Building an Offensive and Decisive PLAAF

Discussion in 'China' started by BangersAndMash, May 24, 2011.

  1. BangersAndMash

    BangersAndMash Regular Member

    Apr 24, 2011
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    Building an Offensive and Decisive PLAAF
    A Critical Review of Lt Gen Liu Yazhou’s The Centenary of the Air Force

    Guocheng Jiang

    On 1 October 2009, the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 60th anniversary with all kinds of modern weaponry parading through and above Tiananmen Square in an unprecedented show of force. Soon after, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) also turned 60 on 11 November 2009 and launched its own series of celebrations. In a media blitz featuring TV shows, newspapers, and seminars, a number of renowned PLAAF strategists entered the spotlight to talk about the PLAAF’s strategic past, present, and future. Among them, Lt Gen Liu Yazhou was recognized by many members of the Chinese audience as the “Douhet of China,” probably because of his reputation as a daring forward thinker, a vehement speaker, and a fascinating personality.1 Italian general Giulio Douhet advocated strategic bombing, but his book The Command of the Air proved so controversial that it drew strong criticism from his military colleagues, many of whom interpreted it as a theory of “total war.” General Liu, in contrast, has gathered strong support and has profoundly influenced the Chinese airpower community. In this sense, and to a certain degree, to understand General Liu’s thoughts is to understand the PLAAF.

    The general’s writing has established him as China’s preeminent airpower theorist. On 10 November 2009, a special edition of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) publication Military Weekly included an abbreviated version of his monograph The Centenary of the Air Force (百岁空军), which first appeared in the early 2000s in Chinese and then in 2008 in an English translation, along with Liu’s other important articles.2 His monograph presents a number of unique views on the PLAAF’s effort to transform itself from a mere appendage of the other services into its current status as an independent service—views that afford important insights for those who seek to understand the PLAAF’s historical context. General Liu’s perspective on Chinese strategic considerations has proven highly influential among elite PLAAF strategists who are helping shape the air force into a strategic force designed to perform independent, offensive, and decisive roles in future wars. This article distills the essence of General Liu’s monograph and critically analyzes it in order to provide a Western audience some insight into a highly regarded advocate of Chinese airpower.

    Three Revolutions and Three Steps

    General Liu divides the development of military affairs into three revolutionary stages. The first revolution occurred in the nineteenth century, when navies ended land armies’ traditional dominance of wars. The second revolution took place in World War II when Germany, although possessing tactically superior fighters and attack aircraft, lost to an equally good but strategically oriented British (and Allied) airpower force that developed an exceptional fleet of strategic bombers. The third revolution, which started in the 1990s and continues today, is particularly important to the world’s air forces. As General Liu puts it, “Air battlefields have become the decisive battlefields; victories in the air have become the ultimate victories.”3 This assertion, now reverberating throughout most PLAAF capstone documents such as Military Ideology of the Air Force, originated during the 1991 Gulf War when the PLAAF watched how the US Air Force conducted Operation Desert Storm.4 By the time of the 1999 Kosovo war and 2001 Afghan war, the PLAAF was seriously contemplating its own future. These three wars dramatically and swiftly influenced the PLAAF’s mind-set. Following a thorough study of all three, the PLAAF began advocating the attainment of war objectives “through the sole use of air strikes” (p. 18). General Liu regards the three wars as the three steps of the third revolution, perceiving the Gulf War as mainly tactical, the Kosovo war as evolving into a campaign-scale operation that pursued strategic goals, and the Afghan war as broadly strategic.

    The general contends that, by weathering the three revolutions, the world’s major air forces have progressed from ancillary to decisive players in war. The PLAAF must therefore build its strategic capabilities in order to enter the top tier of airpower nations.

    Douhet’s Theory

    Douhet never exerted significant influence on the PLAAF, long dominated by Soviet military doctrine, until the late 1980s when the revolution in military affairs that swept the world’s leading militaries reached China. Once rooted in Chinese soil, Douhet’s ideas flourished, just as the former Soviet influence waned.

