China’s military reforms are aimed at expanding its military might from the traditional focus on land territories to maritime influence to protect the nation’s strategic interests in a new era, according to an internal reader of China’s Central Military Commission obtained by Kyodo News.
If the reforms progress, the reader points to intensifying friction with neighboring countries, including Japan, in the East and South China Seas and elsewhere. It also suggests the willingness of China to overtake the United States in military strength.
The text was published internally by the Central Military Commission in February, for the purpose of spreading President Xi Jinping’s “thought on strengthening the armed forces.”
It makes clear at the outset that the People’s Liberation Army is loyal to the “core” leader of Xi and adheres to his thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.
Seeking to forge a military that is always “ready for fighting, capable of combat, and sure to win,” Xi in 2015 announced that the 2.3 million strong PLA would be downsized by 300,000.
The reader explains that the military command-and-control system must be reorganized from a four-tiered structure to a three-tiered one, adding that the strategic doctrine must also be adjusted accordingly.
On the strategic front, one chapter said that while the PLA has focused its war preparedness on coastal defense, it must strengthen its capabilities on land, at sea and in the air, in addition to developing beyond the traditional area of operation in a new era.
“As we open up and expand our national interests beyond borders, we desperately need a comprehensive protection of our own security around the globe,” it said.
Through a series of adjustments to the military strategy, it said, the “balance, dimension and expansion of our strategic goal will be strengthened.”
By doing so, it will be conducive to “more effectively create a situation, manage a crisis, contain a conflict, win a war, defend the expansion of our country’s strategic interests in an all-round fashion and realize the goals set by the party and Chairman Xi.”
Another chapter explained the necessity of its military reforms. It said that the United States, Russia, Japan and seven other countries become strong countries because they have a strong military, and to have a strong military, reforms are necessary.
“The lessons of history teach us that strong military might is important for a country to grow from being big to being strong,” it said. “A strong military is the way to avoid the ‘Thucydides Trap’ and escape the obsession that war is unavoidable between an emerging power and a ruling hegemony.”
A Thucydides Trap is a phrase used to refer to when a rising power causes fear in an established power that escalates toward war.
Military reforms are therefore a significant “turning point” for any given emerging country to “overtake a slower vehicle on a curve,” it said, suggesting that the United States is in its decline.
Citing the examples of the collapse of the Soviet Union and political unrest in some East European countries, one chapter said that it is important to control the military in a bid to ensure the Chinese Communist Party’s long-term ruling status.
History proves that as long as the party keeps a tight grip on the military, it can withstand rigorous challenges both at home and abroad, it said.
It also criticized the “antagonistic blocs of the Western world” for plotting to instigate separatists in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong to pursue independence as well as Falun Gong practitioners to stage protests and individuals to carry out terrorist attacks.
Another chapter endorsed the “CMC chairman responsibility system,” which it said helped quell a political crisis in the spring of 1989, referring to the bloody military crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
The core of the system is the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China who also leads the military and the party Central Military Commission.