Thanks Officer of Engineers,
this is one the the most interesting reading for me in recent times.... Will take me time to read carefully..... the guy has some interestng views
Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou
OF THE AIR FORCE OF THE PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY
The war in Iraq unmistakably signaled America’s preeminence. Rumsfeld’s victories within the bureaucracy and on the battlefield. Air power as the basis of American hegemony. The meaning of strategy. What China can learn from America. Recognizing the future of warfare. The Iraqi War, which caught the attention of the whole world, was over. Dai Xu, a reporter in the editorial department with Military Science in the Air Force conducted an interview with Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou, Air Force Political Commissioner at the Chengdu Military District of China.
Part I. War Result: A Regional War that Rocked the World
REPORTER The Iraqi War formally broke out on March 20, 2003. By April 11, the U. S. troops had seized Baghdad. The offenders, with little more than 100,000 soldiers, completely conquered a medium-sized country within a score of days. There was scarcely any combat worth mentioning; many people felt that the Iraqi War was more like a game than a war.
LT. GEN. LIU Dramatic as the war seemed, it was real. The score of days in the spring of 2003 was thought-provoking. This war seemed to be over, but it was only another starting point.
REPORTER What do you mean by “another starting point”?
LT. GEN. LIU Regional war though it was, the Iraqi War rocked the world. It changed the structure of the world tremendously. It might even be said that the national boundaries of many countries were unnoticeably redrawn by this war; redrawn at least in the minds of the senior leaders of the United States. This war changed history, and continues to do so. The world as it was before the Iraqi War will never return. When Tony Blair said in the House of Commons that “this war will determine the international political structure in coming decades”, he got the point.
Let me talk about my understanding on this war from two aspects: a political perspective and a military one. Soon after China won its war of self-defense against India in 1962, Chairman Mao Tse-tung said that we had “fought a political war by military means, or a military war by political means”. The Iraqi War, likewise, had a dual connotation, both political and military. This war had three meanings from the political perspective:
1. It served as the watershed between the new international order and old ones. Prof. Jin Yinan pointed out that “War decides order.” The United States has been pursuing some kind of “New Empire” since the end of the Cold War. This means that the U.S. dominated the world with its political, military, cultural, and religious power.
When a nation grows strong enough, it practices hegemony. The sole purpose of power is to pursue even greater power. The last cornerstone of the 20th century international system had been the global collective security mechanism and international law as represented by the United Nations, an arrangement mainly initiated and established by the United States. The US crushed this cornerstone through the war. It was the first war of the United States in “the New Empire Order” and had great historical significance.
This war marked the end of an old period and indicated the beginning of a new one.
2. Civilizational conflicts.
Civilizational conflicts are religious conflicts in nature. The confrontations between the Arab nations and Israel were only part of it. You might deny the existence of civilizational conflicts, but could you deny the existence of religious ones? George W. Bush once described the Iraqi War as a “Crusade”, a remark which he later refereed to as a “slip of the tongue ”. How could it be “a slip of the tongue”? After the end of the Cold War, another warfare under a new rule commenced, which was civilizational in nature, featured by the conflicts between Western Christian and Islamic civilizations. The United States not only wants to “reform” the Islamic world, as it declared. Its ultimate goal is to rout the entire Islamic community. From time immemorial, civilization has been transplanted by wars. The US confronted the world by military means, and the significance of the Iraqi War can be found in the words of US politicians. James Woolsey, a significant figure for US conservatives once said, “The Iraqi War could be seen as the first war preceding the Fourth World War. The world has witnessed two hot wars and a Cold War, of which Europe was at the forefront. The Fourth World War is now taking place in the Middle East.”
REPORTER Because of the US’ disproportionate military strength, there is an approach to war that resembles a mania among its hawkish politicians. The balance in international politics is tipping rapidly. Some Western scholars have compared the United States to a chariot hurtling down a hill.
LT. GEN. LIU The Iraqi War is now history, but people around the world began to sense the chill of the new century in the spring of 2003. The Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt recently referred to the US as a “very dangerous superpower”. The world became dangerous because of the US threat. That leads up to the third meaning I wanted to discuss: geopolitics. Geography is destiny. That has been a constant truth since ancient times. Generally when a powerful country begins to rise, it should first set itself in an invincible position. An invincible position in geography means a region which should be kept under geopolitical control and today’s Middle East is such a region. It has been said that oil was both treasure and curse for the Middle East, and that all US strategies for the Middle East since World War II had been made in view of oil. That speculation, however, was only half right. Oil was a reason for the US to control the Middle East, but it was not all it desired. The Middle East was not only an energy base in history, but also a well-known transportation hub for the world.
Napoleon was aware of the importance of controlling this key transportation hub. When the United States controlled the Middle East, different world forces would then begin a new round of integration, which would result in enormous changes in world history. The US severed the land between the three continent of Asia, Africa and Europe.
REPORTER What about the influence in the military field?
LT. GEN. LIU There were two big military blocs in the world in the last century: the former Soviet Union and the United States. They developed two kinds of military philosophies, which were completely different from each other. Armed forces all around the world could be divided into two categories according to these two military philosophies. All the (hot) wars since the end of the Cold War were actually wars between these two military blocs and were wars over different kind of military philosophies between the two blocs. Now I can say that the U.S.-led military bloc defeated the one headed by the (former) Soviet Union.
The meaning of the Iraqi War to the world was that it demonstrated completely the crisis of the Soviet military approach. Beholding the ruins left over by the Iraqi War, visions flooded my mind: the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, the Libyan capital, former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan…I found that there were astonishing similarities between these battlefields and war ruins—that they had all been allies of the former Soviet Union or places in which the Soviet Union had put its foot; that they all mainly employed the Soviet weapon system and had Soviet military ideas; that they had been either fragmented or disbanded after the US air-strikes. What were the reasons? The two wars in the Gulf highlighted a shocking fact: Iraq was a country whose army, navy and air forces were all armed with Soviet weapons, and possessed Scud missiles, MIG warplanes and tanks—all Soviet-made. These armaments were both enormous in quantity and advanced in technology and had been introduced into Iraq systematically. In addition to all the armaments, its operational system and guiding philosophy had also been transplanted from the Soviet Union.
REPORTER In order to achieve the aim of conquering and occupying a middle-sized country, the US employed about 500,000 troops for three years in the Korean War, only to be forced to retreat without a victory; while in Vietnam, the U. S. used another 500,000 troops and fought for about 12 years, only to be forced to retreat likewise in the end. How come the Iraqi War turned out as it did?
LT. GEN. LIU I want to answer this question by referring to the outcomes of two other wars. Both the Soviet Union and the United States were superpowers, and when they fought wars with the same opponent, the results were totally different. The Soviet Union successively employed 1,500,000 troops in its war on Afghanistan, fighting mainly ground battles with that country for a decade, only to be defeated in the end, resulting in more than 50,000 casualties on the Soviet side. What was more, the power of the Soviet Union never recovered. While in the case of the recent war in Afghanistan, the US only employed a special force of 1000 some-odd troops—accompanied mainly by its air forces—and dismantled the Taliban forces in just 61 days, with only 16 deaths among the US troops (of whom none were killed in action).
REPORTER What do you think were the main gaps between the Russian and the US Armed Forces?
LT. GEN. LIU The gaps lay mainly in two factors: their military technology and their war philosophies. Let me talk about military technology first. Science and technology were developing at a tremendous pace and precision-guided technology took the war into a “precision warrior” era. The US could deploy its most threatening weapons to where it thought to be the most needful places in the shortest possible time. The US dropped more bombs within a single day during the Kosovo War than all the missiles we Chinese have deployed along the Southeast coast of our mainland. During the war in Afghanistan, the US quickly developed a new kind of “thermobaric bomb” for use in that country’s mountainous regions that were filled with all sorts of caves.
Thermobaric bomb could destroy caves, underground bunkers and everything in a building—without doing damage to the building itself. It was something like a neutron bomb. Developing and manufacturing new types of armaments quickly according to different battlefield circumstances was a weapon in and of itself. In addition to that, it could develop and provide new armaments promptly according to the needs on the battlefields, which was of great importance. In comparison, we used the bangalore torpedoes, explosive packages and walkie-talkies during the Korean War, and still used them during the self-defense war against Vietnam.
“Industrial foundation” certainly was a reason for our disadvantage, but what mattered most was whether we had a future-oriented philosophy for war and whether our national defense industry was capable of coping with contingency or not. We could not begin to think about these questions when a war was about to break out immediately. We should begin thinking of them from this moment on. The expense for each minute’s delay today will be more bloodshed in the future. As there was a gap of nearly one century in their relevant developments, what we saw between the U. S. and the Taliban in the War in Afghanistan was not one between soldiers. Nor was it one between cannon-shots. It was a war between missiles and bulletins, satellites and rifle posts.
In comparison with the US, Russian technology was only manifested in its weaponry, and it was not systemized. When Russia was fighting the Chechnya War, they were basically fighting with conventional weapons, and information interflow was never in place between its operational platforms or between its operational platforms and command systems. Technology levels determine war tactics. There was no “generation gap” between Russian and Chechen forces, so it was impossible for them to fight a asymmetric war against their opponents, or make the best use of an absolute technological advantage as the United States did. Mobility is the only way out when faced with an overwhelming air force and firepower disadvantages. Only when a force has mobility can it avoid being attacked all the time without attacking its enemy. And only when a force has mobility in a war can the war continue in a way that both sides launch their attacks. Lack of mobility led to defeat for the Iraqis and the Taliban forces in the two Gulf Wars and the War in Afghanistan, respectively. The fundamental objective for the US to develop different systems was to deprive its enemies of battlefield mobility. Its enemies should pay special attention to this as without mobility there is no survival.
REPORTER How did the US control their enemies’ mobility?
LT. GEN. LIU The US approach was to capture all kinds of information, while blinding and deafening its enemies. When we say that the US Armed Forces were mighty, it was because they had apt battlefield sensibility. Let’s take a look at the following data.
In battle, a period of time was needed to complete the so-called attack chain, from discovering a target to conducting a precise attack on that particular target. And that process would have included the following steps: discovering, locating, targeting, attacking and operation evaluation. In the first Gulf War, the operation of such a “chain” took 100 minutes, while in the wars in Kosovo and Afghanistan, it took 40 and 20 minutes respectively. In the Iraqi War, it took just 10 minutes, thus nearly realizing the goal of “discovering means destroying”. In such circumstances, its enemy would not have enough time to be mobilized. For instance, in November 2001, a US scout discovered that a motorcade was retreating from the Afghanistan capital of Kabul. The scout immediately transmitted the message to the US Central Command through satellites. After the Pentagon gave the attack order, three fighters quickly flew to the motorcade and fired three missiles from overhead. At the same time, an unmanned aerial vehicle also fired missiles—making it the first unmanned fighter in the world. It was later found out that nearly 100 Taliban followers were killed in this air strike, including Atef Mohammed, aide of Osama Bin Laden. This air strike was an epitome of US operations in the war in Afghanistan, and in time would become the usual approach for their tactical attacks.
In the Iraqi War, the Iraqis were first deafened and blinded. That being the case, they simply could not bring their forces into play, leaving aside the fact that those forces were not strong to begin with. When commenting on the 1991 Gulf War in his book, Surpassing the Nuclear War, В.И. Sripcinko, the Russian military strategist, wrote, “Iraq had made preparation very earnestly—but for an outdated war.” A dozen years ago, Iraq still had tank divisions, air service and a Saddam Defense Line. And only rifles and human bombs were left available on the eve of the Iraqi War.
