Chinese Dream includes strong PLA

Meng Xiangqing

The author is deputy director of the Institute for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

Chinese Dream includes strong PLA

The centerpiece of the Chinese Dream is the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and a nation cannot be rejuvenated without a strong military. A backward defense force makes a country vulnerable. This is a lesson that China has learned the hard way over centuries of humiliation at the hands of imperialist powers.

That is why the Chinese people have been focusing on developing the economy and, in the process, endeavoring to build a strong military. The process started after the founding of New China, but it was slow in the four to five decades that followed.

Now, the country has established an independent and integral national defense industry, and completed the structural transformation of the People's Liberation Army - from an army-centric force to one that is also good at joint operations with the special services that include the PLA Navy and the Air Force.

The outbreak of the Gulf War in the early 1990s, which used information technology to great effect, triggered groundbreaking changes in military warfare. Traditional Western powers used to have a distinct advantage over countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America when it came to military machinery. Today, Western military technology includes the expanded use of smart information technology.

Given the revolutionary changes in the military field, China has no choice but to transform the PLA from a labor-intensive force into a technology-intensive fighting machine, from being an armed force of quantity to a defense unit of quality, for which it has to depend on scientific and technological advancement. Without technological progress, the PLA cannot be a competent force always prepared for combat.

In the 21st century, the comparatively stable strategic environment at home and abroad has ushered in a period of strategic opportunity for China. The Chinese nation has never been so close to realizing national rejuvenation, and never before have the Chinese people been so confident in building a strong nation and a strong military.

But it is equally important to beware of the disadvantages inherent in the opportunity. China faces traditional and non-traditional security problems that threaten its development, and national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The persistent pressure from the Western world, complex territorial disputes, and terrorism and separatism threaten to undermine the country's economic and social development.

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