Wednesday, February 16, 2011

U.S. report on Chinese developments

Foreign Military Acquisitions and PLA Modernization
written_testimonies of Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Center for Security Policy,

Before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission
February 6, 2004
I would like to begin by thanking the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission for this opportunity to present written_testimonies on the modernization of China’s People’s Liberation Army. In addition, I would like to note my gratitude to the Commission for supporting my research over the last year, which has allowed me to produce a much longer report for the Commission titled, “The Impact of Foreign Weapons and Technology on the Modernization of China’s People’s Liberation Army.” [1] This written_testimonies draws from that much longer report.

While the most recent phase of the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been a vast undertaking spanning two decades, a critical element feeding its success has been consistent access to foreign weapons and military technologies. Successful PLA modernization is also dependent upon ongoing reform of its doctrine, strategies, military-industrial policies, and training and personnel policies. But all of these ongoing reforms would be for naught if the PLA did not have the most modern and capable weapons.

Access to foreign military technology, especially Russian weaponry, has allowed the PLA to begin to fashion capabilities to wage war in the early 21st Century and create the basis for an ongoing military-technical modernization that will place increasing pressure on the United States to sustain deterrence in Asia. For example, weapon systems the PLA is acquiring will allow it to greatly impede a future U.S. attempt to rescue democratic Taiwan in the event of a PRC attack. Foreign military systems are also propelling what Taiwanese officials predict will be a “crossover” in which the military balance on the Taiwan Strait will start to favor the PLA after 2005. Foreign military technology may also allow the PLA to build new power projection capabilities by the early next decade.

In assessing the degree to which foreign military technology is aiding PLA modernization, and the possible resultant dangers to U.S. national security, it is also possible to highlight the need for greater U.S. policy focus on the need to stem PLA access to more modern and dangerous technologies. While the United States has made clear its desire for peaceful relations with the Chinese people, the government of the PRC is actively preparing for a possible war with democratic Taiwan, as it continues to proliferate dangerous nuclear weapon and missile technologies to rogue regimes. It remains necessary for the U.S. to sustain its embargo of military technologies put in place in response to the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. The U.S. should work with allies in Europe to explain the possible dangers if Europe ends it Tiananmen embargo in 2004. And as the U.S. was able to persuade Israel to end its sale of dangerous military technology to the PLA, it is necessary to make curtailment of Russia’s substantial arms trade a higher bi-lateral issue with Moscow.


The impact of foreign technology on PLA modernization has been examined repeatedly during the 1990s and beyond.[2] In the mid-1990s, one well-regarded study concluded that “…China can only expect limited success in its efforts to improve its military capabilities through the acquisition of foreign military weapons and technologies….Quick breakthroughs in military capabilities are more likely to come about as a result of direct foreign purchases…but these are likely to be modest in quantity and quality…”[3] During the mid-1990s, such a conclusion was warranted given that the PLA was experiencing some difficulty in absorbing new foreign weapons.

Nearly a decade later, however, it is possible to begin to consider a different set of conclusions due primarily to the fact that the PRC has sustained and increased its foreign arms imports. Estimating the amounts of PRC arms imports is at best an imprecise task. PRC sources offer almost no accounting for foreign arms purchases, indeed, it is thought that most foreign arms purchases are paid for by government budgets not part of the PLA’s publicly stated budget figures. However, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) notes that, since 2000, the PRC has been the world’s largest importer of weapons.[4] In 2001, its imports were calculated to exceed $3 billion, while in 2002, arms imports exceeded $2.3 billion. Total arms imports were calculated to exceed $11.8 billion from 1993 through 2002.[5] For illustration purposes, SIPRI’s figures are included in a chart below. SIPRI is the first to caution that its figures do represent actual totals. The U.S. Congressional Research Institute estimated that PRC arm imports were $3.6 billion in 2002 and “signed deals” to import $17.8 billion worth of weapons from 1995 to 2002.[6]

Instead of seeking marginal gains from foreign weapons purchases, it is now possible to conclude that the PLA is relying on very large foreign weapons purchases to achieve near-term growth in capabilities that it may determine are necessary, especially in relation to military-political requirements pertaining to Taiwan. The 2002 order of eight new Russian KILO submarines is a case in point. With this order, the PLA sought to exceed the 2001 U.S. intention to sell Taiwan eight new submarines by actually making sure Russia delivered, whereas the U.S. prospects for delivery were and remain unclear. But this purchase increased by 200 percent the number of KILOs slated for the PLA Navy. Wholesale purchases that are being used to seek major advances in capability are listed in the following chart.

Given PRC sustained economic growth rates, and the Pentagon’s estimation that annual PRC defense spending levels will increase beyond 2002 levels of $65 billion, it is possible that the PLA may be able to sustain its arms buying binge. The main recipient of the PLA’s spending has been Russia. During the December 2003 visit to Russia of PRC Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan, it was revealed by Russian sources that PRC arms purchases from Russia would exceed $2 billion in 2004.[7] This figure included previous and new arms deals, meaning that subsequent years hold the prospect for high amounts of arm purchases from Russia.


400 Sukhoi fighters by 2006, many upgraded for multi-role missions

Thousands of Russian anti-air and precision ground-attack weapons for aircraft

Many hundreds of Russian S-300 SAMs

12 Russian KILO submarines, 8 with CLUB long-range anti-ship missiles

4 Russian SOVREMENNIY class missile destroyers

Russian weapons and electronics packages for three new classes of stealthy warships

Russian 1-meter electro-optical and radar satellites

Assuring access to Navsat signals by buying a partnership in the European GALILEO

40 to 50 Russian Il-76 heavy transport aircraft

Impact on PLA Arms Industries: Making Pieces Fit Better

There has long been tension between those in the PLA who demand new weapons as soon as possible and prefer to buy select foreign systems, and those who follow the historic desire by the PRC to strengthen self reliance, which emphasizes the interests of PLA subordinate defense industries over foreign weapons purchases. The middle ground for the PLA has long been to try to graft various foreign components into largely indigenous weapon designs to increase their capability, or to in turn produce a new generation of weapons. From the 1970s to the mid/late-1990s, there were many attempts to do this, largely with marginal success. Prominent examples include the Nanchang A-5 attack fighter, a radically re-designed Shenyang J-6 (MiG-19) turning a short-range, low-payload, clear-weather fighter into a short-range, low-payload, clear weather attack aircraft. In the early 1990s, the PLA Navy acquired two LUHU class destroyers, which for the first time combined U.S. and Ukrainian gas turbine engines and French SAMs, defensive electronics and command and control systems, and an Italian CIWS. There were integration problems and the ship’s performance, while an improvement for the PLA, was obsolete compared to neighboring navies. In addition, the early 1990s saw the PLA Navy encounter serious problems trying to marry disparate technologies into its first Type 039 SONG class conventional submarine. For most of the 1990s, indigenous fighter programs, be it the Shenyang J-8II, Chengdu J-10 or Chengdu Super-7/FC-1, encountered delays due to arms embargoes, funding issues and inability to decide on a foreign component or whether to make it themselves.

As the mid-decade draws near, however, it is possible to assemble a different picture that appears to be one of improvement rather than stasis or decline. This conclusion follows from review of new PLA weapon systems in Part 2 of this study. The PLA has not lost its enthusiasm for seeking to graft foreign components onto new weapons systems in the absence of being able to design complete new weapon systems. The new twist is that, by early in this decade, the PLA is getting better at it. The solutions could be many and, while the individual stories of some weapon systems in the second part of this report will shed light on how weapons production has improved, there are reasons that can be listed here.

