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  • Timothy Heath

The Historic Missions of the People’s Liberation Army under Xi Jinping: The Military’s Role in the “New Era”


Timothy Heath CLM Issue 80 June 2024
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China’s leadership has modified the military’s formal role in national strategy, which is known as its “historic missions.”  The change reflects an appreciation of both the opportunities and the perils posed by China’s rise as a great power as well as by anxiety about the intensifying domestic political vulnerabilities that stem from economic deceleration and persistent official malfeasance. Paradoxically, the government’s expanded view of national security has meant a diminution in the role of the military in security policy toward one of “strategic support.” As non-military threats intensify, the role of the People’s Liberation Army in national strategy will likely focus on modernization and assistance to non-military efforts to protect an expanding array of interests along China’s periphery and beyond.

In 2019, China’s defense white paper officially acknowledged a change in the military’s role in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) national strategy, stating that in the “new era,” designated by CCP authorities as coinciding largely with Xi’s ascent to office, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is expected to provide “strategic support” (战略支撑) to its “historic missions” (历史使命).[1]  Since the historic missions define the military’s role in national strategy, the change suggests an important shift in how central leaders intend to use the military to achieve national security–related goals. Yet to date, the change in its historic missions has generated surprisingly little analysis.


What does this new language mean and why did central leaders direct this change? What do the modifications tell us about Beijing’s intentions regarding its armed forces? What sort of risk calculus might the leadership be contemplating regarding its goals related to the nation’s security? These are questions of considerable importance for those concerned about the prospects for international peace or about how China might use an increasingly powerful military. Speculation about China’s supposed plans to start a war have become a popular topic in Western commentary.[2] However, few have bothered to consider evidence from Chinese documents about how Beijing views the potential use of military force to achieve its goals. Considering that the historic missions ostensibly define the military’s role in national strategy, a deeper understanding of its missions could shed light on this critical issue.


To answer these questions, I will review party documents and writings. Authoritative sources include party congress reports, speeches by top leaders, and white papers issued by the government. These provide credible statements of government policy and intentions. I also look at commentary and opinions carried in official media sources such as Xinhua, the news source of the Chinese government, and People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the CCP Central Committee, many of which provide useful explanations of key concepts. This paper is organized in the following manner. The first section reviews the origins of the military’s historic missions and analyzes their significance. With the context established, the second section analyzes the significance of the changes in the military’s historic missions under Xi, focusing in particular on the definition of the military’s responsibilities in terms of “strategic support.”

 

What Are the PLA’s Historic Missions?


“Historic missions” is a CCP concept that formally identifies the military’s fundamental role in the party’s national strategy during a given time period, usually lasting several years. The historic missions also express the military’s most essential tasks and responsibilities as well as the general direction of military development. The PLA dictionary (军语) defines the historic missions thus: “The historic missions are the military’s most important responsibilities and fundamental tasks over a given relatively extended period of time. The missions embody the military’s nature, function, and purpose. The missions also stipulate the direction, goals, and guiding principles of military construction.”[3]


In many ways, the military’s historic missions serve as a sort of schema or framework, similar to those employed by other Chinese ministries and bureaucracies. This schema provides a simple, and concise way to organize and communicate the most important ideas related to the formulation and implementation of policy. The standardized nature of the schema also enables party members to quickly identify changes. In all cases, the schema has both a standardized format that changes infrequently and an implied meaning or connotation. The standardized format is the specific language and phrasing of the historic missions. The meaning, or connotation, consists of an associated body of thought and instructions passed by the central leadership that add meaning to the language. This meaning also provides essential context to help ministries and bureaucracies understand how their work can best serve the central leadership’s goals.


