III. Modernization of the People's Liberation Army


I. The Security Situation
II. National Defense Policy
III. Modernization of the People's Liberation Army
IV. Deployment of the Armed Forces
V. National Defense Mobilization and Reserve Force Building
VI. Military Legal System
VII. Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense
VIII. Defense Expenditure
IX. Military Confidence-Building
X. Arms Control and Disarmament

Back to China.org.cn

Over the 60 years and more since its founding, the PLA has made great achievements in its modernization. It has grown from a single service into a strong military force featuring a range of services and arms, and is now beginning to make progress towards informationization. In recent years, the PLA has enhanced its comprehensive development in accordance with the principle of integrating revolutionization, modernization and regularization, and continuously accelerated revolution in military affairs with Chinese characteristics.

History of the PLA's Modernization

Following the founding of the New China in 1949, the PLA set a general guideline and objective of building outstanding, modernized and revolutionary armed forces. It built the Navy, the Air Force and other technical arms, and developed mechanized weaponry and equipment, as well as nuclear weapons for the purpose of self-defense. It established regularized military rules, formed a system of institutional education, and strengthened ideological and political work. It carried out a series of reforms in military command, organization and structure, training, and regulations. The PLA began to develop from a primary to an advanced level in mastering modern military science and technologies.

Under the new historical conditions of reform and opening-up, the PLA embarked on a road of building a streamlined military with Chinese characteristics. As its guiding principle for military build-up underwent a strategic shift from preparations for imminent wars to peacetime construction, the PLA advanced its modernization step by step in a well-planned way under the precondition that such efforts should be both subordinate to and in the service of the country's overall development. The PLA underwent significant adjustment and reform in accordance with the principles of making itself streamlined, combined and efficient, downsized in scale, upgraded in quality, and boosted its capability of self-defense in modern conditions of warfare.

Adapting itself to new trends in world military development, the PLA, by following the general requirements of being qualified politically and competent militarily, and having a superior modus operandi, strict discipline, and reliable logistics support, strengthened its overall development, regarded revolution in military affairs with Chinese characteristics as the only way to modernize the military. By adopting a strategy of strengthening the military by means of science and technology, the PLA gradually shifted its focus from quantity and scale to quality and efficiency, from a manpower-intensive to a technology-intensive model. It laid down a three-step development strategy and adopted a step-change approach which takes mechanization as the foundation and informationization as the focus. It took preparations for military struggle as the driving force for its modernization, and enhanced its capability in defensive operations in conditions of informationization.

To meet the new and changing needs of national security, the PLA tries to accentuate modernization from a higher platform. It strengthens the building of a new type of combat capability to win local wars in conditions of informationization, strengthens the composite development of mechanization and informationization with the latter as the leading factor, focuses informationization on raising its fighting capabilities based on information systems, and enhances the capabilities in fire power, mobility, protection, support and informationization.

Building of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Second Artillery Force

In line with the strategic requirements of mobile operations and tri-dimensional offense and defense, the PLA Army (PLAA) has invested additional efforts in reform, innovation and development, and advanced the overall transformation of the service. The PLAA has emphasized the development of new types of combat forces, optimized its organization and structure, strengthened military training in conditions of informationization, accelerated the digitized upgrading and retrofitting of main battle weaponry, organically deployed new types of weapon platforms, and significantly boosted its capabilities in long-distance maneuvers and integrated assaults. The PLAA mobile operational units include 18 combined corps, plus additional independent combined operational divisions (brigades). The combined corps, consisting of divisions and brigades, are respectively under the seven military area commands of Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

The PLAA has made great progress in strengthening its arms. The armored component has strengthened the development of digitized units, accelerated the mechanization of motorized units, and improved its combat system, which combines heavy, light, amphibious and air-borne assault forces. The artillery component has been working on new types of weapons, equipment, and ammunition with higher levels of informationization, forming an operational and tactical in-depth strike system, and developing the capacity to carry out precision operations with integrated reconnaissance, control, strike and assessment capabilities. The air defense component has stepped up the development of new types of radar, command information systems, and medium- and high-altitude ground-to-air missiles. It has formed a new interception system consisting of anti-aircraft artillery and missiles, and possesses enhanced capabilities of medium- and low-altitude air and missile defense operations. The PLAA aviation wing has worked to move from being a support force to being a main-battle assault force, further optimized its combat force structure, and conducted modularized grouping according to different tasks. It has upgraded armed helicopters, transport and service helicopters, and significantly improved its capabilities in air strike, force projection, and support. The engineering component has accelerated its transformation into a new model of integrated and multi-functional support force which is rapid in response and can be used both in peacetime and in war. It has also strengthened its special capabilities in emergency rescue and disaster relief. In this way, capabilities in integral combat support and military operations other than MOOTW missions have been further enhanced. The chemical defense component has worked to develop an integrated force for nuclear, biological and chemical defense which operates both in peacetime and in war, combines civilian and military efforts, and integrates systems from various arms and services. It has developed enhanced permanent, multi-dimensional and multi-terrain defense capabilities against nuclear, biological and chemical threats.

