Manchukuo Aviation I





Ki-9. Manchukuo National Military Force Air Corps, 1938-39. This trainer is Orange overall, with Black cowling, forward fuselage, undercarriage legs and wheel spats. MNMFAC roundels are applied in four wing positions, in (from top) Red, Blue, White, Black and Yellow. The fuselage script, indicating the donor of the aircraft, is in Black.



Until just five years ago, Manchurians were little more than backward bandits squabbling over pieces of torn fiefdoms. Today, we operate our own air force against all the enemies of a modernized Manchukuo.

-Nobuhiro Uta, 1st Lieutenant, Doi ManshuTeikoku Kugun’

In 1640, Ming Dynasty control over China was falling apart. Widespread crop failures, followed by starvation on a scale too massive for government redress, and peasant revolts broke out to badly shake the nearly 300-year-old order. Taking advantage of these upheavals, Manchu raiders from the north approached the capital on May 26, 1644. Beijing was defended by an unfed, unpaid army unwilling to oppose the invaders, who entered its gates just as the last Ming emperor hung himself on a tree in the imperial garden.

The Manchus replaced his dynasty with their own, the Qing (or “clear”), that ruled until the early 20th century. Demise of the Manchurian imperium in 1912 had been preceded by decades of corruption, military defeats, and foreign exploitation, leading inevitably toward revolution. Organized society dissolved, as private armies fought each other for control during the so-called Warlord Era.

Observing this calamitous decline from afar were the Japanese. They knew that someone would eventually emerge from the chaos to unify the country, thereby fulfilling Napoleon’s dire warning about China being a sleeping giant that, once awakened, would terrify the world. In 1931, Japanese forces invaded Manchuria to extirpate its contentious warlords, restore some semblance of social order, and, most importantly to themselves, create a buffer state, rich in natural resources, between Japan and the USSR.

On February 18, 1932, Manchukuo was established with assistance from former Qing Dynasty officials, including Pu-Yi, “the last emperor.” Unlike Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 film of that name, the new “State of Manchuria” was not entirely a Japanese “puppet;’ or colony, although it had elements of both. Like most Asian monarchs of his time, including Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, Pu-Yi was mostly a figurehead: the nation’s symbolic personification. Real power lay in the hands of state council cabinet ministers, who belonged to the Xiehehui Kyowakai. This “Concordia Association” embodied the principles of Minzoku Kyowa, the “concord of nationalities;’ a pan-Asian ideology aimed at making Manchukuo into a multi-ethnic nation that would gradually replace the Japanese military with civilian control.

By granting different ethnic groups their communal rights and limited self-determination under a centralized state structure, a balance was created between federal power and minority rights, thereby avoiding the same kind of separatism that had undermined the Hapsburg’s Austro-Hungarian monarchy or Russia’s Czarist empire. Accordingly, emigres were allowed their own independent groups, which included a wide spectrum of agendas, from White Russian Fascists and Romanov monarchists, to Jews involved in several Zionist movements. Together with these diverse populations, Mongols, Hui Muslims, and Koreans, as well as native Manchu, Japanese settlers, and the majority of Chinese found workable representation in the Concordia Association that dispensed with former animosities.

Because the rights, needs, and traditions of each group were officially respected, religious liberty was guaranteed by law. Mongol lamas, Manchu shamans, Muslim ahongs, Buddhist monks, Russian Orthodox priests, Jewish rabbis, and Confucian moralists were equally supported by the state. Corporatist, anticommunist and anticapitalist, Minzoku Kyowa aimed at class collaboration by organizing people through religious, occupational, and ethnic communities. Manchukuo was intended to be the ideal and standard by which the rest of China was to be reconstituted.

Other similar states set up by the Japanese were the Mangjiang government for Inner Mongolia, the Reformed Government of the Republic, and the Provisional Government of the Republic for the eastern and northern areas of China, respectively. These last two were combined by 1940 in the Nanjing National Government headed by Wang Jingwei, perhaps the most brilliant Chinese statesman of the 20th century. After Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925, as described in Chapter 13, Jingwei became the leader of the Kuomintang, China’s Nationalist Party, but was subsequently ousted by backstage intrigue to put Chiang Kai-shek in control.

Jingwei believed with the Japanese that China only avoided being a military, economic, and ideological threat to the outside world and itself, while preserving its culture from foreign influences, by a decentralized system of cooperative independence for the various provinces, with emphasis on their ethnic individuality. In this, the Japanese envisioned themselves as the power center of Asia’s Co-Prosperity Sphere. Heavy Japanese investment helped Manchukuo to become an industrial powerhouse, eventually outdistancing Japan itself in steel production.

Manchuria operated its first airline, the most modern in Asia outside Japan. Flying with the Manchukuo Air Transport Company were Junkers Ju.86s and Fokker Super Universals. The German Junkers was powered by a pair of Jumo 207B-3/V, 1,000-hp diesel engines, able to carry its 10 passengers nearly 1,000 miles above 30,000 feet, making it an ideal transport for China’s mountainous terrain.

The Dutch-designed Fokker F.18 Super Universal was actually produced in the United States during the late 1920s, later manufactured under license by Canadian Vickers and Nakajima in Japan. Chosen for its ruggedness, especially the reliability of its 450-hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp B engine in very cold conditions, a Super Universal known as the Virginia served in Richard E. Byrd’s 1928 Antarctic expedition. He additionally valued the conventional, eight-place, high-wing, cantilever monoplane for its 138-mph performance at 19,340 feet over 680 miles.

Even before the Manchukuo Air Transport Company was renamed “Manchukuo National Airways;’ the city of Changchun had likewise undergone a change to Xinjing, the “New Capital” of Manchukuo. The former whistle-stop town was transformed almost overnight into a beautiful, modern, and large city, the most culturally brilliant in China at the time. Manchukuo was officially recognized by 23 foreign governments from all the Axis powers and the USSR to El Salvador and the Holy See. The League of Nations denied Manchukuo’s legitimacy, however, prompting Japan’s withdrawal from that body in 1934, while the United States opposed any change in the international status quo “by force of arms;’ as stated by America’s Stimson Doctrine.

Still, Manchukuo experienced rapid economic growth and progress in its social systems. Manchurian cities were modernized, and an efficient and extensive railway system was constructed. A modern public educational system developed, including 12,000 primary schools, 200 middle schools, 140 teacher preparatory schools, and 50 technical and professional colleges for its 600,000 pupils and 25,000 teachers. There were additionally 1,600 private schools; 150 missionary schools; and, in the city of Harbin, 25 Russian schools. By 1940, of Manchukuo’s 40,233,950 inhabitants, 837,000 were Japanese, and plans were already afoot to increase emigration by 5 million persons over the next 16 years, in the partial relief of Japan’s overpopulation crisis.

Bordering as Manchukuo did the Russian frontier, the necessity for self-defense was apparent. In February 1937, an air force, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, was formed. To begin, 30 officers were selected from the Imperial Army for training with Japan’s Kwantung Army at Harbin. By late summer, their first unit was established at the Xinjing airfield under the command of 1st Lieutenant Nobuhiro Uta. His taskto make something of the fledgling service-was daunting, because he had only a single aircraft at his disposal, a World War I-era biplane.

The Nieuport-Delage Ni-D.29 had made its prototype debut in August 1918 and looked every bit its age with its open cockpit and fixed tail skid. Even then, the French-built pursuit aeroplane did not pass muster, because it could not achieve altitude requirements. The Ni-D.29 received a new lease on life when, stripped of its cumbersome military baggage and its Gnome 9N rotary engine replaced by a 300-hp HispanoSuiza 8Fb V-8, it won eight speed records, including the Coupe Deutsche and Gordon Bennet Trophies of 1919 and 1920, respectively.

Nieuport-Delage executives cashed in on the aircraft’s new prestige by making it a lucrative export to Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Argentina, Japan, and Thailand. Their swift model saw action in North Africa, dropping 20-pound antipersonnel bombs on native insurgents unhappy with French and Spanish colonialism. By 1937, the old double-decker’s top speed of 146 mph and 360-mile range made it something of a relic, but Lieutenant Uta made good use of its forgiving handling characteristics in the training of his novice aviators.

