Friday, April 27, 2018

Strategic Support Force : China’s Strategic Arsenals in a New Era


China’s Strategic Arsenals in a New Era                                  By

                     Elsa B. Kania

20 APRIL 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared that Chinese national defense and military modernization have entered a “new era.” He has called for the People’s Liberation Army(PLA) to become a (or perhaps even the) “world-class” military by mid-century. The “China Dream” that Xi seeks to advance—a quest for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”—includes and is  enabled  by the “dream of a powerful military” (强军梦).
In this new era of Chinese military power, the PLA is seeking to develop new strategic arsenals that could enhance its future deterrence and war-fighting capabilities. In particular, the PLA  recognizes  the criticality of “assured retaliation” within its second-strike nuclear posture—and of advancing new capabilities in the space, cyber, and electromagnetic domains, which are seen as new “strategic frontiers” of warfare. 

Xi has also underscored the importance of new frontiers of military innovation in emerging technologies. Indeed, the PLA is pursuing next-generation capabilities, ranging from hypersonic missiles to counterspace weapons or military applications of artificial intelligence.

In the course of ongoing reforms and reorganization, the PLA has elevated its former Second Artillery Force (第二炮兵部队) and rebranded it as the Rocket Force (火箭军). 

It has also created the Strategic Support Force (战略支援部队), which consolidates, and enables the integration of, China’s capabilities for space, cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare. Directly under the command of the Central Military Commission, these two forces serve as the tip of the spear for China’s strategic deterrence. In any conflict scenario, the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force would also serve as critical components of the PLA’s joint operations. Their missions thus extend across deterrence and actual combat (实战).

The Core Force. 
The Rocket Force, which controls nuclear and conventional missiles, is considered China’s “core force” for strategic deterrence. To date, the PLA has consolidated all of its nuclear capabilities within what is now the Rocket Force—unlike the US military, in which the nuclear triad is distributed across two services. China’s “lean and effective” (精干有效arsenal includes conventional, nuclear-armed, and dual-capable (核常兼备systems. The dual missions of deterrence and war-fighting are reflected in the structure of the Rocket Force.
The Rocket Force has developed a range of dual-capable missiles that it often characterizes as “trump cards” (杀手锏) that could threaten even a “powerful adversary” (强敌) such as the US military. During the August 2017 military parade marking the 90th anniversary of the PLA’s establishment, the Rocket Force displayed weapons systems including: the DF-21D, an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of at least 1,450 kilometers, known as the “carrier killer”; the DF-26, an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a maximum range of about 4,000 kilometers, characterized as the “Guam killer”; and the DF-31AG, a modified version of the road-mobile DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missile that is dual-capable, with an estimated range near 11,000 kilometers.
The Rocket Force seems to focus on dual-capable weapons systems because it appreciates their “usability” and versatility, including their ability to introduce next-generation capabilities to nuclear and conventional missile strikes. For instance, the DF-31AG could be armed  with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) warheads. Future Chinese hypersonic weapons would likely be dual-capable systems intended not only to enhance Chinese nuclear deterrence but also to respond to Washington’s pursuit of conventional prompt global strikeThe PLA is also pursuing “intelligentization” (智能化) in missile development, a goal that entails the introduction of more advanced automation and artificial intelligence into weapons systems.

