July 25, 2019

Innovation in the New Era of Chinese Military Power

By Elsa B. Kania

China’s State Council Information Office has just released a new national defense white paper, which is the first since the launch of major military reforms in 2015. This document includes an assessment of the international security situation and provides an official explanation of China’s defense policy, missions, military reforms, and defense expenditure. While unsparing in its critique of power politics and American “hegemonism,” the defense white paper also calls for China’s armed forces to “adapt to the new landscape of strategic competition.” In Xi Jinping’s “new era,” the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is urged to strengthen its preparedness and enhance combat capabilities commensurate with China’s global standing and interests. As the PLA pursues the objective of transforming into “world-class forces” by mid-century, the U.S. military may confront the unprecedented challenge of a potential adversary with formidable and rapidly advancing capabilities.

As an attempt to reassure the international community of China’s commitment to “world peace,” this defense white paper may have limited utility, particularly juxtaposed against the strident signaling of resolve on the “Taiwan question.” This articulation of China’s national defense is direct and explicit in highlighting the willingness to use force to prevent and defeat any attempts at “Taiwan independence.” In particular, China’s quest to achieve “complete reunification” is described as threatened by the potential “interference of external forces,” implicitly the United States, which is often characterized as a powerful adversary in Chinese military writings not intended for an external audience. The U.S. military is the target and often the teacher for Chinese military modernization, and the PLA must be prepared to use “all necessary measures” in order to “safeguard national unity.”

Read the full article in The Diplomat.

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