In line with the requirements of offshore defense strategy, the PLA Navy (PLAN) endeavors to accelerate the modernization of its integrated combat forces, enhances its capabilities in strategic deterrence and counterattack, and develops its capabilities in conducting operations in distant waters and in countering non-traditional security threats. It seeks to further improve its combat capabilities through regularized and systematic basic training and actual combat training in complex electromagnetic environments. By organizing naval vessels for drills in distant waters, it develops training models for MOOTW missions. New types of submarines, frigates, aircraft and large support vessels have been deployed as planned. The PLAN enhances the construction of composite support bases so as to build a shore-based support system which matches the deployment of forces and the development of weaponry and equipment. The Navy has accelerated the building of surface logistical platforms by deploying ambulance boats and helicopters, and a standard 10,000 DWT hospital ship, and is working to further improve its surface support capabilities. The Navy explores new methods of logistics support for sustaining long-time maritime missions. There are three fleets under the Navy, namely, the Beihai Fleet, the Donghai Fleet and the Nanhai Fleet, each of which has under its command fleet aviation, support bases, flotillas, maritime garrison commands, aviation divisions and marine brigades.

To satisfy the strategic requirements of conducting both offensive and defensive operations, the modernization and transformation of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) follows a carefully-structured plan. It strengthens and improves the PLAAF development and personnel development strategies, and enhances its research into the operation and transformation of air forces in conditions of informationization. The PLAAF is working to ensure the development of a combat force structure that focuses on air strikes, air and missile defense, and strategic projection, to improve its leadership and command system and build up an informationized, networked base support system. It conducts training on confrontation between systems in complex electromagnetic environments, and carries out maneuvers, drills and operational assembly training in different tactical contexts. The PLAAF strengthens routine combat readiness of air defenses, taking the defense of the capital as the center and the defense of coastal and border areas as the key. It has carried out MOOTWs, such as air security for major national events, emergency rescue and disaster relief, international rescue, and emergency airlift. It has gradually deployed airborne early warning and control aircraft, third-generation combat aircraft, and other advanced weaponry and equipment. The PLAAF has under it an air command in each of the seven military area commands of Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. It also has under its command an airborne corps. Under each air command at military area level are aviation divisions, ground-to-air missile divisions (brigades and regiments), anti-aircraft artillery brigades (regiments), radar brigades (regiments), electronic countermeasures (ECM) regiments (battalions), and other units. An aviation division has under its command aviation regiments and related stations.

Following the principle of building a lean and effective force, the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) strives to push forward its modernization and improves its capabilities in rapid reaction, penetration, precision strike, damage infliction, protection, and survivability, while steadily enhancing its capabilities in strategic deterrence and defensive operations. It continues to develop a military training system unique with the strategic missile force, improve the conditions of on-base, simulated and networked training, conduct trans-regional maneuvers and training with opposing forces in complex electromagnetic environments. It has set up laboratories for key disciplines, specialties and basic education, and successfully developed systems for automatic missile testing, operational and tactical command and control, strategic missile simulation training, and the support system for the survival of combatants in operational positions. It has worked to strengthen its safety systems, strictly implement safety regulations, and ensure the safety of missile weaponry and equipment, operational positions and other key elements. It has continued to maintain good safety records in nuclear weapon management. Through the years, the PLASAF has grown into a strategic force equipped with both nuclear and conventional missiles.

Accelerating Informationization

In line with its strategic objective of building informationized armed forces and winning informationized wars, and with overall planning and phased implementation, the PLA is trying to break through major bottlenecks which hinder the building and improvement of combat effectiveness of systems. The fighting capabilities of the armed forces in conditions of informationization have been significantly raised.

