At China’s annual military parade last September, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced plans to make large troop cuts and significant structural changes to China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Indeed, over the past year, the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has launched major reforms to the PLA’s size, structure and missions. Though many details remain undecided or unknown, reform measures have included the creation of a new PLA headquarters, as well as realignments of its operational theaters and support functions.
The reforms in some respects resemble those adopted by other major military powers, such as Russia and the United States. Their full impact will take years to become evident, but they have already altered key features of the Chinese military.
Through the reforms, Xi aims to raise the PLA’s combat effectiveness and administrative efficiency while curtailing corruption and enhancing civilian control over the military in the hands of the CPC. Achieving these diverse goals, some of which could conflict with one another, will require the government to overcome significant obstacles, including recently announced constraints on military spending.