Major General Wang Pufeng

Major General Wang Pufeng is a former Director of the Strategy Department, Academy of Military Science, Beijing. His paper was excerpted from China Military Science (Spring 1995).

Andrew Marshall of the Pentagon believes the information era will touch off a revolution in military affairs, just as the cannon in the 15th century and the machine in the past 150 years of the industrial era touched off revolutions. U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Gordon Sullivan holds that the information era is changing the army and will change the means of war fundamentally. U.S. Secretary of the Army Togo West says, "We place the stakes of winning a victory in the next century on digitization." The U.S. Army believes that the assessment of an army's combat capability used to depend on how good its munitions were, but in the 21st century, it will depend on the operational capability of the C3I system based on information technology. The U.S. Army has presented the concept of Force 21 and makes it clear that it should be armed for information warfare and become a digitized army. Its plan is to build a digitized brigade in 1996 and expand it to a division in 1997. The U.S. Army has taken these actions to prepare for future information warfare.

In the near future, information warfare will control the form and future of war. We recognize this developmental trend of information warfare and see it as a driving force in the modernization of China's military and combat readiness. This trend will be highly critical to achieving victory in future wars.

Establishing Concepts of Victory in Future Information Warfare

Looking at the current situation, it can be seen that the authorized strength and equipment, strategy, tactics, and military theory of China's military are still basically the products of the industrial era and are far from satisfying the demands of information warfare. We have much work to do to shrink this gap, and our first task is to clarify our war preparation concepts. We have already made it clear that the basis of war preparation is to achieve victory in modern warfare, especially high-tech warfare, and this is quite correct. High-tech warfare, however, has already developed from an emphasis on guided missiles to an emphasis on information. Firepower superiority depends on information superiority. This has been a phased transition. In keeping with the demands of information warfare, we must base our war preparations on achieving victory in this area and use it to plan China's military and national defense modernization. When we engage in war with strong enemies in the future, we will face comprehensive and powerful information suppression.

There is a question of how to use weakness to defeat strength and how to conduct war against weak enemies in order to use information superiority to achieve greater victories at a smaller cost. It must be confirmed that information and weapons are all controlled by people. People are the main factor in combat power. However, it must also be confirmed that the functions of people and weapons will primarily be determined by the control of information, because information can play an important role in warfare. Hence, the flow of information, under the control of people, is injected into the flow of manpower, capacity, and materials, and will influence the form of warfare and determine victory or defeat. During the industrial age, the combat power of a military was measured primarily by how much capacity that military held and could utilize. During the information age, the efficiency of capacity utilization is even more important. Generally speaking, a military with capacity but no means to use it cannot become a true combat power. If capacity is used to no effect, it will only cause unnecessary damage and waste and will not have practical significance to victory or defeat in the war. A military can become a truly effective combat power only if it can use its capacity effectively. Capacity utilization controlled by information technology can successfully solve this problem. In this way, the thrust of China's military construction and development of weapons and equipment will no longer be toward strengthening the "firepower antipersonnel system" of the industrial age, but toward the strengthening of information technology, information weapons systems, and information networking. Our sights must not be fixed on the firepower warfare of the industrial age, rather they must be trained on the information warfare of the information age. This must be the starting point from which to propel China's military construction forward and raise that construction to a higher grade and standard.

Theory is the new guide to action, and information warfare theory is a new warfare theory. We must understand it, study it, and use it to guide military construction and combat. China's military, which has always had advanced Marxist and Maoist warfare theory, absolutely must not fall behind the times. We must use a practical combination of information warfare and Marxist and Maoist military thought to guide information warfare and issues in military construction. In light of the fact that the military lags behind its strong enemies in information technology and information weapons, the military must emphasize the study of ways to use inferior equipment to achieve victory over enemies with superior equipment. "Using the inferior to overcome the superior" is a tradition of China's military. However, "using the inferior to overcome the superior" in information warfare is definitely much different in content and form from the techniques of war used in the past. The question of how to conduct a people's war in information warfare also requires study. The people's war of the past was conducted in tangible space, but information warfare, in addition to occurring in tangible space on the ground, on the sea, and in the air, is conducted even more in intangible space, such as in electromagnetic fields. It is not only a battlefield in which guns and bombs proliferate, but also a "computer battlefield" in sheltered laboratories and control rooms. There are many new issues here we need to explore.

