PLA Launches Huge Exercise

PLA Launches Huge Exercise

The Xinhua headline said it clearly: “PLA Kicks Off Largest Long-range Tactical Military Exercise.”

Given the QDR’s work on High End Asymmetric Threats (known to some as the Big Threat panel), I thought it prudent to speak with some China experts and find out why the Chinese were executing such a complex exercise and what its significance might be.

During the exercise, Stride 2009, the Chinese plan to deploy 50,000 “heavily-armored troops over thousands of miles to test the PLA’s long-distance mobility,” according to Xinhua. “Unlike previous annual tactical exercises, the army divisions and their air units will be deployed in unfamiliar areas far from their garrison training bases by civilian rail and air transport.” The troops will practice live-fire drills for two months.

The essential point of the exercise is to demonstrate to the Chinese leadership that the PLA can ensure stability in regions such as the restive Xinjiang, recently beset by riots by unhappy Muslims, says Larry Wortzel, vice chairman of the congressionally-mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

“It is important. It relates to stability in Xinjiang and to the capability to ensure that the PL:A can act to secure strategic interests in Central Asia if necessary,” Wortzel writes in an email. In addition to demonstrating the PLA’s internal reach, Wortzel says the exercise also very clearly shows how quickly Chinese forces can deploy to reach a neighboring country without scaring any of its neighbors.

Another China expert disagreed with Wortzel’s take. “It appears to me that someone conjured up an exercise for forces that have been neglected over recent years–neglected because they are largely irrelevant to anything but a North Korean crisis. Yes, conceivably something could happen with Russia or India or others, but the significant exercises involve something like coordinated 2nd Artillery and PLAN actions that threaten carrier strike groups or 2nd Artillery and PLAAF sequential attack operations that could pummel Taiwan into submission,” said Eric McVadon, director of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.

However, the Chinese are taking action on an additional front. They allowed diplomats from about two dozen countries — including Australia and the US — to go to Xinjiang this week for a five-day visit. Xinhua said they were invited “to gain a better understanding of the event which left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 others injured.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the diplomats are also likely to see some of those 50,000 heavily-armored troops who’ve been deployed throughout the region.

Join the Conversation

I’m sure these exercises have caused the India some concern. China has an ongoing military buildup on their borders(China and India still have unsettled territorial disputes) and China has been keen to make a variety of alliances with states neighboring China (especially with Pakistan) ‚as well as building “strategic port facilities” in areas close to India’s territorial waters.

While I’m sure the display of force was meant to intimidate, I believe the display was directed more internally than externally. China has a number of internal divisions that are basically kept quiet through military/police power; the recent Uighurs riots were an unusually visible recent example.

The recent economic recession has hurt China’s economy negatively, as it has dramatically slowed their export driven economy. An economy designed to bring in billions of dollars into the economy which are used to fuel their economic/social development. If things worsen and China cannot meet its growth goals, goals which are designed to drag millions of peasants out of stark poverty; then the legitimacy of the government is undermined.

After all it is the promise of development that buys the political/social capital needed for the Communists to run the show. Without it things get really hard for the Chinese government. This exercise is a warning from the Polituro Standing Committee to the people, and the message is that they can respond with overwhelming force if anyone gets any bright ideas …

Good Morning Folks,

Don’t read to much into these exercises, they are for domestic consumption only and to show the people that the Party still controls the CMC and is in control.

The PLAN East Sea Fleet along with what is left of the 2nd. Artillery in the Nanjing military region will like put on a pyrotechnic shop near Taiwan for the benefit of the locals.

It must be noted that the 2nd. Artillery Regiment which control all of china’s Ballistic Missile forces has relocated to the south west corner of the Chengdu military region and that China’s recent unrest is in the thinly populated Lanzhou military region which is allocated on two PLA Division (level 2).

Byron Skinner


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