Home Contact Us
Search :

China - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2735, 19 November 2008
Asymmetric Capabilities of China's Military
Sanjay Kumar
Research Assistant, Centre for Strategic Studies and Simulation, USI, New Delhi
e-mail: kumarsinha@hotmail.com

Over the past twenty years, the world has witnessed a resurgent China - seemingly unhappy with single power dominance - taking long and steady strides towards becoming the world's next superpower. Not just its economy, China's military too has grown from strength to strength over the past two decades, making remarkable progress in all spheres - land, air, water, space and cyber-space.

While China continues its search for power-projection capabilities beyond the Asia-pacific region with particular attention to its navy, air force and second artillery, it is believed to have achieved considerable power-projection capabilities in space as well as cyber space - domains that remain largely unregulated, indefensible and not bound by any geographical divisions.

China's strategy to develop asymmetric capabilities, often dubbed as "anti-access" or "area-denial" strategy extending from outer space to cyber space is part of the two pronged strategy that China seemingly has adopted with regard to its military modernization. On the one hand, the Chinese military is intensely beefing up basic infrastructure that supports conventional warfare capabilities; on the other hand, it is aggressively pushing for capabilities which are aimed at exploiting technical vulnerabilities of its adversaries.

The unprecedented scale of China's military modernization together with the exponential growth of its defence budgets in the past twenty years has left many nations wondering about China's real intentions behind investing so heavily in its armed forces. Despite mounting international criticism, China has never spelt out its strategic intentions in clear terms.

In the absence of a clearly articulated defence policy,, the outside world has little insight into key capabilities surrounding China's military modernization. Shrouded in even deeper mystery, asymmetric capabilities of Chinese military are viewed as potential threats to not only key military installations of other nations but also their financial hubs and other civilian infrastructure that support their economies.

China's motivation to seek asymmetric warfare capabilities stems mainly from its inherent technological weaknesses in keeping pace with the advances made by modern militaries around the world. While the US military is increasingly looking to a future where unmanned systems will take up frontal positions on the battlefield, China is still grappling with reverse engineering of many of Russia's military equipment.

The geostrategic dynamic of the Asia-pacific region coupled with China's own economic rise contributing significantly to it, necessitates China to keep its military in state of constant combat readiness. The Chinese military, however, is in the throes of biggest transformation in its history - transforming everything it can, from doctrine to strategy and from training to equipment. Therefore, it can ill afford to wait till it has gained technological parity with the western nations. With latest military technology from Russia increasingly becoming scarce and China's own conventional capabilities still a long way off the desired level, it is expected that China's asymmetric war-fighting capabilities will only grow with time. While asymmetric threats from China are real and demand closer attention, deterrence could be perhaps another reason behind China's motivation for building up asymmetric capabilities.

Next to space, China is eying cyberspace as an extension of its anti-access strategy. 'Informationisation' the dominant theme behind China's current military modernization programme is in essence about gaining "electromagnetic dominance". According to a Pentagon Report in 2007, China views cyberspace - attacks, defense and exploitation - as critical for achieving "electromagnetic dominance" early in a conflict. The Chinese military views internet as a possible tool of war. Hence, it is believed to be training and equipping specialists who would try and penetrate foreign military networks which are generally considered safe and impregnable.

Chinese hackers are believed to be behind several intrusions into the White House in the past. In 2007, Niprnet the unclassified e-mail system of the Pentagon was thought to have been invaded by hackers operating from China. UK, France and Germany are among other nations who faced network-based cyber attacks from China in the past. Indian cyber space too came recently under attack by hackers thought to be Chinese. However, the Chinese military is not alone in pursuing cyber warfare. According to one estimate presently there are about 120 countries which are engaged in such activities. In the most recent example, Russia and Georgia were engaged in a 'cyberwar' of sorts attacking each others networks and websites.

