Mark Collins – Top Dragon’s New, Improved PLA

Further to these posts,

China: President Xi Gripping the PLA, Part 2

“China’s President Xi Solidifies Power with Overhaul of Military”

The Economist looks at the president’s Mao-evoking overhauling of China’s military:

Military reform
Xi’s new model army
Xi Jinping reforms China’s armed forces—to his own advantage

CHINA’S biggest military shake-up in a generation began with a deliberate echo of Mao Zedong. Late in 2014 President Xi Jinping went to Gutian, a small town in the south where, 85 years before, Mao had first laid down the doctrine that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the armed force not of the government or the country but of the Communist Party. Mr Xi stressed the same law to the assembled brass: the PLA is still the party’s army; it must uphold its “revolutionary traditions” and maintain absolute loyalty to its political masters. His words were a prelude to sweeping reforms in the PLA that have unfolded in the past month, touching almost every military institution.

The aim of these changes is twofold—to strengthen Mr Xi’s grip on the 2.3m-strong armed forces, which are embarrassingly corrupt at the highest level, and to make the PLA a more effective fighting force, with a leadership structure capable of breaking down the barriers between rival commands that have long hampered its modernisation efforts. It has taken a long time since the meeting in Gutian for these reforms to unfold; but that reflects both their importance and their difficulty.

The PLA itself has long admitted that it is lagging behind. It may have plenty of new weapons—it has just started to build a second aircraft-carrier, for instance—but it is failing to make effective use of them because of outdated systems of command and control. Before any substantial change in this area, however, Mr Xi felt it necessary to strengthen the party’s control over the PLA, lest it resist his reforms and sink back into a morass of money-grubbing…

pla.png

The second reform has been to put the various services on a more equal footing. The land forces have hitherto reigned supreme. That may have been fine when the PLA’s main job was to defend the country against an invasion across its land borders (until the 1980s the Soviet Union was considered the biggest threat). But now China has military ambitions in the South China Sea [more here] and beyond, and wants the ability to challenge American naval and air power in the western Pacific [see “Making the Case For the Eagle’s Carriers vs the Dragon: NOT“]. A recent editorial in the Liberation Army Daily, a PLA mouthpiece, berated the armed forces for their “army-centric mindset”.

In addition to those for the navy and air force, a separate command has now been created for the army, which had previously run everything. On December 31st the CMC [Central Military Commission–more here from STRATFOR] also announced the formation of a command responsible for space and cyberwarfare, as well as one for ballistic and cruise missiles (previously known as the Second Artillery Force, part of the army) [see “China’s Weapons on Parade-Note Anti-Ship Missiles“–note links at end]. There is also a new joint command with overall control of the various services, a little like America’s joint chiefs of staff.

Big changes are also afoot in regional command structures…

…Amid the murk, only one man clearly seems to have got his way: Mr Xi.

Golly Xi.  Mao-Maoing the flak shooters.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Advertisements

One thought on “Mark Collins – Top Dragon’s New, Improved PLA”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s