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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: September 2014

Chapter Four - The Modernization of the People's Liberation Army since 1978


Key factors in the army modernization process

In the early 21st century, China is considered to be one of the world powers. In the field of economics such statement seems to be scientifically confirmed, particularly by China's third place in the world as regards GDP. However, in relation to the Chinese military power it may seem questionable. On one hand, it should be stressed that the People's Republic of China has the largest army in the world, and is also one of the nuclear powers. What is worth mentioning is that during the last decade, China was actively involved in peacekeeping operations around the world. On the other hand, it should be noted that its technical advancements and equipment, despite the improvement in the last few decades, still does not allow to recognize the Chinese armed forces as capable of operating in the same conditions as other great powers in the Asia-Pacific region.

In the beginning, the process of PLA's modernization was as part of a broader program called the Four Modernizations. The process was initiated by Deng Xiaoping during the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee in December 1978. This process and its impact on PRC's military potential are the main subjects of this paper. The main theses of modernization were drawn by Zhou Enlai, and they included the following areas: agriculture, industry, trade, and military issues.