Schrodinger’s Military? Challenges for China’s Military Modernization Ambitions
Xi Jinping wants China to have a “world-class military” by the middle of the century. While the country has undergone a historic military modernization effort in the last two decades, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) remains a regional military power, albeit one with growing ambitions to achieve regional dominance and expand its ability to project power around the globe.
Is Xi’s dream of a world-class PLA realistic? His vision largely depends on PLA efforts to increase jointness and achieve intelligentization.
By all accounts, the Chinese military is on the march. The PLA’s annual budget grows at a rapid pace year after year. The PLA Navy is now larger than the U.S. Navy. “Carrier-killer” missiles attempt to threaten America’s ability to project power in the Indo-Pacific. The PLA’s increasingly sophisticated nuclear arsenal grows at an alarming pace. But these raw numbers alone do not capture some of the more subtle measures of warfighting capabilities, such as organization, training, education, and doctrinal concepts. These seldom noted yet critical measures of military power may tell a different story about the PLA’s pace of growth and ability to achieve its ambitions.