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Demystifying SHASHOUJIAN: China’s “Assassin’s Mace” Concept Jason E. Bruzdzinski, The MITRE Corporation jebruzdz@mitre.org Copyright© 2003 The MITRE Corporation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. UNCLASSIFIED

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Background • Shashoujian or “assassin’s mace” was a term largely absent from American discussions about Chinese military affairs until 1997. • After 1997, interest in and usage of the term increased in the U.S., but knowledge remained very limited. • A broad lack of American understanding of the concept stimulated this research effort.

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Key Questions Addressed in MITRE’s Study

1. Origins? 2. Emergence? 3. Significance?

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Historical Origins and Military Context • Literal Interpretation. – Shashou :: assassin or hitman. – Shoujian :: hand sword/mace/club.

• Origins. – Martial Art. – Tang Empire (618-907 A.D.) Legend of Xin Xiong. – Folklore.

• A Component of Chinese Strategic Culture. – Influences PLA warfighting strategy and military operations. UNCLASSIFIED

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Overview • Few formal definitions can be documented. Shashoujian is widely understood within China akin to the American understanding of the term “silver bullet.” • A senior PLAAF officer has described shashoujian as a “weapon system” or “equipment” or a “certain combat method” to overcome a superior adversary. • Some Chinese sources contend that certain programs have a “shashoujian” designation and are supported by specific Chinese military R&D efforts. Some of these programs began in the early 1990s. UNCLASSIFIED

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA PLA Military Strategy and Modernization Debates (1985-1995). – Three dominant schools of thought: People’s War, Local Limited War, Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). – Shift from People’s War to Local, Limited War is promulgated by China’s leaders. – Impact of U.S. military operations in the 1990s gives a profound boost for Chinese RMA advocates at key PRC institutions. – Shashoujian emerges to bridge “traditional” with “modern” approaches for PLA modernization. UNCLASSIFIED

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA PRC President Jiang Zemin calls for a PLA “transformation” in the wake of deteriorating U.S.-PRC relations and observance of nonlinearity in American military modernization/capability. (Marks Jiang’s first public support for the PLA’s RMA advocates). – From 1996-2003, PLA officers of increasing rank and political stature support President Jiang’s call for shashoujian. – Official PRC discussions of shashoujian are visible from a chronology of statements from senior PLA officers (beginning in 1995). In 1997-1998 usage of the term spikes in the PLA.

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA Shashoujian - A Secret Program? 998 State Security Project. • “Accelerate the development of research, development and installation of new weapons…to resist U.S. hegemonism.” – set-up research and manufacture of new weapons to deal with new strategic tactics – develop naval ship-launched and cruise missiles – equip troops ahead of schedule with electron laser and light beam weapons – stop discussing the issue of proliferation with the U.S. – revise some original policies on not being the first to use nuclear weapons – revise the improper policy on not forming alliances or blocs.”

• References to shashoujian appear to indicate that preliminary work on this program could have begun as early as 1995, placing the PRC almost a decade into a shashoujian acquisition program. UNCLASSIFIED

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA The 998 State Security Project Leading Group.

(From Left to Right)

Jiang Zemin – Former PRC President, CMC Chairman. Hu Jintao – PRC President, CPC General Secretary, CMC Vice Chairman. Wu Bangguo – Chairman, Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. Cao Gangchuan – CMC Vice Chairman, Minister of National Defense. Guo Boxiong – Member, Political Bureau-CPC Central Committee, CMC Vice Chairman. Liu Jibin – Director, Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND). UNCLASSIFIED

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA Possibly Related to Shashoujian? 122 Project. • “improve combat effectiveness, counter-attack capability, the winning edge of the PLA.” • Develop a new generation of strategic high-tech weapons, strategic nuclear weapons, and improving the readiness of PLA strategic weaponry.

