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PRC State Council, China’s National Defense in the New Era (新时代的中国国防), July 24, 2019
The Information Office of the State Council published this White Paper (白皮书) on Xi Era National Defense in English and Chinese.
China’s National Defense in the New Era
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
Today, with their interests and security intertwined, people across the world are becoming members of a community with a shared future. China is at a critical stage of completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and embarking on the new journey of building a modernized socialist country in an all-round way. Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era.
The Chinese government is issuing China’s National Defense in the New Era to expound on China’s defensive national defense policy and explain the practice, purposes and significance of China’s efforts to build a fortified national defense and a strong military, with a view to helping the international community better understand China’s national defense.
The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. As economic globalization, the information society, and cultural diversification develop in an increasingly multi-polar world, peace, development and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times. Nonetheless, there are prominent destabilizing factors and uncertainties in international security. The world is not yet a tranquil place.
The International Strategic Landscape Is Going Through Profound Changes
As the realignment of international powers accelerates and the strength of emerging markets and developing countries keeps growing, the configuration of strategic power is becoming more balanced. The pursuit of peace, stability and development has become a universal aspiration of the international community with forces for peace predominating over elements of war. However, international security system and order are undermined by growing hegemonism, power politics, unilateralism and constant regional conflicts and wars.
International strategic competition is on the rise. The US has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies. It has provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability. NATO has continued its enlargement, stepped up military deployment in Central and Eastern Europe, and conducted frequent military exercises. Russia is strengthening its nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities for strategic containment, and striving to safeguard its strategic security space and interests. The European Union (EU) is accelerating its security and defense integration to be more independent in its own security.
Global and regional security issues are on the increase. International arms control and disarmament efforts have suffered setbacks, with growing signs of arms races. The non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains problematic. The international non-proliferation regime is compromised by pragmatism and double standards, and hence faces new challenges. Extremism and terrorism keep spreading. Non-traditional security threats involving cyber security, bio-security and piracy are becoming more pronounced. The Iranian nuclear issue has taken an unexpected turn, and there is no easy political solution to the Syrian issue. The security of individual countries is becoming increasingly intertwined, interlinked and interactive. No country can respond alone or stand aloof.
The Asia-Pacific Security Situation Remains Generally Stable
Asia-Pacific countries are increasingly aware that they are members of a community with shared destiny. Addressing differences and disputes through dialogue and consultation has become a preferred policy option for regional countries, making the region a stable part of the global landscape. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is forging a constructive partnership of non-alliance and non-confrontation that targets no third party, expanding security and defense cooperation and creating a new model for regional security cooperation. The China-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) play positive roles in enhancing trust among regional countries through military exchanges and cooperation. The situation of the South China Sea is generally stable and improving as regional countries are properly managing risks and differences. Steady progress has been made in building a coordinated counter-terrorism mechanism among the militaries of the regional countries. A balanced, stable, open and inclusive Asian security architecture continues to develop.
As the world economic and strategic center continues to shift towards the Asia-Pacific, the region has become a focus of major country competition, bringing uncertainties to regional security. The US is strengthening its Asia-Pacific military alliances and reinforcing military deployment and intervention, adding complexity to regional security. The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Republic of Korea (ROK) by the US has severely undermined the regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries. In an attempt to circumvent the post-war mechanism, Japan has adjusted its military and security policies and increased input accordingly, thus becoming more outward-looking in its military endeavors. Australia continues to strengthen its military alliance with the US and its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific, seeking a bigger role in security affairs.
Regional hotspots and disputes are yet to be resolved. Despite positive progress, the Korean Peninsula still faces uncertainty. South Asia is generally stable while conflicts between India and Pakistan flare up from time to time. Political reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan is making progress in the face of difficulties. Problems still exist among regional countries, including disputes over territorial and maritime rights and interests, as well as discord for ethnic and religious reasons. Security hotspots rise from time to time in the region.
China’s Security Risks and Challenges Should Not Be Overlooked
China continues to enjoy political stability, ethnic unity and social stability. There has been a notable increase in China’s overall national strength, global influence, and resilience to risks. China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development. Nevertheless, it also faces diverse and complex security threats and challenges.
The fight against separatists is becoming more acute. The Taiwan authorities, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), stubbornly stick to “Taiwan independence” and refuse to recognize the 1992 Consensus, which embodies the one-China principle. They have gone further down the path of separatism by stepping up efforts to sever the connection with the mainland in favor of gradual independence, pushing for de jure independence, intensifying hostility and confrontation, and borrowing the strength of foreign influence. The “Taiwan independence” separatist forces and their actions remain the gravest immediate threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest barrier hindering the peaceful reunification of the country. External separatist forces for “Tibet independence” and the creation of “East Turkistan” launch frequent actions, posing threats to China’s national security and social stability.
China’s homeland security still faces threats. Land territorial disputes are yet to be completely resolved. Disputes still exist over the territorial sovereignty of some islands and reefs, as well as maritime demarcation. Countries from outside the region conduct frequent close-in reconnaissance on China by air and sea, and illegally enter China’s territorial waters and the waters and airspace near China’s islands and reefs, undermining China’s national security.
China’s overseas interests are endangered by immediate threats such as international and regional turmoil, terrorism, and piracy. Chinese diplomatic missions, enterprises and personnel around the world have been attacked on multiple occasions. Threats to outer space and cyber security loom large and the threat of non-traditional security issues posed by natural disasters and major epidemics is on the rise.
Global Military Competition Is Intensifying
Major countries around the world are readjusting their security and military strategies and military organizational structures. They are developing new types of combat forces to seize the strategic commanding heights in military competition. The US is engaging in technological and institutional innovation in pursuit of absolute military superiority. Russia is advancing its New Look military reform. Meanwhile, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and India are rebalancing and optimizing the structure of their military forces.
Driven by the new round of technological and industrial revolution, the application of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of Things is gathering pace in the military field. International military competition is undergoing historic changes. New and high-tech military technologies based on IT are developing rapidly. There is a prevailing trend to develop long-range precision, intelligent, stealthy or unmanned weaponry and equipment. War is evolving in form towards informationized warfare, and intelligent warfare is on the horizon.
Great progress has been made in the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics. However, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has yet to complete the task of mechanization, and is in urgent need of improving its informationization. China’s military security is confronted by risks from technology surprise and growing technological generation gap. Greater efforts have to be invested in military modernization to meet national security demands. The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries.
The socialist system of China, the strategic decision to follow the path of peaceful development, the independent foreign policy of peace, and the best of cultural traditions – considering peace and harmony as fundamentals – determine that China will pursue a national defense policy that is defensive in nature.
Resolutely Safeguarding China’s Sovereignty, Security and Development Interests
This is the fundamental goal of China’s national defense in the new era.
China’s national defense aims:
• to deter and resist aggression;
• to safeguard national political security, the people’s security and social stability;
• to oppose and contain “Taiwan independence”;
• to crack down on proponents of separatist movements such as “Tibet independence” and the creation of “East Turkistan”;
• to safeguard national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security;
• to safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests;
• to safeguard China’s security interests in outer space, electromagnetic space and cyberspace;
• to safeguard China’s overseas interests; and
• to support the sustainable development of the country.
China resolutely safeguards its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The South China Sea islands and Diaoyu Islands are inalienable parts of the Chinese territory. China exercises its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and to conduct patrols in the waters of Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. China is committed to resolving related disputes through negotiations with those states directly involved on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law. China continues to work with regional countries to jointly maintain peace and stability. It firmly upholds freedom of navigation and overflight by all countries in accordance with international law and safeguards the security of sea lines of communication (SLOCs).
