In the great historical course of China's reform and opening-up over the past three decades, the PLA has invariably taken modernization as its central task, continuously engaged in reform and innovation, comprehensively advanced revolutionization, modernization and regularization, and made important contributions to safeguarding national sovereignty and security, and maintaining world peace. In recent years, the PLA has accelerated RMA with Chinese characteristics, and pushed forward its military, political, logistical and equipment work in a coordinated way, in an effort to achieve sound and rapid development.
Thirty Years of Reform and Development
From the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the PLA set out on the road of building a streamlined military with Chinese characteristics. According to the scientific judgment that peace and development had become the principal themes of the times, it made a strategic shift in its guiding principle for military building from preparations for "an early, large-scale and nuclear war" to peacetime construction, and advanced its modernization step by step in a well-planned way under the precondition that such efforts should be both subordinated to and in the service of the country's overall development. It set the general goal of building a powerful military, revolutionary in nature, modernized and regularized, and blazed a trail for building a lean military with Chinese characteristics. It underwent significant adjustment and reform, and streamlined the size of its armed forces by a million troops, thereby taking an important step forward in making itself streamlined, combined and efficient.
Entering the 1990s, the PLA began to vigorously promote RMA with Chinese characteristics. It established the military strategic guideline of active defense for the new era, based on winning local wars in conditions of modern technology, particularly high technology. It began to adopt a strategy of strengthening the military by means of science and technology, and a three-step development strategy in modernizing national defense and the armed forces, and promoted the coordinated development of national defense and economy. Regarding RMA with Chinese characteristics as the only way to modernize the military, it put forward the strategic goal of building an informationized military and winning informationized wars. Driven by preparations for military struggle, it accelerated the development of weaponry and equipment, stepped up the development of the arms and services of the armed forces, as well as forces for emergency mobile operations, optimized its system and structure, and reduced the number of personnel by 700,000. As a result, its capability of defensive operations increased remarkably.
At the new stage in the new century, the PLA has been striving to create a new situation in its modernization drive at a new historical starting point. With the Scientific Outlook on Development as an important guiding principle for national defense and armed forces building, it has acted in accordance with the strategic thought of balancing economic and national defense development and integrating efforts to enrich the country and strengthen the military. It has been dedicated to performing its new historical missions and improving its capabilities to counter various security threats and accomplish diversified military tasks. It has accelerated the composite development of mechanization and informationization, vigorously conducts military training in conditions of informationization, and boosts innovation in military theory, technology, organization and management, to continuously increase the core military capability of winning local wars in conditions of informationization and the capability of conducting MOOTW.
Promoting the Improvement of Military Training
Regarding military training as the basic approach to furthering the comprehensive development of the military and raising combat effectiveness, the PLA is working to reform training programs, methods, management and support, and create a scientific system for military training in conditions of informationization.
Increasing training tasks. The PLA is intensifying strategic- and operational-level command post training and troop training in conditions of informationization, holding trans-regional evaluation exercises with opposing players, conducting whole-unit night training and carrying out integrated exercises for logistical and equipment support. Moreover, it is attaching more importance to MOOTW training in counter-terrorism, stability maintenance, emergency response, peacekeeping, emergency rescue and disaster relief.
Deepening training reform. The PLA is creating a task list for military training in conditions of informationization, developing a new edition of the Outline for Military Training and Evaluation, and promoting the application of innovations made in training reform. It is also reinforcing the joint training of the services and arms, strengthening functional training, giving prominence to command and coordinate training and the studies of ways of fighting, and improving training in regional cooperation. It is improving on-base training and simulated training, promoting web-based training, and conducting training with opposing players. It is also reforming training evaluation mechanisms, making training standards stricter, and enforcing meticulous management of the whole process and all aspects of military training.
Conducting training in complex electromagnetic environments. The PLA is spreading basic knowledge of electromagnetic-spectrum and battlefield-electromagnetic environments, learning and mastering basic theories of information warfare, particularly electronic warfare. It is enhancing training on how to operate and use informationized weaponry and equipment, and command information systems. It is working on the informationizing of combined tactical training bases, and holding exercises in complex electromagnetic environments.
Strengthening Ideological and Political Work
The PLA insists on putting ideological and political work first, and pushing forward the innovative development of ideological and political work, to ensure the Party's absolute leadership over the armed forces, the scientific development of the military, the all-round development of the officers and men, the increase of combat capabilities and the effective fulfillment of historical missions.