One reason may be that the PLA has learned lessons on how to better use foreign expertise. A recent example of this is the seeming happy ending to the long-running saga of the Rolls Royce Spey turbofan engine co-production deal. This project started in 1975, but the PLA was not able to co-produce this engine in order to complete a much needed fighter-bomber, the Xian JH-7. In the late-1990s, when the PLA decided that it really wanted the JH-7 to succeed, it went back to Rolls Royce, and by 1999 cut a new deal. It purchased more used Spey engines to carry forward some JH-7 production, but also allowed Rolls Royce to make co-production work. The result is the new Qinling turbofan engine.


Not So Successful

Demonstrating More Success

Luhu Destroyer: Early 1990s program to combine U.S. gas turbine engines, French and Italian weapons, French electronics, only to make a ship that was still obsolete.

No. 168 Destroyer: Current program to combine Russian weapons and electronic systems, Ukrainian gas turbine engines in a new stealthy hull. Result appears to be a ship that in some respects is superior to Taiwan’s U.S. KIDD destroyers.

Song Submarine: Early 1990s attempt to combine German engines, Russian weapons and possible Israeli advice. First submarine failed to meet performance expectations.

Song A Submarine: After addressing mistakes the new SONG A incorporates design changes and appears to be successful; it is now in series production.

PL-10 AAM: A 1980s program that tried to copy the Italian htmIDE semi-active guided AAM. Apparently was not successful, little indication it is in widespread service.

PL-12 AAM: Combines a Russian active seeker and data link with a PRC motor to create the PLA’s first active-guided AAM. Is apparently successful as it will enter production and be delivered to the PLAAF in 2004.

Super 7Fighter: A late-1980s attempt to employ the U.S. Grumman Company to redesign the Chengdu J-7. Failed due to Tiananmen sanctions.

FC-1: Same concept continued by Chengdu but with Russian technical aid, achieved financial stability by late 1990s and was test-flown in August 2003. It is now viewed as a success for market incentive reform in the defense industry.

J-10 Fighter: A long-running attempt to create a 4th generation fighter stemming from J-9 canard fighter but with Israeli and Russian technical help. Did not officially fly until 1996 but technical difficulties lingered into the late 1990s.

J-10 Fighter: By early this decade Chengdu was meeting with much greater success. Design issues appeared resolved, program somewhat declassified, push for foreign sales, 2-seat model test flown, and late 2003 reports of final production go-ahead.

CBERS-1 optical imaging satellite: Co-development program with Brazil which only purchased 20 meter low-resolution imaging systems.

KONDOR-E optical imaging satellite: In 2003 Russia is ready to sell a 1-meter capable camera for a future PLA imaging satellite.

Foreign Content of Future PLA Weapons

Weapon System

Foreign Content

Domestic Content

Anti-Satellite, Direct Assent

British micro and nano-satellite technology

PRC design and solid fueled mobile launch system

Radar Satellite

Russian antenna

PRC satellite bus

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Aircraft

Russian Tu-154; US SAR technology

PRC designed SAR

Y-8 Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft

British Racal/Thales Skymaster AEW radar

Xian Y-8 transport aircraft

Chengdu J-10 Multi-Role Fighter

Russian engine; possible Russian radar; Israeli airframe and control system assistance

PRC designed airframe; possible PRC Radar and defensive systems; PRC weapons

Shenyang J-11 Multi-Role Fighter

Russian airframe, some avionic and electronic systems

PRC multi-mode radar; PRC weapons, PRC engine

SD-10 Active Air-to-Air Missile

Russian radar and data link

PRC motor; airframe

HQ-9/FT-2000 Surface-to-Air Missile

Russian guidance systems; possible US seeker technology; possible Israeli design assistance

PRC motor; airframe

Destroyer No. 168

Russian SAM, guidance and search radar; Ukrainian gas turbine engine

PRC hull; anti-ship missile; defensive systems


German engine; possible Russian weapons and design assistance; possible Israeli design assistance

PRC hull; defensive systems

Project 093 nuclear attack submarine

Russian design assistance; possible Russian weapons

PRC hull; nuclear reactor; defensive systems

Medium Transport/Attack Helicopter

French design assistance for rotor head; Italian design assistance; possible Canadian engine

PRC airframe; engines; avionics; weapons

Type-98 Main Battle Tank

Russian influenced hull and 125mm main gun; Russian gun-launched guided missile; British or German influenced engine

PRC designed composite armor; tank design and integration



In a reversal of the late Cold War antagonism, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation has emerged as the PRC’s principle source for advanced military hardware, military technology, military-technical training and advice. In mid-2002, the Pentagon reported that since 1990, figures for “signed agreements” could range from “$10 billion to $20 billion” with actual deliveries ranging from “$7 billion to $10 billion.”[8] In 1999, annual Russian arms sales to the PRC jumped from about $1 billion to $2 billion, a figure that will be sustained in 2004. The Pentagon concluded in 2002 that “Russian arms sales are expected to have a significant impact on China’s ability to use force against potential adversaries such as Taiwan.”[9]

Since the early 1990s access to Russian weapons and military technology has had a profound impact on PLA modernization. All the PLA services to varying degrees relay on new Russian technology to help fulfill modernization goals. Russian technology enabled the PLA’s first manned spaceflight to perform military reconnaissance in October 2003, and will enable future PLA radar surveillance satellites. Russian Sukhoi Su-27s and Su-30 fighter-bombers, when combined with Russian PGMs, A-50 AWACS and reconnaissance satellites, are giving the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) its first all-weather strike capability. Russian technology and assistance enabled the PLA Navy (PLAN) to launch its first second-generation Type 093 SSN in 2002, which will form the basis for the PLAN’s second-generation Type-094 SSBN. The purchase of 12 KILO conventional submarines, with the prospect for co-production of 20 more, could give the PLA the largest fleet of modern SSKs in Asia. Russian weapons and advice have helped the PLA to build three new classes of stealthy warships. Russian weapons and technology purchased by the PLA has helped modernize PLA Army main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, amphibious tanks, airborne tanks and anti-tank missiles.

There is an increasing emphasis on broader technology development cooperation, in which the PRC seeks to attract Russian technological investment in the PRC and the PRC also invests in high technology in Russia. In 1993, there were 300 Russian scientists on long-term defense-related programs, and by 2000, this number jumped to 1,500.[10] High technology development contracts between Russia and the PRC jumped from 35 contracts, totaling $11.7 million in 2001, to $20.7 million for 30 contracts in the first six months of 2002. [11] A 2002 PRC technology delegation visiting Moscow to advance these contracts included officials from “leading shipbuilding, nuclear energy, aerospace and defense industry companies.” [12] Long seeking to shift the balance of its military trade from hardware to technology, in December 2003, PRC Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan made a special push to change this balance to 70 percent technology and 30 percent hardware. [13]

Of note, the PLA wants to participate with Russia in joint sales to third countries.[14] This is significant in relation to a possible ending of Europe’s arms embargo. If this happens, the PLA will likely try to form new alliances with European arms makers as quickly as possible, thereby creating anxiety in Moscow. One way for Beijing to calm Moscow’s fears would be to craft more multi-lateral military programs. But to remain competitive with Europe, it is possible that Russia may become more eager to sell whatever it has that is new and more deadly. For example, the fear of European competition may drive Russia to allow the PLA to co-produce up to 20 of its modern and effective conventional submarines.


