15 January 2019

Defense Intelligence Agency Report—“China Military Power: Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win”—Highlights People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia

China Military Power: Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win (Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence Agency, 2019).

Click here to download a cached copy.

Watch the accompanying video here.

Defense Intelligence Agency Releases Report on China Military Power

By DIA Public Affairs

Washington, D.C. – (January 15, 2019) The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) today released China Military Power, a product that examines the core capabilities of China’s military.

This volume in DIA’s series of Military Power reports provides details on China’s defense and military goals, strategy, plans, and intentions. It examines the organization, structure and capability of the military supporting those goals, as well as the enabling infrastructure and industrial base.

“This report offers insights into the modernization of Chinese military power as it reforms from a defensive, inflexible ground-based force charged with domestic and peripheral security responsibilities to a joint, highly agile, expeditionary, and power-projecting arm of Chinese foreign policy that engages in military diplomacy and operations across the globe,” said Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr., DIA director.

Since Mao Zedong’s Communist Revolution in October 1949 brought the Chinese Communist Party to power, China has struggled to identify and align itself with its desired place in the world. Early factional struggles for control of party leadership, decades of negotiations to define territorial boundaries, and continued claims to territories not yet recovered have at times seemed at odds with the self-described nature of the Chinese as peace-loving and oriented only toward their own defense.

Chinese leaders historically have been willing to use military force against threats to their regime, whether foreign or domestic, at times preemptively. Lack of significant involvement in military operations during the last several decades has led to a sense of insecurity within the People’s Liberation Army as it seeks to modernize into a great power military.

“As China continues to grow in strength and confidence, our nation’s leaders will face a China insistent on having a greater voice in global interactions, which at times may be antithetical to U.S. interests,” said Lt. Gen. Ashley. “With a deeper understanding of the military might behind China’s economic and diplomatic efforts, we can provide our own national political, economic, and military leaders the widest range of options for choosing when to counter, when to encourage, and when to join with China in actions around the world.”

The Military Power series of unclassified overviews is designed to help the public achieve a deeper understanding of key challenges and threats to U.S. national security. It focuses on our near-peer competitors, and challengers such as Iran, North Korea, and terrorism.

“This product and other reports in this series are intended to inform our public, our leaders, the national security community, and partner nations about the challenges we face in the 21st century,” Lt. Gen. Ashley said.

DIA has a long history of producing comprehensive and authoritative defense intelligence overviews. In 1981, DIA published the first unclassified Soviet Military Power report, which was translated into eight languages and distributed around the world.

Two years ago, in the spirit of Soviet Military Power, DIA decided to once again produce and publish unclassified defense intelligence overviews of the major foreign military challenges we face. DIA published the first in the new series, Russia Military Power, in June 2017.

LINK to report: http://www.dia.mil/Military-Power-Publications/

DIA officers are united in a common vision – to be the indispensable source of defense intelligence expertise for the nation. For more than 57 years, DIA has met the full range of security challenges faced by the United States. DIA intelligence officers operate across the globe, supporting customers from forward-deployed warfighters to national policymakers.


p. 65

China’s Navy, Coast Guard, and Maritime Militia are increasingly visible throughout the region, and Beijing has employed increasingly coercive tactics to advance its regional interests. As China’s naval capabilities have grown, Beijing has taken steps to consolidate its maritime forces and improve its ability to respond flexibly to contingencies, while avoiding escalation to military conflict and maintaining a veneer of advancing peaceful global interests. China’s land reclamation and outpost expansion in the Paracel and Spratly Islands include port facilities from which it can surge PLAN,

p. 66

China Coast Guard (CCG), and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) ships to better enforce maritime sovereignty claims, as well as airbases to support reconnaissance, fighter, and strike aircraft.

Under Chinese law, maritime sovereignty is a domestic law enforcement issue under the purview of the CCG. Beijing also prefers to use CCG ships for assertive actions in disputed waters to reduce the risk of escalation and to portray itself more benignly to an international audience. For situations that Beijing perceives carry a heightened risk of escalation, it often deploys PLAN combatants in close proximity for rapid intervention if necessary. China also relies on the PAFMM – a paramilitary force of fishing boats – for sovereignty enforcement actions.

p. 79

People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia. The PAFMM is a subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties. Militia units organize around towns, villages, urban subdistricts, and enterprises, and they vary widely from one location to another. The composition and mission of each unit reflects local conditions and personnel skills. In the South China Sea, the PAFMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader Chinese military doctrine that states that confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.225

A large number of PAFMM vessels train with and support the PLA and CCG in tasks such as safeguarding maritime claims, protecting fisheries, and providing logistic support, search and rescue (SAR), and surveillance and reconnaissance. The Chinese government subsidizes local and provincial commercial organizations to operate militia ships to perform “official” missions on an ad hoc basis outside their regular commercial roles. The PAFMM has played a noteworthy role in a number of military campaigns and coercive incidents over the years, including the harassment of Vietnamese survey ships in 2011, a standoff with the Philippines at Scarborough Reef in 2012, and a standoff involving a Chinese oil rig in 2014. In the past, the PAFMM rented fishing boats from companies or individual fisherman, but it appears that China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea. Hainan Province, adjacent to the South China Sea, ordered the construction of 84 large militia fishing boats with reinforced hulls and ammunition storage for Sansha City, and the militia took delivery by the end of 2016.226

225 Annual Report to Congress; Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017; Office of the Secretary of Defense; May 2017.

226 Annual Report to Congress; Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017; Office of the Secretary of Defense; May 2017.