The Armed Forces of China

The Armed Forces of China

The Armed Forces of China

The Armed Forces of China

Excerpt

Thinking strategically about China is a key question in our current efforts to construct a stable post-Cold War world order. China is rising but its future is still uncertain. This is a challenge both to western powers and China's neighbours. And this challenge is multi-dimensional: political, economic and military. The answer to this challenge has also to be multi-dimensional and a sensible one as well. Otherwise, it just contradicts our efforts to bring about a peaceful environment in the region. In essence, thinking about China strategically means looking at China not as it is but over a fairly long period of time.

If we employ a trend-analysis to examine China's armed forces, we are witnessing a strong military in the making. The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is undergoing a fundamental change under a new national defence strategy which guides the PLA to meet the challenge of a changed security environment following the demise of the bipolar system. Moreover, the strategy has been the PLA's response to the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) brought about by the astonishing development in information technology since the 1980s. At the same time, however, the Chinese armed forces have to overcome a long and painful transition both in military thinking and hardware acquisition. Even if the PLA is fully prepared to embrace the best ideas in the RMA and transform it accordingly as quickly as possible, it will still take one or two decades of strenuous work. Even by then, whether it has caught up with the current western technology will remain an open question. Much depends on whether China's economic growth is sustained for a fairly long period and the international situation remains peaceful.

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