China appears to be exploring a new military concept called Multi-Domain Precision Warfare (MDPW) that seeks to align its forces from cyber to space – a move believed to be motivated by the proposed race to counter the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) project.
While the cost, feasibility, and overall complexity of the Pentagon’s JADC2 have been questioned by lawmakers and international experts, Beijing has moved forward with the MDPW project. As a result, defense officials in the U.S. are calling on Washington to speed up the development of the JADC2 strategy.
It was in 2021 when the PLA began discussions on the need to build MDPW as a new “core operational concept,” according to the 2022 edition of the Pentagon’s China Military Power Report. At its core, the MDPW is similar to the JADC2 strategy – a public version of which was released by the Defense Department in March 2022.
The JADC2 strategy is focused on building an interconnected command and control system that interlinks information, communications, and surveillance across multiple domains to expose enemy weaknesses and quickly coordinate firepower.
The MDPW, on the other hand, seeks to leverage the C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) network, which the PLA describes as the “network information system-of-systems.” The idea is to not only destroy enemy forces, but to disrupt and knock down underlying networks and critical infrastructure.
Incorporating advances in big data and artificial intelligence, the design is to quickly identify key vulnerabilities in the U.S. operational system, thereby enabling a combination of joint forces across domains to launch precision strikes against those vulnerabilities.
Alongside China’s new doctrine and military strategic guidelines, the MDPW is conceptually meant to serve as a link offering guidance to the PLA on what it must do to win battles of the future.
Considering that MDPW sits on top of an “operational conceptual system-of-systems,” the PLA is also developing additional subordinate operational concepts, the Pentagon report pointed out. Chinese forces are further using simulations, war games, and exercises to test, evaluate, and improve future-oriented operational concepts, the China Military Power report added.
China and Russia pose a serious threat to the U.S., noting that both countries continue to invest heavily in their military research and technology. For Washington, confronting Beijing and Moscow is significantly different from the counterinsurgency operations in which the U.S. has been involved in over the last two decades.
“Clearly, the United States has been primarily focused on other threats for the last two decades. That has changed,” said Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, in December 2022 at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. “In part, it started changing during the Obama administration. That accelerated under the Trump administration and really crystallized under this administration.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, for instance, stressed the need to build PLA’s combat readiness to be able to fight and win regional wars as a key component in expanding Beijing’s regional and global military might in the world.