Janes reporting on China

Latest reporting on Chinese military and security affairs from Janes

Janes provides a wide range of data, insight and news across global defence and security. Here you will find a summary and curation of the most recent content around China derived from Janes connected intelligence solutions.

Region of Focus: Taiwan

Taiwan proposes defence budget increase for 2022

27th Aug: Taiwan has proposed a defence budget increase amid continuing tension with China. The island's Executive Yuan said on 26 August that the defence expenditure for 2022 will be TWD471.7 billion (USD16.8 billion). Taiwan's procurement of the F-16V represents one of its most high-profile programmes. Other acquisitions currently under way include purchases of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles, and MS-110 multispectral airborne reconnaissance pods.

Janes Analysis: In terms of military modernisation, Taiwan's procurement of the F-16V represents one of its most high-profile programmes. Other acquisitions currently under way include purchases of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missiles, and MS-110 multispectral airborne reconnaissance pods.

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Taiwan reports increased military threat from China

2nd Sep: The Taiwanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported on 1 September 2021 that China posed an increased risk to Taiwan compared with the previous year. According to Reuters, the 2021 People's Liberation Army [PLA] Capability Report noted that China “still lacked the capability to launch a full assault on Taiwan”. The report assessed that China had improved its reconnaissance – through its BeiDou Navigation Satellite System and other intelligence-gathering operations – and air and sea transport capabilities. However, it also assessed that the PLA still suffered from a lack of equipment and logistics support for landing operations, but that it had increased its air-drop capabilities.

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Technology Developments:

China launches 32nd Type 054A frigate for PLAN

10th Aug: Photographs circulating on Chinese social media show that the 32nd Type 054A (Jiangkai II-class) frigate for China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been launched at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The number of ships on order under the latest Type 054A production batch has not been made public as China does not release information on the future size and shape of its armed forces. However, between 2009 and 2018 Type 054A frigates were launched at a rate of about three ships per year.

Janes Analysis: The number of ships on order under the latest Type 054A production batch has not been made public as China does not release information on the future size and shape of its armed forces. However, between 2009 and 2018 Type 054A frigates were launched at a rate of about three ships per year.

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China unveils improved short-range ballistic missile

23rd Aug: Chinese state-owned media reported on 21 August that the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) successfully conducted live firings of what it described as two new conventionally armed short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). The adoption of more sophisticated terminal guidance systems than the original DF-15's inertial guidance package will have significantly improved the accuracy of the missiles but introduced vulnerabilities that can be exploited to reduce the missile's effectiveness. In response to this it is likely that modifications have been made to the warhead to minimise the effect of countermeasures.

Janes Analysis: The adoption of more sophisticated terminal guidance systems than the original DF-15's inertial guidance package will have significantly improved the accuracy of the missiles but introduced vulnerabilities that can be exploited to reduce the missile's effectiveness. In response to this it is likely that modifications have been made to the warhead to minimise the effect of countermeasures.

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China's new hypersonic wind tunnel expected to be ready next year

14th Aug: China's new JF-22 hypersonic wind tunnel is expected to be ready for use in 2022, according to a 22 August report by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV). The report confirmed that the wind tunnel has been designed to be capable of simulating conditions for vehicles travelling at speeds of up to Mach 30 at altitudes between 40 km and 100 km.

Janes Analysis: China is investing heavily in research and development of hypersonic technology and aims to open up a significant lead over the United States in its application.

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New Chinese satellite likely has military function

27th Aug: On 24 August, China launched a satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (XSLC) using a Long March 3B (CZ-3B) rocket. US military tracking data cited by spaceflightnow.com recorded that the TJSW-7 satellite deployed into an “elongated geostationary transfer orbit with a perigee, or low point, of 122 miles (197 kilometers) and an apogee, or high point, of 22,255 miles (35,816 kilometers)”. Multiple media outlets reported the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) as stating that the TJSW-7 would be used for communications technology test missions.

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Domestic Affairs:

China's new ‘Military Service Law' aims to address recruitment difficulties

26th Aug: The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) adopted on 20 August a new version of the country's ‘Military Service Law' aimed at improving recruitment into the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and better aligning the military with national policies and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Both Sheng and Professor Fu Dalin, the director of the Military Judicial Work Department of the Political College of the National Defense University (NDU), said that the revised law will improve the quality of the PLA, which is seeking to become a more professional military by enlisting better educated recruits, especially those with university degrees.

Janes Analysis: Both Sheng and Professor Fu Dalin, the director of the Military Judicial Work Department of the Political College of the National Defense University (NDU), said that the revised law will improve the quality of the PLA, which is seeking to become a more professional military by enlisting better educated recruits, especially those with university degrees.

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Chinese military using commercial Ro-Ro shipping to enhance its amphibious capabilities

23rd Aug: China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) is continuing to develop its amphibious capabilities by using commercial ships to increase its capacity to transport military equipment. Video footage released by state broadcaster China Centra Television (CCTV) on 17 August showed military vehicles of the 73rd Group Army being embarked on Bohai Zhen Zhu (‘Bohai Pearl'): a 24,000-tonne roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) commercial ferry with the capacity to transport more than 200 vehicles.

