China's Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People's Liberation Army (PLA)
RAND NATIONAL DEFENSE RESEARCH INST SANTA MONICA CA
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Since the mid-1990s, the Peoples Republic of China has invested enormous resources in developing the Peoples Liberation Army PLA into a modern force that can secure various national interests both at home and now increasingly abroad. The stunning U.S. victory in Operation Desert Storm Iraq in 1991 U.S. involvement in the 1995 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis and U.S. military intervention in Kosovo in 1999, during which the United States accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, motivated Chinese leaders to invest considerable resources in the transformation of the PLA into a more modern, professional, and operationally capable fighting force. These conflicts bluntly demonstrated to the Peoples Republic of China that it lacked a military that could effectively fight and win wars against modern opponents, especially adversaries who could effectively harness the information revolution and successfully conduct joint operations. Although the modernization drive is now over two decades old and has yielded impressive results, numerous weaknesses persist. This report assesses many of the weaknesses in the PLAs human capital and organizational realms, in the PLAs combat capabilities across various domains land, sea, air, space, cyber, and electromagnetic, and in China s defense research and industrial complex. It does so by examining how these weaknesses affect the PLAs performance of missions Beijing tasks or may task the force to carry out and by reviewing Chinese assessments of the PLAs shortcomings and their potential implications. This study should be of interest to military analysts, policymakers, lawmakers, or anyone interested in Chinese military affairs and their security implications for the United States and its allies and partners.
- Military Forces and Organizations
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics