Modernization of the People's Liberation Army

Chinese military modernization program / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The military modernization program of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) which began in the late 1970s had three major focuses. First, under the political leadership of 3rd paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, the military became disengaged from civilian politics and, for the most part, resumed the political quiescence that characterized its pre-Cultural Revolution role. Deng reestablished civilian control over the military by appointing his supporters to key military leadership positions, by reducing the scope of the PLA's domestic non-military role, and by revitalizing the party political structure and ideological control system within the PLA.

Second, modernization required the reform of military organization, doctrine, education and training, and personnel policies to improve combat effectiveness in combined-arms warfare. Among the organizational reforms that were undertaken were the creation of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the streamlining and reduction of superfluous PLA forces, civilianization of many PLA units, reorganization of military regions, formation of group armies, and enactment of the new Military Service Law in 1984. Doctrine, strategy, and tactics were revised under the rubric of "people's war under modern conditions," which envisaged a forward defense at selected locations near China's borders, to prevent attack on Chinese cities and industrial sites, and emphasized operations using combined-arms tactics. Reforms in education and training emphasized improving the military skills and raising the education levels of officers and troops and conducting combined-arms operations. New personnel policies required upgrading the quality of PLA recruits and officer candidates, improving conditions of service, changing promotion practices to stress professional competence, and providing new uniforms and insignia.

The third focus of military modernization was the transformation of the defense establishment into a system capable of independently maintaining a modern military force. As military expenditures remained relatively constant, reforms concentrated on reorganizing the defense research and development and industrial base to integrate civilian and military science and industry more closely. Foreign technology was used selectively to upgrade weapons. Defense industry reforms also resulted in China's entry into the international arms market and the increased production of civilian goods by defense industries. The scope of PLA economic activities was reduced, but the military continued to participate in infrastructure development projects and initiated a program to provide demobilized soldiers with skills useful in the civilian economy.

Currently, China focus on domestic weapon designs and manufacturing, while still importing certain military products from Russia such as jet engines. China decided to become independent in its defense sector and become competitive in global arms markets: its defense sector is rapidly developing and maturing. Gaps in certain capability remain—most notably in the development of some sophisticated electronic systems and sufficiently reliable and powerful propulsion systems—but China's defense industry is now producing warships and submarines, land systems and aircraft that provide the Chinese armed forces with a capability edge over most military operating in the Asia-Pacific. Where indigenous capability still falls short, China procures from Russia and, until local industry eventually bridges the gap, it hopes that quantity will overcome quality.[1] China's 2015 Defense White Paper called for "independent innovation" and the "sustainable development" of advanced weaponry and equipment.[1]

According to The National Interest, Chinese industry can still learn much from Russia, but in many areas it has caught up with its model. The vibrancy of China's tech sector suggests that Chinese military technology will most likely leap ahead of Russian tech in the next decade.[2]

Modernization efforts were originally planned to be completed by 2049. However, following the 19th CCP National Congress in 2017, CCP General Secretary and CMC chairman Xi Jinping announced modernization to be completed by 2035.[3] China watchers regard the revised timeline as a sign for the success of the reforms,[4] although issues and shortfalls still remain, specifically in the areas of capability development and combat readiness of the Air Force as well as the infantry.[5]

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