China’s Future Triad. 
Looking forward, the PLA is on track to create a full nuclear triad, developing new nuclear-armed submarines and a new nuclear bomber. The future delineation of roles and responsibilities among the Rocket Force and the PLA’s Air Force and Navy  remains to be determined, but these developments reflect a significant evolution of China’s nuclear arsenal and posture.
The PLA is actively advancing nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines (of the Jin-class, or Type-094). By some accounts, such next-generation submarines could possess 
AI-augmented brainpower,” potentially in the form of machine learning technology such as convolutional neural networks applied to acoustic signal processing or decision support. These future submarines could even leverage quantum navigation to enable independence from GPS and its Chinese equivalent Beidou, while attempting to actualize quantum communications under water.
At the same time, the PLA is in the process of developing a long-range, dual-capable strike bomber to enhance China’s strategic deterrence and war-fighting capabilities. This was first revealed in 2017 remarks by former PLA Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian. According to recent reporting by The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda, China has been testing a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile, along with a new long-range strategic bomber modified from variant H-6s.
The new “trump cards.” The PLA’s Strategic Support Force is intended to serve as an “incubator” for new strategic capabilities. Designed for dominance in new strategic frontiers of warfare, the Strategic Support Force could enable PLA information dominance and enhance information support for joint operations and power projection. Concurrently, the Strategic Support Force’s space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities, under its Network and Space Systems Departments, could be leveraged for coercion and deterrence. The Strategic Support Force constitutes an apparent innovation in force structure. If successful, it could enable China’s military to adopt an integrated approach toward capabilities across these domains and disciplines, with the ultimate aim of achieving critical synergies among them.
The Network Systems Department (网络系统部) combines a critical mass of forces for cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare. In this regard, the Strategic Support Force reflects an organizational realization of the PLA’s concept of integrated network-electronic warfare (网电一体战), combining disciplines and capabilities that were previously stove-piped. Indeed, the “Cyber Corps” (网军) associated with this department is designed to operate within a domain where the boundaries between peacetime reconnaissance and wartime offensive operations are highly blurred.
The Space Systems Department (航天系统部) has consolidated space-based and space-related capabilities. As an “information umbrella” for the PLA, it provides the space-based information support that is critical for joint operations and power projection, including Rocket Force missile strikes. This consolidation of space systems may be superior to the US model—at least from the perspective of certain PLA commentators—because it reduces stove-piping and redundancies, enabling greater integration of these systems. This new “Space Force” will likely leverage non-kinetic counterspace capabilities, such as directed energy weapons, and may also exercise control over the PLA’s emerging kinetic antisatellite capabilities—though the Rocket Force may also be fighting for control of these systems.
Pursuit of transformation. Beyond its traditional endeavors in military modernization, China is increasingly pursuing a new agenda of military innovation, seeking to “leapfrog” ahead through rapid innovation in strategic emerging technologies. Significantly, Xi has called for thePeople’s Liberation Army to “accelerate the development of military intelligentization” (智能化). This new concept represents a progression beyond the PLA’s existing strategy for informatization (信息化), which has involved the development of capabilities in command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).
The new concept will leverage emerging technologies recognized as integral to military power in future “intelligentized” (智能化) warfare. The frontiers for AI in warfare may include applications in C4ISR—ranging from AI-enabled decision support for commanders to uses in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The Strategic Support Force could also be a pioneer in Chinese advances in military applications of artificial intelligence in information operations. In particular, the Strategic Support Force may focus on cognitive electronic warfare and greater automation in cyber operations. For instance, several researchers from the Strategic Support Force have  highlighted  (link in Chinese) the importance of machine learning in future electromagnetic spectrum warfare. The new Military-Civil Fusion Cyberspace Security Innovation Center (军民融合网络空间安全创新中心), led by the cybersecurity company Qihoo360, intends to focus on AI in cyber defense.
New era of Chinese strategic deterrence. In the aggregate, the “new era” and traditional capabilities that the Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force command will enhance Chinese military power and elevate the PLA’s strategic deterrence capabilities. This integrated approach  is consistent with PLA strategic concepts that characterize military and strategic deterrence as including nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence, space deterrence, and information deterrence. The PLA’s notion of deterrence (威慑), however, is often characterized as closer to coercion, which may shape the employment of these capabilities.
In the course of its modernization, the PLA has thus created a range of instruments for military deterrence with the precision and flexibility to defend against threats and advance core interests. Taken together, space, nuclear, and cyber capabilities—along with newly emerging technologies—could act as a “new triad” for this new era. These new strategic arsenals will enhance Chinese military power, disrupting the strategic balance within and beyond the Asia-Pacific. Going forward, Beijing will leverage its military might both to defend national interests that are becoming global and to project influence on the world stage.

ON WAR : The Art Of War In Global Politics: Whither South Asia?



The Art Of War In Global Politics: Whither South Asia? – Analysis 



ONLY  INDIANS  ARE CONFIDENT OF                                    NEGLECTING
                   THE ART OF WAR  
                    - [VASUNDHRA]


The art of war is of vital importance to the state. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected (Sun Tzu).

However, the history of art of war roots back to the rise of property ownership and motivation of expanding imperialism under several empire states in order to strengthen the imperialist system of colonialism.

From ancient to contemporary global politics there are several traditions of the art of war and the prominent traditions include:

  • The Clausewitzian or instrumentalist tradition which considers war as a part of political intercourse of governments and nations (Clausewitz: 1968).

