December 15, 2008 — December 15, 2008-- The aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake relief efforts has uncovered significant capability gaps in the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to effectively and rapidly respond to major natural disasters. Exposure of these shortcomings provides a unique insight into China’s capability to project power using its ground forces in large-scale contingency operations that require expansive logistics, planning, and interservice cooperation. The lack of an integrated relief campaign between the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLA hindered the execution of the emergency relief orders issued by President Hu Jintao. This immediate and fire response from the Chinese civilian leadership contrasts with the Chinese military’s inefficient execution of the relief efforts. The revelation of these capability gaps pierces through an abundance of literature from Chinese news sources and leaders on the “total success” of relief operations to illuminate deficiencies that could affect Chinese military operations from kinetic to nontraditional to future relief efforts.
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