In 2015, President Xi launched a major reform of China’s armed forces with the objective of turning them into a world-class fighting force. In addition to changes to force structure, the introduction of five theatre commands and a focus on informationisation and modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in general, an integral part of this effort has been the recentralisation of power in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and, more specifically, in the hands of Xi himself. The 19th Party Congress, held in October 2017, presented a bold vision for the future of China and the PLA under Xi’s rule.
What were the changes unveiled during and after the 19th Party Congress and how will they impact Xi’s efforts to strengthen his authority over the PLA? Looking wider, what conclusions can be drawn about China’s greater strategic capabilities and ambitions? These questions were the focus of a talk MERICS Research Associate Helena Legarda gave at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London on February 8. The event was chaired by Meia Nouwens, Research Fellow for Chinese Defence Policy and Military Modernisation at IISS.
Legarda discussed her research into major Chinese security trends in the last half of 2017. In particular, Ms Legarda spoke about the practical effect of structural and leadership changes in the CCP’s Central Military Commission.