Generally speaking, the Iraqi War was one with a gigantic “Gap of Generations”. If we say that the wars in which the United States participated since the 1980’s were constantly changing, moving from Mechanized Wars to Information Wars, then the Iraqi war was a qualitative change in that direction. It was a symbol that the US military revolution, which had commenced after the end of the war in Vietnam, was almost completed. This was a significant event in world military history. In that sense, the failure of the Iraqis was inevitable, though the US victory was exaggerated due to Iraq’s nonresistance or failure to resist. Faced with such a desperate situation, the Iraqi government could not fight even if it wanted to. As for the Iraqi people, they simply did not want to fight the war. That being the case, while the government was killed, its nation survived.
Due to the poor performance of the Iraqi forces, the real war capacity of the US force was not fully manifested in the Iraqi War. The strongest points of the US army included their capacity in electronic warfare, in New Concept Weaponry System and Sky Forces, and only a small fraction of those capacities were mobilized. The US was listed 1st in the following three realms in today’s world. First, it was the forerunner in the new military revolution. If we compared the revolution with a long-distance race, the United States would not only take it for granted that it be the one leading all other players, but it would remain 1000 meters ahead of its immediate pursuers—and, if it felt that the distance between it and the second runner might shorten to 900 meters, it would feel threatened. Second, its defense expenditure was the highest in the world— the amount equaling that of the following 12 countries. Thirdly, its military power is incomparable in the world. What was more upsetting was that the US Armed Forces were still expanding rapidly. A new war system covering the whole globe would come into being once its global missile defense system are ready. The last resort by which its enemy might threaten the U. S.—nuclear weapons—would by then be useless. By that time, a unipolar political system backed by an absolute military power—a global empire system with the United States at the core—would then be in place. Just as the mechanized blitz expedited the “Third Reich ” of Adolf Hitler, the information war is now laying the foundation of the world’s new empire. The long-term outcome of this war is terrifying. And though that particular day had not arrived yet, we are fast approaching it.
Part II. Air Power, or Ground Force?
REPORTER Lt. Gen. Liu, Could you talk about the features of this war? What kind of war did you think the Iraqi War was?
LT. GEN. LIU In a word, it was an air war. I believe that air power was the decisive force for the Iraqi War, though the US sent massive ground forces as well. The US had global interests, and hence broad war areas. It had to adopt a global strategy. That made it essential for its armed forces to fight long-distance wars, to be able to be deployed promptly, strike precisely and maintain absolute mastery of the sky. Among all parts of the US armed forces, only its air power could match those requirements.
After the war in Grenada, it was determined that it was better to have a battalion of troops ready in 24 hours than to have an army in 3 months. Air power has played a decisive role in all America’s recent wars: the first Gulf War, the Kosovo War, the war in Afghanistan and the Iraqi War.
REPORTER Why did the United States, then, send ground troops to Iraq from the very beginning?
LT. GEN. LIU First, whether and how to use ground forces in a war depends on ones goals.
The goals of the US in this War were to “topple Saddam’s regime” and to “liberate the Iraqi people”. Such extreme war goals meant that the US would have to send its ground troops soon after the war began. Without the use of ground forces, it was impossible to “topple Saddam” or to “liberate the Iraqi People”. The US was then sending an unequivocal signal by sending its ground forces to Iraq: that the US would continue to stay and would not move out soon.
REPORTER That is to say the United States’ decision to sent its ground forces to Iraq was a political one rather then a military one.
LT. GEN. LIU That’s right. In order to achieve that goal, the US army began its show immediately after the start of the war. You must have noticed that the United States invited lots of journalists from all over the world, including those from China, to report on the war with the coalition army. Why? To put on a show for the world. When the United States fought the Iraqi War, it was trying to punish Iraq as a warning to others.
What was more, it had a plan for the reformation of a Greater Middle East—all would need a ground force in place.
The show put on by the United States really had some effect. A number of countries, especially Arab ones, were terrified—part of the political effect of using ground forces. Those who thought that the United States was again stressing the role of ground forces did not see the meaning of that approach, they only saw the superficial phenomena. Military means were always one way to achieve political goals. That could be seen both from the military objectives and, sometimes, from the course of a military undertaking.
REPORTER Was there any military reason that the US used its ground forces?
LT. GEN. LIU US air power had long been the major player from the Gulf War to the Kosovo War to the war in Afghanistan; a debate must have taken place between the different divisions of the US Armed Forces. The core of the debate could have been be that the navy and army did not want to play a supportive role only, they did not want to be marginalized. The army in particular had that sense of crisis. We knew that there was a debate after the war came to an end, as one might have expected. The debate did not take place within the Armed Forces but between Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, and Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.
It is interesting to note that the debate was not between armed services, but rather, between civilian officials and senior officers in the army. They had common objects, varying only in the means of operation. Rumsfeld proposed a novel war concept of “precision blitz”, called Rumsfeld’s Theory. “Precision” referred to the high intellectualization of a war. And the soul of Rumsfeld’s Theory was that the army should be reformed into combat groups that were smaller in size but easier to deploy.
Its effectiveness would resemble that of the Special Forces. Concerted with air strikes, its tasks were to help precision-guided weapons attack important targets, so that combat requirements were completed quickly. On the other side, the essence of Powell’s Theory was that massive ground forces should be employed, and they should act according to the operations carried out by the Heavy Divisions of the army.
As the war started, what we saw was a compromise of the two theories: both Rumsfeld’s and Powell’s theories were applied—but quite insufficiently. Many of the senior army officers believed that the ground force used this time should have reached the scale of the 1991 Gulf War, which was 10 army division, but the US only employed 2 divisions. The scale of the ground troops used this time was much smaller than those used in the “Desert Storm”, while they achieved a much greater victory. I believed that the difference between the Powell Theory on war and the Rumsfeld one lay in the following: while the former emphasized destroying the effectiveness of an enemy on a large scale, the latter no longer stressed the importance of destroying the troops and arsenals of the enemy, but rather, shifted the focus to destroying its fighting will. The results proved the rightness of the latter.
REPORTER How should we view the fruits of the US army’s “exercise”, as you put it?
LT. GEN. LIU First of all, this exercise was undertaken at a point when the U. S. had an absolute advantage. The US army was advancing fairly quickly. The 3rd Mechanized Division left Nasiriyah and Najaf, where fierce fighting was under way, and conducted a long-range raid hundreds of kilometers away (in Baghdad), and set a new in-depth raiding record in war history. The advancing speed of the US troops equaled or bettered that of the German army when it blitzed the Soviet Union.
But the US troops’ advancement would have been unimaginable without support from its advantageous air power. In that sense, I would say that the Iraqi War was not a short war, at least from the viewpoint of air conflicts. From that view, the war did not last four weeks, but the past twelve years. The war that started on March 20, 2003 was merely a continuation of a war that had lasted for the preceding 12 years.
For the past 12 years, the United States had been occupying the Iraqi air space, and strangling the Iraq’s air power. When I mentioned earlier that “the soul of the Iraqi troops have been stolen” what I referred to was the absence of its air power.
Secondly, 12 years of No-Fly zones, bombing and reconnaissance had ravaged the spirit of the entire country and its troops. The will of the Iraqi people was already on the brink of dying. Like a cabin tottering in rains and winds, Iraq would collapse at the lightest push. It was against such a backdrop that the United States conducted the “exercise”.
At the same time, the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division, which was the main force of US troops, never fought any substantial battles—and its high speed advancement was made possible when the US had absolute mastery of the sky and the air forces had completely swept away all obstacles. Did you notice that the US ground troops would always stop once they encountered any resistance efforts or it would simply leave? The army did not seize any city in the war. Well, yes. Baghdad was taken. But was it seized by the ground troops? It was reported that the US had greased the palms of the senior officers of the Republican Guard so that they would give up their resistance. Some Westerners said that the air power of the coalition contributed 99 percent to this war, while the ground troops of the coalition contributed only 1 percent. There was some overstatement in that comment, but it told the truth.
REPORTER Different armed services carry out basic battle functions in different dimensions and fields. Generally speaking, air power is mainly an offensive one or a destructive power. It would be difficult for air power to shoulder the responsibilities of defense, occupation and protection.
LT. GEN. LIU Let me make an analogy. Air power was both arms of a person; you can use it to wreck other peoples’ windows or door planks. But if you want to occupy their houses and protect the property from further seizure, you’ll have to use your feet—ground forces—to enter the house. So it would be meaningless to compare the role of the ground forces and air forces without looking at the objectives of the war and the nature and characteristics of both forces. In general, the army and navy were more restricted by the natural mode of operational spaces, while air power would be able to fight in all spaces and all fields. The navy could only fight on the seas and the army only on land, while air power could fight everywhere.
The U.S. had to resort to the use of ground forces for those particular objectives of the war. However, as a result, the US had abandoned its own strong points and lowered itself to a level where the Iraqis could possibly confront it. The results of the war proved Rumsfeld’s Theory to be right. Never in US history had there been any president-appointed civil officials who exerted such a profound influence on the war plans of the US military. What happened later on told us in a more unequivocal way that the biggest winner of the Iraqi War was Rumsfeld and those under him. The biggest loser was the US army. On April 26, 2003, Rumsfeld went to the Gulf to inspect the troops there. When Rumsfeld arrived, warm applause and cheers greeted him. Rumsfeld’s victory was not just over the US army, but also over Russian military theory. Facts proved that a more flexible military, though smaller in size, would absolutely defeat a huge army bugged by outdated concepts. The Iraqi army was a huge army. And according to the theory on large-scale front line operation of the Soviet Union, Iraq had amassed large quantities of armored units and artillery units, with their commander offices highly concentrated. But the line of defense of such a fearsome army was routed by a few U. S. troops in a matter of days. Military observers in Russia exclaimed, “The military paradigm has been rewritten. Other countries had better notice that the US has rewritten the military textbook.”
REPORTER Could you be more specific in describing the characteristics of the performance by US air power in this war?
LT. GEN. LIU I wrote in my A Century for the Air Force that, before the 1980’s, the world named it the “air force” because it was an army in the air. After that, however, it could no longer simply be seen as one of the armed services, though its designation remained the same. Revolutionary changes in weaponry had brought a revolutionary change to the strategy and tactics of air force. And the air force shifted its role from merely supporting the army and navy operations to one that received supports from the other two armed services in its operation till it could independently carry out war tasks today.
The air force has always undergone qualitative changes. In the 1999 Kosovo War, we saw that the air force was used not only militarily, but also played as a diplomatic ace card. The air strikes not only targeted the enemy’s military targets, but also its national strategic targets. The use of air power was strategic in nature. The way that the US employed its air power in the Iraqi War was exactly the same as it did in previous wars: air power was used as a initiative and full-time strategic force for the war. What was different was that its role was more direct, more prominent and more evident. The US fought 5 wars in the past 10 years: the Gulf War, NATO’s air strikes on Bosnia and Herzegovina, air attacks on Iraq, the Kosovo War and the War in Afghanistan. And the Iraqi War today was its sixth one.
The U. S. had fought each and every one of the six wars by exactly the same pattern: it first launched a global campaign for the war, coercing the target nation with its naval and air power. It would then besiege them in all directions, till it could win the war with little or no fighting at all. A global sky-oriented besiegement was now the basic characteristic for the US when preparing for modern wars. If one wanted to predict whether the US planned to launch the war, and how big a war it wished to fight, one could simply review the deployment of its air power.
REPORTER What do you think was the guiding thought behind the US air strikes?
LT. GEN. LIU Paralyzation, and paralyzation only. War of Paralyzation has been a consistent operation for the US for the past two decades. A review of the century of history since the birth of the air force would find that the strategy of the air forces of world powers has hovered between striking military targets and civilian ones, between strategic bombing and air support. During World War II, the US and Britain stressed strategic bombing, while Germany and the Soviet Union emphasized battlefield assistance, and both scored enormous successes. Before the war in Vietnam, air forces in general would usually undertake indirect air strikes as it was judged that victory was determined by the outcome of ground battles. However, paralyzation mainstreamed after the war in Vietnam, and especially after the Gulf War.
