China’s Incomplete Military Transformation: Assesing the Weakness of the People’s Liberation Army

Rand Corporation

Since the mid-1990s, the People’s Republic of China has invested enor- mous resources in developing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a modern force that can secure various national interests both at home and now increasingly abroad. The stunning U.S. victory in Opera- tion Desert Storm (Iraq) in 1991; U.S. involvement in the 1995–1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis; and U.S. military intervention in Kosovo in 1999, during which the United States accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, motivated Chinese leaders to invest considerable resources in the transformation of the PLA into a more modern, professional, and operationally capable fighting force.

These conflicts bluntly demonstrated to the People’s Republic of China that it lacked a mili- tary that could effectively fight and win wars against modern oppo nents, especially adversaries who could effectively harness the infor- mation revolution and successfully conduct joint operations.

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