20th CPC, PLA & future security dynamics | By Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan


20th CPC, PLA & future security dynamics

DURING his keynote speech and report in the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), President Xi Jinping stressed further “modernizing” national defence and the military.

It seems that the modernization will involve the “informatisation” and “intelligentisation” of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the PLA’s enhanced capability in safeguarding the country’s security in the emerging new security dynamics in the region and beyond.

According to this report, China will implement a “century-long” plan to comprehensively modernize the PLA and accelerate the transformation of its armed forces into a “world-class” army by 2027.

President Xi, who is also General Secretary of the CPC, said that the “realization” of the goal for the centenary of the creation of the army till 2027 has great significance.

Xi stressed that to achieve this strategic goal, the CPC will “intensify” troop training and enhance “combat preparedness” across the board, strengthen all around military governance and consolidate and enhance integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities.

Some security experts are of the opinion that the strong system of “deterrent” forces may refer to the strategic nuclear force.

Therefore, China needs to enhance its capabilities, as it is a vital strategic support to prevent war.

On the other hand, the combat force in new domains, new dynamics of security and of new qualities means that weapons and equipment of high quality will be used in more domains.

Xi also said that “we will strengthen Party building across the board in the people’s armed forces to ensure that they always obey the Party’s command.

” It is indeed a holistic policy to gear up the national confidence to achieve the Centenary Goal of the PLA.

In this regard, sharing the details, Xi said the CPC will strengthen Party organizations in the people’s armed forces, carry out regular activities and put in place institutions to improve the military’s political work, and make unremitting efforts to improve conduct, enforce discipline and combat corruption in the military.

Critical analysis reveals that accelerating the transformation of the PLA in to world-class armed forces is a strategic requirement for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist state which has nothing to do with any so-called hegemonic designs as propagated by the Western mass media outlets.

Emerging socio-economic (China containment policy), geopolitical and geostrategic trends in the Asia Pacific Region, anti-China strategic alliances in the deep waters of South China Sea and formation of various military partnerships in terms of Asia Quad, and AUKUS and sponsored creation of political chaos (Taiwan) all stress the need to accelerate the comprehensive modernization of the PLA and improve the strategic capabilities of the army to protect national security and sovereignty.

The PLA was founded by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1927 amid a reign of “white terror” unleashed by the Kuomintang, in which thousands of communists and their sympathizers were killed.

Originally called the “Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army,” it has played a key role in charting the country’s development.

When Mao Zedong, one of the founders of the PLA, reviewed the first military parade of the Chinese army in 1949, 95% of the weapons on display were captured in battle, and 17 fighter jets were all that the newly-established PLA air force had to boast of.

In recent years, with better equipment and improved efficiency, the PLA has become more streamlined.

Following a downsizing of one million soldiers in the 1980s, its overall size was reduced by another half a million personnel between 1997 and 2000.

And from 2003-2005, the army was further reduced by 200,000 troops, bringing the total PLA strength today to around 2.3 million.

Alongside the modernization drive, the profile of recruits has also changed. The goal of the modernization of China’s national defence capabilities is simple: to be more efficient in the country’s self-defence.

Despite the Western military white papers, statements and mass media outlets, China always pursues a national defence policy that is purely defensive in nature.

Government spokespeople and official documents have stressed on multiple occasions that no matter how much defence expenditure is invested or how modernized its armed forces are, China will never seek hegemony, expansion or sphere of influence which is commendable.

PLA is committed to peaceful development China has also acted to safeguard world peace and stability.

It is the second largest contributor to both peacekeeping assessment and UN membership fees, and the largest troop-contributing country among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The country’s armed forces also maintain combat readiness, carry out military training in real combat conditions, safeguard interests in major security fields, counter terrorism, protect China’s overseas interests and participate in disaster rescue and relief.

According to a white paper titled “China’s National Defence in the New Era” released in July 2019 there is an urgent need to pursue a “qualitative transformation and modernization” of the PLA in the future.

In this regard, informatization and intelligentization are the way forward for achieving this goal in the days to come.

Xi Jinping has been relatively focused on military modernization, which he views as a prerequisite for achieving the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation by mid-century.

China badly needs to further strengthen its maritime security policy through induction of unmanned boats & mini-submarines, stealth technologies in naval, air force and army and last buy not the least, strategic expansion of next generation solar-powered large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with very long endurance.

There should be coordinated efforts to prioritize some strategic matters pertaining to improve the military’s ability to conduct joint operations.

It has produced a “modern joint command system” having naval and air force units at their disposal in peacetime.

The Eastern Theatre Command should be further reorganized to organize a series of military operations around Taiwan after Speaker Pelosi’s recent visit.

Moreover, integration of cutting-edge technology into PLA force structure is the need of the hour.

“Mechanization”, “informatization” and “intelligentization” would be a prerequisite for the PLA’s centennial celebrations in 2027.

Disruptive capabilities such as hypersonic missiles, in other words, should be developed and deployed as soon as possible.

There is an urgent need to develop closer cooperation between civilian and military planning.

—The writer is Executive Director, Centre for South Asia & International Studies, Islamabad, regional expert China, BRI & CPEC & senior analyst, world affairs, Pakistan Observer.


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