Moving on from the military field, US diplomatic policy was a paralyzing one, especially when it was applied to China. What was the bottom line of US diplomatic policy on China? Did it really mean to dismember China? I am afraid not. Were they afraid that China should rise? I am afraid not completely. I believe that it just wanted to paralyze China. It was the political use of the military operation: so that China would neither prosper not collapse, so that China would never develop soundly. The US did not want China to collapse completely. The reason was that once China collapsed, Japan, India and Russia would all then rise to break the balance of the Asian Continent, forcing the US to fill the vacuum of power. The United States would not let China collapse. Once China collapsed completely, Japan would then rise.
When observing how the US military fights its wars, we should consider a consistent philosophy, rather than just look at each war separately. While military technology grew more and more advanced, US strategy tends to become more and more simple. Victory as soon as possible is its doctrine. And it would resort to extreme measures so long as political circumstance allows. Towards the end of World War II, the United States could defeat Japan by various means—but why did they use atomic bombs? The US could well debark on Japan, without taking care of troop casualties.
US ground forces could have won the war, but that was not the best way. Giulio Douhet thought that once an army gained mastery of the sky, it must use it to destroy the material and spiritual resistance of the enemy. If ill-used, mastery of sky on the one side would mean that both sides shared mastery of the sky. What then, does controlling the sky mean? The most basic characteristics of the United States military was that it stressed the use of its air power since the naissance of airplanes a hundred ago—since World War I, to be exact. If one wishes to understand the outlook of the Iraqi War, one must first review US war history over the past hundred years. The US military has made the most direct interpretation of the status and role of air power in the past century. Since World War II, it began to mainly use its air power in different wars. The US participated in all large-scale wars in the world during the past century, and it never suffered more casualties than its enemies. What’s more, its casualties in wars have been decreasing, until zero casualty was recorded. The reason is that the US has followed the trends of the military revolution closely, and was very careful in keeping up the pace. History would tell us that what one country did within the military revolution would have a tremendous influence on the rise and fall of that nation.
REPORTER Ronald Reagan’s “Star War” Initiative, Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s NMD and TMD plans, all belong to the category of air force strategy. These strategy have already been elevated from “the sky” to “the space”. You said that someday space will become a battlefield. But before that, the battlefields in the sky will remain dominant.
LT. GEN. LIU If you look at what the United States have done in the past, you’ll see what it will do in the future. It will not leave the sky alone as long as it remains. As the United States occupy a commanding place, every important event taking place in the world is consolidating its status. It was not that the United States would not resort to its ground forces. North Korea and Vietnam were the two places where the US had deployed the most ground troops. What were the results, after all? Nothing but wretched defeats. From then on, using its ground forces became taboo. Why should they be afraid of using the army? It is not that US troops are fearful of death, it is that they fear defeat. This was determined by the natural flaw of the army and the mentality of the US. We have three criteria to weigh fighting strength: attacking distance, advancement speed and destroying power. But obviously, compared with air power, the army lags behind in those three aspects; it is usually large in scale and inflexible in action. And it is easy to be caught in the trap of a lasting war with its enemy.
REPORTER Your belief that the outcome of the Iraqi War had been decided in the sky was unique. How would you describe it?
LT. GEN. LIU Giulio Douhet said that future wars would begin from the sky. The party that first used air power would of course manage a quick and decisive outcome on the battlefield. Those who are not prepared for future wars will find out that it is simply too late for them to get ready once the war breaks out—they will not even be able to see the trends of the war development. And because of the important change on the nature of the war, it would not take long to determine the winner.
Giulio Douhet also concluded that air force could achieve victory before all other armed services. Because air force could, at lightning speed, launch a lethal strike on the enemy’s heartland…the party which acquired an air advantage first would have a decisive advantage over the war. A country that lose its mastery of the sky would then suffer enormous damage. So, “Mastery of the sky means victory. Countries that fail to acquire the mastery of the sky are doomed to be defeated and to accept every condition that the winner cares to impose.”
REPORTER Do you think that the army—broadly speaking, the ground forces—will exit from the arena of history, just as Major Sripocinko, Academician in the Russian Military Science Institute, had said?
LT. GEN. LIU The revolution has already taken place. Many nations have successively discarded the traditional doctrine of “winning by quantity”. They all took measures to trim down their troops—to an appropriate degree. The US armed forces were trimmed from over 2 millions troops to over 1 million, while the French armed forces were trimmed from 560,000 to 400,000. Statistics from the National Strategy Institute in London showed that in 1985 the total number of world troops was nearly 30 million, and the figure declined to a little more than 20 million. And the US always led the world.
There was a very heavy smoke screen in the Iraq War. It seemed as if traditional army and ground battles had revived. But people who believed that were fooled by the United States. I had two points which I would like to emphasize again.
First, though the Mechanized Infantry Division of the United States were very advanced, without guarantee from the air power advantage, it would still proceed with difficulty. If one says that the traditional army still has any function in the future, one should never forget that it is guaranteed by a mastery of the sky. Secondly, the Armored Division and the Infantry Division of the Iraqi troops were both defending forces, which of them then had functioned as an army division? Offending and defending cases combined together, it would be then the basic positioning for the future traditional army.
The traditional army has a history of thousands of years. It is now approaching its end today. Mankind has entered the information age. Troops today should of course be different from the troops in the mechanized ages. It was a historical rule to discard the old ways of life in favor of the new ones and to advance with the age. We did not either continue to use the long-handled sword of Guan Yu, did we?
REPORTER Many people would declare the arrival of an “air force’s epoch” on seeing the “zero casualty” record of the offenders in the Kosovo War. They would declare that the “army has revived” and that “contact wars are still in fashion” when they again saw that large-scale of ground troops were used in the Iraqi War. The United States fought each war differently.
LT. GEN. LIU Such mistakes are simply inevitable if one sees only a part of a whole thing.
Nothing can stand in the way of the development trends in the military fields. We should see that in a historic perspective; we do not have to view a longer history, a hundred year might have revealed the trends in the military fields. And that is, the battlefield of wars are constantly elevating, and the distance between the warring sides are growing farther and farther. In 1900, the Qing Dynasty troops still used long-handled swords and long pikes in wars, killing or being killed within meters. But the rifles of the Eight-Power Allied Forces widened that distance to further than 100 meters. Afterwards it was cannons, widening the distance to kilometers or dozens of kilometers. Still later on, tanks and airplanes widened the distance to hundreds of kilometers. Still further, it was missiles. Finally, now that all five aspects of the sky, space, ground, marine, and electronic elements are combined together, and here came the non-contact era. The next war might be an unmanned one.
In 2000, the United States launched a strategy for “global warning line, global arrival and global power” in which its space operation aircraft would be able to enter space and attack a target on the earth in less than an hour. By 2020, the United States air forces would have four platforms: the B-2 platform, the F-22 platform, the joint attack aircraft platform and the unmanned fighters platform, all of which are characterized by the stealth feature. Many of the US principles for future war have in fact been carried out in this Iraqi War. For instance, large scale usage of stealth strategic bombers and unmanned aircrafts. The age of unmanned warfare is approaching. Guided missiles and bombers would fall as if hailstones were falling from the sky. Even a fighter must be a stealth plane, even if it is an unmanned one. The United States army ceased fighting with their enemy face to face some four decades ago. It was well ahead of its rivals. Technically speaking, we might not be able to catch up with the US for the time being, but we should catch up with them in terms of its thoughts, at least we should not be left too far behind.
REPORTER What kind of role does air power play on the level of US national strategy?
LT. GEN. LIU One can say air power has already become a sharp lance for the United States to materialize its national ambition. The US could look down upon the rest of the world proudly with the help of this “lance”. Two decades ago it was called the “global police”; now it is called a “world empire”.
REPORTER Some Western historian said that in human history, there has never been an empire which had such global control and interfering capability as the United States does.
LT. GEN. LIU Two decades ago, the United States was still sometimes badly defeated by weaker and smaller opponents. Two decades later, however, the US now does not have any rival in the real sense to challenge it, and it becomes proud. This was because the way that people fought wars had changed. As a result, the rules of the game for international politics also changed. Just as the armored infantry ascertained the status of the Roman Empire, the British Navy ascertained the status of the British Empire, the United States wants to ascertain its status as the only superpower in the world with the help of its air force. The US air force has planed to turn itself into an unrivaled air force which could be everywhere in the world at any time, in the coming one to three decades.
Part III. Nature of the Iraqi War: Informatization
REPORTER You talked about the outcome and characteristics of the Iraqi War just now. Would you talk about the nature of this war?
LT. GEN. LIU In a word, the nature of the war was informatization, of which President Jiang took notice during the 1991 Gulf War. In the past dozen years, he often spoke about the informatization issue—almost every time he received representatives from the armed forces. President Jiang really was far-sighted on that point.
What were behind previous wars? Comprehensive national strength. What about modern wars? Science and technology. All major scientific invention and creation should first, and must be used in wars, perhaps by way of coercion. History has time again proved that. Vice versa, if the science and technology of a country or a nation hangs behind, it would be its armed forces who would feel that most deeply and suffered the most. The weapons that the United States employed in the Iraqi War had made use of top-level scientific inventions and knowledge. Those included Newton Mechanics, Dynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Electrodynamics, Narrow and Broad Theory of Relativity, Organism and Inorganic Chemistry, Computer Network. Such a listing would extend to dozens of pages.
This is really a brand-new and epoch-making military revolution. It changed from ground wars featuring large-scale assembling of ground forces, to wars which depend on air control force powered by high-tech electronic systems, and which complete strategic objectives by air operations.
REPORTER Does Informatization mean an unprecedented exaltation of digitalized armaments?
LT. GEN. LIU I think there were 3 levels of informatization: the electronic weapon platform; networking of operation systems; the change of strategic attacks to psychological warfare.
Thomson once said that “Information was not just a weapon, it was also a new technology that changed war culture and psychological tendencies. It could change everything. The changes it brought about were stronger than any other, perhaps stronger than the changes brought by tanks, submarines and even atomic bombs.”
There was a common point in all the wars in which the United States participated in the last two decades: no troops ever made any achievements in their wars against the US. The main reason was, the confrontation and suppression between systems of the two sides had made it impossible to fight a platform vs. platform war against US troops. In the 1999 Kosovo War, the commander of the air force of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia piloted a MIG fighter, trying to fight a battle with NATO fighters. But, the Yugoslavian radar was disturbed, and the correspondence to and from the MIG fighter was interrupted. The commander could not see where his enemy was. What was worse, he was strictly locked by his enemy. So the MIG fighter was shot and crushed by a Netherlander fighter soon after it took off. Another five MIG fighters were also downed 5 minutes after taking off. Even most anti-air missiles would have less than 5 minutes of survival time.
REPORTER During the Iraqi War, people did not see any air battle between fighters, nor any battles between tanks. When there was a sandstorm, the Iraqi Republican Guard tried to make the best of it and sent out a thousand-odd tanks to conduct a counter-attack against US troops. But as soon as they moved, they were discovered by reconnaissance planes and satellites. As a result, they were suppressed and killed by coalition attackers and armed helicopters. Their dream of fighting a decisive tank battle in Kirks vanished in the overwhelming bombings.
LT. GEN. LIU Such a picture of the war inevitably points to the 3rd level of the information war: psychological warfare. It should be said that psychological warfare was the most striking feature of the Iraq War.
I have always thought that psychological warfare belong to the category of information war. There has been psychological warfare as long as there was war. It was one of the various forms of war, and a contest beyond physical spaces. Art of War by Sun Tzu speculated that psychological assaults came first among all tactics, and considered it the highest state in war if one side could conquer its enemy without fighting a battle. The no-battle situation of Sun Tzu could be achieved only after violent psychological confrontations.