To solve the Taiwan question and achieve complete reunification of the country is in the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation and essential to realizing national rejuvenation. China adheres to the principles of “peaceful reunification”, and “one country, two systems”, promotes peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, and advances peaceful reunification of the country. Meanwhile, China resolutely opposes any attempts or actions to split the country and any foreign interference to this end. China must be and will be reunited. China has the firm resolve and the ability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will never allow the secession of any part of its territory by anyone, any organization or any political party by any means at any time. We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures. This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of “Taiwan independence” separatists and their activities. The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs.
Never Seeking Hegemony, Expansion or Spheres of Influence
This is the distinctive feature of China’s national defense in the new era.
Though a country may become strong, bellicosity will lead to its ruin. The Chinese nation has always loved peace. Since the beginning of modern times, the Chinese people have suffered from aggressions and wars, and have learned the value of peace and the pressing need for development. Therefore, China will never inflict such sufferings on any other country. Since its founding 70 years ago, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never started any war or conflict. Since the introduction of reform and opening-up, China has been committed to promoting world peace, and has voluntarily downsized the PLA by over 4 million troops. China has grown from a poor and weak country to be the world’s second largest economy neither by receiving handouts from others nor by engaging in military expansion or colonial plunder. Instead, it has developed through its people’s hard work and its efforts to maintain peace. China has made every effort to create favorable conditions for its development through maintaining world peace, and has equally endeavored to promote world peace through its own development. China sincerely hopes that all countries will choose the path of peaceful development and jointly prevent conflicts and wars.
China is committed to developing friendly cooperation with all countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. It respects the rights of all peoples to independently choose their own development path, and stands for the settlement of international disputes through equal dialogue, negotiation and consultation. China is opposed to interference in the internal affairs of others, abuse of the weak by the strong, and any attempt to impose one’s will on others. China advocates partnerships rather than alliances and does not join any military bloc. It stands against aggression and expansion, and opposes arbitrary use or threat of arms. The development of China’s national defense aims to meet its rightful security needs and contribute to the growth of the world’s peaceful forces. History proves and will continue to prove that China will never follow the beaten track of big powers in seeking hegemony. No matter how it might develop, China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence.
Implementing the Military Strategic Guideline for a New Era
This is the strategic guidance for China’s national defense in the new era.
The military strategic guideline for a new era adheres to the principles of defense, self-defense and post-strike response, and adopts active defense. It keeps to the stance that “we will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked”, places emphasis on both containing and winning wars, and underscores the unity of strategic defense and offense at operational and tactical levels.
Implementing the military strategic guideline for a new era, China’s armed forces strive to keep in alignment with and contribute to the general strategies of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the country, adopt a holistic approach to national security, strengthen the awareness of potential dangers, crises and wars, and actively adapt to the new landscape of strategic competition, the new demands of national security, and new developments in modern warfare, so as to effectively fulfill their tasks and missions in the new era.
To respond to the security threats facing the country, China’s armed forces take solid steps to strengthen military preparedness and comprehensively enhance combat capabilities for the new era. Efforts have been made to build the military strategy into a balanced and stable one for the new era, which focuses on defense and coordinates multiple domains. Based on the idea that China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people, China’s armed forces give full play to the overall power of the people’s war by innovating in its strategies, tactics and measures.
China is always committed to a nuclear policy of no first use of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally. China advocates the ultimate complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. China does not engage in any nuclear arms race with any other country and keeps its nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required for national security. China pursues a nuclear strategy of self-defense, the goal of which is to maintain national strategic security by deterring other countries from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against China.
Continuing to Strengthen the Military in the Chinese Way
This is the path forward for China’s national defense in the new era.
Building a fortified national defense and a strong military commensurate with the country’s international standing and its security and development interests is a strategic task for China’s socialist modernization. Drawing lessons from history, China strengthens its national defense and military to provide security guarantee for its peaceful development.
To strengthen China’s national defense and military in the new era, it is imperative to comprehensively implement Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the military, thoroughly deliver on Xi Jinping’s thinking on military strategy, continue to enhance the political loyalty of the armed forces, strengthen them through reform and technology, run them in accordance with the law, and focus on the capabilities to fight and win. Efforts will be made to advance the integrated development of mechanization and informationization, speed up the development of intelligent military, create a modernized military force structure with Chinese characteristics, improve and develop socialist military institutions with Chinese features, and constantly enhance the capabilities to fulfill the missions and tasks in the new era.
The strategic goals for the development of China’s national defense and military in the new era are:
• to generally achieve mechanization by the year 2020 with significantly enhanced informationization and greatly improved strategic capabilities;
• to comprehensively advance the modernization of military theory, organizational structure, military personnel, and weaponry and equipment in step with the modernization of the country and basically complete the modernization of national defense and the military by 2035; and
• to fully transform the people’s armed forces into world-class forces by the mid-21st century.
In the Service of Building of a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind
This is the global significance of China’s national defense in the new era.
The dream of the Chinese people is closely connected with the dreams of peoples around the world. Peace, stability and prosperity in China present opportunities and benefits to the rest of the world. A strong military of China is a staunch force for world peace, stability and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
China’s armed forces advocate common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, uphold justice while pursuing shared interests, and actively participate in the reform of global security governance system. Efforts are made to deepen bilateral and multilateral security cooperation, promote a coordinated, inclusive and complementary cooperation among security mechanisms, and contribute to a security architecture featuring equality, mutual trust, fairness, justice, joint contribution and shared benefits.
Committed to the principle of win-win cooperation, China’s armed forces will fulfill their international responsibilities and obligations, and provide more public security goods to the international community to the best of their capacity. They actively participate in the UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs), vessel protection operations, and international efforts in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), strengthen international cooperation in arms control and non-proliferation, play a constructive role in the political settlement of hotspot issues, jointly maintain the security of international passages, and make concerted efforts to respond to global challenges such as terrorism, cyber security and major natural disasters, thus making a positive contribution to building a community with a shared future for mankind.
In the new era, to meet the strategic demands of national security and development, China’s armed forces firmly implement the missions and tasks entrusted by the CPC and the people. They endeavor to provide strategic support for consolidating the leadership of the CPC and the socialist system, safeguarding national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, protecting China’s overseas interests, and promoting world peace and development.
Safeguarding National Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights and Interests
China has a land border of more than 22,000 km and a coastline of over 18,000 km, China surpasses most of countries in the number of neighboring countries, the length of land border, and the complexity of maritime security. Therefore, it is a daunting task for China to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, and national unity.
China’s armed forces maintain a rigorous guard against encroachment, infiltration, sabotage or harassment so as to safeguard border security and stability. China has signed border cooperation agreements with 9 neighboring countries and set up border meeting mechanisms with 12 countries. China’s armed forces have established mechanisms for exchanges with neighboring countries at three levels: national defense ministry, Theater Commands (TCs), and border troops. They conduct regular friendly mutual visits, working meetings, joint patrols and joint exercises targeting transnational crime with their foreign counterparts. They work together with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan to implement the border disarmament treaty. They strive to promote stability and security along the border with India, and take effective measures to create favorable conditions for the peaceful resolution of the Donglang (Doklam) standoff. They enhance control along the border with Afghanistan to guard against the infiltration of terrorists. They strengthen security management along the border with Myanmar, so as to secure stability and public safety in the border areas. Since 2012, China’s border troops have completed over 3,300 joint patrols and conducted over 8,100 border meetings with their foreign counterparts. They have cleared mines from 58 square kilometers of land, closed 25 square kilometers of landmine area, and disposed of 170,000 explosive devices such as landmines along the borders with Vietnam and Myanmar.
China’s armed forces defend important waters, islands and reefs in the East China Sea, the South China Sea and the Yellow Sea, acquire full situation awareness of adjacent waters, conduct joint rights protection and law enforcement operations, properly handle maritime and air situations, and resolutely respond to security threats, infringements and provocations on the sea. Since 2012, China’s armed forces have deployed vessels on over 4,600 maritime security patrols and 72,000 rights protection and law enforcement operations, and safeguarded maritime peace, stability and order.
