China s military operations other than war: the military legacy of Hu Jintao

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1 China s military operations other than war: the military legacy of Hu Jintao ROY D. KAMPHAUSEN, NATIONAL BUREAU OF ASIAN RESEARCH Paper presented at the SIPRI conference The Hu Jintao Decade in China s Foreign and Security Policy ( ): Assessments and Implications Stockholm, April 2013 The conference was supported by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

2 ii THE HU JINTAO DECADE IN CHINA S FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY Contents I. Introduction 1 II. Defining Chinese military operations other than war 1 Structures and functions 1 Advancing Chinese foreign policy 2 III. Chinese military operations other than war: doctrine, deployments and equipment 4 Doctrine 4 Deployments 4 Equipment 6 IV. Operationalizing new historic missions 7 Choices ahead for the People s Liberation Army 8 V. Conclusion 8 About the author Roy D. Kamphausen (United States) is Senior Adviser for Political and Security Affairs (PSA) at the US National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). He also teaches East Asian Security at Columbia University and is a principal in XYDRen, a China-focused national security consultancy. His areas of professional expertise include the People s Liberation Army (PLA), US China defence relations, US defence and security policy towards Asia, and East Asian security issues. He has written numerous journal articles and book chapters, and co-edited the last seven volumes of the Carlisle PLA Conference series. His US Army career included two tours at the US embassy in Beijing and intelligence and policy tours in the Pentagon.

3 MILITARY OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR 1 I. Introduction This paper looks at China s military operations other than war (MOOTW; in Chinese, 非 战 争 军 事 行 动 ). It addresses the ways in which MOOTW supports China s foreign policy goals; analyses the progress made by China s military, the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), in a number of MOOTW missions; and assesses the linkage between Hu Jintao s December 2004 speech in which he called for the PLA to carry out its new historic missions. The paper finds that MOOTW is an important element of Chinese foreign policy in the Hu Jintao era, and PLA efforts to become a more internationalized force, including conducting MOOTW missions abroad (peacekeeping, anti-piracy and others), can be directly linked to Hu Jintao s articulation of new historic missions. The paper further finds that in many ways, the PLA has taken the easy steps with regard to MOOTW. More challenging are the decisions PLA leaders must make about the next steps whether the PLA will participate in UN peace enforcement missions or in other international missions like the anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, and whether the PLA can become a reliable regional disaster relief force provider, among others. II. Defining Chinese military operations other than war Structures and functions First, we ought to have a common framework for understanding what MOOTW are. The PLA describes MOOTW as consisting of non-war activities, and defines it by the military activities it includes, such as peacekeeping, domestic disaster relief (earthquake response, epidemic prevention, typhoon response), the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy escort mission, regional military medical support (the Peace Ark hospital ship), counterterrorism and domestic security for big events such as the 2008 Olympics and 2010 Shanghai World Expo. 1 The PLA also helps us understand the missions of MOOTW by the statistics it keeps and the organizations it has put in place. For instance, the PLA has set up a national MOOTW capability-building plan ; established action task forces for MOOTW in the four general departments and seven military regions; is developing a mapping, weather and communications infrastructure to support MOOTW; is coordinating with more than 20 departments of the government, including those of public security, civil affairs, water conservancy, forestry, earthquake, oceans and weather, to enable information sharing at the headquarters level; and has established eight categories of professional state-level emergency response teams (a total of people) in the seven military regions. 2 Moreover, the PLA has developed a military force structure to implement MOOTW, consisting of five specialized forces: flood and disaster relief force, post-earthquake emergent rescue force, emergent rescue force for nuclear, chemical and biological disasters, emergent relief force for transportation facilities and international peacekeeping force. 3 1 See <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/database/mootw/index.htm>. 2 Wu, T., Han, G. and Li, Y., Chinese military operations other than war since 2008, 5 Sep. 2011, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/defensenews/ /05/content_ htm>. 3 Huang, W. and Liu, F., PLA constructs MOOTW arms force system, 14 May 2009, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/database/mootw/ /14/content_ htm>.

