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Chapter 4. Humanitarian Aid/Disaster Relief Findings

Asia is not only the world’s largest continent, accounting for approximately 30% of the world’s land surface, but it is also the world’s most populous continent as home to over 60% of the global population (National Geographic, 2016). This information, coupled with the fact that over 60% of the world’s natural disasters occur within the Asia-Pacific region (Moroney, Pezard, Miller, Engstrom, & Doll, 2013), demonstrate the critical need for China to develop effective humanitarian aid and disaster response capabilities. In fact, data from the World Bank indicates that the large majority of these nations are still developing (including China itself), suggesting that they lack adequate funding, infrastructure, and mobilization capacity to quickly respond to a natural disaster.

In the period from 1985-2012, China alone encountered a new natural or man-made disaster approximately every two months. Floods were the most frequent cause of disasters followed by typhoons or tropical storms, earthquakes, and snowfall. About 75% of the disasters were located in the former Chengdu, Nanjing, and Guangzhou Military Regions (southern ½ of mainland China) and 40% of the disasters affected at least 1 million people.

During this period, China faced 18 disasters that affected 10 million to 100 million people (Engstrom & Morris, 2015, p. 161). By comparison, Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast of the U.S. in 2005, affected approximately 15 million people (DoSomething.org).

As China’s international interests expand, the economic and social stability of its neighbors becomes increasingly vital to its own interests. Consequently, China’s 2015 National Defense White Paper called for the PLA “to perform such tasks as emergency rescue and disaster relief, rights and interests protection, guard duties, and support for national economic and social development” (Ministry of National Defense, The People's Republic of China, 2015). However, recent Chinese HA/DR operations indicate that the PLA must overcome significant challenges before it is able to realize the aspirations outlined in its white paper.

This chapter will explore how the PLA has responded to recent natural disasters and evaluate how its participation in these operations contributes to its ability to conduct large scale war. By recounting three recent situations, this chapter will demonstrate that the PLA is able to effectively mobilize and respond to domestic and regional disasters, but it is still faces significant challenges during its out of area responses. The first example recounts the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake and represents an interesting study of the PLA’s shaky execution of a rapidly planned HA/DR mission. The second example of China’s response to the West

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African Ebola crisis demonstrates how long distance logistics create significant limitations for the PLA, but that it was able to quickly adapt and accomplish its mission despite a challenging working environment. Lastly, the 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal

illustrates how the PLA’s HA/DR capabilities have significantly improved, but its reach still rapidly deteriorates outside of China’s borders. However, as China continues to modernize its Air and Naval Forces, its ability to participate in HA/DR contingencies abroad will only increase. Therefore, the conclusion of this chapter examines how Chinese HA/DR operations can improve the PLA’s expeditionary skills and as well as its overall ability to conduct large-scale war.

2008 Wenchuan Earthquake

Although the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake has been studied by several scholars, it serves as an excellent baseline in which to observe PLA participation in HA/DR operations.

On May 12, 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan Province affecting over 46 million people in both Sichuan and the surrounding provinces. In the aftermath of the earthquake, over 5 million people were homeless while 88,000 died and 400,000 were injured. To put this disaster into perspective, it is only the twelfth worst disaster in China since 1985 in terms of number of people affected (Engstrom & Morris, 2015, pp. 162-164).

In the hours and days following the earthquake the PLA demonstrated an impressive ability to quickly mobilize, while the PLAAF accomplished some important “firsts” in terms of humanitarian airdrop. Nevertheless, this response exposed some of the PLA’s critical shortfalls, especially in the area of command and control.

During the initial aftermath of the earthquake, the PLA demonstrated the capability to quickly mobilize forces even in adverse conditions. For instance, after only three hours, the PLA mobilized 16,000 troops from within the Chengdu Military Region and by twelve hours, an additional 34,000 troops were mobilized from other regions (Li, 2010, p. 26). According to various articles in the ReliefWeb database, approximately 77,800 PLA troops had arrived in the disaster area within 72 hours of the earthquake. The PLA’s mobilizations efforts were also hindered by several factors to include adverse weather and damage to transportation infrastructure. The day following the earthquake, the PLA’s initial relief efforts to airdrop humanitarian supplies were thwarted by thunderstorms and heavy rain in Wenchuan (Xinhua, China: Army Airdrops Disaster Relief Goods to Sichuan, 2008). Additionally, a landslide caused by the earthquake blocked a tunnel on the Baoji-Chengdu railway, the major north-south rail artery in the region. Further complicating matters, inside the tunnel a 40-car freight

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train carrying 500 tons of gasoline derailed and caught fire (Xinhua, China: Part of Quake-damaged Railway Trunk Route Reopens, 2008). It took 1000 workers four days to restore operation to the rail line (Xinhua, China's Railways Transport 14,000 Soldiers to Quake-hit Area, 2008). Aftershocks also hampered efforts, causing additional damage and landslides that re-blocked already cleared roads.

