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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 4, Issue 21


June, 2015

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

Vietnam’s Diplomacy Ramses Amer

China’s Defense White Paper Hon-min Yau

Taiwan’s Supply Ship: Panshih Michal Thim

Unmanned Vehicles Tobias Burgers

New Chinese Cyberstrategy:

Old ideas for a new conflict? Hwang Ji-Jen


for Taiwan Security

Volume 4, Issue 21


June, 2015

Contents Vietnam seeks balance through new relations...............................4

Ramses Amer

China opens new avenues for cyber-operations.............................8

Hwang Ji-Jen

2015 PLA White Paper signals expanded ambitions.................... 12

Hon-min Yau

ROC Navy launches combat support ship.................................... 18

Michal Thim

Unmanned vehicles would be ideal for Taiping...........................23

Tobias Burgers

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph of Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons refueling behind a KC-135 Stratotanker during Red Flag-Alaska is courtesy of Shawn Nickel.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu James Yuan Laurence Lin STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 4, Number 21, June, 2015, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: Or by telephone at: +866 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: © Copyright 2015 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well as the summer season heats up. Events in the Asia-Pacific Region continue to dominate the headlines. We hope that students and scholars in the academic community have the chance to keep up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest edition of Strategic Vision. We open our third issue of the year with an analysis of developments in Vietnam’s foreign policy by Dr. Ramses Amer, an Associated Fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm. Next up, Dr. Hwang Ji-Jen, a visiting fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) looks at the development of cyber-activity in China. He argues that China is applying the People’s War concept to enlist support for China’s efforts to strengthen its cyber-power and make its mark on the global stage. Lieutenant Colonel Hon-min Yau of the ROC National Defense University provides an analysis of China’s 2015 Defense White Paper. He examines the regional implications of its active defense concept and what this means for Taiwan’s security. Shifting gears, Michal Thim, a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham introduces Taiwan’s new combat support ship the Panshih. With its superior capabilities, Thim argues that the Panshih will enable Taiwan to take a greater role in regional affairs, especially in the area of humanitarian and disaster relief. Finally, Tobias Burgers, a PhD candidate at the Otto-SuhrInstitute, Free University of Berlin, argues that Taiwan’s military should make greater use of unmanned vehicles to protect its interests in the South China Sea. Burgers finds that unmanned vehicles greatly reduce burdens on manpower while presenting a less obtrusive presence in an already tense region. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

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Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 21 (June, 2015)

Diversifying Ties Vietnam seeks to forge new relations to balance growing security challenges Ramses Amer

photo: Brock A. Taylor The crew of the USS McCain are greeted by their counterparts in Vietnam. Military interaction between the two countries has increased in recent years.


s Vietnam celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and the end of the war with America, it can also look back at forty years of dramatic changes in its foreign relations, and in particular its relations with the major powers. Since the end of the Cold War, Vietnam has normalized, expanded, and deepened its collaboration with

Today, Vietnam cooperates extensively with major powers such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, India, Japan, and the United States. This is a remarkable turnaround compared to the developments from World War II onward, when Vietnam had to endure almost continuous military conflicts with foreign countries: First against France, then the United States, and after a short-lived period

regional and global powers. It joined and has become an active member in the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). Vietnam has also integrated globally, notably through the United Nations system.

of peace, conflicts with both Cambodia and China in the late 1970s, namely the three Indochina Conflicts. It was only after the end of the Cold War in Asia with the resolution of the Cambodian Conflict and the

Dr. Ramses Amer is an associate professor of peace and conflict research and an associate fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy. He can be reached for comment at

Vietnam’s Relations  b  5

full normalization of relations between Vietnam and China in 1991 that Vietnam could firmly embark on national development and foreign relations in a truly peaceful and cooperative environment. Vietnam’s relations with China are multifaceted, and cooperation has developed at a fast pace since full normalization in 1991, as can be seen in the expanding political and economic relations between the two countries. Given the ideological affinity between the two countries’ ruling communist parties, political collaboration runs deeper than just between governments. There is another side to the relationship, which is the geostrategic challenge that China poses to Vietnam due to the disputes in the South China Sea. Incidents that serve to raise tensions in the South China Sea periodically have negative repercussions on bilateral relations. This was evident in 2014 during the the oil rig crisis. Despite these setbacks, the two countries are trying to handle their differences through a management approach that was developed after full normalization of relations. Through the management approach, the two countries have settled and demarcated their land border and agreed on maritime delimitation in the Gulf of Tonkin. Still, the situation in the South China

Sea remains complicated and a potential source of tension between the two countries. Bilateral collaboration received a boost at the highest-level by the visit to China in April 2015 by the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong.

“There has also been speculation that Vietnam might try to balance against China by moving closer to the United States.” Vietnam’s relations with Russia, furthermore, continue to expand, and the importance of this relationship to Hanoi was shown by Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to Russia in late November 2014. It was reported that during the visit, the two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement easing restrictions on the entry of Russian military vessels into Cam Ranh Bay. This is noteworthy because Russia is important to Vietnam as a supplier of defence equipment. Vietnam’s relationship with the United States likewise attracts considerable attention due to the legacy of the Vietnam War and also the economic embargo

photo: Vietnam Government As part of its effort to engage with the Asia-Pacific region, Vietnam has embraced ASEAN as a vehicle for deeper regional cooperation and understanding.


photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past an honor guard during a visit to Vietnam in 2006. Russia is important to Vietnam as a supplier of weapons.

imposed by the United States in response to Vietnam’s military intervention in Cambodia in late December 1977. Following the normalization of relations in 1995, cooperation between the two countries has gradually expanded, with collaboration in military matters attracting widespread attention.

