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Ex New Horizons · 1997-98
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Ex New Horizons · 1997-98
|This paper was written by a student attending the Canadian Forces College in fulfillment of one of the communication skills requirements of the Course of Studies. The paper is a scholastic document, and thus contains facts and opinions which the author alone considered appropriate and correct for the subject. It does not necessarily reflect the policy or the opinion of any agency, including the Government of Canada and the Canadian Department of National Defence. This paper may not be released, quoted or copied except with the express permission of the Canadian Department of National Defence.||La présente étude a été rédigée par un stagiaire du Collège des Forces canadiennes pour satisfaire à l'une des exigences du cours. L'étude est un document qui se rapporte au cours et contient donc des faits et des opinions que seul l'auteur considère appropriés et convenables au sujet. Elle ne reflète pas nécessairement la politique ou l'opinion d'un organisme quelconque, y compris le gouvernement du Canada et le ministère de la Défense nationale du Canada. Il est défendu de diffuser, de citer ou de reproduire cette étude sans la permission expresse du ministère de la Défense nationale.|
|The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that China's economic and military transformation, under the current Communist regime, has the potential to seriously threaten the future security of Canada and the West. The paper first looks at the economic reforms that have radically changed the Chinese economy. Then, the paper presents the significant changes that have taken place concerning military strategy, equipment modernization and power projection capability. The strategic view and policies of Canada and the US are discussed in light of these changes and other recent incidents. The paper then presents the argument that there are three potential problem areas in which China could possibly threaten the West. The paper concludes by noting that China is a Communist country that is dissatisfied with its status in the world and that the West must not be naive to its intentions and ambitions.|
|When China awakes, it will shake the world.|
- Napoleon Bonaparte
|Once China becomes strong enough to stand alone, it might discard us. A little later it might even turn against us, if its perception of its interests requires it.|
|- Henry Kissinger|
The history of China is both fascinating and complex. Its culture has been described as both peaceful and warlike. China was created by conquest and has essentially been ruled by a series of warlords. However, China has also experienced periods of peace and active trade with its neighbors. There have also been extensive periods where China isolated itself from outside influence and became a closed society. These experiences have profoundly shaped Chinese culture and strategic thought. 
The last century has been extremely difficult for China. The occupation by the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s and the civil war, which brought Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to power in 1949, were extremely turbulent times in China's history. From this civil war the People's Republic of China (PRC) emerged. However, this was the beginning of another period of isolation where China attempted to revitalize itself. Under Mao, China was successful in becoming self-sufficient in nearly all resources and technologies, however, it was twenty to thirty years behind modern technical standards.
Following Mao's death in 1976, the new leader, Deng Xiaoping, commenced a series of reforms that radically changed China. Deng encouraged international trade and allowed foreign capital investment. The result has been China's phenomenal entry into world markets and a booming economy. The specific aim of these policies was to obtain large foreign exchange earnings, which would allow China to both modernize and become more independent. Following Deng's death in February 1997, the current leader, Jiang Zemin, consolidated his political power base with the completion of the CCP's Fifteenth Congress in September 1997. Under Jiang's leadership it looks like economic reforms will continue, however, there seems to be little prospect for political change. This is exemplified by his call for stricter control of the press.
As China emerges as a global power it is important to understand what role it will play and the security perceptions it has of both Asia and the world. The most important issue for China today is political stability at home. Any attempt to influence the status quo is not welcome and is deemed to be interference in China's internal affairs. Many Chinese believe that the United States represents the core values of Western civilization and is in conflict with Eastern civilization which is represented by China. As a result, Chinese leadership views any American influence as a challenge to China's political stability.
The Western view of China's emergence is mixed. Following a period of condemnation after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Western countries have sought to normalize relations with China. Canada's policy has been to maximize trade and economic links while adopting a moderate, low-key approach in discussing human rights. US-China relations have been more difficult. However, the US ultimately granted China most-favoured-nation (MFN) trading status and a 1995 decision determined that human rights would be no longer tied to commerce. The issue of China's military modernization has attracted attention. Some analysts believe this modernization is overdue and is just updating old equipment. Others are concerned about the combined effect of this modernization and the assertive nature China has displayed recently concerning claims in the South China Sea and Taiwan.