However, once the weather cleared on May 14, the PLA began more aggressive relief efforts. In fact, by mobilizing both civilian and military aircraft, the PLA conducted its biggest-ever non-combat air operation (Rueters, 2008). Initially, the Chengdu MR had 35 civilian transport aircraft, 22 military transport aircraft, and 18 helicopters under its command (Xinhua, China to Airdrop More Relief Supplies to Quake Victims, 2008). While most airdrops were conducted by helicopters, the PLAAF demonstrated the capability to airdrop relief supplies from its transport aircraft for the first time (Xinhua, China: Army Airdrops Disaster Relief Goods to Sichuan, 2008). The following day, May 15, it had over 150 airplanes and helicopters transporting relief supplies and conducting airdrop operations (Rueters, 2008). However, because most of the airdrops were being conducted by helicopter, only 307 tons of relief supplies were delivered by the end of the first week (Xinhua, China Deploys 113,080 Military Personnel in Quake Rescue, 2008). By comparison, a single U.S.

C-17 cargo aircraft can hold over 85 tons when loaded to maximum capacity (U.S. Air Force, 2015).

The PLA’s response to the Wenchuan earthquake also demonstrate that it understands the importance of immediately establishing command and control, at least in theory. In addition to providing food, water, and medical supplies to the affected areas, the PLA also prioritized establishing a command and control center on the first day of relief operations. It airdropped cell phones, satellite communications equipment, and other assets needed to establish a communications base station (Xinhua, China: Army Airdrops Disaster Relief Goods to Sichuan, 2008). Furthermore, within 105 hours of the earthquake, electricity was restored to critical facilities, which included disaster relief headquarters and public security authority buildings (Mu, 2008). Also a review of the hundreds of articles in the ReliefWeb database during the first week of the crisis reveals that the PLA had a good understanding of the relief requirements throughout the affected areas as official government assessments were typically similar to those of the independent NGOs on site.

Despite this seeming success, Nan Li’s closer examination of the PLA’s response in his report, Chinese Civil Military Relations in the Post-Deng Era reveal that there were significant failures in the actual execution of command and control. While Li admits that the

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PLA made significant contributions to the relief efforts by evacuating more than 1 million people to safer areas and providing food, water, shelter, and medical treatment to the victims, he also highlights that the PLA’s main task was to “save lives.” When evaluating the PLA’s success in terms of lives saved, it has dismal results. The PLA was only able to successfully save the lives of 3,336 people pulled from the rubble of the earthquake, compared to the over 69,000 confirmed dead (Li, 2010, p. 26).

Li attributes a large part of the PLA’s failure to Premier Wen Jiaobao, who arrived on scene within two hours of the disaster and was the senior civilian in charge of relief efforts as the director of the State Council Command Department for Resisting Quake and Relieving Disaster. Wen, who had never served in the military, demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of how to effectively employ the PLA. Despite the adverse weather, challenging terrain, lack of heavy machinery, and unpredictable aftershocks, Wen insisted that the PLA reach the epicenter within 34 hours in hopes of saving 100,000 people (Li, 2010, p. 28).

Two days after the earthquake, Xinhua lauded 100 PLA special forces paratroopers who were inserted by helicopter to a cutoff area northeast of the epicenter. These forces provided initial damage assessment to two of the region’s hydropower stations and also evaluated the structural integrity of area dams. Reports that indicated earlier attempts were planned but “called off” due to bad weather only described the situation mildly (Xinhua, China Parachutes 100 Soldiers to Cut-off Quake Area, 2008). In fact, on May 13, a PLA helicopter made six unsuccessful attempts to reach Wenchuan. The following day, the 100 paratroopers reported by Xinhua jumped into the target area from 5,000 meters without

“ground command or guidance, no ground signposts, and no meteorological information”.