While the Ukraine has probably only sold roughly $1-2 billion million in military products to the PLA over the last decade, it has been useful none the less. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russian and Ukrainian military concerns have become more competitive, and the PLA has sought to take advantage of this. The Ukraine has been a source for space and missile technologies, conducting training for PLA astronauts, and possibly selling the PLA advanced liquid fuel rocket engines. The Ukraine is a principle source for air-to-air missiles for PLA Sukhoi fighters. In terms of naval hardware, after much effort, the PLA was able to buy the rusting hulk of a carrier VARYAG and tow it to Dalian in 2002. There it will teach PLA Navy engineers about Soviet era aircraft carrier technology. The PLA may remain interested in the quite capable Ukrainian SLAVA class cruise. If reports are to be believed, it was PLA investment that allowed the Ukraine to create the feared KOLCHUGA passive radar. [15] The PLA is reportedly paying Ukrainian companies to develop a new naval phased array radar, which may be the new radar for the PLAN’s No. 170 class air-defense destroyers. [16] In such arrangements, the PLA likely owns the resulting new technology, as it most probably enables its engineers to absorb the knowledge of their Ukrainian mentors, strengthening their potential to produce a next generation product.


Even though Israel apparently has stopped its military exports to the PRC, it remains the second most important source of advanced military technology to the PRC due to its cumulative effect. Total estimates of the amount of Israel’s military exports to the PRC vary. SIPRI lists $162 million from 1993 to 2002, but in 1997, an Israeli official noted that Israel’s military sales to the PRC were approximately $10 million annually.[17] Another estimate for that same year notes Israeli arms sales to the PRC may have been as high as $30 million annually from 1979.[18] Notably, this trade was poised to leap by $1 billion, but the U.S. convinced Israel to cancel the sale of its sophisticated PHALCON AWACS aircraft in 2000.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States encouraged Israel to develop military technical ties with the PRC in order to indirectly aid PRC military modernization against the former Soviet Union. The formal go-ahead is reported to have come in 1979, when then-Defense Minister Ezer Weizman asked the late Israeli billionaire Shaul Isenberg to establish the Israeli-PRC arms trade.[19] During the 1980s, Israel offered the PRC its technology in the areas of tank weapons, anti-tank missiles, surface-to-air missiles, cruise missiles, military electronics and aircraft design. But by the 1990s, the Israel-PLA relationship became a matter of increasing concern for Washington, not just because of the sophistication of technology sold, but because some of the technology was of U.S. origin or made possible by access to U.S. weapon systems, and was subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.[20]

Israel’s principle motivation for pursuing its arms relationship with the PRC was to support its arms industries, whose independence and competitiveness Israel requires for its own national security. However, some Israelis have suggested another motivation. Israeli officials claim that one benefit of its sale of LAVI fighter technology to China has been to prevent sales of surface-to-surface missiles to Israel’s neighbors.[21] However, in mid-1996, the CIA reportedly disclosed that China may have shipped “missile-related components” to Syria.[22] And there is the larger question of PRC nuclear and missile proliferation and the dangers that has created for Israel. For example, the PRC has sold Iran both nuclear technologies that would contribute to its nuclear weapons program and missile technologies that have contributed to its long-range nuclear missile program. Iran then helped Libya’s missile program. Furthermore, PRC missile technologies have been sold to Iran through proxies like North Korea. This occurred during the 1990s when the Israeli-PLA relationship was at its height.

The most famous PRC-Israel project has been the co-development of the Chengdu Jian-10 (J-10) 4th generation multi-role fighter. This project drew heavily on Israel’s Israeli Aircraft Industries LAVI advanced fighter, [23] which was terminated after the U.S. withdrew its financial and political support. In 2003, a Russian source who visited Chengdu in the early 1990s remarked that it was possible to view Hebrew language placards on the walls where work was being done on the J-10.[24] But the LAVI, in turn, drew heavily from U.S. technology, including some associated with the Lockheed-Martin F-16 fighter. U.S.-origin technology in the J-10 may include avionics, advanced composite materials and flight control specification.[25] As more details about the J-10 have surfaced, it is increasingly apparent that Chengdu pooled technology influences from Israel and Russia to make this new fighter. Though long in gestation, the J-10 may enter production in 2004, and could prove to be a capable multi-role fighter able to hold its own against many current U.S. fighters.

But it was Israel’s attempt to sell its very advanced PHALCON phased array airborne radar to the PLA which finally mobilized a bi-partisan U.S. effort in the late 1990s to insist that Israel halt its exports of dangerous military technology to the PRC. Concern had been building since the deal was formalized at the Paris Airshow in 1997 that Israel would combine PHALCON with a Russian-supplied Beriev A-50 AWACS aircraft. The deal would have involved up to four aircraft for $1 billion.[26] The advanced capabilities of the PHALCON exceeded that of the U.S. E-3 SENTRY and would have severely threatened Taiwan’s air defense capabilities. The Clinton Administration began to press its concerns to Israel in November 1999.[27] The issue soon united both Democrat and Republicans in opposition, both in the Administration and in the Congress, and even among strong supporters of Israel.[28] Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced Israel’s cancellation of the deal during a U.S.-Israeli summit in July 2000. The PHALCON’s capabilities are still prized by the PLA and this perhaps is why, as recently as late 2001, China has persisted in trying to convince Washington to reverse its decision.[29]

Since the cancellation of the PHALCON sale, the U.S. applied increasing pressure on Israel to curtail all sales of dangerous weapons to the PLA. In late 2000, a U.S-Israeli committee was reportedly created to review Israel’s sale of such technologies.[30] Nevertheless, such sales have surfaced. In 2002, it was reported that Israel sold a large number of its HARPY anti-radar drone to the PLA. [31] In early 2002, Israel was close to a sale for its AMOS small-bus communications satellite, originally designed for the Israeli military. But through 2002 and 2003, the U.S. apparently convinced Israel to stop its sales of advanced military technology to the PLA.[32] In mid-2003, the AMOS sale fell through and Israeli Aircraft Industries reduced their Beijing office.[33] A December 2003 report notes that Israel may be trying to revive some military-technical commercial ties that may focus primarily on counter-terrorism.[34] Given that there is little distinction between counter-terrorism capabilities and those required by Special Force units for assault missions, it is necessary for the U.S. to continue to monitor Israeli military commercial activities with the PRC.


In early 2004 Europe stands poised to end its 1989 arms embargo against the PRC. In truth, adherence to this embargo has been progressively weakened by many European states. After the mid-1990s, Britain, France, Spain and Italy modified their interpretations of the 1989 sanctions to allow increasing “dual use” technology to be sold to the PRC. Under this flag, Europeans have sold defense electronics and helicopter technology to the PLA. By the late 1990s, Beijing was putting heavy pressure on many European countries to end these sanctions and resume military technology and weapons sales. During his August-September 2002 tour of Europe, former Premier Zhu Rongji explicitly called for Europe to resume military sales.[35] As U.S.-EU relations went from tepid to worse in 2002-2003, it appears that Beijing saw an opening to extract concessions from Europeans who were looking for stronger links to Beijing to take the place of those they were giving up with Washington. In June 2003, during a visit to Beijing, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said, "We are working hard to lift the ban.”[36]

An October 2003 PRC White Paper on PRC-EU relations stated “The EU should lift its ban on arms sales to China at an early date so as to remove barriers to greater bilateral cooperation on defense industry and technologies.”[37] This White Paper was released weeks before a high-profile Summit of EU leaders in Beijing in November 2003. Then, in early December, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called for the embargo to be lifted during a visit to the PRC.[38] Barely two weeks later, at an EU summit in Brussels, French President Jacques Chriac’s called for the end of the embargo and a summit statement said that Foreign Ministers would “re-examine the question of the embargo on the sale of arms to China.”[39] Days later, the European Union Assembly adopted a resolution against lifting the embargo, citing the PRC’s threats to Taiwan,[40] but the advisory nature of this body means it cannot stop a lifting of the EU embargo on arms sales to the PLA in 2004. On January 25 a gathering of EU Foreign Ministers rejected by a vote of 14 to 1 a French call to end the embargo. However, given France and Germany’s strong support, it appears that momentum is leaning toward its removal in 2004.

