The introduction of new weapons and platforms into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has captured the attention of much of the world for well over a decade. However, new equipment is only one element of the PLA’s long-term, multi-dimensional modernization process. There is much to be done and no one understands this better than the Chinese themselves. Based on what PLA commanders and staff officers write in their internal newspapers and journals, the force faces a multitude of challenges in order to close the perceived gaps between its capabilities and those of advanced militaries.
New weapons, increasing defense budgets, and recently corruption tend to generate headlines in the Western press, but at least 10 other factors raise serious questions about the PLA’s current ability to fight a modern war against an advanced enemy (some of which are discussed in a new RAND report, to which I contributed a collection of sources):
This is a pretty dang good list. There’s no way I can do more than skim the RAND report.
Some of the factors listed are bigger issues than others. Right up at the top I’d have to say is China’s struggles with realistic training. So much of their training appears to be set piece, more a show than an actual learning evolution.
And while a reality check like this is useful, it’s also important to not the progress China has made, aside from equipment and weapons, in the areas noted. It has been an impressive achievement.