Killer Wand Concept
The first three directions of the Chinese counterbalance strategy, the stakes of which are placed on technological development, are very clearly traced; they are reflected in Chinese doctrine, in the deployment of the military capabilities of the People's Liberation Army of China (PLA) and the organization and combat training of the armed forces. This is consistent with all counterweight strategies that open up opportunities, or at least hint at them, in the hope of containing a likely adversary. Indeed, the fundamental goal of any counterweight strategy is to avoid military conflicts. It is important to note, however, that counterbalance strategies are primarily aimed at providing a decisive advantage in cases where containment is not enough. So, in addition to the opportunities that are being opened up to strengthen the containment policy, counterweight strategies tend to hide other opportunities that may surprise the opponent and provide potential superiority in the event of hostilities. The US military calls them “black” capabilities or special access programs, protected by protocols with the highest degree of protection.
The Missile-3 Block 1B standard missile interceptor takes off from the US ship Lake Erie in the Pacific, 2013 year. Chinese missile-centric strategy forces United States to disproportionate funds to its missile defense systems
The idea behind the premise of “Opening up opportunities for deterrence, but concealing opportunities for gaining advantage in warfare,” was a key aspect of the United States Second Counterbalance Strategy. For example, at one time, the United States revealed its intentions and demonstrated pre-selected capabilities in order to convince the Soviet Union that they have the technological resources to deploy a tactical combat network with long-range guided weapons. At the same time, they hid the development of invisible aircraft - the basis of one of the options for the American armed forces to conduct military operations to destroy systems - under a veil of secrecy. In fact, although assumptions about the development of stealth planes regularly appeared in the press, the United States did not officially recognize their existence until 1989, seven years after the demonstration of the Attack Break project (see American counterweight strategy with Chinese features).
The Chinese seem to follow the same pattern. As President Xi Jinping said: “Advanced technology is powerful weapons modern state ... Do not show the most powerful weapon of the state ". Chinese experts sometimes call this potentially winning secret weapon the “Killer Rod” or the 995 Project. This project was launched in May 1999, shortly after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia. China’s “black” capabilities, largely due to industrial and technical espionage and its active state support, may include such things as directed energy weapons, advanced space weapons, electromagnetic rail guns, powerful microwave weapons, or even more exotic weapons. As one Chinese military analyst noted, the country's army is on the path of “spasmodic development” with the goal of achieving decisive superiority in “strategic advanced technologies” that the Americans have not yet realized.
Planning structures of the US Army should understand that the developers of Chinese weapons seek to obtain such opportunities as aggressively as their American partners. Killer Wand and 995 Project have been underway for nearly two decades; and, apparently, there are some successes. As a result, despite the fact that some classified capabilities are “dark horses,” the US military must be prepared for some unpleasant technological surprises in the event of an armed conflict with China. Indeed, due to the fact that the US armed forces were drawn into an irreconcilable military-technological confrontation, their preparation for military clashes using unexpected technological solutions may be as important as the development of new “black” capabilities.
China intends to use the rapid development of artificial intelligence technology in the commercial sector for national defense needs
Developing artificial intelligence to achieve military superiority
The formation of each of the four aforementioned lines of activity began at the end of the 90's. However, recently the Chinese have added a fifth direction, designed to accelerate the achievement of their ultimate goal - obtaining dominant technological superiority over the US military. The impetus for this was given by Chinese President Xi himself, who started a global restructuring of the Chinese army and called for accelerating innovative processes in the arms sector. As Xi Jingping noted, “A new technological and industrial revolution is brewing, the global revolution in the military sphere is accelerating, and the model of international military competition is undergoing historical changes ". He and the Chinese army are determined, at least not to be outdone. In this regard, the Chinese believe that artificial intelligence, big data, hybrid human-machine intelligence, swarm intelligence and automated decision-making along with autonomous unmanned systems with integrated artificial intelligence and intelligent robots will become a central component of the beginning of the economic and military-technical revolutions. The victory in the spring 2016 of the AlphaGo program from Google DeepMind over Li Sodol, who at that time was considered the greatest player in the game of go, was the "moment of truth" for the Beijing leadership and forced the Chinese to significantly accelerate in order to gain superiority in the field of artificial intelligence.
This is especially true for PLA planning bodies that intend to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) into each component of their combat systems at all levels in order to use this “strategic advanced technology and get a sharp increase in military capabilities.” For example, a program called “Deep Green”, launched by the DARPA Office in the mid-2000s, aimed at providing commanders with predictive capabilities based on AI, became the object of close study of the PLA. China is studying AI not just as a tool to increase combat capabilities when making team decisions, but also as an integrated element of weapons systems. According to one analyst, China has significantly increased research costs in the development of complexes of hypersonic missiles based on neural networks. Indeed, Chinese military theorists believe that AI is likely to become the key to gaining superiority over the US military as the world's most powerful military, and this will happen much faster than originally anticipated at the end of the 90's.
