April 18, 2005
Its difficult to tell exactly what military plans the Chinese leadership is cooking up. A major reason for this murkiness is the very lively, relatively censorshipfree military press in China. This is something they borrowed from the late Soviet Union (where similar free-thinking constantly befuddled American Soviet-watchers throughout the Cold War). In China, as long as you dont criticize the leadership or the party, military professional can pretty much say what they want about military matters. This means that hawkish books like "Unrestricted Warfare", which has been seen by some in the West as a statement of official Chinese military policy, may not necessarily be anything more than the thoughts of a few officers. Its worth recalling that this sort of thing works both ways. Its certainly not unusual for people in other countries, including China, much of the Islamic world, and Africa, to assume that the opinions expressed in American newspapers or books, or by a prominent politician, represent the official views of the U.S. government.
Moreover, a lot of the warlike writings of Chinese officers is mainly for internal consumption. The current communist leadership knows that they are in political trouble. Widespread corruption, and demands for more accountable government, plus a shrinking number of true-believers in communism, makes for a bleak future for the Communist Party. So the current communist dictatorship does what politicians in trouble have done for a long time; create an external enemy to distract their angry subjects. Letting Colonels write books about future wars with the United States does the trick. Such a war is the last thing the communist bureaucrats want, of course, as such a conflict would wreck the Chinese economy and surely sweep the communists from power.
In fact, most of the books and articles written by military officers are far less strident, and much more practical. The reforms in the United States military, and recent successes of American troops, are much admired, and discussed endlessly. Most Chinese professional soldiers are more concerned with their low pay and poor living conditions, than in going to war with the worlds premiere military power, and Chinas most lucrative export market.