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that China's economic and military transformation, under the current Communist regime, has the potential to seriously threaten the future security of Canada and the West. The paper will look at both the economic and military reforms underway in China and the strategic direction they are taking. The Western strategic view of China will be presented. Potential problem areas will be investigated to reveal why China may adopt a threatening posture.
CHINESE ECONOMIC REFORMS
The economic reforms that were introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the late seventies have transformed the Chinese economy and produced a period of spectacular growth. China's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an average rate of 9.3 percent between 1979-1993. The world experienced a growth rate of 2.6 percent for the same period. China's GDP has also quadrupled over a period of only fifteen years. It has also improved its status as a trading nation, rising to eleventh position from number thirty-seven in ten years. Another important fact is that China has accumulated a large foreign currency reserve and is second in the world to Japan. China has also taken advantage of foreign investment and is also rated second in the world, after the US. It is important to realize that the above figures do not include any contribution from Hong Kong, which China regained as a possession in July 1997.
While China's performance has been impressive, it also has the potential to maintain this growth. It has a massive population, which represents not only a large domestic market but also a cheap labour source of some eight hundred million people. It is also a country that is blessed with vast natural resources. The current economic problems in Asia have not had a major impact on China, though there are predictions of slower growth. However, it is expected that China will become the world's largest economy, in terms of GDP, by 2010.
CHINESE MILITARY REFORMS
Chinese military strategy underwent a major change in the mid 1980s. The threat of a Soviet land attack had diminished and the attention of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) turned to the threat of regional disputes. Thus, the PLA started to focus on a strategy of limited war. However, with the downturn in relations with the West following the Tiananmen Square massacre, this strategy was revised. The Gulf War also had a significant impact on the Chinese leadership and the conflict was carefully studied. As a result, a new defence strategy emerged, based on fighting modern warfare using advanced technology. The Chinese have learned many lessons from the Gulf War. First, they have realized that electronic warfare and advanced weapons are decisive. They have also learned the importance of strong air and naval power and that rapid response and fast deployment are a true measure of overall capability. Finally, they have realized that logistical support is as important as actual combat capability. These lessons learned have had a profound effect on the PLA's doctrine. First of all, the importance of ground forces has been reduced to allow additional focus on the air force and navy. Secondly, there has been a shift away from the philosophy that manpower is superior to machine power and that the offensive can be won by strength in numbers. Finally, there is a decreased reliance on the civilian population to fill the army's ranks as was required when the concept of the protracted people's war was in vogue. China has learned the lessons of the Gulf War and has doctrinally set a course to develop a modern and effective military with a power projection capability.
As a result of the major shifts in military strategy described above, China has embarked on an ambitious military modernization program. China's economic growth has been key in the implementation of this program. However, due to the secrecy surrounding military matters, the actual size of military spending has been hard to determine. Officially, China's 1996 defence budget was $8.7 billion US. Independent estimates vary from $8 billion US to $100 billion US. Regardless of the independent estimates, the official Chinese defence budgets reveal a 200 percent increase from 1988.
Even in its present form China has the world's largest military. The PLA consists of over two million men and is complemented by the world's third largest air force, consisting of 5,300 aircraft, and the world's largest small ship navy. Although these figures look impressive, there are major problems with obsolete equipment, poor training and the transition to new doctrine. However, the future promises to be different. In an effort to modernize the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), China is developing or acquiring the rights to produce six new tactical aircraft models. China has already purchased Russian Su-27 aircraft and has also acquired the license to produce these aircraft. This purchase will include advanced capabilities such as ECM pods, AA-10 Alamo and AA-11 Archer missiles with helmet-mounted sights. It is also possible that the latest air-to-air missile, the AA-12, was included. The first Chinese Su-27 aircraft will be built around the turn of the century, with the total fleet expected to number over 250 aircraft. China is also developing a new F-10 single seat aircraft that is based on the cancelled Israeli Lavi fighter aircraft. Both Israel and Russia are providing assistance in this project and the F-10 is expected to be operational by 2005. A new light strike aircraft, the FB-7, is expected to be operational by 2000 and a light fighter, the FC-1, which is intended for export, is expected to be ready by 2003. China is in the process of developing a multi-role fighter, known as the XXJ, which will have a stealth design. This aircraft is expected to enter service by 2015. Negotiations are underway to purchase Russian Su-30 fighters and the license to build them. There are also plans to purchase and develop unmanned vehicles.
