Issues/Problems the PLA needs to address

Discussion in 'Strategic Defense' started by airsuperiority, Mar 9, 2015.

  1. airsuperiority
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    airsuperiority Senior Member

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    While we continue to talk about the progresses of the Chinese military in other threads, I think we should create one for the opposite end addressing the issues the Chinese military continues to face and how they can address them, and how it can look if things change.

    I believe this thread will be very meaningful as it will also help us continue to monitor Chinese progress from a different perspective and over time. While the general threads continue to add pluses to Chinese capability, this thread will be the opposite where we start with a list and cross things off as the Chinese military improves.

    Most importantly, I think this article is interesting for 2 reasons:
    1. I have read RAND's publishes on China's A2/AD strategies, which was extremely informative several years ago. I had a lot to learn from it and I will say some RAND publishes do have some good credibility. This leads me to the second point:

    2. Recently I've read also a similar assessment listing US military weaknesses. In that benchmark, RAND studied and compared US military by its own standards and listed weaknesses such as outdated equipment, marginal readiness levels for 3 out of 4 branches (USN, Army, Marines), stating that the US military suffered budget restraints and in general also only capable of one focused theatre campaign, not 2 simultaneous ones. My conclusion was it was very informative and insightful. Having said that, I believe reading a similar publishes by Western think tanks on China that can provide a modest assessment is actually very valuable, as credible studies by the West are still very hard to come by without their bias these days.

    I wanna hear what you guys think, and my point isn't to criticize the Chinese military, but to discuss.

    Finally, I have read this article and evaluated its worth before I considered opening this article, as I couldn't think of a good location to place this.

    http://thediplomat.com/2015/02/is-the-chinese-military-weaker-than-we-think/

     
    #1 airsuperiority, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  2. airsuperiority
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    airsuperiority Senior Member

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    I would have talks with my dad sometimes about Chinese military progress. (He's an enthusiast, but read too much rumours from unreliable sites), and he would often tout/brag rumours that's not true (such as Su-35 purchases). I had to keep reminding him that despite the impressive hardware and software and assets PLA as of 2015 would possess, we definitely can't stop there and think that's the end. Structural, military philosophies, managements, organization systems, training, wargames, will continue to affect Chinese combat readiness deeply because it's usually much harder to optimize your gears for combat readiness if you've never truly used it in battle, and how to command and manage a million-men military organ to become as efficient, effective, best trained, competitive quality, is something China will be, imo, faced with as the biggest challenge in the upcoming 20 years to make it really lean and ready. Finally we can't forget as China is starting to get comfortable with this new modernizing stage of its military, old doctrines will have to go, and by then, how things work will again rapidly change.
     
  3. Bltizo
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    Bltizo Senior Member

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    I think this has been discussed in other threads before, with various articles and entries better than the one from the diplomat.

    Corruption isn't as big of an issue operationally as it is in terms of funding, because it seems that most of the corrupt PLA figures are in political/procurement side of things rather than operational. Although the selling of ranks is concerning, even if it is on a very small scale and limited to less operationally important areas of the PLA.

    As for the other weaknesses that are broadly referenced like more realistic training, more integration and more investment into combined arms operations, more advanced equipment, these are all things that are mostly dependent on money, and to a degree, political will. Political will has definitely seen a noticeable improvement in all aspects mostly due to Xi Jinping's revitalized approach to the military, and funding is also increasing year by year. The things that they should be improving upon are being steadily improved, but China isn't willing to increase spending on the military as a proportion of GDP too much, and political will can only change previosuly institutional roadblocks so fast.

    So I'd say the biggest "weakness" to the PLA is the need for time to fully absorb all their new equipment, integrate them, and train with them in a realistic and continuous fashion.

    Really I don't think there's too much to say on the matter, and I'd say that weaknesses the PLA faces are actually pretty well known.
     
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  4. lucretius
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    lucretius New Member
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    The recent announcement to "reinforce the PLA as an army of the communist party", making sure the top positions are filled with "Political Supervisors" rather than genuine military commanders.

    It's a throwback to the past and should not be necessary in a modern fighting force.

    Surely the CPC is not this insecure?