Closer US ties During the 2014 drilling rig crisis with China, Vietnam welcomed the position taken by the United States, as it was widely understood as being critical of China’s actions. There has also been speculation that Vietnam might try to balance against China by moving closer to the United States. The decision by the United States to partially lift its weapons embargo against Vietnam reinforced such speculation. Vietnam has thus far been reluctant to move too close to the United States vis-à-vis China, and there remain areas of difference between Vietnam and the United States, most notably those relating to human rights.

Vietnam’s relations with India continue to expand and the two countries have continuously enjoyed good relations ever since the end of the Cold War Era. This has created a relationship in which Vietnam considers India to be a friendly major power that is not a geo-strategic challenge by Vietnam. Relations with Japan also continue to deepen and expand. This is logical given the fact that Japan is not only a major trading partner and an important source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Vietnam, but also a major source of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). Vietnam also appreciates that Japan has supported its stand against China during the drilling rig crisis. However, this should not be understood to mean that Vietnam is seeking to align itself with Japan, or offering public support to Japan in the Sino-Japanese dispute. The legacy of past experiences is important to properly understand Vietnam’s foreign policy. Vietnam suffered tremendously through major military conflicts and massive foreign military intervention by

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colonial powers (France), super powers (The USSR and the United States), and regional powers (China). Vietnam fought hard to resist such interventions, and it learned the dangers of being caught in disputes between both major powers and super powers. These experiences and lessons learned are still very relevant today as Vietnam tries to manage relations with major foreign powers. This explains why Vietnam is keen not to take sides in any major power rivalry, such as the ones between China and Japan, between China and the United States, and between Russia and the United States. In the post-Cold War Era, Vietnam has been successful in expanding relations both regionally and globally. Vietnam has proactively taken advantage of opportunities created within both East Asia and Southeast Asia to expand collaboration bilaterally and to integrate into regional structures like ASEAN. It has also normalized and expanded relations with major powers and international institutions. In fact, Vietnam’s active policy to develop good relations with all countries on the basis of mutually beneficial cooperation has been remarkably successful in the post-Cold War era. However, two problematic areas remain. First, Vietnam’s relationship with China is

very complex. China is Vietnam’s major trading partner, with extensive political collaboration between the two countries. At the same time, China is Vietnam’s main strategic challenge due to the disputes in the South China Sea. Second, major power rivalries and disputes can have negative repercussions for Vietnam. How to avoid getting caught in such rivalries and disputes is a challenge to Vietnam. An example of direct impact of major power rivalry on Vietnam was the request by the United States earlier this year that Vietnam stop Russia from re-fuelling military aircraft at an airfield at Cam Ranh Bay. In assessing Vietnam’s conduct of its foreign policy, it is important to properly understand that Vietnam considers deepening cooperation with major regional and global powers to be beneficial to Vietnam’s overall development and interests. Such cooperation creates conducive conditions for Vietnam to focus on its own social and economic development efforts. Vietnam is striving to deepen cooperation with regional and global powers, but it is not seeking to enter into any formal alliances with such powers. Importantly, Hanoi is aware of the dangers associated with major power rivalry and the possible repercussions such rivalries can have for Vietnam. n

photo: Jesus Uranga The JS Kunisaki pulls in to Da Nang Naval Base in Vietnam. Such visits are likely to increase as Japan and Vietnam seek to deepen military cooperation.

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Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 21 (June, 2015)

People’s eWar

Mao’s concept of People’s War applied to Chinese Nationalism in Cyberspace Hwang Ji-Jen

photo: Cory Doctorow Chinese young people surf the Internet at the Game Cafe in Guangzhou, China. Beijing is seeking ways to co-opt such netizens to promote nationalism.


n January 26, 2015, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) released the seventh annual China Press Freedom Report, titled “China’s Media War: Censorship, Corruption & Control.” According to the report, Internet censorship has been more restricted than ever in the past year. The report states that “online restrictions have been declining rapidly since the China Internet Security and Information Leading Group

er.” As the IFJ report notes, several measures of Internet control have been implemented by the government. For example, 2,200 websites were forced to shut down, and at least 20 million messages were deleted on social media platforms, such as WeChat, without reasonable explanation to the public. In fact, on January 13, 2015, China’s State Internet Information Office officially announced that the Chinese government has been enforcing the regulations of the Internet Content Provider licence,

was established under the directive of President Xi Jinping.” In the group’s first meeting, Xi stated that “efforts should be made to build our country into a cyber-pow-

permitting China-based websites to operate in China since the start of 2015. In order to reach Xi’s goal of building China into a cyber-power, the approach of Internet censorship

Dr. Hwang Ji-Jen is a visiting fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). He can be reached for comment at

Cyber-Nationalism  b  9

mentioned above is seen as a monumental step towards his goal. Such Internet controls may be a means to eliminate any possible expression of cyber nationalism against the government. Cyber nationalism refers to a nationalism complex unleashed and communicated via electronic media such as emails, websites, instant messages, SMS, and mobile devices. It also can be employed in cyberspace to mobilise people and disseminate information on political issues.