Janes Analysis: The frequency and scale of the use of commercial shipping in exercises related to amphibious operations indicates that they are a fundamental component of the PLA's operational planning and would likely be key to any invasion of Taiwan.

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China's armed forces conduct over 120 maritime exercises in three months

26th Aug: China's naval, air, and army amphibious forces have conducted more than 120 maritime exercises during the past three months, the state-owned Global Times newspaper reported on 24 August, an indication that the country's maritime forces are striving to achieve a high level of operational readiness.

Janes Analysis: Taiwan appears to be the main factor behind much of the current tempo of maritime exercises of the PLA, and the PLAN in particular. The focus of the amphibious exercises is unambiguous and much of the other activity can be viewed in the context of ‘anti-access/area denial' – that is, to prevent US or other forces from intervening in PLA operations against Taiwan.

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China’s strict COVID-19 control policy indicates continued travel restrictions and supply chain disruptions throughout 2022

18th Aug: China’s National Health Commission on 18 August reported 28 total symptomatic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, with 22 overseas-imported cases recorded on 17 August. Although this was the eighth consecutive day of decline (or no change) in reported domestically transmitted cases, local infections have risen in recent weeks from single digits in late-June – following minor outbreaks in Guangdong – to approximately 100 as of mid-August across several provinces.

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Foreign Affairs:

Large-scale exercise points to growing Sino-Russian military co-operation

11th Aug: In a sign of growing military co-operation between Moscow and Beijing, about 13,000 Russian and Chinese troops have taken part in the ‘Sibu/Interaction 2021' exercise, marking the first time that such joint strategic military drills are held in China. As Janes previously reported, the exercise was held against a backdrop of expanding bilateral military collaboration, which has been driven by an increasing alignment of interests and security concerns between Russia and China.

Janes Analysis: As Janes previously reported, the exercise was held against a backdrop of expanding bilateral military collaboration, which has been driven by an increasing alignment of interests and security concerns between Russia and China.

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August 2021

Region of Focus: Russian Strategic Relationship

China, Russia look to deepen military-technical ties – 9 Aug

China and Russia are preparing to participate in joint military exercises during 9–13 August, an event that aims to support military-technical co-operation between the two countries. The ‘Sibu/Interaction 2021' drills in Ningxia, north-central China – in which 13,000 troops and more than 400 military platforms from both sides will participate – are being held against a backdrop of expanding bilateral military collaboration. In late July, China and Russia outlined a commitment to strengthen military-technology ties, with such efforts expected to be framed around a new military co-operation accord. Janes Analysis: While the sales of military mission systems will provide Russia with a relatively constant stream of contracts in the near to mid-term, opportunities for big-ticket platform sales are limited. Janes identifies possible opportunities for additional sales of air defence systems, and, less likely, submarines.

Russian troops training with Chinese equipment ahead of strategic exercise with PLA – 6 Aug

Russian troops set to take part in the 9–13 August ‘Sibu/Interaction 2021' strategic military exercise with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) have been familiarising themselves with Chinese military equipment in preparation for the joint manoeuvres: an indication of the growing military co-operation between Moscow and Beijing. Janes Analysis: The Sino-Russian military-technical co-operation has accelerated in recent years driven by an increasing alignment of interests and security concerns. The main reason behind this is the mutual desire to challenge the dominant position of the United States in the international sphere and to provide a level of insulation from some US foreign policy decisions.

Technology Developments

China launches more surveillance satellites – 20 Jul

Three more Yaogan 30-series military surveillance satellites were launched from China's Xichang Satellite Launch Centre on 19 July, bringing the total number of satellites in the constellation to 30. The state-owned People's Daily newspaper reported that the satellites were launched aboard a Long March 2C carrier rocket and successfully deployed in orbit. It described the function of the satellites as “conducting electromagnetic environmental detection and other experimental observations” but did not acknowledge their military utility. Janes Analysis: Although the official description of the Yaogan 30-10 satellites' function is very generic, they are likely intended to intercept and monitor radio communications and radar transmissions from units and equipment operating between latitude 35° north and south, primarily on China's periphery.

Image suggests China is producing fourth batch of J-15 fighter aircraft – 2 Aug

China's Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) seems to be continuing production of the J-15 carrier-borne multirole fighter, with a recently released image showing an aircraft that appears to be from the fourth production batch. The photograph, which was released on 1 August via the Weibo social media platform, shows a J-15 in People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF) markings bearing what appears to be production number ‘0401' on the intake: an indication that it is part of the fourth and latest batch. The aircraft was photographed in a hangar, with several naval personnel seen saluting, possibly as part of an event to mark the 94th anniversary of the founding of the PLA. Janes Analysis: The J-15s from the third and fourth production batches production will complement the 24 aircraft from the first and second batches that were built before production was suspended in mid-2017. Although it is not clear how many J-15s have been built since SAC resumed production of the fighter, a total of 42 examples have been spotted thus far.