    The second chapter of General Liu’s monograph analyzes Douhet’s theories, concentrating on the efficiency and effectiveness of strategic bombing. He hails Douhet’s tenet “defeat in the air is defeat in the war” as the golden rule in modern warfare (p. 26). Liu notes that Douhet opposed tasking the air force to support warfare on the ground, proposing instead that airpower fight independent, offensive aerial warfare to “end a war before ground and naval forces come into play” (p. 27). Liu acknowledges that during World War II, the Soviet Red Army contravened Douhet’s ideas by winning a number of decisive land victories, but he concludes that the Soviets defeated Germany because the Luftwaffe was forced to fight tactical air battles. In his view, neither side fully appreciated the significance of Douhet’s “absolute” command of the air, so both of them stuck to the struggle for “relative” air command, thereby ceding the decisive role to the land campaigns. However, Liu asserts that the 1999 Kosovo war belatedly vindicated Douhet’s air war theory.

    Like many defenders of Douhet, General Liu avoids commenting on the most controversial aspect of his writing, that is, crushing the will of the people by exposing civilian populations to the terror of destruction—total war. In Western military circles, however, Douhet’s ideas about the will of the people have remained controversial for decades. Although Liu repeatedly cites the Kosovo war and Operation Iraqi Freedom as proof of Douhet’s theory, some Western analysts point out that although the US-led air forces succeeded in the Kosovo war through a bombing campaign that achieved demoralizing effects on Belgrade’s populace, Iraqi Freedom’s “shock-and-awe” air campaign partially crushed Saddam Hussein’s military but did not make much of an impression on the Iraqis. Observing the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western analysts argue that instead of destroying the people’s will, the US military should win the people’s minds.

    Clearly, the US military has now adopted this view. For example, US Army general William S. Wallace contends that, “as learned during operations following the ‘thunder run’ to Baghdad, today’s conflict involves a strong human element with operations conducted in and among the people.” In recognition of this fact, Wallace states that “conducting full-spectrum operations—simultaneous offensive, defensive, and stability or civil-support operations—is a primary theme of the 2008 manual [Field Manual 3-0, Operations]” (emphasis added).5 In his introduction to the updated version of Air Force Doctrine Document 2-3, Irregular Warfare, Lt Gen Allen Peck, formerly in charge of US Air Force doctrine development, also pointed out that irregular warfare is a full-spectrum war whose focus shifts from defeating the enemy’s military forces to gaining support from the general population.6 Both generals’ remarks indicate that modern wars are deviating from conventional patterns; thus, bombing alone can hardly achieve national objectives, total war is not the solution, and victory necessarily depends heavily upon “boots on the ground.”

    Nuclear Threshold

    General Liu insightfully relates airpower’s development to the concept of a nuclear threshold—the point in a conflict at which nuclear weapons would be used. He believes that the United States first erected the nuclear threshold soon after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, allowing neither itself nor anyone else to cross over. Again, the United States first transcended this threshold by means of conventional airpower weaponry. Modern air forces, with their speed, range, precision, and mobility, are powerful enough to deter adversaries or bring formidable enemies to terms without threatening the use of nuclear weapons. Characterizing the US air strike against Libya in 1986 as the first battle to transcend the nuclear threshold and “the embryonic model of wars that followed it,” Liu claims that “traces of all the characteristics of the new military era are to be found in this battle” (p. 30).

    This viewpoint is widely shared within the PLAAF. For example, according to Military Ideology of the Air Force, “In modern local wars, although the risk of employing nuclear weapons still exists, the practicality of remote precision strike capabilities of conventional airpower has far exceeded that of nuclear weapons, and as such, the former can fully replace the latter as a primary strategic choice.”7 Another prominent PLA analyst, Sr Col Yao Yunzhu, points out that “studying the nuclear thinking of earlier Chinese leaders like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, we find that neither man considered nuclear weapons usable on the battlefield in the same way as conventional means. Moreover, neither believed that nuclear wars could ever be fought and won in a measured and controlled way.”8 Under this guidance, China’s military development in recent years has concentrated on strengthening its conventional strategic—rather than nuclear—deterrence and counterdeterrence capabilities, with air force modernization as a huge priority. Putting these efforts under Liu’s lens, one may see that China is seriously preparing itself to transcend the nuclear threshold “from the skies” (p. 29). Liu believes that as conventional airpower grows more formidable, nuclear deterrence becomes less relevant. Globally, several incidents further support Liu’s argument: Israel’s bombing of Syria’s suspected nuclear factory in 2007, the US missile attack in 1998 on a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant that was allegedly producing nerve gas agents, and Israel’s threat to use preemptive air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

