01 April 2011

Adam Segal, Council on Foreign Relations, “China’s National Defense: ‘Intricate and Volatile’”

Adam Segal, China’s National Defense: ‘Intricate and Volatile’,” Asia Unbound Blog, Council on Foreign Relations, 1 April 2011.

China, in an ongoing bid to be more transparent about its military modernization, released the 2010 defense white paper, China’s National Defense in 2010, this week. …

After a quick reading, two things stand out.  First, as Andrew Erickson points out, this seems to be the first time that a white paper refers to the ground forces as the PLA Army as opposed to just the PLA.  This is a demotion of sorts—before it was just the navy and air force that needed the descriptive nouns following PLA—and seems to suggest the growing importance of the PLA Navy and PLA Air Force, which makes sense given the military’s focus over the last two decades on improving power projection capabilities out into the South China Sea and the Western Pacific.

Second, while previous white papers have had numerous references to informationization (the integration of information technology systems into military systems and war fighting), this is, I think, the first time that there have been specific mentions of cyberspace.  The white paper refers to “some powers” that have built out missile defense, developed global strike capabilities, and “enhanced cyber operations capabilities to occupy new strategic commanding heights.” Of course the list of powers that have done all of those things is not very long.  In the face of these threats, the military is tasked with defending China’s “security interests in space, electromagnetic space and cyberspace.” …

For further background, see Andrew S. Erickson, “Beijing Issues Latest Defense White Paper ‘China’s National Defense in 2010’: Full Text, Key Excerpts & Analysis.”