Image suggests HJ-12 ATGW is in service with PLA's Tibet Military Command – 26 Jul

Chinese state-owned media have released an image suggesting that the Hongjian-12 (J-12) manportable anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) system is being operated by the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF). A photograph released on 22 July via the WeChat account of the PLA's Tibet Military Command shows a soldier carrying a launch tube assembly (LTA) that is very similar in appearance to that used by the HJ-12 system. The picture was released as part of a report about a PLAGF brigade conducting exercises on a Tibetan plateau and about how the unit is “improving its level of combat training”. Janes Analysis: The PLA currently relies on a wide variety of ATGW systems of different generations. These include the HJ-73 – an improved version of the Soviet designed 9K11 ‘Malyutka' – the HJ-8, HJ-9, HJ-10, and HJ-11.

Questions remain over identification of China's missile silos – 6 Aug

In April 2021, Commander of US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Admiral Charles Richard remarked to the US House Armed Services Committee that China's nuclear arsenal was undergoing a significant expansion. Open-source intelligence may be providing evidence of that expansion, although many questions remain. Janes Analysis: There is some evidence to suggest that missile silo construction is occurring near Yumen and Hami, although the imagery-based evidence remains largely circumstantial at the time of writing. There is also imagery-based evidence suggesting that the existing wind farms are being expanded at Yumen. The available evidence does not enable Janes to make a definitive assessment of the new construction at Hami, although work at the site resembles that at Yumen.

Domestic Affairs

China's military-civil fusion aids the growth of wargames – 27 Aug

Wargames (兵棋推演, bīngqí tuīyǎn) have experienced a renaissance in China, with computer wargames in particular becoming popular among university students, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), think-tanks, and scientific research institutions. Driven by the government's strategy of shifting from military-civil integration (军民结合 jūnmín jiéhé) to military-civil fusion (MCF) (军民融合 jūnmín rónghé) and to enhance national defence education among the public, a series of yearly national wargame competitions has been created. Janes Analysis: The fifth National Wargaming Competition is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2021 and will feature Huashu Defense's Mozi joint warfare wargaming platform, according to a Chinese source. Mozi reflects two key elements of PLA doctrine and modernisation: first, joint warfare (a key aspiration for the PLA under its current modernisation programme); and second, the human role within automation and AI.

China's defence exports stay strong despite dip in 2020, Janes data shows – 15 Jul

Newly compiled Janes data shows China's defence exports declined mildly in 2020, interrupting a period of solid growth since 2016. According to the data, China's international military sales in 2020 were equal to USD2.65 billion, a 4% decline on the figure in 2019. Janes Analysis: Beijing does not disclose any information about the value of its defence exports, although Chinese state media sometimes acknowledges that the sales effort has become an important part of the country's strategies to boost revenues and to expand its international profile.

Crouching tiger: Chinese military doctrine – 13 Jul

Chinese President Xi Jinping has embarked upon an ambitious reform of his country's armed forces, as well as China's international relations and internal politics. The result, whether intentional or not, is the perception among Western militaries that China and the United States have now entered a new period of great power competition. Janes Analysis: It is understandable that much of the analysis of the PLA focuses on the likely apocalyptic conflict that would arise if it went to war with the US. However, the development of modern precision capabilities and networked ISR assets may enable the PLA to become a dominant military in smaller conflicts too.

Foreign Affairs

US adds more Chinese firms to Entity List – 12 Jul

The US government has included 23 more Chinese companies to its trading blacklist over their alleged enabling of human rights abuses or for their involvement in developing technologies for the Chinese military. The US Department of Commerce (DoC) said on 9 July that the firms were added to Entity List, inclusion on which prohibits the identified entities from involvement in the export, re-export, or in-country transfer of US dual-use technologies. Janes Analysis: As of early July, several hundred Chinese entities and their subsidiaries are included on the US Entity List, far more than any other country. Chinese inclusion on the list has expanded substantially in the past few years as US-China relations have deteriorated and US concerns about China's military-technology acquisition methods have grown.

UK government to investigate Chinese acquisition of semiconductor firm – 12 Jul

The UK government is to investigate a Chinese firm's acquisition of a UK producer of semiconductors on national security grounds. The move follows Shanghai-based Wingtech's announcement on 6 July that its Dutch subsidiary had acquired 100% ownership in Welsh company Newport Wafer Fab (NWF). Janes Analysis: The UK investigation into Wingtech's acquisition follows several moves by the US government in recent months to restrict Chinese firms' acquisition of US technologies and intellectual property. The United States has also put pressure on key allies, such as the UK, to introduce similar restrictions. A

July 2021

Region of Focus: Taiwan

Chinese MND warns US Indo-Pacific strategy will ‘only create antagonism and chaos'

4th May: Sharp criticism was levelled at the Australia, Japan, and the United States by Chinese Ministry of National Defence (MND) spokesperson Senior Colonel Tan Kefei at the ministry's monthly press conference held on 27 May. Janes Analysis: Although the lines taken by Snr Col Tan were very familiar, the breadth of the critical responses suggests that China is feeling under pressure from the US and its allies, although not to the extent of conceding any ground over the sovereignty disputes that underlie much of the military tensions.