As an example, workers in the foreign-policy bureaucracy rely on a “diplomatic framework,” or schema (外交布局), to organize and transmit foreign-policy instructions. Any foreign-policy document will tend to adhere to a pattern whereby instructions regarding “major powers” (e.g., the United States, the European Union, and Russia) are followed by those for the “periphery” (the Asia-Pacific), then the “developing world” and “multilateral organizations.”[4] But what is expected of foreign-policy workers is barely spelled out in the brief, formulaic phrasing of the schema. Hence, these workers must turn to the body of instructions provided by central leaders in the form of speeches, party congress reports, and other relevant documents to understand the central leadership’s analysis, goals, and guidance regarding the situation in which China finds itself during a given period. In the Xi era, this might include speeches or instructions on “diplomacy in the new era,” but it will also include the party’s broader agenda for achieving the “China Dream.”


The military follows a similar pattern. The four-mission schema of the historic missions serves as a general statement of the military’s strategic responsibilities. However, only by studying a broader set of party documents, such as party congress reports, can one understand how the military is to interpret and carry out its missions. For these reasons, the CCP has traditionally made study of the speeches and reports published at the annual congresses or plenums mandatory reading for service members.[5] As an article in Seeking Truth puts it, “Our military takes the party’s goals as its goals, and the party’s will as its will.”[6]


It is important to understand this point for at least two reasons. First, it underscores a key feature of party control. This process communicates the military’s dependence and subordination to the central leadership’s strategy and plans. Through the study of documents issued by central leaders, PLA personnel learn that their work is but one part of party work and that they must adhere to the same goals, processes, and guiding principles as all other ministries.


Second, this feature makes the PLA’s role in national strategy somewhat more transparent. Since the military’s general approach to achieving the central leadership’s goals will share considerable continuity with the approaches of other ministries and bureaucracies, analysts should be able to discern from the plans, strategies, and high-level speeches of other ministries insights into how central leaders view military power as an instrument to achieve their goals. If the central leadership has directed one ministry, i.e., the PLA, to prepare for large-scale war, then the other major ministries will have received similar instructions. In short, analysis of the historic missions should be supplemented by a broader appreciation of party and government documents.

 

Origins of the Historic Missions


Hu Jintao first invoked the term “historic missions” at a Politburo study session on military affairs in July 2004.[7] At a meeting of the Central Military Commission in December of that year, he formally charged the military with carrying out these missions. The concept gained formal backing from the entire collective leadership at the 17th Party Congress in 2007.[8] Hu’s formulation, as seen in the 2006 defense white paper, outlines four missions: 1.) to provide a solid security guarantee for consolidating the CCP’s governing position; 2.) to provide a security guarantee during the period of strategic opportunity; 3.) to provide strategic support for safeguarding the nation’s interests; and 4.) to play a role in world peace and common development.[9] 


The new historic missions generated considerable interest in the PLA -watching community.[10] Scholars noted in particular the significance of the PRC’s first orders for military units to deploy beyond China’s borders.[11] The third mission calls on the armed forces to protect all of the country’s interests, including those beyond China’s borders. The fourth mission calls on the PLA to shape the international security environment. Analysts explained that this novel development likely was due to China’s integration into the global economy, which introduced many vulnerable economic and strategic interests abroad.[12] It also was due, in part, to the rapidly modernizing PLA and its acquisition of capabilities, such as oceangoing naval ships and long-range transport aircraft, that permit operations at a further remove from the country’s shores.[13] China’s increased involvement in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO), patrols near the Gulf of Aden since 2009, and the opening of a military base in Djibouti all reflect the military’s efforts to carry out its historic missions, a point frequently made in Chinese media.[14] 


The other two missions, carried over from the PLA’s past responsibilities, are no less important. Reflecting Mao’s dictum that “political power flows from the barrel of a gun,” the first mission affirms the military’s role as the ultimate guarantor of CCP rule. The third mission also entails protection for the country’s territorial and sovereignty interests, underscoring the military’s long-standing responsibility to defend the country’s borders and to prevent Taiwan independence. [15]


The historic missions reflect in part a broader evolution in Chinese official thought about its national “interests” (利益). In advancing the concept of the “Three Represents,” Jiang Zemin introduced the idea that the party should defend the nation’s interests. However, at the time this idea was so novel that party theorists could not clearly articulate what those interests might be. The 2004 version of the historic missions, which simply offers a generic “interests” category, faithfully reflects party thinking of the time. The original Hu-era formulation also reflects the view at that time that the military should bear primary responsibility for protecting the country’s interests.