In January 2007 the General Political Department of the PLA issued the Guideline for the Ideological and Political Education of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Trial). This guideline spells out clearly that such education refers to the work by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to arm the military with political theories and provide it with ideological guidance; scientifically regulates such education for all kinds of PLA forces and personnel; and further strengthens the development of rules and regulations for such education. Pursuant to the guideline, units whose ratios of political education to military training are 3 to 7 and 2 to 8 should devote 54 and 42 workdays, respectively, to political education each year. The PLA persists in arming its officers and men with the theory of socialism with Chinese characteristics, educates them in its historical missions, ideals, beliefs, fighting spirit and the socialist concept of honor and disgrace, and carries forward the fine traditions of obeying the Party's orders, serving the people, and fighting bravely and skillfully. The PLA's ideological and political education adheres to six principles: to be guided by scientific theories, to put the people first, to focus on the central task and serve the overall interests, to aim at concrete results, to educate through practical activities, and to encourage innovation and development. Following these principles, the PLA has flexibly applied and innovatively developed educational forms and means, improved radio, television and network educational facilities, and built military history museums, cultural centers, "homes of political instructors," study rooms, and company clubs and honors exhibitions.
In April 2008 the Central Military Commission (CMC) approved the Regulations of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on the Work of Servicemen's Committees, which was jointly issued by the Headquarters of the General Staff, the General Political Department, the General Logistics Department and the General Armament Department. The document has institutionalized political democracy, economic democracy and military democracy for grass-roots units in the new situation. The servicemen's committee is an organization through which the grass-roots military units practice democracy in political, economic and military affairs and through which the servicemen exercise their democratic rights and carry out mass activities. It exercises the following functions too: to advise on combat readiness training, education and management, logistical support, and weaponry and equipment management of its own unit; to make recommendations on issues concerning the immediate interests of officers and men, such as the selection and promotion of non-commissioned officers (NCOs), selection of qualified enlisted men to enter military educational institutions either through examinations or directly, selection of enlisted men for technical training, and selection of servicemen for commendations and rewards; to supervise officers and men on the performance of their duties and observation of law and discipline; and to protect the collective interests of the unit, and the legitimate rights and interests of officers and men. Consisting of five to seven members chosen by the servicemen's assembly through election by secret ballot, the servicemen's committee works under the leadership of the unit Party branch (or grass-roots Party committee) and the guidance of the unit commanders.
Enhancing the Cost-Effectiveness of Logistical Support
The PLA vigorously promotes integration in logistical support system, outsourcing in logistical support method, informationization in logistical support means, and scientific approach in logistical support management, to build a modern logistics system. In December 2007 the CMC promulgated the Outline for Building a Modern Logistics System, specifying the guidelines, principles, objectives and tasks for the development of modern logistics.
Deepening logistics reform. The PLA persists in promoting re-forms in joint logistics. In April 2007 the Jinan Theater formally adopted the joint logistics system based on the integration of tri-service logistical support. To speed up the outsourcing process, the PLA out-sources the commercial and housing services of combat units stationed in large- and medium-sized cities, general-purpose materials storage, capital construction, logistical equipment production and logistical technical services. To enhance budgeting reforms, it promotes the creation of databases for budget items, strengthens the investment assessment and evaluation of major projects, summarizes and popularizes such practices as the integration of assets management with budget management and the control of expenses concerning administrative consumables, and gradually adopts the practice of using work-related expenditure cards for payment and account settlement. It enlarges the scope of centralized procurement, increases the proportion of procurement through bidding, and extends centralized procurement to non-combat units.
Upgrading logistical support. The PLA has substantially increased funding for education and training, political work, health care, water and electricity supplies, heating, barracks maintenance, etc. It has increased allowances for aviators, sailors and astronauts. It has increased post allowances for officers in grass-roots units and duty allowances for enlisted men. It has raised servicemen's injury and death insurance and board expenses. It has set standards for the subsidies and fees for small, scattered, distant units and units directly under the headquarters. In August 2007 all PLA troops began to replace their old uniforms with the 07 series.
Regulating logistics management. To step up standardization, the PLA is redoubling its efforts in the standardized provision of maintenance funds and centrally allocated supplies, regulating the management of construction-related supplies, and creating step by step a system of logistical support standards and regulations covering supply, consumption and management. It strengthens financial management, spends according to standards and within its budget, and carries out construction according to its financial strength. It pays close attention to the safe management of drinking water, food, medical care, medicine, petroleum, oils and lubricants, transportation and dangerous articles. It is improving the mechanism to prevent and control public health hazards; standardizing the management of military vehicles; conducting a special review of housing for active officers at and above the corps level; imposing strict management on military housing and the lease of unoccupied real estate; and improving the system for the employment of civilians. In January 2007 the CMC promulgated the newly revised Audit Regulations of the Chinese People's Liberation Army. The PLA has launched an in-depth movement to conserve energy and resources by encouraging conservation-minded supply and consumption. It protects the ecological environment of military areas by initiating a grassland conservation project, a pilot project for preventing and alleviating sand storms affecting coastal military facilities, and efforts to harness pollution by military units stationed in the area known as the Bohai Sea rim.