    Great Wall

    As an airpower advocate, General Liu perceives China’s Great Wall from a unique perspective. On the one hand, he sees it as a human masterpiece and source of pride in Chinese architectural history. On the other hand, he deems it a humiliation because this line of defense never succeeded in stopping invasions from the north. Liu derides France’s Maginot Line, designed to halt a German assault, as another fiasco similar to the Great Wall. The only difference is that the Great Wall was overcome by land forces alone, and the Maginot Line by a combination of land and air forces in a three-dimensional battlespace. Liu goes on to interpret Japan’s offensive in the Pacific during World War II as one that intended to establish, “in the words of Isoroku Yamamoto, ‘an oceanic line of defense against the United States,’ ” only to suffer a crushing blow from the sky (p. 35). He belittles the Iraqi defense line in the desert during the first Gulf War as the last line of land defense, which proved totally helpless against modern US airpower. Through citing and comparing these historical lines of defense, Liu highlights the significance of “the U.S. armed forces’ shattering of Saddam’s line of defense,” calling it a milestone that “marked the obliteration from warfare of the traditional pattern of defense” in the unfolding airpower era (p. 36).

    Three Types of Air Forces

    Along this line of reasoning, General Liu contends that physical lines of defense have been rendered obsolete by airpower but that cognitive lines of defense can be penetrated only by cultivating a “perpetual [offensive] spirit” (p. 37). Liu divides modern air forces into three types—defensive, offensive, and both defensive and offensive. He argues that, currently, the PLAAF is the only major power evolving into the third type (defensive and offensive), guided by China’s active defense strategy. However, recognizing that the core role of airpower is offense, he “maintain that the heart of simultaneous offense/defense is offense. In other words, offense is the best defense” (p. 38). Liu believes that only an offensively oriented air force matches the great-power status of China. Put differently, in its effort to achieve a strong ascendancy during the twenty-first century, China must build offensive airpower to defend its expanding interests. He assures us that this belief is based not only on understanding the nature of the air force, but also on comprehending the essence of China as a major power.

    Borders of National Interests

    General Liu observes that in addition to protecting the national territory, national security has the more important function of protecting the national interests. The borders of a nation’s territory are limited, but national interests have no bounds. With this definition in mind, he cautions that China should differentiate between defending its territorial borders and securing the borders of its national interests. The farther out the latter, the more secure the former, and the front line of security should extend wherever a nation’s interests go. The United States operates according to this principle, and so should the rising China. Moreover, the United States has actively employed its Air Force wherever US strategic interests lie, so China should do the same by using the PLAAF to enforce its national objectives. Liu quotes the famous declaration of Adm Dennis C. Blair, former commander of US Pacific Command: “We respect the authority of the People’s Liberation Army on their mainland, but we must make them understand that the oceans and skies are ours” (p. 44). Liu then reiterates the urgency of accelerating the PLAAF’s advancement: “The development of [China’s] air power is not something that is dispensable or can be delayed” (p. 50). In another well-known monograph, The Grand National Strategy, Liu elaborates in much more detail on how China should reshape the security environment along its periphery.9

