This presentation will provide an overview of the changes to the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) organizational structure that began in 2016 to include changes to create a more “joint” force that includes adjustments to the Central Military Commission (CMC) members; creation of 15 CMC organizations; creation of an Army Headquarters, Strategic Support Force, and Joint Logistics Support Force; upgrading the former Second Artillery Force to a service (PLA Rocket Force); and the consolidation of the former 7 Military Regions into 5 Theatre Commands and subordinate Theatre Command Service Headquarters. Changes in 2016 focused on “above the neck” (i.e., above the corps level), while changes in 2017 focused on “below the neck” (i.e., corps and below) organizations and academic institutions, both of which are part of the 300,000-man force reduction. It covers the changes to the administrative and functional departments at every level from the CMC down to battalion level, as well as academic institutions.
The current tranche of reforms is one phase of a multi-decade modernization program that extends to 2035 and has as its goal to transform the PLA into a “world-class military” by 2049. The PLA has been very clear for over a decade about why these reforms are necessary, and undoubtedly more adjustments will be made after 2020. Since 2006, under Hu Jintao, senior military leaders have written in their internal media about the “Two Incompatibles” (两个不相适应), which state that the PLA is not ready to win a local war and it does not meet the requirements to conduct its “historic missions.” Under Xi Jinping that assessment has changed in form to emphasize the “Two Big Gaps” (两个差距很大), the “Two Inabilities” (两个能力不够), and the “Five Incapables” (五个不会). These harsh self-assessments apply to all services and have been used to justify the changes to the 2018 Outline for Military Training. In short, the senior PLA leadership currently is skeptical of the ability of its operational commanders and units to accomplish successfully the wartime missions they could be assigned and understands that much work remains to be done to improve operational readiness.
Finally, the seminar discusses major changes that have occurred in the officer and enlisted force, including the abolishment of the National Defence Student Program and reduction in military academic institutions for officers and the shift from a pure conscription enlisted force to a combination of recruitment and conscription with a focus on college students and graduates.
About the Speakers
Kenneth W. Allen, Major, U.S. Air Force (Retired), has been the Research Director for the US Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI) since May 2017. For the past 25 years, his primary focus has been on China’s military organizational structure, personnel, education, training, and foreign relations with particular emphasis on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force. During 21 years in the U.S. Air Force (1971-1992), he served as an enlisted Chinese and Russian linguist and intelligence officer with tours in Taiwan, Berlin, Japan, China, Washington DC and Pacific Air Force (PACAF) Headquarters. From 1987-1989, he served as the Assistant Air Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He was inducted into the Defence Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Defence Attaché Hall of Fame in 1997. He has B.A. degrees from the University of California at Davis and the University of Maryland and an M.A. degree from Boston University. He has written multiple books, monographs, chapters, journal articles, and online articles on the PLA.
Dennis J. Blasko, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), served 23 years as a Military Intelligence Officer and Foreign Area Officer specializing in China. Mr. Blasko was an army attaché in Beijing from 1992-1995 and in Hong Kong from 1995-1996. He also served in infantry units in Germany, Italy, and Korea and in Washington at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Headquarters Department of the Army (Office of Special Operations), and the National Defense University War Gaming and Simulation Center. Mr. Blasko is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School. He has written numerous articles and chapters on the Chinese military and defense industries and is the author of the book, The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, second edition (Routledge, 2012).