65. Intelligence Appraisal1
PRC: MILITARY CONTACTS AND MODERNIZATION OF THE PLA
Within the past year, and particularly the last few months, the Peoples Republic of China has expanded its exchange of military-related delegations with other nations along the ideologic and economic spectrums. In addition to proclaiming the need for vigilance on the USSR’s perfidy and for concern over US unreliability, Peking has used these exchanges to assess available foreign military equipment and technology, and to establish military contacts with countries that have a stake in the struggle between the two Superpowers.
The military visits and statements made by Chinese officials reveal Peking’s appreciation of its own military strengths and weaknesses as well as its determination to correct any deficiencies in the Peoples Liberation Army through modernization. The personal involvement of Vice-Premier Teng Hsiao-ping in the military modernization program underscores the importance attached to this undertaking. Although Peking is somewhat restricted by the lack of available foreign exchange and by its limited technical capability to absorb modern technology, it apparently intends to import more foreign military weapons and technology to support this modernization. If Peking can enhance and mobilize its technical resources and can adopt a more flexible stance on foreign indebtedness, then it could significantly improve its military capability during the next few years by concentrating on the most serious deficiencies.
[Omitted here is the discussion section of the appraisal.]
The Chinese will continue to attack Soviet “expansionism” through every means possible. The exchange of military delegations will most likely slacken as Peking reviews the results of recent delegation visits. A few major purchases of modern weapons or technology will probably (75 percent) be made. However, given the economic and technical constraints on the PRC, the amount of arms traded should remain relatively small and will have only a limited impact on Peking’s military capabilities and on its role as an arms supplier in the near fu[Page 259]ture. Nevertheless, Peking has obviously embarked on a new phase of military modernization and intends to import foreign military equipment and production technology. These purchases will forge ties with European weapons producers and will ultimately strengthen China’s defenses against the Soviets. The modernization effort will not include any large-scale direct participation by the US under the current status of relations between the two countries, and the USSR can be expected to issue strongly worded denunciations of any arms and technology purchases made by China.
Prepared by: [name not declassified]
- Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Far East, Oksenberg Subject File, Box 24, Arms Sales: 4–11/78. Secret; Noforn; Nontract; Orcon.↩