Air University Research Papers 1999
Title: China as Peer Competitor?
Subject: Trends in Nuclear Weapons, Space, and Information
Author(s): KATHRYN L. GAUTHIER Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
DTIC Keywords: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, *MILITARY RESEARCH, *STRATEGY,
*INDUSTRIES, *ECONOMICS, *TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER, *FOREIGN TECHNOLOGY,
*NATIONAL DEFENSE, *DEFENSE PLANNING, *NATIONAL SECURITY, UNITED STATES,
MILITARY BUDGETS, MANUFACTURING, GOVERNMENT(FOREIGN).
In China as Peer Competitor? Trends in Nuclear Weapons, Space,
and Information Warfare Lt Col Kathryn L. Gauthier analyzes the potential
for China to emerge as a peer com -petitor of the United States in the
coming decades. First, she examines two traditional pillars of national
strength Chinas status as a nuclear weapons state and as a
space power. Second, she then explores Chinas growing focus on information
warfare (IW) as a means to wage asymmetric warfare against a technologically
advanced adversary. Third, the author carefully examines the status of
the three pro -grams, highlights areas of concern and potential conflict
with the United States, and analyzes the implications of these issues
for the United States.
The author concludes that China does have the poten-tial
to become a peer competitor, based on a number of factors. The United
Statess military advantages over China are narrowing in the critical
areas of nuclear weapons, space technology, and information warfare. China
is developing nuclear weapons with increased accuracy, mobility, and range.
Beijings growing prowess in spaceincluding a possible manned
presence within the decadewill also provide it significant benefits
in the military realm. In selected areas, Beijing has demonstrated its
ability to "leapfrog" over more rudimentary stages of technological
development. Finally, Chinas previously rapid economic growth has
supported tech-nological modernization and an improved defense posture.
Colonel Gauthier emphasizes that Beijing does not
either philosophically or militarilyhave to approach US levels of
capability or proficiency to pose a threat to the United States or to
US interests in the region. There is clear evidence the Chinese are vigorously
analyzing, pur -suing, and acquiring the means to wage asymmetric war
-fare against a more powerful adversary. Asymmetric warfare can be cheap,
low tech, readily available, and devastatingly effective against the United
States. For these reasons, in -formation warfare may prove to be the "weapon
of choice" for the Chinese; given the vulnerability of the US infra
-structure and Chinas more rudimentary military informa-tion systems,
China could actually hold the "high ground" in this arena
in the future. In keeping with its long-stand -ing cultural and strategic
traditions, Beijing would likely attempt to "defeat the enemy without
fighting" by playing its information deterrence card. Alternatively,
it could at -tempt to carry out a surprise IW attack with sufficient deception
to avoid retaliation.
The author does not believe it is inevitable that
China will become an adversary of the United States. But this possibility
could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the United States mishandles
its relationship with China. Colonel Gauthier advocates a policy of constructive
en -gagement with the Peoples Republic of China, believing the United
States holds some of the cards with which to positively shape the future
of Sino-US relations, and the specter of a militarily capable and potentially
hostile China makes a compelling case for doing so. The Air War College
encourages a debate of these views.
|TIMOTHY A. KINNAN
|Major General, USAF
|Air War College