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Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Assassin’s Mace Theory

By Aditya Kumar

In the current scenario of world dynamics, we always come across the power struggle in the International Order between USA and China. As China has grown exponentially from the onset of the 21st century, it was hard not to see this struggle come into the fray. With the battle for the international supremacy in balance, some out of the box diplomatic manoeuvres were anticipated. One such practice being linked with China is the ‘Assassin’s Mace’ project. This paper tries to link the ‘Assassin’s Mace’ theory with the Chinese Foreign Policy that is being practiced by the People’s Republic of China since the end of the second part of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. China being an important architect of the modern world in terms of technology, culture, and trade, has highly sought to recapture the glory of their past. The Assassin’s Mace, according to researchers, is a super weapon designed by China to tip the balance of the International World Order in their favour.

According to the Pentagon, the Assassin’s Mace can be defined as technologies that an inferior military banks on, in order to outclass or outwit a superior power, when in conflict. It’s like a silver bullet, that helps in providing the decisive blow to an opponent. But these theories emerge from the shroud of ambiguity that surrounds the whole functioning and the operations of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). It has been quite evident that after the onset of the 21st century, China has seen a massive campaign to modernize its military forces. This campaign has been quite successful, as it has helped China in asserting a dominating power within the Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, their breakthroughs within the missile component of the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Force (SAF) has caused alarm and deterrence within the US Army.

The vulnerability and inability to sense the strategies of the PLA has rung alarm bells within the Pentagon. This has led to the popularisation of the term, ‘Assassin’s Mace’ in popular and military context. But the problem related to this is that the Pentagon still does not have enough proof to back up their theory of Assassin’s Mace to be a weapons programme designed to outclass the USA. Furthermore, the lack of data related to this factor from the mainland adds more to the myth and ambiguity of this term.

The Idea behind Assassin’s Mace

Assassin’s mace, known as shashoujian is a swift and decisive moral victory over a seemingly powerful opponent. The term has its roots in the ancient Chinese folklore in which the hero in order to defeat a powerful adversary wields a blunt and heavy mace. This mace ensure a swift victory over the opponent. This ancient Chinese thought ties in with the modern ambitions of the Republic. While omitted from many discussions about Chinese military modernization in recent Western books and essays on the PLA, the shashoujian concept is a component of China’s strategic culture that influences grand strategy, in addition to Chinese national security policy and PRC military affairs.

According to researchers the massive push that the Chinese government has generated in the area of military and technology co-relates to this folklore. They support their theory based on massive strides China has made in the aforementioned areas. The theory gained prominence especially after the successful launch of the Anti-Satellite ballistic missile SC-19 on January 11,2007. This led the scholars to believe that China has progressed aggressively in strategic areas under a shroud of ambiguity. The prominence did not rely alone on the fact that China had a successful launch, but it also depended upon the fact that the USA had significant interests on space platforms, in order to function commercially and financially. As of September 2013, out of 1084 operational satellites, 461 are owned and operated by the United States and with the fiscal 2013 budget of $9.7 billion, military space programs are the primary means of precision navigation, global communications, reconnaissance, and early missile warning for the US national defence.

China’s Prowess in Strategy, Technology and Military
China has amassed a lot of power over this last decade with the help of their surge in the research and development department within the military. One of the biggest developments within the military was the setting up of a new service branch known as the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. This branch has been tasked to pursue advancements in cyber, space and electronic warfare capabilities. This, the researchers argue, has been one of the initial steps in pivoting towards fifth-generation warfare concepts. These concepts have been said to become the foundation on which the strategy to outclass the USA depends upon. The reason being, the US still remains the undisputed leader in terms of technology and military spending, given their wealth of resources and advantage in terms of having a long-standing military and scientific front. On the other hand, China has always banked on its large territory and population to defeat it’s enemy. But in the modern world, the means of war have changed. And in order to achieve the dominance within the International Order, China has undertaken massive steps in order to improve its technology so that they can surge in the field of military, space, and electronics.

And as the Wall Street Journal, cited “executives at Chinese and Western companies,” put it, “China’s technology sector is reaching a critical mass of expertise, talent and financial firepower that could realign the power structure of the global technology industry in the years ahead.” The article then quoted a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers as saying, “Traditionally Chinese companies were fast followers, but we are starting to see true innovation…”

China is known to hold the largest standing army in the world and coupling it with the surge of advancements in the field of weaponry has made the country a serious contender in the race for arms. The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) has been one of the most successful developments by the PLA’s Strategic Support Force. One of the most potent one of those has been the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile, the DF-21D. this weapon is one of a kind and has the potential to alter the war at sea dramatically. With a range speculated to be over 1000 nautical miles from the Chinese mainland, the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile places in doubt the freedom of the US to project power in the region to protect its allies and interests.

Another potential development, which have all the major powers in the world worried, is the breakthrough in High Power Microwave Weapons. Helmed by Huang Wenhua, the deputy director of National Science and Technology Progress, this weapon can serve as a disruptor of all electronic communications being used by the opponent. The PLA over the years has grown exponentially. With sheer deterrence and aptitude, they have achieved in setting up an army that has the potential to ravage war on any front. As their defence spending has increased double fold within this decade, their capabilities and weaponry potential has increased too.

For long, China has been seen as a sleeping dragon, in the sense that everybody knew about the ability of the mainland, but it seems as though the country was given the benefit of the doubt. Nobody had expected them to come out as a challenger for the global dominance due to their plight after the second world war. But the facts point towards the opposite. The way China has developed its military capability, technological capability, and economical capability, shows its desire to dominate the international realm once again and the possibility that the theory of assassin’s mace might be true after all.

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