1

China's Top 5 War Plans

January 11, 2019 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: MilitaryTechnologyWeaponsWarChina

China's Top 5 War Plans

Beijing confronts its worst military nightmares in its internal planning.

Implications

It is likely that the Chinese military has developed joint war plans for operations other than the five described above. However, the limited evidence available to us at the current time neither proves it, nor details what other imagined conflicts might entail.[xvi] Available sources support a belief that these five are the main drivers of China's military reforms and buildup, and they will continue to shape the way Chinese authorities, including Xi Jinping, invest their time and energies in the national security arena.

CCP propaganda seeks to convince audiences that China is a peaceful and defense-oriented country. This message does not accord with reality. Understanding China's military buildup means understanding that the PRC is preparing for a dangerous war of aggression against Taiwan, and, by way of extension, the United States and its allies. Not satisfied with its current borders, China seeks to expand outward at the expense of its neighbors. The more "joint-capable" the PLA becomes, the more likely it will be that this seemingly improbable event could actually come to pass.

While many leading thinkers have come to believe that the South China Sea is the 21st century's foremost flashpoint, PLA writings show that China's military buildup is aimed mainly at fighting in the Taiwan Strait and Western Pacific. In response, the U.S. government should lift self-imposed restrictions on political, defense, and security interactions with Taiwan and move to integrate the island's military into its regional defense architecture. At the same time, front-line American combat assets in the Indo-Pacific should be strengthened, with their capabilities tailored for countering China's war plans. It is crucial that the U.S. maintains a favorable balance of power and arrests unfavorable trends.

This article by Ian Easton was originally published on January 6, 2019 by the Project 2049 Institute.

Ian Easton is a research fellow at the Project 2049 Institute and author of “The Chinese Invasion Threat.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


[i] Of many examples, see Academy of Military Sciences' Strategic Research Department, Science of Military Strategy [战略学] (Beijing: Academy of Military Sciences, 2013), pp. 198-199; and Liu Haijiang and Li Zhiyuan (eds.), Research on Joint Tactical Thought [联合战术思想研究] (Beijing, Lantian Press, 2012), p. 156.

[ii] In addition to the sources cited above, see also Cao Zhengrong, Sun Jianjun, and Sun Longhai (eds.), Research on Joint Operations in Border Areas [边境地区联合作战研究] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2014).

 

[iii] See Cao Zhengrong, Sun Longhai, and Yang Yin (eds.), Informatized Army Operations [信息化陆军作战] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2014), pp. 109-314; Yuan Wenxian (ed.), Course Book on Joint Campaigns and Information Operations [联合战役信息作战教程] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2009), pp. 271-326; and Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun (eds.), Informatized Joint Operations [信息化联合作战] (Beijing: Liberation Army Press, 2008), pp. 145-323.

[iv] While the direct translation of 大型岛屿 is simply "a large island or islands," it is clear from PLA texts that they are referring specifically to Taiwan and not an abstraction or large islands in general. It might therefore be risky to assume that the PLA would use the exact same planning assumptions for notional operations against Luzon, Okinawa, or Guam.             

 

[v] This is also sometimes referred to as Joint Landing Operations against Taiwan (大型岛屿联合登岛作战).

[vi] Note that some PLA writings, such as Informatized Joint Operations, refer to this as "Joint Coastal Area Defense Operations" (Binhai Diqu Lianhe Fangwei Zuozhan). It is also sometimes called "Counter-Intervention Operations."

[vii] See Zhang Zhiwei, and Huang Chuanxian (eds), Research on Operational Theory of Army Aviation [陆军航空兵作战理论研究] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2014), pp. 164-202; and Hu Guoqiao (ed.), Research on Army Aviation Tactics [陆军航空兵战术研究] (Beijing: PLA General Staff Department Army Aviation Department, 2013), pp. 92-96. For more details on service centric campaigns, see Zhang Yuliang (ed.) Science of Campaigns [战役学] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2007), pp. 333-602.

[viii] See Cao Zhengrong, Sun Longhai, and Yang Yin, pp. 115, 258-259; Liu Haijiang and Li Zhiyuan, p. 156; and Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun, pp. 267-268.    

[ix] Ibid.

[x] See Wang Yongping (ed.), Space Information Support Operations [空间信息支援作战] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2014), p. 145. See also Yuan Wenxian, pp. 271-278; and Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun, pp. 164-185.

[xi] See Wang Yongping, p. 168. See also Yuan Wenxian, pp. 279-288; and Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun, pp. 145-163.

[xii] See Wang Yongping, p. 190. See also Xu Lisheng and Wang Tiaoyong (eds.), Research on Port Landing Operations [港口登陆作战研究] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2015), pp. 16-271; Cao Zhengrong, Sun Longhai, and Yang Yin, pp. 109-215; Huang Bingyue, Wu Shaofeng, and Shou Zhichao (eds.), Research on Command Systems for Amphibious Fleet Operations [两栖作战编队指挥体系研究] (Beijing: Academy of Military Sciences Press, 2013), pp. 3-134; Liu Haijiang and Li Zhiyuan, pp. 140-155; Yuan Wenxian, pp. 289-301; and Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun, pp. 186-235.

[xiii] See Wang Yongping, p. 235. See also Yuan Wenxian, pp.314-326; Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun, pp. 236-262; and Zhang Yuliang, pp. 312-330.

[xiv] See Wang Yongping, p. 215. See also Cao Zhengrong, Sun Longhai, and Yang Yin, pp. 216-314; Liu Haijiang and Li Zhiyuan, pp. 156-168; Yuan Wenxian, pp. 302-313; and Cao Zhengrong, Wu Runbo, and Sun Jianjun, pp. 263-323.

[xv] See Cao Zhengrong, Sun Longhai, and Yang Yin, pp. 258-259; and Liu Haijiang and Li Zhiyuan, p.163.

[xvi] For example, a military campaign against Vietnam or the Philippines in the South China Sea has traditionally been regarded as possible, but less stressful. Chinese writings on this scenario are sparse, perhaps in reflection of it's comparatively low-level of planning priority and the perceived weakness of imagined local enemies. Indeed, the few PLA writings available express the view that a military campaign against Vietnam or the Philippines would represent a relatively easy, low-to-medium scale conflict. They do not appear to envision this as a trigger for all-out great power conflict with the United States, although they do seem to anticipate and plan for some escalation. See Zhu Hui (ed.), Research on Strategic Air Force Problems [空军战略问题研究] (Beijing: Lantian Press, 2014), p. 264; and Zhang Yuliang (ed.), Science of Campaigns [战役学] (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 2007), pp. 503-506.