Saturday, 26 April 2008


"Air Force Lt. Gen. Liu Yazhou Discusses Iraq War,
the Direction of PLA´s Development"

The dust has settled on the war in Iraq, a war on which the
whole world´s attention was focused. Reporter Dai Xu of
Kongjun Junshi Xueshu´s Editorial Department interviewed
Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou, Political Commissar of
Chengdu Military Region Air Force. Lt. Gen. Liu spoke
freely and frankly during the two-hour interview. The
conversation between Dai Xu and Li Yazhou has been
reorganized as follows for our readers.

[Passage omitted; reporter summarizes quick US victory in
Iraq, says some feel it was more like a game than a war;
Liu Yazhou says it was like watching a play, but it was a
real war which represents a new point of departure]

Reporter: What do you mean by a new point of departure?

Liu Yazhou: Although the war in Iraq was a regional war, it
shook the world. It was a war which produced a major change
in the world order. You could even put it this way: the
borders of numerous countries were stealthily redrawn by
this war. At least they were redrawn in the minds of the
leaders of the United States. The world after the Iraq War
will absolutely not return to how it was before that war.
The war changed history, and it is continuing to change
history. Britain´s Prime Minister Blair used this phrase
during a debate in the House of Commons: "This war will
determine the pattern of international politics for the
next several decades." His words were to the point.

[Passage omitted; Liu puts the Iraq War in the framework of
US "new imperial order" and a "clash of civilizations";
quotes Bush´s "new crusade" and R. James Woolsey´s "fourth
world war" characterizations; Liu mentions he is writing a
book with the working title of Xi Bu Lun [On the West]
which will flesh out his criticisms of US geostrategy; Liu
asserts the view that in the post-Cold War world, "the
armed forces of all countries are part of either the US or
Russian camps, with practically no third way to go"; says
he has discovered that the losing side in the battles in
the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, the Libyan capital, the
Yugoslav Federation, Afghanistan, and Iraq share the
"alarming similarities" of being either former Soviet
allies or "places where the Soviets had set foot," all used
Soviet-style weapon systems and military ideology, all were
broken to pieces or left a smoking ruin by US informatized
air assault]

Liu Yazhou: There is only one way to overcome superior air
power and firepower, and that is mobility. Only if we have
"mobility superiority" [ji dong quan], which is my term,
only then can we achieve the situation of "you fight your
way, I´ll fight mine." Otherwise it will just be a case of
"you hit me but I can´t hit you." In the more recent Iraq
War and in the first Gulf War, and in the war in
Afghanistan too, the defeat of the Iraqi Army and the
Taliban was due to their lack of "mobility superiority,"
mainly the problem of not being able to move. The
fundamental reason for the US military´s defeat in the
Korean and Vietnam wars, and the Soviet Union´s defeat in
Afghanistan, and the fact that to this day Russia has not
won the war in Chechnya, lies in their inability to control
their opponent´s ability to move. Surely you have seen the
movie Shangganling [known to the US military as Heartbreak
Ridge]. In the daytime the positions there were under US
control, but they were taken back by us when evening fell.
So long as an adversary has freedom of movement on the
battlefield, victory is not easy to achieve. Many Chinese
dynasties perished at the hands of nomadic peoples, despite
the fact that the comprehensive national power, military
power, and firepower of those dynasties far exceeded that
of the nomads. Of course many factors were involved, but a
major reason for the fall of those dynasties was that the
nomads´ cavalry had such great mobility. [Passage omitted;
Liu admired their mobility]

Today the US military is building this system and that
system, digitizing and informatizing, etc., and the
fundamental objective is to strip the adversary of
battlefield mobility superiority. This is something which
potential, future adversaries of the US military must take
special note of, without mobility superiority there is no
survivability superiority.

Reporter: How does the US military control its adversaries´
ability to move?

Liu Yazhou: Putting it simply, the US military turns itself
into a clairvoyant and clairaudient, able to see and hear
from far away, while simultaneously rendering its adversary
blind and deaf. [Passage omitted; cites figures for the US
military´s increasingly shorter detection-to-attack time in
the Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq War; notes that
this means the adversary no longer has time to move; cites
examples of US successes in its "informatized wars" in Iraq
and Afghanistan, Russian failures in its WWII-style
mechanized war in Chechnya]

[Passage omitted, in which Liu calls the Iraq War a major
event in the world´s military history, a qualitative rather
than quantitative change, nearly the completion of the new
revolution in military affairs which the US began after the
Vietnam War]

Reporter: In fact, the military superpower which the US
displayed in Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg.

