By Lauren Dickey
Alongside the military spectacle that passed through Tiananmen Square in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Chinese media conglomerate Tecent also released a new computer-generated video, “Battle to Capture an Island: a Full View of Chinese Military Strength.” Available via the social media platform QQ, the five-minute video appears to show a Chinese aerial attack and subsequent invasion of a tropical island.
Set ambiguously in the year “20XX” after maritime tensions have led to an attack on a Chinese airbase, the aggressive tone and intense narrative of the hypothetical conflict are well worth paying attention to. China announces its intention to “comprehensively fight back,” using the full strength of the Chinese military to promote “peace through war.” The first unit into action is the Second Artillery Corps (SAC), which is shown launching a variety of Dongfeng-series ballistic missiles. The ground-launched missiles are complemented by CJ-20 Land-Attack Cruise Missiles (LACMs) fired by H-6 bombers.
The missile attacks succeed at destroying an airbase and a naval fleet, both of which are clearly meant to depict U.S. forces as the video includes unmistakably American platforms such as an F-22 Raptor and a ship with a strong resemblance to a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Few of the radio commands heard over the next several minutes are fully audible, but what can be discerned are orders to target petroleum supplies, infrastructure arteries of the “target,” and to initiate an amphibious landing plan.
Other highlights of the video include a strike by a Chinese Type-93 nuclear-powered attack submarine and a navalized version of the Su-27 Flanker, the J-15, taking off from a PLA Navy aircraft carrier. Amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) and landing craft air cushions (LCACs) are also depicted ferrying Chinese troops and equipment ashore for the final phase of the island assault, even as J-10, J-11, and J-20 fighters are seen taking out aircraft with a striking resemblance to the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
After five minutes of furious combat, with the fighting nearly complete, watchers are told that “China’s army successfully occupies the island territory; the enemy has been forced to peacefully surrender.” Given the scope of the island’s decimation in the video simulation, it would seem that the “enemy” had little choice but to cede to Chinese control. The final few lines of the video end with a poetic reminder to Chinese viewers:
China is strong, victorious wars require deaths; for all to be strong and safe, [we] face the risks and dangers of war. We wholeheartedly love peace, but must be prepared for the likelihood of war. We respectfully and solemnly commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war against Japan.
While videos have previously surfaced showing PLA soldiers storming a replica of the Taiwanese presidential palace, this week’s video marks a rare occasion of PLA forces specifically targeting simulated U.S. military facilities. Looking beyond the obvious element of domestic Chinese consumption, the simulation sends an aggressive, startling signal to the U.S. defense community. The Chinese armed forces not only have the hardware, but also the resolve and a seemingly hypothetical, yet incredibly realistic, scenario in which to test their latest technology.
Lauren Dickey is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and a PhD candidate in the War Studies department of King’s College London. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Editor’s note: This article originally stated that the PLA released the video detailed above. In fact, the video was released by Chinese media conglomerate Tecent. Although sources suggest some level of PLA collaboration, this has so far been unsubstantiated. The article has been corrected accordingly.