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Special feature: The Modernisation of the People's Liberation Army and its Repercussions

Modernising China’s Military, 1997-2012

Richard Bitzinger
p. 7-15


The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has since the late 1990s been engaged in an ambitious, concerted, and methodical transformation. As a result, the PLA has noticeably improved its capabilities in several specific areas – particularly missile attack, precision-strike, power projection at sea and in the air, and joint operations. In particular, it has made significant advances in exploiting “informatisation” when it comes to developing advanced weaponry, accelerating the pace of military modernisation, and creating new levers of military power for the PLA. While Chinese military power may still pale in comparison to the US armed forces, the strength of the PLA relative to its likely local competitors in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Taiwan and Japan, has grown significantly, and will likely continue to grow over the next ten to 20 years. As a result, China is definitely gaining an edge over other regional militaries in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Bibliographical reference

Richard Bitzinger, « Modernising China’s Military, 1997-2012 », China Perspectives, 2011/4 | 2011, 7-15.

Electronic reference

Richard Bitzinger, « Modernising China’s Military, 1997-2012 », China Perspectives [Online], 2011/4 | 2011, Online since 30 December 2011, connection on 21 July 2019. URL :

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About the author

Richard Bitzinger

Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where his work focuses on military and defence issues relating to the Asia-Pacific region, including defence transformation/military modernisation in the Asia Pacific, regional armaments production, and weapons proliferation. He has written several articles, monographs, and book chapters, and has been published in International Security, Survival, and Orbis. He is the editor of The Modern Arms Industry: Political, Economic, and Technological Issues (Praeger, 2009).

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