The psychological warfare that the US carried out against Iraq had been carefully planned. It unfolded according to the well-sketched sequence of strategy-campaign-tactics, which were different from all previous wars that the US had participated in. It marked that as an independent war form, psychological warfare had made its debut on the stage of war.
REPORTER How can we comprehend psychological warfare on various levels?
LT. GEN. LIU Let’s take the Iraqi War as an example. Psychological warfare on the strategic level referred to the efforts forcing the other party to accept one’s terms in the diplomatic field. It involved a comprehensive use of a country’s strengths and would resort to political, economic and diplomatic means or military deterrence. For example, the United States sent an ultimatum to the Iraqis through the United Nations at the very start. It also announced that the only way to avoid war was for Saddam to be exiled. At the same time, the US also began a large-scale military deployment in the Gulf region. By the way, the fact that the United States acted willfully to start the Iraqi War was in itself a form of psychological warfare against the whole world, which was connected to the fundamental purpose behind the Iraq War. You would notice that the world became more malleable after the Iraqi War, if you were careful enough in your observation. Tension on the North Korea nuclear issue was not as rigid as before.
Some possibility for a pacific settlement of the Israeli and Pakistani conflicts also emerged.
REPORTER In this war, it seemed that the Iraqi people did not support Saddam’s political power at all.
LT. GEN. LIU Not at all. No roads were broken, no bridges were bombed, no mines were buried. In some places, people even welcomed the arrival of US troops. Some of our military experts had been expecting that there be a people’s war in Iraq. Pleasing as the phrase “the people’s war” might have sounded, the premise of such a war should be one in which the people were willing to sacrifice.
It was hard to say how many Iraqis would fight or die to defend Saddam. The people’s war refers to morale; it was more a political concept (than anything else). Only those who gain the favor of the people could wage a people’s war. Those who go against their own people, would have to fight individually. The wars that Saddam fought were individual wars. It was so in the Iraq-Iran War, the Iraqi War against Kuwait, the Gulf War and the Iraq War.
The Opium War and the Iraq War told us, “All autarchies and corrupt governments were the same in that they are experts in civil wars and lie to people in wars with foreign forces. When the people were poorly informed, the morale of the people and the troops could still exist. Once the people know the inside story, plus the invasion of foreign troops, such governments are doomed to collapse.” In waging psychological warfare, the United States allowed the Iraqi people to understand what kind of person Saddam had been, and what kind of party the Baath Party had been.
Corrupt officials would surely arouse the complaints of its people. In that case, the most important mission for a corrupt government was to suppress domestic resistance, thus disabling them in their fight against foreign forces. A corrupt government never won in a war with foreign forces, as history has shown. I had a saying which I hope you’ll remember: if a government does not take care of its people, then its people would not take care of the government.
REPORTER Did what you have been talking about just now fall into the category of psychological warfare?
LT. GEN. LIU It belong to the highest state of psychological warfare. History has shown us that psychological warfare supersedes all other forms. For thousands of years mankind has been pursuing a war in which a country can win with little or no battles at all. But it is in the information age that the possibility appears for the first time. That was the biggest revelation that this war left to the world and to the future.
REPORTER The April 18, 2004 edition of the New York Times ran an article entitled Saddam’s Chinese Advisors, in which it said that those experts still stubbornly held out such an obsolete mentality as the people’s war. It went on to say that if there were such military experts in the PLA, then the PLA should not be so threatening as people have imagined.
LT. GEN. LIU That was only a point from the western political and military circle and could not be taken as evidence of anything. Chairman Jiang Zemin of the Central Military Commission of China demanded that we march with time and boldly take the initiative. How could we do so if we have yet to catch up with time? We had many constraints in our efforts for military modernization, among which conceptual ones were the biggest restriction.
It was both our misfortune and fortune to historically coexist with the US military. We are unfortunate because the US is so powerful, and we are fortunate because of the very same reason: because we have a potential rival. Having a rival means that we have an object of reference, and that we have an aim in our march forward, which in turn will give us momentum.
There are only two kind of status in the world: the best and the worst. None between are worth mentioning. And remember, if you want to quarrel, quarrel with those who are superior to you. The US military is somewhat unfortunate compared to us. I believe that the US air force has a major flaw: while its planes are becoming more and more advanced in technology, its warring tactics are becoming more and more rigid. Why did I say so? That is because, for a fairly long time, the US air force will not have any rival in the real sense to help them find out how powerful their planes are, not to say to raise competition on a tactical level. Therefore, the current development of the US actually follows the tactics of “crossing a river by feeling the stones in it”.
Once I made a visit to Stanford University as a scholar, and I stayed there for quite a long time. They did not talk about “mind emancipation” all day, yet they always kept their minds open. It had been 130 years since the United States had a war in 1865 on its mainland and it was a country free from foreign invasions. Yet everyday military newspapers would focus on hot spots of all international conflicts. A glance at those headlines would make one think that someone must be crossing its border to invade it, or that it was on the brink of a war. On the other side, only the US has been fighting wars continuously throughout the world, and its warring tactics have reach a level of perfection. It boasted itself as “invincible in the world”. The US military is not only an army to the world, rather, it is a kind of symbol representing a value system. It initiates, but it never pretends to be a teacher.
The reason that I said that it did not pretend to a teacher is that the US continues to innovate. In recent years we had a well-known phrase in the military field, which was “new military evolution of the world, new military revolution of the world”. In our military textbooks, it was if such a new military evolution were taking place or had taken place in the world. But as a matter of fact, there was no such movement. The US military did not mention anything like that, though such kinds of reference were available in the works of some western experts, which was actually exaggerated.
There has been no such movement, but that does not mean there was no such revolution. There has really been military revolution. The US armed forces did not emphasize the evolution, because it was transforming every day. The United States did not need a reason to start a war, and did not need any rule in a war. There was a saying which goes, “while young men know rules, older ones know exceptions.” We might mimic that by saying that “while we know the rules, the US military knows exceptions.” The most embarrassing game of all is one which its rules change when you are in. It is that way in life, and so is it with war. Why have those military commentators made wrong judgments? One of the important reasons was that their ideas had grown out of their time. They live in today’s world, but their thoughts remained in yesterday’s world, or that of the day before yesterday. It was true that tradition did not necessarily represent outdated things, and modern concepts were not necessarily advanced thoughts. But the world was changing at such a great pace that once you failed to see it, you would be late in catching every step it made. For instance, some of our experts might talk about “luring the enemy into a trap” or “emptied city” tactics. But the US would simply not play that game. In a world where high-tech was being updated every month or even every day, the side with the upper hand was fully aware of the position of its enemy and themselves.
However, I wanted to point out that the basic ideas of our military commentators did not belong to themselves alone, it was an offspring from the theory of that time.
Our gaps with the US lie mainly in our military quality and ideology. I worked in the west and had studied the west. My general comment on the west was that it lacked ideas, though it was always full of vigor. We could perhaps apply this saying to the general situation of the PLA.
The second lesson we learned from the Iraq War was that we should emphasize strategy by all means. The strategy I mentioned here refers to the strategy of the development of the armed forces. Military strategy is another form of national strategy.
The development of military strategies in the world is becoming more and more complicated nowadays, and the pace for that change is also picking up speed. In the Cold War, US military strategy changed approximately every decade, while it has changed every two to three years since the end of the Cold War.
At a time when our rival has been constantly changing, it would not do if we do not seek change. It is my belief there is only a question of strategic transformation, and none of tactical transformation—at least for the moment. And for the transformation, capacity is not a question, determination is the only thing that matters. We’ll have to prepare ourselves, when we are facing such aggressive US forces. We are all talking about the US’ next possible target. Whoever it will be, what matters most is whether it will attack China. Precaution averts peril. Opportunity is always saved for those who are well prepared.
REPORTER What is the most important problem in the establishment of strategy?
LT. GEN. LIU Avoid mistakes. Strategic poverty is a major restriction on the development of a country, and on the development of its armed forces. There is a slogan which says, “we should develop our education however poor we are”. We could bear poverty in every field but strategic poverty. After the Iraq war ended, Gao Jin said: “the importance of warfare has waned, while the importance for strategy, waxed.” By that, he has touched the essence of the issue with his sagacious wisdom. For more than a decade, he has been trying very hard to transform the University of National Defense from a campaign university to a strategy one. His thoughts and conduct were those of a prophet.
The main strategic issue for our army is war preparation, but there is a kind of phenomenon which is quite thought-provoking: We would either ponder the issue of military philosophy, when we would go to extremely abstract notions; or we would think about military conflicts, when we would go to extremely specific things. Gao Jin pointed out that “We should not always hover in the sky of military philosophy and not land on the ground; neither should we wallow in the lower layer of concrete war methods and never think of something superior”. I have always remembered a quotation from Mao Tse-tung: “in planning a battle, one should grasp the strategically vital points, while in planning the action tactics, one should grasp the vital points of a battle.”
Mao Tse-tung once asked, “where do the right ideas come from?” But I’ll ask the question in reverse: “where does the wrong mentality come from?” Like right thoughts, the wrong mentality of a person also came from practice. Sometimes, it was falsehood that was leading the way, and the truth just followed. As a result, sometimes it was different kinds of falsehood, rather than the truth, that was leading our way forward.
Zhu Sujin also said, “A more painful fact hidden in the whole history of war was as such: from the angle of the pure military art, most epoch-making military thoughts and strategies were created by invaders, which was later digested and absorbed by the invaded ones, who in turn would defeat those invaders in the end.” Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler, they were all masters of unjust wars and outstanding inaugurators of military arts. And though they would be exterminated ultimately, a price would have to be paid—be it flesh or blood—ten times greater than they had paid to achieve that, among which nine tenth serve as the price paid for their military arts. After that, we would inherit their military thoughts and arts, as if they live within our bodies and our weapons.
The third revelation we got from the Iraq war was that the Chinese armed forces should do nothing but to take their own road. The US was not afraid of the military modernization of China, for China could hardly catch up with it. What the U. S. army feared was the Maoization of the Chinese military. Maoization was also called revolutionizing or politicization, but those were just part of it. The farther away the Chinese armed forces were from Maoization, the greater chance that the US would win.
Mao Tse-tung was an unparalleled military genius in human history at fighting and defeating stronger enemies.
REPORTER Do you think, then, our enemy will invade us in the future like it invaded Iraq?
LT. GEN. LIU We should not make simple analogies between different wars like that. It would be a manifestation of weak wisdom if one treats us Chinese as the Iraqis and imagines the US as future invaders of China.
Let’s talk about the people’s war. It was an open system of military thoughts and was not a stereotype. We could not apply the notion of the peoples’ war by simply replacing some sayings with newer phrases of today, or simply replacing the rifles the peoples have with portable missiles, as if in this way, traditional warfare would turn to a people’s war under high-tech conditions. But they were two totally different concepts. For example, one of the premises for the traditional people’s war is luring the enemy into a trap. Can it be applied now? The traditional people’s war emphasized the notion of winning time by space, so that the enemy could be trapped into the vast ocean of the people. I dare to say that in the future, our enemies will not send any troops to our soil. Instead, they will fire numerous bombs, missiles to our capital, reservoirs, and nuclear power stations, etc.
What’s more, even if you want to fight the war that way, and want to lure the enemy in, will they come? War is a matter of two sides. Dennis C. Blair, former Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Command, once said, “We respect the authority of the People's Liberation Army in their mainland. Yet we must make them understand that the ocean and sky is ours.”
The kernel of military thoughts in all nations and ages was their operational thoughts, whose core contents was also called General Battling Tactics. Information battle is the most fashionable military term today. It is firstly a battle thoughts before it is any battle method. The U. S. troops always emphasizes to fight dissymmetric wars.