Should Europe lift its embargo, its arms sales to the PLA will presumably be governed by a “Code of Conduct.” Unfortunately this Code of Conduct has not stopped Britain from selling microsatellite technology that is informing future PLA anti-satellite capabilities, or from selling Rolls Royce turbofan engine technology now being used on new JH-7A fighter-bombers. It also has not stopped French and Italian contributions to the PLA’s first modern attack helicopter or has it stopped German and French marine engines sales for PLA submarines and combat ships. A 2003 agreement to secure a PRC financial contribution to the future European GALILEO navigation satellite constellation marked a new high-point in space cooperation. By October, the PRC and the European Space Agency were reported close to completing a five-year space cooperation agreement that would cover “space science, Earth observation, environmental monitoring, meteorology, telecommunications and satellite navigation, microgravity research for biology and medicine, and human resource development and training.”[41]

In conjunction with the mid-December EU summit, major European defense and aerospace companies called for an end to the embargo.[42] Their tone was set by EADS, which in early October signed a “strategic cooperation agreement” with AviChina, an investment arm of AVIC II, that would involve the “the joint development, manufacturing and modernization of helicopters, regional aircraft and training aircraft.” Said an EADS spokesman, “We have been working with Avic II for 30 years. It makes perfect sense for us to become a strategic partner in AviChina.”[43] Once the EU embargo is lifted, it can be expected that many European defense companies that now cooperate with U.S. defense companies will seek cooperative alliances with PLA-controlled companies. Such moves should be viewed with concern in Washington as these alliances could prove to be very useful avenues for future PLA espionage against U.S. defense technology.


It is now possible to describe the manner in which access to foreign weapons and technology has accelerated the modernization of the PLA. This section is a summary of findings in “The Impact of Foreign Weapons and Technology on the Modernization of China’s People’s Liberation Army.”

PLA Missile and Space Modernization

Deploy new small nuclear warheads. In 1999 an independent damage assessment commission led by the U.S. Intelligence Community and a special commission of the U.S. House of Representatives led by Congressmen Christopher Cox and Norm Dicks concluded that PLA access to information about modern small U.S. nuclear warheads informed and shortened the development of new PLA small nuclear warhead. While there are some who maintain that the PLA could have developed these warheads from their own capabilities, these individuals are in the minority. These new small warheads were essential for the PLA to develop new classes of intercontinental nuclear missiles.

Deploy new liquid fuel and solid fuel ICBMs capable of reaching the United States. In 2002 the Pentagon reported that the PLA would deploy about 20 new DF-5 Mod 2 ICBMs by 2005. The Pentagon implied that this new ICBM might have multiple warheads. The DF-5 Mod 2 ICBM very likely benefited from U.S. knowledge and technology. Both U.S. agencies and the Cox Commission determined that PLA interaction with U.S. satellite and aerospace companies, including Loral and Hughes, allowed the PLA to improve the LONG MARCH space launch vehicle, which is based on the DF-5. In addition, some U.S. intelligence analysts contend that a two-satellite launch bus developed to loft U.S. IRIDIUM communication satellite provided a “technology bridge” for a multiple warhead bus, and a former PLA engineer has noted that U.S. companies provided advice regarding the IRIDIUM bus. The U.S. company Martin Marietta also provided information that allowed the PLA to improve the solid fuel rocket engines of the DF-21 IRBM, and very likely for the new DF-31, DF-31A ICBMs and JL-2 SLBM. The road-mobile DF-31 is now being deployed and is expected to be followed by the longer-range DF-31A and JL-2 later in this decade.

Develop new long-range cruise missiles expected to be deployed by mid-decade. Taiwanese sources expect the PLA to deploy new long-range land attack cruise missiles by mid-decade. Chinese sources indicate these may resemble the U.S. TOMOHAWK cruise missile and will have multiple guidance systems like terrain-following radar and satellite-navigation. Eventually this new cruise missile will be launched from land, ship, submarine and aircraft platforms. This new cruise missile is also expected to have benefited from Russian, Israeli and captured U.S. cruise missile technology.

Achieve a manned space capability in about a decade, which is now being used for military purposes. The October 2003 manned flight of the Shenzhou-5 spaceship was made possible by PLA access to extensive Russian space technology. The Shenzhou is a slightly larger and improved version of the Russian Soyuz. The first five Shenzhou missions, including the first manned mission, were used to test electronic intelligence and imaging intelligence payloads. Based on this precedent, it is possible to project that future Shenzhou spaceflight missions and future PLA space stations may very likely also perform military missions. Should the PLA elect to perform military surveillance missions from a future space station, it may also arm its space stations for self defense, which also raises the prospect of it arming manned space stations for offensive military missions as well. Europe and Russia are interested in selling technology that will enable future PLA manned space stations.

Develop a modern space reconnaissance and surveillance capability. The PLA’s first high-resolution radar satellite will be based on the Russian NPO Mashinostroyenia radarsatellite. NPO Mashinostroyenia officials also note they are selling the PLA their new 1-meter capable electro-optical imaging satellite. The PLA intends to loft four radar and 4 new electro-optical imaging satellites from 2006. These will allow the PLA to revisit any target on Earth twice a day. Such a space surveillance capability, when combined with airborne and fixed surveillance assets, will enable the PLA to conduct a dynamic offensive missile and air strike campaign against Taiwan. Radar satellites will also be useful in finding U.S. naval forces at sea. In addition, the ability to gather 1-meter or better imagery will give the PRC and PLA leadership new levels of political influence, by enabling them to assist favored factions in overseas conflicts. It will also enable the PRC to expose U.S. military moves in ways that may endanger U.S. military personnel.

Quickly upgraded the PLA’s air defense capabilities. According to Russian reports the PLA has purchased possibly several to many hundred S-300 SAMs. These deadly missiles use very-hard-to-jam track-via-missile (TVM) technology reportedly stolen from the U.S. The U.S. has never had to fight an air battle against a foe armed with TVM missiles. The PLA’s possession of a large number of S-300s serves to deter the modern U.S. conventional precision strike air forces. The PLA has also obtained at least one U.S. Patriot SAM from which it may have also added to its knowledge of TVM technology. A new version of the PLA FT-2000 SAM may use TVM guidance. Passive KOLCHUGA radar purchased from the Ukraine and Russian KASTA low-altitude radar will enhance the PLA’s build-up of modern radar systems that can cue new SAMs.

PLA Air Force Modernization

Amass a fleet of about 400 4th generation attack-capable Russian Sukhoi fighters by about 2006. The PLA decided in the early 1990s to accelerate the modernization of the PLA Air Force by purchasing and co-producing large numbers of Russian Sukhoi fighters. By 2006 it will have significantly advanced this goal by acquiring and building about 400 Su-27SK, Su-30MKK, Su-30MKK2 and co-produced J-11 fighters. This number could increase substantially if as some Russian sources predict, the PLA elect for a second co-production contract for more J-11 fighters. The Sukhoi is the peer of the U.S. F-15C fighter and F-15E strike-fighter, and is in some respects superior. The PLA is now upgrading Su-27 and J-11 fighters to make them multi-role fighter and attack capable. With air-refueling the Su-30MKK/MKK2 is cable of striking targets in Guam and Okinawa.