Future insertions were aborted after those that safely landed reported that conditions and terrain were too dangerous for a large scale airdrop operation (Li, 2010, p. 29).

Additionally, many of the PLA troops that participated in relief efforts were ill-equipped and ill-trained to be effective in rescue efforts. Most troops arrived on scene with their issued weapons, spades, and picks, which proved largely inadequate for removing big pieces of concrete and rubble to rescue victims. Even when the bulldozers and excavators arrived, most of the PLA troops were not trained in their operation. Because only a handful of small support units were deployed that specialized in high demand skills such as

engineering, construction, and medicine, the PLA’s overall effectiveness was limited (Li, 2010, p. 29).

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Lastly, Li explains how response efforts suffered due to poor interagency

coordination. Initial deployments consisted of national or regional level quick reaction forces and strategic reserve forces, which have no relationship with local authorities. As a result, the decision-making process was delayed because these units needed to wait for decisions to go up their chain of command, and then wait further while the same decision went up the local civilian chain of command. Thus, significant time was wasted while actions were being coordinated among military and local authorities. Units that could have been re-tasked to areas that required additional efforts instead stood idly by awaiting orders. Li acknowledges that this problem was identified by the PLA in an after action recommendation to utilize reserve elements and local militia for future disasters. These units not only possess a deeper understanding of local social and environmental factors, but “are under the dual leadership of the PLA and civilian chains of command,” allowing more efficient facilitation of “local civil-military interagency coordination” (Li, 2010, p. 29).

Despite the PLA’s shortfalls, this response happened eight years ago and is not

necessarily indicative of future responses to domestic disasters. China’s current president, Xi Jinping, seems to command more respect from the PLA than his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

Furthermore, China’s nation-wide infrastructure has grown exponentially allowing both civilian and military rescuers to achieve faster response times and improved options for access to the disaster area. Surely, the PLA’s modernization efforts cannot be overlooked when considering current and future HA/DR capabilities. The PLA is working hard to develop its strategic and tactical airlift capability, which would be able to make significant contributions to HA/DR missions. For instance, the PLAAF’s Y-20 strategic airlift aircraft is expected to enter service this year and its payload capacity of 66 tons (Military Today, 2016) is only slightly less than that of the C-17’s. The PLAAF is also developing the Y-30, which is a four-engine propeller driven tactical airlift aircraft, that can carry 30 tons of cargo

compared to the C-130’s 19.6 ton capacity. If selected for procurement, the Y-30 could be in service in the early to mid 2020s (Perrett, 2014), multiplying China’s HA/DR response capability.

2014-2015 West African Ebola Crisis

The Ebola virus is a highly lethal, highly contagious level-four pathogen that was discovered in 1976 in South Central Africa. To understand the destructiveness of this virus, Richard Preston in his award winning book The Hot Zone, describes how symptoms start with a painful headache a few days after contact with the virus. As the virus progresses

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through the body, it slowly eats away at certain parts of the brain resulting in the host to becoming relatively unresponsive with the exception of outbursts of rage and hostility.

Meanwhile, a red rash covers the body, the eyes become red and swollen, and the skin of the host’s face sags, almost as if the underlying muscles are disconnected from the bone

structure. At the end of this painful experience, the body’s major organs fail, resulting in the host finally “crashing” by violently vomiting blood and the Ebola-infested linings of the stomach and intestines. The virus literally decays the body’s internal intestines into a sludgy, soupy mush. Anyone who comes in contact with these fluids is highly likely to contract the virus. Currently, no cure exists for the three major strains of the virus, and the most deadly strain has a lethality rate of over 90% (Preston, 1995, Ch 1).

The Ebola virus has had several micro-outbreaks, but the most serious one occurred beginning in December 2013 in the west African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As the epidemic worsened, the virus spread to additional west African countries.

According to the World Health Organization, there have been 28,646 cases with 11,323 deaths as of March 30, 2016, but admittedly, these numbers are under-reported. As of this writing, Ebola outbreaks are still uncontained in Guinea (Samb, 2016) and Liberia

(Associated Press, New case of Ebola confirmed in Liberia, 2016).