In fact, the guiding thoughts of the people’ war is exactly fighting dissymmetric battles, and we alone are the old ancestors of dissymmetric war.
The more solid and credible our strategy deterrence becomes to the United States, the more careful it would be in considering forceful intervention.
We need to study how the people’s war could be fought in current situations. If we still take the people’s war which focused on defending our land as a fundamental strategic guide, it would mean that our enemy would achieve their purposes without even firing a shot—as that way they would have strictly suppressed China to her own soil.
I have been studying the United States and found that it had a great strategy. It would always try to create a situation in which its enemy would feel that its land was threatened. When that worked, the enemy would deliver all its manpower and material resources to the land, ceding the sea way or a sky thoroughfare to the US. The US would by no means get to its enemy by way of land: it would land from the sky. You see, basically we do not have any problems on our land, while our ocean territory has been invaded severely. We can not limit our war concepts on the ground any longer.
The frontiers of our national interests are expanding. Our military strategy should embody characteristics of the time.
REPORTER From the live comments on Iraq war to analysis and debates after the war, we found that quite a few people in our army hold that ground battles remain the foundation of future wars.
LT. GEN. LIU We should use the experience of the US armed forces for reference. The biggest lesson that the US learned from the Korean War and the Vietnam War was that ground campaign by large-scale mechanized corps had too many disadvantages. After those two wars, the United States began to reflect in agony and transformed itself thoroughly, from inside theory to outside practice. It no longer mobilized large quantities of ground troops to proceed with large-scale battles. Instead, it would first think of using its air power and the special forces, which concentrated in intelligence collection and target designation, played a leading role on the ground. Its main strategic targets were all realized through air attacks. Entangled ground battles and mechanical warfare were forbidden.
The military development tides in the world shows that future wars will tend to be more human (only from the military meaning, of course.) High-tech not only changes the war manners, it also changes war ethics. In precision-war times, massive killings resulting from non-guided weapons will no longer exist. We will not only emphasize small casualties or even zero casualty from our party, we will also try to kill as few enemies as possible—after all, killing itself is not the purpose of a war. In that sense, it is worth studying when the United States greases senior Iraqi officers or uses its air power to “behead” or frighten them. Whereas using the army in both cases or storming heavily fortified positions, which resorted mainly to manpower confronts rather than technical and intellectual confronts, would do nothing good but take more lives, which is against the rule of military development and the nature of wars.
I don’t believe that cruelty should be the essence of war. Rather, its essence should be a contest in intelligence and technology. The more advanced technology becomes and the more civilized society become, the more human wars will become.
Why would the Chinese hate the Japanese so much at the mere mentioning of the latter?
And why is it always so difficult for both countries and nations to truly trust each other?
It is because too many Chinese were killed by the Japanese then. It will forever be a shame to China, and a stain for the Japanese.
But if you take a look at the wars that the United States participated in, you would find that the peoples in those countries did not have deep hatred for US after the wars concluded—only those overthrown governments might have that hatred. The ancient Chinese also expressed similar ideas: so long as the purpose of a war is achieved, one should not try to kill any more people. We would do better not to kill anyone. And if we have to, we should kill as few as possible. We should try to lower our deaths in fighting a war, which was the most important thing. It is true that we should not be afraid of sacrifice; but if we don’t have to sacrifice, that’s still better.
Certainly it is somewhat too ideal, and yet it is a notion that we must have in mind. Once it was impossible to fight a war without employing a great deal of manpower, as technology then was at a low level. Modern technology, however, has made it possible (that we use smaller manpower in wars). We should understand that the fundamental value in technology development and its application in the military field is that it could help lower the cost for victory.
REPORTER It seems that the US pays much attention to cost.
LT. GEN. LIU Everyone should pay attention to that. The United States has set a good example for us, and it is the only nation in the world which earns money by fighting wars. The US began to make money from wars after the end of the Vietnam War. It treated war as some kind of business and would not fight for sheer politics or ideology.
It not only makes money, but also tries to reduce its cost as much as possible, particularly in lives. Therefore, we’ll be able to predict how it fights wars: it is certain that it will fight a war with the most economic and simple means, so that war dividends could be maximized. Victory is not the only objective and standard. What the US pursues is a victory at the minimal price. It not only asks other countries to share the war expenses before the war and captures the resources of the defeated countries in the war, it also sells weapons in large scales afterwards. In a word, it has entered into a “benign circulate “ of wars. The more it fights wars, the richer it becomes, and vice versa, the richer it becomes, the more it’ll fight.
Certainly, it is very dangerous—as dangerous as drug addiction. But it is advanced in terms of war concepts, otherwise, it would have stopped fight one war after another.
In the past two decades the United States has already fought from Latin America to Europe, from Africa to Asia—and in Asia it has already come twice. It is not completely because of the might of the United States. What is fundamental is its method of fighting, and the fact that it becomes increasingly strong in fighting wars.
Certainly, we should condemn the hegemony that the United States practices. But we should learn from its concept of war. I have contemplated the concept of war for a long time. I always feel that renewing war conceptions is more important than weapon renewal. The overall national power of China in Qing Dynasty during Jiawu War was stronger than that of Japan. Although at that time the most advanced weapon had been introduced into China, we still could not even sustain a war because no advanced notion of war had been introduced to China then. Iraq War showed us again the fearful consequence of a conceptual lag.
REPORTER General, what do you think are the key points in the future development of our military?
LT. GEN. LIU I think the key issues should include the following points: First of all, we should by all means possess a spirit of “Overwhelming Victory”. Peter F. Drucker, a management master, said, “It is not a technical revolution undertaking in the current society, nor is it a software or speed revolution. It is a concept revolution.
REPORTER What are the core and connotation of an “Overwhelming Victory”?
LT. GEN. LIU In the face of new wars in a new age, we should cultivate and establish a kind of offensive consciousness. That is to say, under the premise of a general defensive strategy, we should first possess a powerful counterattack capability rather than a defensive capability. We’ll only stop war by way of conducting counterattacks.
In the Mechanization Age we were defending linearly. We could station troops along the borders, or to increase the depth of resistance, so that resistance would continue one after another.
Now we should defend the whole territory. How to defend? Just impossible. Just as a soldier with only a shield could not win any fights, neither could an army which heeds only its defense. It could neither win the war nor ensure its security. The history of military affairs is a history of the offensive. The reason why China's nuclear weapons has deterrent power is that they can be launched. If they were anti-air missiles, the deterrent power would not be so strong .
REPORTER As far as defense is concerned, I think it is not a military notion any more for many people in the Chinese army. We have, in our mind, inherited the genes from our ancestors who emphasized defense rather than offense.
LT. GEN LIU That is true. Defense and resistance have been our military thoughts for the past thousands of years. It is China's topography that high mountains stand erect in the southwest and northwest parts and several seas lie to its east and south parts, which constitute a natural barrier in the cold weather times. Only the northern part could serve as passage, when our ancestors built the Ten-Thousand-Li Great Wall, which had stopped no one else but ourselves. I have been thinking about it for long. It was not that the Great Wall was not high and solid enough, but that our concepts on war had become too conservative. Emperor Qin-Shihuang invaded six kingdoms from an elevated place. What a spectacle it must have been when he swept away all his enemy’s troops! Yet he went on to order a “yard wall” be built to fend off northern nomad tribes. As a consequence, the wall was built and rebuilt, guarded and defended generation after generation—and never worked. As time passed to the later period of the Qing Dynasty, the ocean no longer served as a barrier, but as a royal road. It was a pity that the Qing Court did not try to change accordingly, and still resorted to defense by erecting emplacement along the seaside. There were lots of emplacements along the coast, from Humen Fort to Wu Songkou Fort, Dagu Fort and to Lushunkou Fort, which could well be dubbed the Great Wall in the Sea. What happened? It left historical debts to us—until now.
It is the age of air power today, and all of the geological advantages we have would not help any longer. We can not defend ourselves from an invasion even if we wish to. But some of us have inherited the genes of the conservativeness of our ancestors, they would resort to nothing else but defense.
REPORTER Several years ago, the United States fabricated the “China Threat Theory” and we tried to make explanations right away. When did the U. S. ever feel unsafe? It was always assured and bold. It could be said that in terms of military affairs, there would be no real security unless one has an offensive spirit.
LT. GEN. LIU We must be strong. A strongman respected by the west would include three aspects. Firstly, you must have your strength. Secondly, you must show it. Thirdly, you must make other people understand that you have the courage and determination to exert your strength whenever necessary. The absence of any of the three aspects would have disqualified a strongman.
Just now I talked about an “Overwhelming Victory”. Now let’s turn to the second point: human-oriented. Many Chinese entrepreneurs would like to bring up the fashionable slogan of “human-oriented”. Our army needs that too. There were also three meanings here.
1. The Spirit to Respect others. Let me again take the cases of Chinese entrepreneurs as an example. There were always lots of intelligent and capable peoples among them, but most of them had a common weakness: there was a lack of modern spirit and humanity in their mentality. When such limitation were, intentionally or unintentionally, brought to enterprise management, it would be magnified, and it would hurt lots of people. Once I spoke to some entrepreneurs, I said, “I would know you are not a big figure simply by judging from your ways of imitating a big shot’s manners.” They always held money as a priority and humanity, something of the least importance, which would ultimately lead to their loss both in money and people. They usually won at the beginning, and lost as an end was approaching. That was the fundamental reason why Chinese business enterprises never succeeded in making themselves flourish for long. There was something similar inside the army.
2. Talent Strategy. The strategy to conquer the world was a strategy that stressed the use of talented people. For thousands of years, mobilizing the masses to fight wars has been the Chinese way, and the outcome of wars depended on the scale of people that each side had mobilized. When the Qing Troops fought to suppress the Taiping Rebellion, both parties used human-sea tactics. That was an offspring of the agricultural civilization.
Future wars would take on a brand-new look. Rumsfeld’s Theory was to win by small yet quick and elite troops, which demanded large quantities of professionalized talents in the troops. In Chinese history, it was always the case that poorer-cultivated groups defeated better-educated ones, while it was just the opposite in world history; it was especially so for today’s world.
You might feel surprised by my mentioning of educational level here, but it was in fact a serious reality in our army. The educational level of the senior and middle officers in our army had a wide gap with even local officials, let alone with US military officials. Let me take the case of some big Military District as an instance.
There were five group armies in that particular Military District, and for all 36 officers holding army commanders and higher ranks, only 3 had received higher education, while all 8 governor or vice governors of the stationing province had received high education. As for the 18 division-levels officers in that Military District, none had received higher education. Many experts and scholars did not do well in predicting the Iraqi War. It was just because they had not been familiar with the epistemology and methodology which should be implemented in studying modern wars.
There are no two identical wars in the world. Compared with other fields of society, warfare has more chance and uncertainty and it was impossible to predict precisely every part and every stage of the war. But “war is nothing mysterious but a kind of inevitable movement”. It was possible to “have a general idea of war and its key points.” Mastering scientific epistemology and methodology was the key to that goal. Otherwise, one would tend to take the characteristics of the last war as rules, and apply them when predicting a next war; or take special rules in a particular war as general rules, and repeat the experiences from foreign countries.
Talent is very important—a rare resource. It is particularly important when our army is currently faced with the task of reduction and reorganization. We should have the same spirit of respecting and cherishing the talents as comrade Deng Xiaoping did.
Let me give you an example: Why did our military grow stronger rather than weaker in 1985 when we trimmed down our military force by the millions? Why was there no such things as talent shortage? That was because Comrade Deng Xiaoping, being far-sighted, had perceived problems long before others ever thought about it. As early as in 1983, he had begun to select and promote, in large scale, young and talented cadres with moral integrity to key positions in various levels. Nowadays most cadres above the rank of army commander had been promoted then and it was two year later that large-scale military strengths reduction commenced.
