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Evolution of the PLA in a continued Cold War

Keyboard Commando

I really should change my personal text
Aug 17, 2015
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After the Sino-Soviet split the PLA really stagnated until they opened to the west in the late 70s, but even then the slow trickle of technology didn't help the PLA too much. It was the fall of the Soviet Union and the Russians providing them with lots of relatively advanced equipment and know-how for relatively low prices that really spurred the development of the PLA into the force it is today. For this scenario, lets assume the Soviets had been instituting economic reforms and generally took a stable modernization approach like the Chinese in our time-line. They are a rough equal economically to the US (back in the day it was predicted the USSR would match the US economically in 2010) while the Chinese are still in third place.

I've heard some proposed sales to China like AH-1s as well as the Peace Pearl J-8 and the Phalcon AWACS, I'd be interested to hear of any other sales proposed at the time. How would increased western assistance influence the development of the PLA, what is going to take the place of the Flanker family, how different is the J-9/10 if it exists at all, would we see the massive expansion of the PLAN like we do now, do they opt for western style tanks a la WZ-1224 etc etc. Any additional input is welcome as I am not well informed on the PLA and it's development.


Senior Member
Jun 6, 2006
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A long time ago I bought this magazine.

It had a lengthy discussion about the state of the Chinese air force by 1987. Well, the Chinese were stuck with developments of the J-7 and J-8. Really. As you noted, only after 1992 did chinese scientists and engineers toured a moribund Soviet Union and stole or bought any interesting advanced technology they could fin, all the way from Varyag to Soyuz including the Su-27.
Before the Tien An Men bloodbath of 1989, however, China hoped to get more advanced aircraft technology, not from Russia or URSS, but from Grumman - from the United States. The slaughter and the following economic backlash and embargo really ruined China hope. They were kind of lucky enough the soviet Union collapsed and the newborn Russia was willing to sell them advanced technologies.
In the scenario you imagine, since the soviet Union does not collapse, China only hope remainswith Grumman, and this is tied to Tian An Men slaughter happening - or not. If it happens, then China is twice screwed.
Hence they are probably stuck with J-8 and J-7 for many years to come. Although they might create a new fighter type, it probably suffers from a lack of advanced avionics, radar and AAMs.
The chinese air force was well aware of this, and their mantra / dogma was: LARGE NUMBERS. The magazine I mentionned said they had 4000 to 7000 combat aircrafts, which is quite a huge numbers in the era of jet aircrafts.