    To me this is the PLA's biggest weakness, ahead of any problems with integration, training and foreign relations.
     
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  5. Bltizo
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    Bltizo Senior Member

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    I didn't catch this piece of news, could you link? Thanks.

    I would be surprised if what they're planning is quite you're suggesting, because practically the CPC under Xi has been quite intent on improving actual warfighting capability and removing politicking and corruption.
    Specifically, I am very surprised if they have said that they are wanting to make sure the top positions in the PLA are taken by political supervisors rather than military commanders, is that an assumption you're making or is it a statement they made?

    ----

    Also, at certain organs or levels of the military, having political loyalty and knowing one's political intents and strategic thinking are as important as competence.
    It would be disastrous if individuals were only selected based on their political views and not on military merit, and even more disastrous if this was done down to the operational level -- but I've seen and heard no evidence of such an intent.

    What we have seen recently is a desire for the CCP to consolidate its control over the PLA to a greater degree, in the sense that the military is strictly under civilian government control.
    I think there's no need to freak out that we're going to see soviet style political commissars running the show in PLA operational units. Hell, even in past decades, political commissars in the PLA had far less operational influence in their units compared to their USSR counterparts, and are mostly responsible for administrative and PR work.
     
    #5 Bltizo, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  6. lucretius
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    lucretius New Member
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    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-china-blog-31732064

    The standout quote for me was...

    It might not seem revolutionary that the PLA would simply serve the people, but for the communist leadership it represents a threat. The PLA, at the last resort, underwrites the Communist Party's hold on power (most famously at Tiananmen Square in 1989). Any notion that the army would not side with the party needs to be stamped out.

    So at the beginning of the year, the PLA's general political department issued a circular which announced that all combat officers should swap places with political commissars. Every unit at company level and above in the PLA has a political officer whose role is to implement party decisions and to provide political education to soldiers.

    If carried out in full (a big question), it would represent one of the largest reshuffles in military history. It would also appear to mean that party discipline within the army is so important that the leadership is willing, at least for a while, to sacrifice a degree of operational capacity in the armed forces to get their house in order. Political officers are experts in Marxist-Leninist theory, not in commanding infantry.
     
  7. Bltizo
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    Bltizo Senior Member

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    Err I'd be interested to see what circular they are referring to, because such an extreme transition as described is not something that has been previously reported. Either this has flown under all of our collective radars (unlikely) or the BBC has misinterpreted something.

    A quick search shows that the only previous independent report of this is from scmp, but I don't have a subscription to them so I don't actually know what their article is saying

    Of course scmp isn't exactly notable for being accurate in its reporting of PLA matters, and often sensationalizes its content. So I did a bit more digging for around the time when the scmp article was published (Jan 11)

    A search shows articles about PLA reshuffling, in terms of political officers, as well as in terms of a few more high ranking officers netted in the anti corruption drive.
    http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-01/05/content_19243266.htm
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-01/16/content_19332547.htm
    http://english.chinamil.com.cn/news-channels/china-military-news/2015-01/04/content_6294479.htm
    http://english.caixin.com/2015-01-08/100772301.html

    But there is nothing like what the BBC or scmp describes, and none of the other PLA watching sites, groups, or forums have mentioned this at all.

    It's also worth reading just what political officers do in the PLA, and this jamestown foundation article is quite worthwhile:


    So in conclusion, I think you can be assured that the idea of swapping out all combat officers with political commissars (whatever that means) is not what is being described. In fact, such an order would not be only issued in a mere circular, and this would mean a massive military wide shake up down to the company level at least. And it would mean putting officers who are not trained for meaningful operational and command duties during combat in control of basically the entire PLA, which goes against the entire consistent nature of recent PLA drives to increase combat capability with realistic training and integration.

    We don't need a thread about PLA weaknesses, but rather a thread about weaknesses in the PLA watching community and media reports about the PLA instead -- much more to talk about on that topic, I think.


    ---

    edit:

    The scmp article loaded for me

    PLA orders combat officers and commissars to trade places to boost fighting capability

    PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 January, 2015, 10:35pm
    UPDATED : Monday, 12 January, 2015, 7:15pm

    The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has ordered combat officers and those in charge of political training at the grass-roots level to switch posts to improve both fighting capability and political loyalty of the army.

