China must apply cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence if it wants to transform its military into a modern fighting force on a par with those of other leading powers, according to new guidelines and comments from senior leaders.
The statements come from a booklet published this month by the state-run People’s Publishing House, in which senior officials, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, outlined the latest five-year plan for the country’s development.
According to a communique released after a high-level meeting last month, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be transformed into a modern military force by 2027. Analysts say China’s aim is to build an army that is on a par with that of the United States.
In an article titled “Speed up the Modernisation of Defence and Military” from the booklet, Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, stressed the importance of smart technologies in modernising the PLA.
The military had to be more proactive in designing how war was fought, rather than just responding to conflicts, he said.
“[China has to] keep pace with the developments of the times and emphasise the use of smart technologies to achieve interdisciplinary innovation,” Xu said.
That would involve modernising military theories, formations, personnel and strategic management, he said.
“Always bear in mind that [a nation] is in danger if it forgets about war or makes inadequate preparations for war,” Xu said.
His comments were echoed in another article in the booklet, which said modernisation was essential to making an intelligent military.
“A new round of scientific and technological revolution, industrial revolution and military revolution is evolving rapidly … it’s a global trend to build an intelligent military,” it said.
The transformation process should be about creating a fighting force that is less labour-intensive and more focused on new technology, much of it home-grown, it said.
Military analyst Ye Jianliang said in his article in the booklet that it was imperative for China to improve its military might to match its economic strength.
“China’s defence capabilities do not match its status in the international community or its national security needs,” he said.
“History has repeatedly proven that a strong nation can only be built with both economic and military power … when the ‘sword’ is not sharp enough, a nation may fall,” he said.