The Takshashila PLA Insight: Issue 2

The Big Story of the week
Decoding China’s Military Power 
The Department of Defense of the United States submitted an annual report to the Congress on the ‘Military and Security Developments involving the People’s Republic of China 2019.’ This is an annual exercise, which has started 18 years ago since 2001. Over the years, the China Military Power report has traced the developments of the Chinese Armed forces and evolution of its doctrinal approach. The report this year, highlights that China has benefited from ‘the period of strategic opportunity’ in the first two decades of the 21st century. According to the President Xi Jinping, the country aims to build a ‘world class military’ by 2049. In the process of becoming a world class military, the People’s Liberation Army would attain complete modernisation by 2035, said Xi.  The report highlights that China is heading towards its aim of rapid modernisation, across both conventional (army, navy, air force) and unconventional (space, cyber) domains.
Following are the brief highlights of the report

  • The PRC seeks to leverage its increasing economic, diplomatic and military clout to seek regional supremacy and international influence.
  • The PLA is pursuing an ambitious modernisation program, which aligns with its two centenary goals, achieve mechanisation and make steps towards informatisation by 2020 and modernisation by 2035, thereby making the PLA world class by 2049.
  • The report accuses the PRC of lack of transparency while achieving this ambitious targets. China had published a defence white paper in 2015, after which, the country was supposed to release the latest edition of defence white paper by 2017/18.
  • The report draws attention to China’s increasing footprint across the globe. It states that as China’s overseas interests have grown over last two decades, the PLA is propelled to think about how to operate beyond Chinese borders, San Hai (three seas- East China Sea, Yellow sea and South China Sea) and its immediate region. The report cites PLAN’s evolving approach from ‘off shore water defence’ to ‘open sea protection.’ In this context, China would aim to establish more and more military bases to support the PLA’s presence across the world, the report observes.
  • According to the pentagon, the PLA has acquired anti-access/area denial (A2/ AD) capabilities against the potential third party intervention, nuclear deterrence and power projection operations. In simple words, A2/AD means a series of missiles, sensor, radar and other defence technologies that would deny the freedom of movement of the potential adversary in a particular region.
  • The PLAN has largest navy in the region with more than 300 ships. China’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier is likely to be commissioned by 2019. The reports also states that the PLAN currently operates four nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and six nuclear powered attack submarines (SSNs). Adam Ni, a China researcher, infers that China plans to keep at least two SSBNs at sea patrol, all the time. Follow this thread for his analysis on the report.       
  • China continues to improve ground and submarine- based nuclear capabilities and is pursuing a viable nuclear triad.
  • One of the most important aspects of this report is on Taiwan. The report states that the relationship between Taiwan and the PRC has not improved in 2018 and bowing to the pressure of China, the Dominican Republic, Burkina Faso and El Salvador have switched diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing.

What’s new in the report? 

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