    Aerial Combat

    To General Liu, the Vietnam War was a watershed event during which US airpower terminated the era of air-to-air combat. He observes that the last ace pilot was Capt Steve Ritchie of the US Air Force, who shot down five MiGs during the Vietnam War. Modern warfare, he argues, no longer offers opportunities for pilots to shine as aerial gladiators. Aerial combat has almost disappeared since the advent of global strike capabilities. The advance of science and technology is quickly rendering single-role air-superiority fighter aircraft obsolete. Consistent with this trend, Liu finds that almost all countries have stopped manufacturing fighter planes dedicated to air-to-air combat. Meanwhile, modern fighter-bombers, with all-weather fighting capabilities, are becoming increasingly important. Liu cites the US Air Force as a typical example of a force whose fighter-bombers now comprise the great majority of its fighter fleet. By comparison, China’s PLAAF appears to be the exception, having only the H-6 as its strategic bomber and the Q-5 as its attack-type bomber. Noticing the contrast, Liu laments that China “has continued to advance in the direction of aerial combats” (p. 42). Unhappy with the situation, he “maintain that an air force should not merely be a force of fighter planes,” echoing Douhet’s view that, “ ‘even a force of a defensive nature must set up a powerful contingent of bombers’ ” (p. 40).

    Some analysts might dispute Liu’s assertion that the Vietnam War ended the era of air-to-air combat by readily citing the same Bekaa Valley air battle of 1982 that Liu uses to prove the phaseout of aerial combat. In that battle, the Israeli Air Force, armed with modern Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, not only destroyed all 19 Syrian surface-to-air missile batteries and their radar sites, but also downed more than 80 intercepting Syrian MiGs through aerial combat.10 Although most Syrian fighters were shot down before their pilots had a chance to engage Israeli aircraft, the Bekaa Valley battle remains an example of post-Vietnam air-to-air combat.

    People’s War

    Although almost all Chinese defense white papers stress the importance and relevance of “people’s war,” which Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, successfully theorized and practiced, General Liu argues that people’s war is essentially defensive, aimed at trading space for time, and is totally misaligned with the nature of modern war. People’s war relies on strategic depth and serves as a black hole that devours enemy military resources. Today’s war, however, is offensive and multidimensional, always striking from the sky first, defying and transcending traditional notions of strategic depth. To prove this point, Liu cites a scene from the 1999 Kosovo war, in which “we heard an old Serb praying, ‘God, if you pity the Serbians, have NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] come down. . . . [Let’s] fight . . . on the ground, . . . win or lose’ ” (p. 18). From numerous war reports, we now hear about similar remarks made by Taliban fighters hiding in mountain caves. Liu concludes that the main battlefield has moved up to the skies, “and, like it or not, the ‘people’ can do nothing about [it]” (p. 44).

    Liu adopts the somewhat radical position of doubting that Mao’s theory of people’s war will regain popularity someday. Yet, soon after the initial publication of the general’s monograph, the world witnessed the siege of Fallujah in Iraq and the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006 in which the “people” mattered a great deal. Besides, in the emerging era of cyber warfare, it is possible that civilians may turn themselves into hackers, launching attacks on everything in the opponent’s virtual space. A Chinese author already envisions such a scenario, seeing thousands, if not millions, of “phantom warriors” fighting in this new type of “informationized people’s war.”11

    Manifestation of National Will

    General Liu asserts that there are two first-rate military powers in the world—the United States and Israel—and that they share one striking trait: both favor and are adept at the employment of airpower. Alluding to the term “gunboat diplomacy,” Liu describes the United States as conducting aerial diplomacy to bring the whole world under the shadow of its aircraft’s wings. The 1983 Grenada invasion, the 1989 seizure of Panama’s president Manuel Noriega, the Gulf War of 1991, and the 1999 Kosovo war represent just a few such examples. Liu goes further, referring to the Israeli Air Force as the “guardian angel” of its country’s very survival (pp. 45, 46). As an airpower strategist, Liu agrees that Israel must maximize the precision, speed, range, and lethality of its airpower to preclude protracted wars it cannot afford, citing Israel’s 1982 Bekaa Valley aerial battle, the 1976 airport rescue in Entebbe, Uganda, and the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor as classic cases of airpower enforcing national will.

    Liu observes that whenever incidents occur somewhere around the world, the first reaction of the United States is to send aircraft. Additionally, because air forces possess “the greatest fighting strength in times of war,” Liu considers airpower “the most powerful deterrent at all other times and . . . therefore the best tool for enforcing the national will” (p. 46). He concludes that air strikes not only fulfill military effects but also achieve national objectives—and that airpower is used not merely to show military might but to demonstrate national resolve.