In support of these ideas, in July 2017, the PRC State Council published the “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan”, which clearly describes the ambitious algorithm that would lead China to the world’s AI leader by 2030. This plan embodies the civil-military merger, as it seeks to ensure that the benefits of AI in the commercial sector can be quickly exploited for national defense — through a process that China calls the “spasmodic development” of critical technology. The Chinese government is investing billions of dollars in appropriate technology, in companies (local and foreign) and human capital in order to realize these ambitious plans. And, if the data is fuel for AI, then China can gain a structural advantage over the rest of the world in the race for AI. As you can see from the response to Facebook sharing personal data with third parties, Western democracies are wary of governments and companies that collect personal data. Chinese consumers have no such doubts, and especially the Chinese government, which uses AI as a tool to maintain order and control the population. For example, in November of 2017, the Chinese facial recognition startup Yitu Tech took first place in the Facial Recognition Prize Challenge held by the Office for Advanced Intelligent Projects.
How seriously the Chinese are dealing with the use of AI in the military sphere, shows the recent decision to shift the doctrinal and analytical focus from the confrontation of systems to the "competition of algorithms" and their belief that "achieving superiority in algorithms will allow achieving superiority in combat." It can also be a signal that the Chinese are currently confident that they have achieved technological parity with the US military and are ready to move on to the third stage of their activity - achieving absolute technological superiority over the United States armed forces.
What this activity will lead to in ten or twenty years is difficult to predict. The United States in no way evades this competition and, thanks to its efforts, can easily come first. Under any circumstances, however, it is clear that AI and autonomous operations of the level that they can afford will have a huge impact on existing arrays - multisensory, operational control, communications and information collection (C3I), and support and recovery arrays - and can usher in a military technological revolution. It is clear that the Chinese are determined to play the role of an aggressive pioneer in this new regime of confrontation and hope in this incarnation to surpass the American military - today the most powerful military force in the world.
President Xi pays particular attention to the modernization of the PLA, while stating that “advanced technology is a powerful weapon of the modern state”
Break Chinese counterweight
In November 2014, after 13 years of ongoing military and counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East, the US Department of Defense announced a new Defense Innovation Initiative. The basis of this new initiative was the call for a Third Counterweight Strategy to end the degradation of the American traditional containment system of a resurgent Russia and a growing China.
Looking back, one can rightfully say that the challenge coming from these two powerful powers, especially China, was then simply underestimated. The announcement of the third post-war counterweight strategy made it clear that the United States has both a technological advantage and the initiative to develop a new counterweight strategy on its own schedule. However, after analyzing what the Chinese military has achieved technologically in a little over two decades, and what they plan to do in the next decades, any objective assessment should at least take into account the fact that the PLA can seize the initiative and control its time frame and that the US armed forces may be close to becoming a victim of a deliberate, assertive, and superbly resourced military-technical counterweight strategy. And those who deny this, and not soberly assess the situation, should just look at the results of the large-scale military games that the Department of Defense has held in recent years, simulating military operations between the United States and China. The outcome of these war games shows that, in the absence of fundamental changes in the planned build-up of capabilities and current concepts of military operations, the United States armed forces may be defeated by the Chinese military in plausible scenarios.
The Chinese leadership has announced plans to completely modernize the PLA by the 2035 year and gain leadership in the military plan by the 100 anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in the 2049 year, as well as creating the conditions for victory in information wars. Mr. Xi’s personal attention to the implementation of these plans, along with the structure of the country's defense spending, indicates that China most likely intends to realize its ambitions in the field of modernization of the armed forces between about 2020 and 2049 for years. The “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” stipulates that China will become a world leader in AI and related technologies by the 2030 year - a critical step towards achieving “intelligent military power”. The Chinese desire to develop a military structure optimized for fighting and defeating what they call “intelligent military operations” explains the aforementioned doctrinal shift from systems confrontation to competition algorithms, which the PLA top sees as a way to achieve absolute technological superiority.
If Defense Minister Hagel said in November 2014 that the main goal of the Defense Innovation Initiative is to “undermine the Chinese counterweight strategy,” then his statement would be more effective. This wording could better convey the idea that US military-technical leadership is significantly weakened; the Chinese, and not the Americans, apparently seized the technological initiative; and if the United States wants to restore this technological advantage, quick and decisive action must be taken.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Announces Defense Innovation Initiative to Implement Third Counterweight Strategy
In addition, the Pentagon could also warn with this wording that the United States can no longer afford deterrence through the traditional method of tough economic and military superiority. Whatever the reaction of the United States, they must take into account the steadily growing economic power of China and the speed of technological transformations in the country. As mentioned in the first article of this cycle, according to the International Monetary Fund, if the pace of economic growth continues, the Chinese economy will catch up with the American economy by 2030 in terms of nominal gross domestic product. In addition, China's technology spending is growing at the same impressive pace as the Chinese economy. China's R&D spending increased “From 1991 to 2015, the year is almost 30 times — from $ 13 billion to $ 376 billion — more than the R&D expenses of Japan, Germany and South Korea combined”.
