24 August 2011

Key Quotes from 2011 DoD Report on China’s Military

Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011

p. 2

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles.

… By December 2010, the PLA had deployed between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) to units opposite Taiwan. To improve the lethality of this force, the PLA is introducing variants of missiles with improved ranges, accuracies, and payloads. …

p. 4

Air and Air Defense Forces.

… The January 2011 flight test of China’s next generation fighter prototype, the J-20, highlights China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and super-cruise capable engines over the next several years. …

pp. 5-6

Cyberwarfare Capabilities. In 2010, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. Government, were the target of intrusions, some of which appear to have originated within the PRC. These intrusions were focused on exfiltrating information. Although this alone is a serious concern, the accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks. China’s 2010 Defense White Paper notes China’s own concern over foreign cyberwarfare efforts and highlighted the importance of cyber-security in China’s national defense.

Cyberwarfare capabilities could serve PRC military operations in three key areas. First and foremost, they allow data collection through exfiltration. Second, they can be employed to constrain an adversary’s actions or slow response time by targeting network-based logistics, communications, and commercial activities. Third, they can serve as a force multiplier when coupled with kinetic attacks during times of crisis or conflict.

Developing capabilities for cyberwarfare is consistent with authoritative PLA military writings. Two military doctrinal writings, Science of Strategy, and Science of Campaigns identify information warfare (IW) as integral to achieving information superiority and an effective means for countering a stronger foe. Although neither document identifies the specific criteria for employing computer network attack against an adversary, both advocate developing capabilities to compete in this medium.

The Science of Strategy and Science of Campaigns detail the effectiveness of IW and computer network operations in conflicts and advocate targeting adversary command and control and logistics networks to impact their ability to operate during the early stages of conflict. As the Science of Strategy explains, “In the information war, the command and control system is the heart of information collection, control, and application on the battlefield. It is also the nerve center of the entire battlefield.”

In parallel with its military preparations, China has increased diplomatic engagement and advocacy in multilateral and international forums where cyber issues are discussed and debated. Beijing’s agenda is frequently in line with the Russian Federation’s efforts to promote more international control over cyber activities. China has not yet agreed with the U.S. position that existing mechanisms, such as International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict, apply in cyberspace. China’s thinking in this area is evolving as it becomes more engaged. …

p. 30

Building Capacity for Conventional Precision Strike

As of December 2010, the PLA had somewhere between 1,000-1,200 SRBMs. The total number of SRBMs represents little to no change over the past year. However, the PLA continues to field advanced variants with improved ranges and more sophisticated payloads that are gradually replacing earlier generations that do not possess true “precision strike” capability. …

p. 33

Second Artillery Corps:

China’s ballistic missile force is acquiring conventional medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, extending the distance from which it can threaten other countries with conventional precision or near-precision strikes. …

p. 36

PLA Underground Facilities

Since the early 1950s, the PLA has employed underground facilities (UGFs) to protect and conceal its vital assets. China’s strategic missile force, the Second Artillery Corps (SAC), has developed and utilized UGFs since deploying its oldest liquid-fueled missile systems and continues to utilize them to protect and conceal their newest and most modern solid-fueled mobile missiles. As early as the mid 1990’s Chinese media vaguely acknowledged the existence of UGFs that support the SAC. Since December 2009, several PRC and foreign media reports offered additional insight into this obscure tunnel network, which reportedly stretches for over 5,000 km.

Given China’s nuclear policy of “no first use” and until recently its limited ballistic missile early warning capability, Beijing had assumed it might have to absorb an initial nuclear blow prior to engaging in “nuclear counterattack.” Nuclear survivability was particularly critical given China’s relatively small number of nuclear weapons and the development by potential adversaries of modern, precision munitions. In recent years, advanced construction design has allowed militaries to go deeper underground to complicate adversarial targeting.