 

Biden says US-Taiwan coastguard co-operation deal will enable US to better respond to shared regional threats

20th May: US President Joe Biden has said that the recently reached co-operation agreement between the US and Taiwanese coast guards will “help ensure” that the United States “is positioned to better respond to shared threats in the [Indo-Pacific] region and to conduct co-ordinated humanitarian and environmental missions”. Janes Analysis: The US-Taiwanese MoU was signed after Beijing passed a law on 22 January authorising the China Coast Guard’s (CCG’s) use of firepower – under certain circumstances – against foreign vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction”.

 

Technology Developments

PLANAF J-15 fighters seen operating from Lingshui Airbase in South China Sea

1st Jun: Chinese state-owned media has released video footage showing People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) J-15 naval fighter aircraft being operated from an airbase that Janes identified as Lingshui Airbase on Hainan Island in the South China Sea (SCS). Janes Analysis: As Janes reported, infrastructure improvements began at Lingshui between 2014 and 2016, with hangar construction and associated ramp expansion starting in 2018. To accommodate construction efforts, various aircraft departed Lingshui for other locations on Hainan Island between 2018 and 2020. KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft now operate from Qionghai Bo'ao airport to the northeast while BZK-005 medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles relocated to Sanya airbase to the west. Their relocation appears to be permanent.

 

China spaceplane development

28th May: The successful launch in September 2020 of a Chinese reusable orbital launch vehicle – commonly known as a ‘spaceplane’ – and the completion of its two-day mission further demonstrated China’s increasing space capabilities, although a veil of secrecy resulted in little open-source information on the launch becoming available. The conclusion of this mission means that China is now the third country to have successfully launched and recovered a spaceplane after the United States (Space Shuttle and X-37B) and the Soviet Union/Russia with the Buran Orbiter.

Norinco’s PCL-181 SPH in service with PLAGF’s 80th Group Army

11th May: Chinese state-owned media revealed on 7 May that the China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) 155 mm PCL-181 wheeled self-propelled howitzer (SPH) has entered service with a brigade under the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF’s) 80th Group Army. Janes Analysis: The growing number of brigades operating the PCL-181 points to how fast the system is being both produced and rolled out to the troops, especially given that the 6×6 SPH was only first publicly displayed in service during the 1 October 2019 military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

 

Domestic Affairs

China operationalises first ‘smart’ satellite factory

14th May: China has started operating its first ‘smart’ factory dedicated to the production of satellites, the country’s official Xinhua news agency has reported. The development reflects China’s progress in automated manufacturing processes in the aerospace domain. Janes Analysis: CASIC is one of China’s most important developers of military technologies, space systems, and advanced weapons. It also plays a leading role in China’s development of 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) capabilities such as autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and the industrial internet.

 

China's CASIC signs accord with CCCC to expand industrial co-operation

2nd Jun: The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) has signed an agreement with the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to support industrial and technological co-operation, according to a statement from CASIC. CASIC – one of China's most important developers of advanced weapons and unmanned systems – said that its “strategic co-operation framework agreement” with CCCC will facilitate the co-ordinated construction of new infrastructure, national development projects, and “intelligent high-end equipment”. Janes Analysis: China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25) calls upon domestic defence industrial enterprises to expand collaboration with both defence and commercial sector companies in the country, with the aim of exploring synergies and efficiencies, and enhancing self-reliance.

 

Foreign Affairs

US extends deadline on Chinese investment ban

20th May: The United States Treasury has extended for the second time the deadline on its ban on US corporate investment in Chinese firms designated by the US government “Communist Chinese Military Companies”. The ban was introduced in November by the Donald Trump administration – through Executive Order (EO) 13959 – and was originally set to be enacted in January. This was extended by the Treasury in early 2021 to late May. The new deadline is 11 June.

Manila accuses China Coast Guard of ‘belligerent actions’ against PCG near Scarborough Shoal

4th May: The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has accused the China Coast Guard (CCG) of “shadowing” and “blocking” Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) vessels that were conducting what it described as “legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises” near Scarborough Shoal (known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc) between 24 and 25 April. Janes Analysis: The latest developments come after the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) announced in June 2020 that it had completed construction of a beaching ramp on Thitu Island, which is the largest of the Philippine-administered Spratly Islands in the SCS but also claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Malaysia scrambles Hawk 208 aircraft to confront PLAAF squadron over South China Sea

2nd Jun: The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has scrambled an unspecified number of Hawk 208 light-attack/lead-in trainer aircraft to confront a squadron of 16 People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft over the South China Sea. The encounter took place within the Kota Kinabalu flight information region (FIR) at about 1.30 pm local time on 31 May, the RMAF said in a media statement the next day. “The PLAAF aircraft were first detected by the RMAF's air defence radar at the air defence centre in Sarawak at 11.53 am,” said the service, adding that the Chinese aircraft were flying within Malaysia's maritime zone.