Expanding exponentially According to the latest report of China’s Internet Network Information Center (CINIC), by the end of 2014, Chinese netizens numbered 649 million—up nearly 100 million from just two years prior. However, the Chinese Internet user population is still only about 47.9 percent of China’s total population. The scale of cyberspace itself has also expanded exponentially: the number of distributed TCP/IP addresses in China reached 332 million in 2014, according to the CINIC. With the present growth rate of the Internet’s accessibility and scale, it is believed that China will soon become the world’s most networked nation. Like other countries, China’s cyberspace has been utilized for various purposes of national develop-

ment to create a national information infrastructure which includes banking systems, public transportation, resource supply chains, telecommunication, and government administration. China is by no means unique in this, however such online platforms can also be used to mount upsurges of popular opinion, especially when nationalistic sentiment has been indoctrinated among the massive Chinese populace from one generation to the next. The indoctrinated nationalism of the masses, coupled with the ease and speed of circulating political information due to the features of cyberspace (namely permeability, anonymity, and transcendence of territory) may allow for the new formation of nationalism in the case of certain political triggers. Such triggers can be set off not only by the Chinese government but also by the people themselves. China’s cyber nationalism is likely to be manifested in two forms: internal and external. The Deng Yujiao Incident of May 10, 2009 is a significant example of internal online nationalism. The incident that sparked online outrage involved a 21-year-old pedicurist who, in defending herself against attempted rape at the hands of the director of the local township business promotions office, stabbed her assailant to death and was charged with homicide and held without bail.

photo: Wikmedia Commons A view of the National Security Operations Center at NSA. Such operations will take on increasing importance as cyber threats continue to grow.


The details of the incident spread nationwide via cyberspace, and netizens decried the government’s treatment of Deng, with some even setting up websites to support her. Incidents such as these make the Chinese government truly aware of the power concentrated in the hands of netizens. An example of the external type of cyber nationalism is the response to an attack on a Chinese ship in the Mekong River on the border of Burma and Thailand on October 5, 2011, which resulted in the murder of 13 Chinese crew members. The incident set into motion a wave of cyber nationalism as the news spread rapidly in cyberspace. Chinese netizens strongly urged the government to get involved in the international investigation of the incident. In addition, in the words of one online commentator, “This incident may represent contempt and derision of China due to her weakness for a long time.” This illustrates how cyberspace offers a perfect medium for Chinese nationalism to be unleashed, facilitating the phenomenon of online nationalism.

From oppression to indoctrination China’s massive population presents a challenge for the government which seeks to discipline the people in order to avoid massive popular backlash by netizens. In other words, in addition to Internet control and censorship, in the modern era, it is vital for the government to make a smooth transition from oppressing popular social movements to indoctrinating people through educational initiatives. China’s new cyber nationalism can be compared to the concept, coined by Mao Zedong, of People’s War: a strategic concept formulated to oppose the enemy during the Chinese Civil War, which then became a general doctrine of mobilizing the massive Chinese population to achieve a political goal and to defeat a militarily superior opponent. Whether it is seen as a negative or positive phenom-

enon, China’s nationalism is likely to have a strong global impact due to China’s huge population and its emphasis on patriotic education. Two questions should be raised when exploring the factors driving nationalism in the modern Chinese era. First, how can the People’s Republic of China (PRC) mobilize

“One of the fundamental ideas of the People’s War is to mobilize the populace against Western imperialism.” the Chinese people to develop enough power to defeat or oppose external enemies? Second, how can the government discipline the massive Chinese populace in order to guarantee that expressions of nationalism are properly controlled and consistent with the government’s political needs? To answer these questions, certain measures employed by the PRC, such as patriotic education, ideological cultivation, and Internet control and monitoring should be examined. A patriotic/ideological education has been delivered to the people of China through various systems. It is a compulsory element of China’s education system to formulate a unique political ideology, which is distinct from general citizenship education. For instance, evidence suggests that the Chinese State Council has officially proclaimed that the guidelines of patriotic education should be assimilated into university curricula in order to progressively inculcate students with the proper ideology. On the other hand, there are Internet commentators, also known as the 50 Cent Party, hired and instructed by the Chinese government to post on message boards and online comment sections comments that are favorable to the Chinese Communist Party. Their name is a reflection of their payment for each post. China is enjoying the fruits of Western capitalism. On the other hand, apologists for China claim that the Beijing government cannot eliminate virulent nationalism due to the country’s historical humiliation,

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photo: US PACOM The John C. Stennis Strike Group sails in the Pacific. Advanced cyber-warfare could potentially pose a threat to the US fleet in a time of conflict.

allegedly at the hands of Western imperialists. Thus, one of the fundamental ideas of the People’s War is to mobilize the populace against the West, from one generation to the next, and to harness this hatred to support an ideological resistance toward a political purpose. That is to say, the concept can be shifted from a government revolution in the Chinese Civil War and employed in an all-out battle at the national level. This may also include not only military aspects, but also political, economic, and cultural struggles.

National character The People’s War is also driven by certain enduring attributes of the Chinese national character, which can be regarded as one of the major reasons for the long persistence of the concept of People’s War. It is likely that the “century of humiliation” and the long period of poverty and weakness that characterized the Chinese state during the latter period of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) have become a feature of the national character. Therefore, despite the fact that the PRC claims to be undergoing a peaceful rise, the Chinese national character determines that China will inevitably compete tooth and nail with US predominance in the Asia-Pacific region, in an attempt

to, at least symbolically, redress past humiliations. The “century of humiliation” has gained prominence in Beijing’s narrative of Chinese history, serving as an indispensible tool to cement nationalist sentiments. The mobilization on which the People’s War places emphasis is driven by enthusiasm for this nationalism. Though the concept of People’s War is a conventional strategy, cyberspace offers a perfect arena for this concept to be ported into a broader arena not confined by national borders. Thus, the notion of People’s War has been transformed from a principle of fighting on the conventional battlefield to a modern strategic concept used to harness support for large-scale activity in cyberspace. As a result, Internet control and monitoring in China is not necessarily solely employed for political purposes to prevent the Chinese people from accessing sensitive political information and to suppress opposition, but it is also being employed as a supplement to more conventional education and indoctrination efforts aimed at mobilizing the Chinese people through promotion of Chinese nationalism. Fortunately, cyber nationalism can be employed not only by the Chinese government for external political purposes, but also by the Chinese people themselves for internal purposes. n