Better implement evolving offensive joint-warfare doctrines. The PLA Navy is purchasing the Sukhoi Su-30MKK2 and Russian sources indicate that the PLA Air Force may upgrade its Su-30MKKs to MKK2 standards. This could give the PLA over 100 Su-30s capable of both land and naval attack missions. As such, this capability will allow the PLA to better implement joint tactics between the PLA Air Force and PLA Navy.

Develop and produce its first 4th generation combat fighters and lay the groundwork for 5th generation combat aircraft programs. Foreign technologies have helped the PLA to upgrade its Shenyang J-8II and Chengdu J-7 fighters. Israeli and Russian technologies were critical in enabling Chengdu to complete its new J-10 and FC-1 multi-role fighters. Chengdu’s J-10C 5th generation fighter concept bears a very close resemblance to the Russian Mikoyan Article 1.44 5th generation fighter proposal.

Arm both foreign-made and indigenous fighters and fighter-attack aircraft with new and capable air-to-air, ground-attack and long-range naval attack weapons. The PLA is importing thousands of new Russian air-to-air and air-to-ground muntions. These include very capable missiles like the helmet-sighted Vympel R-73 and the active-radar guided Vympel R-77 AAMs. Russian technology is also enabling the PLA to put into production in 2004 its first reliable medium-range active-guided AAM, the Louyang PL-12/SD-10 missile. The PLA has also purchases large numbers of new Russian precision-guided muntions, including the Kh-29 short-range attack missile, the Kh-59ME medium range attack missile, the Kh-31 anti-radar and anti-ship missiles, and the Kh-59MK long-range anti-ship missile. In addition the PLA has purchased the very large KAB-1500 precision-guided bomb, a 3,000lb bomb that can be equipped with deep-penetrating and thermobaric warheads. Russian-designed laser-guided bombs will also arm JH-7A fighter-bombers, and possibly, larger numbers of Xian A-5 attack fighters.

Support combat missions around Taiwan with new space and airborne information platforms, aerial refueling aircraft and transport aircraft. PLA air strike missions against Taiwan will benefit from satellite surveillance and from Russian A-50 AWACS expected to be purchased. The PLA also intends to purchase Russian Ilyushin Il-78 aerial refueling aircraft, which will extend the range of Su-30MKK/MKK2 strike fighters. Russian sources indicate the PLA may now purchase 30 more Ilyushin Il-76 heavy transport aircraft in addition to about 20 already in service. Depending on the version, these can airlift two-three BMD airborne tanks, which will give added power-projection capability to PLA Airborne units. The Ukraine is also assisting the PLA’s Shaanxi company to improve its Y-8 medium transport, develop a much more capable version of the Y-8, and is discussing the possibility of co-producing the Antonov An-124 mega-transport.

Undertake all-weather counter-air, ground-attack and naval-attack missions on or around Taiwan, and against U.S. forces that may seek to repel such an attack. By 2006 or shortly thereafter, the acquisition of foreign technologies will allow the PLA for the first time to conduct all-weather offensive strike missions against Taiwan and against U.S. forces that would seek to defend Taiwan from PLA attack. This is significant because PLA short-range, medium range ballistic missiles, and new cruise missiles, while great in number, can only perform one mission. Strike aircraft can perform multiple missions. By this time the PLA will have large numbers of Russian-built Su-30s and will build up its new British-engined Xian JH-7A fighter bombers so that it may have about 150 fighters capable of attack U.S. Navy ships.

Significantly advance the PLA’s goal of creating a modern and innovating combat aircraft industry sector. Over the last decade the PLA’s combat aircraft design and manufacturing sector has been improved by access to French computer design software and by modern machine tools from Russia, Europe, Japan and the United States. In addition, it is apparent that interaction with European and U.S. aerospace firms is helping PLA controlled companies like Shenyang and Chengdu to become more innovative and to understand how to be driven by markets rather than state planning dictates. The Sukhoi-Shenyang partnership is leading to Shenyang’s eventual ability to indigenously produce its own variants of the J-11. Foreign assistance has enabled Chengdu to produce two fighters which may soon be able to compete in two critical market segments. In addition, interaction with foreign firms is enabling PLA companies finally to produce modern turbofan fighter engines and modern fighter radar.

PLA Navy Modernization

Combine new information systems and new long-range strike platforms to enable offensive and defensive missions at far greater distances. It is very likely that the PLA Navy will also benefit from information derived from new surveillance satellites. The PLA Navy also has some Y-8 transports modified with British airborne search radar that have been used to assist long-range targeting for destroyers. The Ukraine apparently has co-developed with the PLA a new naval phased-array radar that will equip one and possibly two new classes of air defense destroyers. Such radar may be used in the same way as the U.S. AEGIS to manage long-range counter-air and counter-naval battles.

Build new generations of modern and capable nuclear and conventional submarine and support them with an increasingly credible Naval Air Force and Air Force strike combine. Russian technology was used to enable the PLA to launch its first second-generation SSN in 2002. It is expected to be equivalent in performance to the Russian VICTOR-III class SSN, which would constitute a very large leap in capability for the PLAN. It can be expected that Russia would have sold technology to make them even quieter than the VICTOR-III, enhancing their ability to counter U.S. SSNs, and will arm them with 220km range Russian CLUB anti-ship missiles. The PLA is now acquiring 12 very quiet KILO conventional submarines, 8 of which will be armed with CLUB missiles. Russia is now considering selling the PLA the rights to co-produce up to 20 conventional submarines. Russian, German and possibly French technology enabled the PLA to produce a working version of its new SONG conventional submarine, which is now in series production. It is possible that before the end of the decade the PLA will have the capability to coordinate mass missile attacks on U.S. Naval forces by submarines and Su-30s.

Better enable future naval attack and blockade operations against Taiwan later in this decade, if the PRC chooses to do so. Foreign technology is better enabling the PLAN to undertake blockade missions around Taiwan. Foreign purchased or assisted all-weather fighter bombers will be able to attack Taiwan Navy ships in ports and at sea, degrading Taiwan’s ability to oppose larger numbers of Russian and foreign assisted PLAN submarines. Russian weapons and systems are enabling the PLA to produce three new classes of stealthy warships. Two of these are design for air defense missions, filling a long-standing PLAN requirement for better naval air defense.

Gain increasing naval strength needed to enforce territorial claims, especially in the South China Sea. A combination of new information assets and long-range strike assets will soon enable increasingly distant PLA Navy operations, especially in its immediate region to enforce longstanding PRC territorial claims. New foreign build or assisted submarine, foreign assisted stealthy warships and Russian-built long-range strike fighters will allow the PLA to undertake shows of force near contested areas, and if necessary, fight naval battles in those same areas. While the PLAN has long been able to best inferior neighbors like Vietnam and the Philippines, in the near future it may also be able to oppose Japanese naval forces near the Daiyoutai Islands or Malaysian naval forces in the Spratly Island Group.

Increase the PLA Navy’s ability to protect naval access in the Indian Ocean and begin to employ a limited naval power projection capability based on sub-launched LACMs. As Russian influenced SSNs enter PLAN service, the PLA will soon acquire a limited conventional power-projection capability in that they will likely soon carry new PLA-developed long-range land attack cruise missiles. Global targeting for PLA cruise missiles will be made possible by Russian surveillance satellites, foreign-assisted PLA owned or controlled communication satellites, plus Russian and European navigation satellites. Even such a limited power projection capability will give the PRC leadership greater influence in that it can choose to directly intervene on the side of a favored faction by direct application of precision striking power.