China’s armed forces conduct air defense, reconnaissance and early warning, monitor China’s territorial air and peripheral air space, carry out alert patrols and combat takeoff, and effectively respond to emergencies and threats to maintain order and security in the air.
Aiming at safeguarding national unity, China’s armed forces strengthen military preparedness with emphasis on the sea. By sailing ships and flying aircraft around Taiwan, the armed forces send a stern warning to the “Taiwan independence” separatist forces.
Maintaining Combat Readiness
Maintaining combat readiness is an important assurance of effective response to security threats and fulfillment of tasks. The Central Military Commission (CMC) and the TCs’ joint operations commands perform combat readiness duties strictly, and conduct regular inspections and drills to ensure combat readiness at all times. Consistent efforts are made to improve the capabilities of joint operations command to exercise reliable and efficient command over emergency responses, and to effectively accomplish urgent, tough and dangerous tasks. In 2018, the CMC conducted surprise inspections throughout the armed forces and organized readiness drills for the units, covering 21 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, and parts of the East China Sea and South China Sea.
The PLA and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAP) give greater priority to combat readiness. Efforts are made to strictly act on relevant regulations and procedures, fulfill readiness duties, conduct targeted exercises and training, and maintain standardized order, with a view to staying ready to act when required and effectively carrying out readiness (combat) duties.
Carrying Out Military Training in Real Combat Conditions
Military training is the basic practice of the armed forces in peacetime. China’s armed forces put military training in an important position and take combat effectiveness as the sole and fundamental criterion. In order to enhance realistic training, they optimize the policy framework and criteria in this respect, establish and improve the relevant supervision system, conduct supervision on military training for emergencies and combat across the services, implement the responsibility system for training and readiness, and organize extensive contests and competitions to encourage officers and soldiers to step up military training.
Military training in real combat conditions across the armed forces is in full swing. Since 2012, China’s armed forces have carried out extensive mission-oriented training tailored to the specific needs of different strategic directions and exercises of all services and arms, including 80 joint exercises at and above brigade/division level.
The TCs have strengthened their leading role in joint training and organized serial joint exercises codenamed the East, the South, the West, the North and the Central, to improve joint combat capabilities.
The PLA Army (PLAA) has organized training competitions and conducted live exercises codenamed Stride and Firepower. The PLA Navy (PLAN) has extended training to the far seas and deployed the aircraft carrier task group for its first far seas combat exercise in the West Pacific. It has organized naval parades in the South China Sea and the waters and airspace near Qingdao, and conducted a series of live force-on-force exercises codenamed Mobility and systematic all-elements exercises. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) has strengthened systematic and all-airspace training based on operational plans. It has conducted combat patrols in the South China Sea and security patrols in the East China Sea, and operated in the West Pacific. It has completed a series of regular system-vs.-system exercises such as Red Sword. The PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) has organized force-on-force evaluation-oriented training and training based on operational plans at brigade and regiment levels, strengthened training for joint strikes, and completed regular exercises such as Heavenly Sword. The PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) has made active efforts to integrate into the joint operations systems. It has carried out confrontational training in new domains and trained for emergencies and combats. The PLA Joint Logistic Support Force (PLAJLSF) has striven to align itself with the joint operations systems, and conducted exercises such as Joint Logistics Mission 2018. The PAP has developed to meet the requirements of nationwide coverage, effective connectivity, all-area response and integrated functions, and conducted a series of exercises including Guard.
Safeguarding Interests in Major Security Fields
Nuclear capability is the strategic cornerstone to safeguarding national sovereignty and security. China’s armed forces strengthen the safety management of nuclear weapons and facilities, maintain the appropriate level of readiness and enhance strategic deterrence capability to protect national strategic security and maintain international strategic stability.
Outer space is a critical domain in international strategic competition. Outer space security provides strategic assurance for national and social development. In the interest of the peaceful use of outer space, China actively participates in international space cooperation, develops relevant technologies and capabilities, advances holistic management of space-based information resources, strengthens space situation awareness, safeguards space assets, and enhances the capacity to safely enter, exit and openly use outer space.
Cyberspace is a key area for national security, economic growth and social development. Cyber security remains a global challenge and poses a severe threat to China. China’s armed forces accelerate the building of their cyberspace capabilities, develop cyber security and defense means, and build cyber defense capabilities consistent with China’s international standing and its status as a major cyber country. They reinforce national cyber border defense, and promptly detect and counter network intrusions. They safeguard information and cyber security, and resolutely maintain national cyber sovereignty, information security and social stability.
Countering Terrorism and Maintaining Stability
China firmly opposes all forms of terrorism and extremism. As mandated by law, China’s armed forces participate in operations for maintaining social order, prevent and combat violence and terrorism, safeguard political security and social stability, and secure the public’s right to live and work in peace.
The PAP fulfills missions such as guarding key targets, on-site security protection, setting check points on key passages, and armed urban patrols. In accordance with the law, the PAP supports civil authorities in law enforcement operations to combat criminal gangs and terrorist activities, actively participates in the maintenance of public order, and prevents and responds to potential threats to China’s political security and social order, thus making a significant contribution to the Peaceful China initiative. Since 2012, the PAP has deployed large numbers of troops annually in security duties, counter-terrorism, emergency response, and maritime rights protection and law enforcement. It has completed around 10,000 security assignments during major events such as the G20 Summit, the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the BRICS Leaders Meeting, and the SCO Qingdao Summit, and participated in the response to 671 hostage situations, incidents of severe violence, and terrorist attacks. Since 2014, the PAP has assisted the government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in taking out 1,588 violent terrorist gangs and capturing 12,995 terrorists.
The PLA supports the civil authorities in maintaining social stability, provides security for major events, and responds to emergencies in accordance with the law. It is mainly tasked with missions such as counter-terrorism, NBCE detection and test, medical relief, and transport support. It disposes of potential safety hazards in the waters and protects security in the air over and around major event venues.
Protecting China’s Overseas Interests
Overseas interests are a crucial part of China’s national interests. One of the missions of China’s armed forces is to effectively protect the security and legitimate rights and interests of overseas Chinese people, organizations and institutions.
The PLA actively promotes international security and military cooperation and refines relevant mechanisms for protecting China’s overseas interests. To address deficiencies in overseas operations and support, it builds far seas forces, develops overseas logistical facilities, and enhances capabilities in accomplishing diversified military tasks. The PLA conducts vessel protection operations, maintains the security of strategic SLOCs, and carries out overseas evacuation and maritime rights protection operations.
In August 2017, the PLA Djibouti Support Base entered service. The base has provided equipment for the maintenance of four escort task groups, offered medical services for over 100 officers and sailors on board, conducted joint medical exercises with foreign militaries, and donated over 600 teaching aids to local schools.
When the security situation in Yemen deteriorated in March 2015, a PLAN escort task group sailed to the Gulf of Aden, berthed for the first time directly in an engagement area, and evacuated 621 Chinese citizens and 279 foreign citizens from 15 countries including Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Poland, Germany, Canada, the UK, India and Japan.
Participating in Disaster Rescue and Relief
Participating in national development and protecting the public’s rights to work in peace are the responsibilities of China’s armed forces mandated by the Constitution of the PRC. As stipulated in the Regulations on Participation in Emergency Rescue and Disaster Relief by China’s Armed Forces, China’s armed forces are mainly tasked with rescuing, transferring and evacuating trapped populations; ensuring the security of important targets; salvaging and transporting important materials; conducting specialized operations such as restoration of transport facilities including roads, bridges and tunnels, maritime search and rescue, NBC rescue, epidemic control and medical relief; eliminating or controlling other major threats, dangerous situations and disasters; and supporting civil authorities in post-disaster reconstruction.
