Chinese Military Modernization

Force Development and Strategic Capabilities

Changing political relationships and a substantial increase in resources have prompted the Chinese leadership to accelerate the modernization of its armed forces. Observers, not least the United States, have wondered what objectives China's military buildup is meant to serve. The Chinese government's extreme secrecy about military budgets, force training, and weapon system procurement leaves considerable room for speculation. Perhaps naturally, China is believed to be preparing capacities for a possible conflict with Taiwan, which might or might not involve the United States. But other developments, like the modernization of strategic nuclear weapons and the acquisition of naval surface combatants, have raised the attention of analysts as to what role the Chinese armed forces will play in China's evolving security policy.

This study provides an assessment of the current state of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). It addresses command structures, doctrine development, military spending, weapon system procurement, and the force structure of all four branches of the PLA. It does so by providing comparisons of current assessments of all aspects of PLA modernization and trend analyses that point out the developments in manpower, spending, and holdings of weapon systems, among others, over the past two decades. Thus, the volume seeks to lay a basis for a meaningful analysis of the role and trajectory of the Chinese military.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS. He is also a national security analyst for ABC News, a frequent commentator on National Public Radio and the BBC, and the author of more than 45 books on security policy, energy policy, and the Middle East, including Iran's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Real and Potential Threat (CSIS, 2006). Martin Kleiber is a researcher with the Burke Chair at CSIS. He has worked on security sector reform and nuclear nonproliferation at the German Foreign Office in Bosnia and at the United Nations. He has written on the nuclear nonproliferation regime and Iran, as well as on U.S. foreign and defense policy.

Martin Kleiber