Liu Yazhou: The US did not really display its combat power
because of the terrible showing of the Iraqi armed forces.
For example, the US mobilized only a small part of what it
is most expert at, which is electronic warfare, new-concept
weapons, and outer space forces. The US military is
currently number one in three areas:

1. The US military leads the pack in the new revolution in
military affairs. Metaphorically speaking, this is a
long-distance race in which the US is not only accustomed
to coming in first, it is always running about a kilometer
ahead of whoever is number two. And if the US senses that
the gap may be narrowed to 900 meters (or even the
possibility of that), then the US feels threatened.

2. The US is first in arms expenditures. US spending on the
military exceeds the sum of the military spending of the
next 12 military powers.

3. The military power of the US is incomparable globally.
But a fact which makes us even more uneasy is that the US
military is still growing at a very fast pace. When the US
global missile defense system has been built, a warfare
system covering the whole world will be completely in
place. The final tool adversaries could use to deter the
United States, nuclear weapon systems, will no longer be
effective. When that time comes, military power which is
absolutely asymmetric will back up a unilateral political
system; that is, a system of global imperialism with the US
as the core will appear. Just as mechanized blitzkrieg
hastened the birth of Hitler´s "Third Reich," the era of
informatized warfare has produced a new global imperialist
in embryonic form. The prospects resulting from the outcome
of the Iraq War truly strike terror throughout the world.
That day has not yet come, but it is approaching fast.

[Passage omitted; Liu´s opinions on Russian weapons
development; says China must get completely out of the
"graveyard" of the Soviet-style military system, pursue
"informatization driving mechanization" as President Jiang
Zemin said in the Report to the 16th Party Congress]

[Passage omitted; Liu discusses the characteristics of the
Iraq War: a war in which air power was decisive, and which
shows the trend of future warfare; but mainly a political
war to establish US imperialism and hegemony in this new
century; contrasts Rumsfeld and Powell concepts of

[Passage omitted; Liu discusses limited role of ground

Liu Yazhou: I noticed that, although the Iraqi armed forces
put up fierce resistance in several small cities, the joint
US-British ground forces did not launch a very strong
ground offensive, and instead they mainly called in air
power to attack. And when the Iraqi Army dispersed and
abandoned their defense, only then did ground forces launch
an attack in the form of a pursuit. The US 3rd Mechanized
Infantry Division´s assault on Baghdad was launched after
reconnaissance determined that the Iraqi Army was not
putting up a defense. All of this shows that even though
there was a ground war with the participation of ground
forces on a large scale, informatized air forces played the
decisive role on the strategic, campaign, and tactical
levels. This is why ground units could race ahead on a
single route, and why the enemy´s capital city could be
captured without a lot of bloodshed.

[Passage omitted; asserts that Rumsfeld´s views about how
to fight the Iraq War were correct, and they also represent
a victory over Russian military theory; discusses the
importance of air power; says that to know whether or not
the US wants to fight and on what scale, one need only look
at how it deploys its air power]

[Passage omitted; reporter asks what Liu thinks is the
guiding ideology of US air warfare, Liu replies,

Liu Yazhou: And by extension from military affairs, US
foreign policy is also a foreign policy of "paralysis," at
least toward China. What is the bottom line of US policy
toward China? Does the US really want to dismember China?
I´m afraid not. Is the US afraid of China´s abrupt rise?
Again, I think not entirely so. I think the US just wants
to paralyze China, and the political move in the military
"paralysis warfare" is to get China in a state where it is
half dead, able to develop but not in a healthy way. The US
does not wish to see China collapse entirely, because that
would lead to the rise of Japan, India, and Russia, the
balance on the Asian continent would be disrupted, and the
US would have to make a big effort to fill the vacuum. The
US would not let China collapse. If China collapsed
completely, Japan would rise.

[Passage omitted; Liu expresses admiration for the "five
rings of targets" theory of USAF Col. John Warden, whom Liu
calls "the Douhet of our time"; Liu says in Iraq War the US
only attacked rings 1 and 5]

Reporter: Speaking of the threat from the air, I want to
bring up the situation in Korea. The situation on the
Korean Peninsula has become even more tense lately.
Everyone says it is possible the US military might make a
strike. But the US military is making a large-scale
withdrawal from the 38th parallel. Why is that?