A step-change development has been achieved in information infrastructure. The total length of the national defense optical fiber communication network has increased by a large margin, forming a new generation information transmission network with optical fiber communication as the mainstay and satellite and short-wave communications as assistance.

Significant progress has been made in building information systems for reconnaissance and intelligence, command and control, and battlefield environment awareness. Information systems have been widely applied in logistics and equipment support. A preliminary level has been achieved in interoperability among command and control systems, combat forces, and support systems, making order transmission, intelligence distribution, command and guidance more efficient and rapid.

Strategic planning, leadership and management of informationization have been strengthened, and relevant laws, regulations, standards, policies and systems further improved. A range of measures, such as assembly training and long-distance education, have been taken to disseminate knowledge on information and skills in applying it. Notable achievements have been made in the training of commanding officers for joint operations, management personnel for informationization, personnel specialized in information technology, and personnel for the operation and maintenance of new equipment. The complement of new-mode and high-caliber military personnel who can meet the needs of informationization has been steadily enlarged.

Building Joint Operation Systems

The PLA takes the building of joint operation systems as the focal point of its modernization and preparations for military struggle, and strives to enhance its fighting capabilities based on information systems.

Intensifying research into operational theories. A new generation of doctrines on command in joint campaigns and operations, and other relevant supporting doctrines have been issued and implemented, and a series of theoretical works and training textbooks on joint campaigns have been compiled, which have formed the basic theoretical framework for joint operations and a methodological system for joint campaign training.

Strengthening the building of combat forces. Catering to the needs of the military's informationization, the PLA reforms and improves its leadership and command systems, adjusts and optimizes the organization and structure of combat forces, deploys new types of combat and support forces, gives priority to the building of land, maritime and air task formations, speeds up the transformation of various arms and services, and raises the level of modularized grouping and combined employment, so as to form a system of streamlined, joint, multi-functional and efficient system of combat forces.

Improving operational command systems. To ensure an authoritative, lean, agile and efficient operational capability, the PLA speeds up the building of a joint operational command system, which features sound structure and organization, applicability in both peacetime and war, tri-service integration, optimized mechanisms, smoothness in operation and high efficiency.

Enhancing integrated support capabilities. Following the principle of providing systematic, precise and intensive support, the PLA strengthens the construction of composite combat and support bases, optimizes battlefield support layout, and improves position facilities for the following services: command and control, reconnaissance and intelligence, communication, surveying and mapping, navigation, meteorological and hydrological support as well as rear storage facilities, military communication and equipment maintenance facilities, thus forming an initial battlefield support capability that matches the development of weaponry and equipment and satisfies the needs of combat units in offensive and defensive operations. The PLA has improved joint support mechanisms, enhanced IT-based integrated support, and established a basic integrated support system linking strategic, operational and tactical levels.

Promoting Transition in Military Training

The PLA upholds that military training is the basic means to generate and raise combat effectiveness, and is working to reform training in all respects, and accelerate the transition from training in conditions of mechanization to training in conditions of informationization.

Reforming training tasks. In accordance with the new edition of the Outline for Military Training and Evaluation, the PLA intensifies training of command organs, training in operating command information systems and informationized weaponry and equipment, and information skills. It enhances training to fulfill its missions, strengthens research and training in maintaining maritime, space and electromagnetic space security, and carries out MOOTW training. It studies the technical and tactical performance of electronic countermeasures (ECM) equipment, intensifies anti-jamming (AJ) and ECM training, and organizes operational training exercises in complex electromagnetic environments.

Innovating training methodologies. With a top-down approach to training, the PLA organizes campaign-level training within the framework of strategic-level training, service campaign-level training in accordance with the joint campaign-level training, and unit training within the framework of campaign-level command post training, in an effort to merge training at different levels into an organic whole. Based on and supported by command information systems, the PLA organizes combined training of different combat components, assembly training of various combat elements, and joint training of all systems and all components. It intensifies joint training of task formations and confrontational training, and places emphasis on training in complex electromagnetic environments, unfamiliar terrain, and complex weather conditions. The PLA holds trans-regional exercises for organic divisions (brigades) led by campaign-level command organs, raises training evaluation standards, and organizes training based on the needs, formations and procedures of actual combat.

