China Leadership Monitor

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Liaoning?—The PLA Once Again Considers Reorganization

Friday, March 14, 2014

Since the first sweeping structural reform of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1985, the military media have periodically floated trial balloons about deeper restructuring, but the political realities of the situation have consistently stymied the proposed changes. In early 2014, the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the PLA was planning to make the most significant modifications to its command and control structure in almost 30 years, replacing its administrative, geographically oriented military region system with a mission-oriented configuration designed to match the increasing “joint” orientation of its deployed forces. To the surprise of many, official Chinese media organs did not reject the report out of hand, but instead expressed dismay that the information had been disseminated prematurely, and grudgingly acknowledged plans to carry out the changes. This article describes the historical rationale for the current command and control structure of the PLA, analyzes the factors motivating its alteration, and assesses the implications of these latest indications of reform.