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Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 21 (June, 2015)

Active Offense

China’s white paper signals global ambitions for People’s Liberation Army Hon-min Yau


n 26 May, 2015 the People’s Republic of China (PRC) released its ninth defense white paper. While the United States Department of Defense just released its annual report to the Congress concerning the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) military development on 8 May, 2015, China’s latest defense report, “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2015” quickly drew attention from security and military observers around the world since it offered a response to the validity of the US annual assessment. This comes at a troubled time in Sino-US relations, with a US Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) having been jammed by China around

the South China Sea, according to a 22 May, 2015, report in the Washington Free Beacon. China is also continuing to build islands in the South China Sea despite strong criticism from the United States and countries in the Asia-Pacific region. On 20 May, 2015, a US P-8 even received eight warnings from a Chinese military while operating over the Spratly Islands, it was reported by CNN. Obviously the US insisted that the P-8 aircraft was flying close to a “man-made island” which does not enjoy the 12-nautical mile territorial waters accorded by international law to actual islands. Hence, the timing of the release of this report seems to cause more speculation than interpretation. Moreover, since this Defense

photo: US DOD The Chinese destroyer Haikuo enters Pearl Harbor during RIMPAC 2014. Multinational exercises such as this help foster shared visions of security.

Lieutenant Colonel Hon-min Yau is from ROC National Defense University, and he can be reached for comment at

PLA White Paper  b  13

photo: Pyoung Yi US and Chinese military personnel work together to transport ‘wounded’ soldiers to the USS Mercy hospital ship during exercise RIMPAC 2014.

White paper is the first proclamation of China’s military strategy at this level of official publication, a careful investigation of this document may be able to enhance understanding of the PLA’s view of the future security environment.

Complex Relations This report is the second thematic defense white paper after “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces” came out in 2013. Although the Western-style practice of issuing white papers normally focuses on enhancing military transparency and providing information to guide defense planning, China’s white paper instead is more like a justification of its future intentions. The whole report contains around 9,000 Chinese characters and is the shortest defense white paper in China’s history. It has been translated into eight languages and is divided into six sections. This white paper is unique because it describes what China plans to do, but does not talk about what was done according to the format of past reports. The white paper starts by discussing the realization

of the “Chinese Dream” and “Great National rejuvenation,” and talks about the strategic opportunity for China’s development. It also describes the security environment by emphasizing the US rebalancing strategy, maritime territorial disputes, and safeguarding of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC). It describes its military mission and so-called “Active Defense” strategic posture. It also talks about the operational needs of the major divisions of the military branches. Special focus is given to the section on “Preparing for Military Struggle,” and concludes with the confident and strong power image in the future of military and security cooperation. So what is considered new in the white paper by most commentators? Patrick Cronin, from the US Center for a New American Security, called the white paper “a blueprint for achieving slow motion regional hegemony.” Dr. Richard Weitz from the US Hudson Institute believes China’s latest white paper confirm the US assessment in the 2015 annual report to Congress, and that this will propel China to greatpower status in a few decades. Although the PLA is an army-dominated military organization, as its four


photo: Linda Kosayrn A People’s Liberation Army honor guard performs for the public in Beijing. China’s military is enjoying a higher profile at home and abroad.

general departments and seven military regions are highly populated by Army personnel, this report instead puts more emphasis on developing China’s operational capabilities in the air, at sea, in space, and in cyberspace. The substantial part is especially given to articulating the need for the PLA Navy’s (PLAN) transformation from offshore defense to open sea protection. As indicated in the white paper: “Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant closein air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China,” the white paper clearly expresses China’s determination in safeguarding its interests, not only on the mainland, but beyond. This move is commonly understood as a way of counterbalancing the US pivot to Asia, Japan’s reform of its defense guidelines, and the territorial intentions of the other claimants in the East and South China seas. What is not so new, but noteworthy in the report, is that it continues to employ confrontational terms in reference to three states, the United States, Japan, and—not surprisingly—Taiwan. It is clear that the report is intended as a means to project red lines re-

garding China’s positions in East Asia. These positions need to be clear to the United States and Japan, as they are lately the actors in the region that are the most influential and least likely to be bullied. Furthermore, with the approach of Taiwan’s presidential election next year, the report is intended to influence the island’s political parties’ campaign positions and to coerce the decision of the people of Taiwan. Secondly, the report emphasizes China’s defensive posture and that it is taking an active defense strategy. However, such descriptions contradict with the PLAN’s expansion at sea and PLA Air Force’s (PLAAF’s) force projection as specified in the report. These descriptions are ambiguous, as usual, but full of implications. It is clearly intended as a policy instrument to justify China’s desire for global reach. On 27 May, 2015, PLA Senior Col. Yang Yujun stated at a news conference that, on the subject of a hypothetical conflict between China and the United States in the South China Sea, “For a long time, the US military has been conducting close-in surveillance of China and the Chinese military has been making such necessary, legal, and professional responses—

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why did this story suddenly pop up in the past weeks? Has the South China Sea shrunk?” Colonel Yang believes this is due to the increase in US reconnaissance activity and because some people are intentionally hyping the issue. However, China’s growing activity has certainly played a role in such incidents. China today is becoming bigger and more powerful, and its South China Sea skirmishes with other countries are the outcome of such new ways of interacting. While China recognizes the need to secure its extended list of interests, it must improve its shortcomings to support such need. Hence, what can we further see from this report?

