China's concept of military modernization spotlights the U.S. need to adapt to an entirely new way of conducting warfare.
In more than a decade as a naval intelligence officer, I have often witnessed firsthand the chasm between engineering analysis of adversaries' technical capabilities and operator impressions of their proficiency. When U.S. Navy operators look at their potential opponents' acquisition of state-of-the art equipment, they often focus on the challenges associated with achieving U.S. standards of proficiency with the advanced weaponry. Meanwhile, engineers in the intelligence community concentrate on the technical capabilities of the weapon itself - the nuts and bolts of flight profiles, countermeasures, and frequency ranges of operation. When it comes to evaluating China, this argument often devolves into competing, simplistic portrayals of China's military capability; either it's a 10-foot giant or has only marginal capability. Lost in this discussion are the broader implications of China's military modernization: the links between technological advancements of the 21st century and the resultant changes to the conduct of warfare.