China's Arms Race

The world's most populous country wants the world's best military. Here's a look at its plan

In January 1991, as American bombs rained onto Iraq, CNN's live attack coverage found a particularly appreciative audience five time zones away, in Beijing. To the Chinese, the Gulf War was a revelation--an introduction to 21st century tactics and weaponry that pointed out, in the most graphic way possible, the limits of China's massive but antiquated military. Smart bombs, flexible command and control, and seamless, high-tech attacks dazzled the Chinese leadership, who ramped up a campaign to upgrade the People's Liberation Army (P.L.A.) to world-class status. The new buzz words in China's Ministry of Defense became "limited war under high-tech conditions"--and...

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