China’s President, Xi Jinping, has signed a new regulation on the supervision of military training for the People’s Liberation Army. The first of its kind in the country. The move will see inspectors deployed to oversee training and the establishment of a new regulation system.

This article was submitted to the UK Defence Journal by EJ Ward. EJ Ward is an experienced journalist covering international politics and breaking news in the UK. EJ has spent years covering China for a variety of broadcasters and publications and is currently based in London.

President Xi has undertaken a campaign of military reform since taking office, including purges of high-level generals who were selling military titles, and reforming military command structures.

Xi has also reduced the size of the army, which now accounts for less than 50 per cent of the total number of PLA troops. In January Xinhuia, the Chinese state news agency said that almost half of non-combatant units had been made redundant, and the number of officers in the PLA had been reduced by 30 per cent.

With the largest military in the world, two million strong, China is now seeking to fall into line with other nations by rectifying “practices that are inconsistent with the requirements of actual combat”, accord to the PLA Daily.

The regulation will also set out criteria for dealing with malpractice and violations of discipline during military training. With an increase in peacekeeping operations

The Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency has previously said that the PLA is changing from a “defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy”.

In 2018 China raised their defence budget by more than 8%, to $175 billion, more than twice that of the UK.

Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr. the Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency has previously said that the growth of China’s military would at times run counter to US interests, “As China continues to grow in strength and confidence, our nation’s leaders will face a China insistent on having a greater voice in global interactions, which at times may be antithetical to U.S. interests”.

Adm. Philip Davidson, the US Pacific Commander has said that China presents “the greatest long-term threat to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” and that China was seeking to create a new international order led by China and with Chinese characteristics.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, has, said that the US military needs “urgent change at a significant scale” to deal with China.

On Monday, the United States sailed two guided-missile destroyers, the USS Spruance and the USS Preble close to disputed islands in the South China Sea as part of freedom of navigation operations.

Meanwhile, the world’s two largest economies are mid-trade war, as they attempt to come to a deal ahead of a March 1st deadline.

If a deal is not reached Washington is set to increase tariffs from 10% to 25% on more than $200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

32 COMMENTS

  1. All is fine, put your head in the sand people, we don’t need defence! Welfare is much more important besides I was told these cuts have made the forces more ‘streamlined’ so that must be a good thing right! We are definitely not back in a cold war but against 2 major powers instead of 1, its all fine, India with its space programme needs development money, don’t worry about the disappearing ships and squadrons and amalgamated regiments or disappearing commands, its fine!

    • Slash the defence budget even further, fill in the potholes, increase the foreign aid budget, increase the welfare budget, and above all, don’t panic!!!

    • Im stating that the West isn’t exactly stepping up to its traditional task of protecting the freedoms of countries(although there have been contradictions). Most countries recognise the threats that exist from China, Russia, I suppose Korea as well but we are not putting the money where our (politicians) mouth is, there are major threats out there that we are not fully addressing, very soon, very soon the US Navy will be second with the exception of Aircraft Carriers and it won’t be long until the PLA have global reach as well, don’t be surprised if we see Chinese Squadrons in the Atlantic in the near to mid future!
      It is fair to say after long times of peace people come complacent and forget why we keep strong defences and they are seen as an expensive luxury, that is what has happened in the west, particularly in Europe, the RN down from over 50 escorts in 1990 to 19 today is too few, there needs to be a change, I am hopeful that people are waking up to the threats and are making a stand!

  2. It is true China has the biggest full time Army, however, much as Russia discovered during the early parts of WW2 without clear leadership, direction and empowerment they are next to useless in a peer vs peer conflict. As the recent border skirmish in Northern India has shown even with overwhelming odds they were defeated by a handful of border guards.
    I think this is why the are going down this route to “modernise” their armed forces, they are now willing to join in UN policing as this gives them up to date experience, but more importantly when working with other Nations shows they can compare notes.
    In Afghanistan you will find a plethora of Chinese “manual” workers and construction contractors. The majority of these are doing as contracted, however a significant number have been caught spying. They have been caught using a Infra Red defensive aids test set on aircraft that are taking off or landing. This is try to get intel’ on how the defensive aids systems are working. I’m pretty sure we do the same but not as blatantly.
    They are clearly trying to bridge the gap and modernise their forces, but to what end? I know they see Russia as weak economically and are trying to supplant them as the 2nd military superpower. Taiwan is always a sore point when it comes to Greater China, but with US Pacific Fleet they won’t go there any time soon. The South China Sea is perhaps there current focus as the area is rich in natural gas and oil and their current bully boy tactics seems to be winning. But what China really lacks is mineral resources which is why they are pushing huge amounts of money into Africa to control mining rights.
    Over the next year or two, it will be telling in which direction China is going. Will they still pplay the long game or will they be more assertive?