Liu Yazhou: This precisely demonstrates that the US does
not rely on its ground forces for deterrence and war
readiness. Actually, for the US Army to be deployed forward
not only is no threat to its opponent, it is a deployment
under threat from the opponent. This withdrawal is a
movement of the units beyond the range of the opponent´s
artillery, and it is the US military´s wings which then
begin to threaten its opponent. This news also shows that
an army today is easily subjected to threat, while itself
being incapable of posing a threat to an opponent.

[Passage omitted; Liu surveys the history of US air power;
returns to Giulio Douhet´s theory of air power, says it is
a valid description of importance of air power in current
and future warfare; on the future of ground forces,
reporter asks if Liu thinks digital units are the future
trend, Liu says no, the US digital division is just an
experiment, at best the product of the conflict of
interests among the services, not the trend for the US
Army, and not a model for other countries, certainly not
for the Chinese Army]

[Passage omitted; Liu discusses the essential nature of the
Iraq War, which he says was "informatization"; Liu uses a
term he says he coined, "supra-ground warfare" (chao di
mian zhan zheng)

Reporter: My understanding is that the connotation of
"informatization" is the unprecedented degree of
digitization in weapons and equipment.

Liu Yazhou: I see three levels to informatization. One is
the electronic-ization of weapons platforms. Second is the
networking of warfare systems. And third is the
"psychologizing" of strategic attack.

Reporter: General Liu, you put the issue of "psychological
warfare" within the scope of information operations. To my
knowledge, no one else has done that.

Liu Yazhou: Science and technology have changed warfare,
and that in turn has changed history. Thompson [as
published] said that information is not just a weapon, it
is a new technology which is capable of changing the
culture and mindset of warfare. Information can change
everything. The changes it brings are as intense as any
change we have ever seen, more formidable than tanks,
submarines, or even the atomic bomb. Why were some military
commentators in China always awaiting the emergence of
people´s war in Iraq, watching for guerrilla warfare and
streetfighting, yet it never happened as they anticipated?
It never happened because the development of high
technology and advances in military technology have
rendered that sort of guerrilla warfare ineffective, even
no longer a form of decisive warfare. On today´s
battlefields, the side which holds absolute information
superiority will undoubtedly be the side which can win. In
contrast to the US military, the wars of the Iraqi people,
and even Russia´s wars, were really too... too 20th

[Passage omitted; Liu notes that he will discuss the future
adversaries of the US in his upcoming book, On the West;
Liu reviews the development of electronic warfare,
information warfare, and air power, refers to his analysis
of the "generational change" air battle over the Bekaa
Valley on 9 June 1982 in his book of 20 years ago, E Mo Dao
Yan De Zhan Zheng (War Directed by Demons)]

[Passage omitted; discusses media access in the Iraq War as
a form of psychological warfare; earlier referred to this
media access as "killing a chicken to scare the monkey," a
warning to the world about crossing the United States]

Reporter: You said people found the situation in the Opium
War [1840] terrifying. Why was that?

Liu Yazhou: The facts of the Opium War and the Iraq War
tell us that all autocratic and corrupt governments are
experts at civil war but laymen at external warfare. When
people do not know what is going on, their morale might
still be intact, but as soon as they find out the
situation, and learn that the enemy has invaded, their
morale will disintegrate. US psychological warfare early on
let the Iraqi people know what sort of man Saddam is, what
stuff the Ba´ath Party was made of. A system in which the
officials are corrupt will inevitably engender
dissatisfaction among the ordinary people of that country.
So the biggest mission a corrupt government has is
suppressing domestic opposition, and such a government will
basically have no strength to spare to employ forces
externally. Judging from history, there is no precedent for
a corrupt government being victorious in the external use
of force. I use a phrase which I invite you to remember: if
a state is unmindful of its people, the people will not
know there is a state.

[Passage omitted; Liu commented that many Chinese military
officers were only paying "lip-service" to Jiang´s call for
"moving forward with time" and "innovation;" the shackling
of thoughts was the "greatest bottleneck" of Chinese
military modernizations.]

