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  All materials © 1999 
  Beijing Scene


Beijing Scene, Volume 6, Issue 5, November 12 - 18

Saber Rattling

The recent bellicosity in the Chinese press beginning with the war in Kosovo and continuing in ongoing tension with Taiwan has resulted in a spate of instant magazines and books on the topic of war.


Professor Zhang Zhaozhong of the Chinese National Defense University has published three books this year: Who Will Win the Next War, How Far is War >From Us, and Who is the Next Target? These books draw lessons from the Gulf and Kosovo wars about what future wars will be like. The books mainly focus on technology, but also contain some interesting ideas on strategy (for example praising the Serbian tactic of putting many fake tank shelters along their highways interspersed with real tank shelters--which Zhang claims in Who Will Win the Next War is the reason Serbian tank and other military losses were actually considerably less than NATO claims). It was Russia's change of position on Kosovo that finally made the Serbs surrender, concludes Zhang. Professor Zhang is something of a media star with all the news reports and instant magazines on local newsstands about military affairs, confrontation with Taiwan etc. Despite all the bellicose rhetoric in the media, Zhang does not see any fighting in the foreseeable future. "This is an early friction stage, and tension would have to increase significantly for actual armed conflict to break out," Zhang says in a recent interview in the official press.

Overview of Three Recent Books by Professor Zhang Zhaozhong of the National Defense University
Who Will Win the Next War? [Shei Hui Ying Xia Yi Zhanzheng?] published by China Youth Press, March 1999
How Far is War From Us? [Zhanzheng Li Women You Duoyuan?] published by PLA Publishing House, July 1999
Who is the Next Target? [Xia Yige Mubiao Shi Shei?] published by China
Youth Press, September 1999

Overview of Who Will Win the Next War?
This book is by prominent PRC defense analyst Zhang Zhaozhong. Zhang served for 30 years in the PRC Navy and is now a professor and director of the Science and Technology Research Office of the National Defense University.

The book examines the latest weapons technologies as they were used in December 1998 against Iraq and in the Gulf War. The greatest threat now comes from the air, Zhang maintains. He discusses "fire and forget" missiles, laser weapons, stealth weaponry, and the recent revival from the ashes of the old Star Wars missile defense technology. Zhang discusses the lessons of the six-nation naval semi-annual exercises held around Hawaii in July-August 1998.

"Peace and stability look to be the main trends in the early 21st century, so a major war is unlikely and many of the big countries continue to reduce their armaments and military budgets, but some military confrontations are quite possible. How will China face the Pacific Century?

"The Pacific Ocean isn't very pacific: the U.S. depends on island bases as unsinkable aircraft carriers. How should China prepare to win the next war? Continued economic reform is essential to building China's strength. The 1300-page April 1992 U.S. Department of Defense final report on the Gulf War gives excellent insights into U.S. military thinking and strategy. The increasing stress on high technology weaponry is clear. The U.S is building the information military of the 21st century, and using reorganization to boost effectiveness.

"China should move from concentrating on quantity to concentrating on quality of weaponry. Government decision-makers and technical advisory departments should be kept distinct in order to avoid conflicts of interest. Military authority should not be divided by service but rather all military elements in a certain region should be under a unified command. This will be especially important in the task of protecting China's 200 nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and 350 km continental shelf zone which became effective when the UN Law of the Sea officially took effect in 1994. Strengthening military procurement and merging military and civilian product standards so that the military can procure from the civilian market is an important trend of the 1990s."

Overview of How Far is War From Us?
Mostly technical and drawing largely from non-classified U.S. sources (including Internet sites) such as the U.S. Department of Defense "Defense Science and Technology Strategy for 2000-2005" published in 1996, this book also addresses broader themes such as the information revolution, the technological wave theories of Alvin Toffler (The Third Wave), and other information age theories. Long sections of the book are devoted to the fundamentals of C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, information, monitoring and reconnaissance), information warfare, the informatization of equipment such as tanks, ships and aircraft, and finally to issues of new strategy, new tactics and new ways of organizing military forces. The foreigner familiar with the English language literature will find this last section most interesting. Although this chapter, like others, relies heavily on foreign literature, the lessons that Zhang wants China to draw are clear. One specifically Chinese issue (p. 530) is the advantage of monetarizing military benefits so that soldiers can arrange for housing and their children's education on the market rather than being part of a military subculture separate from society.

