Blogger’s Roundtable: “Defense Officials” talk about the China Report (Updated)

This morning was the Blogger’s Roundtable with "defense officials" to discuss DOD’s 2008 report on 2007 China.  The presenters attempted to set attribution to "defense officials".  I’ll honor that here (for now… pending the Roundtable posting), but that’s not the terms of the Roundtable.  This is a follow up to the previous post Winning Informatized Wars.

My quick observations:

The presenters stated clearly at the outset that the report should be read in the context of improving relations with China that are "across the board". 

The call was one of the most widely attended I’ve been on, including James Fallows, Mike Goldfarb, Jason Sigger, David Axe (wearing his Wired hat), Andy Lubin, and many others.  Hopefully they’ll all post on this as well.  Look for posts from them.

The issues raised in my previous post on the significant missing pieces were deflected with the response that Chinese asymmetric thinking is "broadly" addressed in the report.  The reality is "broadly" is super-high level discussion amounting to only a few paragraphs.  In saying that there is a "resurgence of the study of classic Chinese military figures Sun-tzu, Sun Pin, Wu Ch’i, and Shang Yang and their writings" is in the context of deception and not unrestricted warfare. 

Compare this to the much more detailed discussion of traditional warfighting elements and you have a report telling a certain story.  Like all communications, even objective just the facts communications, influence and persuade.  This report pressures the reader to fear a modernizing adversary.  That may be the correct thing to do, or it may not be, but what is concerning is the report’s selectivity. 

On the expeditionary capability, the response to my point that increased PKO participation was dismissed as China finally stepping up to fulfill its responsibilities as a Security Council member.  That there "may" (or was it "perhaps"?) be public outreach benefits eluded the presenters.  The fact that China has stated publicly on several occasions that they see PKO as a tool of public diplomacy was lost as was the experience of force projection (logistics, movement, public affairs, etc). 

I’ll post a link to the transcript when it is available.  Overall, the report misses the important elements of future conflict that will not start with bullets and bombs and may not ever get to kinetics. 

A holistic approach by China as part of its CNP (Comprehensive National Power, a variation on our DIME/MIDLIFE/DIMEFIL, but measured) sets the military not as a cylinder of excellence, but a component of national security.  The report, as written and presented, misses that entirely. 


Mike Goldfarb’s post on the call is up.  His gist:

When the DoD first started this outreach program, there was a great deal of criticism–the Pentagon was spoon feeding administration talking points to conservative bloggers, they said. Well, that was never quite the case, the Pentagon has allowed any and all bloggers to participate in these calls. The effect: today’s call was dominated by lefty bloggers explaining to the Pentagon why the United States shouldn’t concern itself with China’s build-up, and why Beijing’s bulking-up is entirely reasonable.

I suppose this is a better post than what he could have gotten from his question of whether DOD knew who would be on the Chinese side of a hotline between DC and Beijing.

Responding to Goldfarb, James Fallows posts his response.  His gist:

One big theme in this Pentagon report is a continuing "large" increase in Chinese military spending. Large "compared with what?" is the obvious question here — compared with U.S. spending and capability? (Explicitly not the subject of the study, "a Defense official" said.) Compared with their GDP? Compared with their limited previous levels? Compared with what it would take to invade Taiwan? With the concerns, interests, and capabilities of Russia — or Japan? And so on.

The other theme in the report was intention and "transparency." Intention: why are they spending more money? …

2 thoughts on “Blogger’s Roundtable: “Defense Officials” talk about the China Report (Updated)

  1. You hit the nail on the head there. I was looking for that myself, that overall assessment of what’s going on with China instead of just a dry recitation of military capability and the warning that China’s not being open with what it wants to do with it. You want to say, hey, doesn’t the DOD have any analysts who can also draw conclusions and theorize on possible motivations?I heard what the officials said and I read the report. As much as they protest that the ball is in China’s court, I suspect that DOD needs a bad guy to develop its next QDR scenarios. China’s even better than Russia, because we’ve been there, done that. Here’s a new and improved threat! Like the GAO reports I read, I appreciate the data but reject the conclusions.

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