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HKET: U.S. Reconnaissance Aircraft Challenged China’s Bottom Line

Hong Kong Economic Times (HKET), the leading financial daily in Hong Kong, recently reported that U.S.-China tensions just intensified in the South China Sea, right after the trade meeting got postponed for one month. According to the surveillance data that Beijing University’s South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI) released, on August 15, the U.S. Navy EP-3E Reconnaissance Aircraft reached the closest point of 50.19 nautical miles (around 93 kilometers or 58 miles) from China’s Canton Province. SCSPI also identified that another EP-3E “potentially” entered Taiwan’s airspace. The SCSPI platform summarized that, in three days, the U.S. dispatched seven P-8A, P-3C, RC-135 or EP-3E aircraft to the region. Taiwanese media described this as “testing China’s bottom line.” In the meantime, according to an announcement from the U.S. Navy, the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier returned to the South China Sea for exercises, joined by the USS Antietam, the USS Mustin and the USS Rafael Peralta cruisers as well as the Fifth Carrier Aircraft Wing. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier just had two exercises with the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier last month. The Chinese military called these activities a “major threat” to the Taiwan Strait area.

Source: HKET, August 16, 2020

China Encourages College Graduates to Join the Army

In July, China’s Ministry of Education issued a notice requiring students at local schools and colleges to watch a promotional video and a mini film that the Recruitment Office of the Defense Ministry produced.

The government has also recently adjusted its conscription system. Beginning in 2020, China will increase the frequency from “one conscription and one retirement every year” to “two conscriptions and two retirements every year.” The recruitment process, conducted once in each half of the year, will target college graduates.

For quite a long time, China’s troops came mainly from rural areas. After China initiated the recruitment from universities and colleges years ago, more and more students have enlisted in the army. Li Baoyang, a researcher from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, believes that China’s urbanization process has made college graduates the main source of recruits. “Especially since the start of the 21st century, China’s rural areas have basically been ‘empty nests,’ and there are very few young and middle-aged populations. Now, the rural areas are generally dilapidated, and there are few soldiers to recruit.”

People’ Liberation Army (PLA) Daily, the newspaper for the Chinese military, once reported that Shanghai ranked top in the country in recent years in terms of the proportion of college graduates who enlisted. Nationwide, the percentage of enlisted college students has soared from 17 percent in 2006 to 90 percent in 2018.

A number of incentive policies have also been introduced throughout the country to attract college students to the army. Soldiers receive preferential considerations when applying for government jobs. They also receive a subsidy after two years of service. State-owned enterprises also reserve 15 percent of their positions for retired college student soldiers. In recent years, the authorities have relaxed the recruitment standards. In 2014, the minimum height for male recruits nationwide was reduced from 162 cm to 160 cm, and the weight limit rose from 25 percent to 30 percent exceeding the standard.

In 2020, the population of college graduates will reach 8.74 million, another record high. At the same time, the epidemic and the prolonged economic slowdown have diminished the labor demand. With the serious imbalance in supply and demand, college graduates are facing unprecedented pressure looking for jobs. Joining the army may be an attractive choice. The number of Chinese college students who signed up to join the army last year reached 1.24 million, close to 15 percent of the total graduates.

Source: Radio Free Asia, August 10, 2020

China Opens its First Military Hospital Train

China News reported that on August 6, China opened the Xinqiao Hospital train, the first military hospital train in China. The train consists of boxcars that serve purposes such as a command center, medical care, surgical emergency, intensive care, and medical technical support. It is the equivalent of a mobile hospital with the capacity to load 500 wounded personnel and it can carry out surgical first aid, intensive care, virtual treatment, and other medical services during transportation. There are two dedicated railroad lines for the hospital train which are located on the east side of Xinqiao university hospital. The railroad lines connect to the national railroad network through the nearby Chongqing (Sichuan province)–Guiyang (Guizhou province) Railway. The Xinqiao Hospital train will be used as a hospital train and carry out corresponding medical training. In wartime or military operations, however, it will perform strategic support and emergency rescue tasks. It will also deliver medical support and services to the country  and to regions along the belt and road areas.

Source: Chinanews, August 7, 2020

Has China Developed a Nuclear Missile Early Warning System?

Kyodo News Agency learned on August 2 that a nuclear missile expert from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said that China has an early warning system that can detect nuclear missiles before they land and can use nuclear weapons to counterattack. The expert pointed out that at present only the United States and Russia possess this technology. If the claim is true, China will enhance its nuclear combat capability and change the world’s strategic balance.

The early warning system is the key to high-end missile defense (MD) technology, composed of manmade satellites and maritime radar, used for detecting the launch of ballistic missiles. China has always been opposed to the United States’ missile defense development.

Yang Chengjun (杨承军) is a retired officer who served for years in Chinese military’s nuclear missile forces, also known as the PLA Rocket Forces. He is also widely known as a security expert in the National Security Commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Yang’s article, titled, “It is inappropriate to hype up nuclear-related issues on the Internet,” was published in a government magazine, Motherland (祖国)” (electronic version on May 12). It states that the Chinese military has an early warning system that can detect nuclear missile attacks within minutes after their launch and conduct a nuclear counterattack before they land. He emphasized that China’s comprehensive nuclear combat capability is not inferior to the United States or Russia.

