China Poised To Announce Americanization Of Military

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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China will officially announce its plans to Americanize its military before the end of the month.

The change, instigated by President Xi Jinping, constitutes the largest shift in Chinese military structure in over thirty years, and will be announced following the massive World War II anniversary parade Thursday in Beijing, Bloomberg reports. A total of 12,000 troops will participate.

The resulting structure would look much more similar to how the U.S. organizes its affairs, namely through a complete unification of all the different services under a single command.

In effect, the new structure makes it much easier to provide communication and integration between the services, as it brings together the various services, like the army, navy, air force under a single banner. It also deemphasizes the army, which has traditionally played a central role in the PLA. But as tensions rise primarily in the Maritime arena, owing to disputes about sovereignty in the South China Seas, a joint-command structure would likely improve effectiveness.

Proposals to mimic the U.S. military have been endorsed by the Communist Party since late 2013, but officials in the People’s Liberation Army have recently had their attention occupied by a long campaign to rout out corruption.

According to some analysts, the anti-corruption effort was an attempt by Xi to consolidate full control over the military, which was seen as a necessary prerequisite to implement the restructuring.

“Now, his authority in the army is solid enough for him to flesh out his vision to transform the military and set it on a path to emulate the U.S.,” retired PLA colonel Yue Gang told Bloomberg.

A Pentagon report sent to Congress earlier in May stated that China’s proposal would mark the largest reorganization since 1949. In the post-1949 era, the next major reform came from Deng Xiaoping in 1985. He dismissed a million soldiers and cut the number of military regions from 11 to 7.

But unfortunately for the PLA, merely setting up the structure doesn’t guarantee that it will function smoothly in the interim. According to Phillip Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at the U.S. National Defense University in Washington, it took the U.S. years to work on the kinks in communications protocol, and he estimates that it will take China much longer to get its act together, mostly because the PLA is the largest army in the world, featuring an active force of 2.3 million.

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