The west’s superiority is increasingly under threat on land and sea—and in cyberspaceby Meia Nouwens / February 21, 2018 / Leave a comment
In recent years, China has revealed a new side of itself to the world. Today, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not just an economic powerhouse; it has entered the international security arena, and it is there to stay.
Under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, China aims to have fully-modernised armed forces by 2035, and a fully-fledged top-tier military by 2050 that is capable of fighting and winning wars. The force’s humble beginnings in 1927 as a group of ill-trained foot soldiers has been quite dramatically left behind.
Beginning in 2012 (the start of his first five-year term in office), President Xi Jinping has embarked on a top-down approach to reaching the 2050 goal, recognising that “it takes first-class military talent, theory and science and technology to build the PLA into a world-leading military.” China’s defence industry underwent reforms to combat inefficiency, which included the listing of certain research institutes on the stock market, as well as amalgamating existing defence companies (in effect returning to the previous structure based on monopolies), enabling them to compete with foreign defence industry giants.
In 2017, regional innovation centres were created to drive advanced research and development, particularly in missile, naval and aviation technology. Civil-military integration (whereby commercial and military technological and industrial bases are joined up) accelerated in 2015, and in 2017 gained renewed impetus with the formation of the Commission for Integrated Civilian-Military Development. Also last year China further opened the country’s defence sector to enterprises by declassifying more than 3,000 defence patents for the first time. Beijing has also opened bidding for equipment procurement agreements and set up The Military Science Research and Steering Committee as its version of the US’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that develops emerging technologies for the military.
All of these plans are, undoubtedly, expensive. However, defence spending continued to grow by 7.1 per cent between 2016 and 2017—taking the total to US $150bn annually.
The recent reforms may not show results straightaway, or even for a few years. But there should be no doubt that the PLA today is no longer far behind the west when it comes to certain areas of defence technology. Indeed, the aforementioned reforms are meant to drive forward China’s current defence innovation, not…