The Chinese military has integrated its land, sea and air conventional forces with new space, cyber, electromagnetic and cognitive domains to enhance its joint operations capabilities and will aim to equal or surpass the United States in 2050, a Japanese Defense Ministry think tank warned Friday.
The annual report on China’s security strategy by the National Institute for Defense Studies was released as the rivalry between Washington and Beijing has been intensifying, and attention is growing on the timeline for a possible Chinese invasion of self-ruled Taiwan.
In March, then U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Philip Davidson said that China could try to invade Taiwan “in the next six years.”
After decades of military reform, China has, to a certain degree, attained centralized command structures to defend its combat systems, and identify and strike potential adversaries’ vital weak points, the China Security Report 2022 said.
The People’s Liberation Army “went beyond merely imitating Western countries. It made the joint operations concept unique by basing it on the PLA’s tradition and novel by taking new technological developments into account,” the report said.
Beijing started to research joint operations capabilities after the Gulf War, triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990.
The multinational coalition against Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein comprised more than 30 countries. The military operation began in January 1991 with the United States surprising Beijing with its use of high-technology weapons.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping accelerated the integration concept after becoming head of the Communist Party of China in 2012 and even more after becoming the country’s president the following year, the report said.
Although Beijing had aimed to complete the process by 2020, the report pointed out issues remained in accomplishing integrated joint operations capabilities.
Firstly, the report asserts, China lacks “defense and science technology as well as personnel capable of realizing the concept,” as it is challenging to recruit, train and retain high-level personnel, and upgrade the military education system.
Secondly, China will face difficulties due to the vague power balance between the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s armed forces.
“I believe the party’s grip is currently working well. The stronger the party’s grip, the less autonomy the army has,” Yasuyuki Sugiura, a senior research fellow at the think tank who authored the report, said.
“The party thinks that the more the army is updated to deal with modern warfare, the more it could undermine its party character, which is a constant worry,” he said at a press briefing.
During the 13th Five-Year Plan from 2016 to 2020, the PLA conducted “more than 100 joint operations trainings involving mobilization of actual personnel,” the report said, citing PLA Daily, the official paper of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.
The report said that China is learning from Russian forces.
“As the Chinese military has not had any real combat experience since the 1980s, China attaches great importance to Sino-Russian training. They have repeated such exercises several times,” Sugiura said.
China and Russia have been ramping up joint military exercises around Japan recently.
The two countries’ warships sailed around most of the Japanese archipelago last month, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry. More recently, Japanese fighter jets scrambled in response to two Chinese and two Russian bombers flying over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea last week, according to the ministry.
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