Military news

PLA restructures to meet new challenges

2017-1-11 09:32:00 (Beijing Time)         China Daily

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Reform of China's armed forces is designed to develop capabilities and produce a leaner, modern fighting unit. 

In the past 12 months, China has carried out a number of measures to streamline its armed forces and prepare them for the challenges posed by modern warfare.

The reform has resulted in the biggest overhaul of the People's Liberation Army for several decades. The PLA's senior governing bodies up to the level of the Central Military Commission were reshuffled, the regional command was reorganized and new units were established to prepare for wars in cyberspace and even space itself.

Looking back at the timeline, it seems clear that President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the commission, probably decided to revolutionize the armed forces when he was elected top leader in November 2012.

In November 2013, following nearly a year of preparations, a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided to reform the national defense system and the PLA.

In March the following year, the CMC established a group under Xi's control tasked with drawing up a roadmap for reform and guiding its implementation. In July 2015, an overall reform plan was approved by the top Party and military authorities.

The decision remained unpublicized until September 3, 2015, when a parade was held to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45). It was then that Xi announced that the number of troops would be reduced by 300,000. Almost every military observer at home and abroad was caught off guard, but they quickly realized that it was just the beginning of a new chapter in the PLA's history.

Chain of command

About three months later, the CMC unveiled a blueprint for what it referred to in an understated manner as the "latest round of reform of the national defense and armed forces". The blueprint pledged to establish a leaner and more efficient chain of command, to reduce the number of non-combatant personnel and departments, and to build the PLA into a force capable of winning modern wars, which are characterized by information warfare and joint operations. The goals should be achieved before 2020, the commission said.

Prior to the blueprint's publication, the commission organized 860 discussion groups and workshops, solicited the opinions of 690 civilian and military units and sought suggestions from nearly 3,000 officers and experts, according to the in-house PLA Daily.

The last day of 2015 saw the PLA Army Headquarters, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force established - moves that formally started the historic shakeup.

The founding of the PLA Army Headquarters ended 88 years without a leading body for the Army, and also signaled the end of an era in which the unit dominated the other services and had the final word in military affairs.

Historically, the Army did not have its own headquarters because its units were under the direct control of the CMC, while the seven former regional commands oversaw the operations of Army units under their jurisdictions.

Zhang Junshe, a military strategy researcher with the PLA, said the establishment of the PLA Army Headquarters would help the military to resolve a number of long-standing problems related to the chain of command and improve its joint operation capabilities.

According to Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA Academy of Military Science, the rebranding of the Second Artillery Corps - which was formed in 1966 to control the country's ballistic missiles and used the word "artillery" as cover for its activities - to the unambiguously named PLA Rocket Force indicates that China is transparent and confident about displaying its true military capabilities to the world, and that the Rocket Force is expected to play a larger role in the future.

At the founding ceremony, Xi urged the Rocket Force to improve the nation's nuclear deterrence and counter-strike capacity, and also strengthen its medium- and long-range precision strike ability.