Since 2012, the PLA and the PAP have deployed 950,000 soldiers, 1.41 million militia, 190,000 vehicles and items of equipment, and sortied 26,000 vessels and 820 aircraft in emergency response and disaster relief. They have participated in rescue and relief efforts such as the earthquake in Ludian County of Yunnan Province, the rainstorm and flood in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and the removal of the barrier lake in the Yarlung Zangbo River. They have assisted local governments to rescue and transfer over 5 million people, treated over 210,000 patients, transported over 360,000 tons of goods, and reinforced over 3,600 km of levees. In 2017, the PLA Macao Garrison sent 2,631 soldiers and over 160 vehicles to assist the government of Macao Special Administrative Region in its relief efforts in the wake of Typhoon Hato.
The history of the people’s armed forces is a history of reform and innovation. In the new era, China is advancing defense and military modernization across the board and deepening reform in national defense and armed forces in all respects, with a focus on removing institutional barriers and solving structural and policy-related problems to adapt to the trends of worldwide RMA and the demands of national security. Historic strides have been made in strengthening the armed forces.
Reforming the Leadership and Command System
The reform in the leadership and command system is a significant measure in response to the call of a modern and specialized military capable of fighting and winning wars in the information age, aiming to improve the operational effectiveness and development efficiency of the military. Adhering to the general principle of “the CMC exercising overall leadership, the TCs responsible for military operations and the services focusing on developing capabilities”, the PLA endeavors to enhance the CMC’s centralized and unified leadership and its functions of strategic command and strategic management. The PLA has dismantled the long-established systems of general departments, military area commands (MAC) and the force composition with a dominating land force, and established new leadership, management and operational command systems.
Reorganizing and establishing new CMC functional organs. To optimize the functional and institutional setup of the CMC organs, the former General Staff Headquarters, General Political Department, General Logistics Department and General Armaments Department have been reshuffled into 15 organs under the centralized CMC leadership to advise, execute and serve. Thus, the chains of command, development, management and supervision are more streamlined, and the responsibilities of decision-making, planning, execution and assessment are more properly delegated.
Improving the leadership and management system for services and arms. The PLA has:
• Established the PLAA leading organs by integrating the functions of the former general departments concerning the development of the land force;
• Established the PLASSF by combining strategic support forces across the services and CMC organs;
• Renamed the Second Artillery Force the PLARF; and
• Established the PLAJLSF by integrating strategic and campaign level forces mainly for general-purpose support.
Thus, a CMC-Services-Troops leadership and management system has been put in place.
Establishing and improving the joint operations command system. By improving the joint operations command organ of the CMC and setting up those at the theater level, the PLA has established a lean and efficient joint operations command system composed of permanent and specialized commanding establishments for both peacetime and wartime operations. The former Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu MACs have been reorganized into 5 TCs: Eastern Theater Command (ETC), Southern Theater Command (STC), Western Theater Command (WTC), Northern Theater Command (NTC), and Central Theater Command (CTC). Thus, a CMC-TCs-Troops operations command system has been established.
Building and improving the law-based supervision system. The Chinese military has established the CMC Discipline Inspection Commission (CMCDIC, also the CMC Supervision Commission, CMCSC) under the direct leadership of the CMC, and dispatched disciplinary inspection teams to the CMC functional organs and all TCs. It has set up the CMC Politics and Law Commission (CMCPLC) and established regional military courts and procuratorates. It has put into place the CMC Audit Office (CMCAO), reformed the audit-based oversight system, and implemented PLA-wide resident auditing. Thus, power is exercised in a way that decision-making, execution and supervision check each other and function in coordination.
Optimizing Size, Structure and Force Composition
Reform in size, structure and force composition is a pivotal step to optimizing military organizational structure and establishing a modern military force structure with Chinese characteristics. Following the instruction to optimize structures, develop new-type forces, adjust proportions and reduce sizes, the PLA is striving to transform from a quantity-and-scale model to that of quality and efficiency, as well as from being personnel-intensive to one that is S&T-intensive.
Adjusting scale and proportion, and restructuring force composition. 300,000 personnel have been cut to keep the total active force at 2 million. Reform measures have been taken to transfer more officer positions to non-commissioned officers and civilian staff, downsize the leading organs at all levels by reducing their subordinate sections, leadership hierarchies and staff, and streamline the institutions and personnel in arts, sports, press, publication, logistical support, medical facilities, depots, and educational and research institutes. Thus, the number of personnel in the leading organs at and above regiment level has been cut by about 25%, and that of non-combat units by almost 50%. The PLA has significantly downsized the active force of the PLAA, maintained that of the PLAAF at a steady number, moderately increased that of the PLAN and PLARF, and optimized the force structures of all services and arms. The PLA has restructured the defense reserves. The deployment of combat forces has been adjusted for a strategic configuration that meets the demands of safeguarding China’s national security in the new era.
Reorganizing the troops and rebuilding new-type combat forces. The previous 18 group armies have been reorganized into 13 new ones. All major combat units of the PLA follow a group army-brigade-battalion system. Reform measures have been taken to reinforce the combat capacity of the arms, reduce the command hierarchies and combine the troops at lower levels. New types of combat forces have been enhanced to conduct special operations, all-dimensional offense and defense, amphibious operations, far seas protection and strategic projection, aiming to make the force composition complete, combined, multi-functional and flexible.
Rebalancing and reorganizing military educational and research institutions. The PLA and the PAP have restructured the previous 77 universities and colleges into 44. The National Defense University (NDU) and the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) have been reorganized. China’s armed forces have established the CMC Steering Committee on Military Scientific Research and reorganized the Academy of Military Sciences (AMS) and the research institutes of the services. Thus, the military scientific research forces have been rebalanced with the AMS as the lead, the research institutes of the services and arms as the main forces, and the research components in educational institutions and the troops as supplements.
Reforming Military Policies and Institutions
China’s armed forces take combat effectiveness as the criterion in the reform of military policies and institutions and encourage the initiative, enthusiasm and creativity of all members of the armed forces. Reform is designed to build and improve the system of socialist military policies and institutions with Chinese characteristics.
They have deepened reform in the institutions for Party building in the military to uphold the authority of the CPCCC and its centralized and unified leadership, and ensure the absolute leadership of the CPC over the military. Rules and regulations including the Decision of China’s Armed Forces on Strengthening Party Building in the Military in the New Era have been formulated to improve the Party’s institutions in the military in order to enhance its political and theoretical buildup, consolidate organizations, improve conduct, and enforce discipline.
They have innovated in policies and institutions for military force employment in a bid to effectively perform all missions and tasks in the new era. Rules and regulations have been formulated including the Regulations on Vessel Protection Operations (Trial). The institutions of military strategic guidance, regulations on combat readiness duties, and rules and regulations on joint operations have all been optimized.
They have reformulated policies and institutions to further develop combat capabilities. Laws and regulations have been formulated and amended including the Law of the People’s Republic of China on National Defense Transportation, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Military Installations and the Regulations on Civilian Personnel in the Military. Newly-updated military training regulations and outlines have been promulgated. They have made progress in establishing the career officers system, optimizing the institutions of military welfare and support, improving the military honors system, and refining policies and institutions in training, equipment development, logistics, military research and national defense mobilization. Meanwhile, bigger legislative steps have been taken in relation to military officers and military service.
They have reformed the policies and institutions for military management to elevate the efficacy of military systems and boost quality development of the military. Rules and regulations have been formulated including the newly-updated Regulations on Routine Service of the People’s Liberation Army (Trial), the Regulations on Discipline of the People’s Liberation Army (Trial), the Regulations on Formation of the People’s Liberation Army (Trial), and the Regulations on Military Legislation. China’s armed forces are enhancing institutional innovation in strategic management, defense expenditure management, and the military judicial system.
They have suspended all paid services. As of June, 2018, paid services provided by leading organs, operational units, and military-affiliated public institutions at all levels had been basically suspended, involving 15 sectors such as real estate lease, agricultural and associated products, and hospitality. Over 100,000 such projects have been suspended as scheduled, accounting for 94% of the total. The armed forces have achieved the goal of withdrawing from running businesses.
