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China’s Traditional ShaShaoJian Strategy – Analysis


By Debalina Chatterjee

The traditional strategy by Sun Tzu whereby the inferior would defeat the superior has become a growing concern for the United States. President Jiang Zemin during his tenure had demanded for accelerated development in assassin’s weapons. The strategy is referred to as ‘silver bullet weapons’ or ‘hand kill mace’ to enable China to win local wars under high tech conditions by surprising and paralysing the enemy, the US. By this strategy, China believes that it could lure the superior enemy to take drastic steps which could enable China to win the war without fighting as it cannot counter the US threat face to face. The assassin mace is probably China’s version of Revolution in Military Affairs.


China has never been transparent with its nuclear strategies leaving the West befuddled as always. However, this is nothing unusual as Chinese military doctrines are always neibu (restricted). Sun Tzu is his ‘Art of Warfare’ had “strategic ambiguity” and “deception” as some of its important components. ‘While it has ‘no first use’ as its nuclear doctrine, it also makes clear that the doctrine does not apply to Taiwan. China’s advancements with its nuclear weapons program which include development of thermonuclear weapons, enhanced radiation weapons, nuclear artillery and anti ship weapons have left the US worried and concerned.

China’s Second Artillery Corps has started to play an important role in this strategy as it operates China’s land based, tactical missiles, strategic nuclear weapons and conventionally armed SRBMs. China’s Short range ballistic missiles like the DF-15s could be fitted with MIRVs or MARVs to be able to defeat its enemy completely. Chinese ICBMs could hit as far as Alaska, Hawaii and many more. The DF-31 category of ICBMs could hit mainland in the United States. China could also use Land Attack Cruise Missiles or Submarine Launch Cruise Missiles to “puncture” the “acupuncture points” of the Pentagon. The Chinese have developed cruise missiles like the YJ22s, KH31A/Ps, C301s, C-802s, SS-N-22s and many more. On January 8, 2011, the Secretary of Defence Robert Gates had stated that the dragons had the “potential” to put some of the “capabilities” of the Pentagon at risk.

China is building active air defence systems to negate any threat from US air crafts. Air defence missiles like the QW category and S-300s would be a prowess to China. China is acquiring electromagnetic pulse bombs which could be used in both strategic and tactical warfare by China which can nullify Theatre Ballistic Missile Defences being deployed in Taiwan by the US by destroying the command, control and communication systems of the BMD. These bombs could be easily delivered by an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, though cruise missiles could be the best option to deliver EMP bombs. Counter measures like decoys or use of solid propelled missiles which has enabled in reduction in launch times are also threats to the US. Chinese Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are no longer just confined to silos just and have been road mobile, thereby enhancing their survivability. China is also working on High Powered Microwave Weapons.

Chinese Anti Satellite Weapons which China is developing are capable of identifying and tracking satellites. Manoeuvrable nano satellites are able to neutralise enemy satellites by electronic jamming, electro magnetic pulse generation, or by simply ‘clinging to target and physically destroying it’, ‘bumping the target out of orbit’, and such nano satellites could be launched by DF-21s also. Land based lasers also could be used to destroy satellites of enemy countries. Plasma weapons could be used to destroy sensor systems of the USA. The Chinese are also striving hard to enhance the survivability of their strategic nuclear weapons, to improve the striking ability of these strategic nuclear weapons, and enhance their penetration technology. China has also developed long range satellite navigation aided multi launch rocket systems. China does not just aim at destroying satellites, but a complete process of involving ‘hard and soft kill’, terrestrial infrastructure of launch sites, tracking, telemetry, control (TT&C) facilities, and the data link that could bind the system together. China is also trying to improve joint operations amongst PLA, PLAAN and PLAAF which would be similar to the US Gold-waters Nicols which would enhance America’s security with “effective diplomacy” and with military forces that are ready to “fight and win”.