June 2021

Region of Focus: Taiwan

Chinese MND warns US Indo-Pacific strategy will ‘only create antagonism and chaos'

4th May: Sharp criticism was levelled at the Australia, Japan, and the United States by Chinese Ministry of National Defence (MND) spokesperson Senior Colonel Tan Kefei at the ministry's monthly press conference held on 27 May. Janes Analysis: Although the lines taken by Snr Col Tan were very familiar, the breadth of the critical responses suggests that China is feeling under pressure from the US and its allies, although not to the extent of conceding any ground over the sovereignty disputes that underlie much of the military tensions.

Biden says US-Taiwan coastguard co-operation deal will enable US to better respond to shared regional threats

20th May: US President Joe Biden has said that the recently reached co-operation agreement between the US and Taiwanese coast guards will “help ensure” that the United States “is positioned to better respond to shared threats in the [Indo-Pacific] region and to conduct co-ordinated humanitarian and environmental missions”. Janes Analysis: The US-Taiwanese MoU was signed after Beijing passed a law on 22 January authorising the China Coast Guard’s (CCG’s) use of firepower – under certain circumstances – against foreign vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction”.

 

Technology Developments

PLANAF J-15 fighters seen operating from Lingshui Airbase in South China Sea

1st Jun: Chinese state-owned media has released video footage showing People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) J-15 naval fighter aircraft being operated from an airbase that Janes identified as Lingshui Airbase on Hainan Island in the South China Sea (SCS). Janes Analysis: As Janes reported, infrastructure improvements began at Lingshui between 2014 and 2016, with hangar construction and associated ramp expansion starting in 2018. To accommodate construction efforts, various aircraft departed Lingshui for other locations on Hainan Island between 2018 and 2020. KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft now operate from Qionghai Bo'ao airport to the northeast while BZK-005 medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles relocated to Sanya airbase to the west. Their relocation appears to be permanent.

China spaceplane development

28th May: The successful launch in September 2020 of a Chinese reusable orbital launch vehicle – commonly known as a ‘spaceplane’ – and the completion of its two-day mission further demonstrated China’s increasing space capabilities, although a veil of secrecy resulted in little open-source information on the launch becoming available. The conclusion of this mission means that China is now the third country to have successfully launched and recovered a spaceplane after the United States (Space Shuttle and X-37B) and the Soviet Union/Russia with the Buran Orbiter.

Norinco’s PCL-181 SPH in service with PLAGF’s 80th Group Army

11th May: Chinese state-owned media revealed on 7 May that the China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) 155 mm PCL-181 wheeled self-propelled howitzer (SPH) has entered service with a brigade under the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF’s) 80th Group Army. Janes Analysis: The growing number of brigades operating the PCL-181 points to how fast the system is being both produced and rolled out to the troops, especially given that the 6×6 SPH was only first publicly displayed in service during the 1 October 2019 military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

 

Domestic Affairs

China operationalises first ‘smart’ satellite factory

14th May: China has started operating its first ‘smart’ factory dedicated to the production of satellites, the country’s official Xinhua news agency has reported. The development reflects China’s progress in automated manufacturing processes in the aerospace domain. Janes Analysis: CASIC is one of China’s most important developers of military technologies, space systems, and advanced weapons. It also plays a leading role in China’s development of 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) capabilities such as autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and the industrial internet.

China's CASIC signs accord with CCCC to expand industrial co-operation

2nd Jun: The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) has signed an agreement with the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to support industrial and technological co-operation, according to a statement from CASIC. CASIC – one of China's most important developers of advanced weapons and unmanned systems – said that its “strategic co-operation framework agreement” with CCCC will facilitate the co-ordinated construction of new infrastructure, national development projects, and “intelligent high-end equipment”. Janes Analysis: China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25) calls upon domestic defence industrial enterprises to expand collaboration with both defence and commercial sector companies in the country, with the aim of exploring synergies and efficiencies, and enhancing self-reliance.

 

Foreign Affairs

US extends deadline on Chinese investment ban

20th May: The United States Treasury has extended for the second time the deadline on its ban on US corporate investment in Chinese firms designated by the US government “Communist Chinese Military Companies”. The ban was introduced in November by the Donald Trump administration – through Executive Order (EO) 13959 – and was originally set to be enacted in January. This was extended by the Treasury in early 2021 to late May. The new deadline is 11 June.

Manila accuses China Coast Guard of ‘belligerent actions’ against PCG near Scarborough Shoal

4th May: The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has accused the China Coast Guard (CCG) of “shadowing” and “blocking” Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) vessels that were conducting what it described as “legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises” near Scarborough Shoal (known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc) between 24 and 25 April. Janes Analysis: The latest developments come after the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) announced in June 2020 that it had completed construction of a beaching ramp on Thitu Island, which is the largest of the Philippine-administered Spratly Islands in the SCS but also claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Malaysia scrambles Hawk 208 aircraft to confront PLAAF squadron over South China Sea

2nd Jun: The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has scrambled an unspecified number of Hawk 208 light-attack/lead-in trainer aircraft to confront a squadron of 16 People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft over the South China Sea. The encounter took place within the Kota Kinabalu flight information region (FIR) at about 1.30 pm local time on 31 May, the RMAF said in a media statement the next day. “The PLAAF aircraft were first detected by the RMAF's air defence radar at the air defence centre in Sarawak at 11.53 am,” said the service, adding that the Chinese aircraft were flying within Malaysia's maritime zone.

