Suyash Desai, research associate with the China Studies Programme at Takshashila Institution, in The Times of India (August 2, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Sarthak Bikram Panta)
Under the Chinese Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has undertaken military reforms intended to make it a world-class force by 2049. Xi has not defined what a world-class force means. But an informed guess is that it would mean being on a par with the US, UK, French, Russian and Indian armed forces.
Although China’s primary strategic direction is reunification with Taiwan and to prepare for the US contingency during reunification, India and other Indo-Pacific countries are also affected by the PLA’s force modernization. India needs to be cautious of at least four changes:
First, China has built dual-use infrastructure in Tibet to prepare for possible offensive and defensive operations on the border. The PLA is much more capable of forcefully changing the status quo on the border with India. With force modernization and improved connectivity, its ability to convert these standoffs into a protracted conflict has increased.
Second, the PLA is shifting from “near seas defense” to “near seas defense and far seas protection” – meaning protect its interests in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Ocean.
Third, China created the PLA Strategic Support Force to increase synergies between its space, cyber and electromagnetic spectrums. This force is responsible for China’s information warfare and electronic countermeasures, cyberattack and defense, and psychological warfare missions.
Finally, China elevated its Second Artillery Corps to the PLA Rocket Force in 2015. This force’s missile systems and rapidly developing space and counter-space capabilities have become critical components of China’s emerging power projection capabilities.
China’s investment in military tech, big data, drone swarms, and other disruptive offensive technologies, its military linkages with Pakistan and the ongoing building of border villages should concern India. These developments have strategic and tactical implications for India’s border dispute with China.