Modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, Navy and Military Deployment


PLA- image of Pinterest.

China’s military modernization has emerged since the 1990s, when the People’s Liberation Army was overwhelmingly equipped by reproduction of Soviet weapons till the beginning of this decade with the focus of increasing the quality of the weapons and PLA system. In 2015, we witnessed China’s phase in reforming a comprehensive military organization. The aim is to give China an ability to fight against regional wars with high-intensity and short duration yet emphasizing more on “maritime military struggle” that means the ability to fight the complex electromagnetic with the further distances from the former plan of PLA. The Chinese are considering reducing the third party — particularly the United States’ ability — to intervene in China’s regional crises. This also means that China is undergoing the ability development of Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/A2) capabilities as the ability to cyber-based operations (Manoj Joshi, 2017).

In 2014, in order to emphasize that China’s military modernization is based on peaceful military building and to clarify the misunderstanding by states and media coverage, PLA has invited some journalists to witness their military training. Snr Col Geng Yansheng from People’s Liberation Army has stated that:

“With this activity (showing China’s military modernization to the journalist) we hope the international community will have a better understanding of China’s military. I think in recent years China’s international influence has been increasing with our military exposed more to the international community.”

China’s territory in 2016 was divided by seven military regions and five military commands which reflected the development of their national concept of military operations. The five theater commands are follows:

  • East Theater Command

The jurisdiction of this theater command comprised the area of; Shanghai, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, and East Sea Fleet. As one of the five PLA’s warzones, the forerunner is the Nanjing Military Region.

  • Southern Theater Command

This theater command comprised the area of South Sea, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, and Hainan. The forerunner of this theater command is Guangzhou Military Region (Sina Corp, 2016).

  • Western Theater Command

In this theater command, there are two headquarters which are located in Sichuan and Chengdu. The jurisdiction itself comprised the area of Tibet, Chongqing, Ningxia, Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Gansu. In 2016, PRC raised the status of Tibet Military Command to broaden the mission regarding the border with India (Annath Krishnan, 2016).

  • Center Theater Command

This theater command comprised the area of Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Tianjin and Henan. The forerunner is the Beijing military region with 300,000 personnel of group armies, numerous military academies, and the home of the PLA Navy North Sea Fleet and PLA Air Force (Liu Zhen, 2018).

  • Northern Theater Command

This theater command comprised the area of Shandong, Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Inner and Shandong. The forerunner is the Shenyang Military Region, with the Northern Theater Command Navy centered in Qingdao and Shandong (Peter Wood 2017). Modernization of People’s Liberation Army Navy

The People’s Liberation Army Navy has a long-term plan to develop the blue water navy. Back to 2009, in order to relate the size of the economic influence and the urgency of defending China’s national interests, Liang Guanglie as China’s Defense Minister at that time has officially announced that in 2015 China will equip the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army-Navy) with two conventional aircraft carriers and will possibly have two additional nuclear-powered carriers by 2020. China is fully concerned regarding their strategic sea lanes and the realization that in order to be a great nation it is necessary to have great navy capability. China’s economic growth that escalated rapidly are expanding the maritime trade and the higher the sense of nationalism (Dr Michael Ecans, n.d)

PLAN is divided by three fleets: North Sea Fleet that is based in Yellow Sea, The South Sea Fleet that is based in South China Sea, and The East Sea Fleet that is based in the East China Sea. PLAN Coastal Defense Force as a land-based fighting force has at least 25,000 personnel which each regiment and battalion are under support base or headquarters (Pike J, 2011).

Figure 3.6 Coastal Defense Forces Structure (Global Security, 2007)

According to Ronald O’ Rouke in 2013, the main goals of China’s military modernization, particularly the PLAN’s mission are;

  • China is aiming to restrain Taiwan’s ongoing attempts at military independence.
  • Emphasizing China’s claim in the South China Sea (SCS) and East China Sea (ECS).
  • China is trying to impose their statement that they have legal rights to rule military activities within a 200-mile maritime economic zone. China’s view on foreign military activities in its EEZ has become an ongoing source of potential incident.
  • China would like to defend their communication line both for military and trade in the sea.
  • To encounter United States of America as regional power that is dominant in Western Pacific

China’s PLAN has been making history by calling on their vessels in Black Sea and Mediterranean area even though their main goal is to the areas that are near the mainland. China’s military deployment in 2013–2016

“Pushing ahead with logistics modernization, China’s armed forces will deepen logistics reform in relevant policies, institutions and support forces, and optimize strategic logistics deployment”-China’s Military Strategy, 2015.

In 2014, PLA Navy had 255,000 sailors; 1 aircraft carrier, 69 submarines; 29 destroyers; 49 frigates, 86 landing crafts, 39 minesweepers, and 368 coast defense ships (China Today, 2014). In 2015, there were many speculations regarding China’s military reform, since China’s Xi declared the plan to cut 300,000 troops. This speculation has appeared since 2012 that many of the military battle zones were replaced. In the Central Military Commission (CMC), China has successfully created 15 new departments with a complete transfer function. In a national operational effectiveness, transition from the military battle zone to the battle zone is very important for the joint cooperation capability. PLA has begun to develop their joint surveillance system in order to combine Chinese military plans that have been presented in the East China Sea that are mostly from the naval aviation forces due to the correlation with PLAN aviation force’s duty task across the services over the maritime zone. PLA Air Force and PLA Navy have their own independent relations with the coastal radar stations which are located under their control territorial (Ying Yu Lin, 2016).

Japan believes that the expansion of PLAN capability is continuous and has a lack of transparency. There are at least three disputes in maritime sectors that China deals with; East China EEZ disputes and South China Sea disputes. In the South China Sea, China has to deal with countries in the region particularly the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam over the rich deposit of oil, fishery and natural gas resources until the UNCLOS arbitration tribunal constituted this dispute under Annex VII. China’s fighter jets, combat aircraft, mobile missile launchers and submarines still appeared in the region. Days of exercise were conducted by PLAN; PLAN patrol boats repeatedly shot targets in an uninhabited island, jets streaked above, beach landing exercises, plus fourteen vessels and antisubmarine operated in the region in order to protect and defend the sea lanes. In East Asia EEZ disputes, China and Japan have different implementations of the ratified UNCLOS rules in 1982. China and Japan both claimed the disputed territory as their EEZ (Koo Min Gyo, 2009).

Along with the strategic development that has been ongoing in the surrounding areas of China and Indo-Pacific region, the region itself now becoming the gravity of economical center that has been supported by the maritime activity commercially and the security guarantee for the global interests — China has been aware regarding the importance of optimizing the logistic deployment for their own maritime security (Prakash Gopal, 2017).



Isti Marta Sukma, M.A.
Cyberpolitics and Security Warfare

Interdisciplinary researcher based in Warsaw. I write political science, tech, security, psychoanalysis and philosophy.