3. The spirit to tolerate different thoughts. Trying to assimilate the thoughts of others was another manifestation of our cadre’s disrespect to others. Such a psychology would cause us to have a preference for seemingly obedient and so-called honest persons in time of need. Zhou Wei, Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IBM in Greater China Zone once said, “As a high managing director, if you could not tolerate others and would not promote anyone but those who have the same ideas and manner of doing things with you, you’ll assemble a group of people whose mentality is similar to yours and you’ll be in danger. The reason is, when you come to the end of your wits, they will not be able to help you, as their mentality and conducting style are almost of the same pattern as your.”
A professor with the Central Party School also said, “If we do not encourage people to think freely and bring on new opinions, our society will in fact stall completely, though it might seem to be calm and tranquil.” These words are best suited to the situation of our Armed Forces. A western philosopher said, “We should be grateful to variety; it is variety that helps mankind survive.”
Just now I mentioned that genius was rare. But the soil where genius could survive and thrive was something even rarer. One of the basic characteristics of traditional Chinese culture was its social tropism, namely that individuals should obey the collective will and should be overwhelmed by the collective, and a lot of talented people were thus strangled relentlessly. If a person wanted to be just so-so, few people would stand in the way. If a person wanted to excel, he would then be checked. And while tricks like to be covered, truth loved to be naked. Those who were willing to vend their own opinion were courageous and unselfish ones. This was my reflection, my agony. My agony made me reflect, and my reflection in turn brought me agony.
The most profound agony was that the agony was totally inevitable. The foregoing words could also be considered as criticism. The sharper the criticism was, the more profound the reflection.
REPORTER The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China put forward the issues of Theory Innovation and Striding Development. What do you think about them?
LT. GEN. LIU The PLA is a glorious and invincible army. We have won over numerous enemies and all kinds of hardship, dangers and difficulties. When we face the challenges in new military revolution, we must have a clear-headed understanding on ourselves, on the time and on our rivalries. We should have grand conceptions and vast accommodation. We need innovation, which is the soul of all theories, which in turn serve as the roof design of highest level for military development.
We should consider the innovation concept in the military theory from the height of life and death, survival and perdition of our country and nation. The real value of research in military theory can be tested only in armed clashes.
We have to realize that, compared with the reforms in other fields, the reforming pace in the military is not quick enough, and our ideas are not bold enough.
The fact that military reform lagged behind the overall national reform was a result of the history. If falling behind a little could still be accepted, then falling too much behind would be a serious problem. Modernization of the national defense is the pillar of our national modernization.
A military expert of the United States once said, that when facing future wars, we should be prepared neck and above, not neck and below—if we had no choice by to fight.
Less than 4 years into the 21st Century, mankind has already experienced two large-scale wars. Both wars proved that air power had reached the climax of warfare. It was not a terminal point; it was a new starting point. Today marks the earlier stage of the air force of the space age, which has foreshadowed such a trend: it would first transition from air power to sky-space power (space as a supporting element), and continue to space-sky power (space as a dominating element). Just as air battlefields were an expansion of ground battlefields, space battlefields would inevitably be an expansion of air battlefields. The Pentagon said, “We have to stop thinking about tomorrow and think about the day after tomorrow”. I am beginning to wonder what kind of war the day after tomorrow will have.
As Giulio Douhet remarked about one hundred years ago, “Victory always smiles upon those who have foreseen the changes in the modes of war”. Let’s then consider the following question: as we are heading into the 21st Century, with its wars, can we see the smiles that Giulio Douhet has seen?
Thanks Officer of Engineers,
this is one the the most interesting reading for me in recent times.... Will take me time to read carefully..... the guy has some interestng views
China’s Changing Military Ideology
By Frank Zhou
Footprints of the PLA: An Introduction
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was founded in 1927 in the wake of the Nationalist Party’s bloody suppression of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in major cities like Shanghai and Changsha. Since then, it survived Chiang Kai-shek’s relentless pursuit and the Long March, expanded during the Japanese occupation of much of China from 1937 through 1945 and overran the Nationalist forces and forced them to flee to Taiwan in 1949. It helped the CCP seize power and found the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Barely a year after PRC was established, the PLA moved across the Yalu River in a gallant effort to stop the UN forces from crushing North Korea and pushing toward the Chinese border. Its staggering losses during this three-year conflict convinced the top leadership that modernization in military thinking and equipment was crucial. The first transformation of the PLA took place.
In 1950s, the PLA launched raids and bombardment against offshore islands of Taiwan, leading the United States to sign mutual defense treaty with Taiwan and deploy forces and even nuclear weapons there. In 1962, the much more professional and better-trained PLA forces crossed into India in order to force the Nehru government to accept a reasonable border deal. Many believed the PLA could have routed the Indian forces and marched into New Delhi if it had wanted. However, the PLA quickly withdrew from India to show to the world that PRC was not a nation bent on aggression and expansion. But the PRC leadership was much afraid of a US-led aggression against itself and extremely concerned about nuclear blackmail. From the mid 1960s to the early 1970s, PRC acquired nuclear bombs and the launching capacity. It also sent Chinese anti-air and engineering forces into North Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
This rapid and significant modernization of the PLA was blocked by the onslaught of the Cultural Revolution launched by Mao Zedong in 1966. In the next decade, the PLA abolished its ranking system, ceased training and began to assume a role of an internal police, restoring order and ensuring stability in much of China whose education and economic activities all but came to a stop when ideological purification and purging of counterrevolutionary elements from the Party and government were the tall order. In 1969 and 1970, the PLA briefly engaged the Soviet forces in Heilongjiang Province and Xinjiang Autonomous Region and found, to its great dismay, it no longer stood a chance of fighting a winning battle.
1979 was a turning point for the PLA. In order to rally the Chinese people behind reform and opening up measures and to enter into at least a semblance of an alliance with the United States to deter the Soviet Union (that had just begun its invasion of Afghanistan), the PRC decided to teach Vietnam a lesson via a month long invasion. Unlike the 1962 incursion into India, the PLA suffered tremendous losses due to incompetent leadership, lack of training of officers and foot soldiers, failed supply and poor communication among the troops on the battlefield. While the PRC leadership achieved the goal of domestic mobilization and registering its pro-America position, the military failure was colossal. Deng Xiaoping, the chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission from the late 1970s to early 1990s, initiated a multiple-pronged effort to transform the PLA; namely, the withdrawal of the military from civilian institutions, 2) the restoration of the ranking system, 3) massive downsizing of the active forces and 4) purchasing advanced weapons from overseas and exposing its officer corps to their foreign counterparts.
In the following decade, the PLA indeed got leaner and possibly meaner. With new weapon systems purchased from abroad, increased professional education, larger budget and better training, the Chinese military was on the rise. Then, two events had far-reaching impact on its modernization drives and strategy formulation. First, in the summer of 1989, it was unfortunately called in to crush a civil disobedience in China’s capital and its image was woefully tainted and its outreach to the West was abruptly cut off. Second, the Taiwan government introduced a political reform, leading to the popular rise of aspiration for independence on the island. While the Tiananmen massacre made the PLA unpopular among the Chinese people, it had also increased its leverage over the top leadership for more budget and the opportunity to generate more funds in engaging in businesses. Political changes in Taiwan turned the scenario of independence real and the PLA began to deliberate on how to deter Taiwan from engaging in such an endeavor. In preparing for a war in the Taiwan Strait, the United State began to figure large in the Chinese defense strategies because the United States was bound by the Taiwan Relations Act to defend Taiwan if Mainland China attempted to seize it by force.
The first Gulf War shocked the PLA, which intensified an urgency to catch up with the US and initiated a renewed study of the US military. On the other hand the suspicion of the United States was sharpened in 1995 when the PLA launched missiles in an attempt to scare Taiwan voters not to pick Lee Tenghui as the president of Taiwan and President Clinton sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the waters near China. The accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the EP-3 incident in 2001 and the subsequent Bush’s statement that the United States would definitely defend Taiwan if there was an PRC invasion all further contributed to a worsened US-China military relationship that has yet to recover from the sanctions of 1989. In the late 1990s, Jiang Zemin, Chairman of the CMC after Deng Xiaoping, seemed to want to make reunification of Taiwan a political legacy of his and declared a definitive time schedule be set in terms of “liberating” Taiwan. Funding poured into modernizing the PLA and developing killer weapons that can deter the US from intervening in a cross-strait invasion.
It is in this context that we want to look at the recent development of China’s military strategic thinking as we all understand strategizing without considering current needs and future concerns is always a vain and useless exercise.
Trajectory of the PLA Military Thinking: from People’s War to Ensuring Peace
Mao Zedong was one of the founders of the PLA and his thinking dominated the strategies of the PLA for many decades. It was he that designed effective tactics for evading the much stronger Nationalist forces in the early years of the Red Army. It was also he that introduced the idea of a protracted war when China was resisting the Japanese occupation. He believed all reactionaries, including the seemingly powerful Americans, were “paper tigers”. His ideas were later crystallized into the concept of people’s war, a new variation of the total war with an emphasis on the justice of a revolutionary war and the role of a nation’s general population in wars. Despite his pompous and self-righteous talk of looking down upon the enemy, Mao did believe that China had to be a nuclear power.
With the collapse of Mao’s messianic mission to export revolution and seek to overthrow the imperialistic order dictated by Washington and the United States, Deng Xiaoping managed to deep freeze the revolutionary fervor of the PLA and instructed the military to keep a low profile and focus on training and modernization.
Deng left the stage before the Taiwan issue became a domestic crisis and international issue. Given his thinking on the return of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China, Deng could and had the authority to declare that “let’s not worry about the Taiwan issue” and focus on economic development. But his successor, Jiang Zemin, was less secure. He had no military experience but lots of vanity. He eventually used the promotion to tame the top brasses and they all rallied behind his claim that there should be a timetable to unify with Taiwan. But he did not deviate from the modernization efforts launched by Deng and kept trimming the size of the PLA.
Hu Jintao began to assume the control of the PLA with even less security, two years after he became general secretary of the CCP. Jiang maintained a tight control of the PLA even after he supposedly left the power center. However, soon after Jiang gave up his CMC chairmanship, Hu called on its troops to develop under a new ideology, which in General Wen Zongren’s words, signifies a strategic move to include a role in keeping the world peace as well as providing a safe environment for the country to develop economically.
From Mao to Hu, in a span of some sixty years, the PLA does not seem have developed a comprehensive strategic concept. Of the four CMC chairmen, only Mao was a thinker and philosopher but he was consumed by an unrealistic ambition to remake the world according to his vision than to protect China’s own interest as the top priority. What is even more tragic is that other than Sun Zi whose ideas came more than two thousand years ago, China has never been able to produce a Carl von Clausewitz, an Alfred Mahan or a George Kennan despite its large apparatus of military and defense research and education. This is largely because the Chinese system (applicable to both the Nationalist and Communist eras) is such that it does not allow unconventional thinking to flourish and particularly ideas that are deemed to challenge the thought of the top leadership. In the context of no toleration of any attempts to revise the orthodoxy, any new ideas, new paradigms and new theories often run the risk of offending the power that be and lead to possible demotion, expulsion and even imprisonment for the owners of the new thinking. As a result, in addition to the fossilization of old ideas of Marx, Lenin and Mao that has prevented advance of China’s military thinking, it is also extremely hard to pierce the opacity of China’s military strategies and derive clues to its defense policies. This is very dangerous when we see China bent on taking Taiwan by force without giving any consideration of public opinion, human sufferings and damages to the stability and peace in the Pacific region and when China sees the US as a superpower out there to undercut its national aspiration to be a member of the superpower club.