China is also paying attention to the importance of supporting aircraft. The plan is to use the PLAAF as an offensive force with the ability to project power into enemy territory. An in- flight refueling capability has been tested and will soon become operational. An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft program is under development with Israel. In addition to aircraft, China is making a strong effort to upgrade its air defence systems. China has purchased at least four Russian SA-10 missile systems and wants to purchase more. Russia is also scheduled to deliver fifteen SA-15 missile systems, which are designed to defeat advanced weapons and cruise missiles. There is also interest in acquiring the 2S6 combined cannon/missile air defence system.
The PLA Navy (PLAN) has received attention in the military modernization program and the primary focus has been on force projection. China has introduced a new class of destroyers and frigates, which incorporates Western propulsion and weapons systems technologies. China has also decided to purchase two Russian Sovremennyi-class guided missile destroyers, which represent a significant increase in naval offensive capability. There has also been a submarine modernization effort. Four Russian Kilo-class conventional submarines have been purchased, with plans to purchase sixteen more. China has plans to produce its own Song-class boats and is developing a replacement for the Han-class nuclear powered attack boat. Nor is China neglecting the importance of support vessels, deploying more capable fuel and supply ships. There has also been a focus on amphibious forces with the development of fast transport for troops and vehicles. Finally, there has been great speculation concerning the potential purchase of the Ukrainian aircraft carrier, "Varyag". This ship was recently sold to a newly incorporated and little known company from Macau. Macau is scheduled to revert to Chinese control in 1999. The suspicious circumstances surrounding the purchase have raised speculation that the vessel is destined for the PLAN.
While most of the effort to modernize the military has been directed towards the PLAAF and PLAN, the PLA has received some attention. There have been improvements concerning small arms and artillery, however, the army does not have modern tanks capable of challenging the latest western technology. The primary development in the PLA has been the expansion of its elite troops. Known as Rapid Reaction Units (RRU), these troops are better trained and equipped than the regular army. Capable of being deployed on short notice, this force of marines and airborne soldiers may number as many as five hundred thousand. The PLA plans to purchase Russian Il-76 transport aircraft, which will greatly enhance their power projection.
China has also focused on its nuclear forces. The only missile currently capable of reaching North America is the DF-1, and China is estimated to have approximately fifteen systems. However, other systems are being developed. There have been attempts to acquire multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology through the acquisition of Russian SS-18 missile components. China has developed the twelve thousand-kilometre range, solid-fuel, mobile DF-41 missile, which will allow rapid reaction and a MIRV capability. The reported goal is for the deployment of thirty MIRV capable missiles in hardened shelters by the year 2000. Developments have also been made to short and medium range missiles, which will improve both mobility and accuracy. These missiles are normally equipped with conventional warheads.
Finally, China has a very active space program and a desire to pursue an information dominance policy. China has either deployed, or plans to deploy, a number of satellites which will focus on radar, electronic and electro-optical intelligence gathering, missile early warning, navigation and weather. There are also plans for counter stealth radar, signal intelligence sites and tactical reconnaissance vehicles. The Chinese Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence system has a high priority for upgrading. As a result, there is a proposal to upgrade the limited communications capability provided by the current six communications satellites. China also launched a program in 1992 to design a space shuttle. The trial flight should take place in 2005 and will be launched from a site on Hainan Island. There is also a proposal for the creation of a space command within the PLAAF.