Appeals to Japan resulted in more modern aircraft for the nascent Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun. First to arrive were examples of a Kawasaki KDA-2 reconnaissance biplane. It had been designed specifically for the Imperial Japanese Army by Richard Vogt, an aero engineer from Germany’s renowned Dornier Flugzeugewerke. Following successful trials, the KDA-2 entered production with Kawasaki as “Type-88-1, in 1929. Its unequal span wings and slim, angular fuselage married to a 600-hp BMW VI engine provided a respectable range of 800 miles at 31,000 feet.

The aircraft’s remarkable stability and rugged construction lent itself well to the light-bomber role when fitted with 441 pounds of bombs. Lieutenant Uta’s men also received the Nakajima Type 91, until recently replaced by the Kawasaki Type 95, Japan’s leading fighter. The parasol monoplane’s Bristol Jupiter VII, 9-cylinder radial engine was rated at 520 hp, allowing a service ceiling of 29,500 feet and 186-mph maximum speed. Twin 7.7-mm machine-guns synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc were standard for the time.

In July 1938, Soviet troops violated the 78-year-old Treaty of Peking between Russia and China by establishing their common Manchurian border, a move that alarmed the Japanese, suspicious of Stalin’s plans for a Communist China. On the 15th, Japan’s attache in Moscow called for the withdrawal of newly arrived Red Army forces from a strategic area between the Shachaofeng and Changkufeng Hills west of Lake Khasan, near Vladivostok. His demand was rejected because, he was told, 1860’s Treaty of Peking was invalid, having been signed by “Czarist criminals”2 Soon after, he learned that the Soviets had relocated the original 19th century demarcation markers to make their territorial claims appear legitimate.

Japan answered this deception on the 29th by launching its 19th Division and several Manchukuo units at the Red Army’s 39th Rifle Corps, without success. Although the Nakajima fighter planes stayed behind for homeland defense, the Manchurians used their Kawasaki reconnaissance aircraft to scout Russian weak spots without being detected. Based on photographic information made available by the high-flying biplanes, the Japanese renewed their offensive on July 31, this time expelling the enemy from Changkufeng Hill in a nighttime attack. Beginning on the morning of August 2, General Vasily Blyukher, commanding the Far Eastern Front, ordered a massive, relentless, week-long artillery barrage that drove the Japanese and Manchurians back across the border. Hostilities ceased on August 11, when a peace brokered by the United States came into effect, and Soviet occupation of the compromised Manchurian border was affirmed.

Far from being honored as the victor of the short-lived campaign, General Blyukher was arrested by Stalin’s political police and executed for having suffered higher casualties than the enemy. Russian dead amounted to 792, plus 2,752 wounded, compared with 525 Japanese and Manchurians killed, 913 wounded.

Although the Changkufeng Incident, or Battle of Khasan, as it is still sometimes known, was a Japanese defeat, it afforded the young Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun its first operational experiences. More were to come in less than a year during another, far more serious frontier dispute with the USSR, when Manchukuoan horse soldiers drove off a cavalry unit of the Mongolian People’s Republic that had crossed into Manchuria across the Khalkha River, near the village of Nomohan on May 11, 1939.

Forty-eight hours later, they returned in numbers too great to be removed by the Manchurians alone. The next day, Lieutenant-Colonel Yaozo Azuma, leading a reconnaissance regiment of the 23rd Division, supported by the 64th Regiment of the same division, forced out the Mongols. They returned yet again later that month, but as the Japanese moved to expel them, Azuma’s forces were surrounded and decimated by overwhelming numbers of the Red Army on May 28; his men suffered 63 percent casualties.

One day short of a month later, Japan’s 2nd Air Brigade, in conjunction with the Manchurian Air Force, staged a massive raid on the Red Air Force base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia. Numerous Soviet aircraft were caught on the ground before they could get airborne, and those that did were mostly shot down. Manchukuoan-flown Nakajimas came in low to strafe the airfields, setting fuel dumps ablaze and holing bombers parked out in the open, defying intense and accurate ground fire. Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun fighters suppressed enemy opposition for the arrival almost immediately thereafter of their comrades flying Kawasaki Ki-32s. Just previous to the attack on Mongolia, these more modern light-bombers replaced the Manchurians’ Kawasaki Army Type 88/KDA-2 biplanes. Code named “Mary” by the Americans, the Ki-32 carried 990 pounds of bombs used by DMTK airmen to virtually obliterate the Soviet air base. The Red Air Force defenders of Tamsak-Bulak suffered heavy damage, with more than twice as many Russian warplanes than Japanese-Manchurian lost.


Manchukuo Aviation II



The effective strike had been ordered by Kwantung Army commanders without permission from Imperial Japanese Army headquarters in Tokyo, which grounded any further air raids. Henceforward, the battlefield situation went from bad to worse for the Japanese, who were decimated by waves of heavy armor attacks against which they had little defense, and forced to accept an armistice on August 31.

The very next day, Germany’s invasion of Poland precipitated World War II, an event that promised greater significance than the Nomohan Incident. Soviet forces halted at the Manchurian border, as Stalin concluded a neutrality agreement with Japan, then turned his attention to Europe. Fearing an inevitable resumption of hostilities in the uncertain future, the Japanese began seriously outfitting more Manchukuoan squadrons.

In July 1940, Japan’s Air Defense Headquarters worked in conjunction with the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun’s 1st Air Unit at Xinjing. At first, only Japanese pilots and ground crews served in Air Defense, but Manchus underwent specialized flight training soon after. A flight school was established on August 30, 1940, in Fengtien to teach both military and civilian pilots. The following January, some 100 cadets, unused to strict discipline and incited by Communist agent provocateurs, murdered their instructors, then fled Manchukuo.

By 1941, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun’s 1st Air Unit at Xinjing had 5 Japanese and 6 Manchurian officers, 14 NCOs of similarly mixed backgrounds, and about 90 pilots. They were joined by a 2nd Air Unit at Fengtien, a 3rd Air Unit Ordnance Depot of 15 Japanese and 30 Chinese officers from the National Government of China Air Force at Harbin, the Aircraft Arsenal Air Unit (supply), and the Tongliao Independent Air Unit Flying School, which increased the following year to three squadrons. In September and October 1942, the school was issued more than 20 training aircraft. These included the Tachikawa Ki-9, a two-place biplane rigged for blind-flying with a folding hood over the rear cockpit for the student. Powered by a 350-hp Hitachi Ha-13a radial engine, the Spruce, as it was known to the Americans, topped 149 mph, making the Ki-9 a respectable intermediate trainer. Staff officer transport versions featured a glazed canopy.

Another Tachikawa was fitted was a 510-hp Hitachi Ha-13, a nine-cylinder, radial engine, that gave the advanced biplane an outstanding maximum speed of 216 mph. Air Ministry officials were so impressed with its performance, the Ki-55 was occasionally fitted with a single, fixed forward-firing 7.7mm machine-gun to serve as a fighter the Allies called Ida.

The Tongliao Independent Air Unit Flying School was also sent several examples of the Mansyu Ki-79 for advanced training. More immediately significant, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun received its first modern warplanes. These were the Nakajima Ki-27 and Kawasaki Ki-32, known in the West, respectively, as Nate and Mary. The former, as some indication of Japanese regard for the Manchukuo Air Force, was Japan’s premiere fighter at the time, and had been selected for production primarily for its outstanding handling characteristics, by virtue of which it rapidly assumed ascendancy over all other pursuit aircraft in Chinese skies.