Reshuffled PLA and PAP Troops
The PLAA plays an irreplaceable role in maintaining China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests. It comprises maneuver operation, border and coastal defense, and garrison forces. Under the PLAA, there are 5 TC army commands, the Xinjiang military command, and the Tibet military command. The ETC Army has under it the 71st, 72nd, and 73rd group armies; the STC Army has the 74th and 75th group armies; the WTC Army has the 76th and 77th group armies; the NTC Army has the 78th, 79th and 80th group armies; and the CTC Army has the 81st, 82nd and 83rd group armies. In line with the strategic requirements of maneuver operations as well as multi-dimensional offense and defense, the PLAA is speeding up the transition of its tasks from regional defense to trans-theater operations, and improving the capabilities for precise, multi-dimensional, trans-theater, multi-functional and sustained operations, so as to build a new type of strong and modernized land force.
The PLAN has a very important standing in the overall configuration of China’s national security and development. It comprises submarine, surface ship, aviation, marine, and coastal defense forces. Under the PLAN, there are the ETC Navy (Donghai Fleet), the STC Navy (Nanhai Fleet), the NTC Navy (Beihai Fleet), and the PLAN Marine Corps. Under the TC navies there are naval bases, submarine flotillas, surface ship flotillas and aviation brigades. In line with the strategic requirements of near seas defense and far seas protection, the PLAN is speeding up the transition of its tasks from defense on the near seas to protection missions on the far seas, and improving its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack, maritime maneuver operations, maritime joint operations, comprehensive defense, and integrated support, so as to build a strong and modernized naval force.
The PLAAF plays a crucial role in overall national security and military strategy. It comprises aviation, airborne, ground-to-air missile, radar, ECM, and communications forces. Under the PLAAF, there are 5 TC air force commands and one airborne corps. Under the TC air forces, there are air bases, aviation brigades (divisions), ground-to-air missile brigades (divisions) and radar brigades. In line with the strategic requirements of integrating air and space capabilities as well as coordinating offensive and defensive operations, the PLAAF is accelerating the transition of its tasks from territorial air defense to both offensive and defensive operations, and improving its capabilities for strategic early warning, air strikes, air and missile defense, information countermeasures, airborne operations, strategic projection, and integrated support, so as to build a strong and modernized air force.
The PLARF plays a critical role in maintaining China’s national sovereignty and security. It comprises nuclear missile, conventional missile and support forces, and subordinate missile bases. In line with the strategic requirements of having both nuclear and conventional capabilities and deterring wars in all battlespaces, the PLARF is enhancing its credible and reliable capabilities of nuclear deterrence and counterattack, strengthening intermediate and long-range precision strike forces, and enhancing strategic counter-balance capability, so as to build a strong and modernized rocket force.
The PLASSF is a new type of combat force for safeguarding national security and an important driver for the growth of new combat capabilities. It comprises supporting forces for battlefield environment, information, communications, information security, and new technology testing. In line with the strategic requirements of integrating existing systems and aligning civil and military endeavors, the PLASSF is seeking to achieve big development strides in key areas and accelerate the integrated development of new-type combat forces, so as to build a strong and modernized strategic support force.
The PLAJLSF, as the main force for joint logistics as well as strategic and campaign level support, is an important component of the modern military force with Chinese characteristics. It comprises the support forces for inventory and warehousing, medical services, transport, force projection, oil pipelines, engineering and construction management, reserve assets management, and procurement. Under the PLAJLSF, there are 5 joint logistic support centers located respectively in Wuxi (Jiangsu Province), Guilin (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Xining (Qinghai Province), Shenyang (Liaoning Province), and Zhengzhou (Henan Province), as well as the PLA General Hospital and the PLA Center for Disease Prevention and Control. In line with the requirements of joint support for joint operations and joint training, the PLAJLSF is being integrated into the joint operations system to enhance the capabilities of integrated joint logistics, so as to build a strong and modernized joint logistic support force.
The PAP shoulders important responsibilities in safeguarding national security, social stability and public wellbeing. China has adopted a CMC-PAP-Troops leadership and command system with the basic duties and nature of the PAP unchanged. The PAP is not in the force structure of the PLA. The PAP border defense, firefighting and security guard forces have been decommissioned. The coast guard under the leadership of State Oceanic Administration has been transferred to the PAP. PAP goldmine, forest and hydroelectricity forces have been reorganized into specialized forces of non-active service under corresponding state authorities. Meanwhile, the PAP customs guard forces have been withdrawn. In this way, the leadership, management, command and employment of the PAP has become more coherent. Following adjustment and reorganization, the PAP is mainly composed of the internal security corps, the mobile corps, and the coast guard. In line with the strategic requirements of performing multiple functions and effectively maintaining social stability, the PAP is enhancing capacity in guard duties, emergency response, counter-terrorism, maritime rights protection, administrative enforcement and disaster relief, so as to build a strong and modernized armed police force.
Promoting Defense and Military Development in All Respects
Placing theoretical and political buildup at the top of the agenda of the armed forces. China’s armed forces unswervingly take Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the military as the guidance, firmly uphold General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core of the CPCCC and the whole Party, firmly uphold the authority of the CPCCC and its centralized and unified leadership, and follow the CMC Chairman responsibility system, in an effort to further strengthen the consciousness of the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, follow the leadership core and keep in alignment. In accordance with the Decision on Issues Relating to the Military Political Work in the New Era issued in December 2014, China’s armed forces have improved their political work and embarked on a new journey of development. In order to fully strengthen the Party leadership and Party building of the military in the new era, a CMC meeting on party building was held in August, 2018. Great efforts are being made to cultivate revolutionary officers and soldiers of the new era with faith, ability, courage and integrity, and build troops with iron-like faith, conviction, discipline and commitment.
Promoting innovation in defense S&T and military theory. China’s armed forces are accelerating the implementation of the strategy to develop the military through S&T in a bid to maintain and enhance the strength of the areas where they lead, and intensify innovation in emerging areas. They have made great progress in independent innovation in some strategic, cutting-edge and disruptive technologies, and succeeded in developing strategic hi-tech products such as the Tianhe-2 supercomputer. Focusing on war and fighting wars, China’s armed forces have innovated in military doctrines and delivered outcomes in military strategy, joint operations and informationization, which have provided a theoretical support to defense and military development.
Establishing a modernized weaponry and equipment system. China’s armed forces are optimizing the overall composition of weaponry and equipment, coordinating the efforts of all services and arms in this regard, promoting the balanced development of main battle equipment, information systems, and support equipment, with a view to comprehensively raising standardization, serial development and interoperability. Old equipment is being phased out, and a system created that mainly comprises new and high-tech weaponry and equipment. Type 15 tanks, type 052D destroyers, J-20 fighters, and DF-26 intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles have been commissioned.
Building a combat-oriented modern logistics system. China’s armed forces are putting in place a support mechanism combining centralized and decentralized support, as well as general and special-purpose supplies, with PLAJLSF as the backbone force and service logistics units as supplements. They are also building a joint, lean and efficient logistic support system with the strategic and campaign level forces as the main force, the affiliated forces as the support, and the civil sectors as supplements. Logistics units have been incorporated into TC-level joint training, trans-theater training by services and arms, and joint exercises and training with foreign militaries to strengthen the integrated training of logistical and operational forces. China’s armed forces have acquired a rapid, multi-dimensional and precise support capability.
Strengthening strategic management. Adopting demand-oriented planning and planning-led resource allocation, China’s armed forces have established and improved the strategic management procedures of demand-planning-budgeting-execution-evaluation. They have completed a system of strategic plans and programs composed of the development strategies of the military as a whole, and its key areas, branches, and the PAP. They have regulated military strategic planning, promulgated and implemented the Outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan for Military Development, and optimized the mechanisms for evaluation, supervision and control.
