China’s defence white paper: peace, paranoia, and a paucity of details

j-20.jpgIt was with some relish that I started reading a translationof China‘sdefence white paper this morning. Entitled ‘China‘s National Defense in 2010′,the document was published in English on the China Daily web site on 1 April2011. As the long, chunky paragraphs rolled slowly along, my hopes of fascinating details soon diminished.

Unusually for a document about military affairs the papermentions not a single weapons system and is seriously short on the details theworld would like to see. More impressively perhaps, it manages to avoid using any ofthe acronyms that seem to be the mark of most military writing.

The first sectionacknowledges the world is more peaceful and stable these days, recognizes theinevitability of globalization and an increasingly informationalized society,and states that the outlook for mankind is generally bright. 

Soon enough things take a darker turn: “In a number of countries,outbreaks of unrest are frequently triggered by political, economic, ethnic, orreligious disputes. In general, world peace remains elusive.” The issues thathave plagued man since time immemorial are apparently very much with us.

Then,later, a hint of paranoia (and a dig at the USA): “International militarycompetition remains fierce. Major powers are stepping up the realignment oftheir security and military strategies, accelerating military reform, andvigorously developing new and more sophisticated military technologies. Somepowers have worked out strategies for outer space, cyber space and the polarregions, developed means for prompt global strikes, accelerated development ofmissile defense systems, enhanced cyber operations capabilities to occupy new strategiccommanding heights.”

2010-11-16_09-12-35_547.jpgSomuch for world peace.  Later on,predictably, the paper emphasises China‘sseriousness about Taiwan,and again registers China‘sdispleasure about American weapons sales to Taiwan.

Asfor the PLAAF there is precious little.  A long, 267-word paragraph on the PLAAFessentially says it is being transformed into a more modern, capable force thatcan perform a range of missions and can operate increasingly sophisticatedequipment. 

Asfor the Chinese military’s new weapons and technologies, the report reservesjust one frugal line for the PLAAF: “The PLAAF has formed for its air controloperations a weaponry system with new types of combat aircraft andground-to-air missile systems as the spine.

The white paper concludes with this:

China attaches great importanceto military transparency, and makes efforts to promote mutual trust with othercountries in the military sphere. Since 2007, China has begun to report to the UNStandardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures.”

Itwas comforting, at the end, to read that transparency is a priority. With luckthe next white paper will offer more details about China‘svarious aircraft projects, its aircraft carrier programme, its DF-21D anti-shipballistic missile, cyber warfare capabilities, and how these systems tie intoits sweeping territorial claims in the South and East China Seas.

Less information is definitely not more when it comes to the development of China‘smilitary.

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