126 Program. • Accelerate the development and production of six systems engineering projects: electronic information technology system, strategic defense technology system, optical laser technological system, non-conventional materials and conventional materials technological system. UNCLASSIFIED

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA Shashoujian and PLA Research, Development and Acquisition (RD&A) – In 1998, amidst PLA discussions about shashoujian, China initiated a series of sweeping military reforms, establishing the PLA General Armament Department (GAD) to manage and fund military RD&A plans. – At the same time, the function and authority of the PRC Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND) were examined, reorganized and streamlined. – Leaders with GAD and COSTIND experience serve on the 998 State Security Project Leading Group. UNCLASSIFIED

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Emergence of Shashoujian in the PLA Shashoujian and PLA Research, Development and Acquisition (RD&A) – Improve deterrence and war preparations by developing shashoujian. – Prioritize defense-related research and high-tech weapons and equipment, tackling key technologies, improve combat effectiveness and achieve progress in key projects to field a number of shashoujian as quickly as possible. – Shashoujian is responsive to China’s poor integration of information technology with weapons to overcome five key insufficiencies: 1) high-power armaments, 2) weapons for launching attacks, 3) precision guided munitions, 4) reconnaissance, early warning, command and control, and 5) electronic armaments. – Shashoujian is identified as one of three key areas for defense investment. – Evidence of considerable level of effort: multiple programs, throusands of personnel, hundreds of research projects. UNCLASSIFIED

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PLA Major General Wang Baocun’s 10 Defining Characteristics of Future Warfare • • • • • • • • • •

Limited Goals Short Duration Less Collateral Damage Larger Battlefields, Less Density of Troops Battlefield Transparency Intense Struggle for Information Superiority Unprecedented Force Integration Increased Demand for C2 Dependency Upon Precision, not Mass Attacks on the Weaknesses of Combat Systems. UNCLASSIFIED

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Leveraging Shashoujian to Satisfy Military Requirements Shashoujian linked with the strategem: Overcome the Superior with the Inferior. – Traditionally reliance upon superior and asymmetric strategies to cope with and defeat adversaries with superior equipment. – China’s current leaders acknowledge continuing military inferiority, but judge that the PLA can defeat the United States in a local, limited conflict under certain conditions. – Chinese military strategists derive assessments from holistic and relativistic analytical framework (the Marxist Dialectic). UNCLASSIFIED

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Leveraging Shashoujian for Military Requirements Shashoujian and Operational Art. – Identify and Exploit Weakness. – Seize Initiative Through Surprise. – Employ Extraordinary Means. – Attack Vulnerabilities. – Ensure Survivability and Counter-Strike Capability. UNCLASSIFIED

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Leveraging Shashoujian to Satisfy Military Requirements Intended Effects of Shashoujian Strikes. – Deterrence. – Decapitation. – Blinding, Paralysis and Disintegration.

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Conclusions •

China’s history and traditions profoundly influence the thinking of China’s leaders and senior military officers. China’s military scholars and leaders are reexamining philosophical issues (emphasis on strategy and methods [man] versus weapons, platforms and systems [material], as well as practical matters (the applicability of People’s War in the 21st century)).

Using Marxist dialectic approaches, Chinese assess military power holistically with emphasis on relative strengths and weaknesses. This approach to assessments differs from U.S. approaches. Contrasting perspectives and dangerous miscalculations can result.

PRC military strategy will likely remain asymmetric vis-à-vis superior adversaries. China will attempt to minimize the relative superiority of enemies while employing effective stratagems and tactics. UNCLASSIFIED

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Conclusions •

Shashoujian is compatible and also potentially catalytic for current and emerging strategy and military capabilities. Breakthoughs could result that catch adversaries by surprise.

Shashoujian serves as a function to help the PLA prioritize a select set of military programs for special funding and rapid development.

Senior American policy-makers should concern themselves with and watch-out for the following elements or combinations of elements to counter shashoujian and the stratagem of the ability of an “inferior defeating the superior”: 1) the possibility of China presenting a military operational concept that takes the United States by surprise, 2) weapons systems and infrastructure that can enable the PLA to implement the operational concept, and/or 3) a strategic or tactical context in which the successful use of this operational concept is decisive.

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Demystifying SHASHOUJIAN