PLA upgrades combat ability

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/26 0:08:39

Reform carried out amid growing possibility of conflicts

Security personnel stand watch near a Type 99 tank on display at the military museum compound in Beijing on Tuesday. The museum will showcase some of its latest weapons to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army on August 1. Photo: AP

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is upgrading its combat capability by pushing military reform because of the growing possibility of military conflict, experts said.

The PLA is capable of dealing with security threats and protecting the country's sovereignty amid ongoing reforms, Major General Zhou Shangping, deputy director-general of the Operations Bureau of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission (CMC), said at a press conference on Monday.

"One of the primary goals of the current military reform is to improve the PLA's battle readiness and combat capabilities," Zhou said.

The military hopes to reach that goal by streamlining the relationship between commands, enhancing the military structure and strengthening its combat forces, Zhou noted.

The PLA is always prepared to defend the country in a potential military conflict. But due to the extended period of peace (the PLA's last encounter with another country was with Vietnam in the late 1970s) and the country's rapid economic development, the military's combat-readiness has been undermined to some extent, said Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the PLA Rocket Force.

In 2014, seven elite mechanized infantry brigades from all seven military regions across the country (they have since been turned into five military theater commands in 2016) engaged in combat simulations with the PLA's first professional opposing force brigade (an elite mechanized infantry brigade with more advanced weapons and well-trained personnel, tasked with simulating an enemy force for training purposes) at the Zhurihe training base in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The result shocked the country. The "Blue Army," the presumed enemy in the drills, defeated six of the elite troops and only lost to one in the seven simulated combats. This is the first time that the "Blue Army" faced seven elite brigades, and the simulations resembled actual combat.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, the country has championed improving combat capabilities as the ultimate goal in building a strong army.

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, called for all-out efforts to push forward military reform with the support of the entire nation and the Party, Xinhua reported.

The PLA last year set up a two-tier joint operation command center that featured both the CMC and theater commands, which focused on managing combat operations, and played a big part in maintaining the strategy's overall stability, Zhou said.

"Almost every step of the reform is focused on this goal. For instance, the PLA reduced the number of ground forces to fewer than 50 percent of the whole army, and increased the naval and Strategic Support Force forces. This was done to allow the PLA to better deal with overseas conditions in modern warfare," said Xu Guangyu, a retired rear admiral and a senior adviser of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

Improved combat-readiness

Increasing external security threats to China are another reason why the country is focused on reforming the PLA and improving its combat-readiness, Song said.

"In the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, the East China Sea and South Tibet, some countries continue to undermine regional stability, or even threaten our sovereignty and provoke us. Although China remains patient and tries to solve problems peacefully, the danger of military conflict is higher than at normal times," Song said.

Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian on Monday warned India about border tensions in the Doklam Plateau.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is on a visit to Thailand, also sent a tough message to India on Tuesday at a press conference.

Meantime, Taiwan independence forces are very influential within the island, and the need to unify the country through military action is also rising.  And the threat of terrorism in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region still exists, so it is impossible for the PLA to reduce its combat-readiness, Song added.

Posted in: MILITARY

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