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TAIPEI – The innocuously titled paper, “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” provides little new information about China’s military. This has not stopped media pundits and analysts from squawking about the underlying meanings of China’s 2013 defense white paper.
Such dissection of Chinese defense papers is common enough and should be put into perspective. First, China alludes to “some country” that has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, “expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation there tenser.” The U.S. is not mentioned, but the description fits.
Second, a complaint is raised over Japanese-control of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.
“On the issues concerning China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighboring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu Islands.”
The white paper looks tame compared with previous U.S. Pentagon reports on China’s military. In the 2004 annual Pentagon report, “The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China,” there was a blatant suggestion that Taiwan should consider aircraft and missile strike missions against China. “China’s urban population or high-value targets, such as the Three Gorges Dam, will deter Chinese military coercion.”
This would be equivalent to China’s military suggesting to North Korea that it use its long-range conventional ballistic missile capabilities to hit the Hoover Dam.
The U.S. has yet to clearly define what it means by deep-strike missions regarding its new AirSea Battle concept as it applies to China. What if the Chinese white paper had suggested the development of its own AirSea Battle doctrine that includes retaliatory strike missions against U.S. bases in Australia, Guam, Hawaii, Japan and South Korea? Or perhaps using DF-31 long-range conventional ballistic missile strikes against U.S. military targets in California, such as Coronado Naval Base and Travis Air Force Base?
Of course, America would retaliate after the retaliation.
China’s white paper does make clear it “will not attack unless we are attacked; but we will surely counterattack if attacked.” Nothing could be stronger than that line of dialectal redundancy.
The white paper does provide some clues about how the Chinese military is organized, though it is “pretty much all inside baseball, stuff of interest only to people like me,” said Roger Cliff, a researcher at the Project 2049 Institute.
Topics of insider interest include a statement in both Chinese and English that radar and electronic countermeasures (ECM) are arms or branches of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
In the past, the four branches of the PLAAF were said to be aviation, anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and airborne paratroops, Cliff said.
“Now they seem to have combined AAA and SAMs into a single branch, and made radar and ECM distinct combat branches” as opposed to just being part of the PLAAFs support structure.