However, after several years party officials refined their approach. By the mid-2000s, officials had designated a set of “core interests” upon which the country’s revitalization depended. The core interests (核心利益) may be understood as the collective material and spiritual demands of the Chinese people. As laid out in the 2011 peaceful development white paper, the core interests consist of the three broad categories of security, sovereignty, and developmental interests.[16] This innovation in official thinking underpins the changes to the missions that took place after Hu left office.

 

Evolution of the Missions under Xi


With Xi’s ascension to power in 2012, Chinese officials and documents began to characterize the historic missions in different terms. The 2013 defense white paper modified the missions by changing the language of the core interests, stating that the PLA shoulders responsibility to protect “sovereignty,” “territorial,” and “overseas interests.”[17] However, the 2015 defense white paper, which may be regarded as offering a second, “tentative” version of the missions, presents a systematic reformulation of the missions. It defines the historic missions in terms of four tasks: “To resolutely uphold the leadership of the CPC and the socialist system, safeguard China's sovereignty, security, and development interests, safeguard the important period of strategic opportunities for China's development, and maintain regional and world peace.”[18] This formulation inverts the second and third missions from the original formula and substitutes the category of “core missions” for the generic category of “national interests.” It also introduces the notion that the military should uphold the “socialist system,” thus hinting at a growing concern about domestic instability. The fourth mission introduces the idea that the PLA should bear a larger responsibility for “regional peace.” This last point was reinforced with the publication of the 2017 defense white paper, which eschews the usual topics about the PLA in favor of the Chinese government’s vision for Asian-Pacific security. The paper prioritizes dialogues and consultative mechanisms but also describes the roles for the PLA, including multilateral and bilateral exercises and operations.[19]


Xi Jinping finally fixed his version of the historic missions at a meeting of the Central Military Commission in late 2017.[20] As written in the 2019 defense white paper, the revised third version, of the missions are to: 1.) provide strategic support for consolidating the leadership position of the CCP and the socialist system; 2.) provide strategic support for the safeguarding of national sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity; 3.)  provide strategic support to protect China’s overseas interests; and 4.) provide strategic support to promote world peace and development (see Table 1).


At a Ministry of Defense press conference accompanying release of the 2019 defense white paper, a spokesperson confirmed that the white paper “for the first time” elucidated the revised historic missions in the new era. He stated that the military’s “implementation” of the “four strategic supports” can be seen in “seven respects,” which he listed as “safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, maintaining combat readiness, carrying out military training in real combat conditions, safeguarding interests in major security fields, countering terrorism and maintaining stability, protecting China's overseas interests, and participating in disaster rescue and relief.”[21] In 2020, military authorities confirmed that the new Guidelines on Joint Operations of the People's Liberation Army (Trial) were designed to carry out these new missions.[22] 


PLA media have provided some explanations of the new missions. A 2019 article explains that the first mission requires that the PLA counter efforts by “Western forces” to “Westernize and divide China” and to “subvert and destroy the CCP.” It calls on the PLA to carry out its duties to ensure CCP rule, presumably by deterring Western countries from carrying out cyber and other operations to erode CCP legitimacy. [23] A 2022 article in the journal Military History cites the threat posed by “Western countries in the ideological field,” warning in particular about “infiltration, sabotage, and subversion” with respect to the first mission.[24]

For the second mission, PLA media emphasize the importance of protecting borders, coasts, air defense, maritime rights, and national unity. The 2019 article highlights the importance of managing and effectively controlling crisis situations so that they do not escalate into major conflicts. It states that the change in mission requires that the PLA “prevent crises, resolve confrontations, and deter conflict,” adding that the PLA must be able to “control and win wars as necessary.” [25]  Other articles tend to emphasize the importance of strictly adhering to the methods and policies of the state and controlling risks. As the article in Military History puts it, resolution of the disputes over unification and territory pose a “major risk” to the “historical process of national rejuvenation” and thus “must be correctly handled.”[26]


