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    Greater China
     Oct 5, 2007
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China's man behind the missiles
By Jason Kelly

On October 21, 2005, the Second Artillery Corps of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) opened its doors for the first time to foreign guests. Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defense, and Peter Rodman, who at the time was serving as US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, traveled to the not-so-secret Second Artillery headquarters in Qinghe, just north of Beijing, to meet with the commander of China's strategic missile

forces, General Jing Zhiyuan.

The visit consisted of a PowerPoint presentation on the service arm's command structure and missile forces training as well as a post-briefing discussion between Rumsfeld and Jing on nuclear doctrine.

During the exchange, General Jing reaffirmed the centrality of the "no first use" principle to China's nuclear doctrine, which helped to offset some of the growing concern in US circles over PLA General Zhu Chenghu's comments in Hong Kong three months earlier. Zhu, a dean at the National Defense University, told reporters that "if the Americans draw their missiles and precision-guided ammunitions onto the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons".

Jing Zhiyuan's constructive approach to talks with his US guests, as well as his assertion that his seat on the Central Military Commission (CMC) puts him "in a position to clarify the issue" of Chinese nuclear doctrine, left a favorable enough impression on Rumsfeld and Rodman for them to conclude that General Jing was the type of figure who could serve as a valuable conduit for military-to-military exchanges between China and the United States.

President George W Bush hoped to keep the momentum running in April 2006 by extending a formal invitation to President Hu Jintao for General Jing to visit the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, in the midwestern US. The idea was to continue the discussions on nuclear doctrine, strategy, and operations that had begun in Beijing six months earlier. Nearly a year and a half after Hu accepted the US invitation, however, Jing has yet to meet with his counterpart, General James Cartwright, and no date had been set for a visit. As preparations intensify for the upcoming 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, General Jing will likely further postpone his visit.

General Jing's appeal
In light of US efforts to foster transparency and avoid the kind of misperceptions that can, and have, exacerbated tensions in the bilateral security relationship, General Jing, a member of the CMC with long experience in the PLA's strategic missile forces, is an important part of the senior military mix in Beijing. Jing also stands out among his general colleagues because the Second Artillery Corps is at the heart of current PLA modernization efforts. Continued direct contact would provide an important opportunity to build personal relationships between US and Chinese military officers at the most senior level. It may also create a new information channel through which the Pentagon hopes to gain a better understanding of China's strategic missile forces and perhaps even to influence the perceptions of the top Second Artillery Corps leadership.

While information on Jing Zhiyuan is sparse, the available facts regarding his training and professional experience indicate a background steeped in the missile-related issues that most concern the US Department of Defense. Jing began his career in the PLA as an artillery soldier in 1963. Following a series of promotions, he was appointed to command the Second Artillery Base 56 in Xining, Qinghai Province.

His stint in Qinghai provided direct exposure to strategic missile systems and their associated operational procedures. Among other missile types, Base 56 is home to China’s primary regional missile system, the DF-3A, a medium-range ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers. Two of Base 56's affiliated brigades - Delingha and Da Qaidam - are equipped with DF-4 missiles, the first Chinese ballistic missile type to possess limited intercontinental ability. At 4,750 km, the range of the DF-4 allows China to target cities and military facilities throughout the Asia-Pacific and as far away as Alaska.

Jing gained additional experience when he took up the command of Base 52 in 1997. Headquartered at Huangshan, Anhui province, Base 52 is thought to be a staging area for DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), which would be transported by road or rail to Fujian for launch in the event of a conflict with Taiwan. These solid-fueled SRBMs are the same missiles that were fired by the PLA into the waters surrounding Taiwan during the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis. Moreover, Anhui province lies within the Nanjing Military Region, which is the PLA's launching point for a joint air/sea assault on Taiwan.

The two years he spent commanding Base 52 placed Jing on the frontline of PLA preparation and contingency planning for conflict with the United States over Taiwan. In addition, the timing of Jing's

Continued 1 2 

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