    • On the PLA:
      The PLA is first and foremost a Army tasked with assisting the MSS with internal security. Their dispositions reflect that. The “redundant” forces outlined by President XI are meant to maintain order far from Beijing. What has long been a dilemma for the PLA are these 1. Are the forces far from the Capital reliable? 2. Can they be brought up to any kind of modernization and training standards? ( assuming they are reliable) 3. If they are not reliable how to get rid of them? They have tried several times, with reform always being stymied for some reason or another.
      The depth to which the PLA is used for internal security is shown by how much the PLAN has received the lions share of modernization funds. This is due to it having a more professional officer and NCO corps. As well as being thought of being the most necessary force to challenge America. A third reason is the belief that the Army if given to much power will launch a Coup or Civil War, while the Navy is quite incapable of that and keeping the three services at odds with each other keeps the Chinese Communist Party in power.
      As for China playing the long game? Under the previous administrations of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao I would have said yes. Under Xi Jinping? He is a gambler so I give it even odds he either plays the long game or accidentally starts a wider war by going after Bhutan, Vietnam, or Taiwan causing intervention of either the US and Japan or India or all three.

  3. They will not touch Bhutan or Vietnam. Taiwan is a different matter completely. The army is loyal to the regime until something goes seriously wrong. the reason they’re (rightly) focusing so much on the PLAN is that will be the frontline against the USN. In my opinion the USN stands no chance in the SCS, outnumbered and to far from home, Japan needs to increase its navy massively in conjunction with US to stand a chance

    • PLAN projected strength v USN is not the reality as when you take the navies of Japan, S Korea, Taiwan, Austrailia etc into account, then the future PLAN is still evenly matched at best. I do find it alarming what PRC has become in terms of power projection capability & the nature of the regime in reality rather than the properganda. Creating artificial island military bases in the hotly disputed SCS & bullying anyone in the area bodes very poorly & may be a first step in a larger neo-colonial plan leveraged by economic power & worldwide infrastructure tenticles. Putting Uighurs into concentration camps & importing Han Chinese to outnumber them is chilling also.
      My urgent concern is that our warships are equipped with early generation ASMs whereas Russia & PLAN use super/hypersonic ASMs, usually carrying double the number that we do. We have too few ships & those we have seem under-armed.

    • J
      You obviously haven’t been paying attention for the past few decades. China went to war with India once already and has threatened pressed the Bhutan-India-Chinese border on numerous occasions since. The opportunity to patch up relations between Delhi and Beijing was flushed down the toilet by Xi and pushed Indian further into the arms of Russia and the US while causing a massive increase in India’s defense spending.
      On Vietnam? The Chinese are after the SCS which includes Vietnamese waters. They also desperately need access to the Mekong delta countries of which Vietnam and Thailand are the key players, because they collectively are the breadbasket/rice bowl of Asia. China and Vietnam have a near sociopathic hatred of each other that. Strong enough to cause them to shoot each other up in the middle of the Cold War despite both being communists. The past few decades have not helped matters.
      On the USN chance for victory? There is no doubt the Chinese would lose and lose badly. The USN not only has more Carriers and SSNs it has FAR BETTER Carriers and SSNs. To make it even more decisive to show the difference in training the Chinese have less flight hours per pilot in training than India allows pilots to graduate with. So they aren’t coming into screaming distance of the same professionalism.
      This doesn’t even get into the US allies in the region spanning from Japan to NZ.
      As for the Army’s complete loyalty? Read Chinese history. The REASON men like Xi gamble is that when the bubble bursts they don’t get shot by the Generals in the Marches.