    Electronic Warfare

    Although the Bekaa Valley battle was widely considered a sign of a new wave of technical revolution sweeping through the airpower arena, it initially did not seem to alarm the PLAAF deeply. However, after observing unexplained, abnormal phenomena in the sky along China’s southeastern seaboard in 1994, the Chinese military suspected that the United States had started electronic warfare against China. General Liu claims that, unbeknownst to China, US stealth bombers also may have entered Chinese airspace. “The revolution has come!” cries the general (p. 52).

    Like many Chinese military strategists, Liu does not clearly differentiate between electronic operations taking place primarily in the electromagnetic spectrum and information operations occurring mainly in cyberspace. The characteristically Chinese word “informationization,” which covers both domains, has remained popular in Chinese military circles. Watching this informationization of warfare taking shape, in which airpower plays a major role, Liu asserts that this ongoing technology revolution occurs in three stages. First is transformation from ground-based command to airborne command and then to integrated command enabled by airborne early warning systems. Next, remotely piloted aircraft conduct attack and bombing missions. The third stage, yet to come, will feature Web confrontation and cyber warfare. Liu believes that the decisive factor is the systematization of different electronic technologies into a distributive, yet coherent, network. This view is shared by PLA leadership. Observers see that many recent major joint exercises among PLA garrisons have focused on combat training encompassing networked system confrontations in both the electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace. Witnessing cyber capability evolving into a crucial enabler, Liu boldly forecasts that as sophisticated conventional airpower capabilities powered by advanced information technology gradually render nuclear deterrence irrelevant, major powers with information superiority may create an “information ‘umbrella’ ” to replace the nuclear umbrella (p. 53). This prophecy may bewilder analysts who view the nuclear umbrella provided by the United States to its European and Asian allies primarily as a means of discouraging these countries from developing and maintaining their own nuclear arsenals, and secondarily as part of extended deterrence. Therefore, if Liu’s prophecy is to come true, nuclear nonproliferation efforts must have first reached a point close to President Obama’s vision of a “world without nuclear weapons.”12 The United States is making serious efforts to establish “ ‘new, tailored, regional deterrence architectures’ which will ‘make possible a reduced role for nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.’ ”13 Meanwhile, information sharing between the United States and its allies is indeed becoming more critical for national and global security. But how and when such information sharing evolves into an umbrella functioning like the current nuclear umbrella remain to be seen.

    High Frontiers

    General Liu points out that American history has featured constantly changing frontiers, both horizontally and vertically. After the 50th state joined the union, the United States continued to extend its external frontiers as leader of the Western alliance. Now the United States has again taken the lead in extending the high frontier. The twentieth century saw the theory of sea power followed by that of airpower. In the twenty-first century, Liu anticipates that the theory and practice of space power will surely prevail. Echoing James Oberg’s book Space Power Theory, Liu holds that whoever dominates space will dominate the world. Furthermore, by comparing the evolution of aircraft with that of spacecraft, Liu predicts that loading kinetic and nonkinetic weapons onto space platforms is a logical line of thinking, “just as machine guns and aerial cannon were fitted onto aircraft at the outset of World War I” (p. 56). He summarizes his points by saying that “space is warfare’s ultimate vantage point . . . the ultimate opportunity for all countries and all armed forces” (p. 56).

    War against China and War against Taiwan

    General Liu posits that the United States does not want to stop China from developing; it only wants China to develop within the limits that America sets. War is a possibility if China oversteps the red line established by the United States, who, for example, is already weary of watching China grabbing resources all over the world. Recognizing that most wars are fought for resources, Liu bluntly points out that the United States “uses Taiwan to seal off our access to markets” and “intercepts our petroleum by means of the war in Afghanistan” (p. 49). What might happen if war erupted between these two countries? General Liu predicts that such a war would definitely be aerial: “The enemy will not send a single soldier onto Chinese soil. Air strikes will decide our country’s fate and survival” (p. 23). Further, he expects this war would erase the distinction between either front lines and rear areas or forward resistance and in-depth defense; be omnidirectional, with strikes coming from or beyond the horizon; be brief but with very heavy casualties; and be shrouded in an all-encompassing information network.

