Thursday, February 03, 2005

Chinese Military Improvements in Organization and Structure

January 12, 2005: China is trying to fix its reserve forces. In particular, the ten million members of the "Primary Militia." The militia is composed of millions of citizens who would be armed if the country is invaded. The Primary Militia are the ones who are supposed to be trained and organized. But they aren't, and the government wants to fix this. But a shortage of money, and enthusiasm by the militia members, makes this difficult. Some members of the government question the wisdom of training too many ordinary citizens how to use an AK-47.

December 31, 2004: Japan has never been very popular with the Chinese, but last month's voyage of a Chinese nuclear sub into Japanese waters, Japan releasing a defense plan aimed at China, and a closer relationship between Japan and Taiwan, have created a frosty atmosphere. While Japan is still hated to its military activities 60 years ago, China is feared for what it's armed forces are capable of doing now. As a result, China is facing a potential coalition of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, three of the most advanced industrial countries on the planet. China's only ally is Russia, who is willing to offer neutrality, not a military alliance. Chinese and Russian military units holding joint training exercises, and China remains Russia's largest weapons customer.

December 27, 2004: China is halting it's long term program of reducing military manpower. Current strength of 2.3 million will be maintained. Partly, this is to help with the unemployment problem. About 44 percent of the troops are conscripted for two years, the rest are volunteers for longer periods. However, there are problems recruiting capable officers. So officer salaries are being increased up to 50 percent. The lowest ranking officers (2nd lieutenants) will see their monthly pay go from $240 to $360. However, a colonel only makes $720 a month. Special allowances and bonuses double the pay for most officers in the navy, air force and ballistic missile units. The booming economy offers better paying, and more comfortable, jobs to young men with education and leadership ability.

November 17, 2004: China admitted that the submerged submarine the Japanese navy has been tracking off the coast of Okinawa was, indeed, a Chinese boat. The Japanese had always insisted that the sub was Chinese. Apparently, American P-3 patrol aircraft, operating from Guam, were the first to pick up the location of the Chinese sub on November 9th, and then turned the tracking over to the Japanese navy. It was American technology that confirmed the identification of the sub. During the Cold War, the United States developed techniques for identifying individual submarines according to their shape, and by the noises they made. The American navy maintains electronic databases of submarines "signatures." The same technique apparently also worked for large whales.

China has apologized for the incident, which had their boat inside Japanese territorial waters for a short period of time. China said the cause was a navigational accident. China has been sending its subs to sea more often over the last few years, in order to raise the skill levels of the crews.

September 10, 2004: Below the media radar, China's armed forces are undergoing some fundamental transformations. Decades of bad habits are being cleared away. Units are being reorganized on a more practical basis. For example, over the decades, senior generals in different parts of the country had allowed their combat units to drift into many different special types of organization. There were also no standards for training, or not much training at all in many areas. No more. There is a program of forcing units throughout the country to undergo standard training drills, and then take a test. Units that pass are rewarded. Those that fail, get to keep training. Successful officers advance, those that fail often lose their jobs. The training is done on the cheap, as much as possible. Lots of class room stuff and field exercises that don't burn a lot of fuel and ammo. All of this is creating a much more lethal Chinese military force. But it is moving slowly, and will take up to a decade, and two or three times the current annual defense budget, before the Chinese become a world class military power.
August 12, 2004: China has appointed two senior officers, who are considered experts in dealing with American naval forces, to the military high command. Lieutenant-General Xu Qiliang and Vice-Admiral Wu Shengli were both appointed Deputy Chiefs of Staff last month, but it was only recently announced. Xu and Wu are very much in favor of taking Taiwan by force, despite the possible participation of American armed forces in the islands defense.
April 27, 2004: The Chinese army newspaper (the PLA Daily) printed an article describing a recent exercise portraying an attack on American targets by a Chinese force in which "the (Chinese) group army joined hands with the research institutes to develop a simulated communication confrontation training system by using computer network, multimedia and virtual technology."
March 6, 2004: China is determined to create armed forces that can beat Americans in combat. Chinese military and political leaders were heavily influenced by the American performance in the two Iraq wars, and in Afghanistan. For decades, many Chinese military and political leaders still believed that a massive guerilla war (as in World War II against the Japanese) would defeat any invader. But the Americans demonstrated an ability to quickly (and with few casualties) brush aside a less well trained and equipped army. Worse, from the Chinese point of view, was the American use of Special Forces and Civil Affairs troops to quickly get the support of the majority of the population. While the world's media dotes on the continued resistance of Taliban and Saddam loyalists, the Chinese note that the Americans were very quick in winning over the majority of a foreign population. Of course, the US is the only army on the planet with anything like Special Forces troops. But the American military is the only one on the planet that China really fears.

So China is trying to duplicate the American armed forces methods and equipment. Right now, there are less than 100,000 troops in this mini-modern army, air force and navy. It costs a lot of money to buy the equipment, select the troops and then let them train to the same standard as the Americans. China is also, like the Americans, studying new and novel ways to fight.

The Chinese are discovering that all that realistic and intense training is very expensive. But, increasingly, China is coming up with the cash. China's actual defense spending is running at about $55 billion a year. Precise numbers are not released, and many purchases for the military are not declared as "military." But much of this money still goes to support over two million men (and a few women) who serve in the armed forces. The official budget is $22 billion, and this has been going up at least ten percent a year for the last few years, and this rate of growth is to continue. Manpower is being reduced from 2.5 to 2.3 million. But for now, and the rest of the decade, the Chinese military has a thin crust of modern weapons and troops, beneath which are the bulk of the forces equipped with 30-40 year old technology and poorly trained and led.

Getting the troops to "think like Americans" isn't easy either. But it will all be worth it if China can produce even a small force that can "fight like Americans." For the most immediate enemy is not America, but Taiwan. Here are Chinese who often "think like Americans", and could possible fight like Americans (although the Taiwanese armed forces, to the frustration of American advisors, is more prone to think like Chinese.) If there is war with Taiwan, it might also mean facing American forces. In any event, the ability to win quickly will be very, very valuable. And the Americans have shown how that can be done.

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