In This Review

China's Air Force Enters the 21st Century
China's Air Force Enters the 21st Century
By Kenneth W. Allen, Glenn Krumel, and Jonathan D. Pollack
RAND, 1995, 249 pp

One in a series of Rand monographs on air power around the world, this dense but informative volume sheds light not only on the People's Liberation Army Air Force, but also on the Chinese military more broadly. The authors describe an air force that is, despite recent acquisitions of advanced technology, woefully obsolete, deficient in fundamental maintenance and logistical infrastructure, and either extremely secretive about, or simply lacking in, air power doctrine. They point to changes as well, including selective acquisition of high-end Western and Russian technology, the incorporation of advanced designs (including, reportedly, some from the abortive Israeli Lavi project) in the forthcoming F-10 fighter, and Chinese awareness of the gap between themselves and their neighbors, let alone the United States. If this sober account is to be believed, the Chinese are a long way from acquiring air power commensurate with their great power aspirations and self-image. On the other hand, the critical question is the speed with which China is moving in this area of its development, as in others. The answers there are of necessity murkier.