K-27s were superior to their Red Air Force opponents at 1938s Battle of Khasan but roughly handled one year later during the Nomohan Incident by Polikarpov 1-16 Ratas able to outrun them by 12 mph. A weaker airframe additionally prevented the Nakajima from holding up under stress during high-speed maneuvers, allowing the faster, sturdier, if more unwieldy Soviet monoplane to escape in a dive the Japanese warplane could not follow. Moreover, the Ki-27 lacked pilot armor protection or self-sealing fuel tanks, and the 7.7-mm rounds spat by its twin Type 89 machine-guns were weak. Fortunately for the Japanese, Nate was replaced as their leading fighter by Mitsubishi’s more famous and altogether superior A6M Zero in time for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Dai Manchu Teikoku Kugun received fewer numbers of Kawasaki’s Ki-32. Vulnerable to flak and a sitting duck for enemy interceptors, the sluggish, low-wing monoplane with its non-retractable, drag-inducing landing gear, would have been butchered in any confrontation with the Red Air Force. Instead, an 850-hp Kawasaki Ha-9-llb liquid-cooled, V-12 engine enabled the tough, reliable light-bomber to deliver its 990pound payload over a 1,220-mile range, rendering Mary ideally suited for the antipartisan role to which she was assigned. In the hands of Manchurian pilots, her interdiction of distant enemy truck convoys and supply concentrations often came as an unpleasant surprise for both Communist and Nationalist opponents.

When Manchukuo came within range of USAAF heavy bombers, the Japanese 2nd Air Army assumed direction of the Dai Manshu Teikoku, augmenting it with the 104th Sentai (“Group”), plus the 25th and 81st Dokuritsu Chutai (“Squadron”). These units were equipped with the Kawasaki Ki-45, known appropriately as the Toryu, or “Dragon Slayer;” for the many American Superfortresses it claimed since four night-fighter sentais were established to defend the home islands in autumn 1944. One sentai alone scored 8 “kills” during their first engagement with B-29s, going on to destroy another 150.

Reorganization comprised the new Fangfu Air Corps of Manchu pilots manning 120 fighters, mostly Nakajima Ki-27s. With their service ceiling of 32,940 feet, they could not even approach incoming waves of B-29s operating 660 feet higher. More powerful 710-hp Ha-lb, nine cylinder, radial engines were installed to carry the Nates just above the Superfortresses’ operational altitude and boosted maximum speed to nearly 300 mph, but that was still 65 mph slower than the strategic bombers. Even if the old fighters were able to maneuver into firing position, their twin, 7.7-mm machine-guns were outmatched by-per B-29-10,12.7-mm Browning machine-guns firing from remotely controlled turrets.

Yet, odds against the defenders were not as hopeless as they appeared. The Superforts were unable to open their bomb bay doors above cruising speed at 220 mph, giving the Nates a temporary nearly 80-mph speed advantage. But the huge silvery enemy’s real Achilles’ heel was his oxidized aluminum skin, which was prone to fire in the worst way, consuming the entire aircraft, fore and aft. Japanese and Manchu pilots found that hits of even their puny, 7.7-mm rounds just about anywhere along the frame of a B-29 could sometimes set it entirely alight. But getting close enough to do so was made extremely hazardous by combined defensive fire thrown up by the Superfortresses, and many would-be interceptors paid with their lives before they could get within range of their own guns.

B-29s first struck Manchuria three years to the day of Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor. Their anniversary raid was not coincidental but deliberately timed to encourage the more than 1,600 American prisoners of war incarcerated near Mukden. The mission’s tactical objective was destruction of the city’s aircraft factories.

Of the original 108 Superforts that set out with the XX Bomber Command, no less than 17 were forced to drop out, due to unforeseen problems caused by extremely low temperatures. Inside and outside surfaces of canopies iced over, and the big warplanes struggled, not always successfully, to gain altitude in the thin air. These worsening conditions forced another 10 B-29s to haphazardly jettison their payloads over a railroad yard long before reaching Mukden, utterly missing this secondary target, before banking away for home base. When the remaining 80 Superfortresses arrived over the city, flight crews found it entirely obscured by a heavy smokescreen. Undeterred, they unloosed their combined 800 tons of bombs, which fell mostly within residential districts, killing about 1,000 civilians, injuring several thousand more. The primary targeted aircraft factories escaped unscathed.

USAAF commanders had anticipated no enemy interdiction, regarding the Manchukuoan Air Force as nothing more than a propaganda joke, while all Japanese fighters were believed to have been recalled to defend the home islands. But the Americans were to be deceived as much about opposition over Manchuria, as they had been concerning its climate conditions.

As they approached Mukden, Sergeant Shinobu Ikeda of the 25th Dokuritsu Chutai attacked one of the monstrous bombers from behind with his Kawasaki interceptor. Before he could draw a bead on the B-29, a stream of .50-inch caliber rounds found and shattered his canopy and set his right engine alight. Wounded in a damaged airplane on fire and spinning toward the ground, Ikeda eventually regained control of the Dragon Slayer, climbed back on one engine after the same target, and deliberately collided with its tail section. The Superfortress nosed over into a steep dive from which only one gunner parachuted to safety. Like the other 10 men aboard the big bomber, Ikeda perished in the collision.

Another Japanese pilot died when the B-29 he rammed with his Nakajima was consumed in a terrific explosion that fortuitously ejected a pair of surviving crew members uninjured into space. Two more Superforts fell under conventional attacks, one each shot down by Japanese and Manchurian pilots. Three B-29s, trailing debris and smoke, escaped the combat zone, but were so badly damaged they had to be written off. For the Superfortresses’ first raid against Manchukuo, they missed all their targets, losing 7 aircraft and 44 crew members for 1 Japanese and 2 Manchurians killed in action.

Fourteen days later, 40 of the survivors returned to inaccurately and ineffectually raid Mukden, veiled once more under its obscuring smokescreen. Eighty-eight tons of high explosive intended for the earlier targeted aircraft factory yet again fell wide of the mark. This time, a Manchurian Air Force pilot, 1st Lieutenant Sono-o Kasuga, crashed his Nakajima fighter into one of the Superfortresses, which exploded for the loss of its entire crew. Another B-29 was similarly destroyed by 2nd Lieutenant Tahei Matsumoto, a Japanese pilot serving with the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun.

To oppose both December raids on Mukden, the Japanese and Manchurians lost 7 pilots and planes against 12 American bombers destroyed with 121 men killed and captured. Instead of taking heart at the appearance of USAAF warplanes high overhead, Allied POWS had watched in horror, as one Superfortress after another tumbled out of the sky in flames. Pilots of the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, together with their Japanese comrades in the 104th Sentai and the 25th and 81st Dokuritsu Chutai, achieved a real defensive victory, when, following the December 21 raid, XX Bomber Command terminated all further operations against Mukden as too costly for the negligible results achieved.

Thereafter, the war shifted away from Manchuria and virtual peacetime conditions prevailed there throughout most of 1945. By late summer, however, a buildup of Soviet forces along the Mongolian border made invasion from that quarter evident, and Manchukuo Air Force personnel underwent intensive training for ground-attacking armored vehicles. Between the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, they were able to muster 1,800 aircraft, mostly trainers and obsolete types fit only for self-destruct missions.

Just 50 Nakajima fighters were on hand, without, however, enough fuel to operate them all against the 5,368 Red Air Force warplanes they faced. Manchukuo’s Defense Force comprised 40,000 troops in 8 divisions, insufficiently supplied and poorly equipped. Supporting them were more than 600,000 men in the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army, but they, too, were threadbare. Their armor consisted of 1,215 light tanks and armored cars, together with 6,700 mostly light field pieces, opposed by 5,556 Red Army heavy tanks and 28,000 artillery.

On the morning of August 9, one-and-a-half-million Russian and Mongolian troops inundated the Manchurian border. Impossibly outnumbered, both the Manchukuo Defense Force and Kwantung Army melted away. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a revisionist historian at the University of California (Santa Barbara), has shown that this Red Army offensive, not the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompted Japan’s capitulation.’ Japanese leaders knew that the Red Army juggernaut would not stop with the easy conquest of Manchukuo, but roll on into Japan itself.

