China appears to be taking a page from U.S. doctrine and working to improve its information warfare capabilities, according to a comprehensive DoD report on Chinese military power released July 19.
In 2004, China introduced a new term in the country's military doctrine: "local wars under conditions of informationalization."
In DoD's 2005 report to Congress on China's military power, defense officials explain this term refers to the People's Liberation Army's "emphasis on information technology as a force multiplier."
A senior defense official, speaking on background, said the Chinese watch advances in U.S. doctrine carefully. "Every time we're involved in a campaign, there's a spate of articles (in China) analyzing it," the official said. "Sometimes they put themselves in the shoes of our opponent; sometimes they try to see, 'What can we emulate that the Americans have done?'"
The official said the Chinese military has a long way to go in C4ISR -- command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance -- but they're clearly doing research and development into such capabilities.
China is also using advances in C4ISR to project military power farther from its own borders. Over the long term, the report states, China's advances in these areas "could enable Beijing to identify, target, and track foreign military activities deep into the western Pacific and provide, potentially, hemispheric coverage."
China introduced the term "local wars under conditions of informationalization" in its December 2004 Defense White Paper to describe the type of war the PLA must be prepared to fight and win.
U.S. defense officials are still working to understand the implications of the new concept. But the July 19 DoD report on China power states the term appears to sum up "China's experiences and assessments of the implications of the revolution in military affairs -- primarily the impact of information technology and knowledge-based warfare on the battlefield."
Through studying U.S. and other allied operations in the past decade, the PLA is beginning to understand the importance of joint development in C4ISR capabilities. The report states that such ambitions can be traced to lessons learned from U.S. and allied operations since the Persian Gulf War. Still, China is working to overcome an overall lack of joint operations and operational experience in general.
China's 2004 White Paper shows that Chinese officials understand they're on the short end of an expanding technology gap, according to the U.S. defense report. China's leaders, including President Hu Jintao, have ordered the PLA to pursue "leap ahead" technologies and "informationalized" capabilities to increase weapons' mobility, firepower and precision, the U.S. report states.
The report quotes from a May 2003 article by PLA Deputy Chief of the General Staff Xiong Guangkai, stating that the PLA should push forward "military reform with Chinese characteristics."
"We should study and draw on the experiences and lessons of various countries in making military changes, including all the local wars fought under high-tech conditions," Xiong reportedly wrote, "but we should not mechanically copy other countries' patterns of military changes."