China Restructures Military, Creates Information Support Force for Modern Warfare

China's military undergoes major restructuring, creating an Information Support Force to enhance capabilities in 'intelligentized warfare' and compete with the US in emerging technologies.

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Rizwan Shah
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China Restructures Military, Creates Information Support Force for Modern Warfare

China Restructures Military, Creates Information Support Force for Modern Warfare

China has undergone a major restructuring of its military, creating a new Information Support Force to enhance its capabilities in modern 'intelligentized warfare'. The move comes as part of a broader overhaul of the armed forces, which saw the disbandment of the previous Strategic Support Force (SSF).

The new Information Support Force will be responsible for communications, network defense, and the integration of space, cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare capabilities for the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The restructuring is seen as an effort by President Xi Jinping to exert more direct control over the PLA's strategic capabilities and prepare for future conflicts that will be heavily reliant on advanced technologies like AI and quantum computing.

The move follows a sweeping anti-corruption purge within the military last year and is likely aimed at improving coordination and visibility across the PLA's various strategic domains, which was seen as lacking under the previous SSF structure. Experts suggest the reorganization reflects China's ambitions to master emerging military technologies and gain an advantage in the changing landscape of modern warfare.

Why this matters: The restructuring of China's military and creation of the Information Support Force signals a significant shift towards preparing for technology-driven conflicts. As global powers increasingly focus on developing advanced AI and quantum computing capabilities for military purposes, this move positions China to compete more effectively in the future battlespace.

The Information Support Force will handle network information systems, communications support, and possibly network defense, operating alongside the newly announced Cyberspace Force and Aerospace Force, as well as the preexisting Joint Logistics Support Force. The restructuring aims to improve the functioning of the joint operations system by breaking down silos and allowing theater commanders to more easily access the support forces' assets.

While the transition may cause some disruption, it is not expected to be as significant as the 2015/2016 reforms. The Cyberspace Force and Aerospace Force will continue their operations, with the former responsible for reinforcing national cyber border defense and conducting offensive cyber operations, while the latter will strengthen China's capacity to safely enter, exit, and use space.

The changes are seen as an effort by President Xi Jinping to exert more direct control over the information domain forces. "The restructuring elevated the SSF's former communications organization, the Information Communication Base (ICB), to a higher grade, making it equivalent to the other two SSF departments - the Military Aerospace Force (ASF) and the Cyberspace Force (CSF)," according to sources familiar with the reorganization.

The reasons for the SSF's disbandment are not entirely clear, but may be related to factors such as corruption scandals, bureaucratic infighting, and efforts to increase operational effectiveness. The creation of the Information Support Force is seen as the PLA's answer to information network competition as the US military advances its Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) capabilities.

Key Takeaways

  • China restructured its military, creating an Information Support Force to enhance 'intelligentized warfare'.
  • The new force will integrate space, cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare capabilities for the PLA.
  • The restructuring aims to improve coordination and visibility across the PLA's strategic domains.
  • The changes position China to compete more effectively in future technology-driven military conflicts.
  • The disbandment of the Strategic Support Force and creation of new forces reflect efforts to exert more control.