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China Defense Industry - Early Developments

Large-scale Soviet aid in modernizing the PLA, which began in the fall of 1951, took the form of weapons and equipment, ssistance in building China's defense industry, and the loan of advisers, primarily technical ones. Mostly during the Korean War years, the Soviet Union supplied infantry weapons, artillery, armor, trucks, fighter aircraft, bombers, submarines, destroyers, and gunboats. Soviet advisers assisted primarily in developing a defense industry set up along Soviet organizational lines. Aircraft and ordnance factories and shipbuilding facilities were constructed and by the late 1950s were producing a wide variety of Soviet design military equipment. Because the Soviet Union would not provide China with its most modern equipment, most of the weapons were outdated and lacked an offensive capability.

In 1958 the Communist Part of China launched the Great Leap Forward campaign under the new "General Line for Socialist Construction." The Great Leap Forward was aimed at accomplishing the economic and technical development of the country at a vastly faster pace and with greater results. The Great Leap Forward was an economic failure. In early 1959, amid signs of rising popular restiveness, the CCP admitted that the favorable production report for 1958 had been exaggerated.

Chinese dissatisfaction with the Soviet refusal to supply China with nuclear bomb blueprints contributed to the withdrawal of Soviet advisers in 1960. The ascension of Lin Biao and the complete withdrawal of Soviet assistance and advisers in 1960 marked a new stage in military development. The Soviet withdrawal disrupted the defense industry and weapons production, particularly crippling the aircraft industry. Although the military purchased some foreign technology in the 1960s, it was forced to stress self-reliance in weapons production.

Organizational Development

The PLA played a role in economic development practically from its inception. Beginning in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when the party was headquartered in Yan'an, the Red Army raised its own food. After 1949 the PLA became involved in economic reconstruction tasks--building railroads and factories, reclaiming wasteland, digging irrigation canals, establishing state farms, and participating in disaster relief operations. The PLA accepted its role as a force in economic construction and devoted segments of its structure, such as the Engineering Corps, Railway Engineering Corps, Capital Construction Engineering Corps, Signal Corps, and Production and Construction Corps, to building up the national infrastructure. However, PLA regional- and main-force units played a much smaller role in aiding the civilian economy.

1949-1965 - Formation

The evolution of China's defense industrial sector has gone through several stages.The initial formative period ran from from 1949 through 1965. China's military industrial production and management system was modeled on the Soviet planned economy system. The beginning in 1956 was characterized by the drafting and implementation of the 12-Year Plan for the Development of Science and Technology. An aviation industry committee was established in April 1956 to make policy decisions on the defense industry. It was replaced in 1958 by the Commission of Science and Technology for National Defense [COSTIND] under the direction of of Marshal Nie Rongzhen. A commission of industry for national defense under Marshal He Long was established in April 1959. And a General Office for Defense Industry [GODI] was set up under Senior General Luo Ruiqing in November 1961.

In 1963 a new 10-Year Plan was proposed as the 12-Year Plan was essentially accomplished (in only 7 years). COSTIND was disbanded in September 1963, and its responsibilities were taken over by the GODI, which under the leadership of Zhou Enlai was responsible for organizing and coordinating the development of atom and hydrogen bombs. Defense industrial production was the responsibility of a single Heavy Industry Department. Subsequently the State Council established a set of what came to be known as Ministries of Machine-Building [initially termed Ministries of Machine Industry - MMI and also termed Machine-Building Industrial Departments - MBID] responsible for special weapons scientific research and production:

  • 1st Ministry of Machine-Building - civil machinery
  • 2nd Ministry of Machine-Building - nuclear
  • 3rd Ministry of Machine-Building - aeronautics
  • 4th Ministry of Machine-Building - electronics
  • 5th Ministry of Machine-Building - ordnance
  • 6th Ministry of Machine-Building - shipbuilding
  • 7th Ministry of Machine-Building - astronautics
  • 8th Bureau of Machine-Building Industry - ??

A network of factories was built in the interior of the country under the assumption that a full-scale war was likely. These included six scientific research institutes under the MMB 3, seven scientific research institutes under the MMB 6, 10 under the MMB 4, and 14 under the MMB 5. These institutes were initially affiliated with the Defense Ministry, and then came under the industrial departments. This period witnessed the rapid development of China's defense industry, with the number of scientific research institutes reaching 38 with a staff of 80,000.

1967-1976 - Cultural Revolution

The PLA played a complex political role during the Cultural Revolution. From 1966 to 1968, military training, conscription and demobilization, and political education virtually ceased as the PLA was ordered first to help promote the Cultural Revolution and then to reestablish order and authority.

In 1969 Lin Biao launched an extensive "war preparations" campaign; military training was resumed, and military procurement, which had suffered in the first years of the Cultural Revolution, rose dramatically. Military preparedness was further advanced along China's frontiers and particularly the Sino-Soviet border when the thirteen military regions were reorganized into eleven in 1970.

The PLA emerged from the more violent phase of the Cultural Revolution deeply involved in civilian politics and administration. PLA units did not withdraw fully from these duties until 1974. Following the sudden death of Lin Biao in 1971, the military began to disengage from politics, and civilian control over the PLA was reasserted.

Along with the reassertion of civilian control over the military and the return to military duties came a shift of resources away from the defense sector. Defense procurement dropped by 20 percent in 1971 and shifted from aircraft production and intercontinental ballistic missile development to the modernization of the ground forces and medium-range ballistic missile and intermediate-range ballistic missile development.

By the mid-1970s concerns among Chinese leaders about military weakness, especially vis--vis the Soviet Union, resulted in a decision to modernize the PLA. Following Premier Zhou Enlai's January 1975 proclamation of the Four Modernizations as national policy, the military modernization program, codified in Central Directive No. 18 of 1975, instructed the military to withdraw from politics and to concentrate on military training and other defense matters. Factional struggles between party moderates and radicals in 1975 and 1976, however, led to the dismissal of Deng from all his posts and the delay of military modernization until after the death of Mao Zedong. Within a month of Mao's death, military leaders headed by Minister of National Defense Ye Jianying cooperated with party chairman Hua Guofeng to arrest the Gang of Four, thus ending a decade of radical politics.

From 1967 to 1976, the "Cultural Revolution" seriously affected military industrial activities. Repeated changes in the leadership and organization of units had a negative impact on the operations of the military industry. The GODI was replaced by the Leading Group for Defense Industry, headed by Qiu Huizuo, in December 1969. But in December 1973, the Leading Group was abolished and the GODI was restored, under the leadership of Fang Qiang. In 1967 COSTIND exercised military control over the research institutes the Military-Industrial Departments, and conferred military designations on 18 units. The Scientific Research Institute 6 of the MMB 3, and the Scientific Research Institute 7 of the MMB 6 came under the Air Force and Navy respectively, though in 1974, the above units were transferred back to their original industrial departments. In 1975 General Machine-Building Bureau 8 was established with responsibility for the overall planning and management of research and production of tactical guided missiles.



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Page last modified: 24-08-2019 18:42:58 ZULU