Statement of interests First, the white paper may not demonstrate any transparency of the Chinese military, but it does demonstrate China’s confidence in confronting regional escalation. In 2014 alone, China ranked second in defense spending in the world after the United States, and China is not hesitating to convey its interests explicitly. Given the timing of the release, it seems that China is also not worried about further provocations. While the report targets domestic audiences to foster support for national rejuvenation, China is also asking the international community to confirm its status as a great power. Today, China’s military power is not only serving the purpose of national survival, but rather as support for the rise of a great nation. Domestically, this maintains the legitimacy of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, and internationally this is to justify the expansion of its military forces. Secondly, this report provides the latest interpretation of China’s “Active Defense” concept, which originated from the time of Mao Zedong. However, the meaning of “Active Defense” has transformed as China’s appetites have grown larger. Mao’s original concept of active defense emphasized the need to

use active attack as a means of “survival” when facing a superior adversary. As indicated in the white paper, “At this new historical starting point, China’s armed forces will ... build a strong military for the new situation.” Today China faces very few superior adversaries in the region, and concern for national survival is insignificant. Its “Active Defense” strategy is mere rhetoric to justify its use of force in safeguarding its regional

“The sustained control of airspace over the South China Sea cannot only rely on the construction of new airstrips and surveillance facilities in the Spratly Islands.” interests. These interests are more than China’s survival, and China’s framing of passively reacting to developments in the East and South China seas, as indicated by the US 2015 annual report to Congress, are clear examples of such expansions of its meaning. Third, to fulfill China’s so-called “Active Defense” strategy, China needs to give its military new missions to accommodate the new security situation. Hence, the report demonstrates China’s judgment of the “means” in the preparations for the future military struggle, to the “end” of securing its broader interests. On one hand, China recognizes the scale of future conflicts in the form of limited war due to the potential for clashes in the area over the territorial disputes and the desire to annex Taiwan. On the other hand, China is emphasizing the need for force projection, informationized military, precision strikes and integrated operational capabilities. These notions reflect that China’s interest is not on the Asian continent, but extends well beyond its borders. Reflecting this interest, China has also beefed up its military muscle in other areas. The establishment of the East China Sea ADIZ in 2013 demonstrates China’s will in safeguarding its expanding interests.


As China increasingly turns its attention to the South China Sea, it will need to enhance its intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance capabilities because the area extends well beyond the area which China can cover from its coastal surveillance system. In April 2015, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris commented, in a speech in Australia, that “China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months [in the South China Sea].” However, the sustained control of airspace over the South China Sea cannot only rely on the construction of new airstrips and surveillance facilities in the Spratly Islands to maintain a constant watch. The modernization of its air and naval force is also part of its force-projection buildup to effectively control this vast area. This move is also a clear indication that China is determined to shift from a traditional land power to a more globally oriented posture. It may only be a matter of time before China declares an ADIZ over the South China Sea. It is important that people focus on the end goal which this activity will produce.

On 20 May, 2015, US Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the US Naval Academy Graduation Ceremony and stated that the situation in Asia is running high and that the majority of graduates will be deployed to the Asia-Pacific in the future. This outlook was echoed by China’s latest defense white paper which specifically focuses on the expansion of military capabilities, other than ground forces, to support its interests. In facing this development, Taiwan’s geographical location inevitably puts it in the middle of this power struggle. How should decision makers in Taipei view the situation?

The view from Taiwan First, the white paper delineates China’s shift of focus from land to sea, and it explains how its means (strategy) can meet its end (interests). However, what is Taiwan’s means to its security under the expanding influence of China’s military power? Traditionally, Taiwan’s security has benefited from the PLA’s inability to project power, the geographic advantage of

photo: US DOD Sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan speak with members of the Chinese media. Port visits such as this help to increase mutually positive perceptions.

PLA White Paper  b  17

photo: ROC DND ROC soldiers take part in a training exercise. Substantial reforms are needed if Taiwan is going to be properly defended against China’s military buildup.

the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s military superiority, and the specter of possible US intervention. As China establishes a capable force-projection ability, Taiwan is already falling behind in terms of technological superiority. Some substantial reforms are needed to defend the island given China’s increasing military strength. Developing advanced anti-air/ship missiles, stealth and unmanned combat vehicles, short takeoff and landing (STOL) platforms, and self-sustained military technology may help ensure Taiwan’s survival under an inevitable Chinese anti-access area denial (A2/AD) operational environment in the future. Second, among China’s 2.3 million active-duty personnel, PLAN and PLAAF make up 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively, of the total force. China is still in the process of moving beyond the mindset of service competition and is emphasizing the need to strengthen air and naval forces. As indicated in the US 2015 annual report to Congress: “Taiwan military spending has dropped to approximately 2 percent of GDP,” this certainly provides a benchmark for Taiwan to understand its defense capability; but adding more spending will not necessarily do any good in the current cross-strait situation. Taiwan does not want to follow the tragedy of the security dilemma, and does not have the extra capital for unnecessary military

build-up. What we need to learn from China is how to develop an objective and holistic assessment of our own force structure, without interference from each service branch competing for resources. This would go a long way to help ensure the sustainability of Taiwan’s military operation during war time. Sufficient spending and good management are always better than more spending. Finally, China is 274-times bigger than Taiwan in terms of territory, and it is 58-times more populous. Its military expenditures in 2014 were 13 times higher. A frank assessment would suggest that pure material military power alone is not sufficient to guarantee Taiwan’s survival. Since strategy is a means to an end, China’s military strategy is a reflection of the end it wants, but today the end of this strategy is not only about the survival of the nation, but more about the survival of the CCP—and more specifically, the CCP’s legitimacy. Taiwan needs to play its role as a good example of a democratic society, especially since crossstrait exchanges are becoming more frequent. This can help show Chinese visitors the value of democracy and the advantages of a free society. This is truly a type of asymmetric strategy that Taiwan can rely on. Such an example can potentially undermine the legitimacy of CCP and reduce enmity in the region. n