[Passage omitted; Liu says the USAF has a major flaw which
is that its planes become more and more advanced but its
tactics are more and more inflexible; this is the result of
having no adversary capable of really putting the USAF to
the test]

[Passage omitted; Liu paraphrases an archaic saying [kai
feng qi... bu wei shi] to assert that the US military airs
ideas but does not preach them; reporter says that is the
first time he has ever heard that assessment of the US

Liu Yazhou: I say they do not act as a tutor, and that is
because they never stop their self-examination, they never
stop reversing themselves, and they are continually
innovating. In recent years, a term has been drummed into
everybody´s ears in the military: the world´s new
transformation in military affairs, or the world´s new
revolution in military affairs. In our textbooks, it seems
as if such a new revolution in military affairs either has
already occurred or is underway throughout the world. But
in fact, this revolution or transformation in military
affairs does not actually exist as a movement. This term
basically does not exist in the US military. It is a term
which appears in the writings of some Western experts. It
is we who are exaggerating this revolution or
transformation. There is no such revolutionary movement,
but that does not mean that no such revolution has
occurred. It most definitely has already occurred. The US
military does not stress transformation, and that is
because it is transforming all the time. For the United
States, war does not need justification. For the US
military, war does not need rules. As the saying goes,
young people know the rules, but old people know the
exceptions. Paraphrasing that, I say our Army knows the
rules, and the US military knows the exceptions. The worst
game to play is one in which the rules change when your
turn comes. Life is often like that. How could warfare be
any different? I was an author. The upper boundary of
creative writing is the absence of technique. To be without
technique is the greatest technique. As for fighting wars,
the greatest method is to have no method. My old friend
Zhou Tao said, "A great river never speaks of method. The
Yellow River has nine twists and eighteen turns, it is a
vast body of water forcing its way, with no method to what
it does. A small river talks a lot about method. It follows
all the rules, because it is just a small river." As for a
modernized armed force, the idea is combat power, and
quality, those are the most essential things about it.
Disparities in weapons and equipment can be compensated for
through procurement, but fixing disparities in the quality
of military personnel is something money can´t buy. This is
where an armed force´s "assassin´s mace" is truly to be

[Passage omitted; Liu discusses Guderian and military
thinkers in general; criticizes post-war France]

Liu Yazhou: A third point of enlightenment the Iraq War
gave us is that the Chinese armed forces must follow its
own path. The US military does not fear the modernization
of the Chinese armed forces, because it would be very
difficult for us to overtake them. What the US military
fears is the Mao Zedong-ization of the Chinese armed
forces. Some people call Mao Zedong-ization revolutionizing
or politicizing, but that is just one aspect. There is a
great deal more involved. The farther away from Mao Zedong
the Chinese armed forces move, the more successful the
stratagem of the US military becomes. Mao Zedong is unique
in human history in his skill in using weakness to overcome
strength, a military genius at using weakness to defeat
strength. Mao Zedong´s system of military ideology and its
practical application were extraordinarily ingenious. To
this day there is no better method to respond and resolve.
Of course, "Mao Zedong-ization" is just a way of phrasing
it. When I use it I´m not thinking it will make a deep
impression on people. The essence of it is to bring into
play our Army´s own special characteristics.

[Passage omitted; Liu cautions against comparing Iraq´s
situation to China´s, inappropriate attempts to apply the
"open-type system of military ideology" which is people´s

Reporter: General Liu, what do you think is the center of
gravity which our Army should grasp in its future

Liu Yazhou: I think it is these points. First, our Army
must definitely have a "big victory" ["da ying"] spirit.
Management guru [Peter] Drucker said, "Today society is not
undergoing a revolution in technology, nor in software or
speed. It is a revolution in concepts."

Reporter: What is the core of "big victory," and the
connotations of it?

Liu Yazhou: Faced with a new age and new wars, we should
foster and establish an understanding of the offensive.
That is, within the overall framework of a defensive
strategy, what is first and foremost is to be capable of
powerful counterattack, not defense. We can only fight to
stop a fight if we can use the offense to defeat an
offensive [yi gong dui gong]. In the mechanized era of the
past, defense meant a "line," and you could still station
forces on the frontier, increase your depth, and resist
stage by stage. Now defense means a "face" ["mian"], so how
do you defend? Defensive measures prove useless [fang bu
sheng fang]. Just as a soldier armed only with a shield on
a battlefield cannot fight and win in a battle, an armed
force which emphasizes only the defense can neither be
victorious nor ensure security. The world´s military
history is the history of offense. China´s nuclear weapons
have deterrent power only because they can strike out at an
adversary. If they were converted into air defense
missiles, they would not have such great deterrent power.

[Passage omitted; Liu reviews the problem of the defense of
China since antiquity]

Liu Yazhou: China must be a "powerhouse" [qiang zhe]. Being
a powerhouse which the West respects involves three major
aspects of meaning: you must have real power, you must
prove that you have real power, and you must make others
understand clearly that you have the boldness and resolve
to use your power when necessary. If any one of these three
aspects is lacking, it´s no good.

Reporter: Those three levels of meaning are very incisive.

