar doctrine by embracing a limited war doctrine, which is more suitable for its new politicalaims. Second, though China is a major powerin North and Southeast Asia, the time is not yetripe for it to be a global military power that canproject its military capability beyond its nearbyseas. China’s most recent military doctrines aredesigned to deal with local challenges. The namesof these doctrines reflect its concerns about localwars as well. This implies that China does nothave global strategic interests to defend throughwar. China continues to expand and promote itss e ta v. o rg

CHINA’S EVOLVING MILITARY DOCTRINE AFTER THE COLD WAReconomic interests globally. However, the Chinese military still does not feel that China will beinvolved in a global maritime or territorial war,contrary to what many studies suggest under theconcept of the “China threat.” A clear implication of this is that when its interests in Africa, forexample, are at stake, it is less likely that Chinawill militarily challenge the United States. Sincethe Chinese military has not developed a suitabledoctrine, such a military confrontation would bestrategically futile for China.It is also important to note that this studydoes not examine the potential implicationsof a conflict between China and the UnitedStates. Such a conflict would likely involvenuclear weapons, which are out of the scopeof this study. The extent to which China’s conventional and nuclear doctrines are coupledshould be discussed in a broader study, as itis important to understand under what conditions China will resort to nuclear weapons in apotential conflict.2The study proceeds as follows: The next section outlines the concept of military doctrineand its key features. The following section introduces some basics about the Chinese militaryand its organizational structure. The subsequentsections examine the evolution of China’s military doctrine from the Cold War onward. Theconcluding section summarizes the analysis.A military doctrine is a sub-component ofgrand strategy. A grand strategy is a state’s theory about how it best ensures security for itself.3Military doctrine is essentially about integrating military means to the political ends at thegrand strategic level. For a broader definition,Owen Cote Jr. describes military doctrine as a“set of tools, people, and beliefs about how toemploy them in battle that the major organizational elements of the military develop as aguide to fighting wars.”4 Barry Posen, on theother hand, notes that two questions are important about military doctrine: What means shallbe employed? How shall they be employed?5 Amilitary doctrine is a state’s response to thesequestions. In short, a military doctrine is astate’s theory about how to fight wars.The formulation of a military doctrinecould be thought of as a two-level process.States first assess the international environmentin order to have an idea about how threats andopportunities are distributed in the system. Forexample, states evaluate geographic factors,state-of-the-art military technology, rising anddeclining powers, and the military capabilitiesof their neighbors. After such an assessment,states turn back to see how their military organizations look like. At this point, they analyze what is necessary and possible for theirmilitaries.6 After this process, states formulatetheir military doctrines. However, this does notnecessarily imply that states implement thisprocess formally and even deliberately. The formulation of military doctrines is sometimes aresult of an informal process. Moreover, statesusually do not publish their military doctrines.Thus, military exercises, available field manuals, and force structure are important sourcesfor analyzing military doctrine.2. For a study on China’s nuclear doctrine see Fiona S. Cunningham andM. Taylor Fravel, “Assuring Assured Retaliation: China’s Nuclear Postureand US-China Strategic Stability”, International Security, vol. 40, no. 2,(2015): 7-50.4. Owen Cote Jr., The Politics of Innovative Military Doctrine, PhD diss.,Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1996, p. 7.MILITARY DOCTRINE3. Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, (Cornell UniversityPress, Ithaca: 1984), p. 13.s e ta v. o rg5. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, p. 13.6. Ibid., p. 14.9

