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China is building a new, large army: War to follow?

Chinese Supreme Leader Xi Jinping has ordered the biggest reorganization of the nation's military since 2015, including a major overhaul of the cyber warfare department.


China is building a new, large army: War to follow?


China will shut down the Strategic Support Force, a branch created nearly nine years ago to unify and more easily coordinate military efforts in space, cyberspace and political and electronic warfare, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Instead, Xi called for the creation of an entirely new branch of the military called the Information Support Force. All military departments responsible for space and cyber warfare, previously under the command of the Strategic Support Forces, will be strengthened and integrated.

The space force is still in a relatively abstract position, just like its potential rivals in the US military, but the initial positions are clearly already being taken.

This restructuring is part of the ongoing struggle for primacy and global influence between the second largest economy in the world and the United States of America. And while space remains a rather abstract battlefield, cyber warfare is emerging as a key battlefield today and in the near future.

The US, UK and New Zealand have recently repeatedly accused China of sponsoring malicious activities by hackers targeting democratic institutions and processes. Xi stressed that the new branch of the military "will provide key support in coordinating the creation and use of cyberspace and information systems."

Li Wei, the political commissar who was in charge of the now-defunct Strategic Support Force, will assume an identical role in the newly created military sector. Li, of course, meekly promised to "resolutely respect" Xi Jinping's instructions. The new commander of the Information Support Force is Bi Yi, state television CCTV reported.

In a practical sense, the changes aim to better adapt the Chinese military to the "informatization" of the modern battlefield, Cao Weidong, a retired researcher from the PLA Naval Academy, explained to The Japan Times. The restructuring of these military branches should lead to better deployment and targeting of satellite systems, cyber capabilities and electronic warfare tools, Cao says.

The former Commander of the Strategic Support Force Ju Qiansheng, by the way, disappeared from public view and no one had a clue of his whereabouts. His disappearance is speculated to be part of a major upheaval in China's military leadership over the past year. And although Ju appeared recently, it is not known if he will again have a prominent role in the military and what that might end up being.

His and similar disappearances of prominent military figures, as well as this latest reorganization, are just a continuation of Xi's comprehensive purge of the military establishment. US intelligence officials believe the moves were largely made in response to revelations of endemic corruption in the military. That includes the Missile Forces, the branch that manages China's growing nuclear arsenal.

Defense Minister Li Shangfu was also removed in a purge, without explanation, in October last year, and the post was taken over by navy veteran Dong Jun in December.


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