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Facts

and Arguments regarding Chinas Military


Thomas Mahnken, 19 December 2011
< hNp://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/12/19/facts_and_arguments_regarding_china_s_military >

Late last month, the front page of the Washington Post contained the kind of story that I, as a professional educator, like to see. The piece discussed the work of Georgetown University's Asian Arms Control Project. Specically, it chronicled the laborious eort of a couple dozen Georgetown graduate students to uncover, over the course of years, China's "underground great wall," a network of thousands of kilometers of underground tunnels constructed by the People's LiberaJon Army Second ArJllery Corps - the same branch of the Chinese military that controls Beijing's nuclear and convenJonal ballisJc missiles. The students have amassed a lot of evidence, including some eye- catching pictures, of China's tunnel system. The Georgetown project demonstrates the value of open-source basic research on the Chinese military. Unlike the Soviet Union, which closely guarded even the most mundane bits of informaJon, China publishes quite a lot on its military, including voluminous informaJon on its underground tunneling program. The problem is that, unJl the Georgetown students began to document the program, few in the United States paid much aNenJon to the fact that China has poured massive amounts of resources into underground faciliJes over the course of decades. Indeed, it was not unJl this year's ediJon of the Pentagon's Congressionally mandated report on Chinese military power that China's tunneling program received ocial acknowledgement. China's tunneling program is of more than academic interest, however. It raises legiJmate quesJons about the ability of the United States to verify the scope of Chinese military modernizaJon, including the size of China's missile force and its nuclear arsenal.It is that inconvenient fact that has drawn the ire of the arms control community. Over the past month, arms controllers, including the Union of Concerned ScienJsts and the blog Arms Control Wonk have launched a series of vitriolic aNacks on the Georgetown students; their professor, Phillip Karber; and that staunch member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, the Washington Post, which had the temerity to report on the students' eorts. The Post's Ombudsman summarized the aNacks - and stood by

the paper's original story - yesterday. If this were an isolated event, I wouldn't give it too much aNenJon. Unfortunately, it appears to part of an emerging paNern that indicates that the debate over China's military modernizaJon is entering a new phase. Over the past few months, I've been peripherally involved in an academic controversy that oers both similariJes and contrasts to the contretemps between Georgetown and the arms control community. The latest issue of The Journal of Strategic Studies (which I help edit), contains "Space: China's TacJcal FronJer," an arJcle by Eric Hagt and MaNhew Durnin, that documents China's growing military space program and explores its implicaJons for the United States. Hagt and Durnin's manuscript was veNed through the journal's peer review process and was deemed worthy of publicaJon. Like the Georgetown project, Hagt and Durnin's work has drawn a sharp response from the Union of Concerned ScienJsts' David Wright, who objected to the researchers' methodology and conclusions and argued that the authors overesJmated China's space capabiliJes. We agreed to publish the criJque as well as the authors' response. I draw a couple of conclusions from these episodes. The rst is the need for addiJonal scholarly research on the Chinese military. The Chinese write extensively about modern warfare, but the vast majority of their publicaJons remain beyond the reach of all but the small number of researchers who are uent in Mandarin. The second is the need for a civil scholarly debate. The increasing modernizaJon of the Chinese military, combined with the Obama administraJon's "Pacic Pivot," strongly suggests that there will be more rather than fewer controversies over Chinese military power and what it means for the United States. The sort of ad hominem aNacks that the arms control community has aimed at the Georgetown team over the past month are unbecoming and, in fact, undermine their case. The American people deserve a real debate, not name-calling.