  4. Sooner or later there will be a confrontation with the US, either by proxy (ala vietnam) or directly.

    The US is exerting its power into the South Asia region, and China sees this as a threat (which if you take a step back, for better or worse, it is exactly that) and China sooner or later will push back.

    I am not sure we really should be putting our head into the fire, especially not if it involves a lightly escorted carrier (due to lack of escorts) packed with US jets.

  5. I think the US has a genuine deep fear of China, mainly because it’s the superpower in the making while ( like all empires throughout history) the USA is on the gradual slide into mediocrity to join the rest of us.

    Nothing wrong with that, it’s just part of the natural social economic cycle of things, a cycle that moves a lot faster in these modern times.

    We also went through the same process, as we sensibility withdrew from our empire and cut out cloth according to our diminished world status post WW2.

    The reality of worldwide global trade is we have all effectively copied and pasted MAD (mutually assured destruction), removed the nuclear weapons and replaced them with our joint economic survival.

    The west is totally reliant on China, they are totally reliant on
    the West.
    If China attacked a sovereign Country in SE Asia ( I don’t believe they would anyway) they would be committing economic suicide!

    • Does America fear China? No, it does not. Fear implies doubt as to the outcome. The only thing it fears is how many body bags will be filled in Asia. Victory for the US would be the outcome of nearly every scenario. The only way China would manage tie is if they used nukes and that would be mutual suicide though far more disproportionately in terms of casualties for them.
      Though America would win any war with China, the number of dead even in a conventional war due to the bombing of infrastructure and therefore the ability for a modern city to sustain itself combined with a blockade, make WWII look like afternoon tea. With Chinese military and civilian casualties in the millions due to starvation, lack of potable water, contamination of existing water sources due to bombing of industrial targets.
      On America declining and accepting mediocrity? Doesn’t seem like it. Considering what people are willing to do to get here. The day America joins something like the EU is the day it deposes the Government for treason.
      On the economy preventing war? Joint economic survival isn’t new or have you read about the tombs of Ur? Trade didn’t stop them from engaging in war. You do I hope realize people do things for reasons besides money I hope? WWII case in point was as much psychotic rage and desire for retribution than any geopolitical need.

      • Elliott,

        Does America fear China, it most certainly does!

        Don’t think in terms of military capability, the real fear comes from China’s absolute superiority in soft power, quietly investing in the world and gaining substantial and increasing influence.

        This is an area the US has shot itself in the foot with over the past 20 years, with an international reputation and world influence, sadly, greatly reduced by failed destabilising military interventions.

        This is the real super power strategy of the 21st Century.

        I think it’s a great shame the US dosent wake up and smell the coffee, I sincerely hope they do, but unfortunately when they elect people like Trump, who just seems full of hate and advocates US isolationism.

        • On China’s soft power.
          Do you even realize how much their neighbors HATE them? On their investments? Guess what America invests even more n foreign countries than they do. As for China’s success in their “Belt and Road Initiative” countries are starting to refuse money while some are threatening to nationalize Chinese investments rather than default or renegotiate.
          On the world reputation of the United States? No matter what we do or don’t do we are criticized by the media, pseudo intellectuals, and our often allies in name only. This has been true since the Founding. No one cares not the countries who align with the US, not the people who desperately try to immigrate here, and definitely not Americans.
          The real super power strategy of the 21st century? No, mankind is and always will be a species based on violence and the threat of violence. To think otherwise is deny the very nature of almost every interaction on Earth from law, to contracts in commerce secured by threat of the legal system and power of the state from being breached, to interactions between nations.
          As for it being a “shame” the US elected President Trump? I find it much more of a shame that no European leader besides Putin is as popular or as capable of managing an economy yet somehow think they can judge. On Trumps foreign policy do not mistake Unilateralism for Isolationism that would be the mistake of the ignorant. Full of hate? No he just loves his country unlike say Mrs.May, Mr.Corbyn, and Mr.Macron etc.

          • I won’t get into an argument Elliott, I stand by my comments and appreciate your point of view.