May 2021

Region of Focus: Taiwan

Chinese MND warns US Indo-Pacific strategy will ‘only create antagonism and chaos'

4th May: Sharp criticism was levelled at the Australia, Japan, and the United States by Chinese Ministry of National Defence (MND) spokesperson Senior Colonel Tan Kefei at the ministry's monthly press conference held on 27 May. Janes Analysis: Although the lines taken by Snr Col Tan were very familiar, the breadth of the critical responses suggests that China is feeling under pressure from the US and its allies, although not to the extent of conceding any ground over the sovereignty disputes that underlie much of the military tensions.

 

Biden says US-Taiwan coastguard co-operation deal will enable US to better respond to shared regional threats

20th May: US President Joe Biden has said that the recently reached co-operation agreement between the US and Taiwanese coast guards will “help ensure” that the United States “is positioned to better respond to shared threats in the [Indo-Pacific] region and to conduct co-ordinated humanitarian and environmental missions”. Janes Analysis: The US-Taiwanese MoU was signed after Beijing passed a law on 22 January authorising the China Coast Guard’s (CCG’s) use of firepower – under certain circumstances – against foreign vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction”.

 

Technology Developments

PLANAF J-15 fighters seen operating from Lingshui Airbase in South China Sea

1st Jun: Chinese state-owned media has released video footage showing People's Liberation Army Navy Air Force (PLANAF) J-15 naval fighter aircraft being operated from an airbase that Janes identified as Lingshui Airbase on Hainan Island in the South China Sea (SCS). Janes Analysis: As Janes reported, infrastructure improvements began at Lingshui between 2014 and 2016, with hangar construction and associated ramp expansion starting in 2018. To accommodate construction efforts, various aircraft departed Lingshui for other locations on Hainan Island between 2018 and 2020. KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft now operate from Qionghai Bo'ao airport to the northeast while BZK-005 medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles relocated to Sanya airbase to the west. Their relocation appears to be permanent.

 

China spaceplane development

28th May: The successful launch in September 2020 of a Chinese reusable orbital launch vehicle – commonly known as a ‘spaceplane’ – and the completion of its two-day mission further demonstrated China’s increasing space capabilities, although a veil of secrecy resulted in little open-source information on the launch becoming available. The conclusion of this mission means that China is now the third country to have successfully launched and recovered a spaceplane after the United States (Space Shuttle and X-37B) and the Soviet Union/Russia with the Buran Orbiter.

Norinco’s PCL-181 SPH in service with PLAGF’s 80th Group Army

11th May: Chinese state-owned media revealed on 7 May that the China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco) 155 mm PCL-181 wheeled self-propelled howitzer (SPH) has entered service with a brigade under the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force’s (PLAGF’s) 80th Group Army. Janes Analysis: The growing number of brigades operating the PCL-181 points to how fast the system is being both produced and rolled out to the troops, especially given that the 6×6 SPH was only first publicly displayed in service during the 1 October 2019 military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

 

Domestic Affairs

China operationalises first ‘smart’ satellite factory

14th May: China has started operating its first ‘smart’ factory dedicated to the production of satellites, the country’s official Xinhua news agency has reported. The development reflects China’s progress in automated manufacturing processes in the aerospace domain. Janes Analysis: CASIC is one of China’s most important developers of military technologies, space systems, and advanced weapons. It also plays a leading role in China’s development of 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) capabilities such as autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and the industrial internet.

 

China's CASIC signs accord with CCCC to expand industrial co-operation

2nd Jun: The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) has signed an agreement with the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) to support industrial and technological co-operation, according to a statement from CASIC. CASIC – one of China's most important developers of advanced weapons and unmanned systems – said that its “strategic co-operation framework agreement” with CCCC will facilitate the co-ordinated construction of new infrastructure, national development projects, and “intelligent high-end equipment”. Janes Analysis: China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25) calls upon domestic defence industrial enterprises to expand collaboration with both defence and commercial sector companies in the country, with the aim of exploring synergies and efficiencies, and enhancing self-reliance.

 

Foreign Affairs

US extends deadline on Chinese investment ban

20th May: The United States Treasury has extended for the second time the deadline on its ban on US corporate investment in Chinese firms designated by the US government “Communist Chinese Military Companies”. The ban was introduced in November by the Donald Trump administration – through Executive Order (EO) 13959 – and was originally set to be enacted in January. This was extended by the Treasury in early 2021 to late May. The new deadline is 11 June.