Governing the military with strict discipline and in accordance with the law. China’s armed forces are building a military legal system with Chinese characteristics and pressing ahead with a fundamental transformation in how the military is run. They are strengthening oversight and supervision in military training and combat readiness to uproot peacetime ills. They are promoting legal awareness through public communication and education campaigns, establishing and improving the support mechanism of legal consultation and service, and advancing law-based management in the military. China’s armed forces are striving to manage the troops more strictly in all respects. They have fully implemented military rules and regulations, restored and improved the traditional mechanism of using bugles to communicate and command, carried out safety inspections to identify and tackle potential problems, stepped up garrison military policing, strengthened the management of military vehicles by targeted measures, and set up a mechanism of regular notification on garrison military policing. These efforts have contributed to maintaining the positive image of the armed forces.
Improving Party conduct, upholding integrity and continuing the fight against corruption. China’s armed forces are tightening political discipline and rules, investigating and dealing strictly with grave violations of CPC discipline and state laws as in the cases of Guo Boxiong, Xu Caihou, Fang Fenghui, and Zhang Yang. China’s armed forces punish corruption in strict accordance with CPC discipline and relevant laws, and rectify any malpractice in key construction projects and the procurement of equipment and material. Points-of-contact for discipline supervision have been designated at the small-unit level to investigate and combat “micro corruption” and misconduct in all its forms among service members. China’s armed forces have intensified political inspection by completing disciplinary inspections and re-inspections over all CMC functional organs, the TCs, services, AMS, NDU, NUDT and the PAP. They have worked to implement full-spectrum audit, intensify the audit of major fields, projects and funds, and perform strict audits over the economic liabilities of officers in positions of leadership. Active efforts have been made to monitor the cost-effectiveness of applied funds, conduct whole-process audit, and combine civil and military efforts in auditing. Since 2012, they have carried out audits over 39,000 units and 13,000 PLA and PAP officers in positions of leadership at and above regiment level. As a result, notable achievements have been made in the fight against corruption in China’s armed forces, and a healthy political atmosphere of integrity has formed.
Modernizing national defense mobilization. China has refined the system of national defense mobilization to enhance the development of its defense reserves. China is streamlining the number of primary militia nationwide, driving deeper reform of militia and reserve forces in their size, structure and composition, promoting integrated development and employment of the reserve and active forces, and extending the function of national defense mobilization from mainly supporting the land force to supporting all branches at a faster pace.
In the process of deepening the reform of the CPC and governmental institutions, the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of the PRC has been set up. Through a series of preferential measures, the veteran support system is progressing at provincial, prefectural, county, town and township (sub-district), and village (community) levels. Substantial steps have been taken to enhance the government’s efforts to support the military and their families, and to strengthen the military’s support to the government and the people. China’s armed forces play an active role in poverty alleviation. The relationships between the military and the government and between the military and the people are getting even closer. There is a growing consensus across communities to respect and give preferential treatment to all service members.
China attends to both development and security. It is making an integrated effort to build a prosperous country and a strong military, and striving for the coordinated development of national defense and the economy. Following the principle of building the armed forces through diligence and thrift, China takes into consideration the development of the economy and the demands of national defense, decides on the appropriate scale and composition of defense expenditure, and manages and applies these funds in accordance with law.
Since reform and opening-up, China has increased its defense expenditure from a level of sustainability to moderate growth. On the whole, defense expenditure has grown in tandem with the growth of the national economy and government expenditure. Defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP has fallen from a peak of 5.43% in 1979 to 1.26% in 2017. It has remained below 2% for the past three decades. Defense expenditure as a percentage of government expenditure was 17.37% in 1979 and 5.14% in 2017, a drop of more than 12 percentage points. The figures are on a clear downward trend.
China’s Defense Expenditure Since 2012
In the new era, to keep pace with the country’s modernization, China is focusing on building a fortified national defense and a strong military commensurate with the country’s international standing, and its national security and development interests. China is striving to narrow the gap between its military and the world’s leading militaries, and make up the deficiencies in the military’s capabilities in modern warfare. Defense expenditure is growing steadily and the breakdown of spending is being continuously optimized.
In terms of usage, China’s defense expenditure is assigned to three sectors – personnel, training and sustainment, and equipment. Personnel expenses mainly cover the salaries, allowances, food, bedding, clothing, insurance, subsidies and pensions for officers, non-ranking officers, soldiers and contracted civilians, as well as retirees supported from the defense budget. Training and sustainment expenses mainly cover training of the troops, institutional education, construction and maintenance of installations and facilities, and other expenditure on routine consumables. Equipment expenses mainly cover R&D, testing, procurement, repairs, maintenance, transport and the storage of weaponry and equipment. In terms of scope, defense expenditure covers all active forces, reserve forces and militia.
Since 2012, the increase in defense expenditure has been primarily spent for the following purposes:
1. Adapting to national economic and social development, improving the wellbeing of service personnel, ensuring regular increases in military salaries, and bettering the working, training and living conditions of the troops;
2. Increasing input in weaponry and equipment development, phasing out the outdated, upgrading the old, and developing and procuring the new, such as aircraft carriers, fighters, missiles and main battle tanks, to steadily modernize weaponry and equipment;
3. Deepening national defense and military reform, supporting major reforms in military leadership and command systems, force structure and composition, and policies and institutions;
4. Supporting training in real combat conditions, enhancing strategic-level training, joint training at TCs’ level and training of services and arms, and improving the conditions for simulated, networked and force-on-force training; and
5. Supporting diverse military tasks including the UNPKOs, vessel protection operations, humanitarian assistance operations and disaster relief efforts.
From 2012 to 2017, China’s defense expenditure increased from RMB669.192 billion to RMB1,043.237 billion. China’s GDP and government expenditure grew at average rates of 9.04% and 10.43% respectively, calculated on the price of the indicated years, while its defense expenditure increased by an average of 9.42%. Defense expenditure accounted for 1.28% of GDP and 5.26% of government expenditure on average. The percentage of China’s defense expenditure in GDP remained stable and grew in coordination with the increase of government expenditure.
China applies strict mechanisms of fiscal allocation and budget management on its defense expenditure. It pursues a level of defense spending that is demand-oriented, planning-led and consistent with its capacity. It endeavors to strengthen unified management, coordinate existing and incremental expenditure, gradually practice cost-effectiveness management, and steadily press ahead with reform that is centered on efficacy and efficiency. To improve and strengthen budget management, China’s armed forces are extending reform of the centralized collection and payment of military funds, accelerating standardization in relation to defense expenditure, and improving the management of assets and funds.
Comparison of Defense Expenditure in the International Context
Among countries ranking high in defense expenditure in 2017, China’s share of defense expenditure in GDP and government expenditure, as well as per capita and per-serviceperson defense spending, are all at a relatively low level.
China has become the world’s second largest economy. The fact that China’s defense expenditure ranks second in the world is determined by the demands of its national defense, the size of its economy, and the defensive nature of its national defense policy. In terms of total spending, China’s defense expenditure in 2017 was less than a quarter of that of the US.
As a percentage of GDP, from 2012 to 2017, China’s average defense expenditure was about 1.3%. Comparative figures were: the US about 3.5%, Russia 4.4%, India 2.5%, the UK 2.0%, France 2.3%, Japan 1.0%, and Germany 1.2%. China ranks 6th among these countries in terms of defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP on average and is the lowest among the permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC).
As a ratio of spending to government expenditure, from 2012 to 2017, China’s average defense expenditure was 5.3%. Comparative figures were: the US about 9.8%, Russia 12.4%, India 9.1%, the UK 4.8%, France 4.0%, Japan 2.5%, and Germany 2.8%. China ranks 4th among these countries in terms of defense expenditure as a percentage of government expenditure on average.