Gain increasing understanding of aircraft carrier construction and operations to better prepare for eventual aircraft carrier construction. Since the mid-1980s the PLA has collected used aircraft carriers from Australia and Russia to gather knowledge needed in order to eventually build their own. In 2002 a PRC company linked to the PLA Navy took possession of the former Russian carrier Varyag, which is now in Dalian ostensibly to be refurbished as a casino. In August 2003 the Harbin Technical University, which closely cooperates with the PLA, put on display a model of a PLA version of this Russian carrier. It is not known whether the PLA has the financial resources to build carrier in the near future, but it does have a much greater level of technical proficiency to complete such a project. In addition, as the Shenyang Aircraft Company turns the J-11 into more of an indigenously built fighter, it also becomes a strong candidate for an initial carrier-based fighter-bomber, inasmuch as its Russian partner, KnAAPO, also builds a carrier version for the Russian Navy. While the Chengdu J-10 is often viewed as a potential carrier fighter, the J-11 is already a proven carrier-capable design.

PLA Ground Force Modernization

Turning information into a more effective weapon by greater use of UAVs, radars and more profound fire and counter-fire capabilities that are being improved with foreign technologies. Like other modern armies, the PLA is investing in new targeting and precision strike systems. The PLA has been experimenting with unmanned reconnaissance vehicles (UAVs) since the late 1980s and has likely benefited from Israeli technology in this area. The PLA may also be investing in long-range synthetic aperture radar-based airborne ground surveillance and targeting systems. These will be used to direct new long-range artillery rockets based on the Russian SMERSH system. The SMERSH uses self-targeting sensor-fused munitions that allow one long-range rocket to attack many armored vehicles. It is likely that Russian sensor-fused technology is aiding the PLA to make its own sensor-fused munitions.

Using foreign technology to building world-class main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers. With the benefit of British, Israeli and Russian technology, the PLA has developed two new main battle tanks, the Type-98 and less expensive Type-96. Both are armed with Russian-influenced 125mm main guns and both likely fire Russian designed gun-launched laser-guided anti-tank missiles. Both tanks also use modern composite-steel sandwich armor in removable segments that allow for upgrades. The T-98 uses a unique laser-based defensive system that can either blind opposing optical guidance systems or, upon detecting such systems, can automatically direct counter-fire. In early 2003 the PLA revealed a new armored infantry fighting vehicle that uses the gun-turret system from the Russian BMP-3 armored infantry fighting vehicle.

Using Russian tank gun-launched laser-guided missiles to give several PLA tanks greater striking distance. The PLA now produces a version of the Russian BASTION gun-launched laser-guided anti-tank missile for its 105mm tank guns. With a 5km range, this missile out-ranges regular 105mm gun shells. Taiwanese sources believe this missile arms the PLA’s new Type-63A amphibious tank, enabling it to out-range Taiwan’s U.S.-built M-60 and M-48 tanks as soon as it lands ashore. These missiles are also being used by T-59D and possibly T-79 tanks.

Using foreign aircraft, helicopters, light tanks and light trucks to give greater power to PLA Airborne Forces. It is increasingly apparent that the PLA views its Airborne forces as a strategic striking force with special relevance to many possible Taiwan combat scenarios. If Airborne forces can rapidly secure airfields on Taiwan in conjunction with the capture of key ports by Amphibious forces, that may help force Taiwan’s political leadership to capitulate before a full-scale invasion. Or if necessary, these forces could in large part help to capture Taipei, forcing the same result. The power projection capability of PLA Airborne forces is being improved by the possible purchase of up to 50 Russian Il-76 heavy transport aircraft, modern and capable Russian BMD airborne tanks, and new Italian Iveco light trucks armed with HJ-9 anti-tank missiles, likely derived from the Israeli MAPATS missile. PLA Special Forces could also lead attacks on Taiwan military, infrastructure and political targets after having been transported by Russian Mi-17 or other European-designed helicopters. Airborne and Special Forces troops could be covered by new WZ-11 attack helicopters, a copy of a French design.

Using foreign helicopter technology to enable improved indigenous helicopter development. In early 2003 the PLA is reported to have test flown a new attack helicopter, sometimes called the “Z-10.” This helicopter also forms the basis for a new 6-ton class medium utility helicopter. The dynamic system for this helicopter was assisted by Italy and France. Both helicopters may enter PLA service by the end of the decade. The new attack helicopter is expected to resemble the European TIGER attack helicopter, meaning it will be an all-weather platform armed with long-range attack weapons. Access to European helicopter technology is likely to improve with the emerging EADS-AVIC-2 alliance, and may enable the PLA to better complete a planned 10-ton class utility helicopter.


Foreign weapons and technology are helping to propel an historic shift in the military balance on the Taiwan Strait. In January 2004 Taiwan Deputy Minister of Defense Chong Pin Lin offered a sober assessment of the evolving military balance on the Taiwan Strait. Lin said, "The PLA may start to surpass what we have in 2005 or between 2005 and 2008," Lin offered the caveat that a “crossover” in the military balance did not mean the PRC leadership would “feel 100 percent confident in winning a war," and predicted by 2010 to 2015 the PLA may have “supremacy in both qualitative and quantitative comparison of forces that it may feel confident to move.”[44] The assessment of 2005 as a “crossover” date is also shared by many high Taiwan military officers.[45] Foreign military systems are helping fuel the PLA’s ability to lead this “crossover.”

Missile Balance. If current growth rates are sustained by 2006 the PLA may be closing in on 750 SRBMs, to which one could add 100-200 new long-range land-attack cruise missiles, which have benefited from Russian, Israeli and U.S. technology. Russian imaging satellites will help make them more accurate and more flexibly retargetable. If the PLA does loft an 8-satellite constellation after 2006, then it will be able to revisit all targets on Taiwan twice-daily by both types of satellites, with radarsats able to penetrate cloud cover. Even though there is enthusiasm in Taiwan to build retaliatory ballistic missiles, it is not clear that Washington will allow this necessary defensive measure. If used with strategic surprise and immediate follow-up airstrikes, the PLA’s missile force could have a devastating effect. Their improving accuracy makes these missiles much more than a terror weapon.

Air Balance. Taiwan has about 330 4th generation fighters, a number expected to be static in 2006, when the PLA will have received about 400 Sukhoi fighters, most being multi-role fighter and attack capable. To this number there may be 30-50 British-engined JH-7 fighter bombers and 30-40 J-10 multi-role fighters. All PLA multi-role fighters will carry new active-guided AAMs, helmet-sighted short-range AAMs, and be capable of delivering a range of PGMs. The PLA’s KAB-1500 heavy PGMs could wreck havoc with Taiwan’s deep underground aircraft shelters. If surprise is achieved, PLA missile and air strikes could reduce the number of Taiwan fighters available for defensive missions. The PLA will also place a high priority on the destruction of Taiwan’s AWACS and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Taiwan is reportedly developing its own GPS-guided PGM but its short range exposes the Taiwan fighter to PLA S-300 SAMs.

Naval Balance. Taiwan only has two aging conventional submarines and the U.S. is not expected to make good on any intended new submarine deliveries before the end of the decade. In contrast, by 2006 to 2007 the PLA could have the 8 Club ASM-armed KILOs ordered in 2002, and as many as 7 or 8 new SONG class submarines, in addition to about 20 older but still useful MING class submarines. Should the PLA co-produce 20 more Russian submarines the naval balance would shift decidedly to the PLA. In terms of surface warships the PLA may have two or more new Russian-armed air defense destroyers, two or more new “Aegis” like air defense destroyers and 3-4 SOVREMENNIY destroyers. Taiwan may have taken delivery of 4 new respectable KIDD class air-defense destroyers.