Indeed, Stalin was ready to implement the invasion of Hokkaido long before U.S. commanders intended to put their forces ashore at Kyushu. Despite Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast surrender on August 15, the Soviets refused to halt their offensive, sweeping across northeastern China into Korea, coming to a halt at the 38th Parallel, where they met their American allies. It was also the place where the next war would erupt just five years later, in Korea.

Meanwhile, occupied Manchukuo was handed over to Mao Zedong, who, after a bloody purge of the country’s intellectual and propertyowning classes, used Manchuria as a headquarters for his ultimately victorious revolution.

Machines to Make Machines


The Foochow Arsenal, also known as the Fuzhou or Mawei Arsenal, was one of several shipyards in Qing China as part of the Self-Strengthening Movement.

Ding Gongzhen had complained in 1843 that he couldn’t make a full-sized steamship because he lacked “machines for making machines”. In the summer of 1863, Zeng Guofan addressed this deficit. He summoned to an audience China’s first graduate of an American university, Yung Wing (1828–1912). At first, Yung reacted with fear. At that point, the Taiping wars were still raging, and he’d recently offered to help the Taiping modernize their military and banking systems. What if Zeng knew and wanted to behead him for treason? Yung’s friends said Zeng just wanted help, so Yung went to the great official’s headquarters. In their first meeting, Zeng sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at Yung with a slight smile, and then asked a series of personal questions. When Zeng sipped his tea, Yung knew the audience was over. At a second meeting, Zeng asked Yung what China most needed at present. Yung, having been coached by his friends, replied that China needed “a mother machine shop, capable of reproducing other machine shops.”

Zeng liked this answer and liked Yung Wing. He gave him 68,000 taels of silver (about 2,500 kilograms) and full autonomy to buy a modern factory and transport it back to China, a task he could carry out wherever and however he saw fit. Yung went to America, arranged to purchase a machine shop, attended his tenth class reunion at Yale, volunteered to fight for the Union in the Civil War (his service was declined), and, finally, in 1865, returned to China on a Nantucket bark of dubious seaworthiness (the captain’s six-year-old son swore like a sailor). He was rewarded with an official rank in the Qing bureaucracy, and the factory he purchased became the heart of the famous Jiangnan Arsenal.

The Jiangnan Arsenal is often considered a failure, but in fact the strides made there were impressive. It produced steamers from scratch—every part, from the engines to the hulls to the screw propeller mechanisms. It produced guns of advanced designs, copying or reverse engineering Western models. Testing and experimentation were an important part of the production process, and high officials were closely involved.

It wasn’t the only modern factory in China. There were many such experiments. The most significant was started by Zeng’s contemporary, the great general Zuo Zongtang (famous in the United States for the chicken dish named after him). Working with the Frenchman Prosper Giquel (commander of the Sino-French Ever-Triumphant Army), General Zuo established an institution that historians usually call the Fuzhou Shipyard, although the term is too modest. It was a huge complex, occupying 118 acres of land, with forty-five buildings, including factories, workshops, a foundry, offices, and dormitories. It even had its own tramway system. Dozens of Europeans worked there as technicians, teachers, and foremen, as did scores of Chinese administrators and thousands of Chinese workers.

The Fuzhou complex also had schools. Most of China’s new arsenals did, too, but the Fuzhou Shipyard’s were particularly ambitious, and they focused on precisely the skills that had prevented Ding Gongchen and other would-be modernizers of the 1840s from achieving success: technical drawing, mathematics, and engineering. The French advisor Prosper Giquel explained, in a report on the first five years of the Fuzhou Shipyard, the rationale for such schooling:

In order to calculate the dimensions of a piece of machinery or of a hull, it is necessary to know arithmetic and geometry; in order to reproduce that object on a plan it is necessary to understand the science of perspective, which is descriptive geometry; in order to explain the pressure exerted on engines and ships as well as on still bodies, by gravity, heat, and other phenomena of nature, it is necessary to understand the laws of physics. Next in order come the increments a body undergoes under the impulse of the forces to which it is subjected; the resistances which it will need to overcome, the strain which it is able or ought to bear, which is the science of statics and of mechanics; and for these the calculations of ordinary arithmetic and geometry no longer suffice; it is necessary also to possess the knowledge of trigonometry, of analytical geometry, of the infinitesimal calculus, so as not to be any longer bound down to reason as to objects of determinate form and size, but be able to arrive at general formulae applicable to all the details of construction.

High Chinese officials were becoming cognizant of the close link between science and military production. As Governor-General Ding Richang (1823–1882) wrote, “The Westerners … have been expending their intelligence, energy, and wealth on things that were completely vague and intangible for hundreds of years; the effects are now suddenly apparent.’” Shen Baozhen (1820–1879), the director of the Fuzhou Shipyard, wrote in 1870, “The ships and guns of the West are making such extraordinary improvement that they almost defy imagination; this is the result of a capacity for computation that reaches smaller and smaller decimals; if the calculation is finer by the slightest degree, the performance of the machinery will be ten times more adroit.” He later recommended that Chinese students be sent to Europe so that they could continue mastering Western learning, and “peep into [its] subtle secrets.”

Fuzhou Shipyard students got a good opportunity to peep in 1877, when the first cohort was sent to France. Others followed, and the education programs were enormously important. As Hsien-chun Wang has recently written, “We cannot overemphasize the significance of the [Fuzhou Shipyard’s] School of Naval Construction. It was China’s first engineering school that systematically imported from the West a technology from its scientific principles to the engineering application.… Compared to other new educational institutions in China that introduced Western knowledge in the period between the 1860s and 1880s, the schools of the Fuzhou shipyard were much more technical.” Students learned about every part of steamship design, and graduates had careers lasting well into the twentieth century.

The Fuzhou Shipyard produced guns, ammunition, and steamships. At first the steamships were basic models: a 150-horsepower transport, an 80-horsepower gunboat. But the quality was high. A British merchant noted that the vessels were “admirably fastened and particularly well finished outside and inside. They could not be better finished in London or New York.” The third vessel to launch—an 80-horsepower gunboat—was even better, fast and solid, perhaps even a little too solid, according to the merchant: “somewhat unnecessarily strong for the tonnage and weight, but the faults are good and unusual.” Other early vessels were also considered effective. By 1873, the British observer noted, Fuzhou-produced gunboats were better than contemporary British vessels of the same type. “No navy,” he wrote, “has better vessels.” Other Western observers corroborated these judgments.

Yet steamer technology was changing rapidly. In 1853, the Scottish shipwright John Elder (remembered today as a master draftsman, among other things) had patented a design for a compound engine for marine use. Instead of a single condenser, Elder’s engine had two. The steam first entered a high-heat, high-pressure condenser. Then it was shunted to a lower-pressure, lower-heat condenser. At each stage it drove pistons. The result was a significant increase in efficiency, and by 1858 Elder patented a triple-compound version, even more efficient. By the 1870s, iron-hulled vessels driven by compound engines were being widely adopted throughout Europe.

The Fuzhou Shipyard followed. By 1877 it was producing iron-hulled vessels with compound engines. Its first success, a sloop launched in May 1877, was impressive: at 1,200 tons, it was driven by a composite 750-horsepower engine. By December 1880, the shipyard had built four such sloops. In 1883, it launched a powerful cruiser: 2,200 tons, with a 2400-horsepower triple-compound engine and a cruising speed of fifteen knots. General Zuo Zongtang ordered two more. In May 1888, a ship called the Longwei was completed, and it was the most technologically sophisticated vessel yet: 2,100 tons with twenty-centimeter-thick steel armor, and a turret whose armor was even thicker. It was driven by two 1,200-horsepower triple expansion engines, which enabled a cruising speed of fourteen knots. It featured electric lighting, a searchlight, and a telephonic communication system.

Yet still the pace of change accelerated. By the 1880s, European cruisers could reach nine thousand tons and cruise at twenty-two knots. Triple expansion engines of eight thousand horsepower were by then common, and hulls were made of steel. Never before had technology moved so swiftly. In 1903, a historian of the British navy wrote, “It may be said with little or no fear of exaggeration that the best ship existing in 1867 would have been more than a match for the entire British fleet existing in 1857, and, again, that the best ship existing in 1877 would have been almost, if not quite, equal to fighting and beating the entire fleet of only ten years earlier. By 1890, the ships of 1877 had become well-nigh obsolete; and by 1900 the best ships, even of 1890, were hardly worthy of a place in the crack fleets of the country.”

