To celebrate the 90 anniversary of the People's Liberation Army of China 1 August, President Xi Jinping went to the steppes of Inner Mongolia, from which Genghis Khan began his conquest of Eurasia. At the military base of Zhuzhikhe, China demonstrated its power: a parade was held, in which Chinese soldiers, tanks, helicopters, planes and missiles participated. But the main event was large-scale military exercises, the purpose of which was to show that the PRC is ready to "fight and win" in future armed conflicts.
But what kind of war is the PLA preparing for?
Taking into account recent incidents, it is not difficult to guess. In July, North Korea conducted two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles, thanks to which the territory of America will be in the zone of reach of this country's nuclear weapons. In response, the United States sent two B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula in order to, according to General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of the Pacific Air Force, declare "America's readiness to apply the force exceeding strength quickly and rigorously, choosing the time and place at its discretion."
Trump angrily spoke in the direction of China, writing on Twitter after the missile tests of North Korea: "I am extremely disappointed by China. In solving the problem of North Korea, they did not help us in any way, but only talked. So it can not continue any longer. "
The parade in China, along with recent military exercises, unequivocally hints that if the Korean peninsula erupts in war, China is ready to defend its national interests. The Jinping program under the motto "to make China great again" is based on the creation of a modern army fully prepared for battles and victory in the course of the war of the 21st century, even if the US becomes the enemy.
In recent months, China has strengthened the military contingent on the border with North Korea. New protective structures have been installed, drones are conducting round-the-clock video surveillance. And the special forces of the PLA and the Air Force began to practice operations that go beyond closing the borders or organizing the buffer zone: apparently, they are preparing to enter North Korea in the event of a crisis.
For those who doubt China's desire to act or its cruelty, one should remember the events of 1950. In June 1950, North Korea invaded South, and gained control over the peninsula, had it not been for the United Nations command headed by the United States interfered. Without thinking about how China can behave (at that time its GDP was only 2 percent of the US), allied forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur pushed North Korea's forces behind the 38 parallel and quickly headed for the Yalu River, along which the border between China and North Korea. The US intelligence believed that the Chinese invasion from the North was unlikely.
And yet, 300-thousandth Chinese army suddenly began to smash the troops of the US and its allies. The American military, taken by surprise, suffered heavy losses. In the melee, one of the regiments of the 1 Cavalry Division lost 600 people. In the following weeks, the army, which MacArthur and other officers considered "peasant", not only stopped the advance of American forces, but also pushed the Allies to the starting point - to the 38 parallel.
If the forces of China and America meet again in Korea, and this meeting, according to General Raymond Thomas, will be a struggle to protect the nuclear weapons of the North, it must be taken into account that the modern PLA has nothing to do with a poorly armed army from the past.
In 1991, Chinese leaders marveled at the effectiveness of US military operations during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein's forces were defeated and losses were less than 150. Watching the comprehensive technical superiority of America, which provides navigation and surveillance using space technologies, high-precision guided air bombs and stealth planes, Chinese leaders seek to acquire technologies that can resist and exceed "American magic."
Therefore, Jinping sees its main task in the ruthless modernization and reorganization of the Chinese armed forces at an "unprecedented" scale, according to the leading Russian expert on the Chinese army, Andrei Kokoshin. And the Pentagon takes this into account. The June annual report of the Pentagon on the Chinese army warns that the PLA "has modernized its non-nuclear missile forces extremely fast", and the PLA Air Force is also "rapidly" reducing the backlog from the US Air Force.
"The world is unsettled," Jinping said at the Zhuzhikhe base. "Today, more than ever before, we need to create a powerful people's army." It is noteworthy that during the exercises the conventional adversary had technologies, weapons, command structure and tactics similar to American ones.
As continues to assert the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, today, North Korea is a "clear" threat. Circumstances can develop in such a way that the US and China will be entangled in a large-scale conflict, which in fact is not needed by either side. Especially in the context of the "Thucydides' trap" - a dangerous situation in which a power that is gaining power can displace the power that has become stronger. As soon as the military machine is launched, misunderstandings and miscalculations can easily lead to an unintended destructive conflict.
Graham Allison, Professor at the Center for Science and International Relations named after Belfer at Harvard University