Manila accuses China Coast Guard of ‘belligerent actions’ against PCG near Scarborough Shoal

4th May: The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has accused the China Coast Guard (CCG) of “shadowing” and “blocking” Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) vessels that were conducting what it described as “legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises” near Scarborough Shoal (known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc) between 24 and 25 April. Janes Analysis: The latest developments come after the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) announced in June 2020 that it had completed construction of a beaching ramp on Thitu Island, which is the largest of the Philippine-administered Spratly Islands in the SCS but also claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Malaysia scrambles Hawk 208 aircraft to confront PLAAF squadron over South China Sea

2nd Jun: The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has scrambled an unspecified number of Hawk 208 light-attack/lead-in trainer aircraft to confront a squadron of 16 People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft over the South China Sea. The encounter took place within the Kota Kinabalu flight information region (FIR) at about 1.30 pm local time on 31 May, the RMAF said in a media statement the next day. “The PLAAF aircraft were first detected by the RMAF's air defence radar at the air defence centre in Sarawak at 11.53 am,” said the service, adding that the Chinese aircraft were flying within Malaysia's maritime zone.

April 2021

Bordering Region:

Climate change reshapes security dynamics of Indian Ocean Region

Apr 26: Climate change has a serious impact on the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), in terms of environmental and security consequences. The security implications of an increasing number and intensity of environmental disruptions in the IOR will shape conflict and co-operation between the countries of the region, as well as extra-regional powers. As the effects of climate change continue to escalate, militaries and security practitioners will have to adapt practices, equipment, and training to adjust to a new reality

Manila accuses China Coast Guard of ‘belligerent actions’ against PCG near Scarborough Shoal

May 4: The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has accused the China Coast Guard (CCG) of “shadowing” and “blocking” Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) vessels that were conducting what it described as “legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises” near Scarborough Shoal (known in the Philippines as Bajo de Masinloc) between 24 and 25 April. 

Technology Developments:

New space race: China advances its space capabilities for future warfare 

Apr 13: China is investing in capabilities such as space solar power; counterspace systems; positioning, navigation, and timing systems; and launch vehicles to enable it to conduct future operations in space against countries such as the United StatesPat Host reports. Beijing considers space capabilities as vital to its plans for future power projection and its ability to defeat adversaries with high-tech capabilities. According to an October 2020 report by the China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), China’s military has designated outer space as a warfighting domain that it must fight for – and seize – if it is to win future wars. 

Chinese advancements in disruptive technologies threaten US technology superiority, says DIA chief

Apr 30: China’s high focus on and investment in emerging and disruptive technology research and acquisition will “very likely” present the “greatest threat to US technology superiority”, US Army Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said on 29 April. In a written statement to the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services, the DIA chief indicated that China has already reached the level of “peer or near-peer” competitor to the United States in many research areas and aspires to be the world leader in these technologies by 2030–35. 

 

Domestic Affairs:

PLAGF’s 72nd Group Army conducts live-fire drills with new light 122 mm 6×6 SPH 

Apr 26: China’s People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) has conducted a live-fire exercise using its new lightweight 122 mm self-propelled howitzer (SPH), which is being commonly referred to as PCL-171. Footage released on 23 April by China Central Television’s (CCTV’s) ‘Military Report’ programme shows at least six examples of the SPH, which is based on a modified Dongfeng Mengshi 6×6 CTL181A, being deployed by a light combined arms brigade within the PLAGF’s 72nd Group Army at an undisclosed location in China. 

China’s AVIC outlines development plans but challenges remain 

Apr 27: The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has finalised strategies to expand during the coming years in line with Chinese government policies. AVIC said in a recent press release that its development plans are aligned with Beijing’s 14th Five Year Plan (FYP), which runs 2021–25, and the country’s medium and long-term science and technology plan (MLP), which covers 2021–35. 

Foreign Affairs:

US committee proposes co-ordinated exports controls on China 

Apr 12: Leaders of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee have proposed legislation seeking to counter China’s efforts to develop advanced military technologies. Among a range of proposed diplomatic and strategic initiatives, the new law – entitled the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 – looks to impede China’s military-technology progression through greater co-operation between the US and its allies. 

EU aims to strengthen ATT implementation in Asia-Pacific 

Apr 26: The European Union has launched a strategy to deepen defence and security ties with the Asia-Pacific including efforts to strengthen controls of transfers of military technologies. The policy – entitled EU Strategy for co-operation in the Indo-Pacific – was introduced earlier this month and “recommits the EU politically to the region with the aim of contributing to its stability, security, prosperity, and sustainable development”. 

March 2021

Area of Focus – China’s 14th Five Year Plan

China prioritises defence reforms

22 Mar: The Communist Party of China (CPC) has outlined the requirement for deepened reforms in the country’s defence sector. Janes Analysis –A blueprint of the 14th FYP was issued by the CPC in November 2020, with more details revealed in March. According to the plan, focus areas during the five years will include military technologies, skills and training, and a shift towards “intelligentisation”. The plan also highlights the significance that China will place on MCF during the period. 