So when we assess the performance of the Fuzhou Shipyard and the Jiangnan Arsenal, we must keep in mind that China was not just closing a gap. It was embarking on a new phase of continuous revolutionary improvement, and that phase was not new to Asia alone: it was new in world history. To appreciate the rapid development of mechanical technologies, one can chart the number of specialized engineering societies that were founded in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There is certainly a lag between East Asians and Europeans, but what is surprising is how new Great Britain’s were as well.

China and Japan were modernizing swiftly, but so were all their Western rivals, and it is the trajectory that is important. Within its first two decades of existence, the Fuzhou Shipyard had vaulted forward in technological capacity, able to follow the continual technological revolution. In fact, the Fuzhou Shipyard compares favorably to Japan’s famous Yokosuka Shipyard well into the 1880s. The Yokosuka Shipyard was smaller than that of Fuzhou, and its budget was lower, just a third of that of Fuzhou in 1871. It produced far fewer vessels—just thirteen between 1876 and 1894, whereas the Fuzhou Shipyard produced thirty-three vessels before 1895. The Yokosuka Shipyard also trailed the Fuzhou Shipyard in terms of technology, building its first iron-hulled vessel after Fuzhou. Experts now believe that the relative maritime performance of Japan and China was much closer than historians had tended to assume up through the 1880s. Moreover, China and Japan seem to have been unusual: with the possible exception of the Ottoman Empire, no other non-Western states mastered steamship technology so well.

Unfortunately, by the late 1880s the Fuzhou Shipyard ran into problems. The issue was not conservatism or lack of know-how or a supposed Chinese indifference to engineering and preference for Confucianism, as scholars have suggested. It was a lack of dedicated funding. Yokosuka Shipyard received clear and consistent allocations, having been placed under Japan’s Naval Department in 1872. The Fuzhou Shipyard didn’t. When Zuo Zongtang had set it up, he’d arranged for funding to be shared by several provinces, of which the most important was Fujian, where the shipyard was located. Other provinces were supposed to contribute, but their allocations weren’t automatic. Moreover, Zuo Zongtang hadn’t taken into account steam vessels’ high maintenance costs, which consumed an increasing portion of the budget. Each year, funding had to be cobbled together from multiple sources. The shipyard’s directors spent as much time wrangling funding and lobbying officials as directing operations.

For a time, powerful officials kept the shipyard flourishing. The great Shen Baozhen, for example, had supported it as viceroy of Liangjiang. But he died in 1879. Zuo Zongtang, the shipyard’s founder and greatest patron, died in 1885. Afterward, it became harder and harder for directors to cobble together the funding. Morale suffered, as evidenced by high turnover for the position of shipyard director: between 1875 and 1890, three resigned and four moved to other posts. By the late 1880s, the shipyard was faltering.

Japan’s Yokosuka Shipyard was on the opposite trajectory. Although its early years had been rough, by the late 1880s it had dedicated funding that allowed it to invest in multiyear projects and make continued capital investments, vital in this time of constant technological change. It increased its commitment to innovation, hiring Western experts to build the latest designs, although its advanced cruisers were less effective than once believed.

Indeed, on the eve of the war between China and Japan, many experts believed with good reason that China’s fleet had advantages over that of Japan and that China would win the war.

China in Space I



As China has grown in economic prosperity and overall national assertiveness since the 1949 Communist revolution, its view of national security interests has expanded to include space. A 1967 U. S. Government assessment stressed that a Chinese ICBM system could be deployed in the early 1970s and potentially as early as 1970–1971, that Chinese national resources could probably support moderate and increasing ICBM deployment through 1975, and that China was likely to launch a satellite as soon as possible for political benefit (U. S. Central Intelligence Agency 1967, 2).

The genesis of China’s military space programs began in 1956 when it acquired two Soviet R-1 missiles, which were copies of German cryogenic liquid-propellant V-2 missiles of World War II provenance. The following year China acquired the more advanced R-2 missiles from the Soviets, and these had greater range and a larger payload than the R-1 while also using storable liquid propellants. Besides providing the ballistic missiles, the Soviets also gave China the R-2’s blueprints and provided advisors to assist in developing a copy of the R-2, which enabled the Chinese to produce and deploy these missiles.

Chinese engineers and students received aeronautical engineering training at the Moscow Aviation Institute and gained experience with more advanced Soviet missiles such as the SS-3 and SS-4, and their knowledge of these missiles was also facilitated by making copies of restricted notes on these weapons. The 1960 Sino–Soviet ideological split ended such cooperation, but the Chinese used the knowledge gained from this brief cooperation and would later acquire from U. S.-trained scientists to expand the growth and progress of their military space programs (U. S. Congress. House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China 1999, 1:176–177).

Chinese ballistic missile and space programs grew significantly because of the influence of Qian Xuesen (1911–) who is considered the progenitor of China’s ballistic missile force. A Shanghai native, Qian left China during the Japanese occupation in 1935 and emigrated to the United States where he received a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph. D. from the California Institute of Technology. During his time at Cal Tech, Qian worked with a rocket research group at the Guggenheim Aero- nautical Library where his work focused on aviation engineering theory, supersonic and transonic aerodynamics, and thin shell stability theory for ballistic missile structures (House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China 1999, 1:177).

Qian later went on to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and because of his work reputation and quality, he was recruited to join the U. S. Army Air Force in developing its long-range missile programs. He was commissioned as a colonel and began working on the Titan ICBM. However, during the 1950s, allegations arose that he was spying for China. He lost his security clearance, was removed from working on U. S. ballistic missiles, and eventually returned to China in 1955 with four other colleagues from the Titan design unit (House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China 1999, 1:178).

Following his return to China, Qian and his associates applied their U. S.-derived knowledge to China’s nascent ballistic missile programs. He became the chief project manager in all of China’s ballistic missile programs and served as the lead designer of the CSS-4 nuclear ICBM targeted at the United States. Qian also served as the first director of China’s Fifth Academy, which is responsible for China’s aeronautics and missile development research and is now called China Aerospace Corporation. In 1958 he presented his ideas for satellite development to Communist Party leaders. During 1962 Qian began training Chinese scientists to design and develop satellites including the Dong Fang Hong–1 satellite, which was the first Chinese satellite launched. Qian was personally com- mended for his satellite work by Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist leaders, awarded the honorary rank of lieutenant general in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for his ballistic missile program development work, and in 1991 President Jiang Zemin awarded him with a “State Scientist of Outstanding Contribution,” which is the highest national honor a Chinese scientist can receive (House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China, 1:179; Descisciolo 2005, 52).

The first Chinese satellite launch was in 1970 using a CSS-3 ICBM launch package, which weighed 380 pounds and stayed in orbit for 26 days. A second successful satellite launch took place on March 3, 1971. Three unsuccessful attempts were made launching longer range and more powerful Long March rockets in 1973 and 1974 before achieving success in 1975. Most subsequent Chinese satellite launches have been of communications, weather, remote sensing, navigation, or scientific satellites, which may have military applications or dual civilian and military applications (Smith 2005, 1; House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China 1999, 1:200–201).

In 1974 China launched a series of satellites whose focus involved programs covering remote sensing and microgravity research, and over subsequent decades Chinese space capabilities have grown to encompass communication satellites, groups of launching rockets, a modern space launch complex, and an increasing list of customers for its launch services (Patterson 1995, 3).

In February 1975 the State Council of China approved a report on developing Chinese satellite communications outlined by the State Planning Commission and the National Defense Science and Technology Commission, which facilitated communication satellite development into national plans (Patterson 1995, 4).