ANALYSISMilitary doctrine could be divided intosubgroups with respect to different characteristics and aspects. This study follows Posen’s categorization of military doctrine. Accordingly,one can group military doctrine into three categories: offensive doctrines, defensive doctrines,and deterrent doctrines. Offensive doctrines aimto disarm an adversary. Defensive doctrines seekto deny an adversary. Deterrent doctrines aim topunish an adversary.7States may change their military doctrines.This is called military innovation. Although thereare various, even contradictory, definitions of innovative military doctrines, Adam Grissom arguesthat there is a “tacit” consensus in the literature.8Accordingly, this consensus has three dimensions.First, military innovations change the manner inwhich military organizations function in the field.Second, military innovations are significant inscope and impact. Third, military innovations areexpected to increase military effectiveness.9As mentioned above, military doctrine mayaffect the stability of international politics as itprovides information –if not perfect– about theintentions and, more importantly, the capabilities of states. Based on their natures (i.e. defensive, offensive, and deterrent), different types ofmilitary doctrines cause varying implications forinternational politics. Offensive military doctrines may cause instability by evoking the fearof attack.10 For example, before the First WorldWar, the major European powers had adoptedoffensive military doctrines.11 Defensive mili-CHINA’S MILITARY:THE PEOPLE’SLIBERATION ARMY10. Elizabeth Kier, “Culture and Military Doctrine: France between theWars”, International Security, vol. 19, no. 4, (1995): 65-93.The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is China’sarmed forces and possesses the monopoly of violence. It consists of Army, Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force (Second Artillery Corps), Strategic Support Force, and Reserve Force. Unlike modernmilitaries, the PLA is officially affiliated with theCommunist Party of China and not the ChineseMinistry of Defense. The military reports to theparty’s Central Military Commission. The PLAhas the world’s largest land force. Despite its relative superiority in numbers, the PLA lacks somemajor capabilities compared to peer militaries.To close this gap, China has been modernizingits military and trying to build a strong militaryforce for decades.According to the Stockholm InternationalPeace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) report published in 2019, China’s estimated military expen-11. See Stephen van Evera, “The Cult of the Offensive and the Originsof the First World War”, International Security, vol. 9, no. 1, (1984): 58107.12. See Robert Jervis, “Cooperation under the Security Dilemma”, WorldPolitics, vol. 30, no. 2, (1978): 167-214.7. Ibid.8. Adam Grissom, “The Future of Military Innovation Studies”, Journalof Strategic Studies, vol. 29, no. 5, (2006): 907.9. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, p. 13.10tary doctrines, on the other hand, are thoughtto decrease the level of fear among powers sincesuch doctrines have a placatory effect on securitydilemma.12 Deterrent doctrines are designed topersuade an adversary not to dare to attack. Suchdoctrines are believed to contribute to international stability among great powers.The following sections analyze China’smilitary power and its evolving conventionalmilitary doctrine. As a great power, China’smilitary doctrine is expected to affect international security, and Northeast and SoutheastAsian security as well. The next section outlines the organizational structure and the capabilities of China’s military.s e ta v. o rg

CHINA’S EVOLVING MILITARY DOCTRINE AFTER THE COLD WARFIGURE 1. THE PLA’S ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTUREGeneral Secretary of theCommunist PartyCentral MilitaryCommissionChairmanVice Chairman(General)Joint StaffDepartmentPolitical WorkDepartmentLogistic ining tionDepartmentServiceBranchesArmyAir ForceNavyRocket ForceStrategicSupport ForceCommander-in-Chief: General Secretary of the Communist Party of ChinaMinistry of National Defense: Reports to State CouncilCentral Military Commission: A party organ to which the PLA reports.diture was 250 billion in 2018 while the U.S.military budget was 649 billion.13 However,military spending alone is not a sufficient indicator to measure a country’s military potential.To compare states’ rough military capacity witheach other, manpower and weapon systems allowfor a healthier assessment. The tables below showthe PLA’s manpower and capabilities.13. SIPRI Yearbook 2019 Summary, June 2019, yb19 summary eng.pdf, (Accessed: December 5, 2019).s e ta v. o rgTABLE 1. THE PLA’S MANPOWERActive Personnel2,035,000Ground Forces975,000Navy240,000Air Force395,000Strategic Missile Forces100,000Strategic Support Force175,000Other150,000Reserve510,000Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2018, February 2018.11

