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Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies


AJDSS Volume 2 Number 1

The ambitious reform plans of the People's Liberation Army: Progress, prospects and implications for Australia

Bates Gill, Adam Ni and Dennis Blasko

To cite this article: Bates Gill, Adam Ni and Dennis Blasko, 'The ambitious reform plans of the People's Liberation Army: Progress, prospects and implications for Australia', Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies 2, 1 (2020): 5-26, http://www.defence.gov.au/ADC/publications/AJDSS/volume2-number1/ambitious-reform-plans-of-the-PLA.asp

Published online: 21, August 2020

Introduction

In late 2015, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) launched its most extensive and potentially transformative set of reforms since the 1950s. These reforms have had immediate and far-reaching effects on the PLA's organisation, force posture, command and control structures, and internal politics. Looking ahead and over the longer term, these reforms will likely help the PLA become a far more capable fighting force. However, according to its own estimates, the PLA is now only about halfway through its modernisation timeline, and decades—and many obstacles—still remain in this long-term process.

Given these important developments for Australian defence and security interests, this article considers the critical advances and ongoing challenges for current reform and reorganisation plans of the PLA. The article will focus particularly on how and whether the PLA is making progress in joint operations and the development of deterrent and coercive capabilities across multiple domains. In order to do this, the article will first review the strategic rationale, structural changes and operational aspirations of the reforms. Second, the article assesses the progress and challenges faced by the PLA across several warfighting domains: land, sea, air, aerospace (missiles), space and cyber. The article concludes by highlighting some key challenges these developments present to Australian defence and security.

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