India Must Prepare to Tackle Chinese Defence Reforms

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R), also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, meets with senior officers of the 14th army group in Kunming, capital city of southwest China's Yunnan Province (file)

A National security expert has said India should ensure adequate deterrance and military preparedness to tackle China’s enhanced combat capabilities after Beijing restructured its defence mechanism, including of the PLA Rocket Force, two years ago….reports Asian Lite News

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with senior officers of the 14th army group in Kunming, capital city of southwest China’s Yunnan Province (file)

Since late 2015 with its sweeping reforms of armed forces, China has restructured its defence mechanism. The philosophy behind these military reforms have been focused on home territory and expeditionary capability, Lt Gen S.L. Narasimhan (Retd), presently a member of the National Security Advisory Board, said at a talk here.

He highlighted six main issues that dominate China’s defence reforms at a talk here on Wednesday during a talk on the subject “China’s Military Reforms and Implications for India”, organised by the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) at Indian Council World Affairs (ICWA), Sapru House.

The six issues are: reduction of 300,000 troops, changes in higher defence organisation, creation of a headquaters for People’s Libration Army (PLA), reorganisation of military area commands into theatre commands and creation of PLA Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force (SSF).

According to Narasimhan, these reforms will tighten President Xi Jinping’s control over the PLA though these reforms were handed over to Jinping after the 18th Congress.

These reforms will also bring civil-military integration where the technology that army had will be shared with the civilians and vice versa, he said, in his presentation on “China’s military reforms : Likely future trajectories”.

The objectives of the PLA reforms were to achieve enhanced joint-ness, optimising organisational structures of combat and ensuring dominance of information.

Chinese leaders along with Xi Jinping attend the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing

He highlighted the implications for India with the progress of the reforms. According to him, these doctrinal changes with regard to effective security and safeguard of China’s interests have pros and cons of their own. He pointed out that with reorganisation of the departments and the PLA Rocket Force would require ensured deterrence and military preparedness by India.

The reforms have run their course for more than a year and their impact and overtones can be seen through synergy and a will to reform in China, Narasimhan said. In the future, he said the PLA will become more professional in the coming years with PLASSF (Strategic Support Force) being a battle winning force and “we will see Chinese power projection in the Indian Ocean Region”.

Jayadeva Ranade, President of Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, said the “army is used as a key for the primary concerns of China, which are political instability and regime survival”.

He called the 18th Congress a “watershed” which aimed for stability, party supremacy and assertive politics.

He clarified that China’s internal security situation is not such that it threatens the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) but at the same time it is causing considerable anxiety to China’s leadership. Therefore steps are being taken to discipline the PLA through surveillance within it.

He pointed out the scenario in China, including popular discontent caused by lack of jobs and closure of mines and factories leading to over 300 million getting unemployed, unemployment among graduates touching almost 20 per cent and discontent among veteran and demobilised soldiers due to non-payment of salaries and dues.

Modi in a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

According to Ranade, the Chinese leadership is also very concerned about a “Color Revolution” or regime change which he quoted Jinping as “Regime dissatisfaction in realm of ideas”. He explained the extent of the Party control in China through “party monitors” to weed out Western sources, national security education campaign and greater control over Buddhists, especially Tibetan Buddhists.

The Chinese expert said there is an “arc of vulnerability in China” where a number of problems and degree of restiveness is growing. Added to this, he said are the disturbed conditions in Tibet and Xinjiang, for both of which, China’s Public Security Budget exceeds US$1.10 billion each.

He says the issue of Dalai Lama’s reincarnation also looms large with subtle methods being taken to tackle it. In recent months, Hong Kong has become problematic. The locals are insisting that the Basic Law which gives sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, cannot be interpreted by National People’s Congress (NPC). To confront this, China has imposed increasingly restrictive measures.

Worries over Taiwan and Rohingyas in Myanmar also persist. He feels China, through party indoctrination and party surveillance via social credit system, can make “a honest Chinese citizen who walks with his head held high but what about the others who are not Chinese?”.

Under all this control, Ranade says there is a “growing inflexibility” in China which has made the nation brittle.

He predicts that after the 19th Congress, we will see a “tougher China not just in case of neighbourhood disputes, but also in territorial and regional disputes”.