4 2 THE HU JINTAO DECADE IN CHINA S FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY Additionally, the PLA is regularizing the training it conducts for units engaged in counterterrorism, stability maintenance, emergency response, peacekeeping, emergency rescue and disaster relief. 4 It has called for even more specialized training in the 2010 PRC Defence White Paper. 5 Finally, the PLA helps us understand what MOOTW is by making clear what it does not include. The PLA does not consider all non-war activities to be MOOTW. For instance, the early April cruise of a naval task force in the South China Sea, and the associated operational tasks that were trained on during that cruise, were explicitly not described as a MOOTW mission. 6 Similarly, the announcement in late March 2013 of beefed-up cooperation with China s maritime law enforcement forces to protect China s maritime rights, was not characterized as MOOTW. 7 Additionally, homeland defence missions, such as civil air defence, are not associated with MOOTW. Finally, the PLA does not yet include in its own list of MOOTW other missions such as peace enforcement and nation building, which are typically considered MOOTW by other nations, but are types of missions that the PLA has not yet decided to undertake. Having established that the PLA defines certain non-war activities as MOOTW; tracks the number and type of missions it conducts; has set up bureaucratic management organs and specialized force structures; regularly trains against its MOOTW tasks; and intentionally does not include all non-war missions as MOOTW, we can draw some preliminary conclusions about Chinese MOOTW. First, the PLA is serious about MOOTW as a separate set of military tasks. MOOTW is not just a renaming of basic operational missions for achieving a rhetorical purpose or for shaping impressions. They are real missions pursuing real outcomes. Second, MOOTW is not all the PLA aspires to do, nor has MOOTW supplanted combat preparations as the raison d être of the PLA. The PLA still maintains a chief mission to fight and win regional wars under conditions of informatization. The PLA s new defence white paper makes very clear that MOOTW is not a substitute for preparing to fight. Finally, MOOTW missions are the main means by which the PLA engages with foreign militaries. Whether through multilateral counterterrorism exercises, exercises with other navies participating in the Gulf of Aden, naval medical exchanges or others, MOOTW is a means to engage with foreign militaries. Further, since the PLA has not fought a conflict in decades, MOOTW gives the PLA some semblance of operational military experience in the 21st century. Advancing Chinese foreign policy In my judgment, MOOTW supports at least three foreign policy goals for the Chinese Government and the CCP. First, MOOTW reinforces Chinese rhetoric about PLA modernization being inherently defensive in orientation, and thus seeks to mitigate concerns about a China threat. 4 <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/database/aboutpla/index.htm>. 5 PRC 2010 Defence White Paper, <http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/ /31/c_ _12.htm>. 6 Qian, X. and Xin, S., Chinese naval taskforce back to South China Sea 2 Apr. 2013, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/defensenews/ /02/content_ htm>. 7 Chinese military to further cooperation with maritime law enforcement, 29 Mar. 2013, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/press/ /29/content_ htm>.

5 MILITARY OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR 3 China has formulated a military strategic guideline of active defense for the new period... With the focus of attention on performing the historical missions of the armed forces for the new stage in the new century and with raising the capability to win local wars in conditions of informationization at the core, it works to increase the country s capabilities to maintain maritime, space and electromagnetic space security and to carry out the tasks of counterterrorism, stability maintenance, emergency rescue and international peacekeeping. It takes military operations other than war (MOOTW) as an important form of applying national military forces, and scientifically makes and executes plans for the development of MOOTW capabilities. 8 Much of China s MOOTW activity seeks to demonstrate China s soft power approach and thus counters an emerging narrative that argues that China s rise is a threat to geopolitical stability and security and thus requires active measures to counter or balance it. By helping to postpone active balancing against China, MOOTW along with a range of other diplomatic, financial foreign aid measures extends the period of time that China can focus on national economic development. Second, MOOTW is a credential of PLA modernization. Advanced militaries not only fight wars but also use military power in a full range of non-war ways. 9 Indeed, the term MOOTW was first coined by the United States in the 1990s. David Finkelstein argues that the PLA borrowed the concept of MOOTW almost entirely from the US armed forces, even though the American military no longer uses the term. 10 Thus, MOOTW demonstrates the constructive use of Chinese military power and, in so doing, demonstrates the military s contribution to the accretion of comprehensive Chinese national power. Third, once a credible set of MOOTW capabilities has been demonstrated, then MOOTW becomes a tool of statecraft. Cynthia Watson has argued that MOOTW missions help China to achieve its aspiration of a global leadership role, raise China s profile and garner international respect. 11 To some degree, MOOTW is the Chinese military s answer to former US Deputy Secretary of State Bob Zoellick s famous call in 2005 for China to become a more responsible stakeholder in the international system. Indeed, there has been a clear increase in the number and variety of international activities carried out by the PLA since Hu Jintao took over leadership of the PLA in November Furthermore, many of the PLA s new responsibilities and activities relate directly to the strategic guidance offered in Hu s new historic missions, announced in December Perhaps somewhat in juxtaposition to the first goal to mitigate a China threat, a newly international PLA even one only engaged in MOOTW is also quietly learning how to exercise the hard power potential that some of its new military capabilities bring. 8 China Defense Policy, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/database/defensepolicy/index.htm> (emphasis added). 9 To be sure, some countries develop niche capabilities in some aspects of MOOTW. For instance, Bangladesh is perennially one of the largest contributors to UN Peacekeeping. My point is that the PLA is working to develop fullspectrum MOOTW, and this is a mark of an advanced military. 10 Finkelstein, D., The military dimensions of U.S. China security cooperation: retrospective and future prospects, Center for Naval Analyses, Sep Watson, C., The Chinese armed forces and non-traditional missions: a growing tool of statecraft, China Brief, vol. 9, no. 4 (Feb. 2009).