Although secrecy and ambiguity remain China’s predominant approach in the nuclear realm, occasional disclosure of information on some missile-related UGFs is consistent with an effort to send strategic signals on the credibility of its limited nuclear arsenal. These public disclosures include images of tunnels, modern network-based security and control centers, and advanced camouflage measures. Categories of military facilities which make good candidates for UGFs include: command posts; communications sites; storage for important weapons and equipment; and protection for personnel. …

pp. 39-40

South China Sea. Before the CCP took power in 1949, the Chinese government regarded the South China Sea as a region of geostrategic interest and a part of China’s “historical waters.” As early as the 1930’s, the Republic of China was considering a broad line delineating the South China Sea as Chinese territory. The “U-shaped” dashed line that began appearing on Chinese maps in 1947 continues to define PRC claims to the South China Sea. Until recently, however, the PLA Navy’s limited operational reach constrained Beijing’s military options in the South China Sea.

Over the past five years, China has begun demonstrating a more routine naval and civilian enforcement presence in the South China Sea. In several instances, particularly in 2009, China’s use of force and coercion to push it disputed maritime territorial claims elicited concern among many of its Asian neighbors.

Although the PRC remains wary of triggering regional opposition and may have adjusted certain tactics, Beijing appears eager to strengthen its claim to the disputed region over the long-term. This includes legal efforts as well as the deployment of more capable naval and civilian law enforcement ships. A more robust presence would position China for force projection, blockade, and surveillance operations to influence the critical sea lanes in the region, through which some 50 percent of global merchant traffic passes.

Competition for resources, including oil, gas, and fishing rights, coupled with strong nationalistic sentiments continues to drive territorial disputes among several South China Sea claimants. Although tensions in this hotly disputed region subsided after the-1990s, signs of friction re-emerged in 2007, particularly between China and Vietnam.

In response to the 2004 articulation of the PLA’s “New Historic Missions,” China’s senior military leaders began developing concepts for an expanded regional maritime strategy and presence. For example, in 2006, PLA Navy Commander Wu Shengli called for a “powerful navy to protect fishing, resource development and strategic passageways for energy.” Many of these ideas echo the debates in the late 1980s and early 1990s over building PLA naval capabilities. However, the rise of Taiwan contingency planning as the dominant driver of PLA force modernization in the mid-1990s, and especially after 2001, largely sidelined these discussions. The 2008 and 2010 Defense White Papers reflect greater attention to the PLA’s expanding mission set.

As part of its military modernization effort, China has increasingly shifted resources away from the PLAN’s North Sea Fleet to the South Sea Fleet, greatly expanding the latter’s capabilities. China’s ability to deploy a more robust strategic and conventional military presence off its southern coast is having a growing impact on regional rivalries and power dynamics. …

pp. 57-63



Historically a continental power, China increasingly looks to the maritime domain as a source of economic prosperity and national security. China’s evolving “maritime consciousness,” as reflected in senior-level rhetoric and resource allocation, has potentially far reaching consequences in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Many PRC officials and citizens view maritime power as a prerequisite to becoming a “great power.” This chapter addresses China’s attention to the maritime domain, with a particular focus on the security dimension. It identifies the catalysts influencing PRC thinking on maritime interests and the steps China has taken to address these challenges, including naval development, legislation, improving civilian maritime enforcement, and diplomatic initiatives. Finally, it addresses China’s specific maritime interests and addresses how China’s posture could evolve in the future.

In its 2010 “China Ocean’s Development Report,” China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) proclaimed, “building maritime power is China’s historic task for the 21st century, and the decade from 2010-2020 is the key historic stage for realizing this task.” Although China appears to lack an official maritime strategy, PRC officials, military strategists, and academics are focused on the growing relevance of maritime power to China’s interests.