China's military has undergone significant change in the last decade. Its military strategy has become more offensive oriented and it has recognized the importance of power projection with modern military technology. China has started the process of modernizing its forces and, while it is currently beset by obsolete equipment, it has set goals for the future. How quickly China can make these changes is a topic of great speculation. China's high technology defence strategy is viewed as the driving force behind the nation's development of science and technology. The emphasis of this policy seems to be on a high technology race with the West.
One theme that has emerged from China's military modernization has been the closer ties it has established with Russia. These countries have traditionally looked at each other with suspicion and, at times, hostility. However, relations have dramatically improved and are increasingly driven by common geopolitical interests. China accounted for more than thirty percent of Russia's foreign arms sales in 1996 and has purchased $4.7 billion US worth of military equipment between 1991-1995. These transactions have provided badly needed money for the Russian military-industrial complex and have allowed China to obtain military hardware, as well as the valuable transfer of advanced technology. Meetings between Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin in 1996 and 1997 have resulted in increased strategic cooperation. The two sides have pledged to form a strategic partnership. As a sign of goodwill, they have instituted measures such as the establishment of a hot line between the two capitals, the resolution of boundary disputes and an agreement on no first use of nuclear weapons. This relationship is largely directed against the US and represents China's tremendous concern over the recent US-Japan Joint Security Declaration.
WESTERN STRATEGIC VIEW
Canada's strategic policy concerning China was in a state of confusion in the years immediately following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The government was caught between trying to re-build economic trade links and publicly expressing its displeasure of the 1989 events. In the early 1990s there was an effort to link human rights performance to both trade and the funding of aid programs. By 1992, it was obvious that this policy was damaging trade and opportunities to engage China. As a result, trade became the focal point of Canadian attention while the human rights agenda was softened. The 1994 visit by Team Canada, led by the Prime Minister, was the high point of the post-Tiananmen recovery in relations.
Since 1996 the government has sought a balanced approach between trade and human rights. In January 1996, Canada and China held the first official discussions dedicated strictly to human rights. However, the Taiwan crisis in March 1996 reminded Canadian politicians of China's ability to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region. Although this incident drew attention to Canada's "one China" policy, this policy did not change. Canada decided that it would continue with an Asia-Pacific security strategy that would engage China both bilaterally and through multilateral organizations. This strategy is based on the "four pillars" approach, which are "economic partnership", "peace and security", "sustainable development" and "human rights, good governance and the rule of law". The Canadian government has decided to engage China in areas that promise dialogue instead of confrontation. In recent years Canada has come to see itself as a Pacific nation. With population consisting of 850,000 Canadian citizens of Chinese descent, the Canadian focus on China will only grow larger.
As with Canada, the Tiananmen incident had a serious impact on Sino-US relations. The period of 1990-1994 largely focused on China's human rights record and its MFN status. Realizing that confrontation over these issues was having a negative economic effect, President Clinton de-linked China's human rights record from its MFN status. The US continued to engage China on human rights issues, however, there were a growing number of disputes concerning China's military buildup, nuclear proliferation and economic issues concerning trade balances and intellectual property rights. The March 1996 Taiwan crisis served as an important turning point in Sino-US relations. As a result, the US recognized that it was important to reach a strategic understanding with China. While there is much discussion on this issue, it is the view of many that China may be the only country in the future to pose a serious challenge to the US.
The US security policy for East Asia stresses regional stability and proposes to achieve this through both bilateral and multilateral engagement. The US will continue with the bilateral agreements that have served its interests in the area for over 40 years. While the US has stated that it will not leave the region, there is deep concern by many Asia-Pacific countries over a security vacuum that could possibly be filled by the Chinese. The US policy on China continues to evolve and is designed to promote cooperation and avoid conflict. These policies are now focused on common strategic issues. Although issues such as human rights are seen as important, individually they will not be allowed to dominate the Sino-US relationship. This approach has emerged from the " US concern...that China may become the next superpower".