However, in the past decade or so, we have the good luck of somehow seeing through the bamboo curtain some of the most extraordinary outbursts of new military thinking and strategic reorientation in China. Although there is no way of knowing how representative they are, what kind of impact these ideas may have on China’s current defense policy making and future war planning, and if the rising generation of PLA officers will accept these ideas, these notions and concepts are circulating and drawing heated debates both in the conference rooms and classrooms of China’s defense research and educational institutions and in the cyberspace. Out of this renaissance of military thinking, there are three very impressive PLA officers whose ideas that are easily identifiable and who have run into one or two huge bumps in their otherwise illustrious career because of their innovative thinking and their effort to fashion new schools of strategic thinking. They are Lieutenant General Li Jijun, Colonel Qiao Liang and Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou. While it is still early to say to what extent these ideas or theories might contribute to the formulation of a more rational defense strategy in China, they can certainly help us to better decipher the otherwise unclear and unspecified goals of the PLA and their means to achieve those goals.
The Rise and Fall of General Li Jijun
Born in 1934 in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, Li is 72 this year. Li went to the Korean front soon after he joined the army. He has served as a staff officer in division and corps headquarters, director of the research office, the Military Science Academy, army division commander, corps commander, and commander of mechanized group army of the Beijing Military Command, director of the General office of the CPC Central Military Commission, Vice President of the Academy of Military Science, ranked Lieutenant General. Currently he is a senior advisor of the China International Strategy Society. His major writings include: On Strategy, Military Theory and War Practice, China’s Traditional Military Thinking and Defensive Strategy, Military Strategic Thinking, just to name a few.
In the early 1980s, in the wake of the border clash with Vietnam, Li Jijun, a junior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, wrote a seminal paper which rendered a detailed analysis of the transition and development of the Chinese military thinking since its establishment in 1927, and reinterpreted the US military strategy. Li’s recipe for an overhaul of the PLA was very much in line with that of the top leadership: dropping the doctrine of people’s war, downsizing, mechanizing or modernizing the troops and learning from the US.
Li became a rising star in the PLA establishment as a result. He was first promoted directly to division commander, an unprecedented move by the PLA to appoint an academic to a field position. In 1985, the CMC decided to set up the first mechanized group army, and Li Jijun became the top candidate, was subsequently named to command the newly organized group army, assuming the responsibility of reorganizing a field army into a group army. Soon Li designed and created the army’s first group army of 3-D operational capabilities. For quite some time he was widely deemed as a rising star in the military. In 1987, Li was promoted as Director General of the CMC General Office. In 1997, as head of the Chinese military delegation, General Li visited the United States and delivered an important speech entitled Traditional Military Thinking and the Defensive Strategy of China at the US Army War College.
In terms of military restructuring, Li urged his bosses to avoid at any cost falling into a vicious cycle of arms race, and seize the opportunity to develop China’s own hi-tech weaponry and equipment. He also came up with an asymmetric warfare theory, which had equivalent deterrence means as backup. Li’s military strategic views are hailed by many as a shot in the arm of China’s traditional military theory, and was reputed as the academic vanguard of the Chinese strategy studies.
For reasons unknown to the outside, the decline of Li’s fortune was as shocking as his meteoric rise. When he assumed the position of director general of the CMC General Office in 1987, there was a growing consensus among the PLA senior officers that he would soon be promoted to deputy chief of staff and eventually become chief of staff of the PLA. This promotion never took place and after quite a few years in the CMC General Office, in 1992, he was transferred to the PLA Academy of Military Science as its vice president with no promotion. Li retired from that position now. Although Li continued to express his ideas and became even more active after his retirement, he was never able to play the crucial role of reshaping China’s military strategy. Was he punished by his outspokenness and his challenge to the conventional wisdom? No one can tell.
The Colonel Who Helped Osama Bin Laden
In the late 1990s, Chinese researchers on military strategy began to incorporate Western information strategy into their studies, and the Gulf War, and the war in Kosovo provided a fertile ground for discussions of various schools or factions to mushroom. One of the most controversial representatives is Qiao Liang, an Air Force colonel. Currently Qiao is a professor at PLA’s Air Force Command Academy, and ranked senior colonel.
Born into a military family in Xinxian County, Shanxi province, China, Qiao joined the service in 1972, and worked as a writer and researcher in the military. In 1995, Qiao published his novel Door to the Doomsday, a work believed to be full of avant-garde thinking and strong military flavor. The novel was the earliest Chinese literature that touched upon Internet warfare, terrorist attacks, and financial warfare. It was an immediate hit throughout the country. In 1999, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, an air force researcher who recently retired and became director of a think tank of the China Aviation University, co-wrote Unrestricted Warfare, a monograph on warfare in the new age.
Translated into English almost immediately after its publication by CIA, the book raised serious concerns throughout the world. It is available for sale on Amazon.com and on the Internet accessible by all. In Unrestricted Warfare, the authors coolly pointed out that the “new terrorists” are capable of generating shock waves of strategic proportion directed at the only superpower, i.e. the US through tactical means or even virtually through means of technology. The emergence and subsequent exposure of Bin-Laden-style terrorism provided evidence for Qiao’s predication. Needless to say, two years later, on September 11, 2001, what happened in New York City further confirmed Qiao’s theory with amazing accuracy. Because this book challenged traditional operational doctrines and strike approaches, it gave rise to a series of debates among the Chinese military academics, with the focus on whether a “non-military act of war” could become a new war model in the 21st century. As a result, the same string of thoughts follow, that new forms of warfare, such as financial warfare, hacker warfare, and terrorist warfare that are launched or participated in by non-professional servicemen can probably inflict stronger impact on intended enemy targets.
Unrestricted Warfare suggests that an “age of integrated technology” has given birth to a new set of rules of war, and only a new military strategic thinking can help a technologically inferior Chinese army navigate through the labyrinth of international complexities against a more powerful foe. Several retired generals in Taiwan shared the views with Colonel Qiao and believed that it would take twenty or thirty years for Unrestricted Warfare to transform the old mentality within China’s military and the geo-status-quo must be the basis for any solution concerning military affairs to the Taiwan Issue. Qiao believes that there is no compatibility between the Mainland and Taiwan in terms of military affairs. No matter how much weaponry Taiwan is to acquire, it cannot change the fact that Taiwan lacks strategic depth. The Taiwan Strait is only 120 kilometers or 75 miles wide at the narrowest point, minimal distance needed for launching a final assault in amphibious operations. Moreover, Taiwan is very close to the forward position of the Mainland, with its entire defense exposed to the first firing line. Qiao once commented, “If the island of Taiwan could drift eastward 300 more kilometers or 187 more miles, the operational difficulties on the part of the Mainland would increase tremendously. Therefore, Taiwan is unable to escape from its destiny as the geo-prisoner of the Mainland. As can be seen, the Unrestricted Warfare doctrine has created a new paradigm for solutions to the Taiwan issue, not necessarily reassuring to citizens on either side of the Strait, and definitely gave rise to endless imaginations, some may even be wild, for China’s military hawks.
Many young PLA officers have regarded Qiao as a creative godfather of new millennium war strategies and a glorious inventor of a new killer approach to make the relatively weaker China stand up to a superpower like the United States. After the 9.11 terrorist attacks, many a Chinese citizens commended Qiao for inspiring Osama Bin Laden to shatter the complacency and arrogance of the United States and shake its economic and financial epicenter. The US government officially lodged protest against Qiao Liang and his book and demanded censure. Interestingly it appeared that many PLA researchers joined the American anti-Qiao chorus and condemned Qiao Liang as a shameless deviator of the traditional PLA defense strategy and vain traitor to Deng Xiaoping’s idea of keeping a low profile and saying as little as possible. Qiao Liang was reprimanded by the PLA and lost his chance of promotion to the rank of general.
No one knows if Bin Laden has actually borrowed ideas from Colonel Qiao, but the fact remains that Qiao is a brilliant thinker and a genius strategist. He is able to use both fictional stories and strategy papers to outline a doomsday scenario that can easily be converted into a blueprint for any anti-social fanatic, any terrorist organization or any nation state. The reprimand of Qiao Liang has erected a huge road bump on his shining career and may be the reason that caused his transfer to the Air Force Command College. Like the earlier failure to use General Li Jijun fully and the recent demotion of General Zhu Chenghu who vowed to go toe to toe with the United States in a possible nuclear shootout, the fall from grace of Colonel Qiao has further contributed to the stifling of independent thinking and suppression of creative reasoning on the part of PLA generals and researchers.
Will the Sun Rise for Liu Yazhou?
Any discussion of who is who in the new generation of Chinese military leadership can never be complete without a closer look at the next name on the list – Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou. Born in 1952, Liu is currently an Air Force Lieutenant General, with family origin in Su County, Anhui province, China. He joined the army in 1968, and went to study in the Foreign Languages Department of Wuhan University in 1972. After graduation, he worked as a researcher on the Air Force of Taiwan. Liu has been the Political Commissar of the Armored Force Research Institute under the General Staff Headquarters, the director of the Political Department of the Air Force, Beijing Military Command, and the Political Commissar of the Air Force, the Chengdu Military Command. He has been Deputy Political Commissar of the PLA Air Force since 2004.
Like Qiao Liang, Liu began his career as a writer in the 1980s. His series of quasi fictional writings on the Taiwan military, the war in the Middle East and the British effort to retain Malvinas catapulted him to the national stage with a large following. Due to his background as an author, Liu was able to visit the United States, European countries, South Korea and Taiwan in 1980s. But he dropped his literary license altogether since the early 1990s when he left the creative writing division of the PLA air force and began a steep climb of the military ranks. During the twenty some years when rising from the battalion commander rank all the way to the rung of a two-star general, he has produced a large quantity of policy papers and strategy memoranda. These long and short writings are general enough that they cannot be classified but are also original and deviational enough that no Chinese press can publish them either.
Most of Liu’s writings are circulated as informal pamphlets inside the military and among his friends. They did not catch public attention and popular fascination until the beginning of the new century. It all began in 2001 with a critique of one of the most humiliating defeats of the PLA in the face of the demoralized Nationalist forces in October 1949 during the Battle of Quemoy. With previously unpublicized details and a rare literary flair, Liu described how the Nationalist forces thwarted a PLA landing on the island that resulted in the loss of more than 9,000 troops. Liu attributes the devastating loss to complacency, poor planning and incompetent command.
This critique appeared at the time when the entire PLA apparatus was busy exploring the possibility of turning CMC chairman Jiang Zemin’s imaginative timetable of liberating Taiwan into an executable reality. According to Liu, history threatened to repeat itself in the late 1990s when hard-line officials argued that Taiwan must be fought and that the victory was certain. Disclosing a previously unseen Jiang Zemin quote—“A war in the Taiwan Strait is inevitable” —without providing the context, Liu argues that the lessons of Jinmen must be heeded, especially because the Taiwan issue is now internationalized and considerably more complicated.
Like General Li Jijun and many PLA think tank researchers, Liu also has a fixation with the US military, its goals, strategies and operations. In his essay, On Iraqi War of 2003, Liu Yazhou analyzed, from a geo-strategic perspective, the American troops’ characteristics and shortcomings in military doctrine and technology employment during the Iraqi War. Liu concludes that air force is and will be the determining factor in any war in the 21st century and an armed force without the ability and capacity to absorb and process information quickly through computer networks and the Internet for battlefield decisions will be easily defeated. When this essay appeared in some of the popular BBses in China, Liu was both lionized for his vision and prediction and attacked for being too pro-American and too cowardly.
Liu has crossed the thin line separating politics and military affairs in his book Great Power Strategy. Liu pointed out that “a great power should not develop solely for the sake of development. A nation’s strategic target should be specific and tangible. Only after all the conditions are met can historic developments proceed. We need strategic industries.” Against the common mistakes made by the developing countries in forming their national strategies, Liu reexamined the shortcomings in Beijing’s past policies, and criticized the mentality of a handful of people in dealing with international relations. Instead of perceiving the US as an enemy, Liu tried to identify what has made the United States a great power and called for learning from and maintaining a good relationship with Washington. He also claimed that for China to sustain its economic development and join the club of superpowers, Beijing must not resort to force to unify with Taiwan, and instead should have a coherent policy to develop the Great West, and begin political reforms as soon as possible.