6 4 THE HU JINTAO DECADE IN CHINA S FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY III. Chinese military operations other than war: doctrine, deployments and equipment Doctrine Although there is no explicit PLA MOOTW doctrine, we can infer several principles from current operations. First, the PLA will avoid, at least for the time being, using deadly force in MOOTW with the large caveat addressed below concerning counterterrorism MOOTW. (Also, the rules of engagement for PLA Navy (PLAN) ships in the Gulf of Aden may include the ability to fire warning shots.) This has obvious implications for the types of UN peace operations that the PLA will join. Second, drawn largely from PLAN efforts in the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy escort mission, the PLA will not join US-led coalitions, but can support the efforts of such coalitions when it can operate independently, even if in a coordinated manner. Third, the PLA will be opportunistic in seeking MOOTW training opportunities with foreign partners. Deployments PLA deployments overseas for MOOTW have so far consisted of two principal missions: the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy escort mission and support to UN peacekeeping missions, which is largely provided by PLA ground forces. Gulf of Aden anti-piracy task force There have been 14 PLAN deployments to the Gulf of Aden since 2008, each consisting of a three ship-formation. In a demonstration of MOOTW multi-tasking, the 14th escort task force participated in the Peace-13 multinational maritime joint military exercise in Pakistan before sailing on to the Gulf of Aden in early March Wu Dongzhu, deputy commander of the 14th Chinese naval escort task force, summarized the joint military exercise saying: The exercise tested the level and capability of the PLA Navy in military training and military operations other than war (MOOTW). Meanwhile, we learnt good tactical and technical practices from foreign militaries, which will inevitably contribute much to the coming escort mission. The Chinese officers and men were always full of enthusiasm with a good morale throughout the exercise, whether in cultural and sports exchanges or actual-troop and live-ammunition drills. They shouted out the slogan of My work is error-free and please trust me, displaying the PLA s good image of a civilized force dedicated to peace. 12 The PLA Navy s participation in the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy escort missions has been a boon to the Chinese Navy in far seas operations. There have been real operational lessons learned, including how to deploy over great distances, how to sustain a task force a long way from China, how to respond to real threats, and how to function in coordination with an international coalition. In short, the deployments have been a blue water navy laboratory for the PLAN China Military Online, Chinese naval escort taskforce wraps up task of taking part in Peace-13 joint military exercises, 12 Mar. 2013, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/militaryexercises/ /12/content_ htm>. 13 McDevitt, M., PLA naval exercises with international partners, eds Kamphausen, R., Lai, D. and Tanner, T., Learning by Doing: The PLA Trains at Home and Abroad (Nov. 2012), pp

