China has long used its 10-year anniversary Oct. 1 large scale military parades to intimidate the island democracy of Taiwan and to intimidate the United States from making good on consistent suggestions that it would help to defend Taiwan if China attacks.
This year’s Oct. 1, 2019 70th Anniversary military parade, which observes the Communist Party’s takeover of China in 1949, poured on the intimidation. According to China’s Ministry of Defense, the parade included 15,000 troops, more than 160 combat aircraft and 580 pieces of other military equipment.
Such a display takes on greater significance considering Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping’s increasing insistence that Taiwan accept “peaceful unification” with China, or to surrender its hard-earned democracy for an undefined status under the rubric of Beijing’s “one country, two systems.” This is the same deal that China in 1997 gave to the people of Hong Kong, who today are literally fighting and dying to defend the freedoms China is taking away.
China’s deception is that “one country, two systems” is not an “end state;” it is actually a stratagem for forcing submission to the dictatorship of the CCP that combines political, economic and military warfare. The CCP’s massive People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and its nearly as large People’s Armed Police (PAP) prefer strategies of intimidation, threatening parades and military exercises instead of expensive and uncertain warfare.
Like previous parades, the 70th Anniversary military parade displayed many of the new weapons systems developed in large part over the previous decade, usually recently entered into service. New weapons intended to intimidate Taiwan and to deter U.S. intervention in the event of a Chinese attack include the following.
Type 15 Light Tank: Though already deployed with PLA Ground Force and PLA Marine units, the Type-15 light tank (seen below) made its debut appearance in the October parade. Its significance is that by virtue of its 30-ton weight, versus the estimated 58 tons for the new Type-99A main battle tank, the Type-15 is much easier to transport to Taiwan aboard existing PLA Navy amphibious assault ships and the hundreds of civilian large ferries and barges that will also support an invasion.
Its main armament is a 105 mm auto-loading cannon that can fire 4-5 km range gun-launched anti-tank missiles that can defeat most of Taiwan’s current tanks. It employs modern modular composite armor and could in the future be armed with active defenses to defeat anti-tank missiles. It can also be more easily transported by the PLA Air Force’s Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20 heavy transport aircraft.
New Multiple Launch Rocket System: Called the PHL-16 by some Chinese commentators, this new multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is most likely made by the Norinco Corporation, and may be the PLA’s first second generation short-range ballistic missile system (SRBM). In the parade, it was armed with eight new 370 mm diameter navigation satellite-guided artillery rockets that may have a range of 280 km, which can reach most of Taiwan from China’s coast on the Taiwan Strait.
Its 8-wheel missile transporter can also carry two of a version of Norinco’s Fire Dragon 280A, a 750 mm diameter and 300+km range short-range ballistic missile. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) introduced their second generation SRBMs early in this decade, but they may not yet be in service.
The adoption of Norinco’s new system for the PLA Ground Forces may mean that CASC and CASIC could soon join the PLA Rocket Force, meaning that China may build up its land-based missiles threatening Taiwan from about 1,500 to many thousands.
Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle: Also revealed in the Oct.1 parade for the first time is a new Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) (below) seen on the back of a large flatbed truck. Such vehicles represent the cutting edge of military exploitation of technologies like artificial intelligence and unmanned combat systems.
Eventually such LDUUVs may be armed with torpedos, sensors and computers informed with large databases and artificial intelligence programs, to enable independent anti-submarine patrols. Such ships could cooperate with unmanned combat ships and underwater sensors of the “Underwater Great Wall” that China is developing to help impose a blockade on Taiwan. LDUUVs can also be made larger to transport small groups of naval special forces troops from submarines to shore targets.
H-6N: Revealed for the first time is the most recent variant of the Xian Aircraft Corporation’s turbofan-powered H-6K bomber that first flew in 2007, the H-6N (seen below), with an aerial refueling probe that allows the bomber to greatly exceed its 3,000 km combat radius. Its fuselage is also modified to carry a new large air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM), with a range of about 2,000 km, that can be configured to perform land and anti-ship strikes, or anti-satellite attacks.
As it also carries the 1,500 km range CJ-20 subsonic land-attack cruise missile, the H-6N can contribute to PLA combined air and naval strikes against the U.S. Navy or against Taiwanese land or sea-based targets. With future longer-range missiles, perhaps a version of the new DF-20 supersonic or hypersonic speed cruise missile, the H-6N might contribute to attacks against Hawaii.
CCP’s success in intimidating Taiwan into accepting the “one country, two systems” dead end for its democracy would also endanger the direct security interests of other Asian democracies, like Japan and Australia, and those of the United States. For this reason, Washington is currently seeking to extend the bounds of the Kissinger era “Our One China” policy of the 1970s to properly recognize and support Taiwan’s democratic development.
Washington must also make good on policies set forth in the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to ensure that Taiwan has sufficient weapons for its self-defense. Recent decisions by the Trump Administration to sell Taiwan M1A2T Abrams main battle tanks that can defeat the Type-15, and new F-16V fighters that are better able to defense Taiwan’s airspace, are consistent with the goals of the TRA.
Rick Fisher is a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.