China's Strategic Modernization: Implications for the United States
By Mark A. Stokes
U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute, 1999, 233 pp.
Two first-rate studies on the contemporary Chinese military. The first volume belongs to an excellent series, The Armed Forces of Asia, edited by Professor Desmond Ball of Australian National University and Air Marshal Ray Funnell, formerly of the Australian Department of Defense. Much more than a descriptive catalogue of the order of battle, the book argues that the People's Liberation Army has "embraced the revolution in military affairs." The author's picture is a troubling one, describing a Chinese military committed to developing a high-tech force capable of projecting power beyond its shores and achieving increasingly ambitious objectives. He concludes that the Chinese military, like China itself, lies at a crossroads, ready either for integration in the international system or for a challenge. Not an alarmist work, to be sure, but a far more ominous -- and convincing -- treatment than much other writing on this subject.China's Strategic Modernization also presents a troubling picture. Written by a former assistant U.S. air attache in Beijing, the book is unusual in its depth and judgments. Whereas most assessments of the People's Liberation Army -- including those by American military analysts -- tend to dismiss its capabilities, Stokes does not. Focusing primarily on the Chinese military-industrial complex and its investments in missiles, information warfare, and precision weapons, he begins with the sound premise that China need not match the United States to achieve its political objectives. China's immediate aims -- dominating Taiwan and deterring the United States from intervening to protect the island -- are more modest military objectives that lie well within China's grasp. Sober, detailed, and well-reasoned, this study should interest both specialists and general students of contemporary strategic issues.