(From the National Interest)
By Grant Newsham and Koh Swee Lean Collin
Much has been reported about the recent structural reforms undertaken by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—the end goal being a leaner and meaner military force, capable of undertaking a broad spectrum of missions under modern, high-tech conditions. Part of this drive towards a “new-age” PLA has been efforts to modernize the PLA Marine Corps (PLAMC), which notably carried out its latest winter training in the Gobi Desert, in Xinjiang.
Reported by Chinese sources as a combined-arms, live-firing war game involving over ten different PLAMC branches, this exercise featured state-of-the-art equipment, as observed in official photos released by Chinese media. The exercise was designed to enhance the PLAMC’s ability to operate in a real war situation, under day and night conditions. Besides conventional combat maneuvers against “Blue Force” adversaries, the exercise also included counterterrorism training.
To be certain, these PLAMC winter maneuvers are just one of several such training drills conducted under various climatic conditions. One such instance is Exercise Jungle, whose 2015 iteration was staged in the tropical southwestern province of Yunnan. The varied PLAMC training syllabus can be deemed a natural expansion of its capabilities and missions, considering that it is traditionally tasked to undertake operations against Taiwan in particular.
But there is more to it than that. In recent years the PLAMC is not merely maintaining its readiness to mount an amphibious invasion across the Taiwan Strait (or conduct other operations in the context of the East and South China Sea disputes). Rather, it is bulking up in order to give the Chinese political leadership another flexible tool for responding to contingencies not just within China’s immediate East Asian region, but also beyond. Read more