  • The Machiavellian tradition emphasis on the management of war and military affairs centering the ‘double standard of morality’.

  • The Hobbesian or realist tradition which views international politics as a state of war against all with zero-sum game in moral and legal vacuum.

  • The Marxist or dialectical materialist tradition which interprets the historical development as a resultant of class struggle where state, as an instrument of the dominant class, will be withered away through the means of proletarian war against the bourgeoisie.

  • The Critical or contemporary tradition sees war within a transnational paradigm which includes regional-global conflict over environment, terrorism, illegal migration, humanitarian issues, energy, strategic resources and postures.

Since the ancient period there exists a long standing debate regarding the courses, forces, scale and management of war though the very basis of the art of war in contemporary world politics aggregates most of the principles of the war traditions.

Globalization of economics, politics, society, culture, civilization and conflict is shaping an ever changing world order where not a single issue remains only in the realm of a nation-state.
The factors which are indivisible from the local affairs have broader implications within the wider scale of international system which analyses the dimensions of global anarchy considering the prospects for perpetual peace, the possibilities of society among states and its moral basis, the nature of inter-state order, and the nature of power at the centre of inter-state relations.

However, the trends and issues of the art of war in contemporary world politics are highly inter-connected and work in a systematic way. If any issue is endangered then the others are impacted along with an unintentional manner and the security threats constitute transnational, multi-dimensional and multi-purposive dilemmas.

Considering these multifaceted scopes of contemporary world politics the issues of art of war can be discussed in the following way:

Firstly, since the beginning of the 21st century the world has been experiencing ruthless dramatic growth in mass displacement due to wars and conflict. The people of the Middle-East and Sub-Saharan African states are migrating to Europe in order to escape from the bloody war domains and ethno-religious conflict prone entities i.e. Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Congo, Somalia and others. A huge number of people also died in the Mediterranean Sea during the period of illegal migration.

The UNHCR announced that the number of forced displacement had reached 51.2 million worldwide, a level not previously seen in the post-World War II era. Persecution, conflict, generalized violence, and human rights violations have formed a ‘nation of the displaced’ that, if they were a country, would make up the 24th largest in the world (UNHCR: 2015).


struggles among the global powers centering war on terrorism are mapping the current geopolitical order. The world famous political scientist Samuel P. Huntington considers the post-cold war global politics within the paradigm of ‘Clash of Civilizations’ where a new world order is remaking dividing the ‘West’ from the ‘Rest’. Huntington argues that the contemporary war will not be launched by the state against any state rather a collective liberal civilization will fight against radical, militant and terrorist forces of the Rest. Since the beginning of the 21st century the West block is in war directly or indirectly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Palestine, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and so on in order to fight against Al-Qaida, Taliban, ISIS and other militant groups along with the fight against non-democratic regimes resulting 100,000 casualties. The war on terror affected the general people of these states rather than the terrorist groups.

Thirdly, the art of war in 21st century can be best understood within the paradigm of global environmental degradation. Robert D. Kaplan in his                                   ‘The Coming Anarchy’ argues about environmental causes of chaos and state breakdown explaining population growth, ozone holes, biodiversity loss and climate change (Kaplan: 1994). Scarcities of critical environmental resources- especially cropland, fresh water, forests, and fish stocks- are powerfully contributing to mass violence, wars among countries, ethnic clashes, urban unrest, and insurgencies in key areas of the world (Homer-Dixon: 1996).

A recent study of Solomon Hsiang is showing that, the Syrian civil war is a resultant of the severe drought from 2006 to 2011 along with 70% reduction in annual rainfall in East Syria causing serious food crisis. It compelled to the rural people to migrate to the near cities and created a situation of unemployment, poverty and finally instability reaching to the civil war in 2011.

Fourthly, conflict among the super powers in order to retain their system of neocolonialism and balance of power centering energy, market, naval and strategic postures, ideology has become a defining trend of contemporary global order. The conflict and unrest in the Middle East is often termed as the result of the power politics over the vast oil resources. The growing tension in the Asia-pacific Rim region (recently in the South China Sea) among the super powers especially the USA vs. China (the Asia Pivot vs. New Silk Route) is fueling in order to establishing supremacy over regional economy and energy.

Whither South Asia?