These civilian space endeavors were also balanced with a desire to enhance China’s military capabilities in space. A 1974 CIA estimate mentioned that China’s ICBM arsenal had the ability to hit U. S. forces in Asia and that China wanted to increase the range and striking power of those forces so they could strike the Soviet Union west of the Ural Mountains and the continental United States while also improving the survivability of their nuclear deterrent (U. S. Central Intelligence Agency 1974, 1–5).

China developed the Long March 3 rocket in 1977 to meet requirements for launching communications satellites into geosynchronous orbit and began developing the Long March 4 rocket during the late 1970s to launch meteorological satellites into sun- synchronous orbits for military and civilian purposes. China also began entering the commercial space launch industry around 1986, which proved to be fortuitous timing for them because of the temporary suspension of U. S. space launches following that year’s space shuttle Challenger tragedy. This temporary moratorium on U. S. launches was reflected in U. S. policy changes allowing China to launch U. S. manufactured satellites if China signed agreements with the United States on competitive pricing, liability, and protection of U. S. technology. The China Great Wall Industry Corporation vigorously markets Chinese launch services, and revenues earned from Chinese commercial launches are shared between two government organizations, the Commission of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND) and the Chinese Aerospace Corporation (CASC) (House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China 1999, 1:206–207; Thompson and Morris 2001, 5).

China’s nuclear capabilities expanded considerably in 1980 when it successfully tested the DF-5 ICBM, which was capable of reaching the continental United States and in 1982 it successfully tested its first submarine-launched ballistic missile (Roberts 2003, 3).

China’s launch site infrastructure also began taking shape in the 1980s. Three of these facilities are responsible for managing Chinese launch capabilities as of late 2005. Xi-chang, in southeastern China near Chengdu, was opened in 1984 and is responsible for primarily launching communication satellites into geostationary orbit above the equator. Jiuquan or Shuang Cheng-tzu, located in the Gobi Desert, is China’s first launch site and launches an assortment of spacecraft including those of China’s human space-flight program. Taiyuan, south of Beijing, opened in 1988 and is used for launches into polar orbits, and its satellites include those used for weather and other earth observation assignments (Smith 2005, 1).

President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 inauguration of the SDI ballistic missile defense program had a significant impact on Chinese views of the global security environment. Initial Chinese reaction was cautious with some officials asserting that SDI was an understandable and appropriate attempt to counter Soviet attempts to gain strategic superiority. As time evolved, China began distinguishing between ballistic missile defense research and deployment, favoring the former but opposing the latter. Debate over Chinese nu- clear doctrine intensified within Chinese military and political circles with there being some evidence that this debate instigated a Chinese move from what could be called “minimum deterrence,” to nuclear threats, to a more vigorous posture called “limited deterrence” (Roberts 2003, ES-2; Glaser and Garrett 1986, 28–44).

The end of the Cold War, collapse of the Soviet Union, and declining U. S. interest in SDI seemed to indicate to the Chinese that ballistic missile defense was a less salient issue to U. S. security interests. Ballistic missile defense received new impetus from the 1990– 1991 Persian Gulf War and its aftermath, which saw the United States gain renewed interest in theater missile defense (TMD). Chinese policymakers began to worry about the potential consequences of U. S. TMD deployments in East Asia, which were being taken in response to large-scale enhancement of Chinese theater missile forces with Taiwan and its national independence being the primary target of these Chinese missiles (Roberts 2003, ES-3).

In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, the Chinese government launched a concerted campaign against U. S. missile defense plans. Such U. S. responses were propelled by the 1998 North Korean test of a long-range missile that overflew Japan and instigated a U. S. policy decision to deploy a national missile defense system as soon as possible. China claimed that ballistic missile defense was a threat to the viability of its nuclear deterrent, jeopardized what it saw as strategic stability, would reverse “progress” made in deescalating the nuclear “arms race,” would ignite nuclear and missile proliferation and an arms race in space, consolidate alleged American global hegemony, exacerbate the Taiwan problem, expand Japan’s East Asian regional security role, and deepen U. S. East Asian involvement, whereas China wishes such involvement reduced (Roberts 2003, ES-3; Lee 2001, 85–120; Bermudez 1999; Gertz 2000, 38–43).

U. S. concerns over Chinese space capabilities were enhanced by charges of Chinese espionage at the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and involving thefts of sensitive U. S. space technologies from corporations such as Loral and Hughes. A U. S. House of Representatives select committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (Republican from California) was charged with examining these allegations and released its unclassified three-volume public report in June 1999. Report findings indicated that China had stolen design information on the United States’ most advanced nuclear weapons as well as U. S. missile technology and used it for Chinese ballistic missile applications, that this stolen technology was applicable to Chinese ballistic missiles and space-lift rockets, and that U. S. satellite manufacturers had transferred missile design information and technology to China without obtaining legally required U. S. Government licenses

The Cox Report also revealed that this illicitly obtained information and technology improved the reliability of current and future Chinese rockets and missiles whose uses can include military communications and reconnaissance satellites, space-based sensors, space-based weapons, and satellites for state-of-the-art command and control and sophisticated intelligence collection capabilities. The report also mentioned that China had proliferated missile and space technology to countries as diverse as Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea and other incidents that the report could not disclose without adversely affecting national security (House Select Committee on U. S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns With the People’s Republic of China 1999, 1: ii, xii, xiv–xv, xvii, xxxvii, 1:172–232, and 2:2–217; Smith 2001, 7-10).

China in Space II


The launch of Long March 3B Rocket, Xichang Satellite Center, China.

The 1990s saw additional noteworthy developments in Chinese military space programs. In 1992, Chinese President Jiang Zemin approved Project 921 inaugurating a manned space program, and in 1993 PLA chief of staff Chi Haotian visited Russia’s Star City cosmonaut training center near Moscow beginning greater bilateral Sino–Russian space cooperation, which continues to the present. In 1999 the Shenzhou 1 rocket, which is an upgraded version of Russia’s Soyuz rockets, was unveiled, in 2000 the Chinese launched Beidou 1 as their first navigation satellite, and in October 2003 China’s first manned mission was launched on the Shenzhou 5 rocket carrying Lt. Col. Yang Liwei as China’s first astronaut on a flight lasting 21 hours and 14 orbits, and which may also have deployed a military intelligence satellite (Descisciolo 2005, 53–54, 60, 62).

The 1990s and early years of the 21st century have also seen Chinese military literature place increasing importance on using space as an arena for military conflict and as an area of military research. Laser radars have become a Chinese military research priority. The Chinese have experimented with lidars, which are similar to radar in that they use laser light reflected from targets and received by optical lenses to locate targets. Lidars use an intensively widened beam to acquire a target, and the beam is reduced to a pencil beam to enhance target calculations. Particular emphasis has been placed by the Chinese on CO2 lasers, and they have also conducted research on a higher powered laser radar, which has space tracking ability (Stokes 1999, 110–111; Feigenbaum 2003; Pillsbury 2000, 363–375).

China has augmented its military space capabilities by secretly acquiring U. S. Patriot missile technology after the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War, seeking to develop an electro- magnetic missile capable of causing severe disruptions to the electronic systems of attacking aircraft and missiles, developing military doctrine advocating the physical destruction of adversary reconnaissance platforms, and developing ballistic missile defense programs capable of countering missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers (Stokes 1999, 112–115; Frieman 2001, 163–185).

A detailed critique of Chinese military space policy and doctrine is presented in a recent U. S. Army War College assessment, which argues that literature from China’s Academy of Military Science, COSTIND, and CASC has supported China developing a military space capability since the 1991 Gulf War. These Chinese organizations recognize the United States’ high reliance on military space systems as a potential “Achilles heel.” These and comparable appraisals go on to mention that the PLA and Chinese defense industries are developing active and passive counterspace measures that are being integrated into Chinese military doctrine such as the belief that it is easier to develop ASAT weapons instead of ballistic missile defenses and developing camouflage standards for its deployed missiles to counter foreign optical, infrared, and radar satellite systems (Stokes 1999, 117–118; Johnson-Freese 2003, 259-265; Mulvenon et al. 2006, 67–76; Scobell 2003).