Liu Yazhou: As I was saying, the first thing our Army must
do is have a "big victory" spirit. The second thing is to
be people-centered [yi ren wei ben]. Many Chinese
entrepreneurs love to use that trendy phrase, be
people-centered. The armed forces should be that way too,
even more so. This also involves three levels of meaning:

First, respect people´s spirit. Again I use China´s
entrepreneurs as an example. Among entrepreneurs in China
there is no lack of clever and capable people, people who
are brighter than others. But most of China´s entrepreneurs
share a common weakness, and that is, their way of thinking
lacks a modern spirit, a human spirit. When an entrepreneur
knowingly or unknowingly applies his own deficient way of
thinking in the management of his enterprise, he
intentionally or unintentionally amplifies those
shortcomings, allowing those shortcomings to harm a lot of
people. I have said to some entrepreneurs, just from the
way you imitate the bearing and words of great people, I
can tell that you are only a minor figure. Such people
always put money first and people last. Ultimately that
leads to them losing both their money and their people.
They are often winners at the start and losers at the end.
This is a fundamental reason Chinese enterprises are never
able to do great things or to flourish in the long term.
The armed forces have this problem too.

Second, the personnel strategy. The strategy of getting
everyone in the spirit of going on a great expedition is
the strategy for putting talented people in an important
position. For thousands of years, the method used in
Chinese warfare was to drive the people out to fight.
Warfare was on a big scale. In the war between the Qing
Dynasty army and the Taiping army, both sides used human
wave tactics. That was a product of the agrarian
civilization. Warfare from now on will have an altogether
new aspect. [Passage omitted; Liu discusses why the
mentality of defense put China in jeopardy during WWII;
cited the "offensive" spirit of the Russians.]

Third, the spirit of toleration for different ways of
thinking. Our cadres who do not respect people who express
other views are just seeking those who hold the same views
as they do. This attitude makes us value those so-called
well-behaved persons who heed what their superior says.
[Passage omitted; quotes various people on human relations]

Reporter: I recall that at a conference on reform of the
armed forces you posed the concept of management

Liu Yazhou: That was a technical level issue, not the focus
of what we are discussing today. What are management
objectives? Taking the US military as an example, it has so
many officers, including gray-haired generals and
lieutenant generals, and not a single one is fat. All of
them are tall and slim, and full of vitality. I especially
note the scene as the US forces left their aircraft on
arrival in Iraq. The sun a blazing ball of fire, the vast
desert. Sweat pouring like rain. The US officers and
soldiers all carrying several tens of kilos of gear,
showing no sign of fatigue, their backs always ramrod
strait. You look again at Russian military personnel, at
how many of them are fatsos. The US military has a strict
standard: if you are so tall, you can weigh this much; if
you are this age, you can weigh this much. If you are
overweight, you get a warning, if the warning proves
ineffective, you are relieved of duty. Can they get fat? Do
they dare get fat? Our standards are somewhat empty. For
example, in selecting and assigning cadres, there is a
phrase in our documents, "Individual excellence." That
phrase opens a huge loophole. What are the exact standards
of excellence? Who is excellent? Who is not?

Reporter: The 16th Party Congress called for innovations in
theory and development by leaps and bounds. How do you see
that issue?

Liu Yazhou: Our Army is a glorious, invincible armed force.
We have defeated countless enemies and overcome all sorts
of difficulties and obstacles. In the face of the
challenges of the new revolution in military affairs, we
must have a clear understanding of ourselves, of the times,
and of our adversaries. We need grand concepts and erudite
minds. We need to innovate. Innovation is the soul of all
theory, and theory is in turn is the overarching design for
the buildup of the armed forces.

Reporter: Speaking of innovation, I´m reminded of two
things which Douhet said: "Obsession with obsolete things
from the past yields no enlightenment about the future,
because everything about the future is fundamentally
different from what has happened in the past. The future
must be explored with a new point of view."

"Victory smiles on those who are able to foresee the
changes which the characteristics of warfare will undergo;
she does not smile on those who wait for those changes to
occur and then react. In this era when the shape of warfare
is changing fast, he who dares to follow a new path is the
one who will secure the inestimable benefits of new methods
of warfare which overcome the old."

Liu Yazhou: We must ascend to the plane of the life or
death of the nation and its people in order to understand
the issue of innovation in military theory. The true value
of achievements in research on military theory will only be
assessed when the next armed conflict occurs.

[Corrected version: Interview From: Dongfang Wang (Shanghai) WWW-Text
Chinese 31 May 04 [English translation via ]

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