Ro­bust PLA needed to bet­ter de­fend na­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

The on­go­ing China Cen­tral TV doc­u­men­tary Car­ry­ing the Re­form Through to the End em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of a strong mil­i­tary to re­al­ize the Chi­nese Dream. China needs to syn­chro­nize its mil­i­tary strength with its eco­nomic and so­cial devel­op­ment to bet­ter pro­tect its na­tional in­ter­ests. And as Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, also chair­man of the Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion, has re­it­er­ated, it is im­por­tant to mod­ern­ize the mil­i­tary along with its weapons and equip­ment, and the tech­nolo­gies it uses to bet­ter safe­guard the sovereignty and in­tegrity of China.

In the 90 years since its es­tab­lish­ment on Aug 1, 1927, the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army has evolved sig­nif­i­cantly and rapidly, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the de­fense tech­nolo­gies and the weapons it uses.

Heavy weapons were a lux­ury to the PLA, whose ca­pa­bil­ity of pro­duc­ing am­mu­ni­tion and re­pair­ing so­phis­ti­cated equip­ment was lim­ited be­fore the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China in 1949. Most of the weapons the PLA used were, in fact, seized from the en­e­mies.

But be­tween 1950 and 1978 China man­aged to rid it­self of the re­liance on im­ported weapons. Ma­jor im­ports from the Soviet Union, in­clud­ing MiG-15 air­craft and T-54 tanks, al­lowed China to de­velop what were then cut­tingedge weapons on its own. China’s J-5 fighter jets and Type-59 bat­tle tanks, for ex­am­ple, drew in­spi­ra­tion from the MiG-15 war­planes and T-54 tanks. By 1959, China also man­aged to make ar­tillery equip­ment do­mes­ti­cally. Th­ese grad­ual de­vel­op­ments were in line with the eco­nomic re­cov­ery and the in­dus­trial buildup of New China.

The devel­op­ment of the atomic bomb and mis­siles was an­other land­mark for China, es­pe­cially be­cause the Soviet Union had with­drawn its tech­no­log­i­cal aid to China in 1962. In the fol­low­ing two decades, Bei­jing shifted its fo­cus from em­u­lat­ing ad­vanced weapons to devel­op­ing them in­de­pen­dently.

The first atomic bomb test at the Lop Nur nu­clear test site in North­west China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion in 1964 made China the fifth nu­clear power. The “Two Bombs, One Satel­lite” project, which in­cluded atomic and hy­dro­gen bombs and ar­ti­fi­cial satel­lite, cost China about 10 bil­lion yuan, 2 per­cent of its an­nual ex­pen­di­ture and 12 per­cent of its de­fense ex­pen­di­ture then.

Over the past three decades, China has ex­pe­dited the devel­op­ment of its de­fense sec­tor. On June 28, the PLA Navy launched its lat­est and first do­mes­ti­cally built de­stroyer in Shang­hai. Two months ago, it launched the first do­mes­ti­cally built air­craft car­rier, a Type 001A ves­sel.

More­over, nei­ther outer space nor cy­berspace are strangers to Chi­nese tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion. By the 60th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of New China, the coun­try had be­come ca­pa­ble of in­de­pen­dently de­sign­ing many state-of-the-art con­ven­tional weapons and miniature un­con­ven­tional ones, and Chi­nese de­fense per­son­nel were bet­ter trained and more com­bat ready.

China has also achieved suc­cess in devel­op­ing equip­ment and strate­gic mis­siles for its navy, army and air force. Dongfeng-31 in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal nu­clear-ca­pa­ble mis­sile and the sub­ma­rine-launched bal­lis­tic mis­sile, Ju­lang 2, have a max­i­mum range of 8,000 kilo­me­ters, can carry more pow­er­ful war­heads and have en­hanced mo­bil­ity on land as well as at sea.

The nu­clear-pow­ered Type-094 bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines, which have the high­est dis­place­ment among all Chi­nese sub­marines, along with Type-093 and Type-091 nu­clear-pow­ered at­tack sub­marines, can help the PLA Navy to bet­ter ex­e­cute open sea mis­sions. And the com­mis­sion­ing of the ZTZ-99 tanks, the PLA’s most ad­vanced main bat­tle tank, and the lat­est J-20 stealth fighter will greatly boost China’s ef­forts to build a ver­sa­tile, mod­ern mil­i­tary.

The deep­en­ing struc­tural re­form, which re­struc­tured the seven the­ater com­mands into the Eastern The­ater Com­mand, West­ern The­ater Com­mand, North­ern The­ater Com­mand, South­ern The­ater Com­mand and the Cen­tral The­ater Com­mand, is in line with the need to fo­cus on joint oper­a­tions and tech­nolo­gies, as was the es­tab­lish­ment of 84 new units led by ma­jor-gen­eral-level of­fi­cers in April.

But the 90 years of ar­ma­ment devel­op­ment is just one as­pect of the PLA’s mod­ern­iza­tion. It is not meant to flex China’s mil­i­tary mus­cles; in­stead, it re­flects the de­ter­mi­na­tion and com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity of an evolv­ing mil­i­tary to pro­tect the coun­try and its peo­ple. China fol­lows a de­fen­sive de­fense pol­icy, so the mod­ern­iza­tion of its mil­i­tary and de­fense equip­ment is meant to only in­ject more vi­tal­ity into the de­fense forces so that they can bet­ter safe­guard the coun­try, and re­gional and global peace.

The au­thor is an as­so­ci­ate re­searcher at the Na­tional De­fense Univer­sity of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army.

Yang Yan­nan

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