China's Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era

China's Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era
China's Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era
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Starting in 2015, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ramped up the development of radical changes in military warfighting models, culture, driven by the creation of the Strategic Support Force (SSF), an organizational approach centralizing:

  • most PLA space
  • cyber capabilities
  • electronic, and
  • psychological warfare capabilities

The goal of their Strategic Support Force is to build upon and extend Chinese military capabilities beyond territorial defense to one that is capable of projecting Chinses “power” to the arenas of growing importance, such as, outer space, cyberspace, and beyond traditional national ocean and seas boundaries.

The organizational changes have been substantial ranging across all disciplinary missions militarily, including force construction and strategic operations. The ultimate objective is to transform a peace time military structure to one that maximized for joint warfare.

This monograph provides a historical review of Chinese past military organizational and mission doctrine and fully analyzes the dramatic streamlining and improving the efficiency of China’s information warfare forces. Complete with analysis of all elements of this reorganization the paper includes numerous charts and graphs to fully detail the inter-operational structure describing the responsibilities of the Chinese Cyber and Space Forces. It also identifies the incorporation of elements of the military’s psychological and political warfare missions, a result of the significant reorganization of China’s political warfare forces.

The establishment of the Strategic Support Force defines a new era for China’s strategic posture. Comparisons are also made between the U.S and new Chinese model; organizations that to a degree are reflections of a military organization consistent with and representative of a free and open society as opposed to the Chinese model of ultimate control by political leadership.

The text provides a thorough review of a new Chinese military organization; one more offensively oriented and worth close and in-depth ongoing observation and response.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Executive Summary 1

Introduction 5

The SSF in Historical Context  7

The SSF and PLA Reform Efforts 9

Overview of the SSF as an Organization 12

SSF Structure and Components 15

Joint Command and the SSF 29

The SSF’s Strategic Missions and Roles 35

Comparing U.S. and Chinese Approaches to Information Warfare 44

Remaining Challenges 48

Conclusion 54

Notes 56

About the Authors 69


Officials and program experts in the Department of Defense (DOD), other government agencies, especially those engaged in Chinese diplomacy and military affairs, and members of Congress may be interested in this work. Faculty and students of the National Defense University and other undergraduate/graduate school programs may be interested to offer this text as supplemental reading for military science, Chinese Studies, and international relations courses, American and international analysts of Chinese military affairs and citizens with an interest in Chinese affairs and military restructuring may want this book for their personal library.

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Defense Dept., National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies, Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs
  • Costello, John
Key Phrases:
  • China Strategic Perspectives 13
  • China
  • Force for a New Era
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