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China prioritises defence reforms

The Communist Party of China (CPC) has outlined the requirement for deepened reforms in the country’s defence sector.

The CPC said on 21 March through its official mouthpiece – the People's Daily – that reforms during the 13th Five Year Plan (FYP), which ended in 2020, were successful in strengthening national defence but that such efforts needed to intensify during the new 14th FYP, which starts this year.

“2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, the beginning of the 14th FYP and the beginning of the new journey of building a socialist modern country,” said the CPC. “To achieve the goals and the tasks of developing national defence and [the military], we must start a new journey of modernisation.”

It added, “In the new era, we are engaged in a great struggle with many new historical characteristics. Deepening the reform of national defence and military is an important aspect of this struggle.”

The CPC made reference to several defence reform programmes under way including the “reshaping” of the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); the development of a “modern military power system”; defence policy systems; and military-civil fusion (MCF).

Reshaping the PLA refers mainly to its downsizing and restructuring, which is continuing in order to enhance efficiencies and combat effectiveness.

The development of a modern power system is likely reference to China’s stated aim to transition from a process it calls “mechanisation” – or the induction of modern military platforms – to “informationisation” and “intelligentisation”. The latter two describe the induction of advanced information and ‘intelligent’ technologies, such as communications and artificial intelligence (AI).

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