09 May 2015

Clear Strengths, Fuzzy Weaknesses In China’s Massive Military Build-Up

Andrew S. Erickson, “Clear Strengths, Fuzzy Weaknesses In China’s Massive Military Build-Up,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 9 May 2015.

The U.S. Defense Department’s new assessment of China’s fighting ability paints a picture of a force in the midst of a broad-based modernization at a pace that other militaries would envy. It has increased its ability to exert leverage in the East and South China seas, where it is in territorial disputes with its neighbors. Significantly, it has also added to its ability to project its power further afield, adding to the global reach of the People’s Liberation Army.

But military effectiveness is about more than hardware. The report cites a number of areas where the PLA’s human resources and organizational effectiveness are lacking, though Beijing is taking steps to rectify those. The report’s own limitations in this area underscore the difficulty in judging how effective Chinese forces can be.