Defense Modernization in the People's Republic of China

by Jonathan D. Pollack


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Briefly reviews the strategies Chinese decisionmakers have used since 1949 to modernize their defense establishment. The study then considers recent efforts to amend previous strategies in military research, development, and production, most notably through possible purchases of advanced foreign military technology. Rapid and extensive purchase of weaponry abroad is not a worthwhile security option for the People's Republic of China (PRC). The available budgetary and manpower resources are insufficient, and such an approach would not significantly enhance Chinese security over the short run. Thus, any major improvement in the PRC's military capabilities will occur only after a prolonged process of economic development, industrial growth, and sustained technological absorption. An effective U.S. policy framework for technology transfer to the PRC must pay careful heed to the long-term manpower and budgetary constraints that will continue to affect the modernization of China's armed forces.

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