In a recent report for the US Defense Department's Office of Net Assessment, titled "Dangerous Chinese Misperceptions: the implications for DOD", Dr. Michael Pillsbury gives an analysis of Chinese military thinking, based on some 100 Chinese books and articles about military warfare, and 60 interviews with Chinese military officers, conducted during four visits to Beijing in 1995-96.
The principal finding of the report is that China's military leaders hold a number of dangerous misperceptions that may well cause serious political friction or even military conflict with the United States. The report groups the Chinese misperceptions in five areas:
|Chinese military exercises: attempting to intimidate the Taiwanese during elections in 1996|
In each of the five areas, the author gives a number of illustrations and sources for his observations. He also describes five scenarios of conflicts which could erupt as a result of these misperceptions. One of these is a
"...pre-emptive strike by China against U.S. naval forces in the area of Taiwan in the mistaken belief that the consequences of attacking U.S. forces in a limited fashion would not bring disastrous retaliation against China. Chinese publications have discussed pre-emptive surprise attacks on command centers as a key element of future warfare. U.S. concepts of rational deterrence tend to rule out this type of scenario as fundamentally "irrational" and therefore not worth preparing for."
This book by Dr. Pillsbury is a "must-read" for those studying the East Asia in general, and developments surrounding Taiwan and China in particular.
For several years, the hull of the Varyag, an incomplete aircraft carrier, has been lying in a dock in the Ukraine. Construction was stopped when the former Soviet Union fell apart in the late 1980s.
Also for several years, the Chinese navy has been attempting to obtain aircraft carrier technology, anxious to expand itself into a real blue-water navy with capabilities to surround and blockade Taiwan.
Eyebrows thus went up around the world when the Chong Lot Tourist and Amusement Agency in Macau recently won a tender for the aircraft carrier, and announced that it was planning to turn it into a casino.
It now turns out this is a farce: in an article in its April 9th 1998 issue, titled "Scrap value", the Far Eastern Economic Review discloses that Chong Lot carries a non-existent address in Macau, and that according to Portuguese officials in Macau the company did not seek the requisite approvals to undertake any tourist business or open a hotel in the enclave.
The Review article also disclosed that three of the five directors of Chinluck Holding, the parent company of Chong Lot, are Chinese nationals from Shandong, which happens to be the home of the Chinese navy's North sea fleet.
At the end of March 1998, the Washington-DC based Heritage Foundation published an important Backgrounder paper by Richard D. Fisher jr. urging the U.S. Administration to improve its military ties with Taiwan.
The paper argues that the Clinton Administration's increasing military ties with China under the National Defense University's Capstone program, added to China's broad military modernization, assisted by access to foreign technology, and Washington's reluctance to maintain high-level military contacts with Taiwan is undermining the balance across the Taiwan Straits.
|China's purchases of Russian fighter aircraft and Kilo-class submarines: new threat to Taiwan|
Thus, it causes Beijing to perceive that it can isolate Taiwan further from Washington and eventually use military force to coerce or subdue Taiwan. The paper describes how China has been building up its armed forces with the specific purpose of threatening and intimidating Taiwan, and how China is refusing to renounce the use of force in settling its dispute with Taiwan.
The paper also argues that the lack of high-level communications with Taiwan will handicap both the US and Taiwan in a possible future confrontation with China across the Taiwan Straits, since it may result in "friendly fire" incidents between the US and Taiwan in such a crisis.
After an analysis of China's increasing military capabilities, the paper urges the United States to take the following steps in order to redress the shifting balance across the Taiwan Straits:
The paper is available from the Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington DC, 20002-4999, or can be read at its internet site: http://www.heritage.org
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