Improving Weapons and Equipment Through Information Technology

We must put effort into information technology, information weapons systems, and information networking. These are the important aspects of hardware construction for the military when adapting to information warfare. Information is a material good, and information sources, information channels, and information storage are all material goods. The gathering, transmission, processing, and use of information and the development of information into combat power all depend on certain material goods, energy, and technology carriers. Information technology itself is a pinnacle of high technology. The key technologies are remote-sensing technology, communications technology, and computer technology. Key information weapons include precision-guided weapons systems and electronic warfare weapons systems as well as C4I systems (communications, guidance, control, computers, and intelligence) which form the central nervous system. These hardware items are necessary and essential to adapt to and achieve victory in information warfare, and we must make efforts here. Developing this hardware, however, is not easy. It will be restricted by the level of our information technology base and funds. Hence, comprehensive consideration must be given to the direction, goals, and emphases of this development. The overarching demand, for long-term planning as well as short-term arrangements, is to consider fully the threat faced by China, the possible warfare tasks of the near future, the battle regions and battlefield conditions, the state of China's defense technology development, as well as the possible support for military funding. Thus, it appears that we should emphasize in our development the following aspects of information technology.

A Reliable Reconnaissance and Remote-Sensing System
The goal is to obtain timely information, to understand the enemy and ourselves, and to achieve clarity about our situation with great determination. It is especially necessary to establish a strategic reconnaissance warning and air defense system to achieve a capacity for early detection of enemy movements, in order to be forewarned and ready.

Information Weapons Systems
The most important of these are air defense weapons systems, offensive tactical guided missile attack systems, landing and touchdown operations equipment systems, electronic warfare equipment systems, and underwater minelaying systems. These will give China over-the-horizon, high-precision, concealed, sudden defensive attack capability and a stronger survival capacity and make the enemy terrified and worried, providing an effective threat.

Computer Technology and Battlefield Information Networks
First, we should establish battlefield information networks and battlefield databases for the battlefields in priority strategic directions. By bringing all branches of the military into an information network, information may be shared on the network. Near-real-time communication can be gained in all directions and a better solution can be achieved for the problem of vertical and horizontal coordination in warfare.

Firm Control of Battlefield Information

To achieve victory in information warfare, the central issue is control of information.

Preparation and Defense with Attacking and Fighting
In comparison with the strength of potential enemies, the information technology and information weapons of China's military may all be inferior for quite some time. When China's enemies mainly use their air forces and navies to conduct strategic information warfare, China will be in the strategic position of engaging in defensive warfare along interior lines. The progress and outcome of the war will be determined by the state of China's advance preparations and defensive situation during the war. In defensive warfare, China should still thoroughly implement an active defensive strategy. In addition to hiding and concealing forces, in combat, especially during key phases in key areas, we must engage even more actively in air defense warfare and intercept and attack enemy weapons as they arrive in surprise attack. When conditions permit, we should also engage in counterattacks against the enemy and interfere with or misguide their guided weapons, thus damaging or destroying their equipment. Strategically, we should use preparation and defense, and in combat we should use attacking and fighting to achieve victory.

Organize Offensive and Defensive Information Warfare
Information warfare includes engaging in an active offense of information suppression and attack, as well as in the reactive defense of information counter-reconnaissance, resistance to interference, and defense against destruction. The issue of an information offensive can only be discussed if one has superior technology for information suppression. In a strategic defense situation, sometimes information offensives can be undertaken during warfare actions in limited areas. In that case, information technology suppression superiority must first be achieved in warfare actions in that limited area. Under the conditions of modern high technology, an information offensive is often a prelude to a strategic offensive. Take, for example, the surprise attack on Libya by the United States. Before the attack, 18 electronic-warfare aircraft were sent to Libya to engage in powerful interference.

Fighter aircraft were then sent to launch counterradiation guided missiles to destroy Libya's air defense radar stations, then fighter aircraft were sent to launch precision-guided bombs to attack five important targets. The information offensives in this raid included: 1) information reconnaissance to gain information on targets of the raid and to study the target in detail; 2) electronic interference to paralyze the opponents's communications and blind the opponent's air defense guided missiles; 3) information suppression by using counter radiation guided missiles to destroy air defense radar stations, and 4) information attack by using precision-guided warheads to attack pre-set targets.

During the Gulf War, the information offensives of the multilateral forces were even more representative. In addition to the four types listed above at least the following should be added: 1) Computer viruses were used to destroy the computer systems of Iraq's air defense system and thus paralyze it, and 2) stealth aircraft were used to launch precision-guided bombs against the communications building and the command center, thus achieving information suppression.

In situations of information defense, we must strive for an active approach in a reactive situation and use every means possible to destroy the opponent's information superiority and transform our inferior position in information. We must pay attention to:

The information offenses and defenses outlined above, in addition to using information technology extensively, also use information weapons extensively. Thus, during the process of a war, these do not exist alone but accompany strategic offenses and defenses and are consistent with the overall situation of strategic offenses and defenses. Before and after war, information hassling never stops for a moment but usually does not involve the use of information weapons.

