China: July 13, 2000



The Pentagon has completed a new report, ordered by Congress, evaluating the Chinese military. The soldiers and sailors who wrote the report, however, are furious that the State Department and the civilian Pentagon leadership rewrote key sections to indicate a lower risk to Taiwan. The final version of the report says that China will have no capability to invade Taiwan through 2005 and will have serious gaps in an integrated invasion plan even through 2010. The military says that the threat is more imminent and that the civilians reduced it to avoid having to sell more weapons to Taiwan or to deploy more US forces in the Pacific. The civilians, however, insist that the original military report was alarmist and based on a worst-case scenario. The study ignores the Chinese belief that they would win any war with or over Taiwan, and assumes that the Chinese will review the strategic situation and come to the same conclusions as US analysts would. This is regarded as a dangerously nave point of view by most military analysts.
Some elements of the report indicate that: 

@ Highest priority seems to be land-attack cruise missiles. Two air-launched versions are under development and expected to become operational in five years. The Chinese are trying to install GPS systems to improve the accuracy of such missiles.

@ China is seeking new technologies in space. They want to buy the German and Canadian space-based radars to provide all-weather surveillance capabilities. They want to build many small 100kg satellites for various missions including communications and photo-recon. The Chinese manned space program is geared primarily toward manned space recon.

@ China is pushing hard to deploy a counter-space capability. They already have lasers that can temporarily blind spy satellites, and want to eventually build lasers that can destroy satellites outright. China is trying to build laser radars for satellite tracking.

@ China is pushing for information warfare capabilities as a way to offset US military strength. The Chinese are working harder in this area than virtually anyone else.

@ China is designing unmanned planes that carry radar jamming and communications jamming gear.

@ China is pursuing systems to jam satellite up-links and down-links. 

@ China plans to use Russian SSN-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles as its primary naval offensive weapon.

@ China is building an integrated air defense system that can protect the country against ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. The current backbone of the system is the Russian SA-10B, supported by the longer-ranged SA-10C and the mobile SA-15. The Chinese are trying to deploy
their HQ9 missile (a copy of Patriot) on ships. China is also building an anti-radiation version of the HQ9 with a range of 100km to engage AWACS planes. A second anti-AWACS missile, the CSA-1, is also under development; it has a range of 80km.

@ The Pentagon report notes that the balance of airpower with Taiwan will start shifting towards China in 2005. By then, China will have its Israeli-made AWACS planes, new tankers, and 150 new Russian fighters armed with AA12 missiles.

@ China has fielded a new ocean surveillance radar plane, the Y-8. In contrast, a new study by Rand comes to some other conclusions. 

@ China's nuclear modernization is slow, but steady and determined. 

@ China has only a modest range of types of nuclear weapons, but seems satisfied with the systems it is trying to field.

@ China's emphasis is on replacing fixed-launcher liquid-fueled missiles with road-mobile solid-fuel missiles. Warheads are being made smaller and more portable, but rely on better accuracy to achieve the same effect. 

@ Tracking US carrier battlegroups is a high priority for new systems development. So far, however, the only thing China has to drive those carriers away from a conflict theater would be massed attacks by relatively ineffective cruise missiles. Efforts are being made to make such cruise missile attacks more effective.

@ Beijing depends on reverse-engineering foreign designs for most of its technology advances, meaning it will be slower to field new weapons than other countries and will be saddled with second-rate systems for two decades or more.

@ China is held back by poor quality control and clumsy technology integration. 

A new report by the Nixon Center says that the gap between US and Chinese technology is actually growing rather than shrinking, but that the Chinese are trying to catch up and to pursue asymmetrical technologies that might unhinge the US military machine.--Stephen V Cole


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