China's rise as an economic power, combined with its large-scale program to modernize its military, raises the question of how this power will be used. Associated with this new power has been an increase in the aggressiveness in China's territorial claims in the region. The 1997 Canadian Department of National Defence Strategic Overview notes that, " Externally, China's more assertive nationalism, territorial claims and modernizing military capabilities are causing some unease in the region". One of the main trouble spots concerns China's long standing territorial claims in the South China Sea. Two island groups, the Parcels and the Spratlys, have numerous claimants. Military conflicts with Vietnam in 1974 and 1988 and demonstrate China's resolve to use force if required. Although China has never challenged passage through this area, there are serious concerns about the security of this important sea- lane.
Taiwan is the most volatile issue concerning territorial claims and security in the region. The Chinese government sees Taiwan as a renegade province and treats any conflict between the two as an internal matter. Western countries have developed a policy of "one China" and officially recognize the regime in Beijing. However, at the same time they conduct a vibrant trade with Taiwan. The March 1996 crisis over Taiwan illustrates the tension concerning this issue. Concerned with the first free and democratic Taiwanese elections that were scheduled for 23 March 1996, China commenced live-fire naval and air exercises in the Taiwan Straits earlier that month. China conducted missile firings that disrupted shipping and refused to renounce the use of force to resolve the Taiwan issue. This action resulted in the US deployment of two carrier battle groups to the area. Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng warned the US to keep its ships out of the Taiwan Straits and earlier in the crisis there was a veiled threat by a Chinese official that China was prepared to use nuclear weapons, targeted on the US west coast, if the US intervened militarily. The crisis was resolved when the Taiwan's leader won a larger than expected victory, the Chinese ceased their exercise and the US ships left the area. The results of this crisis are uncertain. The Chinese lost diplomatic ground and were forced to back down for the moment. As China develops a more credible military force, any future confrontations of this sort will seriously test the will and ability of the US and the West to challenge China's actions.
A second area of concern is China's political stability. The Communist regime maintains firm control despite the huge challenges of running such a large and complex country. However, the main occupation of the regime is to stay in power. China perceives issues such as human rights and efforts to encourage democracy as an attempt to contain and interfere with internal affairs. The Chinese perspective is best described by the following:
In history, Chinese leaders have believed in force. Force worked in Tiananmen. It intimidated the intellectuals, and that paved the way for economic growth and political stability. It is realpolitik. And in the Chinese value system, sovereignty, national unification, and preserving the regime have always been higher than peace.
As previously described in this paper, the Canadian and US governments are conducting a policy of engagement and of encouraging human rights and democracy. Canada and the West need to be absolutely sure they understand the Chinese leadership and their strong desire to stay in power. The strong economic attraction to China needs to be balanced by policies that will stand the strains that closer cooperation will place on it. The combination of a large and prosperous economy, a modernized and advanced military and a Communist regime determined to stay in power has the potential to offer considerable security challenges to the West early in the 21st century.
The final area of concern is related to the resources that will be required to ensure China's continued existence. China has twenty-two percent of the world's population, but only seven percent of the cultivatable land. The average cultivated land per capita is only one third of the world average and continues to shrink. Just feeding the population will require ninety million more tons of food by the year 2000 than it did in 1995. Construction reduces cultivated land by seven million hectares every year. While China is now an exporter of oil, its rapid industrialization could see it becoming an oil importer in the near future. The ability of the Chinese government to manage this situation will play a key role in further territorial claims and the stability of the Communist regime. As China becomes a larger economic and military power the risk of failure in this regard will have a significant impact on Western interests in the region.
As China emerges as the next superpower, public opinion in the West seems split over how this event should be treated. A policy of openly engaging China encourages establishing a wide range of contacts with the hope of having some influence. However, it can also be viewed as giving concessions when a more firm policy is required. The contrasting option of containment implies a policy of distrust and suspicion. The ideal solution is an open and transparent China, which is both peaceful and stable. Unfortunately the secrecy of the regime, and the problems described above, do not provide a promising outlook. As the West engages China, it must be aware of the security threat China will potentially become in the future and ensure an appropriate security system is maintained to balance the power in the region.
