Created: 9/1/1973

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China's Defense Strategy and Force Posture

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Key Judgment*

The Chinese have identified the Sovicu as their most dangerous potential adversary and havearge portion of their forces to meeting that threat. Their small but growing nuclear forces could deliver weapons on tirgets throughout Asia,ew warheads could reach the western USSR. China's large conventional forces could quickly overwhelm its small Asian neighbors; they have major shortcomings, however, and we believe they would have difficulty against the Soviet Union, Taiwan, or India. The forces pose little direct threat to the United States.


China's ballistic missile force, consisting largely of MRBMs and IRBMs, has grown only modestly over the past two years.

The nuclear test program lags far behind lhat of the USSR and the United States but has provided Peking with an effective weapons research, development, and production capability.

China has an ambitious space program that emphasizes the development of earth satellites

China's conventional forces comprise moreillion men. making them the second largest in the world. These forces maintain art essentially defensive posture.They lack sophisticated weapons and hnve seriousin firepower and mobility.


The Army it basically an infantry force. It has relatively few tanksthe antitank guided missiles to blunt an attackodern

The Air Force has thousands of combat aircraft, but most arefighters. It lacks modern high-performance aircraft and suchweapons as air-to-air and air-io-ground missiles.

The Navy isoastal defense force. It has few major surface warships and is deficient in such areas as antisubmarine warfare and air defense.

The Chinese recognize their military shortcomings and have committed themselvesong-term program to improve and modernize the armed fotces. It places equal emphasis on improving the quality and combat skills of troops and acquiring modern arms.

Because they cannot develop sophisticated weapons quickly, the Chinese have recently shown considerable interest in buying advanced conventional weapons and techrwiogy from Western Europe. Because they are short of funds, they probably will buy only limited quantities of arms, while acquiring the technology and licensing rights to produce modern arms domestically.

The Chinese and Sovietsarge portion of their armed forces along the disputed border. The Chinese are more numerouso I, but the Soviets have substantial advantages in firepower and mobili'y. Both sides maintain an essentially defensiveSoviet forces close to the border, the Chinese well back fromonventional war would be risky and cosily for either side.

Tbe Chinese are no match for the Sovietsuclear exchange and would be overwhelmed if hostilities escalated to ihai level. However, their nuclear forces could devastate Soviet urban areas in ihc Far East andifficult for surviving Soviet forces to sustain operations.

CMos-Taiwan MJfttary tatante

The Chinesetrong defensive posture opposite Taiwan. They could devastate the island with their nuclear weapons, but wc believe they are unlikely to do so conventional forces their advantage is also overwhelming, but their ability^.ing those forces to bear on Taiwan is limited; they lack the amphibious and airlift capability necessary to mount and sustain an invasion.

Peking lias several military options short of invasion that it could use against Taiwan:

A blockade of Taiwan and the Offshore Islands (Quemoy and Matsu).

Assault on (and. probably, capture of) the heavily defendedIslands.

of the lightly defended Pratas Reef and Pescadores Islands. The high political, economic, and military costs of these actions deter Peking.





This Intelligence Assessmenteview of Chineseand programs, recent developments in both,omparisoncapabilities with those of the Soviet Union and Taiwan. It isto be an exhaustive analysis, but rather an overview forwho do not require detailed knowledge of weapons systems or order

China's Defense Strategy and Force Posture

The Chinese base iheir national de ferine strate* ay on delerring an attack by making It too costlyotential enemy. They have implemented this strategy byodest but credible nuclear force and large conventional armed forces capable ofrotracted war.

General Purpose Fercet

Tbe Chinese have one of the largestarmed forces in the4They do notirect military threatUnited States, but they could attackand US allies in (be Far East.the Soviet Union to be its mostpotential adversary; about half of theare arrayedefensive posture toSovietthird of

the forces are locaiea aiong* ine coast, where Peking continues tohreat. Most of the remainder are located in central Chinaeserve;ew units are in western China and Tibet.

Ernpiayment (er Attack

ould overwhelm its smaller neighbors. Against the Soviet Union, Taiwan, or India, however, its conventional military forces would be hampered by inadequacies in firepower,and logistics, as well as by geographic and topographic factors.

The vast distances involved and the qualitySoviet forces along the border wouldChinese to make at best only shallowinto the USSR. The Taiwan Strait iseffective barrierhinese invasionThe difficult terrain of Tibetany attack against India. Indianbe defending their own territory overcommunication much shorter than theif the Indians were determined, thenot be able to mount and sustainthrough Tibetorceto defeat

Employment for Dtftm*

To counter an invader with superior firepower and mobility, the Chinese would employ distance and terrain. They do not intend to give up territory easily, but hope to wear down the attackers as they try to drive through successive lines of increasingly stronger forces. The Chinese continue to emphasize dispersal, redundancy, and other passive defense measures to improve the survivability of military industries andelements of the armed forces.