Since the early 1980s, two important factors catalyzed a transformation in Beijing’s maritime outlook. First, China’s geostrategic environment fundamentally shifted after the Cold War ended. As PRC concerns over a major continental conflict, including the possibility of nuclear war with Russia, subsided, Beijing turned its attention towards a range of other challenges, particularly Taiwan, which it feared was drifting steadily toward a state of de jure independence.

The U.S. response in the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis underscored to Beijing the potential challenge of U.S. military intervention and highlighted the importance of developing a modern navy, capable of conducting A2AD operations, or “counter-intervention operations” in the PLA’s lexicon.

Second, China’s expanding economic interests, including both maritime commerce and the exploitation of marine resources, have affected Beijing’s perception of maritime power as it relates to national interests. Speaking in 2007, President Hu asserted that, “to develop maritime issues is one of the strategic tasks to boost our national economic development.” China looks to the oceans as a critical resource, providing fish and potentially large oil and gas reserves.

The oceans also serve as a vital artery for trade and support China’s economic health, with approximately ninety percent of China’s imports and exports transiting by sea. A net oil exporter until 1993, China now imports over half of the oil it consumes, over 80 percent of which transits the Malacca Strait and South China Sea. Additionally, China’s economic engine is concentrated in dense population centers along the country’s East coast. Conflicts affecting these coastal regions would have far reaching consequences for China.


PLA General Liu Huaqing, who commanded a poorly equipped and trained PLA Navy through most of the 1980s, and later served on the CCP Politburo Standing Committee and as CMC Vice Chairman, advanced the cause of naval modernization amid a strategic culture overwhelmingly dominated by the PLA ground force. Until Liu instituted the PLA Navy’s “Offshore Defense” strategy in 1986, the PLA Navy was focused mainly on “resisting invasions and defending the homeland.”

Often referred to as the “father of the modern Chinese Navy,” Liu, who died in January 2011, called for naval operations beyond the PRC littoral and appealed for the eventual development of aircraft carriers. Years would pass before many of Liu’s proposals gained political support; however, his ideas fundamentally affected the way PRC strategists conceptualize maritime power and approach maritime strategy.

Although not defined by specific boundaries, Offshore Defense is generally characterized by the maritime space within China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or sometimes by the “first island chain,” including the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. In recent years, the PLA Navy has begun emphasizing missions in the so-called “far seas,” an area loosely defined by the “second island chain,” which stretches from Northern Japan, through the Northern Mariana Islands, through Guam.

Consideration of more distant contingencies has been accompanied by limited peacetime operations outside of this region, including counter-piracy patrols, humanitarian and disaster relief and noncombatant evacuations. These peacetime operations have provided the PLA with valuable operational experience.


In the early 1990s, the PRC watched with concern as more modern militaries adopted high technology weapons and platforms that were changing the nature of modern warfare, including in the maritime domain. From the perspective of many PRC strategists and military officials, military developments in developed nations made the PLA’s coastal-oriented Navy appear antiquated, inadequate, and vulnerable. PRC leaders subsequently directed the PLA to prepare to fight and win “local wars under modern, high-tech conditions.” The term “high-tech” was later replaced with “informatized” to reflect the importance of network-centric warfare and information technology.

In his 1992 address to the 14th Party Congress, former President Jiang Zemin articulated the need to protect China’s evolving “maritime interests.” During the nearly two decades that followed, the PRC has pursued its maritime objectives through naval development, legislation, civilian enforcement, and diplomacy. Ambitious naval acquisition closed many of the capability gaps that defined China’s Navy prior to and through the 1990s. China today possesses a limited ability to respond to maritime threats beyond the range of land-based aviation. This includes limited power projection capability in the farther regions of the South China Sea and western Pacific. This progress has been slow, but has begun to accelerate as new systems come on line, and China’s naval forces gain additional experience in operations beyond the littoral.

Civilian and military officials have underscored the economic impetus for advancing China’s maritime interests, reflecting a perception that economic welfare and national security are increasingly linked. PLA Navy Commander Wu Shengli asserted in 2006 that China requires a “powerful navy to protect fishing, resource development and strategic passageways for energy.” This dimension is particularly important to the CCP, which has built its legitimacy on the promise of sustained development.