    The new measure will apply to chief officers at all grass-roots units in the army and the armed police, according to a circular quoted by the PLA Daily.

    The report said that President Xi Jinping , who as Communist party secretary also heads the military, wanted officers to have wider training early in their careers. "The circular will have a positive impact to help cultivate officers who show talent in both military and political affairs," the report said.

    Political officers and commissars are in charge of ensuring the loyalty and political correctness of the army. Usually they have different career paths from combat officers.

    Xinhua said that during a pilot scheme at a brigade of the 27th Combined Corp last year, company commanders were asked to swap stream after two years in office, while all battalion chiefs should change posts if they had not done so before.

    The circular said the scheme would be expanded to all grass-roots units. But the army would still find ways to ensure the continuity of officers' career paths even though they would be moved around more often.

    Xu Guangyu , a retired major general, said the scheme would have a far-reaching impact on the military.

    "Combat leaders and political commissars can build on professional knowledge in a new field that is beneficial to the quality of army," Xu said.

    "Whether it's frontline battles or army management, a well-trained officer will excel in both areas."

    In late October, Xi summoned more than 400 military leaders to Gutian, in Fujian , and ordered them to remember the Communist Party's traditions and their loyalty to the party.
     
    #7 Bltizo, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  8. Bltizo
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    Bltizo Senior Member

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    So actually reading the scmp article, we can see that it's far less dramatic than what is suggested by the BBC. But the scmp article is still a little vague, so further digging using some new key words brings up new write ups:

    For instance, this global times article sheds much more light on the matter, demonstrating it is meant to provide cross pollination of different aspects of both roles to only one pair of political and military officers in each unit. And it is an exchange programme, not a permanent change and is only a small part of the larger reform of the organisational and training in the PLA to improve professionalism. By the sounds of it the PLA wants to have greater understanding of the roles that military combat officers and political officers have for each other, to improve communication and unit level efficiency.

    http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/901318.shtml

    Now, if you're still skeptical about the exchange programme, perhaps believing state media are just using it as a cover to replace all the experienced and trained combat officers with inexperienced and feeble political officers, here is an article by the Jamestown foundation article that I found which also talks about it in very objective terms. I've only included the relevant paragraph, but the rest of the article is worth reading as it provides context for the exchange programme, showing it is just one part of the larger reform plan and definitely not the "historically unprecedented" change that the BBC is suggesting where all combat officers are subordinate to inexperienced political officers.
    Hell, even 86,000 officers were temporarily assigned as privates in a similar exchange programme, to build more education and experience and improve work styles. The fact that political officers are often involved in admin and money managing side of things makes sense that the PLA will want to give them greater understanding of the operational side of things, and also for combat military officers to appreciate and coordinate with their political officers on the admin side better, especially when corruption is mostly limited to the administrative, logistics and money handling officers and organs of the PLA rather than the operational officers.

    I hope this has convinced you that the previous opinion you held was based on false and frankly idiotic premises by the BBC.

    In fact, the more I search about this, the more I realize just how badly the BBC has screwed up in their article. They've completely missed the understanding of what this exchange programme and what the larger military reform and anti corruption drive is meant to achieve.

    http://www.jamestown.org/programs/c...f6c7d711a0f71c5819bad9d7e84cf787#.VP1od2iUcoU
     
  9. Bltizo
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    Bltizo Senior Member

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    My god, as I read over the last few posts I just wonder how that BBC article even passed the common sense test.

    Frankly I think anyone with an inkling of understanding of recent PLA news should have guessed something was very very wrong with the conclusions that were made, jeez.
    Sometimes the BBC's china correspondents make me want to prepare a series of annotated lectures to show them just how blatantly incorrect they are. Goodness.
     
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  10. Bltizo
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    Bltizo Senior Member

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    This is a more detailed jamestown foundation article about the exchange programme. I won't copy the entire thing, but there is one important paragraph that basically sums up the goals behind it

    http://www.jamestown.org/programs/c...93dafe93027ee88293b5cd0bc4b5ea66#.VP1x0WiUcoU

     

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