    Similarly, Liu envisages a war against Taiwan as one fought in the sky. In view of Taiwan’s strong airpower buildup, he suggests that the PLAAF should “(a) bear the brunt of the operation; (b) be prepared to play the leading role in the war; and (c) be able to conduct a frontal and independent war, or what we often refer to as ‘going it all the way’ ” (p. 25). The general asserts that “we will have Taiwan if we have the skies” (p. 24).

    When scrutinizing General Liu’s thinking on a potential war against Taiwan, we should also take note of another of his in-depth monographs, The Issue of Taiwan and Taiwan Independence, in which he characterizes a potential war across the Taiwan Strait as a “civil war.”14 If this is the case, one may question whether Liu still insists on launching air strikes that would be inherently deadly, inflict widespread destruction, and risk civilian lives. To be sure, though, General Liu assumes that modern air strikes are surgical in nature, and he is vehemently “against rushing into armed conflict with Taiwan, especially armed conflict that causes indiscriminate destruction.”15

    Supporting Role versus Supported Role

    A strong advocate of independent air forces fighting independent wars, General Liu appears less concerned with airpower’s supporting roles. Commenting on the Afghan war, he contends that “small units of ground forces” are dispatched “merely in the service of the air force’s precision strikes” (p. 19). Readers might interpret this observation as reducing the ground force’s role to that of an embedded forward air controller. However, they should bear in mind that Liu’s monograph was published at a time when the proper balance between airpower’s supported and supporting roles was a matter of debate within the US Air Force, which has since adapted its doctrine to the battlefields in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Emphasis has shifted from air strikes to foreign internal defense, combat support, stability operations, and learning about the regional culture. Though the PLAAF watches and follows its US counterpart closely, similar discussions about supporting versus supported roles rarely appear in published PLAAF sources.

    Also notable is the reaction, or lack thereof, from the PLAAF to the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. This war drew broad attention within military circles worldwide and prompted some airpower advocates to wonder whether the 1999 Kosovo war, conducted solely from the air, had become either the norm for future wars or an exception. In contrast, General Liu, as well as many other PLAAF strategists, continues to stress the importance of airpower’s playing independent and decisive roles in future wars.

    Russian versus American Armed Forces

    As with a number of articles and books written by leading PLAAF strategists, throughout his monograph Liu disdains Soviet (Russian) force structure and admires US armed forces. The Soviet Red Army, having served as a role model and supporter of the PLA ever since the latter’s formation, now finds itself the object of its Chinese “student’s” disapproval. The current generation of PLAAF leaders, who watched every detail of the Gulf War in awe, pondered why the Americans were able to launch such spectacular air campaigns. General Liu condenses his answer to three elements: adopting forward-thinking military strategy, emancipating the mind, and employing science and technology.

    Favorable references to the US military are abundant in The Centenary of the Air Force. Take, for example, Liu’s comment “As well as being our army’s opponent, the U.S. Army is our army’s teacher” (p. 20). He goes on to say that “the United States has always chosen its enemies on the basis of the other countries’ strengths rather than their intentions. China will qualify for being a friend of the United States only if it becomes an adversary the United States cannot defeat” (p. 50), and that “our opponent is too strong, yet I have always believed that living in the same times as today’s U.S. armed forces is the Chinese armed forces’ good fortune rather than their misfortune. We need the kind of great thinking exercised by the U.S. armed forces” (p. 57). Liu does not hide his deep respect for the US military, noting that “the U.S. armed forces, though the most powerful, are the most crisis-conscious” (p. 22). He expresses this esteem philosophically, saying that “people under umbrellas always fall behind those who run in the rain” (p. 33)—implying that those countries strolling idly under umbrellas will never catch up with the “crisis-conscious” Americans, who forever run as if they were in heavy rain.

    Cost of War

    Admiration is one thing, following suit is quite another. General Liu, while applauding the way the US Air Force launches offensive attacks, talks very little about the cost of wars that no one other than the US Air Force could afford to wage. He claims that air strikes are “a sort of highly cost-effective type of warfare for replacing expensive ground warfare” (p. 45). But analysts see that even a country as rich as the United States finds itself bogged down in the lavish way it fights its current wars. The US Air Force is desperately searching for ways to reduce sorties, save fuel, and create new and more cost-effective war-fighting techniques. With China rising economically and militarily but at the same time burdened by so many bureaucratic, financial, and technical obstacles, it remains to be seen whether the PLAAF will be able to balance its aspiration to fight in the US style with its actual ability to fight within its own ways and means.