China’s maritime interests, including territorial and sovereignty disputes, resource interests, and critical SLOC dependencies remain heavily concentrated in Asia. Consequently, China’s naval orientation retains a decidedly regional focus. However, the PLA is assuming more “global” missions. This reflects the recognition that Chinese economic interests, including commercial shipping and investment projects, along with PRC citizens, are now located across the globe. It also reflects a desire to cast China as a “great power.” China’s leaders have offered unambiguous guidance that the PLA Navy will play a growing role in protecting China’s far-flung interests.

In 2004, not long after assuming Chairmanship of the CMC, Hu Jintao promulgated the “Historic Missions of the Armed Forces in the New Period of the New Century” (Xin Shiji Xin Jieduan Wojun Lishi Shiming), commonly referred to as the “New Historic Missions.” In addition to reiterating the Armed Forces’ role in sustaining CCP rule, and protecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the New Historic Missions highlight the PLA’s role in safeguarding China’s expanding “national interests” and in “ensuring world peace.”

In drawing a clear link between China’s economic interests and national security, the New Historic Missions established a justification for missions beyond China’s maritime periphery. Although the PLA remains focused on regional contingencies, the New Historic Missions imply that the pursuit of China’s interests would not be constrained by geographic boundaries and would evolve to meet a diverse array of challenges. China’s 2006 National Defense White Paper expanded upon the New Historic Missions, when it introduced the concept of “diversified military tasks” (duoyanghua junshi renwu多样化军事任务). This emphasized the need for the PLA to prepare not only for traditional military missions, but also military operations other than war (MOOTW). The PLA Navy has since focused greater attention on counter-piracy, HA/DR, and noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO).


The PLA Navy’s counter-piracy deployment to the Gulf of Aden, which it has sustained since 2009, remains the most visible manifestation of this policy shift under Hu Jintao. Not including naval diplomacy, the Gulf of Aden mission marked China’s first operational deployment of naval forces outside of regional waters. In September 2010, the PLA Navy’s hospital ship, “PEACE ARK” conducted its first overseas humanitarian mission by visiting five countries in Asia and Africa.

Most recently, the PLA Navy participated in its first noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO). In February 2011, the PLA Navy deployed a JIANGKAI-II class frigate, which had been operating in the Gulf of Aden, to support its evacuation of PRC citizens from Libya. Although largely symbolic, this deployment enabled the PLA Navy to demonstrate a commitment to the protection of PRC citizens living and working overseas.


These increasingly “diverse” missions have not supplanted regional priorities. The Taiwan challenge remains the “main strategic direction” (zhuyao zhanlue fangxiang主要战略方向) for China’s armed forces, particularly the Navy. Aside from Taiwan, China faces several high priority maritime challenges. First is strengthening and gradually expanding China’s maritime buffer zone as a means to prevent foreign attack or “interference.” A second priority remains advancing China’s maritime territorial claims, particularly the East and South China Seas. Third, China is focused on the protection of regional sea lines of communication (SLOCs).

Fourth, the PRC hopes to advance China’s image as a “great power,” and finally, China intends to deploy a survivable, sea-based nuclear deterrent in the foreseeable future.

Expanding the Maritime Periphery: China has long regarded the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea as areas of unique strategic importance. From the perspective of Beijing, these so called “near seas” constitute a security buffer and hold potentially significant oil and gas resources. The PRC has attempted to use legal pronouncements, civilian enforcement, and naval assets to advance PRC interests within this buffer zone.

In 1992, China’s National People’s Congress passed the Law of Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zones, which proclaimed the South China Sea as PRC “historic waters.” Beijing has crafted a series of laws that codify PRC claims to regional territory and proscribe special restrictions on foreign activities in China’s EEZ.

