China — PLAAF: Coercive Air Force Of The 21st Century

A per­cep­tive arti­cle on the growth and evo­lu­tion of the PLAAF. In the ear­ly years, PLAAF was con­cep­tu­alised as ancil­lary and long range artillery of the army; PLAAF was quick to embrace RMA after the Gulf war and by the turn of the cen­tu­ry start­ed con­sol­i­dat­ing on var­i­ous aspects like infor­ma­tised and asym­met­ric war­fare tech­niques and enhance its strate­gic pow­er pro­jec­tion capa­bil­i­ty in an effort to build itself into a strate­gic air force by 2020. China’s use of air­pow­er in the 21st cen­tu­ry is also guid­ed by the phi­los­o­phy of coer­cion aimed at com­pelling to change the behav­iour of the tar­get State. The total num­ber of fight­er and bomber air­craft with PLAAF in 2000 con­sist­ed of 1900 J‑6; 720 J‑7; 222 J‑8; 55 Su 27/J‑11; 440 Q‑5 (mod­i­fied MiG 19); 305 H‑5/IL-28; 142 H‑6/­Tu-16 and just about a dozen JH‑71 . Its front line bomber fleet con­sists of no more than a hun­dred H‑6 air­craft with a weapon car­ry­ing pay­load capac­i­ty lim­it­ed to 20,000 pounds; the peri­od did see a change in PLAAF’s pro­file from an ear­li­er force which con­sist­ed of basic fight­ers with lim­it­ed radius of action, low end avion­ics and lim­it­ed fire pow­er capa­bil­i­ties to a force equipped with AWACS, air to air refu­elling and mul­ti-role tac­ti­cal air­craft with high end avion­ics, fire­pow­er and extend­ed radius of action to reach at least the first island chain, Sprat­ly and Para­cel.

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India

Defence and Security Alert (DSA

 -

It’s been a haughty jour­ney for the Chi­nese air force since its cre­ation from a small army unit based in Wuhan in the mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. In the ear­ly years, PLAAF was con­cep­tu­alised as ancil­lary and long range artillery of the army; which con­tin­ued to be the guid­ing phi­los­o­phy for more than three decades until the com­mand was hand­ed over to a hard-core air force pro­fes­sion­al — Wang Hai. Chi­na dur­ing the course of PLAAF’s evo­lu­tion has had a num­ber of vision­ar­ies who believed that air pow­er should be cen­tral to the mil­i­tary strat­e­gy and there­fore under­lined the impor­tance of it being effec­tive­ly employed in the cal­cu­lus of war-fight­ing doc­trine. In fact Mao as ear­ly as in 1949 had men­tioned that oth­er than hav­ing a pow­er­ful army; it was also imper­a­tive for Chi­na to build a pow­er­ful air force and a navy. Hence it was not only the mil­i­tary but also the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship which had a vision for the air force, though, in its periph­ery, but at the same time acknowl­edg­ing the impor­tance of employ­a­bil­i­ty and the effi­ca­cy of air pow­er in future bat­tle space.

Ideation

How­ev­er, China’s secu­ri­ty dilem­ma and PLAAF’s evo­lu­tion basi­cal­ly stems from its polit­i­cal lead­er­ship guid­ed by Mao, Zhou, Deng and Jiang. Mao’s mil­i­tary phi­los­o­phy was deep-root­ed in ‘People’s War’; and also reflect­ed in the large num­bers of anti­quat­ed and lag­gard air­craft in the air force dur­ing that peri­od. Both Mao and Zhou were offen­sive real­ists; though Zhou much less­er of the two; and China’s secu­ri­ty strat­e­gy large­ly expound­ed an intol­er­ant approach; observed the world as a hos­tile place and con­sid­ered that its entire secu­ri­ty dilem­ma was a result of the oth­er coun­tries impe­ri­al­is­tic poli­cies. How­ev­er Deng and Jiang more sober; inte­gra­tionist and believed in the prin­ci­ple of engage­ment and coop­er­a­tion; which was also the hall­mark of defen­sive real­ism and a pil­lar of China’s secu­ri­ty strat­a­gem in the Deng-era. Hence, post-Mao, there was an appar­ent trans­for­ma­tion of the State’s pol­i­cy from ‘offen­sive to defen­sive real­ism’ and Chi­na as a result was push­ing hard to pur­sue a strat­e­gy of main­tain­ing ami­ca­ble rela­tion­ship with its neigh­bours. The trans­mu­ta­tion of the evo­lu­tion­ary shift in the post-Mao era was fol­lowed by prop­a­ga­tion of Four Mod­erni­sa­tions; favour­ing mod­erni­sa­tion of all sec­tors in the econ­o­my. The con­cept had been prop­a­gat­ed by Zhou in Jan­u­ary of 1975 while speak­ing before the fourth Nation­al People’s Con­gress and Deng car­ried it for­ward by lay­ing empha­sis on mod­erni­sa­tion of agri­cul­ture fol­lowed by indus­try, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy and then nation­al defence. The Four Mod­erni­sa­tions did not how­ev­er cat­a­logue mil­i­tary or nation­al defence as its last pil­lar; but only stat­ed an idea that nation­al defence must be built on a country’s eco­nom­ic strength and there­fore, it was first essen­tial to strength­en the fun­da­men­tals before ini­ti­at­ing the process of its mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion.

————————–
1 Frank W Moore, “China’s Mil­i­tary Capa­bil­i­ties”, Pub­lished for Insti­tute for Defence and Dis­ar­ma­ment Stud­ies, Cam­bridge MA, June 2000.

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →