The Doctrine of War Zone Campaign
Proposition of a unique doctrine – translated by experts as the “War Zone Campaign” (WZC) – is in itself a catalytic platform for IJW. This doctrine devolves upon creation of an inter-service ‘WZC Command’ functioning directly under the CMC, and imposed upon any of the mobilised MR headquarters in the war zone to direct prosecution of ‘Warfare Under Informationalised Conditions’. The purpose of creating such a need-based and add-on command structure is, firstly, to address the pitfalls of mindset amongst the traditionally conservative Ground Force dominated MR headquarters, and secondly, to manage the shortage of professional as well as technical expertise in grouping an optimal combination of various service components that may be available at their disposal to support the chosen war-strategy.
Chinese strategists have done well to confine the scope of IJW mostly to the strategic level, with limited percolation down to the operational level, that would, even then, provide for adequate potential to confront a technologically advanced and strong military power.
At the strategic level, therefore, conduct combined-service operations would reap the benefit of seamless and conjoined backing of reconnaissance and missile forces, communications, logistics and transportation – a sort of ‘single window’ and integrated, wholesome dispensation for operational tasking.
Application of IJW
It is obvious that ‘IJW’ is but the PLA’s terminology for modern multi-service combined arms and services operations. However, on account of the fore-stated qualitative constraints, it would be farfetched at the present stage to anticipate its application at tactical levels to that degree as it was seen during the Coalition Force operations in the Gulf Wars – that level of grass-root integration is far away yet. To that extent, Chinese strategists have done well to confine the scope of IJW mostly to the strategic level, with limited percolation down to the operational level, that would, even then, provide for adequate potential to confront a technologically advanced and strong military power.
Indeed, proposition of the PLA’s concepts of war-fighting in what it terms as the “New Period” is well tuned towards conduct of IJW. It is indicative of the rich strategic wisdom of China. It may, therefore, be in order to briefly mention certain important prospects of such a preposition – the connection with IJW is quite obvious :-
Stage 1. A confrontation may begin with “Domination, Deterrence and Posturing” with missile forces, SOF actions, military buildup and politico-economic impositions. The purpose would be to make the adversary see ‘reason’ and back out from military confrontation.
Stage 2. The next step could be “Gaining Initiative by Striking First” by means of pre-emptive missile strikes and long range air and naval attacks. Such recourses are to be sustained with surprise, deception and asymmetric initiatives. Besides, what is termed as ‘SOF Action’ – that actually implies trailer-like pre-emptive attack of limited scope, but hurtful nevertheless – will form part of this scheme. The purpose at this stage would be to give to the adversary a taste of the ‘medicine’ and motivate him to come to terms – China’s terms, of course.
Stage 3. At this stage, a still defiant adversary would be subjected to the next step in the escalatory ladder by fighting a “Quick Battle to Force a Quick Resolution”. Rapid concentration of POE forces would be achieved by ‘Exterior (intra-MR) or Leap Forward (inter-MR) Mobility’ in ground, air or sea modes and deployment of RRFs to overwhelm the adversary’s frontline forces.
Stage 4. In case favourable resolution of the conflict is still not forthcoming, “In-depth Strike” would follow in near-simultaneity with Stage 3, wherein gains made by the preceding echelons would be consolidated and expanded by regular ground, air or sea formations, by recourse to the concept of ‘Active Defence’ and ‘Localised War’ till the desired point of culmination is reached.
Besides the aforesaid, efforts towards development of cyber-war, space-war, and what is termed as the “Three Warfares” capabilities – psychological, media and ‘legal’ warfare – point towards a very focused and conjoined view of war among the Chinese strategists. Accordingly, China’s military strategy stands to be reinforced with various quasi-military efforts, wherein interference with the adversary’s data-information network, fact-manipulating propaganda and even recourse to imposition of her unilateral interpretation of international laws and norms would form part of her grand strategy.
Reality Check of Implications
There indeed exists a large ambition–capability gap in China’s strategy of integrated employment of all services at all levels. It is expected that this gap, given the right conditions, may become manageable by the Year 2025 or so. Till that happens, permeation of the doctrine may have to be confined only up to the theatre (MR) level. Meanwhile, for serious military operations, if necessary, the PLA may have to depend mostly on deployment of its POE forces, supported by manually executed joint battle and weapon management functions. Besides, at the tactical level, incremental improvements in conduct of combined forces operations may manifest, particularly when ground forces operations are to be undertaken.
Given the glimpses of Chinas grand strategy ““ which encompasses civilian, dual-use and purely military recourses to conduct operations at psychological, politico”“economic and military levels ““ none who she sees as her rival may afford to remain complacent.
A discussion on this theme would remain incomplete without a suo moto examination of some of the clichés which are often repeated in China’s strategic articulations. Indeed, most of such terms used by her are but ‘loaded’, as for example :-
- A glance over the geographical spread of the areas in China’s contention reveals that this spread is hardly in any way lesser than the theatres which saw action during the World War II. The term ‘Localised War’ therefore does not really mean ‘local’ as we tend to perceive.
- We have seen as to how China proposes to dovetail her individual services to prosecute IJW. In this respect, it may be simplistic to assume that she may withhold from further marshaling her war-effort with her vast quasi-military capabilities. To that extent, “Warfare Under Conditions of Informationalisation” is hardly in any way different from the Clauswitzian concept of “Total War”.
- The term “Active Defence” is similarly implied, including as it does in its ambit the option of ‘pre-emptive attack’- provocation for which may be solely construed according to her deductions.
- Lastly, her idea of “Media” and “Legal” wars are rooted at her unilateral interpretation of reasons, facts and universal laws; these are invariably and overwhelmingly self-sided.
There is thus a hint of ‘all-out war’ in the fundamental version of the Chinese thinking on IJW. Muscle-flexing in South-East China Sea, weaving a ‘string of pearls’ around the Indian Ocean, empowering a habitually irresponsible ‘side-kick’ in the region, hanging the ‘Damocles sword’ over Taiwan, nonchalant diversion of river waters and wide-spread cyber intrusions are some manifestations of that potential.
Reportedly, internal troubles in the peripheral regions of her territories have resuscitated the military hawks in China’s policy-making hierarchy. Given the glimpses of China’s grand strategy – which encompasses civilian, dual-use and purely military recourses to conduct operations at psychological, politico–economic and military levels – none who she sees as her rival may afford to remain complacent.
“Only those who have great strength, and who are perceived to be willing to unleash it, can protect their interests without use of force”, —Luttwak.
- “Chinese View of Future Warfare”, Ed Michael Pillsbury, Lancers Publications, New Delhi, 2003.
- “Unrestricted warfare”, Cols Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsu, Natraj Publishers, Dehra Dun, 2007.
- Annual Report to Congress, “Military Power of PRC, 2008”, Office of the Secretary of Defence, USA.
- Andy Chari, “PLA War Zone Campaign Doctrine”, 2008.
- “Military Capacity and Risk of war”, Ed Eric Arntee, SIPRI, Oxford University Press, 1999