7 MILITARY OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR 5 Indirectly, perhaps, the PLA has also gained greater experience in using presence as a tool of statecraft. In 2011, for instance, the PLAN vessel Xuzhou, was redirected from the Gulf of Aden escort mission to the Mediterranean, where it participated in the evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya, a contribution that would not have been possible if the Xuzhou had not already been present in the region. Not insignificantly, in addition to pre-deployment exercises like those noted above, the 13th deployment task force conducted port calls on its way home, including to Algeria, France, Malta, Morocco and Portugal. 14 UN peacekeeping As of May 2013, China is contributing 1580 troops to 9 of 15 current UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs), more than the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council. 15 China has also opened two peacekeeping training centres one for police in Langfang, Hebei province, and a military training centre in Huairou, Beijing and over the past decade has trained 1700 peacekeepers in these centres, which also serve as important venues for international exchange. The PLA has also had officers command two UN PKOs: the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara ( ) and the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (since 2011). The Peacekeeping Affairs Office within the Ministry of National Defence manages PKO priorities and missions. Once committed to a PKO, the PRC tends to continue participating in it. For instance, in just the past four months, the PRC has sent its 15th peacekeeping engineer detachment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), its 11th peacekeeping engineer battalion to Lebanon, its 16th PLA medical team to Zambia, its 13th peacekeeping force to Liberia, and its 2nd peacekeeping task force to South Sudan. The forces consist of engineering, transportation and logistics, and medical personnel. 16 The PLA appears to be comfortable with the types and quantity of peacekeeping missions. PLA participation in UN PKOs dramatically increased in troop numbers in , but largely levelled off thereafter at around 2000 a year. 17 Moreover, the PLA has been consistent in the types of capabilities it deploys, sending engineering, transportation, logistics and military medical units. An important next step would be to deploy combat forces in a peaceenforcement role. Additional PLA MOOTW deployments 1. Regional military medicine. In the aftermath of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, many dimensions of the US-led coalition response surprised the Chinese leadership (much as the shock and awe of the 1991 Gulf War had stunned an earlier generation of leaders). One of the most impressive dimensions of it for the Chinese leadership was the performance of the US hospital ship USNS Mercy, which provided over patient services in the wake of the tsunami. In 2008 the PLAN launched the Peace Ark, the first purpose-built Chinese hospital ship, with 300-bed 14 Ge, C. and Zhu, S., Maltese president meets with commander of visiting 13th Chinese naval escort taskforce, 28 Mar UN Missions Summary, Detailed by Country, 31 May 2013, <http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/contributors/2013/may13_3.pdf>. 16 <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/peacekeeping/index.htm>. 17 Gill, B. and Huang, C.-H., China s Expanding Role in Peacekeeping: Prospects and Policy Implications, SIPRI Policy Paper (SIPRI: Stockholm, Nov. 2009), p. 6.

8 6 THE HU JINTAO DECADE IN CHINA S FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY capacity. In 2011 the Peace Ark conducted its own regional military medical tour in the Caribbean Ocean, visiting Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica Counterterrorism. The PLA conducts counterterrorism exercises together with other countries under the rubric of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. These have included the Peace Mission series conducted with the Russian armed forces. Calling these missions MOOTW appears somewhat disingenuous an exercise is fundamentally different from a mission, after all but it has long been understood that these exercises have an operational component as well. 3. Domestic disaster relief. The PLA s work in disaster relief is a large component of Chinese MOOTW. In addition to its massive response to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, the Zhouqu landslide, Yushu county earthquake, forest fire fighting in central and northern China, dam reinforcement and flood control are all examples of domestic MOOTW. At the time of this writing, the PLA is responding to a large earthquake in Tibet. 19 While domestic disaster relief does not directly relate to China s foreign policy, PLA MOOTW disaster relief responders are honing the skills that they will soon be prepared to deploy regionally in the future. Equipment In many respects, the value of MOOTW is that much of the military equipment required can also potentially be used in war-fighting missions. To put it differently, while certain pieces of equipment have specific MOOTW applications, almost none are exclusively for MOOTW. That said, some items are especially important to MOOTW: The Peace Ark allows the PLAN to be present in distant locations, but in ways that make positive contributions and do not pose a threat, providing medical services in disadvantaged locations. An aircraft carrier is a much-discussed emergent fighting capability. However, it can also make contributions in MOOTW, especially to presence and regional disaster relief missions, if on-board helicopters can be deployed to great effect. The PLAN has only three auxiliary oiler and multiproduct replenishment ships, which have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden mission, putting great stress on the ships and crews. At-distance logistics and supply is absolutely dependent on these ships for support. 20 A severe criticism of the PLA s response to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake was the lack of heavy construction equipment, specifically earth-moving and other engineering equipment. Interestingly, in the media coverage of the late March 2013 earthquake in Tibet, heavy equipment is prominently featured. 21 The capability to move troops rapidly to deployment areas is important in both MOOTW and conventional military missions. In MOOTW, two capabilities are particularly important: 18 Wang, Z. and Dai, Z., Peace Ark hospital ship embarks on homeward voyage, 2 Dec. 2011, PLA Daily, <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/defensenews/ /02/content_ htm>. 19 Wu, Han and Li (note 2). 20 McDewitt (note 13), pp See <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/defensenews/ /02/content_ htm>.