China’s per capita defense expenditure in 2017 was RMB750 – 5% of the US, 25% of Russia, 231% of India, 13% of the UK, 16% of France, 29% of Japan, and 20% of Germany. China’s per-serviceperson defense expenditure was RMB521,600 – 15% of the US, 119% of Russia, 166% of India, 27% of the UK, 38% of France, 35% of Japan, and 30% of Germany. China’s defense expenditure ranks 7th and 6th in per capita and per-serviceperson terms respectively among these countries.
China reports and releases its defense expenditure through various mechanisms. Since 1978, the Chinese government has submitted annual budget reports to the National People’s Congress and released the total amount of defense budget. In 1995, the Chinese government issued a white paper, China: Arms Control and Disarmament, releasing data concerning its defense expenditure to the world. Since 2007, China has joined the UN Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures and has submitted annually to the UN the basic data on its defense expenditure for the latest fiscal year, reporting total spending as well as personnel expenses, training and sustainment expenses, and equipment expenses for the active force, reserve force and the militia respectively, along with an explanation of the application of China’s defense expenditure and its ratio to GDP.
All in all, China’s defense expenditure is open and transparent, and its spending is reasonable and appropriate. Compared to other major countries, the ratios of China’s defense expenditure to GDP and to government expenditure, as well as the per capita defense expenditure of the country, remain at a relatively low level.
As the only major country yet to be completely reunified, and one of the countries with the most complex peripheral security environment, China faces serious challenges in safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and maritime rights and interests. China is moving closer to the center of the world stage, and the international community expects more international public security goods from the Chinese military. In addition, China’s armed forces are moving towards informationization and shouldering arduous tasks in following the trends of worldwide RMA and speeding up RMA with Chinese characteristics. There is still a wide gap between China’s defense expenditure and the requirements for safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, for fulfilling China’s international responsibilities and obligations as a major country, and for China’s development. In step with national economic development, defense expenditure of China will maintain a moderate and steady growth.
Community with a Shared Future for Mankind
Building a community with a shared future for mankind conforms to the trends of the times for peaceful development, and reflects the common aspirations of all peoples throughout the world. China’s armed forces have responded faithfully to the call for a community with a shared future for mankind. They are actively fulfilling the international obligations of the armed forces of a major country, comprehensively promoting international military cooperation for the new era, and striving for a better world of lasting peace and common security.
Resolutely Upholding the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter
As a founding member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the UNSC, China unswervingly endorses the central role of the UN in international affairs, and resolutely upholds international law and the basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. It firmly maintains multilateralism, advances democracy in international relations, participates extensively in global security governance, actively engages in arms control and disarmament, and endeavors to offer Chinese proposals for resolving major issues and formulating important rules.
China has played a constructive role in the political settlement of regional hotspots such as the Korean Peninsula issue, the Iranian nuclear issue and Syrian issue. China opposes hegemony, unilateralism and double standards, promotes dialogues and consultations, and fully and earnestly implements UNSC resolutions. China has actively participated in multilateral dialogues and negotiations on cyberspace and outer space, and pushed for the formulation of widely accepted international rules that are fair and equitable.
China actively participates in international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. China objects to arms race and strives to protect global strategic balance and stability. To this end, China has signed or acceded to dozens of relevant multilateral treaties including the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In 2015 China announced the establishment of the USD1 billion China-UN Peace and Development Fund in the following decade, which was officially put into operation in 2016.
Building a New-Model Security Partnership Featuring Equality, Mutual Trust and Win-Win Cooperation
China actively develops constructive relationships with foreign militaries. A new configuration of foreign military relations which is all-dimensional, wide-ranging and multi-tiered is taking shape. China has engaged in military exchanges with more than 150 countries and set up 130 offices of military attachés and military representatives at Chinese diplomatic missions abroad, while 116 countries have established military attaché’s offices in China. In addition, China has put in place 54 defense consultation and dialogue mechanisms with 41 countries and international organizations. Since 2012, high level Chinese military delegations have visited over 60 countries, and defense ministers and commanders-in-chief from over 100 countries have visited China.
The military relationship between China and Russia continues to develop at a high level, enriching the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era and playing a significant role in maintaining global strategic stability. The Chinese and Russian militaries have continued the sound development of exchange mechanisms at all levels, expanded cooperation in high-level exchanges, military training, equipment, technology and counter-terrorism, and realized positive interaction and coordination on international and multilateral occasions. Since 2012, Chinese and Russian militaries have held 7 rounds of strategic consultations. From August to September 2018, at the invitation of the Russian side, the PLA participated in Russia’s Vostok strategic exercise for the first time.
China actively and properly handles its military relationship with the US in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. It strives to make the military-to-military relationship a stabilizer for the relations between the two countries and hence contribute to the China-US relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability. In 2014, China’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the US Department of Defense signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Notification of Major Military Activities and Confidence-Building Measures Mechanism and the Memorandum of Understanding Regarding the Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters. In 2015, the two countries agreed on the annexes on the military crisis notification mechanism and the rules of behavior for safety in air-to-air encounters. In 2017, the two countries established a diplomatic and security dialogue and joint staff dialogue mechanism with a view to actively strengthening strategic communication and managing risks and differences. The two militaries carry out institutionalized exchanges between the defense authorities, armies, navies and air forces, as well as practical cooperation in HADR, counter-piracy, and exchanges between academic institutions. China resolutely opposes the wrong practices and provocative activities of the US side regarding arms sales to Taiwan, sanctions on the CMC Equipment Development Department and its leadership, illegal entry into China’s territorial waters and maritime and air spaces near relevant islands and reefs, and wide-range and frequent close-in reconnaissance. However, in China-US relations, the military-to-military relationship remains the generally stable one.
With a commitment to building a community with a shared future in its neighborhood, China endeavors to deepen military partnership with its neighbors. The PLA keeps close contacts with the military leaderships of the neighboring countries. Given more than 40 reciprocal military visits at and above service commander level every year, high-level military exchanges have covered almost all of China’s neighbors and contributed to growing strategic mutual trust. China has set up defense and security consultations as well as working meeting mechanisms with 17 neighboring countries to keep exchange channels open. In recent years, China has regularly held serial joint exercises and training on counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, search and rescue, and tactical skills with its neighboring countries, and carried out extensive exchanges and practical cooperation on border and coastal defense, academic institutions, think tanks, education, training, medical science, medical service, and equipment and technology. In addition, defense cooperation with ASEAN countries is moving forward. The military relationships between China and its neighboring countries are generally stable.
China is actively developing its military relations with European countries. Exchanges and cooperation in all areas are making sound progress. Targeting a China-Europe partnership for peace, growth, reform and civilization, China conducts security policy dialogues, joint counter-piracy exercises and personnel training with the EU. In 2016, China held a desktop exercise on non-combatant evacuation with the UK and a joint military medical exercise with Germany. In 2018, China and the EU held the third China-EU high-level seminar on security policy.
China is strengthening military exchanges with developing countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific by carrying out personnel training, conducting exchanges between mid-and-junior level officers, and providing assistance in military development and defense capabilities. In Beijing in 2018 China hosted the China-Africa Defense and Security Forum, the China and Latin-America High-level
Defense Forum, and the Forum for Senior Defense Officials from Caribbean and South Pacific Countries.
The PLA adheres to the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation in carrying out pragmatic exchanges and cooperation with foreign militaries. Since 2012, China has held over 100 joint exercises and training with more than 30 countries. These engagements have covered traditional and non-traditional security fields, in locations extending from China’s periphery to the far seas, and the participating forces have expanded from land forces to multiple branches including the army, navy and air force. Cooperation and exchanges in personnel training have intensified. Since 2012, the PLA has sent over 1,700 military personnel to study in more than 50 countries. Over 20 Chinese military educational institutions have established and maintained inter-collegiate exchanges with their counterparts from more than 40 countries. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 foreign military personnel from over 130 countries have studied in Chinese military universities and colleges.