Boosting Integrated Equipment Support
Meeting the requirements of tri-service integration, joint operations, systems building and systems integration, the PLA is continually improving its weaponry and equipment system and elevating integrated equipment support.
Accelerating the building of a modern weaponry and equipment system with Chinese characteristics. Persisting in self-reliance and independent innovation, the PLA gives priority to developing informationized weapons and equipment which can meet the requirements of integrated joint operations, and carries out prioritized and selective retrofitting and upgrading of existing equipment. It has basically established an army equipment system featuring high mobility and three-dimensional assault, a naval equipment system with integrated sea-air capabilities for offshore defensive operations, an air force equipment system with integrated air-land capabilities for both offensive and defensive operations, a surface-to-surface missile equipment system for the Second Artillery Force comprising both nuclear and conventional missiles with different ranges, and an electronic information equipment system featuring systems integration and joint development.
Raising the level of equipment management and the capability of new equipment maintenance and support. The PLA is intensifying the scientific, institutionalized and regular management of equipment, and has adopted a system of accountability to improve weapon and equipment readiness. Emphasis is laid on cultivating the capability of equipment maintenance and support, the techniques and means of which are being gradually shifted from being applicable to equipment of the first and second generations to being applicable to the second and third generations. Overhaul and emergency support capabilities have been basically developed for the main equipment. The PLA has augmented equipment support forces and formed a preliminary system of such forces, with regular forces as the backbone, reserve forces as the reinforcement, and backup forces as the supplement. Equipment manufacturing units have been ordered to rehearse the mobilization of technical support forces, and approaches to civil-military integrated support have been explored.
Adjusting and reforming the equipment procurement system. In the past two years, the PLA has further expanded the scope of competitive, centralized and integrated procurement. In line with the demand to separate and balance planning, contract fulfillment, contract supervision and contract auditing, the PLA has adjusted and improved the organizational system for equipment procurement, and reformed the system of resident military representatives in factories.
Speeding up Informationization
Actively coping with the challenges presented by the worldwide RMA, the PLA extensively applies information technology, develops and utilizes information resources in various fields of military building, and strives to take a road of military informationization with Chinese characteristics which highlights the leading role of information, pursues composite development, promotes independent innovation and facilitates transformation.
Starting with command automation in the 1970s, the PLA has shifted the focus of informationization from specific areas to trans-area systems integration, and is on the whole at the initial stage of comprehensive development. Currently, aiming at integration, the PLA is persisting in combining breakthroughs in key sectors with comprehensive development, technological innovation with structural reform, and the development and building of new systems with the modification of existing ones to tap their potentials; enhancing systems integration; stepping up efforts to develop and utilize information resources; and gradually developing and improving the capability of fighting based on information systems.
Achievements have been made in the building of military information systems, with the priority being given to command information systems. The integrated military information network came into operation in 2006, resulting in the further improvement of the information infrastructure, basic information support and information security assurance. Progress has been made in the building of command and control systems for integrated joint operations, significantly enhancing the capability of battlefield information support. IT-based training methods have undergone considerable development; surveying and mapping, navigation, weather forecasting, hydrological observation and space environment support systems have been further optimized; a number of information systems for logistical and equipment support have been successfully developed and deployed; and full-scale efforts in building "digital campuses" have begun in PLA educational institutions.
Main battle weapon systems are being gradually informationized. The focus is to increase the capability of the main battle weapon systems in the areas of rapid detection, target location, friend-or-foe identification and precision strikes. Some tanks, artillery pieces, ships and aircraft in active service have been informationized, new types of highly informationized combat platforms have been successfully developed, and the proportion and number of precision-guided munitions are on the rise.
The conditions for informationization have been improved. A leadership, management and consultation system for informationization has been basically set up, and the centralized and unified leadership for informationization has been strengthened. Theoretical explorations and studies of key practical issues related to informationization have been continuously intensified, medium-and long-term plans and guidance for informationization of the military formulated and promulgated, technical standards revised and refined, and institutional education and personnel training catering to the requirements of informationization strengthened.
Stepping up Personnel Training
The PLA is further implementing the strategic project for talented people, improving its training system and laying stress on the training of commanding officers for joint operations and high-level technical experts in an effort to cultivate a large contingent of new-type and high-caliber military personnel.
In April 2008, the CMC issued Opinions on Strengthening and Improving the Officers Training Work of the Armed Forces, explicitly requiring the establishment and improvement of the service-long and all-personnel training system, which takes level-by-level training as the backbone and on-the-job training as the supplement, and matches training with assignment. A situation is to be created in which institutional education is linked with training in units, education in military educational institutions is carried on in parallel with education through regular institutions of higher learning, and domestic training is combined with overseas training.