PLA media explain that the third mission requires diverse military tasks and operations to protect overseas interests. The 2019 article states that the PLA should improve its ability to carry out “diversified tasks” to protect overseas personnel, resources, shipping lanes, and interests. [27] 


Commentators describe the fourth mission in terms of military diplomacy and operations to shape a favorable international environment. A 2019 PLA Daily article notes the requirements to “strengthen bilateral and multilateral strategic consultations and dialogues” with countries around the world, to “promote multi-level development of military exchanges,” and to “actively participate” in a variety of non-war missions to “maintain regional stability and world peace.”[28] Other articles emphasize the PLA’s participation in UNPKO and other non-war missions, such as disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. [29]

 

1.    Drivers of change in the historic missions


The evolution of the historic missions from 2004 to 2019 reflects changes in China’s political situation, strategic situation, and security situation. As the 2013 defense white paper states, “new challenges” and a “new situation” mean “new missions.”[30] To understand the PLA’s missions during the Xi era, it is thus important to review the changes in these situations.


(1)  Changes in party leadership and mission


The first and most obvious driver is change in the political leadership. As one PLA article states, “The historical mission of our army has always been closely connected with the historical mission of the party.” [31] Defining the party’s missions and goals is one of the supreme leader’s most important responsibilities and expressions of power. Accordingly, a new leader can be expected to set new party missions or goals, which will, in turn, drive a new definition of the “historic missions” of the military. Reflecting on this point, the original formulation introduced by Hu Jintao remained relatively consistent throughout his tenure. Once Xi assumed power, however, the party adopted new language.


The CCP has not been completely consistent in how it defines its missions. Under Jiang Zemin, the CCP articulated a set of “historic tasks,” which it defined at the 15th Party Congress in 1997 as “propelling the modernization drive, achieving reunification, and promoting world peace.”[32] But Hu abandoned this schema for a more general goal of “national rejuvenation,” for which he outlined a development strategy premised on more balanced, sustainable economic growth and improved governance, an approach well-captured in his signature theoretical concept of “scientific development.”[33] 


Xi maintained the goal of national rejuvenation but relabeled it the “China Dream.” He also modified the focus of development by pledging stronger emphasis on competent governance, partly in recognition of the fact that public furor over corruption and malfeasance had reached destabilizing levels. The focus on governance also reflects the grim recognition that because growth had started to decelerate, the party will not be able to rely indefinitely on the provision of economic benefits as a basis of its legitimacy.[34] At the 20th Party Congress, Xi pledged to “maintain and promote social fairness and justice, bring prosperity to all, and prevent polarization.” Yet in the same report, he also upheld the dour definition of the “new era,” introduced soon after he took power, as a “contradiction” between the needs of the people and the country’s level of development.[35] Instead of promising to overcome this contradiction through economic growth, Xi imposed relentless repression.


(2) Changes in China’s situation


Changes in China’s strategic situation and developments in international and military affairs also informed the change in historic missions. First, China became a major power. This novel development opened exciting opportunities but also worrying new vulnerabilities. Second, and paradoxically, the country faced an expanding array of security vulnerabilities, many of which had little to do with conventional military threats.


The assessment that China is growing from a large to a “strong” country carries two important implications for the PLA. First, Chinese leaders decided that they required a military commensurate with China’s standing as a premier world power. This is consistent with the view in the ministries responsible for economics, foreign affairs, and many others that new policies are required to better serve the country’s needs as a “major power.”[36] For the PLA, this means primarily building a powerful modern military that can deter and protect the country’s myriad interests. Chinese media frequently invoke the dictum, “A strong country must have a strong military; a strong military can ensure national security.” [37] A 2021 Central Committee resolution states: “It is necessary to build a consolidated national defense and a strong people's army commensurate with our country's international status and compatible with national security and development interests.”[38] 