ANALYSISTABLE 2. THE PLA’S CAPABILITIESIntercontinental ballistic missiles (nuclear)Bomber aircraftArmored infantry fighting vehiclesMain battle tanksArtilleryAttack/guided missile submarinesAircraft carriersCruisers, destroyers, and frigatesPrincipal amphibious shipsTactical aircraftAttack 96624677Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2018, February 2018.Although the PLA underwent military modernization to some degree between the 1950s and1980s, its ongoing overarching modernization isbuilt upon the concept of Revolution in MilitaryAffairs (RMA) which goes back to the 1990s.RMA is an approach predicting that militaryaffairs will increasingly rely on combined usageof advanced technology and communicationsinfrastructures, such as information technologyand precision strike.14 In accordance with thisconcept, China, like many other major players, ispursuing a more qualified and technology-basedmilitary modernization program. In this regard,the Gulf War in 1991 was the key developmentthat pushed China to undergo a major modernization in the 1990s.15 The military operation ofthe U.S.-led coalition that defeated the Iraqi military in a short time was a shocking developmentfor the then-Chinese military elite who observed14. On the RMA debate see Stephen Biddle, “Victory Misunderstood:What the Gulf War Tells Us about the Future of Conflict”, InternationalSecurity, vol. 21, no. 2, (1996): 139-179; Thomas G. Mahnken and BarryD. Watts, “What the Gulf War Can (and Cannot) Tell Us about the Future of Warfare”, International Security, vol. 22, no. 2, (1997): 151-162.15. M. Taylor Fravel, “The Evolution of China’s Military Strategy: Comparing the 1987 and 1999 Editions of Zhanlue Xue”, The Revolution inDoctrinal Affairs: Emerging Trends in the Operational Art of the ChinesePeople’s Liberation Army, (2002): 79-100.12the technological and information superiority ofthe United States military.Until then, the PLA had relied on the numerical superiority of its land forces. Accordingly, China’s military doctrines had been designedfor countering a territorial occupation in whichthe PLA would exploit its numerical superiority in close combat over a foreign force invading the Chinese mainland. After the Gulf War,China started to shrink the size of its land forceto a certain extent and devote more resourcesto building a more professional, technologicallywell-equipped, and well-trained army.Another key development that pushedChina to modernize its military was the political status of Taiwan. During the Taiwan StraitCrisis in 1997, China failed to deter the U.S. involvement in the crisis. After that, China startedto develop anti-ship missiles to deal better withpotential U.S. aircraft attack groups. Accordingto recent Pentagon reports, China continues todevelop advanced medium-range conventionalballistic missiles, long-range anti-attack and antiship navigation missiles called anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities in military science, andanti-satellite and aggressive cyber capabilities.16CHINA’S EVOLVINGCONVENTIONALMILITARY DOCTRINEFrom its founding in 1949 to 1993, China adopted seven military doctrines. The doctrinesthat were adopted before 1993 envisioned a“people’s war” concept following Mao’s thoughtson war. To put it differently, people’s war was the16. Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic ofChina 2019, US Department of Defense Report, 1/-1/1/2019 china military powerreport.pdf, (Accessed: November 25, 2019).s e ta v. o rg

CHINA’S EVOLVING MILITARY DOCTRINE AFTER THE COLD WARTABLE 3. CHINA’S MILITARY DOCTRINES ing the MotherlandDefenseTotal War1960Resist in the North, Open in the SouthDefenseTotal War1964Luring the Enemy in DeepDefenseTotal War1977Active Defense-Luring the Enemy in DeepDefenseTotal War1980People’s War under Modern Conditions/Active DefenseDefenseTotal War1988Dealing with Local Wars and Military ConflictDefenseLimited War1993Winning Local Wars under High-Technology ConditionsOffenseLimited War2004Winning Local Wars under Informationized ConditionsOffenseLimited War2014Winning Informationized Local WarsOffenseLimited WarSource: The year and name/motto columns are adopted from Taylor Fravel, “Shifts in Warfare and Party Unity: Explaining China’s Changes i

Since the end of the Cold War, China has also abandoned its decades-old total war doctrine by embracing a limited war doc-trine, which is more suitable for its new political aims. Second, though China is a major power in North and Southeast Asia, the time is not yet ripe for it to be a global military power that can project its military capability beyond its nearby seas. China’s most recent .

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