Beyond Borders: PLA Command and Control of Overseas Operations
By Phillip C. Saunders
Strategic Forum 306
July 28, 2020 —
- Expanded Chinese economic interests and the higher priority given to maritime interests are driving People’s Liberation Army (PLA) efforts to develop power projection capabilities.
- The reorganization of the Chinese military in late 2015 explicitly sought to give the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the theater commands responsibility for conducting operations and to relegate the services to force-building. However, the services are trying to maintain operational responsibilities, including for overseas operations.
- The precise division of responsibilities and coordination mechanisms between the CMC, which controls nuclear weapons and likely other strategic capabilities, and the theater commands, which control ground, naval, air, and conventional missile forces, remains unclear, especially for large, high-intensity combat operations.
- Existing command and control mechanisms are workable for now, but are likely to prove inadequate if PLA overseas operations become larger, require joint forces, last for extended periods of time, or occur in nonpermissive environments where deployed forces face significant threats from hostile state or nonstate actors.
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