Second, the authorities directed the military to more actively support a “major power” foreign policy aimed at restructuring aspects of the international order through projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative, a geo-economic effort to link trade and transportation networks primarily across Eurasia and Africa.[39] The PLA provided support to non-military efforts to protect Chinese interests along the periphery, mainly through paramilitary forces in the maritime domain. These operations have often been coercive and bullying, but authorities have refrained from risking combat operations over maritime disputes. Farther afield, authorities have tasked mostly non-military forces, such as largely unarmed security contractors, with protecting Chinese individuals and their assets. The military has been directed to serve principally as a backup, or in a supporting role, to the non-military efforts through patrols and non-combat evacuations. For the PLA, China as a major power does not entail replicating the U.S. role as a global policeman. Instead, authorities have promoted multilateral diplomacy in which Chinese diplomats play a leading role, and its military operates principally through partnerships in multilateral efforts to promote security. Xi has, for example, proposed the “Global Security Initiative,” which stresses a “commitment to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security.” According to Chinese media, the initiative promotes resolution of differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultations as well as through limited multilateral operations, primarily under United Nations authority, to address global perils.[40] 


Changes in China’s domestic situation also informed the evolution of its missions. The intractable problem of corruption, the slowing economy, and persistent governance shortfalls fueled discontent that the government could control only through a high level of repression. Xi Jinping has frequently reiterated the view that development and security have become inseparable.[41] Accordingly, authorities elevated the priority of social stability and political security. In January 2014, China established the National Security Commission (NSC) to improve coordination amid a fractured bureaucracy. But the NSC also reflected judgments about the nature of the threats facing the country.[42] The 19th Party Congress report states that  “political security is a fundamental task,” and it calls for a comprehensive security approach that ensures “both internal and external security, homeland and public security, traditional and non-traditional security, and China's own and common security.”[43] This formulation suggests Chinese authorities regard domestic security as the highest priority. Commentators and scholars have elaborated on this point. Chen Xiangyang, a scholar at the Chinese Institute for Contemporary International Relations, observes that China’s most pressing challenges consist of the “accumulation of social conflicts during a period of domestic transition.” He explains that “All types of mass incidents occur frequently and are triggered easily, and external hostile forces take the opportunity to become involved in them and to use them, which increases the difficulties of maintaining social harmony and stability and of comprehensively planning the advancement of reforms.” Additional threats include the dangers of “Taiwan independence” and an “unsettled” international environment owing to “dissatisfaction” in the United States and its allies because of China’s rise. He also cites dangers to China’s overseas interests and dangers from climate change.[44]


In sum, Chinese leaders under Xi have focused on managing the country’s rise as a great power even as its development has become more vulnerable to a variety of threats and dangers, most of which have little to do with conventional military forces. Accordingly, authorities have placed a priority on non-military security efforts to cope with these perils and have assigned the military a mainly supportive and coordinating role.

 

Implementation


The historic missions connect the party’s goals and agenda to the military’s operations and activities. They serve as a critical bridge and key driver behind the changes in military doctrine, operations, and activities. When the CCP changes the new historic missions, the PLA will in turn change its military strategy and military strategic guiding principles (军事战略方针), which codify all of the high-level directives into a format for military planners. The process can be described thus: Central leaders set the overall national strategy and the military’s historic missions. The military leadership in turn takes this guidance and fleshes out a military strategy and the military strategic guidelines to codify all of the above into guidance for military planners (see Table 1).[45]


Table 1: Versions of the PLA’s Historic Missions, 2004–present

Historic Missions version

1 (2004)

2 (2014)

3 (2017)

Assessed stage (Central leadership)

New stage, new century (16th Party Congress)

New era (2013 3rd Plenum)

New Era (19th Party Congress)

Party’s mission (Central leadership)

Build a moderately prosperous society en route to national rejuvenation (16th Party Congress, 2002)

“China Dream” (2013 3rd Plenum)

“China Dream” (19th Party Congress, 2017)

PLA’s historic missions (Central leadership)