China's history in the 20th century has been marked by occupation and civil war. This experience has fueled its strong desire for Great Power status and at the same time put it decades behind the West in technological development. Under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China has undergone a transformation, which has produced a tremendous economic turnaround. China is now a major trading nation which has built up an impressive foreign currency holding and is predicted to be the world's largest economy by 2010. The Chinese leadership has recognized that economic reform is the only way to achieve the status it desires on its own terms.
Despite not facing any threat to its security, China has embarked on a path of radical change to both its military strategy and capabilities. The realization in the 1980s that the Soviet Union was no longer a threat for major conflict and the Gulf War have had a profound effect on Chinese military thinking. The strategic focus has now shifted to the offensive. The main theme is power projection and the ability to fight a modern war with advanced technology.
China has also used its economic boom and change in military strategy to commence an ambitious military modernization program. The PLAAF is acquiring some of the most advanced fighter/bomber aircraft and weapons in the world. They are also purchasing state of the art air defence systems and developing supporting aircraft roles such as in-flight refueling and airborne early warning. The PLAN is also upgrading its fleet with power projection in mind. China has an active submarine replacement program in place and has purchased Russian Kilo-class submarines. New surface vessels are being built and the PLAN is paying more attention to replenishment at sea capability. While the PLA has not received the same attention as the navy or air force, it has formed a large RRU of well-equipped soldiers. China has also continued to upgrade its nuclear weapons and has developed a solid fuel missile with a MIRV capability. A space program has also been active and there is a program to trial a space shuttle by 2005.
It is clear that China's economic and military transformation has been aimed at challenging the balance of power that has existed in the region since World War Two. China has demonstrated hegemonic intentions through its territorial claims in the South China Sea and in its recent actions against Taiwan. A more aggressive and expansionist policy may occur as China faces more pressure to provide food and resources for one quarter of the world's population. If the current transformation continues, China will have, in the future, the economic and military might to threaten both the countries in the region and the West. The closer ties with Russia have already resulted in a strategic relationship that is designed to counter the influence of the US. How long this relationship will be required is unknown. With its ongoing effort to develop a high technology economic system, China has set the foundation that will likely ensure that it is much stronger than the former Soviet Union and perhaps even more powerful than the US.
A communist government, that has demonstrated that it is unhappy with its status in the world, also rules China. While Western governments have devoted a great deal of time and thought on how to treat China, their policies have not had any effect on the current regime's respect for human rights or democracy. The fundamental issue is that the stability of the CCP itself represents a concern for both Asia-Pacific and world security. Any movement by the West to promote human rights and democracy in China represents a direct threat to the existing regime. The brutality of the Tiananmen massacre should serve as a warning of the importance the CCP places on maintaining power. China more and more sees itself as a counter to Western values and way of life. In its effort to emerge as a great power, China has changed its security strategy from defensive to offensive. If China wants to be a dominant world power, and chooses to act based on the example of the former Soviet Union, it will have the potential to seriously undermine the current world order.
The economic and military transformation of China is well underway. It is critical that the West not be naive to its intentions. With its ambitions concerning territorial claims, the challenges it will face providing for its population and the insecure and suspicious nature of its communist government, Canada and the West face a potentially serious threat from China in the future.
|[As for the United States] for a relatively long time it will be absolutely necessary that we quietly nurse our sense of vengeance...We must conceal our abilities and bide our time.|
- Lieutenant General Mi Zhenyu
Vice-Commandant, Academy of Military Sciences, Beijing
|We should not underestimate China's ability to disrupt our interests around the world if our relationship becomes belligerent rather than cooperative.|
|- Richard M. Nixon|
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DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE DOCUMENTS
Canada, Department of National Defence. Strategic Overview 1997. Ottawa: DND Canada, 1997.
Porubcansky, Mark J. "Gambling haven on China buys...an aircraft carrier?" [http://www.southam.com/cgi-bin/new...le=/cpfs/world/980320/w032047.html]. March 1998.
Department of National Defence (Canada)
Ministère de la Défense nationale (Canada)