Overview of Who is the Next Target?
Themes addressed in Who is the Next Target? include "Lessons of the Kosovo War." Serbia used decoys effectively so its tank losses were far less than NATO reported. Serbia built many fake as well as real tank shelters along its highways: Zhang argues that in the event of conflict China should consider similar tactics. Serbia surrendered not because of the NATO attack but because of the change of position by Russia on Kosovo.The greatest difference between the Gulf War and Kosovo were the causes of the war. The Gulf War was a response to the invasion of Kuwait. The Kosovo war was a totally unjustified NATO intervention in the purely internal affairs of Yugoslavia.

Another chapter addresses the question: "A review of 50 years of NATO: Is it creating a new Cold War?" The Warsaw Pact dissolved but NATO didn't. France and Germany have their own ideas and may differ with the U.S. on important issues in the future. The new "NATO Strategic Concept for the Twenty-First Century" (p. 47) has troubling aspects. NATO is changing from a military to a military-political organization and from focusing on protecting the territorial integrity of member states to preventing "new threats" to European security such as terrorism. As NATO expands eastward who will be its next target?

"As American political scientist Samuel Huntington remarks, the U.S. is becoming more and more isolated. It is accumulating more and more enemies. Are the Americans really as wealthy and powerful as Chinese people think? Then why would they insult China by attacking its embassy? That was just another case of acting after their embassies were blown up in Africa--they went and hit civilian targets in Sudan and Afghanistan just to show how strong and how dominant they are. This U.S. hegemonism is all about constraining other nations, but what force is there to put constraints on the United States? Will Russia be able to constrain the U.S. over the next 20 years? That is not the right question to ask. Ask instead will Russia be able to avoid a steep decline so that it becomes just another developing country--and a developing country that ranks behind China at that? "Will the sleeping giant Russia awake? The Russia-Belarus alliance left Yugoslavia out in the cold. The deterioration of the Russian forces raises the question: can the Russian military fight? The Russian deployment in Kosovo made headlines, but the Russians had to depend on the UK troops for food.

"What is the lesson of Russia? Russia makes us realize that mutually beneficial relations and coexistence with the United States, Japan, France and other big countries are important for all. It is not a matter of one side begging the other since it must be based on national interests and on the fundamental importance of developing our country. It is this that makes relations between countries move forward. That there are contradictions and disputes between China and the United States and other countries is normal. Too close a relationship or an alliance is abnormal since every country must always consider its own distinct national interests. International relations are different from personal friendships. Although there was a Kosovo War and hegemonism and power politics are all too widespread in the world, peace and development are still the mainstream of development for the 21st century... Yet there are still people in the West who want to destroy us or divide us so we must think about our national defense and not just about peace, development and making money.
"Disagreements on human rights between the U.S. and China arise from differences in history, culture, level of development, outlook and social system.

"What wins wars? In the end not the weapons but the people. Whoever can combine people and technology most effectively wins. Example: Only 20 percent of the U.S. guided missiles reached their targets. How did the Yugoslavs manage this? Scouts on mountaintops saw missile launches from ships, and relayed the information to the Yugoslav command. Then everyone shot at the missiles with rifles, machine guns, revolvers--everything. Many were shot down. Chairman Mao used strategy to win against armies with superior weaponry. The same principles apply today.

"The Chinese people must awake. The backward get kicked around--only if China develops and becomes a strong country will it be able to take its place in the world, said Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese people are becoming much more concerned about national defense issues. Just look at the people in line for visas at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing--all that student talent built by China is going off to the U.S. Part of the problem is the system, part is the way human talent is utilized, part is low pay--China needs to solve these problems. China spends too little on science and technology, a key basis of military strength.China is at least 20 years behind the United States in its overall scientific and technological development."


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