18  b 

Developing Roles Taiwan’s navy charts a new course with the addition of its newest ship Michal Thim


hat are the most important warships of the World nations’ respective navies? A single nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the US Navy boasts greater firepower than most national air forces, and the combined strength of a carrier and other warships assigned to protect it present force to be reckoned with. China, too, has been acquiring modern combat vessels, including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s latest generation of guided missile destroyers, the Type 052D. As for Republic of China Navy (ROCN) protecting Taiwan, the leading ships of the ROCN’s Surface

Action Groups (SAG) are Keelung-class (ex-USS Kidd-class) destroyers, originally built for the prerevolution Iranian Navy and transferred to Taiwan in 2005-2006. If not the Keelung-class destroyer then maybe the French-built Lafayette-class frigates would be considered the most important (or most modern) assets of the navy. Some would perhaps single out the new stealthy fast missile corvettes of the Tuo Jiang class, that do not impress much in terms of total displacement, but pack a formidable punch with 16 anti-ship missiles on board. However, what if we rephrase that question and ask

photo: ROC DND With the addition of the Panshih, Taiwan’s navy will be able to sustain operations further from its shores, allowing it to contribute to regional security.

Michal Thim is is a postgraduate research student in the Taiwan Studies Program at the China Policy Institute (CPI), University of Nottingham and a Research Fellow at the Prague-based think-tank Association for International Affairs. Michal tweets @michalthim.

AOE 532 Panshih  b  19

instead what are the most indispensable warships— the most useful ones? There is not an easy answer to that question either, however, as it encourages a focus on more than impressive weaponry and sleek design. Perhaps, then, a whole different class of ships will catch our attention: combat support ships or replenishment ships, to put it in more general terms. Combat support ships (known by the acronym AOE used by the US Navy) along with other types of replenishment ships usually do not get the same amount of attention that major combat ships do. However, they are absolutely critical for keeping a fleet on the open sea, especially under combat conditions when replenishment in port may be restricted. This is why the US Navy keeps a large fleet of replenishment ships, and why China is expanding its own. Until January 2015, the ROCN had one such vessel in its inventory: the AOE 530 Wuyi. Since the beginning of this year, the ROCN’s ability for replenishment underway have greatly expanded.

is indeed equipped modestly, mostly for defensive purposes. Based on various reports, it appears that Taiwan’s new AOE has two 40mm cannons, two 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS) and, strangely enough, an antiquated short-range air-defense system Sea Chaparral (based on the AIM9 Sidewinder), whose efficiency in combat is questionable (the model of the Panshih suggested that

“Keeping the ROCN surface fleet operational would in turn enable it to conduct anti-blockade operations.”

The new, locally-built (by Kaohsiung-based CSBS Corporation) fast combat support ship the AOE 532 Panshih officially entered ROCN service for initial sea trials on January 23, 2015. The basic characteristics of the new vessel speak to its size and utility. The Panshih is 196 meters long with a full load displacement of 20,800 tons, and a light displacement of around 10,000 tons. For comparison, the ROCN’s biggest warships, the Keelung-class destroyers, are 172m long and have a full displacement of 9,783 tons.

the front deck would have a 76mm multi-purpose canon that can be used against incoming aircraft and missiles). In addition, Taiwan’s new combat support ship does not only carry vital supplies for ROCN warships but its hangar is also able to accommodate two SH-60 (S-70) Seahawk or CH-47D helicopters. Now that the ROCN has its new combat support ship, what use could it possibly find for it? With two AOEs in its inventory, the ROCN can conduct missions far from its shores without significantly jeopardizing homeland defense. Such missions could include anti-piracy patrols around the Horn of Africa, in line with the broader international effort to weed out threats to commercial shipping—something that is a matter of crucial interest to Taiwan, with its export-oriented economy. Other options include support for friendly port visits or participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises. For example, the participation of the Panshih in the biannual RIMPAC exercise could be less controversial than sending de-

Considering the ship’s displacement and purpose, its maximum speed can reach an impressive 22 knots (40 kph). Perhaps more important is its range, which can reach 8,000 nautical miles (over 14,000 km). In executing its main duties, the Panshih is able to replenish two ships at the same time. In terms of onboard weapons systems, the Panshih

stroyers or frigates. During wartime, both AOEs would present crucial capabilities to sustain ROCN operations under conditions where replenishment in home bases would become impossible due to PLA missile strikes and blockade efforts. Keeping the ROCN surface fleet operational would in turn enable it to conduct anti-

Strategic drivers


photo: Josh Petrosino MH-60S Seahawk helicopters conduct underway replenishment from the supply ship USNS Arctic in support of operations in the Middle East.

blockade operations, including providing escort for vital supplies. Granted, the ROCN would still have to operate in an extremely hostile environment, likely forcing the bulk of the fleet to operate east off Taiwan. The crucial question is where the AOEs themselves would replenish, once their supplies run out.

