Secrecy News

China’s Science of Military Strategy (2013)

Updated below

In 2013, the Academy of Military Sciences of the People’s Liberation Army of China issued a revised edition of its authoritative, influential publication “The Science of Military Strategy” (SMS) for the first time since 2001.

“Each new edition of the SMS is closely scrutinized by China hands in the West for the valuable insights it provides into the evolving thinking of the PLA on a range of strategically important topics,” wrote Joe McReynolds of the Jamestown Institute.

A copy of the 2013 edition of the Science of Military Strategy — in Chinese — was obtained by Secrecy News and is posted on the Federation of American Scientists website (in a very large PDF).

“The availability of this document could be a huge boon for young China analysts who have not yet had the chance to buy their own copy in China or Taiwan,” said one China specialist.

An English translation of the document has not yet become publicly available.

But an overview of its treatment of nuclear weapons policy issues was provided in a recent essay by Michael S. Chase of the Jamestown Institute.

“Compared to the previous edition of SMS, the 2013 edition offers much more extensive and detailed coverage of a number of nuclear policy and strategy-related issues,” Mr. Chase wrote.

In general, SMS 2013 “reaffirms China’s nuclear No First Use policy…. Accordingly, any Chinese use of nuclear weapons in actual combat would be for ‘retaliatory nuclear counterstrikes’.”

With respect to deterrence, SMS 2013 states that “speaking with a unified voice from the highest levels of the government and military to the lowest levels can often enhance deterrence outcomes. But sometimes, when different things are said by different people, deterrence outcomes might be even better.”

SMS 2013 also notably included the first explicit acknowledgement of Chinese “network attack forces” which perform what the U.S. calls “offensive cyber operations.”

In a separate essay on “China’s Evolving Perspectives on Network Warfare: Lessons from the Science of Military Strategy,” Joe McReynolds wrote that the SMS authors “focus heavily on the central role of peacetime ‘network reconnaissance’ — that is, the technical penetration and monitoring of an adversary’s networks — in developing the PLA’s ability to engage in wartime network operations.”

On July 28, the Congressional Research Service updated its report on China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.

Update: The Union of Concerned Scientists has published a detailed review of the 2013 Science of Military Strategy, including translations of some key passages.