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Strategic Support Force

The Strategic Support Force, the Rocket Force, and the Army's general staff were all inaugurated on 21 December 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping conferred military flags on the general command for the Army of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force at an inauguration ceremony held 04 January 2016 in Beijing. Officers and soldiers of the three forces studied Xi's instructions made at the ceremony, saying the move is a major decision by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the Central Military Commission (CMC) to deepen reforms in national defense and the military. The PLA Strategic Support Force vowed to speed up the development of new-type combat forces and build into a powerful modern force with Chinese characteristics.

The SSF is charged with developing and employing most of the PLA’s space capabilities. Tasked with integrating space more closely into operations, the creation of the SSF signifies an important shift in the PLA’s prioritization of space and portends an increased role for PLA space capabilities. Indeed, Chinese military strategists see military space capabilities and operations as vital in at least three different ways. First, they are a key component of strategic deterrence. Second, they are critical to enabling the PLA to fight informatized local wars and counter U.S. military intervention in the region. Third, they are essential when it comes to supporting operations aimed at protecting China’s emerging interests in more-distant parts of the world.

Xi Jinping on 29 August 2016 asked for greater effort in building a strong and modern strategic support force. Established in 2015 as part of military and national defense reform, the strategic support force is a new type of combat force to secure national security and an important aspect of the PLA's joint operations system, Xi said.

"Innovation is what we need most in building the strategic support force. Innovation is the fundamental solution, " said Xi, urging the force to focus on real combat, efficiency, and integration of military and civilian development. The force should always stay on alert and maintain combat preparedness, map out a development strategy and a capacity building plan, build a new training system, and enhance its deterrence and warfighting capabilities, Xi said.

President Xi Jinping, who is also chair of the Central Military Commission (CMC), has said that defence and military reforms are crucial to the rejuvenation of the nation; "the Chinese Dream." Speaking at a meeting on military reform in November 2015, Xi promised a complete overhaul of the armed forces' administrative and command systems, and said substantial changes should be achieved by 2020.

"Building a strong military is a pressing task for China as the information age has inspired major countries in the world to update and rejig their military systems and strategies," said Zhang Xueli, professor with the National University of Defense Technology. Zhang hailed military reform as the only way to enhance real combat capacity, eradicate institutional barriers and elevate China's military and world standing.

Traditionally, the administration and command systems were not managed separately, as such, modernization, specialization and combat capacity had been held back. Inefficient leading agencies, unclear functions and ineffective joint command systems were all identified as areas that had hindered information warfare.

The relationship of the SSF to other components of the PLA remains somewhat unclear. For example, China has not publicly announced which unit the SSF reports to or how the SSF coordinates with the services. One possibility is that the SSF reports to the Central Military Commission (CMC) Joint Staff Department during peacetime, while its units would be attached to a theater command during wartime. It is also as yet unclear how the SSF coordinates with the other military organizations and civilian agencies that perform space missions. This suggests that some sort of joint organization focused on space would have to be set up under a theater command to coordinate and lead the space forces involved in a military operation.




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