Medical facilities These are all important tasks for the new (as well as the old) AOE. Nevertheless, the versatility of the new vessel could materialize under conditions other than participation in broad international anti-piracy efforts (the politics that could prevent that is wellknown) or wartime operations. Apart from the capability to sustain warship operations without need of resupply in home ports, the Panshih is also equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities, including an operating room, an isolation ward, and three regular wards. That makes the Panshih well-equipped for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR)

operations. This is an important capability considering how prone Taiwan’s immediate neighborhood is to various kinds of natural disasters: earthquakes and typhoons (and the resulting floods and landslides) being the most common. Taiwan has not been a shy actor in offering and providing humanitarian assistance and disaster re-

“The Panshih is a great platform from which both search-and-rescue teams and medical teams can operate independently in a disaster area.” lief. For example, in January 2010 Taiwan sent rescue teams to Haiti, and its military C-130s conducted a record-breaking flight with much needed supplies on board. In March 2011, in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, Taiwan again sent rescue teams and released significant financial aid to Japan. In November and December 2013, Taiwan again was among the first responders to typhoon-

AOE 532 Panshih  b  21

struck Philippines. Efforts at the governmental level dovetail well with private relief efforts, as time and again the will of the Taiwanese public to help people in need has been demonstrated. Taiwan’s already significant monetary and material contribution to Japan in 2011 was given a boost via various activities ranging from individual donations to organized efforts at the NGO level.

HADR support The Panshih has a great utility to enhance Taiwan’s government HADR efforts, which are greatly supported by the public’s own efforts and the activities of priphoto: Wikimedia Commons vate aid groups like the Buddhist A Navy officer aboard the USS McCain provides a tour of the bridge to visiting Vietnamese officers. Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation. After all, using military capabilities for United States (US$20 million), Japan (US$10 million, HADR is already a well-established pattern globally. later increased via various assistance mechanisms), During relief operations in the Philippines following Australia (US$28 million) or even Taiwan (US$12 the disastrous typhoon Haiyan that caused massive million). This is not to suggest that HADR activities landslides, the United States, Japan, and China were should serve as part of some cynical calculation in among the nations that sent elements of their naval pursuit of bettering one’s national image. power to provide assistance. US relief efforts were assisted by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier Creating good will battle group and a detachment of 12 MV-22 Ospreys along with US Marines. Japan, too, dispatched warNevertheless, being an active supporter of HADR ships and troops to a disaster area, and Beijing oractivities and strengthening the capacity to help with dered its hospital ship Peace Ark to be deployed to rapid response allowing for a physical presence in the Philippines. an affected area creates good will on all levels of reIn contrast, Beijing did not do itself much serlations, from the person-to-person to the governvice in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan when it was mental. After Taiwan was shown to have been the criticized for its sluggish response, initially releasing largest donor (government and private financial aid US$1.4 million worth of relief supplies, an amount combined) to Japan in 2011, Japanese citizens have that paled in comparison with donations from the not missed a chance to express their gratitude, and


Japan’s government later defied the expected angry reaction from Beijing when it invited Taiwan to be represented on an equal footing with other nations to a commemorative event in March 2013. Financial and material aid is well complemented by having the capability to put boots on the ground, and the Panshih is a great platform from which both searchand-rescue teams and medical teams can operate independently in a disaster area.

Boosting capabilities Taiwan is an active and significant contributor to HADR efforts. By including the Panshih in its fleet, the ROCN has significantly boosted its capability to be an active element in rapid response in a region that is plagued by frequent emergence of typhoons and earthquakes. Granted, politics might always prevent Taiwan from fully utilizing its potential. A neighbor-

ing nation that just suffered a disastrous calamity may feel hesitant to accept assistance presented by ROCN warship deployment, succumbing to likely pressure from Beijing. However, it is as likely that politics will give way to immediate need, and Beijing would be hard-pressed not to openly oppose Taiwan’s participation. Unfortunately, recent events suggest this latter is an unlikely scenario, as the disaster this April in Nepal illustrated, when when China allegedly pressured the government in Kathmandu to refuse entry to a Taiwanese rescue team after Nepal experienced an extraordinarily deadly and destructive earthquake. Whatever way future events go, the Panshih’s presence in the fleet should not be judged only against its role as a support ship for combat operations during wartime. However important such missions are, the first deployment of the Panshih is more likely to be much more benign, and much more appreciated on the receiving end. n

photo: Larry M. Franconia The Argentine supply ship ASA Patagonia participates in naval exercises during RIMPAC. Such ships are vital to keeping the fleet operational.

b  23

Strategic Vision vol. 4, no. 21 (June, 2015)

Automating Taiping Posting unmanned assets in South China Sea would increase Taipei’s options Tobias Burgers


he South China sea is one of the defining conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region, and the island disputes centered there have only been growing in intensity. As a result, the Republic of China (ROC) government and armed forces have, in recent years, sought to become more actively involved in the issue. At the diplomatic level, there have been various attempts to mediate in the conflicts through such proposals as peace initiatives. At the military level, there has been an effort to enhance operational capabilities and exert control over the islands under ROC jurisdiction. One way in which Taipei could help safeguard its interests, without significantly raising regional tensions, would be to rely more on unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the region. According to recent reports, efforts are underway to expand the naval and air facilities on Taiping island. Facilities on this island—the sole Spratly island under ROC government control—are currently being upgraded, modernized, and expanded. The construction work has primarily focused on improving port facilities and improving the runway in order to make the island suitable for a permanent military presence beyond the current detachment of ROC Coast

Navy frigates. Furthermore, the foreseen improvement of the runway would enable the deployment of P-3 Orion maritime patrol planes on the island. The deployment of these vessels and planes serves foremost the purpose of enhancing the ROC armed forces and coast guard’s capabilities to effectively patrol, guard and defend the island and its surrounding seas and better react to and counter against enemy incursion attempts. Given the recent increase in political tension in the South China Sea, upgrading the existing facilities seems a logical and much-needed step in order to protect ROC sovereignty. However, the ROC government should consider deploying unmanned systems on and around the island. Rather than solely focusing on conventional systems, it should research the feasibility of stationing USVs and UAVs on and around Taiping. The deployment of these unmanned systems could offer three distinct advantages beyond what conventional systems could provide.

