In its effort to achieve global military dominance, if not supremacy, in the next 30 years, the Chinese government’s latest defense white paper published in 2019 provides both the goals to achieve and the challenges the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has to overcome.
For well over a decade China has been moving away from a huge, low-tech peasant military to a smaller, more agile, and high-tech force.
And it is steadily reaching its goals.
The report, China’s National Defense in the New Era, explains how the PLA will “address deficiencies in overseas operations and support, builds far seas forces, develops overseas logistical facilities, and enhances capabilities in accomplishing diversified military tasks.”
Among the changes, the document notes the importance of Cyberwarfare, the need for more flexible command and control, as well as increased and more capable long-range naval operations.
The National Interest notes that while there was nothing truly surprising in the white paper:
Still, there is plenty in the paper to disturb the West as well as China’s Asian neighbors. China will continue to replace older aircraft and ships with more advanced models. It is setting its eyes on distant horizons: the PLA will “address deficiencies in overseas operations and support, builds far seas forces, develops overseas logistical facilities, and enhances capabilities in accomplishing diversified military tasks.”
And the Chinese military still has its eyes on Taiwan. “China has the firm resolve and the ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will never allow the secession of any part of its territory by anyone, any organization or any political party by any means at any time,” the white paper says. “We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures.
This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of “Taiwan independence” separatists and their activities. The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs.”
Nevertheless, notes Michael Peck, “…behind the curtain of hypersonic missiles and stealth fighters, is a military that worries about corruption and discipline.” The document notes that the PLA worries about both corruption and military discipline. Peck adds:
The most glaring is corruption, which has led to numerous senior officers being punished for crimes such as selling promotions. “China’s armed forces are tightening political discipline and rules, investigating and dealing strictly with grave violations of CPC discipline and state laws,” the white paper says.
But discipline is a concern as well according to the report:
China’s armed forces are striving to manage the troops more strictly in all respects. They have fully implemented military rules and regulations, restored and improved the traditional mechanism of using bugles to communicate and command, carried out safety inspections to identify and tackle potential problems, stepped up garrison military policing, strengthened the management of military vehicles by targeted measures, and set up a mechanism of regular notification on garrison military policing.
Bottom line, the PLA is steadily pursuing its goal to become a significant, if not leading, military superpower by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 2049, but it still has serious weaknesses and challenges to overcome before it gets there.
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