Knowing China’s People Liberation Army and how it is different from other armies of world

By: |
August 20, 2020 3:41 PM

The Chinese government had outlined the strategic agenda for the PLA In the 'White Papers on National Defense'. The 2015 White Paper focused on 'Active Defense' strategy, and the 2019 strategy focused on 'New Era defense.'

Xi Jinping designated as the Commander-in-Chief of the PLA and presided over a massive parade in 2017 when the red army was celebrating the 90th anniversary of the inception of the PLA. (Reuters file image)

The PLA, unlike other armies, pays all its loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and not the national government. For the red army, that line between China- the country and the Chinese Communist Party is quite irrelevant, or succinctly put very blurred. Chinese President Xi Jinping since the time he assumed power in 2012 strengthened the CCP’s hold on the PLA. He was designated as the Commander-in-Chief of the PLA and presided over a massive parade in 2017 when the red army was celebrating the 90th anniversary of the inception of the PLA which had taken place on August 1, 1927. Xi also heads China’s Central Military Commission. Notably, the People Republic of China’s founding father Mao Zedong even at the peak of his power in the Chinese system was not designated with the Commander-in-Chief position of the PLA.

Xi had made his views on the issue of PLA’s loyalty very clear back in 2014 only. He had said that the PLA remains the Party’s army, and must maintain absolute loyalty to political masters in his address to the Military Political Work Conference.

CCP’s stronghold on the PLA goes back nine decades when the then Chinese premiere Mao Zedong had urged the army ranks to “to chiefly serve the political ends.” The message was clear from Zedong to the top brass in the PLA that it will be imperative for them to show allegiance to the people sitting at the top of the CCP.

PLA’s modernisation under Xi Jinping

Xi had in 2017 parade ceremony said that the PLA has to transform itself into an elite military force that has the capability to defend China against its enemies and ensure world peace. Xi’s ambition for China to become a “powerful and prosperous” nation that would acquire “great power status by 2049” relies heavily on the PLA’s prowess given the expansionist agenda that the current CCP leadership has envisioned.

The Chinese government had outlined the strategic agenda for the PLA In the ‘White Papers on National Defense’. The 2015 White Paper focused on ‘Active Defense’ strategy, and the 2019 strategy focused on ‘New Era defense.’

The timelines set for achieving the specified objectives are mechanization by 2020, basic modernization including knowledge up to 2035, and transformation by the middle of the century into a world-class military power.

Military reforms have mainly focused on the overall revamping of systems and structures. The emphasis at the macro level was on civil-military cooperation, joint venture, and optimization.

China, even with a stalling economy increased the defence budget by more than 6 per cent to around 1.27 trillion yuan, about USD 179 billion, against last year’s USD 177.61 billion. The move was made while the PLA troops had strengthened their positions on the disputed positions with India.

The army of a nation, in general, has two major functions– prevent foreign disturbances and maintain internal security but the army of a country that is being run by a dictatorship has some other duties to fulfill as well. That extra layer of responsibility comes to them in the form of toeing the line set by their political masters. Even in dictators ruled countries, the armies ride high on apparent threats to the country’s integrity but China’s People Liberation Army is different.

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