China’s armed forces work to improve mechanisms for information release in order to comprehensively and objectively explain China’s national defense and military development to domestic and international audiences. In April 2011, China’s MND started to convene monthly press conferences to release important information on national defense and the military. Since 2012, multiple thematic press conferences have been held to brief on important events such as national defense and military reform and downsizing the PLA. The MND has organized multiple visits to and interviews with PLA units and academic institutions for nearly 100 domestic and foreign media. Since they were launched in May 2015, the official Weibo and WeChat accounts of the MND Information Office have attracted over 6 million followers.
Building a Regional Security Cooperation Architecture
In June 2001, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan co-founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The SCO has now grown into a new type of comprehensive regional cooperation organization covering the largest area and population in the world. The Shanghai Spirit featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development has come into being. With its commitment to building an SCO community with a shared future and developing a new model of international relations, the organization has made a new contribution to regional peace and development. In June 2017, the SCO expanded for the first time and admitted India and Pakistan as member states. In April 2018, China hosted the first SCO Defense Ministers’ Meeting since the organization expanded its membership. The member states continue to strengthen defense and security exchanges and cooperation, including Peace Mission exercises, and Fanfare for Peace military tattoos, to further promote good-neighborliness and strategic mutual trust, increase military cultural exchanges, and enhance unity and friendship.
China actively supports the institutional development of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), advocates common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in Asia, and plays an important role in building an Asian security cooperation architecture.
In the principles of openness, inclusiveness and pragmatic cooperation, China actively participates in multilateral dialogues and cooperation mechanisms including the ADMM-Plus, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Shangri-La Dialogue, Jakarta International Defense Dialogue and Western Pacific Naval Symposium, regularly holds China-ASEAN defense ministers’ informal meetings, and proposes and constructively promotes initiatives to strengthen regional defense cooperation. The China-ASEAN Maritime Exercise-2018, the first between Chinese and ASEAN militaries, was held in October 2018 and demonstrated the confidence and determination of the countries in maintaining regional peace and stability.
China has initiated the Xiangshan Forum, a platform of exchange based in Beijing, in the spirit of equality, openness, inclusiveness and mutual learning. In 2014, the Xiangshan Forum was upgraded to a track-1.5 platform of international security and defense dialogue. In October 2018, the Xiangshan Forum was renamed the Beijing Xiangshan Forum. More than 500 participants from 67 countries and 7 international organizations attended the forum and exchanged new ideas and approaches for addressing regional security threats and challenges. Their discussions have played an active role in promoting security dialogue and mutual trust in the Asia-Pacific region.
Properly Coping with Disputes over Territory and Maritime Demarcation
Upholding amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in its neighborhood diplomacy, China is committed to building an amicable relationship and partnership with its neighbors, and peaceful resolution of disputes over territory and maritime demarcation through negotiation and consultation. China has settled its border issues with 12 of its 14 land neighbors and signed treaties on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation with 8 countries on its periphery.
China holds it a priority to manage differences and enhance mutual trust in maintaining the stability of its neighborhood. China has proposed a China-ASEAN defense ministers’ hotline and established direct defense telephone links with Vietnam and the ROK. It has kept contact through telephone or fax, and conducted border meetings and joint patrols, with the militaries of the countries on its land borders on regular or irregular basis. Since 2014, five high-level border meetings between China and Vietnam have been held. To implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of China and India, the two militaries have exchanged high-level visits and pushed for a hotline for border defense cooperation and mechanisms for border management and border defense exchanges. Since the second half of 2016, China and the Philippines have increased dialogue on maritime security, bringing the two sides back on track in addressing the South China Sea issue through friendly consultation. In May 2018, the defense authorities of China and Japan signed a memorandum of understanding on maritime and air liaison and put it into practice in June.
China and the ASEAN countries have comprehensively and effectively implemented the DOC, and actively advanced the consultations on the COC. They are committed to extending practical maritime security cooperation, developing regional security mechanisms and building the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
Actively Providing International Public Security Goods
China actively supports the UNPKOs. It is a major contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and the largest troop contributing country among the permanent members of the UNSC. As of December 2018, China has participated in 24 UN peacekeeping missions and has contributed more than 39,000 peacekeepers. 13 Chinese military personnel have sacrificed their lives in the UNPKOs. In the missions, China’s peacekeepers have built and repaired over 13,000 kilometers of roads, cleared and disposed of 10,342 mines and various items of unexploded ordnance, transported more than 1.35 million tons of materials over a total distance of more than 13 million kilometers, treated over 170,000 patients, and fulfilled over 300 armed escorts and long or short-distance patrols.
In September 2015, China joined the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS) and built a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops. In September 2017, China completed the registration of PCRS Level 1. In October 2018, 13 Chinese PCRS Level 1 units scored high in the UN assessment and were elevated to PCRS Level 2. Five among these units were elevated from Level 2 to Level 3 in February 2019. China has made active efforts to train international peacekeepers and trained over 1,500 individuals from dozens of countries. In December 2018, 2,506 peacekeepers from the PLA served in 7 UN missions and in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
In line with relevant UNSC resolutions, since December 2008, the Chinese government has dispatched naval ships to carry out regular vessel protection operations in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the coast of Somalia. Chinese PLAN task groups cooperate with multiple naval forces in the area to safeguard international SLOCs. In the past decade, over 100 vessels and 26,000 officers and sailors have been regularly deployed in 31 convoys, each consisting of three to four ships, in vessel protection operations. They have provided security protection for over 6,600 Chinese and foreign ships, and rescued, protected or assisted over 70 ships in distress.
China’s armed forces take an active part in the international efforts for HADR. Military professionals are dispatched to conduct disaster relief operations in affected countries, provide relief materials and medical aid, and strengthen international exchanges in this respect. Since 2012, China’s armed forces have participated in the search for the missing Malaysian Airliner MH370, and in the relief operations for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the water scarcity in Maldives, the earthquake in Nepal, and the flood caused by a dam collapse in Laos. Since it entered service a decade ago, the PLAN’s hospital ship Ark Peace has fulfilled 7 voyages coded as Mission Harmony and visited 43 countries. During these visits, it provided medical services to the local communities, organized medical exchanges, and helped over 230,000 people.
China is active in international and regional counter-terrorism cooperation. It has strengthened such cooperation within the framework of the SCO. China hosts and participates in joint counter-terrorism exercises, cracks down on illegal trafficking of weapons, ammunition and explosives, cooperates with SCO members to identify and cut off channels for terrorist infiltration, and promotes international counter-terrorism intelligence exchange and information sharing. It hosts the Great Wall International Forum on Counter-Terrorism, and actively participates in multilateral counter-terrorism mechanisms such as the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. Bilateral counter-terrorism consultations have been held with certain countries. China initiated the establishment of the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism (QCCM), a counter-terrorism cooperation and coordination mechanism by the militaries of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and Tajikistan. The QCCM has convened two military leaders’ meetings and conducted counter-terrorism exchange and cooperation, actively safeguarding regional security.
Peace is an aspiration for all peoples, and development is an eternal theme of humanity. Faced with global security challenges that are becoming ever more intricate and choices that have to be made at a crossroads of human development, China firmly believes that hegemony and expansion are doomed to failure, and security and prosperity shall be shared. China will remain committed to peaceful development and work with people of all countries to safeguard world peace and promote common development.
Guided by Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the military, China’s national defense in the new era will stride forward along its own path to build a stronger military and endeavor to achieve the great goal of developing world-class forces in an all-round way. China’s armed forces have the determination, confidence and capability to prevail over all threats and challenges. They stand ready to provide strong strategic support for the realization of the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation, and to make new and greater contributions to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
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Please join the USC U.S.-China Institute for a book talk with author David Lampton. His new book examines China’s effort to create an intercountry railway system connecting China and its seven Southeast Asian neighbors.