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China’s military Muscle: Looming threat?

China’s military Muscle: Looming threat?
China’s Military Power: A Net Assessment, by Major General <g data-gr-id="98">entre</g> for G D Bakshi, SM, VSM (Knowledge World and Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)), compiles a mind-boggling mix of China’s hegemonic military aims, policies, weaponry etc, which, the author claims, has already raised hackles amongst many apologists for China in India’s political, academic and some media circles.

This book is about the one threat, which  is nibbling the minds of security planners of the world and is the looming threat from a rising and increasingly assertive China. The net assessment has been done by a combat soldier of great experience and a <g data-gr-id="84">hands on</g> and <g data-gr-id="85">no nonsense</g> approach that puts aside all the peace slogans and tells us to get ready to face a very aggressive and increasingly hostile China in the upcoming years.

China’s grant of $46 billion to Pakistan, for its energy and infrastructure, gives away its hostile intent and strong commitment to build up Pakistan as a major check on India and keep it confined to South Asia. 

What is direct is that China has proposed a sale of 8 Yuan class Air Independent Propulsion Submarines and 100 JF-17 Jet fighters to Pakistan. The Yuan Submarines are to provide a nuclear second strike capability to Pakistan. China is also building three more Plutonium plants in Pakistan to further enhance its nuclear arsenal (which, has already crossed India’s). 
Could China be more hostile than this? Where China is concerned, Bakshi advises that we should not go by its convoluted white paper language of its peaceful intentions etc., but by what it does on the land, air, sea and even more menacing, underwater.

Following the massive earthquake in China’s Sichuan region in 2008, reportedly thousands of radiation technicians were sent there. When TV pictures showed oddly collapsed hills across the province, officials, eventually admitted that there was a network of tunnels underneath, dubbing it as their ‘Underground Great Wall’. 

A three year long  study conducted by a Georgetown University student, translating the secret military documents and blogs, revealed that China could have as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads, a whole lot more than current estimates of between 80 and 400. The yet unpublished 363-page study has been discussed in Congress and circulated among defence officials. Researchers at Georgetown University, led by a former senior Pentagon official, concentrated on a 3,000-mile network of tunnels dug largely in Sichuan province by the Chinese Second Artillery, a secretive unit responsible for protecting the country’s nuclear weapons. 

While reported assessment of nuclear weapon stockpiles of the US and Russia is 5,000 and 8,000 respectively, China’s holdings are known only to the concerned Chinese military/civil personnel and political leaders.
Emerging as a global superpower and a regional hegemon, China’s economy grew at a scorching, double-digit pace for two decades but now is slowing down.

So what does the current phase of Chinese aggression against all its neighbours signify? Shall China engage in conflict? If so, then, when and where could that conflict occur? Where shall be the main weight of any future Chinese attack in Arunachal Pradesh or Tawang? China keeps talking of Tawang but a careful analysis of China’s <g data-gr-id="100">orbat</g> (order of battle) opposite India , by the author, indicates that the Lanzhou Military Region (MR) opposite Ladakh is far more stronger than the Chengdu MR opposite Arunachal Pradesh. Besides, in Ladakh, both China and Pakistan can attack India jointly. This is the most pertinent revelation of Bakshi’s book. 

Examining the growth of Chinese military power in an Indo-centric context with emphasis on how it primarily affects India, the book analyses how India must respond. It has an exhaustively researched section on how the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) has performed in actual combat since 1949. Actual combat performance is a critical component for accurately forecasting about the PLA’s future. Any serious endeavour to understand where the PLA is <g data-gr-id="83">going,</g> must also appreciate where the PLA has been. 

This book provides a deep insight into the Indo-China War in 1962.There is 
a detailed analysis of the evolution of China’s Military Doctrines and Strategic Culture. With this as a backdrop, there are elaborated chapters each on the structure and modernization of the PLA, the PLAN (PLA Navy) and the PLAAF (PLA Air Force).

 The most dangerous for India, is the exponential growth in PLAAF’s airpower. China has already changed Asia’s balance of power. The Gulf War in 1990 had  made China realize how backward it was in terms of military technology and weaponry. What followed was a radical transformation in Chinese military thought and practice. From the Maoist era, we have seen an emphasis on the huge levels of motivated military manpower, and an exaggerated emphasis on man over machine, and presently we can see a transformation towards introduction and absorption of latest technology. 

This has been accompanied by what appears to be a great reduction in manpower from over four million to about 1.6 million and the cuts continue to support modernisation. Such an actual reduction is too good to be true. The reduced manpower of PLA has most likely been converted into the border police. The dynamic unleashed by the Chinese has prompted the biggest military build-up in Asia since World War-II.

 The chapter on the Second Artillery Corps (SAC) examines China’s nuclear force structure and employment doctrines. There is a full chapter devoted to China’s military industrial complex and China’s experience of indigenous military production Though India has lessons to learn but currently, the Chinese weakness lies in the design and production of engines for jet fighters, tanks and naval ships.

 The crux of this book is in the concluding chapters on Alternative Economic and Military Futures for China that whether China will engage in a conflict, seems not so much of a question of “if” but “when”. It shall largely be dictated by the performance of the Chinese economy. A sudden disruption may result in an earlier choice of conflict. However, if the Chinese economy continues to boom, it shall fuel the military modernisation. China might then initiate the conflict when it feels that its Comprehensive National Power (CNP) has become sufficiently strong in relative terms. This could well happen by the mid of the next decade, i.e. 2025, as the 
Chinese Major Gen has written. 

This book is a must read for military professionals and laymen alike. The chorus of protests and laments, this book has raised amongst the apologists of China, is a clear indication of its very practical and operational analysis of China’s growing Military capabilities. The growing  air power of China should be the most worrying factor – especially when seen in the light of the steep decline in India’s squadron strength. Whereas India’s fighter or ground attack aircraft tally of 815 in 1996 declined to 763 by 2006, China has 2421 of these, apart from 222 bombers which,  India did away with decades ago.

This book is yet another wake up call and is the most important in India’s defence.
Anil Bhat

Anil Bhat

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