Cablegate: The United States-China Economic and Security Review
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DE RUEHBJ #1284/01 0980907
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O 070907Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6295
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
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RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 001284
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TAGS: PREL PGOV PARM CH
SUBJECT: The United States-China Economic and Security Review
Commission Discusses Military Issues with Chinese Academics
1. (SBU) A "responsible government" would never "initiate, sponsor
or support" cyber attacks on other countries, a scholar from the
Chinese Academy of Military Sciences told United States-China
Economic and Security Review Commission members on April 1.
However, the scholar described cyber warfare as an extension of an
old tactic: the destruction of command and control communications
that bombs achieved in the past. PRC military modernization, which
became a priority in the 1990s in response to "global trends and a
rising Taiwan independence movement," is constrained by competing
demands for PRC government expenditures and neighboring countries'
perceptions. China wants to maintain stability and avoid conflict
in order to ensure domestic economic growth. Beijing lacks the
military power or capacity to demarcate spheres of influence in the
Pacific, the scholar said. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Members of the United States-China Economic and Security
Review (USCC) Commission discussed a range of military issues with
Chinese scholars from the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences
(CAMS) on April 1.
China's Military Modernization
3. (SBU) CAMS Senior Colonel Bao Bin said the modernization of the
People's Liberation Army did not become a PRC priority until the
1990s. It was then, he explained, that China reevaluated the
importance of its armed forces in response to what he described as
"global trends and a rising Taiwan independence movement." China
has since been trying to modernize its "backwards" facilities and
equipment to make up for years of neglect. In response to a
question from USCC Chairman Larry Wortzel, Bao described two limits
to PLA modernization and growth: competing demands for PRC
Government expenditures and the perceptions of neighboring
countries. Developing military systems that would frighten China's
neighbors would be "unwise," Bao stated.
4. (SBU) According to Bao, the relationship between Chinese civilian
and military leaders has not changed as a result of military
modernization. The "system and structure" is not yet reformed, he
added. Prior PRC leaders had an understanding of military doctrine,
but China's current leaders do not. The current PLA leadership also
lacks actual war experience. The lack of military experience by
political leaders is perhaps a concern in the United States, but is
not in China. "An army lead by politicians is not a problem for
us," he said.
5. (SBU) When asked if China favored creating spheres of military
influence in the Pacific, Bao said that although the PLA is rapidly
modernizing, China lacks the power or capacity to demarcate spheres
of influence. A strong U.S. military presence in the Pacific does
not mean a clash between the United States and China is inevitable.
Conflict is preventable through dialogue and cooperation. Even if
the PLA continues to strengthen, Chinese tradition frowns on
pointless demonstrations of power, Bao said.
Chinese Views on Space and Cyber Warfare
6. (SBU) Chairman Wortzel stressed the need for increased
theoretical and strategic academic analysis on space warfare, noting
the devastating affect that anti-satellite warfare would have on the
civilian sector, such as commerce and banking. Bao agreed that the
increased integration of civil and military technology complicates
warfare. Bao said that when the subject of modern warfare is
discussed, space-based systems naturally comes up. The purpose of
military-related technology in space is to make targets more precise
in order to reduce casualties. Research and development should
shift from ground to space systems, he said, noting that preventing
attacks from space is fundamental.
7. (SBU) Bao said he accepted the official U.S. explanation of why
it recently destroyed an errant spy satellite. Rather, he said, he
was interested in the method the United States used to shoot down
8. (SBU) When asked Chinese views on cyber warfare, Bao said China
has never used the term "cyber warfare," adding that a "responsible
government" would never "initiate, sponsor or support" a cyber
attack on another country. That said, Bao continued, cyber warfare
should be seen simply as an extension of an old tactic: the
destruction of command and control communications. Cyber attacks
today accomplish what bombs achieved in the past, he added. USCC
commissioners stressed that cyber warfare is a new phenomenon and
the interconnectedness of civilian and military applications
BEIJING 00001284 002 OF 002
complicates its use.
Understanding Chinese Intentions
9. (SBU) Bao invited the USCC commissioners to share the U.S.
perspective on China's "peaceful rise." The U.S. delegation said
that while it may take many years to build up military capabilities,
intentions can change very quickly. The United States wants to
understand China's intentions. The USCC delegation pointed out that
because China does not carry-out a public debate about its defense
expenditures and strategic priorities, it is difficult for other
countries to discern PRC intentions. Bao responded by saying that
China wants to maintain stability and avoid conflict in order to
ensure domestic economic growth. Routine, bilateral consultations
and dialogue can help mitigate misinterpretation of intentions that
could lead to conflict, he said.
10. (U) The delegation cleared this cable.