More than 20,000 Chinese soldiers, sailors and airmen carried out a boisterous joint-operation exercise this month, with Taiwan as the apparent simulated target of a Normandy-style invasion.
Code-named Mission 2013B, the exercises are the third installment this year of a series of military drills. Participating in the exercise are ground troops from the 42nd Army of the Guangzhou Military Region command — the military’s crack force that was the main fighting unit during the Korean War and the 1979 invasion of Vietnam.
Air force units, surface warships and amphibious vessels, and electronic warfare groups from the Guangzhou and Nanjing region commands also formed a key portion of the war games.
In September, an earlier exercise, Mission 2013A, involved more than 40,000 troops from multiple services aimed at a large-scale island invasion either in the South China Sea or East China Sea where China has encountered strong resistance to its claims of territorial or maritime assets.
A third exercise, Mission 2013C, was conducted and directed primarily by the air force.
China’s state media enthusiastically reported the current Guangzhou exercise. State-run China Central Television (CCTV) prominently featured the drill from multiple angles, including a display of an operational map of Taiwan and nearby islands that were marked as key military targets.
“The exercise will test dozens of new fighting methods developed by our troops in a live-fire environment,” CCTV reported during an evening prime-time broadcast.
Another key feature of the exercises was to show off joint military operations across a vast territory under two or more of China’s seven military regional commands.
During the three exercises so far, the Nanjing and Guangzhou Military Region commands played the central role in linking each command by rapidly transporting tens of thousands of troops and multiple weapons platforms — including tanks, missiles, aircraft, surface and amphibious warships, radar and other logistics items — in China’s southern and southeastern maritime provinces.
Another emphasis is to commandeer and mobilize large civilian transportation assets including the regional railway, highway and civil aviation systems and industries that will participate in future operations.
Also stressed in the exercises is the need for the military to integrate combat information and command systems operated by various units and service branches.
“During this exercise, we will emphasize the leading role of information warfare in a real war,” said Gen. Zhou Shangping, chief of operations at the Guangzhou Military Region headquarters.
“We will buttress our information warfare with our solid support systems, and we will fight our war with our skilled and trained troops,” said Gen. Zhou who was extensively interviewed by CCTV.
“This exercise will be conducted in various possible battle scenarios including conditions of danger, difficulty and risk, with the objective of enhancing our capabilities of joint command, joint operations and joint support.”
All military units have been on a binge of drills since Xi Jinping took over last November as China’s supreme leader. Yet there have been many cases of false reporting on drill outcomes to headquarters commanders.
“We are not afraid of our problems and shortcomings being exposed during this exercise … and are determined to sweep the trend of formalism and fraud out of the exercise fields,” CCTV quoted one senior military official as saying.
The display of an operational military map of Taiwan during Mission 2013B caused a big stir in the democratic island nation that is claimed by China.
Taiwan’s United Daily News cited sources in China as claiming the maneuver was designed to intimidate Taiwan, which so far has refused to engage in negotiations for a “political settlement” with China. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-yeou‘s mainland policy has been viewed as slavishly accommodating to China.
• Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @Yu_miles.