As the name implies, the Exclusive Economic Zone affords states exclusive access to the economic resources within a defined maritime space, not exceeding 200 nautical miles from the coastal baseline. China has attempted to apply security restrictions to the EEZ, which are inconsistent with customary international law as reflected in UNCLOS. Attempts to impede or harass sovereign U.S. vessels and aircraft operating legally in China’s EEZ (beyond China’s 12nm territorial seas) have repeatedly created friction in the U.S.-China relationship.

Regional Territorial Disputes: During the 1930s and 1940s, the Republic of China (ROC) began delineating essentially all of the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel Islands, within a nine-dashed line. Although preserving ambiguity on the nature of this claim, the PRC maintains that the territories within the dashed line and their adjacent waters belong to China. Different portions of China’s expansive claim are disputed in whole or in part by Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. China’s ability to employ coercion in these disputes has grown steadily in recent years. China’s naval modernization, in particular, is affecting security perceptions among rival South China Sea claimants.

China is leveraging both civilian enforcement and naval assets in pursuit of its territorial objectives. In recent years, PRC naval ships and civilian law enforcement agencies have shown signs of greater assertiveness in the region, occasionally triggering friction with rival claimants. In the East China Sea, China faces a contentious dispute with Japan over maritime boundaries. Where this line is drawn has implications for disputed territory and subsea energy resources. In 2010, tensions between Tokyo and Beijing rose after a PRC fishing boat rammed a Japanese Coast Guard vessel near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

The PRC has increasingly sought to enforce its broad maritime claims with civilian assets including the maritime police, the Border Control Department (BCD), Maritime Safety Administration (MSA), State Oceanographic Administration (SOA), Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC), and Coast Guard. Beijing wishes to present the issue of regional maritime territory as one of law enforcement rather than military rivalry. Beijing likely calculates that the employment of naval assets in these matters raises the risk of escalation, generates regional animosity, and unnecessarily burdens the PLA Navy with non-military tasks. Compared to developed countries, particularly Japan and the United States, China’s civilian maritime agencies are poorly equipped and operated. However, they are improving steadily and will play an increasingly critical function in China’s maritime enforcement efforts.

Debating China’s Role in “Distant Seas”

Around the time President Hu Jinto articulated the “New Historic Missions” in 2004, Chinese officials and scholars began openly discussing the extent to which China should expand its maritime power. The term “yuanhai fangwei” (远海防卫) which translates to “distant/far sea defense,” began appearing with increasing frequency in Chinese publications. Authors associated with the Naval Research Institute (NRI) called the “shift from offshore to open ocean naval operations” an “inevitable historic choice” for China noting that naval power must “match the expansion of China’s maritime interests.”

Navy deployment trends in recent years underscore China’s interests in a limited “far seas” capability. Some PRC commentators advocate a sustained shift from an “Offshore Defense” strategy to “Far Seas Defense.” Many others characterize Far Seas Defense as simply an extension or adjustment of the existing strategy, rather than a fundamental change. China’s 2010 Defense White Paper reiterated the PLA Navy’s commitment to its Offshore Defense strategy while acknowledging efforts to improve operational capabilities in far seas.

Recently, several Navy officials and commentators have broached the once-taboo topic of overseas military basing. In late 2009, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo (retired), attracted extensive international media attention when he suggested in an interview, that China requires a “stable and permanent supply and repair base” to support its overseas counter-piracy activities. With an aircraft carrier program being realized over the next decade, the Navy may face even greater incentive to improve its support options.

It is not clear if China will pursue traditional military “bases,” suited for supporting distant combat operations, or a more limited set of logistical supply “places,” that are better suited to peacetime deployments, such as counter-piracy and HA/DR.


Since China’s emergence as a global economic actor, it has relied nearly exclusively on the United States as the guarantor of a safe and unrestricted maritime domain. Approximately 90 percent of China’s trade volume is conducted via maritime transport and approximately 50 percent of global merchant traffic passes through regional waters.