9 MILITARY OPERATIONS OTHER THAN WAR 7 The PLA remains woefully short of both assault and transport helicopters for moving troops. This deficiency has particular impact on MOOTW. 22 While not a MOOTW mission, a recent army air assault exercise helped to demonstrate a continued shortfall in aviation assets. For more distant missions, the PLA needs fixed-wing aircraft for long-range transport. In the 2011 Libya rescue, China employed four IL-76 aircraft to evacuate Chinese citizens. China has bought more than thirty IL-76s and four IL-78s, and has placed an order for IL-476s, which are expected to fill the gap until the indigenously produced Y-20 comes on line in five years. 23 The PLA is focused on figuring out what needs to be done from an equipment perspective. In 2009 the PLA National Defence University convened an academic symposium on equipment utilization and support in MOOTW. A total of 110 papers from more than 80 PLA units were received and these papers reflected the latest results on the PLA equipment front in the study on the subject of MOOTW equipment utilization and support. 24 IV. Operationalizing new historic missions In 2004 Hu Jintao, elevated to the position of Chairman of the Central Military Committee (CMC), announced the new historic missions for the PLA. These four core missions built on his scientific development concept, and provided necessary strategic guidance for the PLA and a broadly defined set of missions through which the success of the PLA modernization programmes may be gauged. The new historic missions ensure that the PLA will remain a Party, not a state, army; that it will contribute to and safeguard national development; that it will defend China s global interests; and that it will contribute to global stability. In encouraging the PLA to operate well beyond China s borders, Hu raised expectations that the PLA s role and missions will not be tied solely to the defence of China proper or its nearby territorial claims. This likely reflects a refinement, rather than a fundamental redefinition, of the PLA s roles. The PLA is likely to continue to support the achievement of Chinese foreign policy goals along the lines discussed earlier in the paper. Such a redefinition, however, is not without potential problems. A new global role accords with the view of many in the PLA leadership who aspire to China having a global force, which then introduces its own logic for increased budgets and domestic influence. In some respects, the PLA will more resemble the military of a great world power when that occurs. Some of this was inevitable. However, there will be losers in a new, more global PLA. They can be found in the formations of infantry and tank combat brigades, which are the largest elements of a groundforce heavy PLA, and heretofore have not participated in international MOOTWs. The bureaucratic infighting over turf, budgets and relevance is likely to be fierce. 22 Kamphausen, R., PLA ground forces: new priorities and capabilities, Strategic Asia : China s Military Challenge (Seattle, WA, 2012), pp PLA Air Force to purchase Russia-designed transport aircraft, Want China Times, 10 Sep. 2012, <http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id= &cid=1101>. 24 Wu, Y. and Liu, D., Academic symposium on MOOTW equipment utilization and support held in NDU, 9 Jan <http://eng.mod.gov.cn/database/mootw/ /09/content_ htm>.

10 8 THE HU JINTAO DECADE IN CHINA S FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY Choices ahead for the People s Liberation Army Will the PLA move beyond logistical, transportation and engineering contributions to UN peace-enforcement missions under the provisions of UN Charter Chapter VII? In 2012 the PLA deployed its first infantry elements to a UN PKO, but their role was to protect fellow PLA engineering and logistics personnel. While the decision to participate in UN PKOs at all was a huge first step, making the next set of decisions related to whether the PLA will take part in missions authorizing the use of deadly force will in some respects be even more consequential. Having found a comfort zone as part of an ad hoc security coalition in the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy efforts (albeit outside of the task force s command and control structure), will the PLA take part in other such missions? It may well be that this sort of cooperation could occur more frequently in the future, but it is hard to say in what geographic locations and under what conditions this might take place. Will the PLA find ways to transition away from domestic internal stability and disaster relief missions and move these domestic missions to enhanced People s Armed Police (PAP) units? At the same time, can we expect the PLA to take on more regional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief roles? This would seem to make sense given the greater international posture expected of the PLA. V. Conclusion MOOTW became an important element of Chinese foreign policy in the Hu Jintao era. The PLA became a more international force, and in large part this reflects the new mandate given to the PLA by Hu Jintao s New Historic Missions. MOOTW missions abroad (peacekeeping, anti-piracy and others) are raising the PLA s profile and lending stature to China s foreign policy positions, and may help to mitigate concerns about a new China threat. What looms are harder decisions the PLA must make with regard to MOOTW whether to take part in UN peace-enforcement missions; what other multilateral missions akin to the Gulf of Aden anti-piracy patrols to participate in; and whether to seek to become a regular and reliable provider of military capabilities to regional disaster relief operations, among others.

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