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The Chinese People’s Liberation Army
and Information Warfare


Larry Wortzel

The PLA spent more than a decade examining U.S. military publications on network-centric warfare and the evolution of American doctrine on information warfare. After observing American information operations in the Balkans and the first Gulf War, the PLA saw the effect of modern information operations on the battlefield and in the international arena. The PLA then began to implement its own form of information warfare. The Chinese military has adopted information warfare concepts suited to its own organization and doctrine, blending its own traditional tactics, concepts from the Soviet military, and U.S. doctrine to bring the PLA into the information age. At the same time, the PLA has modernized and improved upon its own psychological warfare operations and expanded the role for its legal scholars in justifying military action and territorial claims.
The PLA’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance programs support the ground forces, navy, air force, missile forces, nuclear doctrine, and space warfare. China’s military doctrine depends on incorporating information technology and networked information operations. The PLA’s operational concepts for employing traditional signals intelligence and electronic warfare have expanded to include cyber warfare; kinetic and cyber attacks on satellites; and information confrontation operations across the electromagnetic spectrum. In doing so, as Dr. Wortzel’s monograph explains, the PLA used innovative means to expand on Cold War Soviet doctrine on “radioelectronic combat,” which called for a combination of jamming and precision air, missile and artillery strikes on North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces. The Chinese military, however, apparently intends to conduct these activities at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war, envisioning attacks on an enemy’s homeland critical infrastructure and points of embarkation.
Along with these more technical aspects of information operations, the PLA’s combination of psychological warfare; the manipulation of public opinion, or media warfare; and the manipulation of legal arguments to strengthen China’s diplomatic and security position—or what China calls “legal warfare”—join together in a comprehensive information operations doctrine. This monograph explains how the PLA is revising its operational doctrine to meet what it sees as the new mode of “integrated, joint operations” for the 21st century. An understanding of thee PLA’s new concepts are important for U.S. and allied military leaders and planners.