"You Do Your Fighting and I'll Do Mine" Using Strengths to Attack Weaknesses

This is the basic warfare style which Mao Zedong taught us, and it is an excellent tradition of China's military. Strengths and weaknesses are in comparison with those of the enemy. What then will China's strengths be in future wars? What will be China's weaknesses? Politically speaking, China's military has the advantage of justness, which is conducive to gaining international sympathy and support, and it has the support of the people domestically. In terms of warfare space, when China's military engages in war on China's soil, it will have the advantages of topography and position. In air, sea, space, and electronic warfare, however, the enemy will have the advantage. In terms of the choice of timing for warfare, because the enemy will have more advanced night-vision instruments, the advantage will not be China's, especially in air and sea warfare at night. The enemy will have advantages in instrumentation. China will have advantages in familiarity with the topography. Each will have half the advantages. In terms of warfare techniques, China's military has a tradition of flexible fighting methods and is more adapted to nonlinear warfare, but lacks practical battle experience in information warfare with high technology. In terms of weapons and equipment, generally speaking the enemy will have the advantage, but in some areas, such as guided missiles and submarines, China can still shock the enemy to a certain degree. China is strong in close warfare; the enemy is strong in distant warfare.

In wars of the future, China will face the enemy's more complete information technology with incomplete information technology. Because sometimes superior tactics can make up for inferior technology, China will still carry out its traditional warfare method of "you fight your way, I'll fight my way," and use its strengths to attack the enemy's weaknesses and adhere to an active role in warfare. To do this, it appears that we must pay even more attention to:

In summary, our warfare methods must adapt to the needs of information warfare. We must use all types, forms, and methods of force, and especially make more use of nonlinear warfare and many types of information warfare methods which combine native and Western elements to use our strengths in order to attack the enemy's weaknesses, avoid being reactive, and strive for being active. In this way, it will be entirely possible for China to achieve comprehensive victory over the enemy even under the conditions of inferiority in information technology.

Cultivating Talent

In the final analysis, information warfare is conducted by people. The basic great plan is to cultivate talented people suited to information warfare. One aspect is to cultivate talent in information science and technology. The development and resolution of information warfare can be predicted to a great degree in the laboratory. Information science and technology talent is the forerunners of science and technology talent is the forerunner of science and technology research. The achievements and practical use of their research will play a key role in the development and advancement of society and military construction and warfare. The second aspect is talented people in command and control. They especially need to have the ability to conduct comprehensive analysis and policy-information processing, to understand themselves and the enemy, as well as the battlefield, and also to have a capacity for scientific strategic thinking and a comprehensive point of view. Senior command personnel especially need to have information knowledge and the ability to control information warfare and must be adept at using information technology to organize and command warfare. They must be very knowledgeable, brave, and talented people.

Combat personnel must also be familiar with the technical and strategic aspects of the weapons and equipment in their hands and must be very well versed in the operation of those weapons and equipment. They must be able to understand accurately the combat plan and resolutely and flexibly utilize weapons and equipment to wipe out the enemy. The combat personnel of information warfare are not only the warriors who charge enemy lines for face to face struggles of life or death, but sometimes are the operating technical personnel who sit before computers and instruments. They stand at the first line in electronic warfare and in the resistance against C4I systems and on the front line in information technology conflicts.

Rear support and technical support are very important in information warfare. Information technology relates to a number of high-technology groups of people and touches on new energy, new materials, artificial intelligence, space travel, marine engineering, systems engineering, and other high-technology subjects. The demands for the technical level of support personnel are quite high. They are required to be able to guarantee that weapons and equipment are always kept in excellent condition. While carrying out rear and front-line support, the use of information technology is a support method just like other methods. In information warfare, the support of information technology penetrates the contents of information resistance and is also one method of warfare support.

The main methods of cultivating talent are study and training. In addition to conducting training in politics, ethics, and psychology, there must also be study of high-tech knowledge and the fundamental knowledge of and warfare techniques related to information warfare. If conditions permit, we want to create as much as possible the conditions necessary for implementing simulation training. We can first consider creating stimulated battlefields with information in key areas of the army, navy, air force, and artillery, and, second, conducting rotational training of cadres and key troops. Colleges and universities should also establish curriculae in information warfare. Scientific research institutions should also engage in research on information warfare.

The large-scale importation of information technology deep into the field of warfare will inevitably bring about a military revolution. This revolution has actually already started. Those who perceive it first will swiftly rise to the top and have the advantage of the first opportunities. Those who perceive it late will unavoidably also be caught up in the vortex of this revolution. Every military will receive this baptism. This revolution is first a revolution in concepts, then it is a revolution in science and technology, equipment, troop strength, strategy, and tactics as well as a revolution in training. Thus, the issue of how to adapt to and achieve victory in the information warfare which we will face from now on is an important question which we need to study carefully.

Chinese Views of Future Warfare
[National Defense University Press, 1996]