As noted earlier, this strategic situation is very different from what it was throughout the Cold War, when the United States competed with the economically not-so-healthy Soviet Union. In addition, the United States during the Cold War had another advantage in that it could start a military-technical competition in those technological areas where the Soviet Union was noticeably weaker, for example, in microelectronics. This advantage is hardly present in competition with China. Given the policy of integrating military and civilian resources, the country is not a simpler technology thief. China is currently becoming a leader in the latest technologies, including quantum computing, robotics, genetic engineering, and a number of other areas. As a result, there is great doubt that the United States will easily get around the Chinese in the technology race. On the contrary, they will have to exert incredible efforts to maintain at least the appearance of parity.
This is a clear message from the National Defense Strategy (NDS) 2018. This strategy concludes that the United States is beginning to emerge from a period of strategic atrophy. This partly means that the dominant superiority of the American military after the Cold War over regional powers suppressed any common sense of how this superiority could be undermined as a result of the steadily growing opportunities of reborn and muscle-building great powers. Therefore, the NDS states that the Department of Defense should “Make choices and prioritize in order to prevent the deterioration of the potential of deterrents in the US long-term strategic competition with China and Russia, which are the top priorities for the Department of Defense”.
Competing with the intentions of the two major powers to level the military-technical playing field with the United States will mean that the US armed forces will be challenged as seriously as they have not been (if at all) since the end of the Cold War. A poorly veiled reference to Russia and China of this strategy says: “Some rivals and opponents seek to optimize their assessment of our combat networks and operational concepts, while the security environment is influenced by the rapid development of technology and the changing nature of hostilities. Given these circumstances, we must anticipate how our opponents and opponents will use new operational concepts and technologies in an attempt to beat us, and at the same time develop operational concepts to strengthen our competitive advantages and improve our mortality. ”.
It is clear that this requires some action and a good diagnosis of the challenges currently facing the US armed forces. The Ministry of Defense had long ago had to carefully and intelligently respond subtly. It should develop operational concepts, systems, and platforms so that the country's armed forces can overcome China’s concerted efforts to break down and destroy American combat networks. It must develop operational concepts, systems and platforms so that the country's armed forces can deliver effective preemptive strikes and withstand massive launches of Chinese guided missiles. It should respond to the Chinese challenge in AI and ensure leadership in this critical technology race.
If we consider the situation more broadly, China, apparently, does not intend to concede in the military-technical race in such important areas as, for example, quantum computers, biotechnology, hypersound, and ballistic and cruise missiles. US forces must compete more aggressively and even more boldly, to create new competitive technologies. The unpleasant reality is that the United States did not create many new competitive advantages, since in the 80 and 90 years they used technological advances to create operational combat networks and conduct high-precision strikes at long ranges. US forces need to re-create the technological “miracle” that so well baffled their opponents from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis Introduces 2018 National Defense Strategy, which defines interstate strategic rivalries as a priority for US national security
To do this, the Pentagon must generate much more intellectual energy to identify weaknesses in the Chinese Counterbalance Strategy that could be used for competitive advantage. He should also develop a strategy for demonstrating new capabilities or concepts of combat employment, aimed at weakening China's confidence in its ability to achieve a military result. Such military demonstrations should be based on our understanding of the decision-making principles of the Chinese leadership, determination of our own desired final states, as well as on extended exercises with a conditional adversary in order to evaluate the Chinese theory of victory and determine how to counteract it. Most important for such an activity is a clear understanding of how China sees its own strengths and weaknesses. He well remembers that throughout the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Pentagon and the US armed forces have consistently pursued a policy of weakening their opponents. They just need to start exercising and rebuild their strategic muscles.
And, as soon as they regain their strategic muscles in the armed forces, the United States should recognize the main lesson learned from the First and Second counterbalance strategies - in fierce long-term military-technical rivalry, the possession of the best technologies is not enough. Studying military innovations before and during the Second World War, historians Williamson Murray and Alan Millet concluded: "The most important task is to achieve a better" comparison "between military equipment and weapons, concepts, doctrine and organizations compared to their rivals." This important point was also taken up by the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which states: “Modernization is not determined solely by equipment and weapons: it requires changes in the methods of organization and engagement of troops. We must evaluate the possible consequences of new technologies on the battlefield, carefully determine the military problems predicted in a future conflict, and foster a culture of experimentation and assuming calculated risks ”.
The US Armed Forces need to take this work very seriously. The People’s Liberation Army of China has been closely watching the US military for two decades now. She studied the American preferred methods of warfare and developed a strategy for using her strengths and weaknesses, especially her military-technical strength. Apparently, she is getting closer to achieving technological parity with American combat systems and is nurturing plans to achieve technological superiority. In this new security paradigm, when China and the United States are in search of a dominant military-technical advantage, the party that finds the best “fit” between technology and operational concepts is likely to win this contest.
History has shown that the United States armed forces have a remarkable commitment to finding the most competitive “match.” They are distinguished by their ability to challenge the status quo, take risks, experiment and adapt new technologically advanced operational concepts that confuse their opponents. If they want to break the Chinese counterbalance, then they need to once again demonstrate their qualities.