China is reassessing how it would counteract the U.S. military in a potential conflict over Taiwan, based on what it saw in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon says.
Chinese leaders have taken note of the speed with which American ground forces captured Baghdad in April 2003 and the prominent role that was played in Iraq by U.S. special operations commandos.
In its annual report to Congress on developments in the Chinese military, the Defense Department said China is rethinking the concept that American airpower alone is sufficient to prevail in a conflict — a concept it inferred from the 1999 air war over Kosovo, which involved no U.S. ground forces.
“The speed of coalition ground force advances and the role of special forces in (Iraq) have caused the People’s Liberation Army theorists to rethink their assumptions about the value of long-range precision strikes, independent of ground forces, in any Taiwan conflict scenario,” the report said.
The report is an annual assessment to Congress of Chinese military power and strategy and was posted on the Pentagon’s main news Web site late Saturday night.
Other aspects of the Iraq war have reinforced the Chinese belief that the United States’ long-range strategy is to dominate Asia by containing the growth of Chinese power, the report said. These include recent Pentagon decisions to base long-range bombers, cruise missiles and nuclear attack submarines to the Pacific island of Guam — moves related in part to the Iraq conflict.
“China’s leaders appear to have concluded that the net effect of the U.S.-led campaign (against terrorism) has been further encirclement of China,” specifically by placing U.S. military forces in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian nations, and strengthening relations with Pakistan and India, the report said.
U.S. likely to intervene in any Taiwan conflict?
The Chinese also believe, partly from its assessment of the Bush administration’s declared war on terrorism, that the United States is increasingly likely to intervene in a conflict over Taiwan or other Chinese interests, according to the Pentagon analysis.
“Authoritative commentary and speeches by senior officials suggest that U.S. actions over the past decade ... have reinforced fears within the Chinese leadership that the United States would appeal to human rights and humanitarian concerns to intervene, either overtly or covertly,” it said.
Because China’s leaders believe their military forces are not yet strong enough to compete directly with the American military, they are putting more emphasis on preventing U.S. intervention first. This includes development of what the Chinese call “assassin’s mace” weapons, the Pentagon said.
The report said U.S. officials are not sure what “assassin’s mace” is.
“However,” it said, “the concept appears to include a range of weapon systems and technologies related to information warfare, ballistic and anti-ship cruise missiles, advanced fighters and submarines, counter-space system and air defense.”
While the concept of “assassin’s mace” is not new in China, it has appeared more frequently in Chinese professional journals since 1999, particularly in the context of Taiwan, the U.S.-supported island that split from China after its communist takeover in 1949.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory and has threatened to take it by force.
Bush reassures China
In Beijing on Sunday, officials said President Bush had reassured Chinese officials that Washington will stick to its “one-China policy” toward Taiwan. That long-standing policy says the American government recognizes Beijing as the only legitimate Chinese government, although the United States also has pledged to provide enough defensive equipment to Taiwan to assure its security.
Bush’s comments to Chinese President Hu Jintao, released by China’s Foreign Ministry, appeared to be an attempt to soothe Beijing’s anger over Washington’s decision to permit Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu to stop in two U.S. cities before and after a Latin America tour.
The Pentagon for several years has expressed concern at China’s military modernization, especially its emphasis on deploying additional shorter-range ballistic missiles that can strike Taiwan.
The new study said that since the Pentagon’s report to Congress a year ago, China’s imports of armaments have increase by 7 percent in value. These include a $1 billion deal for 24 Russian Su-30 fighter aircraft and $500 million for Russian SA-20 surface-to-air missile systems.