Liberal Chinese intellectuals see Liu as a visionary who can lead China out of the desert of Marxism and Leninism, establish a sensible policy with the West, achieve mutual understanding and reconciliation with Taiwan and build a new military that will support China’s effort to transform its government into one with accountability and choices. Conservatives perceive him as the ultimate gravedigger for the CCP and should be dismissed from the military and incarcerated if possible. Yet a third group believes that China has suffered horrendously when the military aggressively and arbitrarily intervenes in civilian affairs and as a general Liu is not supposed to delve into domestic politics and offer recommendations on developmental and political reform policies.
Since Liu’s writings began to circulate widely on the Internet in April 2004, there has been a deluge of debates on both his admirable strength as a great Chinese thinker and his evil plan to undercut the CCP and turn it over to the conniving lords in Washington. It appears that Liu has suffered a setback in his career when he missed the chance of promotion to a three-star general (the highest military rank in the PLA) late last year when many believed he was a shoo-in for the position of Political Commissar of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. Again one will never know if his olive branch to Taiwan or his broodings on transforming the military from a Party tool into a state institution has hurt his chances, but it is still too early to say the sun will never rise for General Liu as he is still six years away from the dreadful threshold of sixty when no promotion is possible.
Are We Going to See More Young Turks?
In an article published in China Brief 2005, Alfred Chan described Lieutenant Liu Yazhou as a “Young Turk” in China’s military establishment. Chan marveled at opinions and thinking expressed through writings and speeches by a group of Chinese military strategists under new military Khan, Hu Jintao, and called them “unprecedented” and wondered if such phenomenon is a harbinger of major changes in China’s military ideology and whether a new paradigm will emerge in China’s discourse on international configuration and power alignment.
Young Turks is a name given in the 20th century to the Ottomans who tried to rejuvenate the Turkish Empire, and bring it more into line with European ideas as opposed to Old Turks who were against such ideals. It can also refer to any group of young or relatively young men full of new ideas and impatient for change, especially radical or ‘progressive’ element in a political party. In applying this term, Chan is making the assumption that there is a group of Young Turks within the Chinese military, which may represent this new ideology and therefore are worth following, if one wants to wade through the murky streams of Chinese political and military apparatus.
To be able to decipher the PLA, its Party-imposed mission and self-perceived tasks and its view of the United States is crucial because the tension across the Taiwan Strait can easily draw Washington into a very uneasy dilemma. Since the two sides of the Taiwan Strait entered into a stalemate in 1949, overseas military think tanks and Pentagon have closely followed the development in Beijing’s military thinking. During the Korean War, the US military considered Nanjing PLA Army Academy established by Liu Bocheng, a scholarly Marshall, as the CPC’s military brain trust and took pains to monitor its deliberations. Toward the end of the 1991 Gulf War, think tanks of Washington began to pay close attention to the military strategy writings by the new generation among the China’s military academics. They found that their China’s counterparts had abandoned their previous research methodologies dominated by the Marxist ideology and forsaken the old notion of the eventual demise of the imperialist empire of the United States. They were more realistic and pragmatic. They saw a showdown between Beijing and Washington as inevitable, studied the US defense strategy, and tried to identify where we had the weakest link.
However, in the past 20 years, PLA’s restructuring and adjustments were dominated by personnel downsizing, but failed to address the core of its defects, the domination of political commanders and the lack of a transparent and competitive promotion system. In addition, China’s strategic thinking was too conservative. All these factors have so far prevented China’s military from improving its training and operational efficiencies. There is ground for concern, however, if strategic thoughts of Li Jijun, Qiao Liang and Liu Yazhou and other Young Turks, if accepted by China’s leadership and implemented within the military, that an improved Chinese military will likely exert more influence in the domestic and the world affairs to the detriment of regional power balance. In fact, one has every reason to believe that after Liu Yazhou advanced such strategic thinking as ‘Why Has the Center of Gravity of the US Strategy Has Not Moved Eastward’, ‘The New Triangular Strategic Relationship Between China, the US and Japan’, and ‘China’s Military Should Be Transformed Into An Offensive Force’, a systematic military paradigm may come into being.
In the twentieth century, the United States fought two wars that were long and costly with very high casualty and no claim to victory: the Korean War and the Vietnam War. China was the main opponent in the first and a big player in the second. Since the collapse of the former Soviet bloc, China becomes the only, albeit still weaker, authoritarian power with nuclear capability. In recent years, all indications point to the East Asia as the next area of contention – the issues of North Korea’s nuclear weapon program and the tension between China and Taiwan are ready to flare up anytime. If the US wishes to stay engaged in that region, it has no choice but study its potential foe.
The Chinese military, unlike its counterpart in the US, is a weapon of the ruling Communist Party. It is supposed to do whatever the Party commands. However, the Chinese history is rife with military conspiracies over political powers. It was widely known that Mao Zedong chased after General Lin Piao, his Minister of Defense, for military backing to launch the Cultural Revolution, and a coup, backed by Wang Dongxing, the commander of the PLA security forces, brought down the radical regime represented by the Gang of Four. A more recent reminder can be traced to the military solution of the Tiananmen student movement in 1989. In other words, the role of the military in China’s stability can never be overestimated. It is in US’s vital strategic interests to study this military as in all likelihood it can be either an ally or an enemy in the next international conflict.
To study and follow a military as complex as China’s is no small task and cannot and should not be expected to be conclusive in a short period of time. Baby steps should be encouraged as the authors’ endeavor to start with the three officers. We could also breathe with a little ease at the present as all three brilliant officers in this study seem have invoked suspicion and anger because of their innovation and originality. One is marginalized by mandatory retirement and the future of the other two seems to be clouded by uneasiness and uncertainty. Too many young turks of Qiao Liang’s and Liu Yazhou’s kind may pose a mixed prospect for the United States: they are more progressive, democratic and open-minded, which may contribute to China’s eventual political reform, but they are also producing strategies that can create more difficulties for the US if there is an inevitable military confrontation.
An extremely flawed essay. No mention of the Korean War and both the 79 and 84 Sino-Vietnam Wars. How the Soviet-Afghan and Kuwait Wars shocked the PLA. Generals Lin Bao and Cao Gangchuan has to be mentioned. A complete lack of mention of the Sino-Soviet clash which had a major impact away from the People's War even during Mao's time.
And Qiao Liang's Unrestrictive Warfare is a piece of joke within the PLA.
It was a much easy conclusion for me...
In 1962, the much more professional and better-trained PLA forces crossed into India in order to force the Nehru government to accept a reasonable border deal. Many believed the PLA could have routed the Indian forces and marched into New Delhi if it had wanted.However, the PLA quickly withdrew from India to show to the world that PRC was not a nation bent on aggression and expansion.
A grain of wheat eclipsed the sun of Adam !!
Very good read, colonel. Took a while but luckily for me work is slow today.
It's a good read in more ways than one. It allows me to see what the Chinese general is seeing. Is he reading the situation right? Is he reading it wrong? Does he have some insight? One of the most profound revelations that came to me was watching a Chinese Senior Colonel commenting on the Fedayeen Saddam and he was very specific on what the Fedayeen was doing wrong as far as guerrilla warfare was concerned; namely they were already cornered inside a city and thus denied the room to manouver.
Then, it came to me. The years that I've been calling the Chinese stupid in their interruptations of airpower was that they were not stupid. They just didn't know any better and tried to grasp at understanding with the few facts they had at hand.
Sir,Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
Can you help this dumb civilian understand that anecdote? Small words and frequent Cheeto breaks would be appreciated.
Among the community of nations, Pakistan today stands out on one hand as a petty thug brandishing a dangerous weapon, and at other times as a concubine, sleeping with anyone willing to pay for her expensive tastes. ~ Tarek Fatah
Yes, sir. Even the 2nd article tells a lot from the perspective of the Chinese. How they view the world. How they view the US. How they view themselves reveals a lot about the psychology behind the Chinese military and political leadership.Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
Could this be caused by how the Fedayeens wanted to use the city to deny the US armor advantage and to use the civilians as sort of a human shield to deny the US air bombardment? Also, how effective can a guerrilla force be in Iraq's terrain? Isn't it mostly wide open so they can't hide like how the Viet Cong did in thick jungles?Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
Do you mean intepretation? If not, can you elaborate?Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
Last edited by gunnut; 04 May 06, at 04:53.
With all the dumb questions we have for the colonel, this belongs in Colonel's Corner...hint hint...wink wink
I'm sure you know the Chinese claims to be the world's foremost authority on guerrilla warfare since they were the ones who 1st formalized it into a doctrine known as the People's War.Originally Posted by TopHatter
Namely, the doctrine calls for a regular army withdraw deep into one's home territory while stretching the enemy's LOCs to the breaking point. Regular actions by both the RegForce and the Guerrillas are to hamper the LOG train as far as possible.
There is a recognition by the Chinese that while MOUT is extremely expensive for an attacking force, it's also extremely expensive for the defending force and given the extreme superiority of fire faced by the Chinese against the Soviets and Americans; they might very well lose the city to no avail. The Soviets and Americans could easily level the city and move on.
Thus, the guerrilla is not to stay in the city. He is to move in the country side; ambushing columns and raiding supply dumps all in an effort to reduce consumeable supplies at the front against the Chinese RegForce. Let those capable of doing the big fighting do the big fighting while those capable of small unit raiding action do the raiding action.
Also, the guerrilla MUST rely on the local populace for support and that's where the political machinery comes into play. The local populace MUST believe in the homeland defence message and would be at least willing to provide food and water if not anything else.
The Fedayeen Saddam broke all these rules. They stayed in the cities and thus could not affect the outcome of the front lines.
And shooting your own civilians wasn't exactly helping their own side.
I would disregard the 2nd article as nothing more than one man taking liberal cherry picking of Chinese propaganda. He obviously knows little of Chinese military history and certainly none of the doctrinal developments. Certainly none of the key phrases so championed by the PLA has been used.Originally Posted by gunnut
Local War Under High Technology Conditions
Pockets of Excellence
War Zone Campaign
Fedayeens were thugs and thugs need to cow people in order to have the confidence to fight. They don't have that in the country side. And the current insurgency would tell you how effective they are. Too bad that they don't have a regular Iraqi army forcing the USArmy to consume supplies.Originally Posted by gunnut
It was a spelling mistake. However to add to this. The Chinese viewed the Kuwait, Kosovo, and the Iraq Wars were won from the air. They were extremely impressed by the Shock-And-Awe of the 1st day of the Iraq War. They attributed to that as causing Baghdad to lose nerve when the Americans got close.Originally Posted by gunnut
Understood. I guess I gave them too much credit.Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
Agreed, with the Colonel's permission, I'd be glad to facilitate that.Originally Posted by gunnut
Among the community of nations, Pakistan today stands out on one hand as a petty thug brandishing a dangerous weapon, and at other times as a concubine, sleeping with anyone willing to pay for her expensive tastes. ~ Tarek Fatah
Ah yes! I feel more than a little stupid at forgetting my Mao :Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
"The popular masses are like water, and the army is like a fish. How then can it be said that when there is water, a fish will have difficulty in preserving its existence? An army which fails to maintain good discipline gets into opposition with the popular masses, and thus by its own action dries up the water."
Among the community of nations, Pakistan today stands out on one hand as a petty thug brandishing a dangerous weapon, and at other times as a concubine, sleeping with anyone willing to pay for her expensive tastes. ~ Tarek Fatah
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