China, as an increasingly important international political, economic, and military power, has sought to reassure the global community that its purposes in space are benign. In 2000, the Chinese government released China’s Space Activities as a white paper that sought to describe and explain Chinese space policies. This document asserted China sought to adhere to existing international agreements on peaceful uses of outer space and that its overall national space policies aims are:

• to explore outer space and learn more about the cosmos and the earth;

• to utilize outer space for peaceful purposes, promote mankind’s civilization and social progress, and benefit the whole of mankind; and

• to meet the growing demands of economic construction, national security, science and technology development and social progress, protect China’s national interests, and build up the comprehensive national strength (China Internet Information Center 2000, 1).

The 2002 Chinese defense policy statement also asserted that China opposed weaponizing outer space, theater ballistic missile defense in northeast Asia with particular opposition to any such defense for Taiwan, and that it regretted the U. S. decision to abrogate the ABM Treaty (China Internet Information Center 2002, 2–3). The 2004 version of this document made a brief reiteration of Chinese rhetoric about the peaceful uses of outer space with no additional elaboration (China Internet Information Center 2004, 2; Zhang 2005, 6–11).

Despite these Chinese rhetorical protestations of peaceful space policy intent, the United States remains very concerned about the nature of Chinese military space policy and overall military power. This concern was most vividly expressed in the 2000 defense-spending budget passed in 1999, which required the Defense Department to prepare annual reports for Congress on Chinese military power and strategy (An Act to Authorize Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2000 and for Military Activities of the Department of Defense for Military Construction, and for Defense Activities of the Department of Energy, to Prescribe Personnel Strengths, for Such Fiscal Year for the Armed Forces, and for Other Purposes. Public Law 106–65. 113 U. S. Statutes at Large 2000, 781–782).

The 2000 edition of this report noted that while China had the ability to launch military photo-reconnaissance satellites, their technology was obsolescent by Western standards. This report went on to mention that the China–Brazil Earth Resources satellite launched in October 1999 could help Chinese efforts to develop better military reconnaissance satellites and that China and Russia had 11 joint space projects including those involving cooperative manned space activities (U. S. Department of Defense 2000, 14–15).

This report’s 2002 edition noted improvements in China’s command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) capabilities thanks to negotiations with the Belarusian firm Agat to produce relevant battle management software and that China has purchased new space systems such as over-the-horizon radar to increase its ability to detect, monitor, and target western Pacific naval activity. In July 2001, a five-year Sino–Russian cooperation agreement was signed in which these countries established organizations to jointly develop a regional missile defense system and create programs to develop new generation high-tech weapons and equipment (U. S. Department of Defense 2002, 4–5).

In 2003, this report stressed that China likely had thorough knowledge of U. S. and foreign space operations due to open-source information on U. S. space systems and operations, that China had acquired technical assistance applicable to developing laser radars to track and image satellites, that it may have the ability to damage optical sensors on satellites that are vulnerable to laser damage, and that it still desired to develop an ASAT system between 2005–2010 (U. S. Department of Defense 2003, 36).

The 2004 edition of this report detailed additional Chinese military space warfare enhancements but also acknowledged that it still lacked information about the motivations and decision making behind China’s policy making in this area because of the consider- able secrecy surrounding Chinese national security policy making and the reluctance of Chinese leaders to engage in genuine transparency on these issues (U. S. Department of Defense 2004, 7).

The 2006 edition of this Pentagon report noted continuing Chinese interest in developing radio-frequency, laser, and ASAT weapons, mentioned that China would eventually deploy satellites with advanced imagery, reconnaissance, and earth resource systems capabilities for military purposes to supplement existing coverage with Russian and Western technology. This report also acknowledged that China had launched its second manned space mission on October 12, 2005 with its two-person crew returning safely five days later after performing experiments in space for the first time. There was also acknowledgement of press reports stating that China wants to perform its first space walk in 2007, rendezvous and dock spacecraft between 2009–2012, and have a manned space station by 2020 (U. S. Department of Defense 2006, 32–34).

Besides its launch facilities at Jiuquan, Taiyuan, and Xichang, China maintains an advanced telemetry, tracking, and command network including eight domestic ground- tracking stations, foreign ground-tracking stations in Kiribati in the South Pacific and Namibia, four tracking ships, and two space control facilities. It also established a Space Target and Debris Observation and Research Center in March 2005 to help prevent space debris strikes against satellites and manned spacecraft (Center for Nonproliferation Studies 2006(a), 1–2).

China’s three Beidou 1 navigation satellites, the most recent being launched in May 2003, are believed to have the capability to improve the accuracy of China’s long-range weapons and data available to its military forces. The Zi Yuan remote satellites that are part of the China–Brazil Earth Resources Program are believed to have an estimated three- to nine-meter resolution and are considered useful for military purposes despite Chinese assertions that they are used for civilian purposes. There is some evidence that China wants to upgrade its satellites so they have one-meter resolution capability, which may enable them to have the ability to broadcast military data such as maps and enemy force deployments to small field stations (Center for Nonproliferation Studies 2006(b), 1).

China is clearly intent on becoming a major political, economic, and military participant in space. Whether this involvement is benign or has assertive or even hostile military intent toward the United States or other countries is the subject of considerable debate (Lele 2005, 67-75; Lim 2004, 30-39; McCabe 2003, 73-83; Murray and Antonellis 2003, 645-652; Saunders 2005, 21-23). Nevertheless, keeping track of Chinese military space trends and developments and related regional security developments such as its January 2007 destruction of a polar-orbiting weather satellite (British Broadcasting Corporation 2007, 1–3) and related regional security developments such as North Korea’s efforts to develop ballistic missiles (Bennett 2004, 79–108) will become increasingly important for the foreseeable future for U. S. and other international military policymakers and for those studying international security trends and developments. These trends, as described in this section on China, make it likely that China will become the primary competitor to U. S. military space policy aspirations in the years and decades to come.

Chinese war junk of the nineteenth century


The design of this Chinese war junk of the nineteenth century would have been unchanged for centuries. The high stern could be used for deploying troops onto city walls during amphibious operations on the Yangzi River. A Chinese war junk of the “old style,” 1840s. Chinese naval vessels were small, around 300 tons burden and 100 feet in length, at a time when trading junks might accommodate some 1,000 tons. Each coastal province maintained its own flotilla of war junks, but they served more as local coast guards than as a unified naval strike force. Carrying around 100 men and perhaps a half dozen cannon each, the Chinese war junk was no match for a 19th century European warship.

Large, ocean-going junks played a key role in Asian trade until the 19th century. One of these junks, Keying, sailed from China around the Cape of Good Hope to the United States and England between 1846 and 1848. Many junks were fitted out with carronades and other weapons for naval or piratical uses. These vessels were typically called “war junks” or “armed junks” by Western navies which began entering the region more frequently in the 18th century. The British, Americans and French fought several naval battles with war junks in the 19th century, during the First Opium War, Second Opium War and in between. At sea, junk sailors co-operated with their Western counterparts. For example, in 1870 survivors of the English barque Humberstone shipwrecked off Formosa, were rescued by a junk and landed safely in Macao.


Shanghai Area 1937


Officers of the Chinese 88th Division studying a map, Shanghai, China, Sep-Nov 1937; note Germany-supplied helmets.


It seemed increasingly likely that Vice Admiral Hasegawa Kiyoshi, the commander of the Japanese Third Fleet, had bitten off more than he could chew when aggressively expanding the operations in the Shanghai area. August 16 was the crucial day. Repeated Chinese attacks put the Japanese defenders under severe pressure and stretched their resources to the limit. Rear Admiral Okawachi Denshichi, who headed the Shanghai marines, had to hastily throw in precious reserves, including irreplaceable tanks, to prevent a Chinese breakthrough. It was a crisis situation, and for the first time the marines had to think the unthinkable. If they did not get help from the outside, they might actually lose the battle.