Improving military training means. The PLA speeds up the construction of large-scale integrated training bases which meet the requirements raised by joint training, as well as IT-based upgrading of combined tactical training bases, with the priority being given to the construction of complex electromagnetic environments. The PLA strives to develop simulation training devices and systems, and improve training information network.

Reforming training management. The PLA is working to optimize its leadership and management system, update regulations, and implement a system of accountability for training. It reforms its training evaluation system, formulates detailed criteria for individual and unit performance, enhances quantitative analysis and evaluation, and enforces meticulous management of the whole process and all aspects of military training.

Innovating Political Work

In a spirit of innovation, the PLA strives to push forward its political work so as to make it adapt to new situations and achieve new development. The newly revised Regulations on the Political Work of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, promulgated in August 2010, expressly stipulates that the political work of the PLA must guarantee - politically, ideologically and organizationally - the nature of the people's army under the absolute leadership of the Party, the scientific development of the national defense and armed forces, and the performance of the PLA's historical missions at this new stage in the new century.

Closely in line with the times, the tasks and missions, and the characteristics of its officers and men, the PLA is working to improve and innovate its political work to achieve a more scientific approach. Through education in ideology, guidance of opinion, and cultural edification, the core values of the contemporary revolutionary serviceman of "loyalty to the Party, love of the people, service to the country, dedication to the mission, and belief in honor" have been fostered. In order to keep its political work effective and focused, the PLA also strives to study new conditions regarding the building of armed forces and changes to the state of mind of officers and men brought about by the new situations. The PLA has built a PLA-wide political network connecting all units and educational institutions, issued digitalized movie players to all border and coastal defense units, so as to realize networked education and real-time information transmission.

Opinions on Strengthening Political Work in MOOTW, promulgated in March 2009, stipulates that the PLA should have a good understanding and mastery of the characteristics and laws of political work in MOOTWs, keep in line with tasks and realities, and explore new areas and functions of the supporting role of political work. Opinions on Improving Psychological Services in the Armed Forces under the New Situation, promulgated in October 2009, requires the provision of psychological health services, such as psychological evaluation, psychological training and psychological crisis intervention. It also rules that within five years there must be at least one professional psychotherapist for each brigade- (regiment-) level unit, and three or more specially trained psychological assistants for each company-level unit.

Implementing the Strategic Project for Talented Individuals

The PLA is further implementing the strategic project for talents in an effort to increase its complement of new-type and high-caliber military personnel. It further promotes the cultivation of a contingent of commanding officers, staff officers, scientists, technical experts and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) by taking the improvement of ideological and political qualities as the foundation, the transformation of capabilities as the main theme, the cultivation of joint operation commanders, informationization professionals, IT specialists, and experts in operating and maintaining new types of equipment as focus.

The PLA is continuing to adjust and reform its management system for military officers. Issued in January 2009, the Regulations on Work Procedures for the Selection and Appointment of Military Cadres (Trial) requires that democracy be promoted, procedures regulated, supervision tightened, and rationality, accuracy, fairness and credibility raised in the selection and appointment of military cadres. The PLA has issued implementation measures and general standards for the evaluation of staff officers and specialized technical officers, and formulated an overall plan for the adjustment and reform of management systems for specialized technical personnel.

The PLA is laying stress on the training of commanding officers for joint operations and high-level experts in technological innovation. It has published basic readers and held lectures on joint operations through all its arms and services. While giving attention to selecting, commending and rewarding outstanding commanding and staff officers, it has placed particular emphasis on training and promoting excellent staff officers, and company- and battalion-level officers of great potential. To cultivate commanding officers for joint operations, the PLA has also reformed the model for training graduates for its Masters Degree in Military Science. Following the promulgation of Implementation Measures for Military High-Level Personnel Project in Scientific and Technological Innovation, every two years the PLA selects 200 leading scientists and high-performing talents from different disciplines for special training in order to improve their innovation aptitude in science and technology.

The PLA is working to reform its NCO selection and training system. It has increased the number of positions for high-tech specialized NCOs, implemented a pre-assignment accreditation system for evaluating the skills of specialized technical NCOs, developed an expert assessment system for selecting senior NCOs, and further improved its NCO training and management system.

Multilateral Approach to Building a Modern Logistics System

In order to enhance its logistical support capabilities for diversified military tasks, the PLA is working on a multilateral approach to building a modern logistics system by speeding up the process of integrating systems, outsourcing services, informationizing processes, and managing its logistical support systems in a more scientific way.

