The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China is making significant strides toward developing a global military power large enough to protect its rapidly increasing global economic interests, an author of a new book on China explained Wednesday.
This change in scope for China’s military is a big change from a military that has in the past focused more on its regional security concerns Larry Wortzel explained during a discussion of his new book The Dragon Extends Its Reach at the Heritage Foundation.
Wortzel also said that China, despite its more immediate conflicts, sees the United States as its greatest threat and is carrying out its military transformation with a potential clash with the United States in mind.
"Chinese military planners really seem convinced that their most likely enemy and their greatest potential threat is the United States," Wortzel said his analysis of PLA journals showed. "Things aren’t great with Russia, and things are a lot worse with Japan, but they focus on us and our technology."
The transformation began less than a decade ago when in 2004 leader Hu Jintao announced that the PLA’s mission must be to go global in order to safeguard the country’s expanding national interests.
"A lot of what the Chinese military is doing is pretty transparent, and we can infer certain things from their doctrine," said Wortzel.
Chinese military leaders have set out to create a military "architecture" outlined by the acronym C4ISR, which stands for command, control, communications, computer systems, information exchange, surveillance systems, and reconnaissance.
This "architecture" was modeled after the United States and was seen as a necessity for a global military.
"Without that communications architecture, you can’t have a global military. So what they did was watch how we handled the war in the Balkans, they watched how we handled the war in Iraq. They read literally everything we published on it and used that as a model."
The end goal is to have the maritime, space, cyber, and strategic missile operations get to a level that coincides with the role China needs its military to have to protect its interests.
Wortzel admits that the PLA still certainly has limitations in these fields such as lacking the capability to produce a decent aircraft engine, but that this only increases their focus on foreign intelligence gathering and reverse-engineering.
But he also warns that it won’t be long before China reaches its goals, and that it will quickly demonstrate its capabilities once it has them.
It has already demonstrated what it can do in terms of space warfare.
According to Wortzel, "space deterrence fascinates the Chinese" and they believe that "for a deterrent to be effective, you have to demonstrate it."
"Over the past five or six years, they’ve dazzled and blinded a U.S. imaging satellite, they’ve knocked their own satellite out of space with a kinetic shock from China, they’ve launched constellations of micro-satellites that could jam other satellites in space."
Wortzel said this shows that China is willing to act in ways that would escalate situations, and also that China will not play by the same rules that the United States is used to.
"We had a shared agreement with the Russians that you don’t mess with space surveillance warning systems, because that’s an indication that hostilities are imminent. The Chinese are not part of that conversation."
Published under: China