Guard personnel. The new construction would allow for an expansion of military capabilities beyond the current static capabilities and foresees the permanent deployment of ROC Coast Guard cutters and

UAVs have endurance capabilities which remain unmatched by manned aircraft and are known to excel in the dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks which they are tasked with performing. Now the South China Sea

Endurance From an operational perspective, US-made UAVs have the foremost endurance capabilities. Current

Tobias Burgers is doctoral candidate at the Otto-Suhr-Institute of the Free University Berlin, he also conducts research for CRISP Berlin on conflict simulations. He can be reached at


photo: Gary Keen US Navy personnel test the Seafox mine disposal unmanned underwater vehicle. Systems such as this could greatly reduce a grave threat to vessels.

is far from dirty, and not too dangerous, but patrolling its vast waters is surely a dull task. These tasks are ideally suited to UAV systems—tasks at which they will, in the future, excel further as next generation UAVs increase their endurance. Furthermore, in the future, USV systems will be able to perform such tasks even better than they do now. Unconstrained by human limitations, USVs could possibly patrol the sea (on preplanned patrols) for weeks, or even months, at a time.

Cost savings Unmanned system deployments should also be considered due to their favorable economic requirements. The operating cost of these systems is considerably lower than their manned counterparts. UAVs have already demonstrated their economic advantage over the last decade. As the robotics revolution in military

affairs will only further develop in the coming years, the foreseen development and operational cost of UAVs will decrease further—much like any industrial or technological revolution. However, the greatest economic advantage could be achieved if the Taiwan military actively sought to deploy USVs or possibly even Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). It would be through these systems—which could be considerably smaller in size—that a real cost advantage could be achieved. Any manned vessel, from patrol boats to frigates, would easily require somewhere between 15 and 35 crewmembers. Although a USV requires personnel to operate it, the requirements are nowhere near the number required by manned vessels. Given Taiwan’s limited defense budget, the economic advantage of unmanned systems should strongly be kept in consideration when making future deployment plans in the South China Sea. The important advantage of USVs centers around

Automating Taiping  b  25

the simple fact they are unmanned. This has two major benefits. First, the absence of human operators would be less politically and diplomatically controversial than operating a fleet of frigates, cutters or airplanes. A manned deployment could lead to a scenario of escalation in which other countries—China, the Philippines, Vietnam—would likewise seek to increase their manned systems with the possibility of a vicious destabilizing situation quite likely. Secondly, the direct absence of human operators would also limit the likelihood of mistakes.

USV operator would hardly feel physically threatened in a tense situation and could more calmly respond to tense and complicated situations, thereby decreasing the risks of mistakes made in the heat of battle. In theory, these arguments seem to favor the deployment of unmanned systems as opposed to manned vessels and aircraft. However, history is full of theo-

“The deployment of unmanned systems could give the armed forces much needed opportunity for acquring operational experience.”

Less risk The Guang Da Xing No-28 incident serves as a clear reminder of how, in tense situations, rationality and rules of engagement do not always prevail. With no human directly on board or present, the likelihood of failure would be severely limited. After all, a UAV or

retical concepts that sounded amazing on paper, but quickly ended as just that—an impressive sounding story lost to the dusty corners of history. As such it is important to understand how feasible the technical aspects of such a deployment would be. Clearly, facilities such as the ones currently constructed on

photo: Aaron Jensen Taiwan’s defense industry is well equipped to supply ROC armed forces with advanced UAVs such as this one, on display at the Taipei Aerospace Exhibition.


photo: Joseph M Buliavac US Navy personnel prepare to launch a UAV from the deck of the USS Comstock. UAVs are becoming a regular component of US military operations.

the island would be needed and the ROC government, armed forces and Coast Guard would need the necessary capabilities to actually develop and deploy unmanned systems. A brief look at recent developments seems to suggest that the unmanned concept could become a reality and not just a nice idea. The unmanned revolution in military affairs actually arrived in Taiwan a few years ago and is making headway as the ROC military is increasingly adept at integrating UAVs, and in the near future, UCAVs in their air missions. Furthermore, developments indicate that Taiwan is not only actively pursuing the development of next-generation UAVs, but is likewise developing Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). As such it seems that, from a technical point of view, it is possible to actually acquire the needed capabilities and systems in the coming years and to subsequently undertake a further study on the feasibility and utility of stationing unmanned systems on Taiping island. Unmanned systems could give Taiwan the much-needed advan-

tage to better patrol the waters surrounding the island and enhance its claim in the South China Sea, and to remain an active player in this increasingly heated conflict. Furthermore, the deployment of unmanned systems could give the armed forces a much-needed opportunity for acquiring operational experience in using unmanned systems. As such, Taiwan’s defense community should further study the concept of unmanned systems in the South China Sea. However, if unmanned systems would be deployed, the Taiwanese government should seek to ensure that the systems would not be weaponized. The conflict in the South China Sea is heating up and enough water cannon battles have been fought in recent years that the last thing the region needs is the introduction of more armed systems. Such a development would only increase the likelihood of miscalculation. The South China Sea is primarily a political conflict, and a profound presence is needed by the ROC government to bolster its claims, but the solution to the conflict should still be political. n


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Strategic Vision, Issue 21  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Strategic Vision, Issue 21  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

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