Chinese Military Reform in the Age of Xi Jinping: Drivers, Challenges, and Implications   [open pdf - 1009KB]

"Chinas Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) has embarked on its most wide-ranging and ambitious restructuring since 1949, including major changes to most of its key organizations: The general departments were disbanded, new Central Military Commission (CMC) departments created, and a new ground force headquarters established; Seven military regions were restructured into five theater commands aligned against regional threats. Commanders will be able to develop joint force packages from army, navy, air force, and conventional missile units within their theaters; PLA service headquarters are transitioning to an exclusive focus on organize, train, and equip missions and will no longer have a primary role in conducting operations. However, the PLA is still figuring out how the new relationships among the CMC, services, and theaters will work in practice; The restructuring will also reduce the size of the PLA by 300,000 soldiers, cutting the ground forces and increasing the size of the navy and air force. The restructuring reflects the desire to strengthen PLA joint operations capabilities on land, at sea, in the air, and in the space and cyber domains; The centerpiece of the reforms is a new joint command and control structure with nodes at the CMC and theater levels that will coordinate China's responses to regional crises and conduct preparations for wartime operations; A Strategic Support Force has been established to provide command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support to commanders and will oversee space, cyber, and electronic warfare activities. A Joint Logistics Support Force will provide logistics support to units within the theaters; The creation of a joint command system complements other recent changes supporting joint operations including joint training, logistics, and doctrinal development."

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