            I certainly wouldn’t back our own government here, both the Conservatives and Labour have let us down very badly indeed, piss poor quite frankly!

            Trump’s actions today are another dangerous turn in US events as he tries to bend the law to suit himself…

            Thank god Congress, the legal system (and the wise forward thinking founding fathers, carfully considered checks and balances) can keep individuals like him on the leash.

            Much more of this sort of toys out of the pram hissy fit nonsense and he’s going to start looking more like a South American dictator!

            Is it too much to expect a President and the protector of the free world to act in a way befitting that proud and important office?

            Bring back President Reagan or George Bush Senior, now they were gentleman and got the job done… They could certainly teach Trump how to act in a statesman like way and would probably be horrified at his antics.

  6. I question whether they would actually go to war opposing China, especially when you consider the relative economies in the region (outside Japan) and the huge debt the US would struggle to fund if China pulled the plug. China needs the west for sure, but less than 20% of its exports are from the US and so it could easily isolate them economically without even firing a bullet and move more exports to other regions.

    The days of the US laying down the law and ignoring everyone else’s opinons are closing. Which is why they want us out of the EU so we lower our standards, and buy more US sub quality gear (e.g. food that is not permitted due to safety issues under EU laws, but would be permitted under the trump idea of an improved trade deal) whilst we accept they will ban our goods.

    China will stand up for itself sooner or later and let’s hope it’s not militarily. The problem with MAD is that both sides know neither side will use unless their mainland is threatened, which means the rest of the world is open season for war.

    • “The days of the US laying down the law and ignoring everyone else’s opinons are closing.” – You really do not understand us do you? We simply don’t CARE what other people think never have and never will. Any attempt to force us to would en shall we say badly to say the least.
      “I question whether they would actually go to war opposing China, especially when you consider the relative economies in the region (outside Japan) and the huge debt the US would struggle to fund if China pulled the plug.”-Please study finance most of the US debt is actually owned by Americans through pensions, 401ks, and other investments. That also implies that a country you are at war with is one you make debt payments to which has happened exactly never in the course of history.
      “Which is why they want us out of the EU so we lower our standards, and buy more US sub quality gear (e.g. food that is not permitted due to safety issues under EU laws, but would be permitted under the trump idea of an improved trade deal) whilst we accept they will ban our goods.” – Americans who want Britain out of the EU for very few reasons they are simply. 1. Hatred of the EU 2. Concern that a country that nominally speaks the same language allowed itself to be taken for a ride by such a organization. As for sub-quality US gear? You do realize food laws in the US are MORE strict and the enacted those provisions to keep out American goods at the behest of France and Belgium. As for America banning your goods? Actually look at US-Mexico-Canada trade deals almost nothing is banned unless their is a current (and by law temporary safety alert).

      • Some valid point some mid judged.

        Food and drug quality controls in the US are below Europe especially around drug testing rules and whilst I agree a lot is banned as protectionism, the US can’t complain about that, it’s far from a free market that it pretends to be. Things like injecting cows with steroids are considered dangerous to health in the EU.

        On the debt front, it depends on which stats you read, any thing from 8-30% is directly/indirectly owned by China, and yes you could not pay it in a war situation, but equally every war results in huge additional debt that you wouldn’t be able to finance if you defaulted on it and you would also need to plug other debt when counties / foreign and domestic investors pull out in fear of defaulting on their debt.

        I’m not saying the US is bad or pointing fingers, my point was if you look at the situation emerging in the south China sea from a neutral perspective, it’s hard to not consider how the US act in the region as not emposing it’s power on it. Whether that’s the right or wrong thing to do comes down to opinion and honestly I don’t know, reality i probably a bit of both.

        • On US drug tests? That would be why we invent all the new pills and treatments.
          As for steroids in meat? This isn’t the 80s anymore that is actually vey tightly regulated.
          As for our actions in Asia? We have never gone where we were not invited in. Even Vietnam wants us back vs the Chinese.
          On a neutral viewpoint? Neutrality is impossible you can only have varying degrees hostility to one or the other. You can have thee kinds of neighbors 1. different and possibly hostile 2. different and probably hostile 3. different and definitely hostile. Note they are all hostile in the end.