The system is said to be able to detect nuclear missiles in three stages: the initial stage after launch, the intermediate stage of cruising beyond the atmosphere, and the final stage of returning to the atmosphere. If a counterattack can be carried out within a few minutes, it implies that China has mastered the technology to use early warning satellites to detect heat sources during launch. China is believed to be developing this technology.

Source: Kyodo News Chinese, August 2, 2020

Global Times: India to Increase Troops along India-China Border

Global Times recently reported that, according to Indian media quoting anonymous sources, India plans to send 35,000 more troops to strengthen its military presence along its border with China. The reasoning behind the decision is that the Indian government found the probability of quickly reducing the tension between the two countries is getting lower. Although some recent negotiations cooled down the situation, yet there are still plenty of issues left that have not been resolved. This new decision of adding troops is expected to add a greater burden to India’s tight defense budget as well. Some Indian military leaders said it has been more than a couple of weeks with no improvements on the ground. A full disengagement between the two armies was not achieved. In the meantime, the Indian government just announced new trade sanctions and investment restrictions against China.

Source: Global Times, August 1, 2020

Former PLA Officer: CCP Will Collapse If China and the US Go to War in the South China Sea

Radio Free Asia reported that, in an interview with Yao Chen, the former CCP navy Command Lieutenant Colonel, Yao said that if China and the U.S. start a war in the South China Sea, the CCP will soon collapse.

According to Yao, the CCP’s military strength is far less than that of the US military. If the two sides confront each other in the South China Sea using their navies and air force, he estimated that it will take less than a day for the U.S. military’s F-35 stealth fighters to destroy the CCP’s navy and air force. He said that the U.S. policy toward China does not show it intends to occupy China’s territory, but the CCP’s current expansion in the South China Sea has touched the bottom line for the Western world, especially the U.S. Yao said that once the U.S. and China go to war in the South China Sea, there may also be a military confrontation on a border, such as the China-Indian border and a resistance from Uyghurs in Tibet and Xinjiang. Yao Chen also believes that, if the U.S. and China have a military confrontation, Japan and ASEAN countries would all support the U.S. As soon as the CCP launches its military force, it is expected that the whole world will stand up to resist China. Therefore, as long as the CCP starts a war, it will soon to collapse.

Source: Radio Free Asia, July 31, 2020

SIPRI: China Added at Least 30 Nuclear Warheads in 2019

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank, recently released reports, showing a total of 13,400 nuclear warheads worldwide as of January 2020, distributed among the USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. China currently has a stockpile of 320 warheads in its arsenal, compared to 5,800 in the United States and 6,370 in Russia. However, “in 2019 China and India were, respectively, the second- and third-largest military spenders in the world. China’s military expenditures reached $261 billion in 2019, a 5.1 per cent increase compared with 2018, while India’s grew by 6.8 per cent to $71.1 billion.”

SIPRI pointed out that “China is in the middle of a significant modernization of its nuclear arsenal. It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.” According to sources from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China added at least 30 nuclear warheads in 2019, some of which are already ready for deployment. As it is difficult to tell China’s intentions, its unrestricted arsenal has become a threat to many countries. The latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have also contributed to nuclear risks.

The specifics of the nuclear tactics of the PLA, including its weapons manufacturing and the capability of its buildup and deployment, have always been the focus of foreign observers, who believe that the Chinese military has hidden nuclear warheads in many inland provinces, especially Xinjiang. China is believed to have conducted test explosions in the enclosed areas of Xinjiang, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia.

“SIPRI’s estimates suggest that China is the second-largest arms producer in the world, behind the United States and ahead of Russia. All four of the profiled companies would have been ranked among the 20 largest arms-producing and military services companies globally in 2017, with three—AVIC, NORINCO, and CETC—in the top 10.”

SIPRI’s database shows that China was the fifth largest exporter in 2015–19, following the United States, Russia, France, and Germany. The large buyers of Chinese weapons include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Algeria. According to SIPRI, “Most of these countries are considered friendly or are allies of China.”

So far, China has not signed the 2013 United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) or any relevant international agreement. The United States insists that China should join the nuclear arms reduction talks, but China has repeatedly refused. The U.S. has insisted that China join future nuclear arms reduction talks—something that China has categorically ruled out.

1. Radio Free Asia, June 26, 2020.
2. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, June 15, 2020

People’s Liberation Army’s Website Information Raises Suspicion about Plan for Nuclear-powered Aircraft Carrier

On June 23, the website of the “Military Weapon and Equipment Procurement Information Network” (, headed by the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission, released “nine new procurement needs and 53 procurement announcements.” One of the procurement announcements was for a “ship with a nuclear power system analysis model development project.” The announcement that was circulated among mainland military fans was that the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has entered into the evaluation stage.

The PLA already owns two non-nuclear-powered aircraft carriers: the Liaoning and the Shandong. A third larger and more modern aircraft carrier is being built in Shanghai’s Jiangnan Shipyard. According to media reports, this ship, code-named 003, is still using traditional power.

Although the PLA wanted to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, it has not been able to make a breakthrough in the nuclear power system technology. The PLA already owns ten nuclear-powered submarines, but it is much more difficult to develop a nuclear reactor for larger ships.

Source: Central News Agency, June 25, 2020