How China perceives itself has fundamentally changed in recent times. Erstwhile Chinese President Hu Jintao laid emphasis on China’s “peaceful rise”; his successor Xi Jinping now has a bellicose tone.
In November 2020, he told the Central Military Commission (CMC) — China’s apex military authority — to improve training of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel to enable them to win wars. In October 2020, the Chinese Communist Party’s Plenum — a key forum that discusses policy — resolved to expedite the modernisation of national defence capability. With China’s rise as the second-largest economy, it is able to devote more resources to its military might, which has led to tensions with India, Japan and Taiwan.
In early February, the China Aerospace Studies Institute, under the aegis of Air University in Alabama, published a report titled ‘Science of Military Strategy (2013)’ which gives a peek into the minds of its planners. The report has been translated from Mandarin-language strategy documents produced by China’s Academy of Military Science. The strategy documents are revised by the academy every 13 years.
This report assumes significance given that Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power around the same time. Xi has resolved to build a strong country bolstered by a powerful military. While Chinese and Indian troops were involved in a protracted standoff since May 2020, the disengagement along the Line of Actual Control has led some to question over whether it is a fair deal that will bring stability along the borders or is merely a “strategic pause” for China.
Military strategy and deterrence
According to the report, since the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, the PLA has tried to metamorphose from a revolutionary army to a fighting force. During the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalists, the Red Army adopted the strategy of ‘active defence’ that concentrated on “luring the enemy into the deep.