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Innovation in software is key to PLA forces

By Jiang Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2014-09-20 08:05

Top leader Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of innovation in the military at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on Aug 29. Xi's speech reflects a vital strategic thought of the CPC in the context of military reform, China's security environment and the global situation.

Xi said the world is at a tipping point in the realigning of strategic forces and shaping of the world order, in which military development can be an opportunity as well as a challenge for China. He also stressed that military development across the world is synchronizing with other developments, such as global economic growth.

China may have become the world's second-largest economy, but it lags behind many advanced countries and even some of its neighbors when it comes to military development. Thus, it can be said that there is asymmetry in China's comprehensive economic and overall national power. Innovation in the military, therefore, will help safeguard the country's security in the longer run.

Some foreign media outlets, however, could not grasp the essence of Xi's remark, and wrongly interpreted it as signaling the beginning of China's "military expansion". Such distortions reflect foreign media outlets' deep-seated bias against China's peaceful rise.

Acknowledging the gap between China's military and those of some advanced nations such as the United States, Xi sees military reform as a key move to catch up with other major powers. China has doubled its defense budget in recent years to improve its military hardware, but the software, including theories and systems, is yet to reach the desired level.

That is the reason why in Xi's speech, idealistic and institutional innovation - rather than modernization of weaponry - became the key words in China's efforts to build a stronger People's Liberation Army. According to the top leader, innovation will help the PLA to adapt to IT-based wars with cutting-edge theories, systems, equipment, strategies and management. In addition, the PLA should absorb innovations on the basis of their distinctive advantages and avoid blindly copying other countries.

This means, as an emerging major power, China is obliged to contribute more to world peace while coping with the increasingly complicated threats to its territory and national integrity, particularly from non-traditional sources such as terrorism and piracy. The PLA, therefore, has to add equal weight to domestic defense and regional and global security, which can only be done with advanced innovations.

The author is a researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies, affiliated to the PLA National Defense University.

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