  7. ‘In 2018 China raised their defence budget by more than 8%, to $175 billion, more than twice that of the UK.’

    Yeah, and they have more than four/five times the assets for their money on ships and air power. And when you compare the British army and Chinese PLA it’s not even funny.

    Why do we get so little for how much we pay? It’s not just China, every comparison I see, even with nations with literally the same budget such as France, we have fewer assets than they do.

  8. Hopefully we will never come to blows with the Chinese, but if we do, it will be an almost entirely one-sided bloodbath, with the Reds coming out the losers. They simply do not have the combat experience in actual fighting or logistics that the US and its allies have maintained and learned from almost non-stop since the end of the Korean War. Plus, they seem to keep forgetting about India ( direct US ally which depends enormously on the US economy), Vietnam (both of which have a great deal of recent and consistent combat experiences), and the rest of their neighbors who they’ve been antagonizing for decades. And then the Chinese, overwhelmed, and attacked on multiple fronts, would probably go crazy(er) and retaliate with nukes (provided they didn’t use nukes first).

    • They said the same thing about the Japanese before WW2 before the reality killed many allies. The PRC hypersonic ASMs could be the modern equivellent of WW2 Japanese Long Lance torpedoes. Besides which there’s always their nuclear weapons.

    • Bit of a sweeping generalisation there Mr Tattersall!

      Years ago Chinese made stuff was absolute junk, no question.

      Today, China has thousands of engineering factories filled with CNC machines, Lazer cutters, measuring machines etc and can produce perfectly good quality products.

      A CNC machine set up correctly and working with quality materials will produce a quality product, if it’s in Birmingham or Beijing.

      I’ve bought Chinese Aluminium one piece scope mounts for my rifle in the past, well made and finished, with no issues whatsoever and they cost me £25!

      For that to be a full retail price, taking into account manufacture, shipping and taxes, it’s just astonishing.

      The west can’t possibly hope to compete with a manufacturing base like that.

  9. John Clark maybe so but they don’t know how to use them? 2019 and china still.can’t make a decent screw or drill everything the comes out of China is terrible quality it’s ok for pound shops and cheap a d nasty BQ tools

  10. I notice with interest some of the comments, and I’ve noticed a deep vein of arrogance and ignorance in some people’s view of the world.

    ‘They make the worst stuff on the planet, all stuff made in China is crap’. Not according to the recent official US Department of Defense and the USN Office of Intelligence reports (as well as several others), that state that ‘China is now able to design, develop and build world class military hardware’ (or words to that effect).

    ‘The reds will come out the losers, they simply do not have the combat experience in actual fighting or logistics that the US and it’s allies have’.. the vast majority of the combat experience of the US and the NATO forces has been usually very one sided, the ground troops have had to rely on air support and high tech reconnaissance, state of the art communication systems, countermeasures and overwhelming firepower to be able to defeat much less well armed and equipped opponents.

    The reality is that few US or NATO military operations have ever really come up against a credible peer or near peer adversary. In fact it would be accurate to say that the combat experience of the US and UN/NATO troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan etc, have been almost the same as the combat experience of the PLA and the PAPF armed police in their recent operations against the Islamist militants in western China and along the Chinese borders with Afghanistan, and the various central Asian ex Soviet Union republics.

    ‘You really do not understand do you? We simply don’t CARE what other people think, never have done, never will’. Which is just the opinion of one person, but if this is the general overall attitude of the typical American. It’s hardly reassuring to the US allies, and is hardly the type of attitude that wins hearts and minds.

    We often have a tendency to believe that our current status and position will never be successfully challenged, and that we sometimes like to believe what we want to believe and ignore anything that is disagreeable. But to disregard or disparage the achievements that have taken place in China is not going to change anything.

    I do think that the Chinese government and the people are actively making sure that they won’t be in the position of being unable to defend themselves (like what happened in the mid 19th century until the mid 20th century) and are making sure that the rest of the world understands that they are able and willing to fight against any foreign aggression and hostility, but I seriously doubt that the PRC is planning on military offensives, which would likely ruin the achievements of the last 40 years or so.

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