China in Focus I, II, III

8-18 Mar: China has achieved expansive military-technology advancement over the past 15 years but 2021 represents the start of a new era of progression. During its 14th Five Year Plan (2021–25), China is targeting accelerated modernisation and the development of the disruptive capabilities that will aim to support its longer-term bid to achieve ‘world class’ military status. The following three intelligence briefings assess the defense industry and technology base; land, air, C4ISR, and weapons developments; and maritime power.

China in Focus I: Defence Industry and Technology Base: https://customer.janes.com/IntelBriefings/Display/FG_3910180-JIBR

China in Focus II: Land, Air, C4ISR, and Weapons: https://customer.janes.com/IntelBriefings/Display/FG_3916371-JIBR

China in Focus III: Maritime power: https://customer.janes.com/IntelBriefings/Display/FG_3920717-JIBR

Janes “The World of Intelligence” Podcast (public): China's 14th Five Year Plan (2021–2025)

https://podcast.janes.com/public/68/The-World-of-Intelligence-50487d09/2766d3d9

Technology Developments

China deploys more surveillance satellites

15 Mar: China successfully deployed three Yaogan-31 observation satellites on 13 March, with the orbits they were placed in suggesting they are part of the Jianbing-8 constellation of ocean surveillance satellites. Janes Analysis – “The additional satellites in the Jianbing-8 constellation will make it more difficult for warships to operate in the Western Pacific without being detected and tracked. The revisit time for a Jianbing-8 satellite passing over the East China Sea will now be typically 90 minutes or less.”

China creates mock carrier landing strip at Lingshui Airbase on Hainan Island

16 Mar: Commercial satellite imagery captured on 27 January shows that China has placed a mock carrier landing strip at the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force’s (PLANAF’s) Lingshui Airbase on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Janes Analysis – “The appearance of the carrier landing strip at Lingshui, coupled with the recent construction of new fighter-size hangars, reinforces the previous Janes assessment that Lingshui could host Shandong ’s J-15 fighter aircraft.”

China updates air bases to house growing fleet

29 Mar: With Chinese military assets becoming more active in or near potential conflict zones, many air bases are receiving infrastructure upgrades. These upgrades can provide the capacity to host additional aircraft, and in some cases infrastructure work may be occurring to provide upkeep and repair, such as runway resurfacing. Janes Analysis – “The scope of China’s air base-related construction efforts derives from general upkeep and maintenance requirements such as periodic runway resurfacing and infrastructure expansion to accommodate newer, more modern aircraft types.”

Internal Affairs

China announces 6.8% increase in 2021 defence budget

5 Mar: China’s defence budget in 2021 will increase by 6.8% to CNY1.355 trillion (USD209.4 billion), according to the Chinese government. Janes Analysis – “China’s new defence budget marks an end to its recent slowdown. However, it does not represent a significant departure from the country’s previous military-expenditure trajectory.”

20 PLA aircraft enter Taiwan’s ADIZ after Taipei and Washington sign coast guard co-operation agreement

29 Mar: Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) accused 20 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft of entering the island’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) on 26 March, a day after Washington and Taipei signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on coast guard co-operation. Janes Analysis –It is unclear whether the recently signed MoU on coast guard co-operation is Taipei and Washington’s answer to China’s new coast guard law, but the recent moves are likely to further increase tensions across the Taiwan Strait. The MoU signing comes after US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral John Aquilino, who is the nominee to succeed Admiral Philip Davidson as commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), told the US Senate Armed Services Committee on 23 March that a potential military takeover of Taiwan by China is the command’s top concern.

US sanctions against mainland Chinese, Hong Kong SAR officials indicate desire to preserve optionality on trade, climate

17 Mar: On 17 March, the United States Department of State released an update to the Hong Kong Autonomy Act (HKAA) report, identifying 24 individuals from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Hong Kong SAR government alleged to have “materially contributed to … failure of China to meet its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration”. Janes Analysis – “The moderately escalatory measure by the US in response to the Decision indicates an intended counterbalance by the US between taking a clear position vis-à-vis mainland China’s action in Hong Kong SAR, and a desire to preserve optionality on key issue areas such as trade and climate, especially ahead of this week’s bilateral meeting of senior government officials.”

UK Integrated Review affirms ‘tilt’ to Asia-Pacific

17 Mar: The United Kingdom has outlined a new ‘tilt’ towards the Asia-Pacific in its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy, which was published 16 March. Janes Analysis – “UK expansion in the Asia-Pacific is being targeted on the back of recent growth in UK defence and security sales to the region. UK defence exports to the region in 2018 were estimated to be worth 2% of total UK defence exports during that year, according to a report published in October 2020 by UKDSE.

Mainland China and Iran sign 25-year agreement, signalling closer engagement; Chinese implementation constrained by other regional interests

1 Apr: On 27 March, during a six-country visit to the Middle East, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart signed a pending 25-year strategic co-operation agreement. Subsequently, both countries’ foreign ministries described the document as a “general framework” or “roadmap”, rather than a contract specifying quantitative targets. 


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