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Four services and four arm levies control the CCP on information warfare

Four services and four arm levies control the CCP on information warfare


The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has undergone its biggest restructuring in nearly a decade, with Chinese President Xi Jinping placing key military organizations responsible for information warfare directly under the control of the Central Military Committee (CMC). ) of the Chinese Communist Party.

On April 19, the PLA's Strategic Support Force (SSF) was officially disbanded. Created in December 2015, the short-lived SSF aimed to bring together space, cyber and electronic warfare capabilities. Reporting directly to the CMC, he sought to achieve synergies between roles and capabilities related to the information domain. Now, three new forces have been created to replace it: the Aerospace Force (ASF), the Cyberspace Force (CSF) and the Information Support Force (ISF).

Xi also officially launched the ISF on April 19. It will be responsible for building and implementing joint information support for the PLA (i.e. communications facilitation capabilities rather than intelligence-related capabilities). Although not yet officially unveiled, the new Aerospace Force and Cyberspace Force will likely be redesigns of the SSF's former Aerospace Systems and Network Systems departments.

Together, the three organizations will manage the PLA's offensive and defensive information capabilities, including communications networks, global and space ISR capabilities, offensive and defensive cyber warfare, and electronic warfare. They will operate alongside the Joint Logistics Support Force, created in 2016.

Highlighting the concept of four services and four arms, PLA spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian said that with the latest reform, the PLA now has a new system of services and arms under the direction and command of the CMC. There are four services, namely Army, Navy, Air Force and Rocket Force, and four services, including Aerospace Force, Cyberspace Force, Information Support Force and the joint logistics support force.

So what does all this mean? Is this a change in nomenclature or does it represent something more significant? Typical of China's opaque military system, no real explanation has been provided. China's Defense Ministry described the creation of the three forces and the dissolution of the SFF as part of efforts to optimize the PLA's overall force structure.

While breaking down the PLA's intra-agency silos is a likely motivation, the restructuring also represents an effort to raise the profile of the PLA's key capabilities at a time when information, space and cyber operations are increasingly important. The dissolution of the SSF removed a level of bureaucracy between the CMC (which Xi chairs) and the three new forces (the Arms). It allows the CMC to have line-of-sight, manage and resource the PLA's space, cyber and information capabilities.

An article published in the PLA's official newspaper on April 20 emphasized that victory in modern warfare is dictated by information dominance. Modern conflicts are competitions between systems and structures, where control of information equates to control of the war initiative. Perhaps learning lessons from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the PLA no longer views information warfare as a tactical or operational resource but as a strategic outcome, in which military operations support the objectives in the field of information. Placing the three new forces directly under the control of China's Central Military Commission reflects this orientation.

The fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally handed over a military banner to the ISF during his inauguration demonstrates his personal interest and investment. He described the ISF as a new strategic branch of the military and said it would play a crucial role in China's advance. high-quality development and competitiveness of the army in modern warfare.

Commenters have suggested other motivations for the reorganization. This includes CMC's dissatisfaction with the performance of the SSF, including its failure to achieve expected efficiencies. Others have pointed to possible corruption within the SSF or suggested that the SSF would always have been a transitional organization, intended to develop disparate elements of the PLA. Any or all of these factors could be at play.

It will take time to fully understand the impact of the overhaul and the exact activities each new force will undertake. Regardless, we can remain assured that dominance in information warfare will remain a key objective for Xi Jinping, the CMC and the PLA. This is important to consider as Australia reviews its own interactions with the PLA, including recent dangerous interactions in the East China Sea.




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