Nuclear Bipolarity: The strategic framework in South Asia is comprised of a bipolar equation between India and Pakistan, inter-connected with a regional security complex and other major powers. In South Asia, nuclear arsenal is regarded as a great equalizer and the ultimate tool to counter the adversary’s present or future conventional strength.

One’s (India/Pakistan) strategists identify conventional military imbalance to that of other’s and believe nuclear weapons are a safe alternative to avoid a dangerous conventional arms race (Khalid, 2017)

Indeed, the global nuclear powers- the USA, Russia, China, and France- involvement with these South Asian nuclear bipolar is shaping the regional geopolitical, geo-economic, geo-strategic, and diplomatic priorities within the greater global power matrix. For this nuclear bipolarity, the other regional small states- Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar and others- are drawing huge attention among the global powers and institutions initiating a tradition of balance of power within the posture of the art of war.

Shadow of Terror and Militancy: The art of war in South Asian politics is changing drastically as well as dramatically due to the rise, development and having a close connection with the global terrorism and militancy. The rise and fall of the great Afghan civilizational politics is still in severe distress due to the strong foothold of religious militants i.e. Taliban having a caring relationship with both the statehood and global militants. Also the Afghan militant connection with the Pakistani militants provides a high breeding land for the spreading global terror within this region. India is also in strategic dilemma in controlling the increasing global terror connection with the regional militant and insurgent groups in the North-Eastern part (the Seven Sisters of India). Bangladesh is experiencing a huge geometric changes due to the rise of religious militancy. Over the years, militant groups in Bangladesh have grown in strength and reached the extent to where they are able to conduct organized terror campaigns all over the country. A close look at various militant acts conducted to date reveals that the problem has deeper roots and that all political forces in the country have been responsible for the present situation. In a nutshell, religious militancy brought about by Politicization of Islam, growth of Madrassas, upsurge of banned religious parties, perceived official patronage and ISIS/Al-Qaeda presence is the primary problem facing the whole South Asia (Shamrat, 2017).

Refugee Crisis: As the globe is struggling with migration and refugee crisis, South Asia is not out of this humanitarian crisis. Now a days the Rohingya refugee crisis is drawing a deep concern among the global communities pushing a sort of diplomatic and strategic pressure on the Myanmar government in order to control this crisis politically, culturally, nationally, and strategically. Even a huge Rohingya influx in Bangladesh portrayed a great humanitarian image globally though the state is in a great dilemma in order to manage this huge number of Rohigya people. This Rohingya refugee crisis is also impacting the demographic politics of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and others.

Recently Indian pressure on the refugees living in several Indian states in order to driven them away from the land is fueling the South Asian refugee crisis from a great height. Sri Lankan statehood is struggling to form a strong nationhood due to their tamil ethnic problem.

Geo-economic War: In global as well as South Asian politics of 21st century, all types of economic activity- trade, access to finance, and investment- are being used as weapons and tools of disruption. Faced with war-weary publics and tightening budgets, global as well as regional powers are projecting power through their influence over the global economy, finance, and trade, and through their control over multinational corporations domiciled in their countries (Leonard, 2016: 16). As the South Asian region is becoming a huge market for the geo-economic power engines, the states of this region is becoming battlegrounds where political, strategic and diplomatic revenges initiated as a form of geo-economic war.

The USA framed the ‘Asia Pivot’ policy considering the growing importance of the Asia-Pacific region where the South Asian states- India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar- are playing a key role in countering the rising global economic giant China. China portrayed its ‘Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’ in order to establish itself one of the global powers where neighboring South Asian nations would be the basement of Chinese neo-imperialism. China’s huge investment in connectivity, energy projects, sea ports, economic zones, business development and so on in Myanmar, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and others draws tension among the global as well as regional powers. India’s ‘Cotton Route’ also places the neo-power engine in a great strategic position within the South Asian power matrix. India’s spreading involvement with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and others is strengthening the nation’s growing economic muscle.

