Chinese People’s Liberation Army: An strategic asset
MOST recently the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has celebrated its 95th anniversary which coincided with the unfortunate visit of the US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, the split-away province of China mainland.
In this connection, the PLA stood first and immediately initiated all possible “countermeasures” to defend its “One China Principle”, professional preparedness and tactical comparative advantage by holding numerous live fire drills in the waters but did not indulge in any kind of “military misadventure” which showed its strong belief in “deterrence”, peace and stability.
It has been one of the “forefront” guarantors of the Chinese “territorial integrity” and national sovereignty.
It has been “symbol” of peaceful endeavours in the country and abroad. Even the United Nation highly appreciates it positive, productive and participatory role in various global peace missions which confirms its “constructive” engagement policies with the outer world.
PLA, by holding live fire drill recently, demonstrated multiple types of cutting-edge hardware, such as the DF-17 hypersonic ballistic missile and the YY-20 aerial refuelling plane which has further strengthened its fighting dexterity and made it one of the best equipped militaries in the world.
It seems that the Chinese military commissioned a great deal of high tech weaponry and equipment in the past decade which has been an unprecedented time.
During this period the country has enabled to bring desired modernization of national defence and the armed forces which will be completely achieved till 2035.
In this regard, President Xi Jinping always attaches great importance to the development of hardware and technology for China’s armed forces, stressing that advanced weaponry and equipment are critical to military modernization.
Since Xi is also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, time and again he has urged the PLA to make full use of modern science and technology to strengthen its combat capabilities.
Thus scientific and technological transformation of the PLA has been one of the main strategic priorities of the Chinese President.
Speaking at a top-level military conference in Beijing several years ago, President Xi told high-ranking commanders that along with the evolution of military technologies, the factor of hardware “is becoming more significant” when it comes to winning modern warfare.
He advised them to abridge weapons generational gaps as soon as possible.
Moreover, he termed advanced weaponry as a key symbol of a powerful military and also an essential pillar of national security and rejuvenation in 2014 while meeting the military’s hardware development planners and executives from State-owned defence contractors.
He highlighted that it has always been the Party’s goal to build and operate a well-equipped military.
While celebrating the PLA’s 9th anniversary in 2017, Xi called on the armed forces to uphold scientific and technological innovation and closely follow the latest global trends in defence technology.
During his keynote speech, he emphasized the importance of visionary planning as well as the research of strategically crucial, cutting-edge and game-changing technologies.
He urged to use and utilize science and technology facilitating the military’s development and boost its operational capabilities.
Furthermore, the report to the 19th CPC National Congress in late 2017 set the goal of basically realizing the modernization of national defence and the armed forces by 2035 and fully building the armed forces into world-class forces by the middle of the century.
In this context, at the 19th National Congress of the CPC, Xi “Thought on Strengthening the Military”, answered the major questions on building strong armed forces in the new era, including the tasks, targets, principles, strategies and approaches, was included in the Constitution of the CPC.
He emphasized that workers in the defence sector and equipment officers in the armed forces should uphold the Party’s thought on strengthening the military and its defence strategies in new era, speed up the implementation of tasks planned for the coming years and establish a modern management system for equipment.
Resultantly, the PLA has now been transformed and blessed with much advanced hardware such as stealth fighter jets, aircraft carriers, large destroyers and hypersonic missiles.
It seems that the new equipment has greater firepower, higher information-processing capacity and better mobility.
Interestingly, the PLA Air Force has become the world’s second largest operator of stealth fighter jets following the United States thanks to the deployment of the country’s domestically developed J-20.
In this context, China’s first stealth combat aircraft, the J-20 was designed and manufactured by Aviation Industry Corp of China and is widely deemed as one of the best fighter jets built in modern times.
The plane conducted its maiden flight in January 2011 and was officially declassified in November 2016 when it staged a brief flight performance at the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition.
It was commissioned in the PLA Air Force later that year, becoming the third stealth fighter jet in the world to enter service following the US’F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
Thus the J-20 is outstanding in terms of situational awareness, electronic warfare and collaboration ability and the service of the J-20 is accelerating the air force’s transformation toward a modernized, strategic force and also helping it gain superiority in the global race for an aerospace force.
So the aircraft has enabled the PLA Air Force to engage any other top fighter jets and has substantially enhanced its operational capabilities.
Same is the case of Y-20 which also boasts a world-class transportation capacity that was made possible by the Y-20 strategic transport plane.
It is one of the world’s largest strategic heavy-lift jets, which was first flown in January 2013, making China the third nation following the US and Russia that is capable of developing strategic transport aircraft.
It was delivered to the PLA Air Force in July 2016. It easily carries weight of about 200 metric tons and can ferry cargo and personnel over long distances in all types of weather, strengthening the PLA Air Force’s strategic power projection capability.
To conclude, the PLA has become a “strategic asset” of China. Even Chinese Navy has achieved tremendous modernization in the last decade.
It is hoped that the world’s largest and most advanced conventionally powered aircraft carrier which is under final stages of construction at China State Shipbuilding Corp’s Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai will be a gigantic ship which will displace more than 80,000 tons of water.
It will use an electromagnetic launch system, or electromagnetic catapult, to launch fixed-wing aircraft.
China always observes a defence policy that is defensive in nature. Nevertheless, it is necessary for the Chinese military to have world class weaponry and equipment as it must be able to defend China’s territorial integrity and mitigate all adversaries and ensure it will never be bullied again by any external imperialistic forces in the future.
Armed Forces of Pakistan and PLA have strategic partnership which ensures regional peace and stability and acts like a balancing act.
—The writer is Director, the Centre for South Asia & International Studies Islamabad & regional expert, China, CPEC & BRI.