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China will learn from Russia’s failure in Ukraine: experts

BANGKOK – With its ground troops forced to retreat in Ukraine and regroup, and its Black Sea battleship sunk, Russia’s military defeats are on the rise. No country has noticed more than China that a smaller and more powerful force has shed the blood of what is said to be one of the most powerful armies in the world.

China, like Russia, is ambitious for a Soviet-style military reform, and experts say leader Xi Jinping will carefully analyze the weaknesses exposed by the invasion of Ukraine when they can be applied. used for his own People’s Liberation Army and his designs of self-governing forces. Formosa.

“The big question that Xi and the PLA leadership must ask regarding Russia’s activities in Ukraine is whether a military that has undergone extensive reform and modernization will be able to carry out complex operations. far more than what Russia did during their invasion. Ukraine,” M. Taylor Fravel, director of the security research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Russia’s armed forces have undergone an extensive process of reform and investment for more than a decade, with lessons learned in fighting in Georgia, Chechnya, Syria and the annexation of Crimea helping to shape the country’s future. this progress. However, the invasion of Ukraine exposed weaknesses from the top down.

The experts were shocked to say that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appeared to be with little preparation and lack of focus – a poorly coordinated, multi-axis campaign that did not effectively combine the above operations. no and on set.

Soldiers ran out of food and vehicles were damaged. With losses mounting, Moscow withdrew its bloody forces from the capital Kyiv to regroup. Last week, the guided-missile cruiser Moskva sank after Ukraine said it hit the ship with a missile; Russia blamed the sinking of the ship on a fire on board.

“It is difficult to see success at any level in the way that Russia initiated the campaign,” said Euan Graham, a senior fellow at the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

President Vladimir Putin, who has been closely involved in Russia’s military reform, did not even appoint an overall commander for the operation until about a week ago, seemingly expecting a quick victory and misjudged Ukraine’s ability to resist, Graham said.

“It was a very personal fight on his part,” Graham said. “And I think the expectation that this is going to be a pastry challenge is clearly the biggest failure.”

Putin’s decisions raise questions about whether he is given an accurate assessment of Ukraine’s military reform progress and capabilities, or can only tell what he wants to hear.

Mr. Xi, also an authoritarian leader who has played a personal role in China’s military reform, may now wonder the same, Fravel said.

In particular, Xi may also wonder if he has received accurate reporting on the PLA’s effectiveness in a high-intensity conflict.

David Chen, senior adviser at CENTRA Technology, a US-based government services company, said China has had no recent major conflicts to gauge its military might, following the clash. the last major war in 1979 against Vietnam.

“A wake-up call to the (China) Central Military Commission is that there are more unidentified factors involved in any such operation than they could have predicted,” said Chen.

“Russia’s experience in Ukraine has shown that what seems reasonable on paper at the Academy of Military Sciences or National Defense University becomes much more complicated in the real world.”

Mr. Xi, the son of a revolutionary commander who took time to wear his military uniform, began carrying out military reforms in 2015, three years after taking the helm of the Central Military Commission.

Total troop numbers were reduced by 300,000 to just under 2 million, the number of officers cut by a third, and greater emphasis was placed on non-commissioned officers to lead the field.

Yue Gang, a Beijing-based military analyst, said the Chinese military has traditionally respected the initiative of lower-ranking soldiers with revolutionary backgrounds. By contrast, Russian forces in Ukraine have shown weaknesses when it comes to decisions on the front lines, he said.

“Chinese soldiers are encouraged to give their thoughts and views when discussing how to fight,” Yue said.

China’s seven military regions have been reorganized into five commands, reducing the number of corps, and the logistics system reorganized to improve efficiency. Support rate for combat units is increased and more focus is on mobile and amphibious units.

Mr. Xi has also sought to end rampant corruption in the military, going after two top former generals soon after coming to power. One was sentenced to life in prison and the other died before his case was concluded.

The Chinese military is highly opaque and out of sight of civilian judges and corruption investigators, so it is difficult to see how thoroughly the organization has been excluded from operations. such as selling commissions and kickbacks on defense contracts.

For Mr. Xi, the military’s primary duty remains to protect the ruling Communist Party, and he has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors in resisting efforts to get the military to shift allegiance to the nation. family.

Mr. Xi’s focus on politics may mean that the lessons he has learned from the Ukraine conflict are unfounded, Graham said.

“Xi Jinping will always adopt a political solution because he is not a military expert or an economic expert,” Graham said. “I think the military lessons have to go through a political filter, so I’m not sure that China will take the rich lessons and show them to everyone.”

The stated goal of China’s military reform is to “fight and win wars” against “strong enemies” – a term widely understood to refer to the United States.

China has pumped huge sums of money into new equipment, started more realistic exercises with force scenarios, and sought to reform its combat doctrine by studying interactions. American wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

General David Berger, commander of the US Marines, said at a forum in Australia last week that Beijing would be closely monitoring the Ukraine conflict.

“I don’t know what lessons they’ll learn but… they’re focused on learning, no doubt, because they’ve been doing it for the past 15 years,” he said.

Berger stressed the need for strong alliances in the Pacific as a way to thwart China’s ambitions over Taiwan.

China claims Taiwan as its own, and control of the island is an important component of Beijing’s political and military thinking. In October, Mr. Xi once again reiterated that “the unification of the country must be done and will definitely be done”.

Washington’s longstanding policy has been to provide political and military support to Taiwan, while making no explicit promises to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack.

Like Putin’s assessment of Ukraine, Xi’s China does not appear to believe that Taiwan will attempt a war. Beijing often blames its problems with the island on a small group of hardline independence advocates and its American supporters.

Meanwhile, the Chinese media is completely state-controlled, based on the fantasy that Taiwan will not be willing to fight against what it describes as its fellow Chinese.

Now, the rapid response of many countries to impose tough, coordinated sanctions on Russia after the attack on Ukraine and the willingness to supply high-tech weapons to Ukraine could make Xi rethinks his approach to Taiwan, Fravel said.

Given the “quick response of the advanced industrialized nations, and the solidarity they have shown, Mr. Xi is likely to be more cautious towards Taiwan and less encouraging,” he said.

By contrast, Ukraine’s experience could prompt China to accelerate its push toward Taiwan with a more limited attack, such as seizing a remote island, as a real test of its military. theirs, Chen said.

“A logical course would be to perfect the PLA’s common institutions and procedures through ever more rigorous exercises,” said Chen.

“But as the world has seen, a central leader with specific ambitions and short deadlines can make progress in a reckless fashion.”

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