Three times during the course of August 16, Hasegawa himself sent telegrams to his superiors, each more desperate-sounding than the previous one. After his second telegram, sent at about 7:00 p.m., warning that his troops could probably only hold out for six more days, the Naval Command issued an order to the marine barracks at Sasebo Naval Base in southern Japan to dispatch two units of 500 marines each to Shanghai. After Hasegawa’s third telegram later that night, the navy opted for yet more reinforcements. Two units of the marines, consisting of a total of 1,400 soldiers, waiting in Manchuria for deployment at Qingdao, were ordered to immediately embark for Shanghai.

The Chinese, however, did not feel that things were going their way. The battle continued to be much bloodier than anyone had foreseen. Throwing infantry en masse against fortified positions was perhaps the only feasible tactic available to an army rich in manpower confronting an adversary with an obvious technological edge. Yet, it turned the battle into a contest of flesh against steel. The result was a tremendous loss of life. Chiang Kai-shek was losing patience. After several days of fighting, his troops had still not succeeded in dislodging the Japanese from the streets of Shanghai. The Japanese marines entrenched in the Hongkou and Yang-shupu areas had proved to be a harder nut to crack than he or any of his generals had expected. At a meeting with his divisional commanders, he ordered a massive attack to be launched in the early morning of August 17. The troops were to field more firepower, and be better prepared than they were for the assault three days earlier. Codenamed Operation Iron Fist, it was the most ambitious Chinese offensive in the first crucial week of the Shanghai campaign.

Although the initiative was Chiang’s, in its actual execution the operation was mainly a German undertaking. Colonel Hans Vetter, the advisor assigned to the 88th Division, played a key role in planning the offensive. He wanted to use the Stosstrupp, or shock troop tactics that the Germans had introduced to much effect in the trenches towards the end of the Great War. After intensive artillery bombardment, a small, elite group of determined, well-armed men was to punch through the Japanese lines and fight its way deep into the enemy camp before the defenders had even had a chance to recover from the initial surprise. The procedure was to be followed both by the 88th Division moving in from the west, targeting the area south of Hongkou Park, and by the 87th Division carrying out a parallel operation from the east.

Plans for the attack came at a critical time. Zhang Zhizhong knew that he faced a window of opportunity while he was still enjoying a significant, but probably only temporary, advantage against the Japanese. The window had to be utilized before reinforcements arrived. However, the odds were not good. Urban combat with modern weaponry of unprecedented lethality was a costly affair, especially when the enemy had the upper hand in the sky. Japanese airplanes were a constant menace, carrying out incessant sorties against the Chinese positions at all times of the day. The Chinese Air Force remained a factor, but it was a question how much longer it would hold out against the more experienced Japanese pilots and their better and more maneuverable aircraft.

The growing Japanese presence overhead, maintained by both ship-borne planes and planes based on airstrips on Chongming Island in the Yangtze Delta, greatly complicated any major movements on the ground. “The transport and deployment of Chinese units met significant obstacles due to the busy activity of the Japanese naval aircraft,” German advisors recalled later. Even so, the Chinese Army continued its troop build-up in the Shanghai area. The 98th Infantry Division arrived on August 15 and placed one brigade, half its strength, at the disposal of 87th Infantry Division, keeping the division’s rear area covered during Operation Iron Fist.

As the countdown to the planned final strike continued, morale remained high in the Chinese camp. Despite the lack of progress in the days since the battle had broken out, and despite the heavy casualties, a feeling of relief permeated the ranks. After civil wars that in effect had lasted a quarter century, all Chinese were at long last fighting on the same side. Many officers rushed to write their wills, expecting to die for their country. Few wanted to be killed. Still, they felt that if they had to give their lives, this was a worthy cause. “I was very happy and excited,” said Zhang Fakui, the commander of the right wing in the Pudong area, east of Huangpu, which had been designated as the 8th Army Group. “This was the first and only national war I fought in.”

Iron Fist kicked off as planned at 5:00 a.m. on August 17. With the expenditure of all available firepower, the 87th and 88th Infantry Divisions launched simultaneous assaults against stunned and bewildered Japanese. In line with the Stosstrupp approach of rapid penetration, Zhang Zhizhong introduced a new tactical principle, prompted by the severe losses during the first few days of fighting. Forces under his command were to identify gaps in the Japanese defenses and exploit these, rather than launch massive, costly and most likely futile attacks on heavily fortified positions. Once an enemy stronghold was spotted, the main forces would evade it and leave just enough troops to keep it pinned down.

Chen Yiding, a regimental commander of the 87th Infantry Division, was a pivotal figure in the assault. His soldiers, each equipped with provisions for two days, made good progress during the first hours of Iron Fist, taking advantage of their local knowledge and moving with the slippery dexterity of alley cats. They would enter into a building on one street, knock down the wall inside and exit onto the next street, or they would throw down beams from rooftop to rooftop, sneaking as quietly as possible from one block to the next without being noticed by those on the ground. They proved elusive targets for the Japanese, who would expect them to come from one direction, only to be attacked from another.

Nevertheless, changing the tactical situation of the previous days was not enough. The attackers encountered well-prepared defenses that sometimes could not be circumvented, and losses started piling up from early in the assault. An entire battalion of the 88th Division was wiped out trying to take a single building. Despite the sacrifices, there was no major breakthrough anywhere along the Japanese defense lines. This was partly a result of strong support from Japanese naval artillery in the Huangpu River, and partly a reflection of poor coordination between Chinese infantry and artillery.

Equally detrimental to the Chinese cause was their careful avoidance, during the first days of combat in Shanghai, of fighting inside the International Settlement, or even in the predominantly Japanese part of the settlement, in order not to anger the outside world and swing international opinion against them. This approach frustrated their German advisors. “It was obvious that the attacking troops had been told to only take on enemies standing on Chinese territory, not the ones inside the international areas,” the Germans wrote with an almost audible sigh of regret in their after-action report.

Their frustration was shared by several Chinese officers at the frontline. “We are much handicapped by the demarcation of the foreign areas,” the adjutant to a divisional commander told a western reporter. “We could have wiped out the enemy if it had not been for orders from the Central Government and our commander to avoid causing damage to foreign lives and to give them adequate protection.” The existence of the large foreign community mainly played into Japanese hands. Many of Chiang Kai-shek’s officers believed that if the Chinese had been able to move through the French Concession and the International Settlement and attack the Japanese from the rear, they could have won easily. “Without the protection provided by the foreign concessions they would have been wiped out,” said Zhang Fakui.

At the same time, the Chinese commanders had only hazy ideas about conditions at the frontline and were sometimes misled by exaggerated claims made by officers in the field. At 9:00 a.m. on August 17, the commander of the 87th Infantry Division reported to Zhang Zhizhong that the Japanese Navy Club, a key position, was in his possession. However, when Zhang sent his own people to the spot to investigate, it turned out a four-story building right next door was still occupied by the Japanese who were determined to defend the building to the last man. The divisional commander’s self-assured claim was further undermined later that afternoon, when Japanese troops carried out two counterattacks from a nearby naval drill ground. It was, therefore, understandable that not all officers trusted reports that their own units sent back to them. One regiment of the 87th Division was under specific orders to document any advance it made. Every time it had taken a key objective along its predetermined route of advance, it was to pull down a street sign and send it back as evidence that it indeed was in control of the position.

At the end of the day, the Japanese won. Defense had proved stronger, as it had for four long years on the Western Front during the Great War. The challenge the Japanese faced was tough, but at least it was straightforward and uncomplicated. They had to hold on to Hongkou and Yang-shupu and wait for reinforcements to arrive. They proved themselves adept at this job. In many cases, Chinese soldiers found themselves fighting for the same objectives they had been targeting when the battle for Shanghai began several days earlier. Pan Shihua, a soldier in the 88th Infantry Division, took part in a harsh seesaw struggle around the Eight Character Bridge, where lax preparation caused casualties to run unnecessarily high. “Because we hadn’t done reconnaissance well enough beforehand, we found ourselves surrounded by Japanese armor on all sides,” he said. The Chinese forces were getting bogged down. Zhang Zhizhong’s window of opportunity was closing fast.