The Strategic Environment

Chinese Tactics > PART ONE: People’s Liberation Army Forces > Chapter 1: People’s Liberation Army Fundamentals > The Strategic Environment

1-1. China’s view of the strategic environment mirrors that of the United States in many ways. There are, however, key differences in both analysis of the strategic environment and the application of this analysis that underpin important differences in perspective between the two countries. Both the People’s Republic of China—commonly referred to as China—and the United States assess the key elements of the strategic environment discussed in paragraphs 1-2 through 1-9. 

1-2. U.S. obligations to allies and partners in the Western Pacific will continue in perpetuity. Key U.S. allies include Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. The United States will likewise maintain a strong strategic interest in the Western Pacific. 

1-3. The United States will maintain strong, though unofficial, support to the Republic of China— also known as Taiwan. The former will employ a policy of deliberate ambiguity to deter potential Chinese aggression against the island while maintaining a position respectful of Chinese policy toward the same. 

1-4. China will continue to seek improved relations with Russia and India, with Russia likely proving a more amenable partner. China views improving these two relationships—particularly with Russia—as very important both politically and economically. Border tensions with India complicate bilateral relations and are often perceived by India as aggressive, requiring strong responses and adjustments to its defense posture.

1-5. Increasing competition for limited resources and the effects of global climate change will fuel conflict among both state and non-state actors. As populations increase, providing adequate quantities of basic necessities such as water, energy, food, and medical care becomes increasingly difficult. In addition, competition for human capital and raw materials for industry will increase as the international economy expands. Conditions such as natural disasters, extreme weather events, and their second- and third-order effects will have considerable impacts across the globe and will significantly influence political and military strategies worldwide. The global commons—the earth’s unowned natural resources, such as the oceans, the atmosphere, and space—will be increasingly important to the global economy and will thus likely become contested. The PLA characterizes many tasks related to these conditions under the heading of nontraditional security measures or military operations other than war

1-6. As the global economy and disparate societies become increasingly interconnected, friction points continue to emerge. State and non-state actors are already using widely proliferated but immature technologies—such as social networking— worldwide to influence populations, politics, and policy. Actors will continue to leverage emerging connections to manipulate public opinion and influence leaders; the digital world will become an increasingly important front to contest. As national economies continue to intertwine themselves, competition for jobs, natural and manmade resources, and new or emerging markets will continue to intensify. 

1-7. Technological advances will continue to enhance the lethality of capabilities across all domains. Soldiers at all echelons on the future battlefield will face unprecedented dangers as both new and proven technologies are integrated into warfighting. For example, precision munitions will continue to proliferate and become increasingly affordable as technology costs drop. At the same time, limited defense budgets coupled with the high expense and relative rarity of modern weapons systems—particularly aircraft, surface ships, and missiles of all types—will heavily influence future major combat scenarios. 

1-8. China faces both nontraditional and hybrid threats. Such threats include criminal organizations, terrorist organizations, and fringe or rogue states. These threats effectively exploit complex terrain, such as dense urban and cyber environments, and are not necessarily constrained by international law or protocols regulating conflict. 

Note. The chapters and appendixes of this publication address topics from the Chinese perspective. As such, the terms friendly refers to Chinese units or the units of Chinese allies. Enemy refers to units opposing China or its military. This may be a belligerent force or element within China, or an external actor. Parties are neutral regarding China. Threat uses the standard dictionary definition as opposed to that of U.S. doctrine. An opponent may be against either the U.S. or China, with context determining the correct interpretation. 

1-9. Four strategic trends will influence future Chinese operations. These trends are population growth, urbanization, population growth along major bodies of water, and human connectedness and interrelations. 

Note. Chinese concepts and doctrinal phrases contained in this document are used in accordance with PLA definitions as provided by the translation of Army Combined Tactics under Conditions of Informationization and Infantry Unit Tactics. Some of these concepts and phrases may mirror the names of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Army terms. In such cases, the U.S. term is being referenced only if the name appears in italics.


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