Provide a security guarantee for the CCP’s governing position; provide a security guarantee for the period of strategic opportunity; provide strategic support for safeguarding the nation’s interests; and play a role in world peace and common development

Resolutely uphold the leadership of the CCP and the socialist system, safeguard China's sovereignty, security, and development interests, safeguard the important period of strategic opportunities for China's development, and maintain regional and world peace

Provide strategic support for consolidating the leadership position of the CCP and the socialist system; provide strategic support for the safeguarding of national sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity; provide strategic support to protect China’s overseas interests; provide strategic support to promote world peace and development

Military strategic guidelines (Military leadership)

Revised in 2004

Revised in 2014

Revised in 2017/18

Sources: “China’s National Defense in 2006” http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/book/194421.htm; “China’s Military Strategy,” State Council Information Office, May 27, 2015, https://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2015/05/27/content_281475115610833.htm. “China’s National Defense in the New Era,” 2019, https://english.www.gov.cn/archive/whitepaper/201907/24/content_WS5d3941ddc6d08408f502283d.html; Joel Wuthnow and Taylor Fravel, “China's Military Strategy for a 'New Era': Some Change, More Continuity, and Tantalizing Hints,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 46, No. 6–7 (2023), pp. 1149–1184.




Despite robust spending increases, the authorities still believe the PLA is not up to the task. As the 2019 defense white paper states: “There is still a wide gap between China's defense expenditures and the requirements for safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, for fulfilling China's international responsibilities and obligations as a major country, and for China's development."[46] In 2019, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense similarly stated: “There is still a wide gap between China's defense expenditures and the requirements for safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, fulfilling our international responsibilities and obligations as a major country, and for the overall development of the country.” He foretold future spending increases, stating: “China's defense expenditures will keep in step with national economic development and maintain moderate and steady growth.”[47]

 

Conclusion


In recent years, speculation has grown about what China might do with its increasingly powerful military. Although insights into this important topic may be gained from many sources, authoritative documents that outline the military’s role in national strategy provide exceptionally valuable information and help the analyst better understand and anticipate potential developments in China’s security. As these sources state, the “new era” offers unprecedented opportunities but also immense challenges. Although the country has reached a level of national power never before experienced in its history, it also faces familiar problems of weakening state capacity and legitimacy and unrest stemming in part from diminishing economic opportunities and persistent malfeasance. Chinese leaders seem eager not to undermine the nation’s prospects through reckless actions, such as the provocation of war. For Xi Jinping and the other leaders in Beijing, the military’s main contribution to the nation’s revitalization lays in its ability to deter rival powers through military modernization and its support of primarily non-military methods to protect Chinese interests at home and abroad. As long as Xi remains in power, the PLA’s historic missions will likely remain consistent with those set in 2017.


About the Contributor

Timothy R. Heath is Senior International Defense Researcher at RAND. Prior to joining RAND, Heath had over fifteen years of experience in the U.S. government researching and analyzing military and political topics related to China. In addition to his publications with RAND, Heath has published numerous articles and two books. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he has extensive experience analyzing China's national strategy, politics, ideology, and military, as well as Asian regional security developments. He has a Ph.D. in political science from George Mason University and an M.A. in Asian studies from The George Washington University. 

Notes

[1] State Council Information Office, “China’s National Defense in the New Era,” July 24, 2019. As of October 18, 2024:  https://english.www.gov.cn/archive/whitepaper/201907/24/content_WS5d3941ddc6d08408f502283d.html 

[2] Brad Dress, “China Preparing for War with the US, Air Force General Says,” The Hill, September 12, 2023.

[3] Military Dictionary (军语) (Beijing, 2011).

[4] “A Global Community of Shared Future: China’s Proposals and Actions,” State Council Information Office, September 26, 2023. As of October 18, 2024:  https://www.mfa.gov.cn/eng/zxxx_662805/202309/t20230926_11150122.html 

[5] “To Study and Implement the Spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping Requires Efforts in Three Aspects” [学习贯彻党的二十大精神 习近平要求在三方面下功夫], Study Strong Nation [学习强国], October 27, 2022. As of January 24, 2024: https://www.xuexi.cn/lgpage/detail/index.html?id=12182857863188893510&item_id=12182857863188893510.