The sheer size of China's standing armed forces compensates to some degree for their inadequacies. Moreover, the vast mobilization potential would provide considerable resourcesrolonged war. China hasillion lightly armed men organized intoorganizations. They could be usedto wage guerrilla warfare, support regular forces, and maintain internal security. They could not be turned into regular troops quickly;

Tbe regional

organized, armed, and trained lor OeTeTTK of specific areas. The best equipped regionalhave more artillery fire support than ibe infantry divisions of the main force. Some of the regional divisions man elaborate fixed defenses, whkh have been established on most of the major avenues of approach.

Most of the ground force equipment produced by China's arms industry is based on older Soviet designs. Though unsophisticated by US andstandards, the small arms, tanks, andare rugged, reliable, and generally adequate for their intended use.

The Chineseide variety ofprotective equipment for chemical and biological defenses, end they emphasize iis use in training. They have the industrial base and technical competence to produce chemicalagents, but

improving ihc quality and combat skills of troops and on acquiring modern arms. The Chinese cannot develop sophisticated weapons quickly, and theyradual weakening relative to ihe Soviets unless tbey begin arming their forces with modern weapons. Therefore tbe Chinese are interested in baying advanced conventional weapons and related technology from Western Europe. They cannot afford to buy everything they need, however, and havetrategy of buying limited quantities of modern arms outright and. In addition, acquiring theand licensing rights to produce and develop them domestically.

China is well aware of its militaryand since5 has renewed its efforts to improve and modernize its armed forces. The long-term program places equal emphasis on

Purchases of European military equipment are unlikely to have any major impact on China's force capabilities soon. China would need many years to field modern weapons in large numbers, toupport structure to sustain them, and to train personnel in their opera two. Because most of tbe weapons tbey are seeking are unlike any they now have, tbe Chinese would need to make maior changes in their force structure before they could effectively integrate theinto operational units.

Units stationed along the Sino-Soviet border would get tbe new weapons first. Modernwould enhance their effectiveness, but no single weaponthe relatively limited quantities that China is likely to acquire from Westernsignificantly change the current military situation on the Sirso-Sovict border.

The Sine-Soviet Military Balance

as identified the Soviet Union as its most dangerous potential adversary.ubstantial portion of their

forces along the border; both keep their forces in Soviets' urban support bases in the Far East and an essentially defensive posture;onven- make it difficult for surviving Soviet military lional war would be risky and costly for both. forces to sustain operations.

Chinese conventional forces could make only shallow incursions into Sovietforces and strong fixed defenses are capable of halting an invasion. Soviet troops invading China would meet forces that arc organized, equipped, and deployedefense. We believe the Chinese wouldeasonable chance ofoviet oinvertionalbefore it reached the North China Plain.

Should hostilities escalate to the use of nuclear weapons, China would be no match for the USSR. Nonetheless, if they could launch their nuclear forces, the Chinese could devastate the

ing and increasing equipment inventories. The Soviets have also improved their logistics.


Military capabilities on both sides of thehave been improvedeliberate pace, with only modest increases in the size of the forces. These improvements often have taken the form of constructing fixed defenses and upgrad-

For their part, the Chinese are upgrading and adding to the number of tanks and artillery pieces, as well as forming some new units. They are also improving their fixed defenses andgreater fire support to regional units manning those positions.

We expect both sides to continue making qualitative improvements in their forces. Both will add more and newer equipment and improve their supporting infrastructure. The Soviets arcecond trans-Siberian rail line, well back from the border. It will improve their ability to support their forces, but we do not expect it to be completed before.

The MOHory Balance


China alsotrong defensivealong its eastern coast, opposite Taiwan (secesides having an overwhelmingin conventional forces, the Chinese could completely devastate the island with theirweapons. We believe they would not use nuclear weapons, however; and their ability to bring their conventional military power to bear on Taiwan is limited. They do not have the amphibious or airlift capacity to mount and sustain an invasion on the scale that would be necessary, and they have not yetigh priority to developing thai capacity.

Ability To Invod.

If, they invaded Taiwan, the Chinese wouldelatively modern, US-equipped

ist army

successful invasion would also requireof the air. Peking could assign aofto the stuck but

could employewime, becauseew airfields are within fighter range of Taiwan. Tbe eventual victory in the air would be costly.

The Nationalists have

aircraft, but most of them are armed with air-to-air missiles and are more modern lhan those of China. Nationalist pilots are better trained and wouldeavy toll of Chinese fighters and bombers. Nonetheless, China's sheer numbers would eventually prevail, and the Nationalists' air force and most of their ground-based air defenses would be destroyed.

China wouldaval bombardmentogistic support capacity far in excess of what it now has.

Of ha. Mill lory Options

China has several military options short of invading Taiwan itself but has been deterred, so far, by the political, economic, and military costs. The naval and air forces could blockade Taiwan and the Offshore Islands (Matsu andaipei would need help to breaklockage. The Chinese could capture the strongly defended Offshore Islands, but (his would be an extremely costly operation. To capture ihe lightly defended Pratas Reef and Pescadores Islands, on the other hand, would requireomparatively modest military effort.

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