    The Centenary of the Air Force presents only General Liu’s personal views—not the official doctrine of the PLAAF. However, considering his prominent status as a senior PLAAF officer who recently became the political commissar at PLA National Defense University, and considering the timing of the republication of his monograph, there is strong reason to believe that, to a large degree, his views represent mainstream PLAAF thought. In his new position, Liu may readily extend his ideological influence to the other services through the university forum.

    China is continuing its active defense policy and constantly rebalancing the defensive and offensive elements of the policy equation. The world is witness to China’s gradual expansion of its defense periphery. All through this process, the PLAAF is playing a critical role on the offensive side of the equation, and great strategic minds, such as Liu’s, are helping spearhead the process. In the years ahead, General Liu’s calls to accelerate the building of China’s strategic airpower to defend its expanding periphery will likely become more dominant in PLA military affairs. ✪


    1. A search for “刘亚洲” (the Chinese name for Liu Yazhou) in either Google or Baidu yields numerous recent articles and blogs that crown Liu “Douhet of China.”

    2. Chinese Law and Government, a bimonthly journal, published two booklets by General Liu: The Dilemmas and Prospects of China’s Military Modernization and Air Power Strategy (January–February 2008), and The Voice of a Fifth Generation Leader (March–April 2007).

    3. Liu Yazhou, “The Centenary of the Air Force,” Chinese Law and Government 41, no. 1 (January–February 2008): 17. Hereafter, page references to this article are cited parenthetically in the text.

    4. Min Zengfu et al., Military Ideology of the Air Force (空军军事思想概论) (Beijing: PLA Publishing House, 2006), 394.

    5. Gen William S. Wallace, “FM 3-0, Operations: The Army’s Blueprint,” Military Review 88, no. 2 (March–April 2008): 3, 4,

    6. Lt Gen Allen G. Peck, “Doctrine Update: AFDD 2-3, Irregular Warfare,” Air and Space Power Journal-Chinese 2, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 55.

    7. Min Zengfu et al., Military Ideology of the Air Force, 232.

    8. Sr Col Yao Yunzhu, “China’s Perspective on Nuclear Deterrence,” Air and Space Power Journal 24, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 28.

    9. Liu Yazhou, “The Grand National Strategy,” Chinese Law and Government 40, no. 2 (March–April 2007): 13–36.

    10. C1C Matthew M. Hurley, “The Bekaa Valley Air Battle, June 1982: Lessons Mislearned?” Airpower Journal 3, no. 4 (Winter 1989): 60–70, The Bekaa Valley Air Battle.

    11. Luo Chyn-Bor, “The Chinese People’s War: Theory, Application, and Its Significance in Modern Warfare,” Air and Space Power Journal-Chinese 3, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 85.

    12. Barack Obama, “Remarks by President Barack Obama,” Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, 5 April 2009, Remarks By President Barack Obama In Prague As Delivered | The White House.

    13. Kingston Reif and Chad O’Carroll, “Fact Sheet: 2010 Nuclear Posture Review,” Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, 2010, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: Fact Sheet: 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

    14. Liu Yazhou, “The Issue of Taiwan and Taiwan Independence,” Chinese Law and Government 40, no. 2 (March–April 2007): 56.

    15. Ibid., 60.

    Building an Offensive and Decisive PLAAF

    (Thanks to abhishek_sharma)
  3. debasree

    debasree Regular Member

    Feb 7, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Calcutta, India, India
    Lol its a big post r u not tired 2 post a big joke
  4. BangersAndMash

    BangersAndMash Regular Member

    Apr 24, 2011
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    Is that all u have to say? Your post is the joke.

    I speed read most of it. It gives an idea of PLAAF thinking & strategy for those who are interested. I don't think IAF think PLAAF is a joke, even if a you do!

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