[6] “Always Keep in Mind the Original Mission of the People’s Army” [永远牢记人民军队的初心使命], Seeking Truth [求是], No. 15 (2018). As of January 15, 2024: http://www.qstheory.cn/2019-01/14/c_1123988621.htm.

[7] “Hu Jintao Speaks on National Defense at Politburo’s 15th Study Session” [胡锦涛在中央政治局第十五次学习会上谈国防], Xinhua, July 24, 2004.

[8] “Full Text of the 17th Party Congress Report,” Xinhua, October 24, 2007. As of October 18, 2024:  http://np.china-embassy.gov.cn/eng/Features/200711/t20071104_1579245.htm 

[9] “China’s National Defense in 2006,” State Council Information Office, December 29, 2006. As of October 18, 2024:  http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/book/194421.htm 

[10] Daniel Hartnett, “The ‘New Historic Missions’: Reflections on Hu Jintao’s Military Legacy,” Assessing the People’s Liberation Army in the Hu Jintao Era, ed. Roy Kamphausen (Washington, DC: NBR Press, 2014).

[11] Cortez Cooper, “The PLA Navy’s ‘New Historic Missions,’” Testimony to the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2009). As of October 18, 2024:  https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/testimonies/2009/RAND_CT332.pdf 

[12] Nan Li, “Scanning the Horizon for ‘New Historical Missions,’” Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute), Vol. 136, No. 4 (April 2010). As of October 18, 2024:  https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2010/april/scanning-horizon-new-historical-missions 

[13] U.S. Department of Defense, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2023. As of October 18, 2024:   https://media.defense.gov/2023/Oct/19/2003323409/-1/-1/1/2023-MILITARY-AND-SECURITY-DEVELOPMENTS-INVOLVING-THE-PEOPLES-REPUBLIC-OF-CHINA.PDF 

[14] “China Focus: Chinese Navy’s 15-Year Quest for Peace in Gulf of Aden, Waters Off Somalia,” Xinhua, December 27, 2023. As of October 18, 2024:   http://www.focac.org/eng/zfgx_4/hpaq/202312/t20231229_11214903.htm 

[15] “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” State Council Information Office, April 2013. As of April 29, 2024: http://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2014/08/23/content_281474982986506.htm.

[16] “China’s Peaceful Development,” State Council Information Office, September 6, 2011. As of October 18, 2024:  https://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2014/09/09/content_281474986284646.htm 

[17] “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces,” State Council Information Office, April 16, 2013. As of April 29, 2024: http://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2014/08/23/content_281474982986506.htm.

[18] “China’s Military Strategy,” State Council Information Office, May 27, 2015. As of October 18, 2024:   https://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2015/05/27/content_281475115610833.htm.

[19] “Full Text: China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation,” State Council Information Office, January 11, 2017. https://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2017/01/11/content_281475539078636.htm 

[20] Wang Hongwei [汪红伟] and Sun Wengang [孙文广], “Deep Understanding of the Development Logic and Basic Characteristics of the PLA’s Historical Mission” [深刻认识我军历史使命的发展逻辑及其基本特征], Military History [军事历史], No. 4 (2022), pp. 54–59.

[21] “SCIO Briefing on China’s National Defense,” State Council Information Office website, July 26, 2019. As of January 15, 2024: http://english.scio.gov.cn/pressroom/2019-07/26/content_75034407_2.htm.

[22] “Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of National Defense on November 26,” China Military Online website, November 29, 2020. As of January 15, 2024: http://eng.chinamil.com.cn/HOME_209227/Focus_209228/9944372.html.

[23] Yan Wenhu [闫文虎], “Correctly Understand the Military’s Missions in the New Era” [正确理解新时代军队使命任务], China Military Online [中国军网], July 26, 2019.

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Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Winston C. Pitman., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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