The PLA is strengthening logistics reforms. It improves the mechanism of the joint logistics system first adopted by the Jinan Military Area Command mainly by readjusting functions, rationalizing internal relations, optimizing structures, and raising cost-effectiveness. It continues the process of outsourcing daily maintenance services, and takes steps to outsource other services, such as general-purpose materials storage and integrated civilian-military equipment maintenance. Moreover, the PLA endeavors to upgrade and retrofit existing logistics equipment, assess the development of new-generation equipment, and undertake pilot research on key technologies. It promotes the serviceman support card system, and develops the military logistics information system which focuses on the dynamic supervision of strategic logistical warehouses and packing of strategic materials in storage and military transportation. It reviews and simplifies logistics rules and regulations, and improves the system of logistical support standards and regulations covering supply, consumption, and management. The PLA enhances auditing and supervision of major construction and reform projects, and pushes forward reforms of such policies and systems as financial management, material procurement, medical care, housing, and insurance.

The PLA meticulously organizes and provides logistical support for key events. Examples are the National Day Parade in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People' s Republic of China, escort operations in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, joint exercises with foreign military forces, security work for the Shanghai World Expo, and emergency rescue operations both at home and abroad. It also provides strong and reliable logistical support for those troops who take part in rescue and relief operations following disasters, such as the Yushu earthquake and the Zhouqu mud-rock slide.

The PLA is working to improve supply to and support for its units. It has adjusted the standards of overhead expenses, regional subsidies, grass-roots post allowances and professional post allowances; adopted new standards of military rations and housing; expanded the catalogue of medicines used in military medical care; implemented rest and recuperation (R&R) plans for officers and men; and provided better mental health services. It has fulfilled its three-year plan for integrated improvement of grass-roots logistics systems, so as to provide an effective solution to acute and complex problems in the supply of water, heating, and staple and non-staple food for brigade- and regiment-level units, for border and coastal defense units, for small, scattered, and distant units, and for units directly under the headquarters. By the end of 2009, replacement of old uniforms with the 07 series had been completed for all PLA troops.

Accelerating the Development of New and High-Tech Weaponry and Equipment

The PLA is gaining momentum in developing new and high-tech weaponry and equipment, strengthening the retrofitting and management of existing equipment, and promoting the composite development of mechanized and informationized weaponry and equipment.

The PLA is working to improve the quality and optimize the composition of its weaponry and equipment. It has formed a system with second-generation equipment as the main body and third generation as the backbone. The PLAA has developed for its land operations a weaponry system with helicopters, armored assault vehicles, and anti-air and suppression weapons as the spine. The PLAN has built for its maritime operations a weaponry system with new types of submarines, surface vessels and surface attack aircraft as the spine. The PLAAF has formed for its air control operations a weaponry system with new types of combat aircraft and ground-to-air missile systems as the spine. The PLASAF has set up a ground-to-ground weaponry system with its medium- and long-range missiles as the spine.

The PLA is working to improve its capabilities in managing, maintaining and supporting equipment. It widely applies modern management techniques and enhances standardized and meticulous management of equipment. Educational institutions, research institutes and manufacturers are encouraged to recruit and train more experts in new equipment. The PLA works in coordination with R&D institutes and defense industry manufacturers to enhance its maintenance and support for high-tech equipment, and develops an integrated civilian-military maintenance and support system. The PLA has developed comprehensive capabilities in equipment maintenance which cover multi-functional testing, mobile rescue and rush repair, and long-distance technical support. Recent emergency rescue and disaster relief operations, counter-terrorism exercises, and fully equipped training and maneuvers have testified the achievements of the development and management of weaponry and equipment, demonstrating a notable improvement in the PLA' s capabilities of equipment support in long-distance and trans-regional maneuvers, escort operations in distant waters, and complex battlefield environments.

The PLA is planning its future development of weaponry and equipment. By understanding and scientifically mastering the features and rules of information technology as being compatible, systematic, integrated, and holistic, the PLA seeks to promote the organic compatibility and composite development of weapon platforms and integrated electro-info systems. With the use of advanced and mature technologies and devices, the PLA is working, selectively and with priorities, to retrofit its existing weaponry and equipment to upgrade its comprehensive performance in a systematic, organic and integrated way, so as to increase the cost-effectiveness of developing weaponry and equipment.