China is enhancing its naval capabilities near the Spratley Islands. China’s growing interests in the South China Sea has motivated it to concentrate on modernising the PLAAN which include anti ship ballistic missiles, land attack cruise missiles, anti ship cruise missiles which could be fired from submarines like KILO, YUAN, surface to air missiles, anti ship ballistic missiles, medium range ballistic missiles, manned and unmanned aircrafts and also modernising its command and control systems. According to the US Department of Defence, the Chinese A2AD capability, known as Anti Access Area Denial Capability could control access to land, sea and air spaces which is within China’s periphery. This is similar to the Soviet’s Anti Access Anti Denial Capabilities seen during the Cold War days. This could make the US Navy power projections in the Asia Pacific region risky and also costly. This could enable China to get adequate time to “seize and occupy” Taiwan. China’s Anti Ship Ballistic Missiles fitted with MARVs could pose a threat to the US naval bases in the Asia Pacific regions. The assassin mace term to some means the use of supersonic cruise missiles which could sink aircraft carriers. Rocket torpedoes or SHKVAL or Squall could also become a threat for the US. Obsolete warplanes could be converted to Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles which could fire anti ship missiles. The US are already working on Air Sea Battle Concept (ASBC) to counter the A2AD strategy whereby they have called in for their Navy and Air force to cooperate together to overcome the Chinese strategy.

China has been apprehensive of the United States which was a big paradigm shift in bloc politics after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several incidents like the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 by the US led NATO forces, US withdrawal from the Anti ballistic missile treaty in 2002, enhanced military cooperation between Japan and the US, naval exercises with South Korea in the Yellow Sea had annoyed the Chinese. The US setting up of a military base in Kyrghistan which is a few kilometres away from China’s border close to Lop Nor has also made the Chinese suspicious of America’s influence in the Central Asian countries which the Chinese would never want.

China is not only enhancing its military capabilities but also building relations with states to create a strategic disadvantage for the Americans. China has already improved relations with Russia and is now trying to improve its relations with Turkey. China had offered to Turkey missile defences which could expose them to the crucial information about the NATO missile defence shield and develop counter measures accordingly. Chinese submarines in ambush with bottom rising sea mines like the EM-52s which are hard to detect could create a problem for the Americans to cross the Sea Lines of Communications. China’s growing relations with Iran and Russia could also enable the dragons to cut off oil supplies to the USA. Iran could easily stop oil supplies coming from the Persian Gulf and this is a major reason why China is developing economic, political and economic ties with Iran.

Sun Tzu in his ‘Art of War’ had mentioned “attaining one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of excellence. Subjugating the enemy’s army without fighting is true pinnacle of excellence”. Cyber-warfare is another effective way of defeating the enemy especially of higher calibre. China routinely intervenes into official classified documents of the West through the medium of cyber theft. Critical Information Infrastructure Protection is important for security of information and national security policy. Quite often China meddles with the enemy country’s Critical Information Infrastructure Protection. Many have also felt that the strategy is ‘killer application’ in computer application.

China has also tried to work on ‘informationalisation’, whereby it plans to improve its command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

However, the Assassin Mace Weapon Strategy is still a dubious game as most analysts are unsure if it is a weapon or a doctrine. The strategy would be a complex strategy and would be implemented by all three services: the PLA, PLAAF, and PLAAN and thereby enhance their Joint Operations techniques, but how far could it be successful in defeating the strategies of the super power would be a matter of concern.

Debalina Chatterjee, is a Research Associate at Centre for Air Power Studies, Western Air Command.

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2 thoughts on “China’s Traditional ShaShaoJian Strategy – Analysis

  • April 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    A very well written article.

  • April 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I think you have not understood the article. I guess the article tries to speak on the assassin’s mace weapon strategy and what it could be.It does not try to take any side. It is just a plain simple explanation of what the strategy could be.Every country has its own strategy, it could be transparent(which in most cases it would not be), or could be “untransparent”.


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