The Indian military is seeking increasingly to evolve into a network-enabled force and stands particularly vulnerable to Chinese cyber threats. While the US set up a cyberspace command, albeit provisionally, in 2007 supposedly with the aim to devise both defensive as well offensive capabilities in cyber warfare, the cyber security forum of the National Security Council in India became defunct after the US spy incident. As cyber threats from China are only likely to intensify further, the Indian military would need to remain focused on achieving synergies in the field of information technology and cyber security. What the military needs is a cyber security force with authority to launch cyber warfare. Such a force can be placed within an 'integrated cyberspace cell' and placed under HQs, IDS, similar to what was done with the Integrated Space Cell.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Making a Case for Change
Connecting Sri Lanka: Train to Jaffna
Stronger Democratic Values for a Better Tomorrow
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Burying the Past: A New Beginning for Pakistan and Afghanistan
India-Pakistan: Working Boundaries and Lines of Uncontrolled Fire
Of Inquilab and the Inquilabis
Dateline Kabul
Mariam Safi
Af-Pak: A Fresh Start
Can Afghanistan Become a "Perfect Place?"
Afghanistan: Political Crises After the Presidential Run-off
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Bangladesh: Diplomatic Manoeuvres at the UNGA
Abe’s Successful Visit to Dhaka: Two Political Challenges

Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism’s Sake?
Changing Global Balance of Power: Obama’s Response
East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
Abe-Xinping Summit Meet: A Thaw in China-Japan Relations?
South Korea's Foreign Policy: More Rhetoric, Less Content?
India in East Asia: Modi’s Three Summit Meets

Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
The Future of SAARC is Now
China in Nepal: Increasing Connectivity Via Railways
India-Nepal Hydroelectricity Deal: Making it Count
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
Modi in Myanmar: From ‘Look East’ to ‘Act East’
The ASEAN's Centrality in the Indo-Pacific Region
Myanmar's Political Transition: Challenges of the 2015 Election

Sushant Sareen
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir
Pakistan: Why is Army against Nawaz Sharif?
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
India and Maritime Security: Do More
Indian Ocean and the IORA: Search and Rescue Operations
Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point

Middle Kingdom
Srikanth Kondapalli
China and Japan: Will the Twain Never Meet?
Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping: Building a Closer Developmental Partnership
Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age

Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Naxal Violence: Challenges to Jharkhand Polls
Naxalites and the Might of a Fragile Revolution
Six Thousand Plus Killed: The Naxal Ideology of Violence
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Islamic State: The Efficacy of Counter-strategies
War against the Islamic State: Political and Military Responses from the Region
The Islamic State: No Country for the Old World Order
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile
Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Of Lawrence, Sykes-Picot and al-Baghdadi
Strategic Estrangement: An Odd Bedfellow to Economic Engagement
The Islamic State Caliphate: A Mirage of Resurrection
Voice from America
Amit Gupta
China's Global Ambition: Need to Emulate Germany
Mid-Term Elections: So What If the US Swings Hard Right?
Modi’s US Visit: So Much Promise, Such Little Outcome

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
18th SAARC Summit: An Economic Agenda
Regional Economic Architecture: Is India Ready?
Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
India-China: Securitising Water

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Fighting Terror: Use of Non-lethal Weapons

Obama’s Af-Pak Strategy: Why It Will Not Work

China’s Naval Strategy: Implications for India

The West and 26/11: A ‘Contain India’ Policy?

Should India Join NATO to Combat Terrorism?

The Future Combat System

Dealing with Pakistan: The Nuclear Dimension

China: A Rising Threat in Space

China's Growing Defence Budget: Cause for Alarm

Kashmir: India and Pakistan back to Incrementalism

War on Terror and Revival of Drug Trade in Afghanistan

Nepal: Maoists hold State and People to Ransom

Dominance of China in the post-MFA World Raises Concern

Managing Ethnic Conflict: Lessons from the Bodo Experience

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2014
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006
 2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-4100 1900, 4165 2556, 4165 2557, 4165 2558, 4165 2559 Fax: (91-11) 41652560
© Copyright 2014, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com