This dependency has prompted greater attention to SLOC protection missions. PRC officials have expressed particular concern over the Strait of Malacca. Even with its recent advances in naval power, would face great difficulty responding to threats to shipping in the far reaches of the South China Sea, including the Strait of Malacca.

The PLA Navy’s ongoing effort in the Gulf of Aden underscores China’s strong interest in protecting maritime commerce, from both traditional and non-traditional threats. The United States welcomes China’s contribution to maintaining the safety and security of the global maritime domain. This deployment underscores an area where mutual interest can foster cooperation.


China’s ambitious naval modernization remains a great source of pride for the PRC public and leadership. China has deployed its most modern ships to engage in naval diplomacy and counter-piracy in a coalition environment. Many in China see naval power as a prerequisite for great power status.

PRC officials and commentators occasionally lament the fact that China is the only permanent member of the U.S. Security Council without an aircraft carrier. The PLA Navy’s anticipated deployment of aircraft carriers over the coming decade will likely serve as a great source of national pride, regardless of actual combat capability.

China’s leaders have tapped into this nationalistic sentiment, contrasting China’s current naval power with the late Qing Dynasty, which was easily overwhelmed by more modern Japanese and Western naval forces. On December 27, 2006, President Hu Jintao expressed confidence in China’s naval development, asserting to a group of PLA Navy officers that China was now “a great maritime power” (haiyang daguo), adding that the PRC must continue strengthening and modernizing its Navy.


China continues efforts to deploy a sea-based nuclear deterrent. Although the PLA Navy has received the JIN-class SSBN, it has faced repeated challenges with the JL-2 weapons system. The system did not reach an initial operational capability (IOC) by 2010 as DoD had anticipated. Once China overcomes remaining technical hurdles, the PLA Navy will be charged with protection of a nuclear asset.


Although areas of PLA progress frequently attract attention, lesser understood capability gaps remain. For example, the Gulf of Aden deployment has underscored the complexity of distant operations to China’s military and civilian leadership. According to Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, the Gulf of Aden mission has “shown the Navy’s equipment is not particularly suited to blue water operations… [and] our equipment, our technology, especially our level of information infrastructure and communication means, as well as our blue water deployment capabilities… still have a relatively long way to go to catch up with that of the Western countries.”

China’s regional capabilities have improved significantly over the past two decades. However, in the near term, China would face great difficulty projecting military power beyond regional waters during a sustained conflict. China lacks overseas bases and supply infrastructure, and despite some recent progress, remains reliant on shore-based defenses. Over time, China’s growing involvement in international peacekeeping efforts, military diplomacy, counter-piracy operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, evacuation of Chinese citizens from overseas trouble spots, and exercise activity, will improve the PLA’s capability to operate at greater distances from the mainland. This operational experience could eventually facilitate a “global” military presence, should China’s leadership pursue that course.


The evolution of China’s economic and geostrategic interests has fundamentally altered Beijing’s view of maritime power. Today, the PLA Navy and China’s civilian maritime agencies are addressing gaps in regional capabilities while engaging in a small number of peacetime operations beyond the region, where their capabilities remain more limited. The expansion of missions reflects the availability of resources and the PRC’s increasingly diverse interests.

Beyond immediate regional interests, China’s expanding capabilities might facilitate greater attention to maritime challenges further into the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In contrast to a decade ago, many of China’s new naval platforms can utilize space-based communications, advanced sensors, and area air-defense, enabling combat capability at great distances from land. Current peacetime deployments are providing PLA Navy operators with valuable experience outside of the region.

The establishment of overseas bases and the development of more than a few aircraft carriers might signal a trend towards more “global” missions. Greater openness from China regarding the nature and scope of its maritime ambitions could help mitigate suspicions and ensure that China’s maritime development becomes a source of global stability rather than a source of friction. …