Restraint may be advisable, given the lack of combat experience of PLA officers and rank-and-file alike since a short war with Vietnam in 1979. Moreover, training of conscripts and soldiers, while improving, still trails that of the U.S. military.
"Everybody who comes into the U.S. military knows how to drive a car. They can drive a Humvee away. But I don't think that's true for the PLA," said Dennis J. Blasko, a former military attache in Beijing who is an author on Chinese military matters.
Even so, some of China's top officers seem to be feeling emboldened.
In remarks that sent ripples across the Pacific, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu told foreign journalists in Beijing in mid-July that China should be ready to attack the United States with nuclear weapons if U.S. forces intervene in a confrontation over Taiwan.
"We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course, the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese," said Zhu, a "hawk" who teaches at China's National Defense University.
China's Foreign Ministry later brushed aside his remarks as personal reflections.
Personally I think he needs to put down the opium pipe that has clouded his judgment. You can bet the U.S. will protect Taiwan as it promised regardless of the size of China's military.