Water Dispute: Due to regional scarcity of water, India has had long-standing disputes with its South Asian neighbors over the regulation and distribution of shared water resources, particularly rivers. These disputes are intensifying, as rising demand outpaces a shrinking supply of fresh water. In addition, as climate change alters weather patterns and shrinks glaciers, the quantity of water in these river systems is expected to become increasingly erratic, leading to a higher frequency of severe floods and droughts. In the long-term, experts predict, the quantity of water in these river systems will decrease, especially in the Indus River system. The combination of these two trends- increasing demand plus decreasing supply and access- is likely to exacerbate disputes over regional water resources. Thus far, conflicts between India and other nations have been mediated through a combination of treaties and international arbitration. As a number of rivers flow across national boundaries, these agreements govern water allocation between India and its neighbors and develop a protocol for hydrological construction projects. Despite a history of cooperation, the likelihood of conflict between India and Pakistan over shared river resources is expected to increase.

Due to Pakistan’s heavy reliance on the Indus system, as well as India’s control and damming of many of its major tributaries, increased shortages are liable to translate into increased tensions. To the northeast, India is also likely to face ongoing disputes with Nepal and Bangladesh over flood control and river diversion. However, the risk of armed interstate conflict is minor. Nepal and Bangladesh remain weak politically and militarily in relation to India, and they generally possess little leverage in negotiating water issues. Of greater concern are the substantial public health consequences of these disputes. Flooding, soil salinization and destruction of arable land in the northern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and in Bangladesh have displaced people and disrupted economic, social and political life. Such issues raise the potential for increased local-level, interprovincial and border-area conflict.

In addition, these disruptions threaten the quality of economic, social and political relationships between India and Nepal, and between India and Bangladesh (Condon, et al., 2006: xv).

Border Dispute: South Asian political analysis would not be fulfilled without analyzing the territorial disputes among the regional states. Because todays South Asian nations achieved their political territory as nationhood following the division of the Indian sub-continent in 1947. Since 1947 to till date, all the states are in physical as well as psychological war centering border dispute. India’s war with Pakistan portrays the territorial claim of both states regarding Kashmir. China is also involved in conflict with India centering Sikkim and Arunachal states of India. Recently the ‘Doklam Crisis’ fueled a huge tension between China and India-Bhutan nexus. Border killing in Bangladesh-India border areas is also spreading tension where the cornerstone of trust and friendship is weakening day by day. Also India’s concern regarding its North-Eastern part sketching a geopolitical tension among the bordering nations.

The pattern of the art of war in contemporary global politics is changing rapidly due to the intrusion of techno-strategic revolution. The influence of non-state actors along with several strategic principles like balance of power, collective security, geopolitical power projection, chemical warfare, information warfare, nuclear warfare, space warfare are shaping the postmodern pattern of war where the actors are involved in ‘Mind Mapping’ and ‘Issue Making’ for ensuring multi-purposive interests. The art of war in contemporary global politics is threatening the natural character of the earth which finally may cause the destruction of the whole planet. In a nutshell a quotation of H G Wells can be presented urging immediate initiatives from the global communities as

         “If we don’t end war, war will end us”.

*Abu Sufian Shamrat, M.S.S. in Political Science, is a researcher in Bangladesh. Shamrat is the highest gold medal awardee in the history of Dhaka University convocations. He writes on political, social, global, as well as strategic issues in the leading national and international dailies and journals. He can be reached at:


Clausewitz, Carl Von, 1968, On War, New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul

Condon, Emma, Patrick Hillmann, Justin King, Katharine Lang, and Alison Patz, 2009, ‘Resource Disputes in South Asia: Water Scarcity and the Potential for Interstate Conflict’, Workshop in International Public Affairs, June 1, Madison: Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

Homer Dixon, T. F., 1996, ‘Environmental scarcity, Mass violence, and the limits to Ingenuity’, Current History, November, 359-365

Hsiang SM, Burke M, Miguel E., 2013, ‘Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict’, Science, Vol. 341 (6151):1235367

Huntington, S. P., 1997, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New Delhi: Penguin Books India

Kaplan, Robert, 1994, ‘The Coming Anarchy’, Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 273, No. 2, February

Khalid, Asma, 2017, ‘Nuclear politics in South Asia’, Daily Times, October 19
Leonard, Mark (Eds.), 2016, Connectivity Wars: Why Migration, Finance and Trade are the Geo-economic Battlegrounds of the Future, London: European Council on Foreign Relations
Shamrat, Abu Sufian, 2017, ‘Religious Militancy in Bangladesh: Opinion Survey’, South Asia Journal, June 10

Tzu, Sun, 2002, The Art of War, Translated by Lionel Giles, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
UNHCR, 2015, World At War: Forced Displacement in 2014, Geneva, Switzerland