China’s armed forces are undergoing a sweeping five-year reorganization aimed at creating central control over the military’s nearly autonomous branches and creating a more lethal fighting force to close the gap with U.S. capabilities, analysts say.
The restructuring is the most profound undertaken since the 1950s when Soviet advisers helped modernize the nation’s post-civil war military, changes that will likely challenge long-held assumptions by the Pentagon, according to David M. Finkelstein, director of the China Studies division of CNA, a Washington, D.C.,-based research center.
The reorganization, which officially launched Jan. 1, will fundamentally redefine the roles, missions and authorities among the services — particularly the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA — and the Central Military Command, Finkelstein wrote in a paper released Friday.
The changes include disbanding the country’s seven military regions and replacing them with joint-warfighting commands in charge of “war zones” or “theaters of operation.” Also newly formed will be the PLA Rocket Force, which will be responsible for the nation’s nuclear and conventional missiles.
“Should the proposed reforms be successfully implemented, the PLA will emerge as a much more capable, lethal and externally oriented fighting force,” concluded a status report on the U.S. rebalance to the Pacific by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.,-based think tank.