Ground Force Balance. While it will take considerable effort for the PLA to transport its new T-98 and T-96 tanks to Taiwan, their superiority over Taiwan’s U.S. tanks spurs considerable fear in the still Army-centric Taiwan military leadership. While Taiwan may have new AH-1 APACHE helicopters to deal with this threat, the PLA will also have increasingly sophisticated light-weight air-defense systems it can bring to Taiwan, and may have a good number of light-weight WZ-11 attack helicopters armed with anti-air missiles. Russian Il-76s, Mi-17 helicopters and BMD Airborne light tanks are giving new mobility and firepower to PLA Airborne units. New T-63A amphibious tanks armed with BASTION gun-launched missile can out-range the guns on Taiwan’s U.S. M-60 and M-48 tanks. If these units achieve surprise and manage to secure airfields and ports, then civilian foreign-made airliners and civilian ships and fast ferries can be expected to pour in tens of thousands of troops a day.


New PLA offensive military capabilities made possible by access to foreign technology is also helping to create new threats to U.S. forces, especially those stationed in Asia. With new space surveillance capabilities the PLA will be able to better monitor U.S. forces in Japan, Okinawa and Guam, to better time and coordinate any potential military action against Taiwan. These assets can also help monitor any U.S. forces that may be deployed to intervene on the Taiwan Strait, to better mount pre-emptive or counter-strikes.

And at a time when U.S. forces may be diverted for many years with requirements to fight the War on Terror, or perhaps to defend against aggressive actions by North Korea, remaining U.S. forces may be hard pressed to deter PRC aggression on the Taiwan Strait. The closest U.S. forces to the Taiwan Strait are two squadrons of aging F-15C fighters at Kadena Airbase on Okinawa. The challenges of maintaining these aging fighters was recently explained by General William J. Begert, Commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, to include problems with airframe and wing fatigue.[46] While the F-15C armed with modern helmet- display sighted AIM-9X and active radar guided AIM-120 missiles is formidable, it simply does not have a decisive level of superiority when compared to emerging PLA Sukhois and their new missiles. The only future U.S. fighter that will be decisively superior to the Sukhois is the Lockheed-Martin F/A-22, but only 200-300 may be built. On top of this, as General Begert also explained, U.S. fighters like the F-15 may not be able to survive new PLA air defenses based on the S-300 SAM.[47]

Potential PLA Anti-Carrier Forces by 2010*


12 or more Russian KILO; 8 w/ CLUB anti-ship missile

10 or more SONG w/ Russian torpedoes

3 Type 093 SSNs; possibly with CLUB, Russian torpedoes

20 or so older MING

Modern Ships defending submarine areas

2+ No. 170 air defense destroyers

2+ No. 168 air defense destroyers

4 Sovremenniy destroyers

8+ Type 054 stealth frigates

Strike Aircraft

40+ Su-30MKK2; w/ Kh-31A anti-ship missile

70 or so Su-30MKK upgraded to MKK2 standard; w/ Kh-31A

50+ JH-7A; with Kh-31 and indigenous anti-ship missile

300+ J-11/Su-27SK w/ Kh-31A

*In most cases numbers are author estimates

Again, considering that U.S. forces may be committed to other regions thus impeding their rapid assembly to respond to a Taiwan Strait crisis, the U.S. Navy may only have the ships of the Japan-based 7th Fleet to respond to such a crisis. One should expect that the PLA will take advantage of a U.S. inability to respond as part of its campaign planning. If all the U.S. Navy can mobilize is the 7th Fleet with its single carrier battle group, then U.S. will be severely challenged by the emerging PLA missile-air-submarine strike combine. The PLA may have the following anti-carrier assets by the end of the decade:

A single aircraft carrier has about 50 combat aircraft, which will progressively comprise the F/A-18E/F multi-role fighter plus a declining number of older F/A-18Cs, over the course of this decade. While the F/A-18E/F is a capable aircraft, especially when later modified with new phased array radar, like the F-15C, it does not have capabilities that are decisively superior to the PLA’s Sukhoi fighters. The Sukhoi has better maneuverability, slightly greater unrefueled range and the capabilities of their respective air-to-air missiles are too close for comfort. While the U.S. carrier fighters may benefit from better AWACS and information support, plus better training and tactical employment, the larger number of Sukhois is bound to overwhelm a single carrier air group. It is possible that as it gets within range, a single U.S. carrier will be more preoccupied with self-defense than much needed offensive missions to defend Taiwan. In addition, U.S. carrier air wings lost their S-3B VIKING long-range anti-submarine patrol aircraft in the late 1990s and will have to rely on more vulnerable land-based P-3 ORION ASW aircraft. In order to get close to the Taiwan Strait, the 7th Fleet will require long-range support from U.S. Air Force fighters in Okinawa, whose staying power is dependent upon AWACS and tankers which are vulnerable to attack. Support from Japanese F-15s could make a real difference, but it is not certain that Japan would commit it fighters to defending U.S. naval forces from the beginning of such a crisis.


The key conclusion of this written_testimonies, and the larger report on which it is based, is that the PRC has been able to accelerate important components of military modernization though a sustained access to modern foreign military technology. This conclusion leads to another: for as long as the PRC threatens to use its military power to put key U.S. interests in danger, and proliferates nuclear and missile technologies, it is imperative for Washington to do its utmost to stem the flow of modern military technology to the PRC. Sustaining the 1989 Tiananmen embargoes forbidding the sale of U.S. weapons and dangerous military technologies is a first requirement. It is necessary for the U.S. to continue to look hard at dual-use items, like some helicopters, that the PLA could use to attack Taiwan.

Sustaining this embargo is critical if only to demonstrate to Europe that its rapidly evolving policies that may soon lead the removal of its arms embargoes will create yet another serious conflict with Washington. Europe has already significantly relaxed its prohibitions against sales of militarily useful technologies and Beijing is pushing hard for a complete end to the 1989 European Union embargo. Should this embargo end it is likely that the PLA will be able to create new arms industry alliances that will further accelerate it access to and use of advanced military technologies. Europe could be a source for new military innovation that for the long-term Russian may not be able to afford to sustain. The U.S. should develop both broad and specific warnings that if Europe decides to become the PLA’s new military-technical supplier, that the U.S. will take appropriate measures to defend critical U.S. defense technologies, which may affect long-term European access to future U.S. technical innovation.

In addition the United States should make stemming the supply of critical defense technologies to the PRC a higher strategic priority. One success story in this regard has been the long-term U.S. dialogue with Israel to convince its leadership to stop its sale of dangerous military technologies to the PLA. It took a near crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations to make this point; the 1999-2000 confrontation over the sale of Israel’s PHALCON AWACS system. While the U.S. should be grateful for Israel’s eventual recognition and response to U.S. concerns, continued U.S. vigilance is warranted. Israel should also be reminded that its hope to use its arms trade with the PRC to seek to prevent its arms sales that might threaten Israel has not worked. While the PRC has not sold conventional weapons to direct confrontation states that now pose threats to Israel, the PRC’s proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies to Pakistan, and subsequent Pakistani proliferation, is creating new threats to Israel.