The global community’s reaction to this outbreak was relatively slow and major countries did not begin taking serious action until the summer of 2014. On August 8, 2014, the WHO finally declared that the Ebola virus was a global public health emergency and called for an international response. The Ebola crisis marks an interesting study of current Chinese HA/DR capabilities because of the biological hazards posed by the virus as well as its great distance from Chinese soil. From September 2014 to March 2015, three of the PLA’s Chinese Military Medical Teams (CMMTs) deployed to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

This response represents the first time a PLA medical unit performed a HA/DR mission independently; in other words, it was not attached to another type of PLA unit (infantry, naval, etc.). The three teams were composed of members from the 302 hospital, a Chinese military hospital that specialized in infectious diseases. The 28 doctors and 50 nurses were all senior or middle level PLA members that had extensive experience treating infectious diseases. In fact, most of the doctors and nurses had participated in previous HA/DR missions such as the 2003 SARS outbreak, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, and 2010 Haiti earthquake. The teams also utilized 12 infection prevention and control officers and 25 logistics troops, resulting in the deployment of 115 total personnel (Yu, et al., 2016, p. 1).

Unsurprisingly, China’s logistical shortcomings provided deployment challenges and

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required the CMMTs to rely on chartered civilian airlift and sealift in order to transport both personnel and supplies to the theater. However, the CMMTs demonstrated an ability to quickly adapt and overcome several initial challenges in a biologically contaminated environment.

The first CMMT deployed on short notice and therefore did not receive any additional training prior to its departure. In fact, the first team received orders on September 13, 2014 (Yu, et al., 2016, p. 2) and arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone via two chartered Boeing 747s on September 17th. The first task of this 59-man team was to construct and operate a temporary mobile laboratory to begin diagnosis and prevent transmission of the Ebola virus (The People's Republic of China, 2014). Upon arrival, the team rebuilt the existing Jui Government Hospital, modifying it into a specialized infectious disease treatment facility with a 40-bed capacity that was expandable to 78 beds. Within the first week of arrival, construction had been completed and the hospital was renamed the China-Sierra Leone Friendship Hospital, which clearly demonstrates China’s attempt to project soft power even after all of its troops departed. After construction was completed, it took an additional two weeks to develop local standard operating procedures (SOPs), complete local training, and install equipment. However, the CMMT claimed the hospital was fully functional on October 1st, suggesting some of these tasks were being worked on after the hospital began receiving patients (Yu, et al., 2016, p. 2).

Upon beginning treatment, the first CMMT faced unforeseen cultural challenges that limited its effectiveness. First, there were significant language barriers between the hospital staff and patients as well as between the hospital administration officers and the Sierra Leone government. As a result, basic communication was a major barrier to effectiveness.

Secondly, the Chinese CMMT reported that there were “cultural differences” between the hospital administrators and Sierra Leone government (Yu, et al., 2016, p. 4), and although no details were provided, this language suggests there were disagreements over several

administrative issues which may have included treatment procedures, quarantine procedures, and body disposal. Thirdly, CMMT doctors and nurses were not used to treating patients with dark skin, which led to significant challenges when attempting to administer intravenous fluids. The staff reported difficulty in physically seeing the location of their patients’ veins, which was exacerbated by effects of the Ebola virus on infected patients, such as thinned vein walls, internal bleeding, and hemorrhaging. Lastly, the CMMT faced significant

psychological stress from working with a highly contagious, highly lethal virus. Besides the

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high risk of infection to themselves, the staff also observed several of their patients suffering prior to their deaths with no effective way to treat them (Goldstein, 2015).

As the first CMMT faced these initial challenges and developed solutions, lessons learned were passed back to China so that the remaining CMMTs were better prepared.

Because the second and third CMMTs had greater notice of their deployments, prior to departing China they received four weeks of intensive training. Training was divided into three phases. The first phase consisted of academics on the virus, screening procedures, and other theory. The second phase was also academic in nature and concentrated on the

preparation, care, operation, and sterilization of the biohazard suits referred to as personal protection equipment (PPE). The last phase was hands-on training in a mock hospital like the one in Sierra Leone. Besides gaining operational experience in a simulated situation, the teams also were exposed to a hot and humid environment like that of western Africa.

preparation, care, operation, and sterilization of the biohazard suits referred to as personal protection equipment (PPE). The last phase was hands-on training in a mock hospital like the one in Sierra Leone. Besides gaining operational experience in a simulated situation, the teams also were exposed to a hot and humid environment like that of western Africa.

在文檔中 人民解放軍的非戰爭軍事行動: 評估解放軍擴大任務行動及其對中美軍事關係的意函 - 政大學術集成 (頁 45-66)