Strengthening the training of commanding officers for joint operations. Various measures are being taken to step up efforts to train commanding officers for joint operations, such as institutional education, on-the-job study and rotation of posts. Incorporating joint operations into the whole training process, the PLA carefully distinguishes between the training tasks of educational institutions of different levels and types, and couples institutional education with training in units, so as to establish a system for training joint operations commanding officers which emphasizes both institutional education and practice in units. The PLA has launched the Key Projects of Military Educational Institutions and made step-by-step progress in these projects.
Selecting and training officer candidates. In October 2007 the CMC approved and the four general headquarters/departments jointly promulgated the Regulations of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on the Admission Work of Educational Institutions, regulating the admission of high-school graduates and enlisted men into military educational institutions. At the end of 2007 the Ministry of Education and the General Political Department of the PLA co-sponsored a conference on the issue of training PLA officers via regular institutions of higher learning. At present, there are117 colleges and universities with defense students. The PLA has selected nearly 1,000 key middle schools in the various provinces and municipalities as the main sources of defense students.
Creating a favorable environment for cultivating talented people. The PLA has established and improved a mechanism for rewarding and inspiring talented people, issuing high rewards to outstanding commanding officers, staff officers and technical experts, as well as teams which have made great contributions in scientific and technological innovation. Since 2007 additional funds amounting to RMB 700 million have been devoted to talent cultivation. In July 2007 the CMC promulgated the Provisions of the Armed Forces on Attracting and Retaining High-level Specialized Technical Personnel, specifying effective measures to attract and retain particularly leading scientists, first-rate personnel in specific disciplines and technical experts. In March 2008 the Guideline of the Chinese People's Liberation Army for the Evaluation of Commanding Officers, the Implementation Measures of the Chinese People's Liberation Army on the Evaluation of Commanding Officers and the Standards of the Chinese People's Liberation Army for the Evaluation of Commanding Officers (Trial) were published, which marked the initial establishment of a system for the evaluation of commanding officers in accordance with the requirements of scientific development.
Persisting in Governing the Forces in Accordance with the Law
The PLA persists in taking it as the basic requirement of the regularization drive to govern the armed forces in accordance with the law, and emphasizes scientific legislation and strict law enforcement to enhance its level of regularization.
In the past 30 years of reform and opening-up the military legislative system has been improved step by step, and remarkable achievements have been made in military legislation. In 1988 the CMC set up a legal organ, and the general headquarters/departments, Navy, Air Force, Second Artillery Force and military area commands designated specific departments to be in charge of legal affairs. In 1997 the Law of the People's Republic of China on National Defense was promulgated, specifying that the CMC enacts military regulations in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Legislation promulgated in 2000 further defined the legislative authority of the CMC, general headquarters/departments, Navy, Air Force, Second Artillery Force, and military area commands. By October 2008, the National People's Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee had made 15 laws and law-related decisions concerning national defense and armed forces building; the State Council and the CMC had jointly formulated 94 military administrative regulations; the CMC had formulated 215 military regulations; and the general headquarters/departments, Navy, Air Force, Second Artillery Force, military area commands and People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) had enacted more than 3,000 military rules and regulations. In June 2007 and December 2008, the NPC Standing Committee ratified respectively the Treaty on the Temporary Stay of the Army of One Party in the Territory of the Other Party during the Period of Joint Military Exercises between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation and the Agreement among the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Conducting Joint Military Exercises.
The PLA persists in governing the forces strictly and in accordance with the law, and improves the mechanism for making decisions and providing guidance in accordance with the law in an effort to institutionalize and regularize military, political, logistical and equipment work. It practices scientific management, strictly enforces rules and regulations, and incorporates the cultivation of proper style and strict discipline into the routine education and administration of the forces. Through strict training and daily cultivation, the PLA aims to build a force with a refined military posture, strict discipline and fine work style.
Taking disseminating knowledge of the law as an important part of strengthening all-round building, the PLA places emphasis on disseminating legal knowledge, and is stepping up efforts to popularize knowledge of the law with a clear aim and in an active and effective way. Units with security tasks in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics organized officers and men to study relevant laws and regulations to enhance their legal awareness and their capability of dealing with emergencies in accordance with the law. Officers and men of units tasked with international peacekeeping missions and of naval ships making port calls have been organized to study the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, etc. In November 2007 the Chinese government established the National Committee for International Humanitarian Law, under the arrangement and coordination of which relevant military agencies disseminate knowledge of and implement international humanitarian law within the PLA.