Addressing the challenge posed by Russia also remains important. In 2002 the Department of Defense, in its annual report on PLA modernization, paid special attention to the PLA’s relationship with Russia. By simply continuing to highlight both the extent and breadth of the PLA-Russian military technical relationship, the U.S. gives greater intellectual ammunition to those in Russia who may share American concerns. Granted, there are not many in the current Russian government who do share U.S. concerns. It is clear that in Moscow the interests of Russian weapons makers predominate, and their priority is to sell their wares. Nevertheless Washington and Moscow do have a longstanding interest in bi-lateral arms control and on occasion Russia can be persuaded to curtail sales of dangerous weapons. It is the U.S. interest to make Russia’s weapons sales to the PRC a higher priority on Washington’s agenda with Moscow. While Russia’s democratic institutions remain fragile, both U.S. officials and Members of Congress can reach out to convey an American concern.

[1] This report has been submitted to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. It substantially updates an earlier work by the author, “Foreign Arms Acquisition and PLA Modernization,” in James R. Lilley and David Shambaugh, eds., China’s Military Faces The Future, American Enterprise Institute and M.E. Sharpe, 1999, pp. 85-191.

[2] Bates Gill and Taeho Kim, China’s Arms Acquisitions From Abroad, A Quest for ‘Superb and Secret Weapons,’ SIPRI Research Report No. 11, London: Oxford University Press, 1995; Richard A. Bitzinger and Bates Gill, Gearing Up For Hi-Tech Warfare?: Chinese and Taiwanese Defense Modernization and Implications for Confrontation Across the Taiwan Strait, 1995-2005, Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, February 1996; Bates Gill, “Chinese Military Hardware and Technology Acquisition of Concern to Taiwan,” in James R. Lilley and Chuck R. Downs, eds., Crisis in the Taiwan Strait, Washington, DC: National Defense University and the American Enterprise Institute, 1997, pp. 105-129; Richard A. Bitzinger, “Going Places or Running In Place?, China’s Efforts To Leverage Advanced Military Technologies for Military Use,” in Col. Susan M. Puska, ed., People’s Liberation Army After Next, Carlisle: U.S. Army War College and the American Enterprise Institute, 2000, pp. 9-54; Shirley A. Kan, Christopher Bolkcom and Ronald O’Rourke, “China’s Conventional Foreign Arms Acquisitions: Background and Analysis,” CRS Report for Congress, October 10, 2000; David Shambaugh, Modernizing China’s Military, Progress, Problems and Prospects, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, Chapter 6.

[3] Gill and Kim, p. 131.

[4] Also reported in David Lague, “In China's Ambitions, a Mother Lode for Arms Dealers,” The Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2002.

[5] SIPRI database, .

[6]Ray Cheung, “China's arms deals topped US$ 3.6b,” South China Morning Post, September 27, 2003, p. 5.

[7]“Russia, China to maintain arms trade level,” Itar-Tass, December 17, 2003.

[8] Report to Congress Pursuant to the FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act, ANNUAL REPORT ON THE MILITARY POWER OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA. July, 2002, p. 40.

[9] Ibid, p. 46.

[10] Ibid., p. 45.
[11] “Chinese delegation brings over 100 high-tech projects to Russia,” ITAR-TASS, August 1, 2002, in FBIS CEP20020801000209.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Russia, China Sign Military Technology Cooperation Protocol for 2004,” Itar-Tass, December 17, 2003, in FBIS CEP20031217000230 .

[14] Ibid.

[15] Narodna Armiya, Kiev, November 21, 2003, Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire,
BBC Monitoring International Reports, December 4, 2003.

[16] “Ukrainian Radar Designer Interviewed on Current Projects,” Kiev Defense-Express, November 1, 2003.

[17] Barbara Opall, “Israel Denies Charges On Tech Sales to China,” Defense News, July 21-27, 1997, p. 56.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Judy Dempsey, “Israel considers arms dealings with China an acceptable risk,” Financial Times, April 23, 1999, p.8.

[20] Jim Krane, “U.S. aid to Israel subsidizes a potent weapons exporter,” The Associated Press, June 19, 2002.

[21] Opall, op-cit.

[22] Bill Gertz, “CIA suspects Chinese firm of Syria missile aid,” The Washington Times, July 23, 1996, p. A1.

[23] Douglas Barrie, “Chinese tonic, The Chinese air force is picking up the pieces of Israel's Lavi fighter programme,” Flight International, November 9, 1994; Jim Mann, “U.S. Says Israel Gave Combat Jet Plans To China, “The Los Angeles Times, December 28, 1994, p. A1; Charles Bickers and Nick Cook, “Russia, Israel helping China build new fighter,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, November 25, 1995; Andy Chuter, “Israel/Russia Compete to Arm F-10 Fighter,” Flight International, October 15, 1997, p. 9; David Isenberg, “Israel's role in China's new warplane,” Asia Times, December 4, 2002.

[24] Interview, Moscow Airshow, August 2003.

[25] Mann, op-cit; Larry Wortzel, “U.S. Commits to Security of Its Allies,” Taipei Times, March 15, 2001.

[26] “Final RFP for Chinese AEW Follow-On Program Expected,” Journal of Electronic Defense Electronics, April 1, 2000.

[27] Bill Gertz, “U.S. opposes Israel-China military deal,” The Washington Times, November 12, 1999, p. A1

[28] William A. Orme, Jr., “Israeli Armorer in a Global Arena; Aircraft Maker Runs Afoul of U.S. With China Radar Contract,” The New York Times, June 30, 2000, p.1; Dov S. Zakheim, “Get real on China,” The Jerusalem Post, November 22, 1999, p. 8; Hanan Sher, “The Plight of the Phalcon,” The Jerusalem Report, October 10, 2000.

[29] “China seeks US reversal,” Flight International, October 30, 2001, p. 21.

[30]“U.S. And Israel Will Form Joint Technology Committee On Arms Exports,” Israel Business Today, September 1, 2000.

[31] “IAI Sells Harpy Drones To China,” Flight International, November 5, 2002, p. 5.

[32] Bill Gertz, “Israel asked to stop arms sales to China; U.S. seeks to curb threat to Taiwan,” The Washington Times, January 3, 2003, p. A01

[33] Ami Ettinger,"IAI Cuts Investment in Defense Exports to China, Will Focus on Civil Aviation," Ma'ariv,

October 9, 2003.

[34] Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel, China To Revive Ties,” Defense News, December 15, 2003.
[35]“EU should lift arms embargo, Chinese premier tells French president,” Agence France Press, September 2, 2002.

[36] “Europe's companies urges removal of ban on high-tech exports to China,” Xinhua, November 26, 2003.
[37] “Xinhua Carries 'Full Text' of China's EU Policy Paper,” Xinhua, October 13, 2003, in FBIS CPP20031013000072.

[38]“China Urges EU To Lift Arms Embargo Amid Talks for Plutonium Plant,” Agence France Presse, December 4, 2003.


[40] “EU parliament resists end to arms embargo against China,” Agence France Presse, December 18, 2003.

[41] China Set for Closer Cooperation After Space Flight, Agence France Presse, October 15, 2003.

[42] “Europe’s companies…” op-cit.

[43] Paul Betts and Justine Lau, “EADS moves to boost ties with China AEROSPACE,” Financial Times, October 21, 2003, p. 31.

[44]Benjamin Kang Lim and Tiffany Wu, “Taiwan sees military balance tipping to China,” Reuters, January 10, 2004.

[45] This point was noted during the course of many meetings with military officials in Taiwan during 2002 and 2003.

[46] Transcript, Defense Writers Group, Gen. William J. Begert, USAF, Commander, Pacific Air Forces, January 13, 2004

[47] Ibid.

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