The Defense Department has released its annual report on China's military strategy and modernization, which seems focused on information warfare and joint forces. The People's Liberation Army has its own information warfare units, who are being trained to develop viruses to disrupt enemy computers and networks, while protecting its own. The units are part of China's goal to gain "electromagnetic dominance" early in any conflict. The report also offers detailed information about China's growing defense industrial base, which includes missile and space, shipbuilding, and aircraft production.
In the near term, China is developing its anti-access capabilities so it can deter any "third party" from interfering in a conflict with Taiwan. That would include preventing said third party from deploying to the area, including using sea, air and land forces to conduct long-range interdiction of carrier groups and expeditionary forces trying to interfere.
PLA planners have observed the primacy of precision strike in modern warfare and are investing in offensive and defensive elements of this emerging regime. China is pursuing improved ISR assets ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite constellations, and “informatized” special operations forces which could provide targeting data for long-range precision strikes when linked with robust communications. The PLA envisions precision strike capabilities sufficient to hold at risk western Pacific airbases, ports, surface combatants, land and space-based C4ISR, air defense systems, and command facilities. To prevent deployment of naval forces into western Pacific waters, PLA planners are focused on targeting surface ships at long ranges. Analyses of current and projected force structure improvements suggest that in the near term, China is seeking the capacity to hold surface ships at risk through a layered defense that reaches out to the “second island chain” (i.e., the islands extending south and east from Japan, to and beyond Guam in the western Pacific Ocean). One area of apparent investment emphasis involves a combination of medium-range ballistic missiles, C4ISR for geo-location of targets, and onboard guidance systems for terminal homing to strike surface ships on the high seas or their onshore support infrastructure. This capability would have particular significance, owing to the preemptive and coercive options it would provide China in a regional crisis.
--Catherine MacRae Hockmuth